May 6, 2011

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A friend, who has taken up meditation, recently sent me an excerpt from the teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the best seller, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.Rinpoche is a respectful title for an honored teacher and Sogyal Rinpoche has earned his by traveling the world sharing his insights with others.  While I no longer practice meditation in the form of quiet sitting, I have respect for its powers and in the 1980’s, I spent two weeks studying the practice at a Tibetan monastery in Berkley, California. The experience was profound and I have carried its lessons with me ever since. Certainly it slowed me down. On leaving the center, I experienced difficulty as I attempted to return to the pace of the everyday life.

But over time the practice of meditation can become ritualized and its purpose obscured. What’s important for anyone who wishes to obtain a greater knowledge of oneself is to be less concerned about the manner of mediation – whether one sits or lies down; whether one counts the breath or concentrates on thought —for the point of it all is to observe. Sitting quietly is a good practice but I have found that any form of concentration works well. To write or paint or simply to view the world without judgment is also good practice. It’s easy to recognize the folly of peering up at the sky and saying, “This is a good cloud and that is a bad one.” The difficulty is in applying that objectivity to the rest of our lives.  

(photo by Kevin Dooley)

Unless we become masters at meditation, the moment we break our concentration, life’s stresses flood into our world again, dragging judgment with it — which is why practice must be consistent. Over time finding the high point of our concentration becomes less a chore and more a reward for our constancy. Life becomes peaceful when we can look up at the sky and admit, “I really don’t know clouds at all.” (“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell.)