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Why meditate?

Unless otherwise mentioned in the course post, much of the meditation teaching at Open Mind Centre is offered by Mana. So here are a few words on Mana’s approach. Meditation is a much bigger topic than discussed here – if you have any questions, just ask.

Of course, other teachers will have their own priorities and approach.

To see things as they are, we need to learn to look at what is actually happening in our experience, and learn to be present with this – not in theory, but actually – body speech and mind. Given that you are interested, this takes both resolve and acceptance – heaps of both!

Acceptance is the act of opening to things as they are rather than as we would have them be. When we speak of acceptance, we need to include acceptance not only of our difficult feelings and challenges, but also of all the potential and creativity within us along with everything else – for example, our skills and insights into how to improve a situation perhaps. As we open to both the mystery and the challenges, in a very direct way we open to the energy of our own lives. Resolve means we learn to create a mindfulness that is stable enough to take us through all the dimensions of our experience – including the unwelcome and scary bits. These are the places where we tend to shut down or veer off track in some way. We learn to be more present no matter what the weather, how we feel, what life is presenting us today.

None of this means we are perfect, or that we don’t make mistakes, that we can’t make choices, or that we lose our ‘edge’, or that everyone likes us – it is all very ordinary. We come into a greater sense of connection with our own life energy, with our own lives. Ordinary as well as extraordinary – what lights us up just may light up the world as we learn to live it more. It certainly brings more well-being into our lives.

Meditation has two aspects that always work together – calming (samatha) and insight (vipassana). The mind that is going to calmness is open and clear, our awareness is mainly non-conceptual, and we have a sense of deep wellbeing. As this feeling of connectedness and wellbeing stabilises, we have a very good foundation for insight – exploration and investigation. All these happen as a result of the practice itself (whatever method you are using) – if taken as goals in themselves, or if we try and take them as measures of ‘success’, they actually hold us back. Buddha taught that the main hindrance in meditation is wishing for things to be other than they are – just about all our other hindrances in meditation practice follow from this.

In mindfulness meditation practice and in the Tibetan tradition, meditation has very little to do with turning on ‘high’ experiences. All the qualities we seek – insight, connectedness, love, wellbeing – are already present in our own hearts. Meditation is a process of clearing the obstacles to seeing clearly, of letting go, of letting our depth mind speak to us. It is not so much gaining anything as it is seeing what we already have, opening to what we already are.

There is no action or experience in our past that can ultimately take away or limit this potential that is in all of us, no matter how seriously hurtful or unfair. This potential is with us in every breath, every step, every cell, every heartbeat. For sure. There is no place to arrive, only here, with as open a heart as we can today. In this presence, everything opens… and opens us more…

All our classes and retreats are non-denominational. That said, along with many other teachings, Mana often uses methods and perspectives taught by the Buddha. These methods have been incredibly well tested over 2,500 years in all kinds of cultures since the buddha’s time.  A great many – not all – the practices and insights into human psychology and human potential remain very applicable for westerners and others living contemporary lifestyles. We use them because they are effective and go very deep, and help us go wider and higher. They are a direct way to experience open mind, and to learn to live more and more from this opening. These teachings are not a belief system – they are about view and method – how to move into more mindfulness, less compulsion and confusion, more openness, more connection in our inner lives and in the world.

Meditators are welcome to retain whatever belief system has meaning for them. In time, we become our own teachers.