Learning to Meditate
Talk given by Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche in May 2005
Here is a very simple, easy meditation. When I say easy meditation I mean that there isn't anything you need to do. Simple means we are not going to use any complicated visualisations or method so our mind will not have any reason or chance to complain.Â
According to Mahamudra, which is the highest form of meditation practiced in my Lineage, simple and easy is considered the very best. Sometimes we human beings make everything difficult for ourselves. We think that if everything is easy or simple it is not good enough, so we have to complicate everything. If we really want to practice, we can make life easy and simple.Â Our mundane life is already complicated enough so our spiritual life should be easy and simple.Â
I always like to explain about how to have the proper motivation. Why do we meditate? We meditate because we want to be steady; we want to be caring and kind human beings. So what we try to do is to develop our everyday habit to become a good human being, a positive human being. Then when we have this quality the result is that the quality of your life improves, your home, family, friends and job, your whole life will be happier. If we meditate with a selfish motivation, the 'I', our ego, is thinking of all the qualities we want to achieve and we see everybody as our enemy. If you meditate and somebody is making noise you think 'Oh I can't meditate because these people are making so much noise', or you think 'I can't meditate because people won't give me time'. So the selfish meditator always finds ways to complain and blame other people and then you don't find inner peace because you create unnecessary enemies. So we have to get rid of this selfishness. We can do that by always thinking how fortunate we are.
When you start a meditation session you need to settle yourself down properly, so first of all appreciate how fortunate you are. You have many choices: you could be going on holiday or doing something else, but because you have the aspiration to do something useful, you have decided to use this time properly.Â To use the time properly you sit, relaxed physically and mentally.Â You don't allow your mind to go back to your everyday life by thinking 'I should have done this' or 'I could have gone with that'. Don't allow these thoughts to come up because they're not useful for meditation. You have made the decision to meditate so it's no use thinking, 'I should have gone with my friends', or 'What are other people thinking about me?'Â None of this is helpful. When you are meditating mind should be right here.Â
When you see your mind start to wander, bring it back kindly. It doesn't matter if it needs to be brought back a thousand times, don't lose patience.Â Many people have very little tolerance and that's no use. Buddha teaches us to have patience and tolerance.Â If your mind wanders you don't need to get upset or tense, just gently bring it back and physically relax. You need to learn to see yourself getting tense and then remind yourself to calm down. You don't need to be tense, just enjoy yourself!Â Â
Dealing with thoughts, feelings and emotions
One important thing to remember is not to judge your feelings. Don't judge how you feel while meditating because sometimes we sit and have a good experience; we are happy and we somehow pursue that, and then when we have a negative thought or anxiety or emotions we get stressed.Â Being a good meditator means not judging whether our thoughts and emotions are good or bad.Â Actually it makes no difference whether they are good or bad - thoughts come and go like a wave of energy, like the wind comes and goes.Â The thoughts have no solidity so you can learn not to hold onto them but to let them go.Â
If you feel very stressed, it doesn't need to be a problem because you can just let it go, just leave it. If you feel happy, don't get lost in it. Buddha advises us to learn to treat these thoughts and feelings like the wind. You can't say wind doesn't exist because wind is energy, but there isn't anything to hold on to, and our experience of feelings is nothing more than that. So in meditation just leave everything alone.Â When you learn to do this you will feel so self-liberated that nothing will bother you any more. You will not be caught in the past, nor in the future.Â You will be completely free because you do not engage in anything to do with your experience, your feelings or sensibilities.Â When you are meditating always send the message to your mind not to get stressed. Learn to enjoy sitting. Relax mentally and physically so you have a better chance of starting the meditation properly.
How do I deal with impatience and restlessness when meditating?Â
This difficulty I can understand because most of you are brought up in a culture of busyness. You are told that if you don't have lots of thoughts and ideas you are dull. You think you have to be busy. Also our mind is very judgmental, constantly deciding things are good, bad, right or wrong, judging all the time.Â As we start to learn Buddhist wisdom we begin to realise that if we have a calmer mind, and don't judge everything, we can achieve more.Â Â
There are a few points we need to understand very clearly so we can have some sort of idea of how to improve, how we can move forward. If we become impatient and intolerant we could do many things wrong and never actually improve our situation, only make it worse.Â Â Never allow impatience to come into meditation because the purpose of meditation is simply to learn to stay, to be there.Â You don't have to measure your ability in any way.Â When we are meditating, whatever our weakness is, we don't have to get involved in it or worry about it, we just have to remember that all we want to do is overcome it.
