“When I am fully engaged in mindfulness, self-reflection and meditation I am able to connect with a much deeper, incorruptible source of compassion and love, both for myself and for all that is around me”
Alex King-Harris CEO/Co-Founder YogiTunes.com
I’ve just returned from a 4 day Zen meditation retreat and felt inspired to write on the subject of mindfulness and how a meditation practice can help anyone on the path.
Often times I’ve spoken with yoga teachers new to their craft who feel like their schedule is so full that they don’t have time to meditate, or have never focused on deepening their practice into something consistent and regular.
For those of you who have experienced this, I have an infinite well of compassion and empathy for your experience. I have myself experienced this for years but life kept conspiring to deliver me enough suffering so as to urge me into stillness. The result is that I have witnessed the underlying truth which is that it’s a trick of the mind to project onto our reality the concept of not having enough time, or making other things more important. Our minds buckle with anxiety and fear at the concept of doing nothing, of removing distractions, of sitting in quiet observation of the constantly running thoughts that ultimately are meaningless and without any real purpose other than to create chaos in our lives.
I feel very grateful for this 4 day retreat and the practice of Zen because for me it was accessible enough to be able to have fear but still say yes. I’ve often considered a 10 day vipassana retreat but the fear was too high for me to surpass as 10 days to my constantly active mind would feel like an eternity.
After sitting, walking, eating and spending quiet time alone in nature with a mindful approach for 14 hours a day over 4 days I can say with total certainty that not meditating, not self-reflecting, not being willing to practice mindfulness is one of the greatest acts of violence upon myself and this world that I am capable of. This may sound harsh, but the root of greed, hatred and delusion all exist within my mind. The ‘virtual reality’ that my mind is capable of fabricating when acting unconsciously from these dark places simply adds to what is wrong with the world and profoundly diminishes my ability to be of service in helping to end suffering.
When I am fully engaged in mindfulness, self-reflection and meditation I am able to connect with a much deeper, incorruptible source of compassion and love, both for myself and for all that is around me. This allows me to experience reality as a unified whole, to not separate myself from ‘other’, or experience myself as ‘other’, both of which cause suffering. The fruit of this practice is being able to connect with an infinite source of compassionate wisdom when I witness suffering. This can be my own suffering or that of another sentient being and when my cup is full of awareness I am able to respond from a place of loving kindness rather than hate, greed or delusion – all of which stem from a mistaken belief that I am somehow separate. Separate from others, separate from this world, separate from the very life that I love so dearly.
The reason this allows me to find my voice is because when I am deeply engaged in stillness, my love and compassion is what’s driving my ability to be of service in the world and my natural and unique gifts begin to flow freely from that source. I am not trying to be a savior nor helping from a place of ego – both of which are highly unsustainable and often dangerous in that they can subtly reinforce and strengthen the very thing that I’m attempting to help heal.
So for any of you reading this who are not meditating – or not meditating every day, start now. Don’t waste another moment. If reading that triggers you – totally understandable. Know that you’re not alone in your fear of stillness, but instead of letting your fear run the story, pause – take a breath – feel your body and mind – do they feel peaceful, serene and at ease?
There is no greater time to take up the practice of daily meditation than when the world is at a tipping point of mass suffering and toxicity. We are ALL in this together, you, me and the people we have so many reasons to hate. They are suffering too and require our compassion. We cannot hope to change the world if we do not first look at our own aversions and begin to take responsibility for our inherently deluded way of projecting false thoughts onto reality.
As you probably know nothing I am saying here is new or original. It has been taught and handed down over thousands of years and is at the root of just about every mystical tradition on Earth since before recorded stories.
The good thing is there is a PLETHORA of mindfulness, meditation practices and teachings currently available. Blend a bit of buddhism with some sufi wisdom. Add a dose of taoist teachings with yogic philosophy. Study the roots of the kaballah and merge it with the essene gospel. It’s wisdom in a vast cornucopia of flavors – so pick which ones are sweetest to your spiritual palette and chow the fuck down.
You can also check out some of our guided mediations and consider downloading the ‘Insight Timer‘ app – it’s a wonderful, free resource full of guided meditations, a fully featured timer and a community of over 1,800,000 people using it.
Also, check out the free online meditations from renowned mindfulness meditation teacher Tara Brach.
These tools make meditating alone a breeze while you search for your ‘sangha’, your meditation community – which will profoundly strengthen your commitment and awareness of the elegant, simple, yet extremely powerful benefits of meditating.
Written by Alex King-Harris