Meditation means many things, even if some definitions seem contradictory. We might ‘meditate’ on a decision, which would imply deep thinking. Or, we might let go of thoughts in meditation, which implies a clear state free of mental constructs. And there are just as many reasons why we might do this. Some people are searching for a meditative state, some are seeking a religious experience, some are making a social or fashion statement. To some it’s de-stressing and wellness. And, to many, meditation is something we vaguely believe will help, but find hard to keep up. The idea that meditation can help is very true. But, it would be easier to keep up if it was less vague and more practical. What might make it sustainable is to know not only how to do it, but what it is and why we are actually doing it. Meditation need not be difficult. But, it does require understanding.
MEDITATION FROM A WISDOM TRADITION
If our meditation is about feeling good, then the moment we don’t feel so good, we are ready to call it a bust. If, on the other hand, our meditation is aimed at developing the wisdom to see our minds, we are actually handed the tools of our liberation.
I have experience teaching and guiding meditation in many orientations from wellness companies, to yoga and meditation studios, to meditation centers and, now more and more, with personal one on one instruction. I have guided sessions that lead people on mental excursions through jungles, over cliffs, and across the starlit sky. All of this is interesting and possibly helpful. But, the question of why still arises. Why do you want to be guided into an Hawaiian waterfall or past life living room? If the answer is as an escape from the pressures of the world, then that is fine. But escape is not necessarily sustainable as an ongoing practice. If our meditation is about feeling good, then the moment we don’t feel so good, we are ready to call it a bust. If, on the other hand, our meditation is aimed at developing the wisdom to see our minds, we are actually handed the tools of our liberation. And, we will be motivated whether or not we feel good. In fact, we might be motivated to look beyond our personal discomfort and really learn something. If meditation, in whatever form it takes, is aimed to gain more wisdom about ourselves and our human existence, then we have a powerful “why” to motivate us. “I have difficulties in my life, and am not in control of my actions”, “I have to face myself and grow up”, “I want to be free of depression.” We can either use meditation to escape from, or turn directly into these afflictive mental states. One is a temporary balm, but the latter leads to a path of greater understanding.
There are traditions that are path oriented and promote personal knowing and empowerment over doctrinal acquiescence and academic understanding. We call these wisdom traditions and they have an onus on direct personal experience. Whether they be Buddhist, Native American, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, meditation from a wisdom perspective is a mind training that leads to practical and transcendent wisdom. The point is not to achieve a religious experience or salvation of any sort, but to simply become more sane and balanced in order to discover, develop and deploy our innate wisdom. And, while there are exceptions, Wisdom Traditions are often aligned with established lineages that rely on the daily practice of mind training as a developmental path.
The development of wisdom in daily life implies a practical involvement with meditation. The general recommendation would be to develop a daily practice of repeated placement of mental attention on the present moment. We do this in order to train the mind progressively toward deeper and more stable relaxation and awareness. Many disciplines employ an object of meditation (such as a mantra, the breath, a visual stimulus, or a phrase) to facilitate a return to the present. So, commonly, one would return to the mantra or the breath again and again to stabilize the mind, and allow its awareness to develop more and more deeply into the present.
THE POWER OF PRACTICE
Sometimes the object of meditation takes on a tutulary function, acting as an agent of protection. Mantra, in particular, is traditionally considered mind protection. The practice of Mantra has its basis in ancient Indian yogic practice as the recitation of magical incantations to ward off evil. However, any tool aiding the mind to return to the present is acting as a protecting agent. Contemporaneously stated, the object of meditation is not protecting us from evil forces so much as our vulnerability to danger when we are not paying attention. The object of meditation protects us by returning us to awareness of present moment. In the present we are most aware and most capable of protecting ourselves. Life happens in the present. When we are not in the present we are entirely vulnerable to advantitions calamity and self-affliction. So, the breath or another object of meditation can be used to protect us, by bringing us back to our seat. Meditation trains the mind to return to the present, which in turn, returns self-agency to our life.
