I started meditating when my three children were very young. I was studying Vedanta then and often I meditated in a group.
The practice brought some peace into my hectic life, but I did not learn how to fully control my mind until years later.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama warns, “At the outset I should sound a note of caution. As the beginning meditator will quickly discover, the mind is like a wild horse. Like a wild horse, it takes a long time as well as familiarity with the person who wishes to tame it before it will settle down and obey commands.
Similarly, only with gentle persistence over an extended period will the real benefits of meditation become apparent. Of course it is all right to set aside just a few days to try out a short programme of mental training.”
My early meditator’s mind was like a three-year-old’s. It did not respond to the command, ‘No’. Nor was it much interested in focusing on a single point—such as a picture of a deity.
Eventually, I came to understand how to discipline it—with loving persuasion and practice, practice, practice.
Our Beloved Lama suggests, “As to the specifics of practice, early morning is generally the best time of day. At that time, the mind is at its freshest and clearest. However, it is important to remember that if you are to practice well in the early morning, you need to have had a good night’s sleep beforehand.”
It was hard for me to give up late-night activities. I enjoyed working without interruption in the garden studio where I did most of my writing. I was very attached to my work then and put it before everything else. Slowly, I saw that this was my ego, controlling me, and I began to change my habits.
I was able to integrate His Holiness’ methodology. “Once you are settled, the first thing to do is take a few
breaths,” he said.
“Then, breathing normally again, try to focus on your breath, noticing the air as it enters and leaves through the nostrils. What you are trying to achieve is a mind in a neutral state, neither positive nor negative.”
More and more, meditation is being used as a tool to ease tension and stress. One does not have to belong to a religion in order to benefit from meditation.
For instance, Dalai Lama points out, “Yet, for all the associations of meditation or mental cultivation with religion, there is no reason why it should not be undertaken in an entirely secular context. After all, mental discipline itself requires no faith commitment. All it requires is a recognition that developing a calmer, clearer mind is a worthwhile endeavor and an understanding that doing so will benefit both oneself and others.”
When I sink deeply into the inner self I am so refreshed and rejuvenated.
In fact, after only twenty minutes free of mind babble, I have more energy than I get from a very good night’s sleep.