Meditation is not another extra activity to be occasionally practised when you have the time for it. Nor is it a specialized activity that can only be performed by the few and under unusual circumstances. It is essential for your wellbeing and can be done by everybody throughout the day. Without abandoning your ordinary life, you can learn to meet its demands with a calm, level-headed approach. This allows you to deal with your life in a competent, satisfying way and reduces levels of frustration, anger and anxiety. Mindfulness meditation is specifically designed for ordinary people and provides a straightforward, systematic method of coping with mental turbulence. This is backed up with a penetrating analysis of the human condition which uncovers unnecessary mistakes and hidden wrong assumptions so these can be avoided in the future. For those who have realized that the usual, unexamined expectations commonly held about life can never be met, meditation’s extra dimension and meaning gives new vision and hope that it is possible to find the freedom from disappointment they have been looking for.
Meditation is the attempt to understand reality and our place in it so that we can get the best out of life.
Meditation starts off with a gentle investigation into where you are at the present moment, what views you hold, if there are any inconsistencies in your viewpoint and what the results of having these inconsistencies could be.
As this is a practical, human problem and not an intellectual or philosophical problem, it can only be solved by practical means, in this case, the practical skills developed by meditation. the issues of life are always fundamentally emotional in their nature. They are based on unrealistic expectations the truth and reliability of which is considered self-evident and therefore beyond examination. Due to familiarity, a person develops a set of likes and dislikes. The likes are taken as proof that the situation giving rise to the like is right while dislikes are taken as proof that their corresponding situations are wrong. First comes the emotion and then the self-serving thoughts that justify the emotion. Whatever fits the dislikes is right, everything else is wrong. As reality does not obey this simplistic, unexamined belief, conflict and disappointment is inevitable.
These issues are emotional and prejudged. They are utterly impervious to reason or any form of intellectual effort or study. In fact, extensive intellectual development is one of the biggest obstacles to resolving them. This is especially true when the person has become proud of their large investment in some intellectual system or philosophy as then they will try to show their superior understanding by forcing the issue to fit their philosophy. Rational problems, such as building bridges or discovering how physical or chemical laws make the outer world of experience work, are susceptible to being solved by intellectual means, human problems are not.
Due to human problems being emotional by nature, when we make the futile effort to understand or solve them, we immediately react emotionally and all attempts at reason are subverted to justify the emotion or abandoned completely. This emotionality walls us off from each other as well as from an understanding of the problem and what can realistically be done about it. This emotional walling must first come down before we can vaguely attempt to do anything useful and kind.
Since the function of emotion is to agitate the mind, it stirs the mind up which prevents it from seeing clearly and acting constructively. Any attempt to intervene and deal with the emotion is again directed effort and essentially emotionally driven. Thus it will only aggravate the mental agitation and the situation will deteriorate.
The only way out is to calm this agitation down and the only workable method is to wait for the agitation to die down by itself. This peace and the insights it delivers is essentially what meditation really is. To prevent the mind from forgetting to do this effortless effort and wander into more distraction and agitation, it is anchored to a focal point, its meditation object. As this effort of meditation is not driven by the usual ambition and the wish to succeed, it is basically a non-activity: meditation is purely experiential and non intellectual. However, it still retains intelligence and understanding but now this is the understanding arising from direct (i.e. non-rational) experience. It is not the intellectual understanding which is arrived at as the conclusion of a laborious line of rational enquiry. It is a spontaneous mental event which occurs due to the fact that the mind is intensely involved in the experience of its meditation object. The intensity of this untrammelled experience delivers a brilliantly clear consciousness and profound depth of understanding.
Meditation is not an attempt to understand your life on a personal level or devise a tailor-made solution for your problems as though these are external obstacles which can be removed once you know how this can be done. This is an inappropriate approach based on the delusion that your unique demands exist and are important so that there must be a special happiness waiting somewhere out there just for you to satisfy these demands, if only you knew how to find it. This is like saying you are in love with the most beautiful person in the world but without knowing what they look like, what their name is or where they live. These are half-baked ideas that everything should be magical and easy so that if it is not then someone else must be to blame. As there is no evidence to verify this mistaken belief, it is wishful thinking. There is no method of solving this problem as it does not exist. It arises from incorrect thinking and the only realistic solution is to let go of involvement with solving this imaginary problem and correct your thinking so that it is in alignment with reality. The peace and happiness that comes with regular practice of meditation makes it possible to do this.
Meditation is an experiential investigation into the laws governing life and how they can be applied to show firstly what is realistic and possible and secondly that veering away from them into wishful thinking inevitably leads to unnecessary suffering.