I meditate almost every day now. I used to be able to judge the days by when I meditated, now I can judge them by when I don’t. My interpretation of life is clearer when I meditate. It is the only discipline I have ever practiced that actually has the power to change my mind. Don’t get me wrong here, changing my mind is a continuous journey, not a destination. Even after 200 days, the practice is the thing. We move closer to our true selves when we can be quiet enough to listen for what we deeply know.
The most challenging step towards that inner knowing is suspending all the noise and distraction that populates our working mind. The Buddha once said, “Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” He believed that practicing mindfulness, which is the ability to be conscious and aware of what is going on in our world. By learning how to be more present to the moment we are in, we simultaneously detach from our perceptions of pain, suffering and anxiety.
It’s odd and kind of sad, that the negative mind states we all possess do not need much encouragement or training to thrive. Our capacity for anger, jealousy and greed are part of our habitual tendencies, but we are also capable of cultivating the capacity to focus our attention, develop emotional balance, experience inner peace and express unconditional love. Those states are also part of what it means to be human, but they are not our default mode. Finding the best part of ourselves, the capacity of our highest humanity is one that demands practice and commitment.
The interesting thing is that once you get in the habit of finding that quiet place, it calls to you. Now when I see myself sliding down the slippery slope of frustration and anger, my first response is to get quiet. When I go inside, the anger reveals itself as the curtain to grief or fear that it is and I feel what I has been holding me. Learning how to stay there in those feelings, listening to what is in them has also given me access to hearing another quiet voice. Truth be told, I go in listening for that voice because I almost always hear what I need the most: the affirmation that I am lovable.
I don’t want to mislead here. I often don’t hear that voice, sometimes I just hear the noise swirling in my mind. Sometimes I only get quiet enough to hear my breath. But I have heard that affirmation of my own value enough to know that it lives in me somewhere and also to know that the only access I have to it is through this daily practice of quieting, listening, asking. This is the heart of prayer.