Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why do we meditate?

The passage below is from a truly excellent piece by Matthieu Ricard:
Our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. The aim of meditation is to transform the mind. As things stand now, our mind is often filled with troubles. We spend a great deal of time consumed by painful thoughts, plagued by anxiety or anger. It would be such a relief, if we could master our mind to the point where we could be free of these disturbing emotions.

We readily accept the idea of spending years learning to walk, read and write, or acquire professional skills. We spend hours doing physical exercises in order to get our bodies into shape. We do so because we believe that these efforts are going to benefit us in the long run.

Working with the mind follows the same logic. It will not change just from wishing alone. Meditation is a practice that makes it possible to cultivate and develop certain basic, positive human qualities in the same way other forms of training make it possible to acquire any other skill.

The goal of meditation is not to shut down the mind or anesthetize it, but rather to make it free, lucid and balanced.
I do really like that last sentence. Many people who come to the Center for meditation instruction are under the illusion that we should "bliss out" when we meditate and what they mean by that is essentionally to anesthetize the mind. Instead, we learn to be both deeply relaxed and powerfully alert at the same time.

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