I recently had the privilege to hear Master Tibetan Buddhist Monk, Lama Lobsang Samten, speak about finding inner peace and happiness. The presentation was amazing, and I left feeling so calm and peaceful. One of things he spoke about was cultivating mindfulness. First, we need to calm the mind of all its chatter in order to meditate. From there, we can turn inward to seek the root of our unhappiness. Once we are able to do this, then the solution or "antidote" to our negative feelings will be present itself, and our mental suffering will dissolve.
So, how do you cultivate Mindfulness? Try this. Soften your gaze. Close your eyelids only halfway, not squeezing them all the way shut, nor keeping them fully open. Find a happy medium. Think of a favorite place you like to go. Maybe it's the beach, or a park, or a ski slope. Whatever you picture, imagine you are there right now. See all of your surroundings, smell all the smells, hear all the sounds around you. Imagine you can feel the sun on your skin, or the saltwater lightly spraying you, or the crisp mountain air tingling your nose. Fully imagine being in this special place, and take some nice long, slow, deep breaths in and out of the nostrils. Now when you're ready, open your eyes and see how you feel. Does your heart feel lighter? Is there a smile on your face? In that moment of concentrating, was your mind thinking about all it had to do, or a problem you were dealing with? Most likely, no. You were able to quiet your mind long enough to distract it from its previous thoughts and worries. If you were unable to visualize anything or quiet the mind, don't worry.
Lama Samten said there are many layers of the mind to go through before you can reach stillness. He spoke about nine stages in order to fully arrive into your inner mind or consciousness. When you first begin to go through these layers, it's very hard. But, as with anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Our five sensory factors are the tools needed to train the mind to come into Mindfulness. Once you reach Mindfulness, then the techniques are no longer needed, and you can truly meditate.
According to Lama Samten, the purpose of meditation is to find the root of our negative thoughts and emotions, and then applying the wisdom and knowledge of the inner workings of the mind in order to dissolve these negative thoughts and emotions. Think of it as removing weeds from the lawn. If you cut the weeds just at the surface, they will grow back. But if you dig deep and remove the root of the weed, then it cannot regenerate. The mind has characteristics of love, compassion and kindness, but it also has hate, anger and destruction. Our mind is driven by these mental factors, either positive or negative. Meditation is about transforming the inner mind or inner consciousness. By using our five outer senses, we can train the inner mind to find happiness and peace. The more we practice love and compassion, the more our mind will emit these positive qualities.
So, what does this all mean? Do we need to sit in meditation for hours at a time in order to reach inner happiness? I don't believe so. Find a technique that works with you, albeit, music, a mantra, concentrating on the breath or an object. I like to walk along the river on my lunch break, taking in the surroundings and focusing on the water. Doing this for 15-20 minutes quiets my mind, and allows me to focus on all the beauty around me, and to be grateful for all of the things in my life. It helps shift my thoughts from negative to positive. True meditation is done within. We train the mind to stay peaceful no matter what comes up. Cultivating Mindfulness and vigilance is so important in order to calm the mind. You need a good, strong foundation in order to locate the root of your unhappiness. Once you train the mind with wisdom and knowledge, keeping the mind in its positive thinking all through the day is true meditation. The more we practice, the more we can eliminate our suffering.
If you would like more information on Lama Samten, or his center in Canada, check out the link here.
I am so honored to have had this experience, and thank Lama Samten and his assistant, Jason Simard, for sharing their wisdom and knowledge.
How do you cultivate Mindfulness in your daily life?