Last week, a friend sent me a translation of Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s advice on meditation. It was unsolicited, out of context, out of topic, out of the blue, outrageous, and I haven’t been able to keep it out of my mind. Why? About meditation? Coincidentally, my sons were discussing between themselves the merits of meditation just a few weeks ago. The young ones are quick to pick up new trends. New? Nah, these are many centuries old actually. Kombucha, Kimchi, Intermittent Fasting, Yoga and now Meditation.
Anyway, I’m glad to have been introduced to the Bhikkhu principles of meditation. I’ve lived most of my life in the West, it’s time that I open my horizon to Eastern teachings and wisdom.
- Live a virtuous life and adopt an attitude of giving. This will lead us to a peaceful and stress-free existence which is conducive to effective meditation. I can do that. Giving is fine, I have no qualms about that but at the same time, I love freebies! I exude happiness and contentment after a free meal. I will need to tell Bhikkhu, having a propensity to receive graciously is as rewarding as giving generously.
- Restrain our senses, garbage in garbage out. Be mindful of what we hear, see, taste, touch, and smell. If we are careless about what we absorb, how can we be careful of what we think? Bhikkhu teaches us to balance out the one-sided view. To look with both eyes. This will be more challenging for me. I’m accustomed to look at the bright side of life, look for positives. After the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, I learned it is less depressing if we look at the glass half full rather than half empty.
- Create a pleasant environment, restraint in conversation. Idle chatter is a waste of energy and a dangerous source of conflict. Ducks are noisy, so shut the duck up, he urges us. If we can’t control our mouth we can’t control our mind, Bhikkhu went on to say. But Bhikkhu, isn’t it the other way round? If we can’t control our mind, we can’t control our everything.
- Find solitude, go to the wilderness. A quiet environment facilitates self discovery. We have the opportunity to think deeply, without distractions. He is right. I have been too noisy of late. I was such a quiet person once upon a time. What happened to me? Social media changed me into this noisy barrel. But haven’t I been alone enough? An empty nester for some 15 years… I’ve done my time, quietly! I’m done being quiet.
- Develop Right View. The belief in karma, what we do really does have results. It is an empowering belief, which carries with it responsibilities. What goes around comes around. Cause and Effect applies both in physics and metaphysics. Bhikkhu is right. When we meditate, we have to be careful about our mind, so that we can be careful about our actions.
I will not hesitate to meditate tomorrow. Why tomorrow, you may ask? Because today, I am reluctant to empty my mind. It is very hard earned knowledge accumulated over a very long time and there isn’t enough in there as it is!
PS I would be a terrible urghhling if I am remiss in thanking my friend for his outstretched hand to guide me through the voluminous library of eastern philosophies. He has been outstanding!