As I have walked the path and find myself frequently going back to basics, I have come upon what to me are the three basic steps to establishing that platform of serenity. Not just establishing but maintaining. These steps are part of and central to my daily meditation practice.
1. Acceptance - As the saying goes, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. If I am disturbed it is because something is not the way I want it to be and I can find no peace until I accept that that’s exactly the way it is right now at this moment.” Without acceptance of ourselves and the world around us, we approach everything from a lack of equanimity which turns even otherwise skillful desires into unskillful desires and cravings. Without acceptance, we can never be present because our ego-minds will not allow us to be present. Truly, without acceptance one can find no peace, no end to suffering.
This presents a conundrum, In order to fully accept ourselves and the world around us, we need to be free of our ego-mind.
But being free of the ego-mind is the central task of the Buddhist path and it takes time.
So how do we start the process while not being free of the ego-mind? You start by introducing affirmations into your daily meditation practice. By stating your intent daily, it begins to take root. It empowers you. You will feel the difference.
Affirmation #1: I know that my life is exactly the way it is at this moment because it’s just the way it is. And it’s all ok. I have faith that things will work themselves out.
Affirmation #2: I release all desire for my life to be different in any way than it is right now at this moment.
It is important that you say the affirmations with firmly, with conviction. The first time you say them, you may react, “No way.” Because your ego-mind won’t be happy. But when you sit with them, and repeat them, you will feel a relief rather than a fear wash over you; you will feel unburdened.
2. Being Present - As noted in my post, “Being Present Is the Key to Peace and Contentment,” without being present, focused on the now, one cannot be free of thought, free of suffering. Because your ego-mind will instead carry you away, obsessing about the past or the future, imagining what if or what was.
When you are in that state, there is no freeing yourself from suffering because it is your ego-mind, that is the repository and protector of your cravings and emotions. Even if you are aware of the emptiness of all five skandhas, when your ego-mind is in control, all is lost and your are at that moment subject to the suffering brought on by your emotions and cravings.
Since this has been your default mode for your life till now, you must clearly form an intent to be present every moment of the day. Don’t worry when you find that you are not able to be present for much of the day, let alone all; this is not a failure. Making progress on the spiritual path takes time and requires great discipline. Always keep it at the forefront of your practice.
As your acceptance affirmations begin to take root your will notice that you have an easier time implementing your intent to be present.
3. Believing that you will be OK, safe, regardless what life throws your way - Ok, so you have formed the intent to truly accept your life and the world around you as being exactly the way it is at this moment, and to be present free of your ego-mind, but “what about the future?” the reader will undoubtedly ask. Your ego-mind is still there, and always will be (it is part of you), and it has the desire to control your future
But the future cannot be controlled. Not by you, not by any spiritual work, not by prayers. You can implement a well-thought-through plan, always being present, but that does not guarantee it will all come out as you hope. All you can control is how you react to whatever occurs in the future.
This becomes a question of faith … faith in the Buddha dharma, faith in your true Buddha nature, faith in yourself, not in the universe or the actions of others. Because when you return home to your true Buddha nature, you know that regardless what happens, because you view things with dispassion not emotion, because you live each moment well in accordance with the Five Precepts, you will be ok. Which is to say that regardless what happens you will have the spiritual strength to find peace and happiness because you are capable of being present in the moment, free of your ego-mind.
This probably sounds very circular. Like, we’re comfortable planning for the future because we know that if nothing changes or even if “bad” things happen, everything will be ok in the sense that we will be spiritually safe and will be at peace and happy. Part of the exercise of meditating on what you need or don’t need to be at peace and happy is precisely to come to that realization.
Two points. We are human beings and human beings have a natural desire to grow. The point of acceptance and the Buddhist path is not to negate that desire but to let it come from a place of equanimity so that it is a Right desire rather than an unskillful desire and craving. So that when we plan for the future we do not obsess about it and implement our plan while firmly grounded in the present.
Second, the world is often a hostile environment where anything can happen, whether it’s an illness or something that is done to us. The point of the Buddhist path is to insure that regardless what life throws our way, we will be at peace and happy because we have returned home to our true Buddha nature and are free of the control of our ego-mind.