Change / Meditation / Spirituality

Things That Tend To Be Misleading: A Buddhist Perspective for Meditation

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.

Things That Tend to Be Misleading

“If you understand that all the misleading appearances of worldly existence are not intrinsically real, they will not tend to mislead you.

If you have attachment to friends and enemies as being real, they will mislead you. But if you have equanimity towards both, they will not mislead or deceive you.

If you see a lot of change or transition, that will tend to mislead you. But if you understand the intrinsic nature beyond change, it will not be misleading.

If you cling to the reality of birth and death, there is much deception. But if you realize there is no birth and death, there’s no deception.

If you believe in the existence of suffering, there’s much deception. But if you realize there’s no suffering, there’s no deception.

If you believe that self and other are separate, there’s much deception. But if you recognize that they are not two separate things, there’s no deception.If you understand this true nature of deception, discursive thoughts will be liberated in their own place.”


5 thoughts on “Things That Tend To Be Misleading: A Buddhist Perspective for Meditation

  1. I’m curious why you tagged “mahamudra,” a tantric/body practice but I didn’t see it in your essay. (I searched wordpress for “mahamudra which is how I found you.) Mahamudra teaches that the soul is the body. I agree with you that “how” is sitting down and breathing; for me also standing or walking as long as I do it. Form, for me has at times been a way to focus and discipline, at others, a distraction. I’ve adopted some Buddhist practices and philosophy, which now after years I consider self-hypnosis. I add prayer to my practice. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Thank you for your comment and question. I used the word Mahamudra here semantically as a representation of the “great seal” practice of Tibetan Buddhism. The word Mahamudra is used in a variety of contexts, and as such, its usage can be confusing. I placed the word for seasoned practitioners who would see its context within the post, though I did not make its context obvious to the general reader for purposes I cannot go into here. Though it’s not an ideal reference, the Wikipedia site has a good overview of the word usage: The overall title of this blog is a loose translation of one aspect of the Mahamudra 3 pointed training of meditation (rang bap). Also, in this post, the teacher who is quoted practices out of the Tibetan Mahamudra tradition. The quote itself embodies Mahamudra thought. If you link to his site, you’ll find many interesting teachings in the Tibetan Mahamudra system.

      • Thanks, may I always have beginners’ mind ; ) I’m most recently studying with Reggie Ray. He seems to talk at my level which after many years seems to be a third-grade grasp of basic terms; however, the practice is the important thing and for that I’m committed and grateful.

  2. “The theory is separate from the doing”, you wrote. I think I’ve experienced the same thing. And I’ve also found buddhist meditation very practical and helpful in this respect. Great post!

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