But for many people, meditating does not provide much in the way of direction for how to live their day free of suffering. And even when it does, when we’re off the cushion the clarity we have in meditation often leaves us astonishingly quickly as we are distracted by the events of the day and the pull of our ego thinking-mind.
How you meditate is thus very important. Beyond the basics of proper posture, being aware of your breathing, and not engaging the thoughts that will inevitably rise in your mind, there are other things you can do to help your meditation in providing you with direction that has a better chance of sticking.
In my books, I’ve talked about the various mantras that I recite in the morning to focus myself on the most basic aspects of the Buddha dharma as they apply to my everyday life. These mantras not only provide me with direction and support, but they often will stimulate an awareness during my meditation of something that has occurred recently that was not done in a spiritual way and I have a teachable moment.
During a recent meditation, I realized something else that would be helpful to add to my meditation ... ask myself, “Do you really want to experience peace and happiness today?” And when I answer, “yes,” I know that the only way I can experience that is if I am free of the intervention of my thinking mind for as much of the day as possible. (See my recent post, “Joy/Happiness - A Choice We Make,” as well as the post, “Do You Really Want to Be at Peace and Content?”)
You might think that this sounds silly, asking yourself such a stupid question ... “Of course the answer is, ‘yes.’” But it is not stupid.
One must realize that every moment of every day, there are two forces contending for primacy in your mind and actions ... your ego and your true Buddha nature. And your ego is the far more powerful because it is far more aggressive than your true Buddha nature, which is there for support but pretty passive.
I have written in numerous posts that we have a choice. Assuming we are aware of our ego thinking-mind arising, we have a choice either to engage in its dance of death or to follow the path of the Buddha dharma and experience peace and happiness. (See my post, “Nirvana - It’s Right before Your Eyes”)
But because of the power of our ego and its craftiness, we do not always make the choice we really want to, even when we are aware. We often are literally swept away by our ego thinking-mind and pulled into its vortex. So strong is our conditioning to follow it and believe what it is telling us, even when we know it will only result in our suffering.
And so I realized that each morning, I need to ask myself that simple question and answer it with a resounding, “Yes!” To remind myself what my most important goal is that day and every day ... to experience peace and happiness and end my suffering. And to use that direction not to argue with my thinking mind when it arises, but to greet it with compassion yet say firmly that I am going in a different direction ... I am following the direction of my true Buddha nature to experience peace and happiness. I am not available for its invitation to the dance of death.