By Ed and Deb Shapiro for Intentblog.com
We were teaching a workshop in Southwest England when Ed asked the group: “If you like to suffer then raise your hand.” No one raised a hand. So why do we create suffering for both ourselves and others?
Seems like we love to suffer as all the ways out of suffering are staring us in the face. If not, then why do more people drink alcohol than meditate, or why do more people eat fast food than get exercise? Smoking cigarettes is a major cause of death in the U.S., as is sugar consumption leading to obesity, so why do we love everything that is bad for us and keep away from things that do us good?
Presumably it’s because we really don’t like ourselves too much and live in such a way that our own needs take second place. Or we believe we’re invulnerable and will go on forever: “Things like that don’t happen to me!” But once a cycle of self-denigration gets started it takes a huge amount of determination and motive to make real changes. For the mind is a perfect servant as it will do whatever it’s told, but it’s a terrible master as it fails to help us help ourselves.
Which can be even harder when our mind is like a deranged monkey, leaping from one thought or drama to the next, never allowing us time to be quiet, peaceful and still. Meditation can make a huge difference to this, which may sound farfetched but it’s a direct way to cut through the chaotic monkey mind that’s constantly making excuses and supporting our resistance. Yet so many people pay it so little attention. Drinking alcohol can kill and meditation can save, yet there are far more people who drink.
It is fascinating to note how the Buddha recognized suffering and it’s role in our lives all of 2,600 years ago. His basic teachings are the Four Nobel Truths: 1) life is suffering; 2) the reason for that suffering is because of our desire for things to be different to how they are; 3) the way to become free of suffering, which includes meditation; 4) the ultimate state of freedom from suffering.
Here are seven ways meditation can transform your life:
1. Chills You Out. Stress is responsible for 70-90% of illnesses, while quiet time is the most effective remedy for a busy and overworked mind. In a stressed state, it is easy to lose touch with inner peace, compassion and kindness; in a relaxed state, the mind clears and we connect with a deeper sense of purpose and altruism. Your breath is your best friend. Anytime you feel stress rising, heart closing, mind going into overwhelm, just focus on your breathing and quietly repeat: Breathing in, I calm the body and mind; breathing out, I smile.
2. Releases Anger and Fear. Anger can lead to hatred and violence. If we don’t accept our negative feelings then we are likely to repress or disown them, and when denied they can cause shame, depression and rage. Meditation enables us to see how selfishness, aversion and ignorance create endless dramas and fears. It may not be a cure-all, it’s not going to make all our difficulties go away or magically transform our weaknesses into strengths, but it does enable us to release self-centered and angry attitudes and generate a deeper inner happiness.
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