Meditation For The Modern Human
How simple can meditation get?
Meditation for the modern human
“The simplest Meditation technique for everyone anywhere! “
Nothing is more important than our breath, without which we would die in a matter of minutes. Even though nothing is more important to our life than breath, at least 99% of the time we are not even aware of our breath. We are not aware that we are breathing in this essential vital energy.
The breaths we take mindfully, as the three we just now took together, have a way of calming us down and cooling down the feverishness of our life and our thoughts. Just to become fully aware of the breath, though very simple, does wonders in terms of grounding us, centering us, and straightening out our priorities in life. Mindfully meditating on our breath is the simplest and the most immediately accessible form of meditation. This mindful breathing is always available to us at any time of day or night. At any time, we can pause for one or two minutes and breathe mindfully.
Breathing, in English, is referred to as “respiration,” which implies two complementary movements: inspiration and expiration. During the inspiration, we are filled up and during expiration (or exhalation) we are emptying. This two-way alternation is very important to notice and very instructive. This is like the yin-yang of Chinese philosophy, where the yin is receptivity, and the yang is creativity.
During our inhalation we are receptive, we receive inspiration. During the exhalation we breathe out, we become creative, and in the process, we empty ourselves, in, and through our creativity. Breathing in and out, inspiration and expiration, receptivity and creativity. This is the defining dynamic of life.
Even the plants and greenery we see outside are breathing in and breathing out. This is not a poetic fancy, but a scientific fact. To live, plants need to absorb carbon dioxide. And these same plants take in the CO2, then breathe out oxygen. We breathe in Oxygen and breathe out CO2. Is this mutual and life-giving complementarity not wonderful? What they breathe in is what we breathe out. And what they breathe out is what we require to breathe in.
Should we not be more mindful in our everyday association with the natural world of the reciprocity by which we give each other life? I am suggesting that sometime during this week, while you are here at the convention, you find time in some natural setting to sit alone and experience yourself exchanging your vital energy with the plants and greenery surrounding you, breathing together with them.
It should be noted this universal dynamic of inspiration and expiration, of filling up and emptying, is not just concerning breath, but every facet of life. For example, it applies to the food we take in and then expel from our bodies. The food and water that we take in are absorbed, and the waste is expelled into nature and becomes food for the plants, which in turn nourish us again – in a perfect, cyclical manner.
There are many other levels where this dynamic of inspiration and expiration is operative. All the time we are imbibing sights, sounds, and sensations. That’s also a kind of inspiration. Infinite are the items of inspiration – air, food, water, sensations, everything we consume. News, gossip, wisdom teaching, affection, all of these, and more are things that we take in as part of our inspiration.
Inspiration Is A Good Start
Inspiration is the easy part. The hard part arises when we realize that the inspiration is only half the story. Receptivity must be balanced and followed by creativity. What we take in informs us. Once we are informed, we are called upon to perform. Performance is like our expiration – where we lose ourselves or give of ourselves in what we perform. Although inspiration is everywhere, at all times, in many ways, we cannot remain in a constant state of inspiration. That would be like breathing in without breathing out. That’s impossible.
Just as we can become more mindful of our in-breath and what we are breathing in, and we must become aware of our breathing out, similarly we must become more mindful of both our inspiration and how we can expire more gracefully and consciously into our performance, our creativity. In fact, just as a deep, full exhalation enables us to take in a full breath, the more complete our actions are, the more inspiration we can get to do more.
We are breathing in and out the day after, but rarely are we mindful that we are breathing. Similarly, we speak and act constantly day after day, but only rarely do we become truly mindful of what we are saying and doing. Rarely are we mindful of our intention and we choose the best methods to achieve the results that we intend.
What are we doing with this ceaseless inspiration, what exactly are we inspired to say and do? From every side the world is feeding us in countless ways. But what does the world require of us? What does the earth require of us? And what does our humanity require of us?
The Dalai Lama was asked, “What is most lacking in the world right now?” His immediate and unequivocal answer was, “It is empathy.” What is empathy? It’s very different from sympathy. Sympathy is a kind of feeling sorry for another person. But empathy is rather the erasing of the otherness and identifying with the pain of the other. In empathy, we imbibe and embody the experience of the other as our own.
Empathy In The Modern World
Why does the Dalai lama insist that what the world lacks more than anything is empathy? As he looks around, he sees millions of people suffering at the hands of others. For example, he sees the suffocation and abuse of people living under the yoke of military occupation and poverty, etc. He sees the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, the Tibetans under China, the immigrants warehoused in concentration camps on the United States border, and yes, the Kashmiris in Kashmir.
None of this suffering would be possible without the lack of empathy on the part of Israelis, Chinese, North Americans, and the mass of Indians, as well as much of the world who looks on but does nothing.
So, as we breathe in and out, let our empathy expand to include all those ones who we may think are separate, if not inferior, to us, even to our so-called enemies and to refugees, immigrants, tribals, people of different faiths, countries, and ethnicities. These are the people to that we need to extend our empathy to.
People of radically different lifestyles, political persuasions, economic standing, and all of those displaced by war and climate disruption. None of these are “other,” and all are deserving of much more than just our sympathy.
Let’s not waste our breath. Let us not waste all this inspiration. Let us animate the teachings of our great gurus. Let an expansive sense of empathy inform us and impel all our words and actions, our performance