How do I deal with high expectations of reaching a meditative state quickly when it is only at the end of the meditation that one starts to relax?
You are seeing the light at the end of a dark tunnel. You see there is a possibility that you can achieve something, that you can have inner peace, but our mundane habit is very strong. For example, we usually think that when we do anything we have to have something to show for it. If we are making a temple, we want to have a temple at the end to show what we have achieved.Â But in meditation you are not building a temple. You are simply sitting there asking your mind to do nothing. So that is why you have to give up expectation. When we say we achieve something in meditation, for a good meditator that means you are able to give up expectation.Â If you are able to do that, then you will reach your goal.
We often say, 'No hope, no fear'. Fear comes because of hope, because of expectation. You hope to achieve something, hope to gain something, so the fear of failure comes. So if you want to be free from fear give up the hope. Then it is simple. Sometimes I feel very sorry for you because you are brought up culturally, traditionally even spiritually very different from what I teach. It looks like there is a conflict. You shouldn't think that way. Following an ordinary path means you go in one direction. Following a spiritual path means going in a different direction, so there is no conflict. You need to decide whether you are going to follow the spiritual path or a worldly path.Â I'm advising you to follow the spiritual path and forget about the worldly path. So this does not lead to inner conflict.Â
I find it difficult to integrate experiences from meditation into worldly and everyday life. Can you give some hints or advice?
In Buddhism we learn to develop a new way of thinking. We can learn a new way of life through sitting meditation, through doing intensive retreat for many years. Once we are able to change our mental and emotional habits then our everyday life will change. So as soon as you walk out from a meditation session you are able to remember to be a good human being. You remember not to get angry. You remember not to judge. You should think about this and find out what is your greatest weakness and work on that.Â If it is anger for example, then as soon as somebody makes you angry or as soon as you find some reason to be upset you remember that anger is not the path you want to follow, you remember not to react and get angry.Â
What this really means is remembering the right method at the right time. Mostly, people forget, then when they get upset, it causes chaos! After the energy of the anger has gone they feel sorry and regret having said this or done that. Then they feel bad. That's a little too late. You have to catch it before you do any harm. You need to think and bring in the correct action. Mindfulness means remembering what you have to do. So even if it takes a life-long effort it's worthwhile, because certain weaknesses and mind-poisons cause a lot of pain and suffering to yourself and harm and pain to others. To develop this mindfulness it is worthwhile to spend your whole life if necessary. Otherwise we keep on making the same mistakes again and again. Then life becomes painful.
To me, modern civilization seems very shallow, with no depth and no wisdom. People nowadays suffer tremendously and don't know how to deal with it. So they drink to relieve the pain then they become an alcoholic. It's like taking the wrong kind of medicine. Others smoke and become addicted. Or they do Tai Chi, Karate all these things. It's like having a car, but never tuning the engine. You polish the car so outwardly it looks o.k., but the engine is rusty and car doesn't function properly.Â According to deeper wisdom, as long as the engine is in good condition and can take you wherever you need to go, the outer body is not so important.Â
Being wise means learning always to relax when you get into difficulty. Learn to take care of your mental state. Other things can be wonderful, but you still have the same problem because your mind can't do anything to help itself. So it is very important always to consider if you can drive your car without oil, or if it is worth having a good engine. Habits can build up so one day you take one glass the next day two, but the underlying problem will still be there.Â Buddhadharma teaches that we need to help ourselves mentally and emotionally so we never need to start to depend on smoking or drinking.Â Meditation is the key to this.Â
The modern world is full of people pretending to be someone they are not: always ready to fight battles, having to wear so many ornaments because what people see is more important than how you feel inside.Â But it is not beneficial to wear fancy clothes when there is so much suffering inside. We need to be realistic and take the responsibility to make sure our inside being is satisfied and happy. Life is not a drama showing the world how happy you are or how successful you are. That doesn't make anyone happy.
So when you are meditating learn to relax physically and mentally.Â When you hear a sound, try to become one with the sound.Â Instead of letting it bother you, you can use sound as an implement to improve your meditation.Â So, if you are a great meditator, whatever noise you hear, doesn't become a noise that you hear, you are able to tune your mind with the noise. The noise and yourself become one. So in future no noise can disturb your peace. This is very important.
Why no meditation music? Would this be disturbing?
This is a different method!