The meditation game changer

A guest article. After great conversations with this long-term meditator and friend, I requested him to write an article on this subject. He kindly obliged. Hope you like it as much as I do.

8.5 mins read.

Road Warning Sign SeriesDoes any of this sound familiar to you? Maybe we’ve tried to change our view of ourselves, relating to our potential to change, our Buddha nature no less! We’ve been inspired by the Buddhist books and teachings, even meditated on them, yet we still feel stuck in a view of ourselves as someone who is fundamentally not changing and who lacks any real spiritual potential.

Something has been on my mind for some time now, which is why it is that we can sometimes be practicing meditation and Dharma for years but still feel we are not that much further along from when we started. And more importantly, is there a simple change we can make with the power to accelerate the process of deep and lasting spiritual transformation that we want? The answer is, thankfully, a resounding yes!

What’s going on

Perhaps without truly changing our view of ourselves, we are still trying to cultivate new intentions to live a more spiritual life. We have the intention to meditate daily and deeply, to be more consistently accepting, loving, and compassionate. Yet we never seem to quite get around to it, or at least never fully. Intention becomes “I intend”, ie, later, tomorrow!

With no genuine change in our intention, perhaps we are still trying to encourage or indeed force ourselves to change our actions. Maybe on the surface we try to act more like what we think a good Dharma practitioner or even a Bodhisattva should act like. Yet discouragement 1we find ourselves feeling stuck in habits of repression, distraction, worldly concerns, and many of the deluded and self-centered patterns of behavior we have always had, and increasingly desperately want to be free of.

In this way, our way of life can come to feel not that different to when we started out on our spiritual journey, with one notable exception: we now have the added burden of growing discouragement, feeling like a failing spiritual practitioner!

Why we can feel like we’re not really changing

A simple understanding to explore – helping us shed light on this problem and illuminate the solution – is that our present experience of life is what Buddha called a dependent-related phenomenon.

My teacher Geshe Kelsang says:

The definition of dependent related is existing (or established) in dependence upon its parts.

Meaning that, if it exists, it exists in dependence upon something else.

Now, consider this simple dependent-related sequence. From our experience comes our view, from our view comes our intention, from our intention come our actions, and from our actions comes our life. In this moment in time, our life exists in dependence upon these causes and conditions, not independent of them.

Our experience of life then reinforces our view, intention, actions, and life, in what is either a limiting and downward spiral or liberating and upward spiral of dependent-related change and transformation. This applies to all areas of our life, spiritual or otherwise.

Are you a swimmer?

As a simple example, if someone asks us ‘Are you a swimmer?’, our instinctive answer will very much depend on our experience. If we have previously tried to swim a few times or more, and it didn’t go well, naturally our view of our self (if not challenged) will be that we’re not a swimmer. Due to self-grasping ignorance we deeply identify with this belief as if it’s who we really are, inherently. In dependence upon this view, our intention and actions will naturally be to avoid swimming at all costs.

Without changing our experience, this downward spiral of limitation will continually reinforce itself, each time deepening our limiting self-identification and way of life, the life of a non-swimmer.

If we want to become a swimmer and try to change only our view, intentions, or actions without changing our experience, ultimately we will fail. This is simply because our attempts at change will be continually undermined by our default and deeply entrenched limiting self-identification: “At the end of the day, and no matter what I or anyone else says, I am just not a swimmer! Inherently!” Everything else will naturally flow from this.

The game-changer

happy-girl-swimmingTo transform this situation, and our lives, the solution is as simple as it is profound. All we need to do at the beginning is make a simple change in this dependent related sequence – which is to change our experience. We learn how to swim properly, then relax, and gradually gain consistent experience of swimming. All other positive changes will naturally flow from, and in dependence upon, this change.

In dependence upon this new experience, our view of ourselves will naturally change – we will start to identify ourselves as someone who is a swimmer.

In dependence upon this new view, our intention and actions will gradually and naturally change – we will find ourselves wanting to swim and doing it regularly and joyfully. As a result, our experience will get better and better.

In dependence upon this new and growing experience, view, intention, and actions, our life over time will become the life of a confident swimmer. A new liberating and upward spiral of positive change and transformation is established and continually reinforced on every new iteration. In this way, we elevate and accelerate this process of change.

