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December 27, 2005


I have been meditating for four years now; I am not a master yet but I think it's time for a review. Jack Kornfield, an authority on Buddhist meditation, told me that it takes ten years to learn to meditate; so according to him I haven't even really begun; but it's fun to see what I can come up with. I'll try to give a brief account of what meditation is.

All that exists does so in the present moment; the past and future are creations of our mind, this is true by definition. Furthermore, all we can truly know of the present moment is our personal experience. When we are lost in thought, we are not fully enjoying our personal experience of the present moment: we are in the thought-future, thought-past, or thought-elsewhere. The full personal experience of the present moment, I will call Being. To be living in a dream world of thoughts about the past, the future, and elsewhere, is to be missing life. The extent to which we are aware of Being, is the extent to which we are fully alive. By the way, there's nothing wrong with thinking; although it best serves us when thinking is a choice that comes out of an awareness of Being.

We will have attained the goal of life when we are totally and continuously aware of Being, no matter what is happening; in order to fully live, our thought-dream must end; that is awakening, the end of suffering, enlightenment, heaven-on-earth, nirvana, satori, or paradise.

When we meditate, we sit and we practice surrendering into Being. One aspect of meditation practice enhances the ability to focus, to bring our awareness to a narrow point; another aspect uses that focus to become more aware of Being. All practices emphasize some mix of these two aspects.

We can practice bringing our awareness back to Being all the time, not just when meditating. Sitting contemplation is just a formal way of simplifying things — there is less outward distraction — and of committing ourselves to practice. Meditation is practice for life, for real life.

If you don't already meditate, here's an experiment you can try, if you wish:

Sit comfortably on a chair or on the floor; let your awareness rest gently and continuously on your breath; wherever you sense it is fine: in your nose, chest, or stomach. Consider that when you are not aware of your breath, your body breathes itself; try to surrender control of your breath, while keeping your awareness gently and continuously upon it. When you find your awareness elsewhere, gently and compassionately bring it back and rest it on your breath. Each time you find your awareness elsewhere, know that you have made very great progress.

It takes great skill to be aware of the breath without trying to control it; when you find yourself trying to control your breath, try to gently and compassionately surrender. Each time you find yourself trying to control your breath, know that you have made very great progress.

It takes immense skill to be gentle and compassionate with yourself during this practice; when you find that you are not being gentle and compassionate with yourself, forgive yourself; know that each time this happens, you have made very great progress.

Practice this each day: for fifteen minutes in the morning after you wake up and for fifteen minutes after you come home from work. See after a few months how this daily investment of thirty minutes is benefiting your life.

"You have explained it perfectly. I know the feeling of not being in the present; I am always thinking about the past or future; I hate it. I had no idea meditation can help me with this. It sounds difficult but I will try to practise it." — Rosita (London, UK)


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