By Daniel Scharpenburg
Our true nature is within each of us.
It is obscured because of layers of delusion, but it is there. Our true nature can be penetrated and understood intuitively. We just have to be willing to engage in some inner work.
So, should we remain as we are: pushed about in our lives by our delusions and preconceptions? Or should we look for more?
We can learn and grow. We can have a more advanced level of understanding and awareness.
Practitioners of Buddhism are like explorers. We are opening ourselves to what is unknown within us. The truth is there and we have a great determination to find it.
We are looking within ourselves.
Where to Begin:
The first step is meditation. Some form of meditation is required for Buddhist practice. Not only should we have sitting meditation, but also we should bring mindful awareness into our daily lives. This helps us expand our awareness of our connections to the world around us.
If I can have mindful awareness of my thoughts and feelings as they arise, then I am as controlled by my delusions and preconceptions. It’s not that thoughts and feelings are bad, but only that we should try to have an understanding of when and why they arise.
Meditation helps us to grow and lead more fulfilling lives, but it’s not always easy to get motivated to do it. There are many distractions in the world and there are always other things that we could be doing.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a state of awareness that we can bring through concentration.
Meditation has several great effects. Meditation helps us manage anxiety. It helps us have better focus and clearer thoughts. It helps us relate to others. It helps us deal with a myriad of disorders such as OCD, depression, high blood pressure, and PTSD.
These are all wonderful benefits to regular meditation practice, but they are basically side effects. If someone wants to meditate to manage their blood pressure, that’s great. If they keep at it, it will help, but in the context of Ch’an practice, that’s not why we’re doing it.
We’re meditating to see through delusion and to get an understanding of our true selves.
Important Things to Remember in Meditation.
Some say it matters that you sit in a really specific way in meditation. The most important thing is to sit upright with a straight spine. We don’t want to be so relaxed that we might fall asleep.
It’s often said that we should cross our legs in the lotus position, placing each foot on top of the opposite knee. The important thing is to sit in a way in which your legs won’t fall asleep.
Starting with awareness of the breath is a great thing for beginners. Just feel the breath coming into your body and going out. It helps most people to count breaths. That way every time your mind gets distracted, you can bring it back by going back to the counting.
Confidence is important to Buddhist practice. If we aren’t confident that the practice will help us, then it can be easy to give up. Also, more importantly, if we aren’t confident that we can succeed at the practice, then it can be easy to give up.
As we watch our minds go from one thought to another it can be easy to get discouraged. Don’t give up.
What do we concentrate on? To begin, the breath is often the best place to start, but once our breathing becomes naturally relaxed and smooth we can focus on nearly anything.
The rules stay pretty much the same: keep the mind coming back to the subject of concentration (the “seed”) whenever it wonders off.
Keep the body relaxed and alert and don’t self-criticize.
Editor: Dana Gornall