I was recently watching a television documentary on mindfulness and meditation, which seems to be popular nowadays. More and more people are meditating to relieve stress and relax. The programme showed how watching the breath can change the way our brain works and transform our lives.
In the documentary, the students took some time out of their day to meditate, after which they went back to their daily lives, reporting positive effects.
Meditation, like prayer, is a kind of medicine. It relieves for a while. However, I would like to discuss some differences between this technique and my method.
Instead of setting aside some time in the day to relax, my method applies to any moment of the day. It involves putting half of your mind on what you are saying or doing and the other half on your breath. This way, you are present, always and everywhere.
As for relaxation, in my book, I describe in detail the voluntary labour that I undertook to relax the facial muscles, loosen the wrists and lower the shoulders. These effects actually relate to some of the 32 signs of Buddhahood according to ancient Buddhist tradition, for example:
- His arms are long, so that when he stands without
bending his hands can touch his knees.
- Shoulders are full and round.
Another benefit of physical exercise is that it regulates the breathing. When the breathing is regulated, it becomes easier to watch your breath.
SELF-OBSERVATION: MR TURTLE AND THE FOX
In the programme, one of the teachers explains self-observation with a story of the Buddha:
One day, Mr. Turtle and Mr. Fox met in the forest. Mr. Fox thought, “I’m going to have a good meal today.” And Mr. Turtle thought “Oh, my goodness. My enemy is out there. Shall I run? I’m not fast enough.” So, he went inside his shell. Mr. Fox paced round and round Mr. Turtle, but eventually he got tired of waiting and went away.
The teacher explained that every time you see a real fox in your life, like stress, tension, depression, anxiety, sadness, worries, you should be like Mr. Turtle. Which means not running away from your problems, but observing your reaction to them.
As I explain in my book, every stick has two ends. And in us, every event has two sides, one bad and one good. Make the effort and try to find the good end of the event. It is always there.