Meditation is probably the most important practice we can do. It is the best investment of our time and energy. Why is this so? Because the only thing we know for certain in this life is that one day we will have to let go of everything. We will let go of all our material possessions, bank accounts, friends, lovers, partners, family, and even our own bodies. The only thing we will take with us is our mind along with whatever habitual tendencies we have cultivated. This is where meditation plays such a key role. It is literally the only insurance we know that we will use for sure. But just like when making a financial investment, there are so many options of where and how to invest, how do we know we are making the most out of our meditation investment? How can we gain confidence in our practice?
Relating The Instruction With My Own Experience
For some of us who have been trained in a modern academic environment, it may be easy to grasp concepts and ideas about how things work. However, the point of understanding the theory and meditation instructions is to put them into practice in a way that is straightforward. Otherwise, to quote my first teacher Garchen Rinpoche, “we are like somebody who being sick, has the medicine but does not take it”. I like to ask myself, what exactly does this mean experientially? If there is a certain object being pointed out in the instructions, what does this really mean? Am I directing my attention there? How long can I stay without losing relaxation? Using questions such as this can serve as a guide for our attentional development. Experiment, be inquisitive, make it yours!
Let The Practice Spill Over Into Daily Activities
Whatever settling of the mind that takes place, whatever relaxation we manage to notice or even the fact of realizing how tense our body is, is something we can come back to during daily activities. If we have formal meditation sessions for say, 20 minutes per day, and we spend the other 23 hours and 40 minutes reinforcing whatever unwanted mental habits we are unconsciously cultivating, it will be very hard to progress along the path swiftly. It’s like a football match of eleven players against one. Even if at first we remember our practice only once a day, later we will remember more and more until it becomes effortless to keep with our mindful awareness, even while engaging in conversation or other activities.
Is this effective or not?
Sometimes checking for results may be counterproductive because this very act creates an expectation. This expectation is quite the opposite of allowing the mind to rest naturally. As the great meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa said: “there’s no need to struggle to be free, the absence of struggle is in itself freedom”. Yet it quite rewarding to notice our negative habitual patterns begin to dissolve. I find that checking back at how we were doing two or three months ago provides a good report of whether or not the practice is being effective or not. Play with the time frames but also check we are not creating unnecessary anticipation.
A secret practice
This is for me one of the most attractive aspects of meditative practice, nobody needs to know we are doing it. The practice is completely personal. I used to work at a restaurant during a time in my life in which I entered into some kind of flow state. This was a very fast paced environment where I needed to constantly multitask (especially since we were understaffed). I found myself able to do the work of two people, without getting tired and even got tipped extra by my other co-workers. I later confessed to one of my co-workers what I had been practicing and he even got turned on into meditation practice.
These are some ways I found my own practice evolve. Once this certainty takes place based on our very own first-hand experience, no matter what others say or what we read, we know this is effective. This is the difference between inferential knowledge and direct experience. Trust your own experience and inspire others to do the same!