Meditation is a primary way to stay anchored and grounded in chaotic, stressful and turbulent times. I’d like explain, in some detail, a very specific meditation technique that people have used for thousands of years to help them achieve a state of peace in any circumstance. It’s called Vipassana Meditation, and I recently learned it at a ten-day retreat.
The technique is based on the Buddhist principle that suffering is the result of desire. In other words, misery comes whenever we want what’s happening to be different than it is. Let me give you a simple example. You and I are both stuck in traffic. Our cars are side by side. I’m miserable because I refuse to accept the traffic situation, wishing it wasn’t so. You, however, are caught in the same traffic, but you are happily smiling and signing a song in your car. You are ten feet away from me yet having a completely different experience. What’s the difference? The difference is that you’re not wishing it wasn’t happening. You’re aligned with the moment and you’re not reacting to the traffic, but being with it. I’m miserable because I’m resisting it, hating it, wishing it wasn’t so. Neither of us can change the situation, yet one of us is happy, the other is not.
Now, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking I may have some important place to be and you don’t. Whether either of us is late or has to be somewhere five minutes ago makes no difference in how we react to reality. The reality is we’re stuck in traffic. We can either observe it and not react to it or we can hate it and wish it wasn’t so. How we choose to react is the only determining factor in our experience. Peace is not about your life situation, but about your reaction to your life situation.
So the question becomes, “How can we learn to not react, but to simply observe and be with whatever is happening?” Or, to get even more down to earth, how can we not react to this economy and our financial situation? How can we be at peace in this unpleasant (to put it mildly) economic situation? Vipassana meditation has an answer to that.
Their answer is that you can create a new habit of not reacting to whatever occurs by practicing not reacting during meditation. What does that mean? Well, if you sit very still in meditation for any length of time, you will soon discover your body has sensations occurring all the time. Some my be subtle, some may be gross, but your if you allow your attention to scan from the top of your head to the tips of your toes continuously, you’ll notice many, many sensations in your body. You may feel stiffness, cold, heat, itching, aching, buzzing, tingling, tightening, pulsating to only name a few. Your back my throb in pain, your stomach may ache with hunger. In other words, if you sit and pay attention, all kinds of events will arise and pass in your awareness of your body.
Here’s what Vipassana is. Don’t react to any of it–ever. Practice non reaction during meditation by not reacting to any body sensation you experience. If your cheek itches, just observe it, don’t scratch it. If your back hurts, don’t move a muscle, just observe the pain. If you’re hot or cold, don’t take off clothes or put them on. Don’t react. Just observe. Whatever sensation you experience, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, commit to simply observing it, not reacting to it.
If you do this, Vipassana teaches that over time, you will notice that you will not automatically react to experiences in your daily life. You won’t automatically reach for the fridge when you’re hungry. You won’t automatically strike back when criticized. You won’t automatically react to traffic. You won’t automatically fret when the market drops. You’ll simply observe and be in alignment with whatever arises.
Does this mean you’ll never take action? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! In fact, just the opposite. When you don’t react to whatever is arising, your wisdom, instinct, creativity and judgment go off the charts. You’ve created space for them to emerge. When you’re angry, craving, attaching, hating, resisting you don’t have the space or the energy to think clearly and take effective action.
So I want to encourage you to try this. Sit in meditation for a length of time that is challenging for you. That may be ten minutes, that may be an hour, as it is for me. And as you sit in absolute stillness, simply breathe and scan your body with your awareness looking for sensations to observe and when you come across sensations, don’t take any action toward them. Don’t react. As you do this, you’ll notice another Buddhist principle, which is that life is impermanent. It’s never stays the same. Things arise and pass, over and over again. You’ll feel an itch or a pain and it will soon pass away.
Why is this such an important lesson to learn? Because whatever unpleasant experience that is happening now (e.g., the economy), it won’t last forever. It will pass. The economy will heat up again. If you’re single, it will pass. If you’re sick, it will pass. If you’re broke and jobless, it will pass. No matter what’s happening, it will pass. (Incidentally, the opposite of those is true as well) When? When will it pass? I don’t know and it might not pass until you pass–meaning when you pass away. The principle of impermanence keeps us from attaching to anything as well as wasting time hating something.
Practice non reaction in meditation and it will change your life. And by all means, if you want to discuss this further, pick up the phone and call.