Coming home: During most of the day we are to a greater or lesser extent, depending on how far along you are on the path, in the control of our ego-mind. Even after 20+ years of disciplined practice and daily meditation, while I rarely am subject to the emotions, judgments, attachments, and cravings of the ego-mind, there is often background low-level “noise” emanating from my ego-mind which acts like a grey cloud making it impossible for me to feel the sun’s (or my heart’s) warmth and light.
So the first essential step in meditation is to bring you back in touch with your true Buddha mind, your heart. Depending on where you are at in your meditation practice, this can be quite a challenge.
When we start meditating, the common experience is that we are so bombarded by thoughts and emotions emanating from our ego-mind that it is a struggle just to have some moments of peace. But we learn and experience that by focusing on our breath, having good posture, and focusing on a point on the floor several feet in front of us, we can help our concentration and be present. And by being present, the door is open to going deeper, finding after much work the truth that our true self is our heart, not our ego-mind. And so we are able to eventually return home to our heart.
The second essential step in meditation is releasing … releasing all the things that bother you, that cause you to be agitated, not at peace. Knowing that our true self is our heart and that nothing coming from our heart would disturb us, we realize that all these things that disturb us come from our ego-mind, which although it sure feels like our true self, we know is not. As further proof that the ego-mind is not our true self are the words of the Buddha, “Does it cause you suffering? If it does, it is not you, it is not yours, it is not your self.”
But knowing this truth does not in and of itself bring us release, peace. Your ego-mind will continue to press on you its view of the world and your welfare. And since your ego-mind is all you’ve known all of your life till now, this is what you’ve identified with, not being impacted by the mind’s incessant chatter or rejecting it requires great discipline and faith.
And it requires positive action on our part to bring about this release. In my posts, I mention various “techniques” for doing this. One is to open up your heart and embrace all aspects of your being and experience. Then nothing offends, and so all internal and external struggles cease, and you know you have everything you need inside yourself to be at peace and happy (see “The Heart’s Embrace”). It is truly effective.
But your ego-mind doesn't rest, and so another is, realizing that since life is a constant battle between the guidance of your ego-mind and the guidance of your heart, you test every guidance you receive and if it is not right for you … that is if it causes you suffering rather than bringing peace and happiness … then you reject it. This is your responsibility; no one can do it for you (see ”Test the Wisdom of What You’re Doing or Thinking of Doing”).
And even that doesn't cover everything, for often during the course of the day, despite years of disciplined practice, we are not fully awake, aware. Instead, even if we are not agitated and feel calm and at peace, there is still a cloud that we feel is a barrier between us and our heart; between us and the feeling of joy and freedom that is our heart, our birthright. When I sense that cloud, which is surprisingly often, I start chanting to myself (usually an “om” chant, often “om ah hum vajra guru padma siddhi hum”). After chanting that several times, I am always brought back home, to my heart, and I experience joy and freedom.
Let me give you a practical example, yesterday I was on a very crowded subway. I mean body to body; hot; uncomfortable. I started chanting. And within a minute all my judgment-filtered senses dissipated and were replaced by a feeling of joy. I looked around me and I was aware of the wonder that each of these people were different individuals; no two alike. Suffering may be the universal truth, but no two people are alike. And I was aware of the strength they all had to get past, if not overcome, their suffering and make something of their lives. They may not act in the wisest manner, certainly they don’t take the spiritual path, but they persevere despite all the stuff that life throws at them. And that generated respect.
The final step in meditation is experiencing peace. When we take these positive actions to return home to our heart and reject all the guidance (emotions, judgments, cravings, attachments) that flows from our ego-mind, we are turning our will and our life over to the care of our true Buddha nature. And since our true Buddha nature, our heart, is light, love, faith, trust, compassion, gratitude, joy, strength, courage, and wisdom, we find ourselves at peace, happy, and joyful. And that, my friends, even if lasts a few minutes, is nirvana.