The true power of meditation is when the mind develops the capacity to recollect the discipline in everyday life. With training, we will remember to return to the present via the proxy of mantra or the breath every time we become distracted ot lost in our scheming, manipulating or daydreaming. In this way, we become less carried away with ourselves, and are able to retain balance and clarity in our lives. Of the various forms of meditation techniques I have studied, I prefer to begin with the breath, because the breath is reliably in the present. And, most importantly the breath is portable. It is always there with you. So, you can easily return to the present via the breath on a subway, in a car, on a date, in an interview or on the john. Mantra, contemplation and recitation can be used surreptitiously, but there is always a separation from the moment and a sense of doing something to correct the moment. The breath is elegantly brilliant as a tool because no one can fault you for breathing. Its fits right in to to the rhythm of living. And, perhaps most importantly, the breath is an integral part of our somatic experience. The breath is not only happening in the present, it is happening in our body. So, it connects us to the body, and as we shall see offers us a very practical way of calming and soothing the nervous system to enhance mental clarity.
THE WISDOM TRADITION OF SHAMBHALA
The Wisdom Tradition of Shambhala is a western application of the traditional Tibetan Buddhist approach. The Tibetan Buddhist approach is very much aligned with its Northern Indian antecedents. In other words, like Indian Yoga, Tibetan Buddhist meditation is about synchronizing body, spirit and mind so the practitioner can have access to the present moment free of illusion, delusion or misapprehension. In Shambhala, however, the orientation is on the development of society into a compassionate and enlightened state. Therefore, rather than a spiritual ideal, it is a very practical way of manifesting ancient wisdom for the present time. Shambhala meditation is not sequestered to a cave, or darkened chamber. Instead, meditation is dedicated to the benefit of the planet and its attendant life. It is a very practical approach. Instead of removing the practice from the world, it is engaged in, and empowered by, our world.
I believe ancient wisdom once removed of its religious trappings is often based on very human, and as such, immensely practical, concerns. The Meditation from the Wisdom Tradition of Shambhala uses ancient wisdom to inform very present experiences. At its core, is a belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity. It is a system based on developing the True Confidence which comes from training the mind. Simply said, if we develop belief in ourselves, and learn to trust ourselves, we can be a great benefit to ourselves and our world. It is a manual, daily and practical approach that is empowering without ego building. In other words, its not flattering, or aligned with any competition. It does not offer any credentials. It is simply a way of connecting ourselves in order to connect to our life altogether. From that synchronicity, we are more in control of our lives. And, taking a warrior’s seat in meditation puts us directly in the center of that circumstance.
PERSONAL APPROACH AND SERVICES
My home school is Shambhala and this is the basis for which the other tools in the kit fit. Having a connection to a lineage offers the confidence to build a very customized approach to the student. I have also had extensive – and advanced – training in Vajrayana Buddhism, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mahayana Buddhist LovingKindness and Compassion Practices, as well as Somatic Experiencing, authentic movement and other therapeutic practices. I have a deep connection to Native American Shamanism and the study of Taoist philosophy and the iChing that informs my understanding of life and practice. It is my belief that ancient wisdom can be interpreted practically to treat modern disconnects, and that meditation is a primary tool for reconnecting to our basic human nature.
I am available to offer one time or ongoing support to your mediation practice. We can sculpt an approach that suits your needs and lifestyle. I also have a series of guided meditations that delve into embedded obstacles in our psychological, and somatic experience for those who would like that kind of support. Whatever your needs, feel free to contact me for a free session of basic meditation training. If the clouds part and we continue a deep dive into meditation instruction from there, that is wonderful. My fees for meditation work are donations based on whatever fits your circumstances at the time(s) of our meeting.
If we decide to continue with life coaching we can discuss a fee structure.
But, should you take the instruction and decide to move on to other support, you will have a basic practice toward a path of self-knowing. In all cases, I am available for phone and textual advice to support your practice, at no charge, as you continue your journey.
It is my L I F E W O R K to bring meditation to life. Let me help you find a practice that will remain all your life.