Lesson 3: Shamatha Meditation

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In the lesson last week, I talked about the point of view that the Buddha took concerning our emotions.

Emotions are thoughts that become physical, thoughts that trigger a bodily reaction.

I made the analogy that emotions are like the waves hitting the If the sea hits the shore. 

It’s a big turmoil: The waves break, The water splashes With the constant force, they wash away the land. Break the rock.

We can use this image to understand what emotions are. Emotions are thoughts that become physical, thoughts that trigger a bodily reaction.

Sadness makes us cry. Happiness makes us laugh. Embarrassment makes us blush. Nervousness makes us sweat. Fear makes our heart beat faster and raises the bloodpressure.

If we don’t give these emotions, like depression, nagging thoughts or any other difficult situations loving attention, they will show themselves as physical symptoms and illnesses in your body.

So, we need to learn to identify these emotions and feel where we feel them in our body, especially the hurtful ones.

Where do these emotions come from? Very often these emotions arise because reality is not as we want it to be. Things are not turning out the way we planned them. Live is not working out as we wish it to be. Stress is when we want to achieve things faster than they come to us. And all along: We miss the beauty of the current moment.  That is what we practice in a mindfulness meditation: Stay in the current moment and enjoy it. Accept your feelings and bodily sensations.

Buddha is saying two things:

  1. There’s nothing wrong with the current moment. We are absolutely fine right now.
    So you can always seek refuge in the current moment.
  2. We should not attach to the status quo or the plan we made.
    This does not mean that you shouldn’t want to achieve something and pursue your goals, but it it doesn’t work out, let it go.
    Don’t narrow your view down to the tunnel in front of you, but stay aware of opportunities all around you.
    The end of the old is the beginning of the new.
    If you want to start something new, you have to sacrifice something old.
    And very often you don’t get to choose what you lose.
    Your house burns down, it may not be your choice

Your husband or wife leaves you, not your choice
You lose your job, not your choice
You or loved ones become sick, not your choice.

Get on with it! 

You should not hold on to what you have, nor to your expectations, but let it slip loosely through your fingers.

This was very important to the Buddha. In the parable of the raft, he gives the example of a man who, in order to escape a flood, builds a raft out of wood lying around and succeeds in reaching the save shore. 

The Buddha asks whether it would be wise or practical for the man to hold on to the raft after reaching the other side and carry it around on his head.

The answer is that this would certainly not be wise or useful.

Create a balance between achieving your goal and letting go.

One is to float in a state of being sensible , which the Buddha outlines in one of his most poetic descriptions of salvation:

„If I stood still, I would sink; if I struggled, I would be carried away. So by neither standing still nor struggling, I could cross the flood.“

If you are meditating on your own and are just starting out or would like to bring a reliable regularity to your daily practice, it is good to stick to fixed times, which will mostly be at the beginning or end of the day. A fixed place for meditation is also very helpful. 

How long you meditate for each time is up to you. If you can only spare ten or fifteen minutes, then start with that. He says we should set a specific duration and stick to it. Without a fixed goal, we may get up again after only five minutes.

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Ralf Eisend

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