The mind has always fascinated me. When I was 18 years old I decided to enter a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. I wanted to find out more about the workings of my inner world. I could never have imagined the journey that I was about to embark on. Now, 18 years later, it's time to share some of the benefits that I have personally experienced. Most of you might already know some of the findings of modern scientific research, I will however still share some of their main discoveries on here. So let's explore the benefits of mindtraining and meditation practice.
When I speak about Mindtraining, I refer to conscious exercises that strengthen wholesome mental qualities. Mindtraining sets the stage for deeper practices, such as the training that leads up to the state of Meditation and beyond. Much of the work that we do in the Dharana Coaching sessions is Mindtraining. Examples of Mindtraining include mindful walking (walking meditation), the development of kindness, gratitude and forgiveness, the cultivation of mental energy and many others. Below I list some of the benefits that come from such a training:
Imagine a man who has the wish to go down the street and buy some ice-cream. If he gets side-tracked and involved by whatever pops up on the way, he will never reach the ice-cream parlor. Our mind is the same. If it doesn't have any clear structures it will get pulled into whatever comes up. Instead of reaching the ice-cream parlor of happiness, it will remain involved in its own infinite bustle and noise. Such a mind without structure or direction is completely lost in itself. It's also the direct cause or remaining unsuccessful.
When it comes to creating clear structures, I find that Meditation practice has done a lot for me. I have noticed a dramatic decrease of inner confusion and chaos over the years. So I introduced my mind to more order and better structures and my life began to reflect these changes. I am now able to finish things I've started, organize my thoughts, lead constructive conversations, give my life a clear direction and achieve what I set out to do.
Knowing what I want and should do in order to get to where I could be is one thing. Most people know that they "should" exercise more. They are painfully aware that they "should" make more time to care for themselves, take a break, meditate, seek forgiveness, be more kind, use their phones less etc. And yet we often continue to disappoint ourselves again and again. "Another day has passed and I haven't done anything that I could truly admire." Such are the silent thoughts buried underneath a meaningless existence without purpose or growth.
One of the most powerful transformations is hidden in doing what you know you should do - because it serves you. One of the first things I learned was to sit in Meditation whether I felt like it or not. I learned to sit because it is good for me, regardless of how I felt about it at that moment. Soon I began to feel a sense of new empowerment and self-respect. I could do what benefits me, even though it was often very difficult. This skill became stronger over the years and now it has become one of my best friends. I know I can trust my own guidance because it's not based on feelings - but truth instead.
Did you know that most of our unhappiness is caused by thought alone? Yes, even the heaps of unhappiness that surround you everywhere in this world! All human actions begin with thoughts and intentions. If thoughts are dark, actions become tainted. Tainted actions create a tainted world. A world full of darkness leads to dark thoughts in return - and so the vicious cycle turns. Fortunately it works the other way round as well! All it takes to create the initial momentum for happiness to grow, are wholesome and better thoughts.
The power of shaping my reality by using thought skillfully is one of the wish-fulfilling jewels I have found on this path. Taking responsibility for our actions is a true lifechanger! It's so big, so impactful, so empowering that it's hard to put in words. And it's not an easy one to learn either. Most people prefer the comfort of identifying with the victim mentality. It's often more convenient to stay within the familiar field of inactivity and powerlessness (role of a child) than to be confronted with our responsibilities (role of the adult). Happiness is not something that happens to you when you are lucky - it's a result of skillful actions!
You are the contribution to your world. If you are at ease, the world is a bit more easeful around you. Likewise, if you carry the fire of anger then the world around you become a bit more hot and unpleasant. We often worry about pollution, but hardly consider the pollution of negative emotions and thoughts that freely flow into the world. We may contain a virus by introducing quarantine measures but we don't contain divisive ideas, hate or egomania. In short, who you are in every given moment is your contribution to who you're with.
Better relationships arise as a direct consequence from relating to yourself in better ways. If we stop blaming each other and see our own suffering, our attention is already at the right place. The only thing left to do is to take responsibility and care for ourselves with kindness. Through the practice of Meditation you can learn to relate to yourself in kind and skillful ways. This will naturally result in more fulfilling relationships with others. After all these years of practice I would say that your external relationships are a reflection of how you relate to yourself.
It took me an agonizing 18 years to find my sense of purpose - in a monastery. Before I entered, my life came to the point where I actively sought to end it. I simply could not find any meaning in a society where production and consumption are apparently the only reason we go to school and learn. I was done with this world! The turning point came to me in the monastery, when I really started learning that there's a whole universe of possibilities inside of myself. Up to this point I never really considered that my own mind had any value whatsoever...
The questions I get asked the most are about purpose. So many people these days seem to suffer from aimlessness, confusion and a lack of purpose. I am not surprised! In a world like ours it's hard to find clarity and direction. It's like being lost in a dense jungle. Running around frantically, we try to find a way out until we finally die of exhaustion. To me, meditation is like a tall viewpoint far above the canopy of trees. It helps me to see clearly and get an overview. Once I know where I am, I know my direction. My purpose is then to start walking.
When I speak about Mindtraining, I refer to conscious exercises that strengthen wholesome mental qualities. Mindtraining sets the stage for deeper practices, such as the training that leads up to the state of Meditation and beyond...
Most people are completely unaware of their emotions. To them it often feels as if the emotions were an external force attacking them. Consequently they often feel powerless and don't know what to do in the face of overwhelming internal storms. Meditation practice will increase your awareness to such an extent, that you can detach from your emotional being and see it for what it is. This will give you the option of experiencing emotions from a safe perspective. It's like watching a movie (thus I sometimes call it "headflix").
If you are able to watch something and see it for what it is, you learn to stay cool. Some people who watch movies are consumed to the point that they cry, scream and tense up in their seats. Once they know that it's just a movie (or just a dream), they can relax again. The same is true for those who have learned to detach from the mind. They are able to remain calm and at ease before they can choose a skillful response. With meditation practice you learn to pause before you react.
As we know from a lot of modern research, Meditation is also great for your body. The studies are mainly about stress and stress-management. I can only confirm the positive results that come with proper regular practice. The more calm your mind becomes, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more your body "lights up" for lack of a better word. It's often as if every single cell is charged with massive amounts of vitality and comfort when you go deeper. In my life I had two major surgeries. One on the spine and one on my heart. I am sure that I would have to suffer a lot if it wasn't for my regular meditation practice that keeps me comfy and healthy.
I often say that people who have never developed and trained their mind to a deeper extent, don't know what real happiness is. They may know various pleasures, of course, but most are far from experiencing the higher states of rapture and bliss. These states are a result of specific training - such as meditation. Happiness is by no means an accidental occurrence. It has it's own causes and all of us can cultivate them. Few know that the direct cause of otherworldly bliss is simply inner stillness. I see the practice of Meditation as a gateway through which everyone can access what they want most - true happiness and freedom from suffering.