Allow Peace to flourish and blossom.
Meditation Lesson 4.
Cultivating and Developing.
Last session I talked about letting go of thought, and training the mind to let go of thought. Especially pain driven thought and pain filled thought, that causes so much trouble for us. So much unnecessary trouble.
And yet this is much easier said than done. For defilements are not easy to let go of. There is an inherent sticky-ness to them, and it is easy to get entangled in them. If defilements were easy to let go of, then most of the problems of the world would cease. In fact, they would never have arisen in the first place.
But in meditation, we learn to let go of all thought, including thought that does not seem to be particularly painful. We do this to create some space in the mind. Some space to build what we need to build in meditation and spiritual practice. Build what?
In the first instance, we are cultivating inner peace, developing inner peace. As a Quality that needs to be cultivated and developed. It is like growing vegetables. Just throwing the seeds onto the ground in a place like Horsecamp is quite unlikely to produce much food. Rather, we cultivate the tomato or the kale or the beans. More precisely, we learn the skills and techniques of cultivation. And it’s Mother Nature that produces the food, that transforms a seed into a mature plant ready for harvest. And this transformation takes time.
Similarly, our task is to cultivate the conditions needed for peace. Peace will arise when the conditions are favourable, when the influences are supportive. We don’t actually make peace, or make our mind peaceful. Rather, we move towards peace, consciously and purposefully.
Peace is related to other, similar Qualities, like contentment,
- being at ease,
- being untroubled,
- enjoyment, and many others.
It is like building a cabin. The zincalume roof sheets are obviously a critical part of the cabin, to protect us from the pouring rain and sun in summer. But not much use by themselves. There are many other elements of the building. These need to be properly put together to transform a pile of building materials into a proper cabin.
So to cultivate peace, we need to also cultivate many other spiritual Qualities. And we need to know how to put them together.
And how do we cultivate the Qualities, once we have created some spaciousness for them to grow in? There are several meditation techniques.
The Anchor Point.
I first talked about filling the mind with the touch, or the sound. As a way of describing meditation when we are thinking, not meditating.
But when meditating, it is better to perceive the touch or sound as an anchor point. Something secure to anchor the boat of our mind, so we are not swept into dangerous waters, like reefs and stormy waves. A safe harbourage is a great relief to small boatmen in stormy weather, and eagerly sought after.
So let us perceive the meditation object as a safe place, and one we really need for our inner peace. While we are staying with the meditation object, it is important to perceive the role it can play in our lives. As a refuge from troubles. As a dwelling place.
Having adopted a conducive attitude to the dwelling place, now is the time to start building. At first, we can simply name the spiritual Qualities that we could cultivate right now. Just recite a list - peace, contentment, being at ease, being untroubled, valuing peace, appreciation.
This sets the direction. Just naming the Qualities. Reminding ourselves of our Purpose and Goal.
Then we can develop this into something more substantial, such as short phrases like –
- how peaceful it is ! How quiet this is.
- how fortunate am I to have this …
- how pretty the forest is …
- no need to worry, nothing to worry about
- all is well
These phrases can be repeated, perhaps continuously, like a mantra or affirmation. Or we can use them sparingly and occasionally, interspersed with other meditation methods. (I prefer the latter.)
Last session I talked about attachment and letting go of thought. Not all thought is peaceful, nor conducive to peace. In fact, in meditation, we can learn how far from peace the thoughts really are.
So letting go of disturbance is essential to move towards Peace, and the other spiritual Qualities. It is an essential preliminary to cultivating peace.
Tolerance and Patience.
After we have let of disturbance, adopted a favourable attitude to the meditation object, and used our mind suggestions or affirmations, then we are as ready as we can be. For peace to arise.
If conditions are not yet favourable, then we will experience some heavy or dour feeling, and not the legendary bliss and deep peace of meditation.
The ego is likely to react by blaming the meditation, or declaring it to be a waste of time. Abdicate responsibility. The antics of the ego …
So now is an opportunity to practise tolerance and patience. There is no need to worry about a little slump. No need to be frightened by a little painful feeling. NO need to throw away a valuable opportunity to train just because of a passing mood. Peace will come, sooner or later, if we persist. The sooner when our practice is sincere and dedicated.
My approach is to use Hindu, Buddhist and other themes that can help us cultivate these spiritual Qualities. Help us transcend the obstacles to peace, help us let go of disturbance. Help us understand that which undermines and obscures the spiritual Qualities from our lives. Themes that support and assist the healing process, the healing from traumatic experience. Themes that help strengthen the mind, so it can let go of troubles, and it can avoid troubles.
The purpose is to feed the thinking mind with ideas that can support the meditation, and bring out the full potential of meditation to heal, to transcend troubles, and to cultivate the sacred. And to start every session with meditation, to better prepare the mind for these themes.
Loving kindness meditation is quite popular in Buddhism, almost as popular as breath meditation. The Pali term is metta bhavana. bhavana means “to cultivate” or “to practise.” So all that I have talked about today could be called bhavana.
My webpage “Course in Meditation” describes how to
gain the full benefit of these Meditation Lessons