True Freedom – Part 2

In my previous blog I wrote about the importance of cultivating Mindfulness. We need to train our mind to not attach to our outer circumstances, in order to find true freedom. Each moment brings us the liberty to choose how we relate to it. However, without awareness this opportunity of choice – and change – remains largely out of reach. This following practical example may make this clear:

One night I was making dinner at home. I don’t remember what I was preparing, but I do remember it had taken me quite some time. When dinner was almost ready, my husband asked if he should take some bread out of the freezer to have with the meal. “No”, I snapped at him, “We are not having bread with dinner!” He looked at me puzzled, partly wondering why I was annoyed, as well as displeased: “You really do not need to snap at me like that….” Right in that moment I realized what my mind had done: it had perceived an assumption as reality. When my husband asked about the bread, my mind translated that as: “He apparently thinks I didn’t make enough dinner.” And because I had put so much effort into preparing all the food, I felt unappreciated. If I had paused for a breath, giving myself time to realize how I felt before I reacted, I could have responded differently. A more skillful response would have been: “I think we have plenty of food, but if you’d like bread with dinner, of course go ahead.” It would have made for a more peaceful start of dinner.

One of my teachers once said: “Enlightenment is an accident. Meditating will make you more accident prone.” In this case, being enlightened should be interpreted as having a liberated mind; a mind that is free of craving and aversion. To be in a place of choiceless awareness, where you can pause and take a breath before you react. This way, we can all experience temporary moments of enlightenment. So how long and how often should you meditate?

First of all, it should be noted that meditating for short periods of time every day is more effective than meditating once a week for 30 minutes or longer. Consistency is key. The mind needs to be trained, and repetition is the best training. Meditation is a process of habituation. In the Tibetan language, the words meditation, or gom (Tib. sgom), and habituation, also gom (Tib. goms) are from the same root and have a similar spelling.[1] When training a puppy to sit at your command, you need to be consistent and repetitive. It is no different when inviting the mind to sit still (although I have to admit that training a puppy is probably easier!). I’d suggest starting with a daily meditation of five minutes.

Even for those who feel they do not have time to meditate (or those that find it extremely hard to sit still), five minutes should be doable. Set yourself up for success! After a week you could slowly increase your meditation time with one minute every day or every week.

At first your meditation practice may feel like a chore: just another thing on your to-do-list. That is until you have experienced the benefits of it (and you may not experience those right away). I like the example of brushing your teeth: as a kid you probably didn’t like having to brush your teeth twice a day. It was something you felt your parents (or caregivers) were making you do. Now, however, you wouldn’t leave the house (I assume), or go to bed, without brushing your teeth. It would feel like something was missing if you didn’t, and you just feel better when you do. With meditation it will be the same. Trust me when I say there will come a day when you will miss your meditation practice if you didn’t take the time to sit.

Creating this new habit of practice is essential if we want to experience true freedom. Since it seems harder and harder to know what is “true” in the outer world, wouldn’t it be nice if at least you saw things as they really are in your inner world?

[1] Anyen Rinpoche & Allison Choying Zangmo, The Tibetan Yoga of Breath, p. 102-103