I guess one of the luckiest accidents of my rather chaotic younger life was chancing upon Vipassana meditation.
If you haven’t heard of Vipassanna yet, it’s a ten-day course teaching the fundamentals of traditional Buddhist meditation. During the course, participants abstain from conversation, eye contact, writing, reading and of course phones (which weren’t a thing in my twenties)
Attending the course several times in my twenties gave me an understanding of the fleeting nature of our day-to-day experience and conversely possibly led me to putting up with too much nonsense in my life. Maybe I took the “equanimity” training too literally. That’s a whole other subject.
I suppose I was very young, so sitting for ten hours a day and getting up at 4am didn’t seem that outrageous, and the evening talks kept my mind interested enough to stay.
Certainly, the teachings have had many practical applications in my life since.
Over the past five years I have reintroduced meditation into my life, and in recent months, twenty minutes of meditation every morning has become a non-negotiable part of my morning ritual.
Maybe meditation helps me to slow down, maybe it helps me with clarity, and maybe it expands my empathy as I am more in touch with my human experience. Sitting with all of the discomfort, contradiction and busyness of my own mind and allowing myself to just pause, breathe and maybe listen a bit certainly feels like a great start to the day.
Possibly the biggest thing about daily meditation is the shift in perspective from participant to observer in many situations, and occasionally asking myself “how important is this?” and “is this taking me closer to or further away from the person I want to be today?”
I was very fortunate to be in the audience with His Holiness The Dali Lama in the Peace Garden at Glastonbury Festival a few years ago (an event open to everyone which I was lucky enough to hear about.) One thing he said really stood out for me, and I paraphrase “I meditate for five hours each morning for world peace because that is my job. At some point during these 5 hours, my mind becomes quiet for a moment. This is the nature of being human”
Hearing this encouraged me to start meditating again, not with a goal to “stop thinking” but just for the experience of the occasional moment of quiet in my own mind.
The irony being for me that as soon as I notice my mind has become quiet, I am back into the cycle of seemingly endless thoughts.
It’s not about trying to be enlighted or trying to be perfect, and it’s not about feeling superior. It’s about allowing some space from the crazy pressure we put ourselves under and all of the sensory overload of modern life, and it makes space for so much joy, curiosity and wonder. Maybe we are limitless beings after all.