This particular post is about Buddhist thought and how understanding its fundamental tenets are key to reaching a deep meditation practice and retraining your mind. I don’t want to alienate my readers (or clients) with outright dogma about any one spiritual belief, but some of my writing will be about Buddhism as I believe it’s an excellent source for retraining a stressed out mind. I don’t ask that you become Buddhist, but I know that my meditation experience and benefits were ineffective without a deeper grounding in the philosophy of mind that meditation arose from. I am open to absolutely all religious and spiritual beliefs and feel they have something to offer. As a Jungian at heart, I believe in God, divinity, synchronicity and destiny. As a psychological researcher and scientist, I am skeptical and became interested in Buddhism because it was the most comprehensive, systematic training I had ever come across regarding the mind.
Sure, there are countless theoretical textbooks on the mind, on neuroscience and an understanding of how the mind works but even in school we weren’t exactly taught “what to do” but rather we were taught many theories and a way to understand. Buddhism as an inquiry into reality and mind training (not a religion) woke me up. I found a direct method to relate to the mind, just as you would relate to your body when you learn to dance. While the psychologists and psychotherapists I learned from could tell me theoretically that I had to “reframe” a thought, my Buddhist monk friends taught me how to sit down and actually train my mind to do that. The theory is separate from the doing. It’s the classic “so what? now what?” scenario; we can understand the source of our distress (our childhood suffering, for example) and having the insight alone will be healing. Or will it? Yes, in part it will set us free from our unconscious defenses, but then we have to do something with that understanding because the mind has been trained into habit, over and over… our synaptic networks bundled together into memories, fears, dramas… what do we do with these trained bundles stuck together with entrenched beliefs about self and our history? We train them again, with meditation.
How do we do that? We sit down. We learn the basic how to’s, like breathing techniques, that are important for simple mastery of meditation. Then to go deeper, to not be crawling out of our skin in a state of unconscious existential fear, we learn why we meditate at all. We meditate to understand our place in reality– our relationship to the cosmos. Now here you thought you were just trying to calm down from all the multi-tasking you were planning between making breakfast and picking up the dry cleaning. I’m saying that to really get the benefits you need to find out who you are in this place.
Bare with me here; the idea below is not for everybody, and feel free to talk to me about how you can use it, even if you don’t tend to be Buddhist in your thinking. The idea is to free yourself from what Buddhism calls “discursive thought.” This is the thinking and the labels that run through our mind creating every bit of fear and suffering we hold onto. The quote is meant to be a thought to set your intention for meditation, which will ultimately influence how you see life, and how you can relax into it.
This quote is from traditional Buddhist teaching given by a Buddhist master named Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.