Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Function of Analytical Meditation

An outstanding book on meditation according to the Tibetan tradition is How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald. At the beginning of Chapter 2, entitled "Appreciating our Human Life" we find a powerful statement about the cause of unhappiness and dissatisfaction:

The function of analytical meditation is to help us recognize and cut through the mistaken attitudes and ideas that cause unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Our experiences in life depend upon how we think and feel about things, and because most of the time we do not perceive things the way they really are, we encounter one frustrating situation after another.

As long as we blame our parents, society or other external factors, we will never find any satisfying solutions to our problems. Their main cause lies within our own mind, so we need to take responsibility for changing our way of thinking where it is mistaken, that is, where it brings unhappiness to ourselves and others.

This can be done through meditation, by gradually becoming aware of how we think and feel, distinguishing correct from incorrect attitudes, and finally counteracting harmful attitudes by the appropriate means.

Actually, the idea that the cause of my problems is in my own mind is good news because I have some choice about that, don't I? If the cause of my problems were external (and I'm powerless over what is outside me), then I would indeed be helpless and trapped. Taking responsibility for changing my own way of thinking is the path to genuine liberation.

I realize that a lot of people reading this blog will have real challenges tomorrow regarding how they think and feel. As you know, I support taking action and engaging in protests and demonstrations when we feel our country is headed in a dangerous direction. However, it is vital that we do not destroy our own happiness in the process. We can accept that things are as they are and still do what we can to make a difference. But we will only hurt ourselves if we descend into overwhelming aversion or grasping or numbing out. I encourage us all to be gentle with ourselves and to work with our minds skillfully - however we may choose to observe tomorrow.

Peace be with you.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sr. Ellie: I really liked the article about happiness being our duty and learning the simple yet powerful ways in which we can contribute to our own happiness. Thank you for sharing the wonderful writings and your observations, and for giving us a place to interact with you. a. callaway


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