How to elevate and accelerate our spiritual path

How can we apply this understanding to elevating and accelerating our spiritual path? The key is this: if we feel we are not really progressing spiritually, it is NOT because we are incapable. If we check, more likely than not we are trying to change our view, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso teaching 3intention, actions, and way of life without giving ourselves the time and space to immerse ourselves in that first and critical step, experience!

As Geshe Kelsang says:

Unless we make some time every day to meditate, we will find it very difficult to maintain peaceful and positive minds, and our spiritual practice as a whole will suffer. ~ The New Eight Steps to Happiness 

Conversely, if we do make some time every day to meditate, we will find it increasingly easy to maintain peaceful and positive minds, and our spiritual practice as a whole will flourish.

Start with peace

The essence of what is being explored here is how we can approach ALL aspects of our Dharma training for it to flow more naturally and effortlessly. Whether it’s building deep and stable refuge in our hearts, or gaining authentic experience of all the stages of the spiritual path of Lamrim, Lojong, or Mahamudra, we can use this approach to elevate and accelerate these trainings.

However, for the purposes of this article, let’s start with the simplest meditation and experience of peace. At the beginning of our daily meditation session – no matter how brief or extensive – we are encouraged to use a preparatory practice such as breathing meditation, absorption of cessation, or clarity of mind to help us gradually center in a calm, clear, and peaceful mind.

The key is, once we calm the mind and experience a noticeable degree of inner peace – even if it’s only a little bit — we give ourselves permission to take as much time and space as we need to abide with, and absorb more deeply into, that experience of a peaceful mind.keep calm and change the game

If you are anything like I was in the early years of my training in meditation, this preparatory stage felt more like an item on my to-do list before I got on with the rest of my sadhana.

I felt there was a lot I had to get through – before leaving for work – to fulfill my daily sadhana commitment, not realizing for some time that meditation can never be about ‘doing,’ rather it’s about ‘being’. Being absorbed in, and dynamically engaged with, an experience in our heart at every step from the moment we sit down to meditate and beyond!

Through giving ourselves the time and permission to abide and absorb a little in this way, we establish the experience of a relatively open, expansive, and peaceful mind. We then turn our attention to that experience and, crucially, identify with it as our innate and indestructible potential for great peace and happiness, our own Buddha nature.

This experience of peace alone does not transform our lives. However (1) the experience of inner peace that is associated with (2) the heartfelt wisdom insight that this is the peace of my own Buddha nature, my pure potential for the supreme and lasting peace and happiness of enlightenment, is the very basis for all deep and lasting spiritual transformation. Dharmavajra

Allowing ourselves to abide in that experience every day before, during, and after our meditation session is a key component to success in Dharma training. As a result of our increasing familiarity with this experience and correct self-identification with our Buddha nature, our view of ourselves will gradually and quite naturally change.

If we are feeling a little, or a lot, stuck in our spiritual life, it simply indicates that we currently lack this basic familiarity. As a result, we try to practice on the basis of our present default experience and view, which happens to be an ordinary limited self who isn’t changing, indeed can’t change.

This growing familiarity with our own Buddha nature is one we can all gain, and it will open the door to a whole new perspective on how we approach our Dharma practice. Instead of feeling like we are practicing in abstract, going through the motions in the hopes of some future “Aha!” moment, we will come to view our practice as a here and now dynamic and experientially-based engagement with our own path or journey.

In dependence upon this new view of our extraordinary potential, our intention will move from ‘I intend, tomorrow’ to the intention that is moving our mind Pagmacontinually and spontaneously to the full actualization of this pure potential; and over time not just for ourselves but for others as well.

In dependence upon this deepening intention, our actions will be increasingly in alignment – they will become the actions of someone who is joyfully dedicated to accomplishing this goal, coming from the confidence that I have the potential and that this is what I and others need.

Ultimately, this liberating and upward spiral of positive change will transform into the view, intention, actions, and life of a Bodhisattva – what is known as the Bodhisattva’s way of life – until one day we definitely realize our highest potential of enlightenment.

Over to you – comments and questions are welcome for this guest author.









Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

34 thoughts on “The meditation game changer”

  1. Excellent article. I have indeed been experiencing the lack of moving forward in my meditation. Basically deprograming Identifying with this self or I. Getting to my core issues is key. Thank you so much for writing this teaching. 💕💕💕💕

  2. Thanks for reposting. Very nice reminder on how to encourage ourselves and preamble to upcoming retreat.

  3. Thank you so much Guest Writer for your treasure box of invaluable advice illuminating the method,the way for us to really progress upwards on our spiritual path to our home of enlightenment 😊❤️💙

  4. Yes. The stuck feeling. Thank you this. Every now and then a little spiritual “reboot” is good . Reset back onto the path.

    1. Glad it was helpful for you Don, I couldn’t agree with you more on the ‘reboot’ and because everyting is empty we are free to reset / recalibrate whenever we want 🙂

  5. Thank you. I am reminded of something I heard in a teaching once, “we believe our experiences”. I have found this to be absolutely true. Believing is a key component in building our faith. Then from faith comes aspiration and effort, hence, “an upward spiral” of virtue.

  6. Thank you so much for this blog. It is a wonderful resource and truly helpful to my spiritual path. Everything about this blog is great. Thank you, thank you

  7. ‘We give ourselves permission to take as much time and space as we need to abide with, and absorb more deeply into, that experience of a peaceful mind.’ … This! Such a practical article and so encouraging, we make it so difficult. I started by grasping at results, instead of meditating I was searching for a new feeling and measuring my progress, exhausting and unsatisfying so I classed myself as a non meditator. Then one day I gave up on the result and gave myself permission to abide and enjoy the peace , suddenly it all fell into place, then I didn’t want meditation to end. Thank you for helping to explain how that works mystery guest writer person 😊

  8. Thank you for laying out such a clear example. I really feel what you’re saying about experience comes of our review and from our view comes our intention. Could you share which book I could refer to because this feels like a missing puzzle piece I’ve been looking for.

    1. Hi Jennifer, Glad it was helpful. I guess it’s an amalgamation of many of Ven. Geshe La’s books and teachings. However, ‘How to understand the mind’ is a good book explore, to start with. With respect to view and intention that you mention, have a read of the sections on discrimination and intention (that create Karma or actions, which creates our experience of life) that are explained in the chapter ‘The five all-accompanying mental factors’. Also the reference to non-deluded doubts in the section on deluded doubts will help. Hope this helps 🙂

      1. Hi Jennifer, Apologies, that meant to say at the end ‘Also the reference to non-deluded pride in the section on deluded pride will help’

  9. Wonderful insights, thank you.
    Without a genuine, strong, heartfelt wish to really want to change, no amount of effort will work. Discouragement (one of the lazinesses) can be insidious when mixed with ego and worldly concerns like reputation. We all have the trappings of displaying the effort to change for the sake of appearances especially in dharma communities.

    1. Glad you found it helpful Carolyn, and fully agree that authentic change comes from a heartfelt wish 🙂 as no doubt you know, all our effort flows naturally and consistently from this wish / aspiration

  10. “Allowing ourselves to abide in that experience every day before, during, and after our meditation session is a key component to success in Dharma training. ” Great advice. It’s never too late to start all over again!

  11. Thank you, daily meditation is the key, not how many years of practice. We must take responsibility for our own minds and practice.

  12. Wonderful article! Really encouraging. How important to keep “the mind of a beginner”. We’re all beginners – everyone on his/her own level. Including all ups and downs…
    Thank you for sharing these thoughts ❤️🙏😇


    1. Hi Katja, Glad you found it helpful and I couldn’t agree more, when we have that beginner’s mind we are by definition always learning 🙂

  13. I love this:

    As Geshe Kelsang says:

    Unless we make some time every day to meditate, we will find it very difficult to maintain peaceful and positive minds, and our spiritual practice as a whole will suffer. ~ The New Eight Steps to Happiness

    Conversely, if we do make some time every day to meditate, we will find it increasingly easy to maintain peaceful and positive minds, and our spiritual practice as a whole will flourish.

    1. Hi Anita, Glad you found that helpful. I guess that’s the learning with Ven. Geshe La’s writings, in outlining the problem, he implicitly indicates the solution 🙂

  14. Thankyou this is a good reminder to firstly allow oneself this precious time to meditate, and on it goes thankyou

    1. Hi Deborah, glad you found it helpful and yes, that’s the key for all of us, as you say ‘precious time’. In the end it creates the experience of a ‘precious’ human life 🙂

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