By: Ken Goldberg, Buddhist Monk
Mindful Meditation, has shown me that feelings and thoughts arise, and they depart. I have no investment in managing or controlling when and how. I need not crumble in the face of great emotional pain. My feelings are simply appropriate and to be expected. My anger is especially interesting as I struggle to put it in perspective without nurturing resentments or feeling guilty. It is just anger I feel. I am not the anger. But it is only by observing these thoughts and feelings that I resist the time old tradition of acting as badly as I feel. Interesting to watch people I resent and know in my heart that most of what I feel is all about my choosing to feel that way. Just as I can choose to feel pain without embarrassment and joy without clinging, I can also let anger arise and leave without the need to exacerbate it.
Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I used to default to aggression in most difficult circumstances. My years spent as a hoodlum then a lawyer were great arenas for “justified anger”. I hope my growing up in public serves more than a voyeuristic moment for the observer. I hope it stimulates interest and action to spiritual pursuit. Maybe it will encourage the practice of metta. Metta the Pali word for loving-kindness meditation, is the simple practice of directing well-wishes towards other people, and all living beings. It would be reasonable to think, if Ken can do it, anyone can.
So, I sit quietly and focus on the breath. Eventually the mind settles a teeny little bit. It is me now practicing concentration on the breath. Then these constantly arising thoughts can be viewed with some wisdom and insight. This form of insight meditation is derived from the time of the Buddha and is called Vipassana meditation (That is Pali for insight).
As my insight grows I can make the effort to improve the quality of my thoughts. I recognize that I have unwholesome thoughts, and I realize I can diminish them by replacing them with wholesome thoughts. I am in that brief moment not powerless to my thoughts. In this moment, I am controlling the quality of my thoughts so that I cultivate more wholesome and positive attitudes and behaviors.
This shift is what the Buddha taught us to strive for in meditation. Not relaxation or serenity. He taught meditation as a tool for sanity and liberation from suffering that naturally arises from untrained minds. Untrained minds too easily slip into anger, greed, impatience, hate, conceit, pride and delusion.
So, if you have a pervasive sensation of suffering, or dissatisfaction and uneasiness with your life, the prescription is possibly/probably meditation. And if you have no time or no ability to sit quietly, then you are exactly the person who needs to meditate.
Ken Goldberg offers guided meditation classes on Wednesday evenings at 7pm at The Buddhist Center of Dallas, 8484 Stults Road, Dallas. There is no charge and it is open to all and everyone is welcome.