I came across a great quote yesterday that says a lot both about meditation and human nature. Here it is:
Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied “Nothing! But let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, insecurity, depression, fear of old age and death.”
Our Western minds have been conditioned to think that in order to be happy we need to acquire things: money, friends, power, time, knowledge, a better body, more confidence, will power, charm, wit, focus, the Breaking Bad boxset or some secrets known only to the rich and famous.
What mindfulness points to, and what I’ve experienced myself, is that we already have everything we need to be happy, loving, successful, peaceful and fulfilled. The reason why it doesn’t always feel like it, is there are emotional patterns or memories holding us back, like an anchor tied around our waist or a veil over our eyes. As we start to let go of our anger, fear, anxiety and so on, life starts to feel easier and lighter. We also start to see things more clearly and objectively.
The way I experience this is when I drop all the commentary and criticism running through my head and let go into experiencing and appreciating the moment as it is, it seems like I’m living some kind of charmed existence. Everything feels effortless, I notice beauty and stop to take it in, each conversation I have is like a little adventure of learning and connection and it feels great to be alive. Meditation has helped me to recognise this state and to spend more time in it more often.
When life feels hard is when I’m fearful of others judging me, or being rejected by potential clients or friends, when I fear failure or worry that I’m not competent enough to do a good job. Suddenly I’m swimming through treacle just to get through the day. I’ve learned to start to break those patterns partly by just noticing that they’re happening and choosing to take a different perspective.
The other important thing that I think this quote points to is the inner goodness of human beings. I believe that the natural state of all people is to be content, cooperative, kind, compassionate, calm and loving. When we’re not behaving as though that’s the case, it’s not because it’s not within us, it’s just that something is holding us back from accessing it.
I realise that this is quite a radical worldview. Most people seem to think that at least some people are lost causes: UKIP, Katie Hopkins, paedophiles, racists, fascists, homophobes, various politicians, religious groups, certain people we know…
Often people hate people they perceive them to be doing hateful things. Well that’s just fighting hate with hate. If your starting point is that we all want and deserve to be happy, you question why people are behaving that way. What was it they experienced in their lives that made them so angry, aggressive or difficult?
That perspective has helped me to be a lot more patient and understanding with people, which in turn makes me feel better. Buddha also said “Hatreds never cease through hatred, through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.” Good point, I’d say.
Thanks for reading! Please do share it if you liked it. Sharing’s caring and all that.
Also, this Thursday I’m helping to run a meet up about how to deal with digital distractions like email and social media at work. The details are here.