Whenever something unwanted happens, the wheel of the mind begins spinning uncontrollably knotting thoughts and creating a turmoil. This leads to tension within. It festers and also transfers to all with whom one comes in contact. Energies are such. This is certainly not the way to live! Every time an impurity arises in the mind, such as anger, hatred, fear, passion (yes, passion too), one becomes a little more miserable. Living peacefully and harmoniously with oneself is achieved through meditation.
To learn the art of living harmoniously, one must find the cause of disharmony. The cause usually lies within oneself and therefore requires one to explore themselves. The technique of mindful meditation discovered by Buddha 5000 years ago teaches one to examine their mental and physical structure. Only when one fully understands their mental and physical nature, can they experience whatever there might be beyond mind and matter.
Scientists have shown that there are 37 thousand billion billion chemical reactions per second in the human body. The various emotions we experience are stored in the body in the form of sensations. Mindful meditation ultimately teaches us to train and sharpen our minds to a point where we can feel all these sensations. The important thing here is to be aware and maintain equanimity. Be Aware. No Craving. No Aversion. Perfect Equanimity. This way the mind gradually gets trained to be sturdy, calm and in control irrespective of the chaos around.
The proper point to begin the journey of self-realization is through respiration.
Why Respiration? Existence is universal. Misery in all human beings is universal. Thus, its remedy cannot be sectarian. It must be universal too. Uttering a mantra or God’s name to achieve concentration would certainly be sectarian. However, breath is common, and observing it must be acceptable to all. Breath is the tool to explore oneself. On day-to-day basis, we know very little about our bodies. We know what we see- the physical form and the parts we consciously control. But we know nothing about our internal organs that operate involuntarily. We know nothing about the biochemical and electromagnetic reactions that are constantly occurring throughout the body.
In mindful meditation, one starts by being aware of the breath. Controlling the mind does not come easily. The mind will wander. The thoughts are either in the past or in the future. They are either positive or negative. Your mind is anywhere but in the present. The mind is habituated to these four combinations and our organs react accordingly. Once you start to observe, you will realize that depending on your thought, you heart might race, your pulse might rise, your breathing might become heavier and abnormal. Once you bring your mind back to the present, your breath again becomes soft.
The mind constantly tries to escape from the present reality to unattainable thoughts in the past or future. Therefore, this wild mind remains agitated and miserable. But life can be really lived only in the present.
Therefore, the first step is to know how to live in the present moment. Here’s how to begin. During a 10 day Vipassana course, 3 full days are dedicated to observing the breath. 10 hours each day. Once you start observing the breath, you automatically start observing the subtle sensations around your nostrils and sometimes throughout your body. That is the reality of the present. The reality of this moment – although superficial. When the mind wanders away, smile. Accept the reality of the moment. And without feeling frustration or tension, bring it back to the breath. Gradually, the breath helps to explore the reality of not only the body, but also the mind. This is just the beginning.
*These are teachings from the Vipassana discourse taught by Late S.N. Goenka ji