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Why We Meditate

What’s the point of meditation? It’s not like every time you park your backside on a cushion, attempt an erect posture, relax your eyelids and focus on your breath that you are destined for a blissful plunge into a sea of tranquillity. It’s highly unlikely that you are going to stay focused on the process for a length of time, and it is very likely that the unceasing torrent of thought will only become more evident to your distracted self. And let’s face it, once it is done, you probably not going to get out there and save the world, free of your neuroses, oozing kindness and concern to all your fellow taxpayers and their pets. Anyways that’s partly my take on the subject, and I meditate.

So why meditate? This is a subject of a recently published book (‘why we meditate’) by two authors: Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Daniel Goleman. The former is one of the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist teachers that was trained outside of Tibet. The latter is a psychologist, a celebrated science journalist, and the co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning at Yale University.

The authors provide a bridge between the thousand-year-old practical and philosophical Buddhist disciplines of the east, and the western psychological theories, and the skill sets they provide. As such, this read is an excellent opportunity for the exploration of topics such as the notion of ‘self’ from the traditional Buddhist perspective, the challenges this concept may bring during meditation, and the unique traditional approach to transforming the energy of challenging emotions to conscious, positive, and creative activities for the benefit of self and others.

Most importantly for us western readers, the book’s intention is to scientifically rationalize the Buddhist assertion that inner joy and unconditional love for self and others is our birthright. No primordial sin. Not inherently bad. We were always perfect. It is fundamental to our existence and is indeed the essence of our being. As such, the contemplative practices are not intending on constructing or building a new happy individual, but to re-connect with what has always been there. Tucked under layers of confusion. Confusion bourn of misidentification of the self and all other natural phenomena as permanent, solid constructs.

These teaching drive the complexity of modern life into very simple fundamental principles which are in essence secular and nondogmatic. So yes, you may not save the world by next Tuesday, or be completely free of your neuroses within a few practice sessions, but with a little patience and regularity, a bit of playfulness, a thimble of kindness toward oneself, and a bucket of humour we could improve our experience of the meanwhile and get closer, little by little, to full recognition of our true radiance.

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