Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Calming the Surface: Meditation Practice

I write a lot about my meditation practice, and I probably talk a lot about it too, but I’m learning so much. I can’t help but share.

meditation practice

My beef with meditation in the past was I felt it wasn’t working. I’d sit and focus on my breath for ten minutes every morning. So what? I’m calm for those ten minutes, and then go into the rest of my day only to lose that calm almost immediately.

Ten minutes of exercise, while a good start and better than nothing, isn’t going to make anyone strong.

I increased my time to twenty minutes, made a point of doing it daily without exception, and made some progress. My mornings started with more calm, but by the afternoon…ugg…

I started an afternoon practice. Thirty minutes before my husband stops working, I sit in meditation and then journal. It helped smooth my evenings.

But what the heck? The only way to remain calm is to be in retreat from the world and spend more and more time in silent meditation? That doesn’t seem like living. I can’t wall myself off from the world.

I kept meditating and reading, studying, trying to learn more. There has to be more. And then I find this:

“…there are two streams of meditation practice within Buddhism. Their Sanskrit names are shamatha and vipashyana. Shamatha means “to calm the mind” whereas vipashyana means “to look into the mind.” Shamatha is usually translated into English as “calm abiding” and vipashyana as “insight.” It means seeing clearly.

There is a traditional example used to illustrate the differences between these two approaches to meditation. Imagine a lake surrounded by hills and snow-capped mountains. It is a clear mountain lake which reflects the surrounding mountains so accurately that it can be difficult to tell which image is the mountains and which just the reflection of the mountains on the lake’s surface. But when this lake becomes agitated by the elements, various things happen.

First of all, the surface of the lake breaks up so that it no longer reflects the mountains accurately. The image is still there, but it is distorted. In addition, because there are many waves and the surface is choppy, it is difficult for us to see into the lake to any depth. Not only is the surface of the water choppy, but the mud at the bottom of the lake is also stirred up. This pollutes the water, making it muddy and opaque.

This state is very much like our ordinary everyday mind, which is continually being agitated by the winds of the six senses.”

Ani Tenzin Palmo – Reflections on a Mountain Lake

The point of meditation is to calm the surface of the lake so that we can reflect the world with fewer distortions and see beneath more clearly to reach beneath and examine what we find.

This past six months, since I have increased my meditation time and made a concerted effort to keep up the practice daily, has changed things. My husband has commented on it, and so has my son. I don’t seem to react as quickly, I’m more reflective and less agitated by the little things.

I’ve found myself stopping to think when I feel something, sorting it out before I respond. I get less angry. I’m less depressed. I love myself more and I can easily extend that love to others, even those that seem to be determined to drive me crazy.

Don’t get me wrong. People still irk me with their behavior and choices, but I’m more likely to see them as beings in need of love and patience instead of enemies. Maybe not instantly, but in a reasonable amount of time before I react to them and make everything worse. This is part of the practice.

I’ve struggled with anger, depression, and stress my whole life. I’ve sought help from doctors that directed me to drugs, and therapists that seemed only to make the situation worse. I’ve lost money, time, and done damage to my body. And nothing has helped like one hour a day in mediation, reading, and journaling.

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2 Comments

  1. ooe0o

    I enjoyed your account and your analogy makes a lot of sense. When you meditate do you not sometimes drift into other states and visions ? Maybe 10 mins is not enough ? I have been doing some reading regarding meditation because I have a personal interest and it helps me deal with my own mental health better. Been working on a site after graduating from wordpress.com I like .org much better. Came down here to check out the cool blogs like yours. Please have a look at my site if you have time, still a work in progress. Namaste ! https://vmed.blog

    • Michelle Huelle

      I do tend to drift away. Lately I’ve changed to simply watching the world go by as a meditation practice. Or watching a specific branch sway in the wind. It’s worked wonders!

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