I am on the road again, this time to Glasgow. The tube was delayed into Heathrow by some undisclosed incident on the tracks, and after 10 minutes a young boy started to whimper, “We’re going to miss our plane!” His patient mother explained several times why they still had plenty of time, and when that didn’t work she told him firmly, “You will have to learn how to cope with stress if you are going to survive life.” And then his dad added, “There is nothing we can do so we just have to accept this; stop worrying.” Advice to live by. Not that their son seemed too convinced at the time.
I have just overheard in this busy terminal, in short order, a man confiding into his phone, “Today has been a disaster so far and I’m on holiday so that makes it even more annoying.” And then a woman into her phone, “Everyone here is having a hard day as far as I can see.”
And it is not just here, of course, that everyone’s having a hard day. Today’s headlines out of Charlottesville, Virginia indicate the vicious and stupid racism that is still alive and well in America, for example. Plus, is anyone else around here wondering whether humankind is about to atomized, with all this adolescent tension between the US and North Korea? A friend said yesterday that we may as well not worry about the chaotic fumbling disaster that is Brexit because at this rate we won’t be around long enough for it to happen.
She kind of had a point. When we remember we will be dying before too long — let alone our countless past and future lives and all the big sufferings we have experienced and yet have to experience in samsara — it interestingly gets all our other problems into perspective. The individual details of samsara don’t have the power to crowd our mind, to overwhelm us, when we are focused on the big picture. We have the space and mental control to develop renunciation (the determination to get permanently free) and bodhichitta (the determination to get everyone permanently free) instead.
But first things first. As indicated in this last article on how to overcome anxiety, we could all do with learning to relax as a matter of priority, which we can do using a breathing meditation that gives us the peace of mind to reboot and cope.
It is not selfish to take the time to do this, for how are we going to sort out this world if we cannot sort out ourselves? I thought I’d “guide” a simple but effective meditation here so you have something to do next time you’re trapped on a hot tube with anxious travelers or experiencing heart palpitations from headlines like, “North Korea’s nuclear threat is real and terrifying”.
We will all be Buddhas one day
Breathing meditation is all the rage these days. But have you ever wondered why a simple meditation on our breath has the power to make us feel so much better? After all, we are breathing all the time. I think it proves that our mind is naturally peaceful, and that to access this peaceful mind we simply need to stop churning it up with uncontrolled thoughts (which are like a speedboat churning up the deep water of a still Scottish loch). We don’t need to add peace to our minds, for we already have it going on inside.
It is quite profound, really. When we do the following meditation, we get a glimpse of our Buddha nature, our infinite depth – our natural inner peace that is full of the seeds of universal love and compassion, omniscient wisdom, everlasting peace, and the ability to help everyone. It is like an indestructible gold nugget hiding out in the muck of our delusions.
If we want the incredible inspiration required to keep going day after day in our pursuit of freeing the world of suffering, we must always relate to this fundamental purity in both ourselves and others, looking past our delusions to see the future Buddhas within. The alternative is to go around feeling moreorless bad about ourselves and everyone else, too demoralized to do much about all these complications we see everywhere. As Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says in the free Buddhist e-book How to Transform Your Life:
Unlike the seeds of our delusions, which can be destroyed, this potential is utterly indestructible and is the pure, essential nature of every living being … Recognizing everyone as a future Buddha, out of love and compassion we will naturally help and encourage this potential to ripen.
And we can do this happily and without getting so exhausted. I think we have to clear the muck aside, at least for a moment, by doing some meditation every day, or we will inevitably forget about our own and others’ gold nuggets and simply remain part of the problem/muck. So, here goes.
15-minute peace meditation
First get into a good meditation posture with a straight but relaxed back, level shoulders, and head tilted a little forward. Your mouth and eyes are lightly closed or, if you prefer, your eyes can be slightly open. Take a moment to settle into this posture and forget about everything else.
Feel contented to be here doing this — accessing your potential for limitless peace and the ability to help others in this troubled world — and determined to concentrate as best you can.
Spend a couple of minutes doing some simple breathing meditation, focusing on the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves through your nostrils. Tune into this, disregarding all static distractions.
As a result of your mind settling a little in this way, feel that you drop from your head into your heart – your spiritual heart or heart chakra right in the center of your chest. Feel already some space opening up, some peace. Feel as though your wave-like problems and distractions have dissolved away into the boundless ocean of clarity at your heart; just imagine.
Now, to become even more absorbed, think that everything outside your body disappears, melts into light in all directions. There is nothing out there to think about.
Now this light gathers into you, leaving behind only empty space, like a mist lifting, until all that remains is your body suspended in empty space.
Also everything up until this moment melts into light and disappears. The past evaporates like last night’s dream, for it is no more substantial than that.
And everything after this moment also melts into light and disappears. There is no future other than our thoughts about it, so let these go.
In this way, you are still and quiet, in your heart, in the present moment. There is only here and now. You are fully present, fully alive.
Now feel all the tension and weight fall away from your body. As it falls away, all your muscles relax and your body melts into light. Your body is hollow and translucent, as if you could pass your hand right through it without resistance. You think, “My body is as light as air, as if I am floating or flying.”
Now, still in your heart, imagine any problems you’re having — physical, emotional, mental, political, relationship, money problems etc. — appearing as heavy smoke or clouds. All unpleasant feelings and unhappy thoughts take form.
Think, “These are just thoughts and feelings, nothing more, nothing less. I don’t need to think them. I don’t need to identify with them. I can let them go.”
As you exhale through your nostrils, let them go. They disappear completely, never to arise again. You are breathing away your problems — with every breath your mind becoming purer and calmer. Concentrate on this for a couple of minutes and, if a distraction arises, breathe that out as well.
For the last few out-breaths, breathe out the last of the thick smoke.
Then, as you breathe in, imagine that your breath is in the aspect of blissful light. Ride this light into your heart, where it joins the inner light of your Buddha nature. Feel happier and lighter with every breath. Do this for a few minutes.
Now focus on this peaceful clarity at your heart, like a clear sky, infinitely spacious.
You can think, “This peace, however relative or slight, is the natural peace of my own mind. This peace is always in my mind. It indicates my potential for deep lasting happiness. There is plenty more where it came from. It is my Buddha nature. It is who I really am.” And feel happy about all that.
This peace is also not separate from the peace of enlightenment. Knowing this, you receive blessings.
Allow yourself to abide with this peace, to enjoy it, thinking, “This is me. I don’t have a care in the world.”
Then you can think, “How wonderful it would be if everyone felt this peaceful and free, or for that matter completely peaceful and free.” With compassion, you can spend some time getting ready for the day ahead. Who are you going to meet? How do you want to relate to them? I usually request some inner guidance at this point from Buddha in my heart, so I have the opportunities and skill to help people in the best possible way that day. It usually seems to work.
It is now safe to go out 😁
I hope this helps. You can find more advice on breathing meditation in these articles.
Did you enjoy this meditation?! How did you get on?
(ps, pictures are of Inchmurrin Island on Loch Lomond, where KMC Glasgow holds regular meditation retreats.)