Sunday, July 29, 2012

Learning to Observe

It helps to think about why I spend so much time meditating. I ask myself this question at the beginning of every sitting. I come up with a different answer every day. Sometimes I want to slow my thoughts. Sometimes I want to be useful to people. Sometimes I want my mind to be as sharp as a sword.

But a question I ask myself less often is, "what is meditation for?" I just saw this video with Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, where she offers a simple reminder that meditation is about becoming familiar with the mind and learning to observe the mind.

This may sound simple for a lot of people, but learning to see the mind clearly is one of the most amazing things humans can learn how to do. I'm guessing that in ancient times, people were better at this than they are now. These days, we find ourselves racing around all day, looking at our phones, looking at the internet, and getting entertained by everything from our food to the people we like to spend time with.

There is barely any time to stop and take a look at what's inside our minds. We barely have the presence of mind to say to ourselves, "hey, that really annoyed me when that person cut in front of me in line. Why does that bother me so much?"

Too often we look at our meditation practice as a self help exercise. On the one hand, it will help. On the other hand, if we approach it as a project, we won't get the full benefit of learning to see things as they are, free from filters.

Khandro Rinpoche's reminder that meditation is about learning to see ourselves is a great reminder. This practice is not about fixing or improving anything. That is why gentleness is so emphasized. This practice is about just learning to see the way things are.

So next time you are sitting on the cushion and you think to yourself, "dammit! there I go thinking again. I really need to concentrate better..."  give yourself a break. Just noticing that your mind is racing is what this is all about. The moment you notice a discursive thought, your mind is awake.


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