Archives For Meditation

“I need to find myself” – a very commonly used phrase for when people go off soul-searching. I believe that this is a very important thing to do, but I don’t necessarily agree with the need to stop your entire life and disappear off into the sunset. By all means, if that’s what you feel like doing, then knock yourself out, but what if you are feeling a little bit hollow but are not in a position to drop everything and go? It is not always a realistic option to stop day-to-day life in its tracks without there being serious repercussions.

Very often this can lead to a situation of feeling trapped – you need something to change but you are locked into responsibilities left, right and centre. I have often found myself in this situation, and the truth is that you don’t even need to be unhappy with your life in order to experience this. I love what I do and this year has been the most exciting in my life, where I am finally able to more than ever do what I love, and I am so grateful for this. However it is also the year where I have needed to work harder than ever before with no days off, sometimes for weeks on end, without a single day off to myself.

No matter how passionate you are about what you do and how much praise you receive for all of your achievements, work is not everything. For the last 5 months work has been my everything, and while I knew that this was necessary to do everything that I wanted to do in the time-frame that I wanted, in the last few weeks  I was starting to feel an overwhelming sensation that I was losing touch with my true self.

This is why I have not posted for a few weeks. In a moment where you realise that you need to reconnect with yourself, the most important thing you can do is give yourself time, just like you would with any other relationship. Most people forget that we actually need to have a relationship with ourselves. We need to spend time listening to our needs, treat ourselves to things that we love and allow ourselves to be heard. Communication, trust, respect and many of the other central values that must be upheld in order to make a relationship successful with another person are equally important to uphold with yourself, yet this is where so many of us fail.

I had a whole bunch of achievements that I wanted to tick off, and they were being crossed off the list consistently, which brought me a lot of satisfaction, but there were days where I felt like an empty shell that could no longer switch off from work mode. I love writing and I love working with people and helping them achieve their goals. There was however no Me time happening, and that is where I was failing to take care of myself.

Now I could not take time off work – sometimes this is simply not an option, so if you find yourself in this situation I encourage you to simply give yourself a few weeks where you trim off everything that is optional in your life and only keep doing what is necessary. Do this for about 4-6 weeks and spend the time that opens up, even if it is only 5 minutes in a day, doing something that is all about you, and is not in any way oriented towards a specific goal – just something that you feel like doing.

For me that was music. I have always played, sung and loved listening to music for as long as I can remember; I have been making time recently to start playing the piano again and to just sit back and listen to music, and I feel like a totally new person. I unfortunately have lost my voice with the flu that is going around so am unable to sing, but absolutely intend to get back into that as well. The time that you give to yourself just to be you and to do what makes you happy, whether it be reading a book, getting pampered, going for a walk somewhere beautiful, meditating, or anything else that will replenish you, is essential at all times, but of particular importance to bring back when you are feeling drained and disconnected.

This trimming down of life to the bare minimum will create the space for growth, but of course must come with an expiry date. Without adopting this minimalist approach, you will just not find the time to be with yourself, but conversely, if you let this drag on without placing a limit on it then work and other commitments will begin to suffer. Be realistic about how long you can leave each commitment to its own devices and set specific timeframes so that you can be organised and don’t spend your newly found time worrying about the things you are not doing. Often when we are under pressure we can start to believe that everything is SO URGENT that is simply must have our attention at all points in time. Try staying off emails and away from the phone for a few hours and you will quickly learn that this is simply not the case.

We all need the time to reflect; we all need the time to decide what we want next ,but this will only happen when the chatter of the external world is allowed to stop for a moment and you are able to turn your attention inwards and simply spend some time being with yourself.

A few weeks ago I went to a meditation course with one of my best friends. We are both channeling change at the moment so I thought it appropriate to give her this experience for her birthday. The day course focused on people’s desirous attachment, and on how this restricts us in the pursuit of happiness and leading a fulfilling life. I have attended other meditation courses before and I meditate whenever I feel that I would like to, or feel that I ought to for whatever reason. I had not heard teachings from a Buddhist monk before though, and I found the day to be greatly insightful. First of all Gen Kelsang Daö, the resident teacher, was very funny. If you are in Sydney and have the opportunity to attend one of her teachings, I seriously recommend it. She has a great sense of humour and engages her audience beautifully and manages to posit very big ideas in very simple and elegant ways that I felt many could relate to. See below for more details.

This misguided attachment is identified as leading to constant craving, anxiety and ultimate dissatisfaction. Because searching for happiness externally cannot sustain a sense of satisfaction, this leads to addictive patterns where we constantly seek out more and more, which prevents us from obtaining true contentment. Unattachment is not a lack of caring, nor is it a lack of loving, but rather it is not having an expectation of obtaining happiness from external objects or from other people. It simply came down to this: true happiness is cultivated within, and you cannot expect anything outside of you to bring you happiness. Objects will always lose their shine with time (if not literally, their novelty will wear off) and others have to exist to live their own lives out and will therefore not always behave in a way that you would prefer.
While this sounds simple enough though, when you actually start to unravel this further and think about how we all live, it then becomes apparent how much time and effort we invest into chasing down happiness in all of the wrong places through desirous attachment. Two examples that were spoken about at length are the purchasing of beautiful things, and the attainment of a beautiful partner; both very common situations. Without going into too much detail, the key message was to make the attainment of things about their utility first and foremost, without obsessing over them. You are allowed to like them, and it’s even a good idea to purchase something expensive if it is going to be useful for you. The key is to not dwell on the object, nor to purchase it in the attempt to make you feel happy. Retail therapy *thumbs down*. Similarly, a person should be sought out as an object of love rather than an object of attachment. Only like this are you truly able to connect with and enjoy the company of the person, rather than ultimately always be seeking to obtain happiness through their behaviour, which you are ultimately not in control of. To “love” someone because you need them, is not doing anybody any favours. Here the old saying “If you love somebody set them free” definitely comes to mind.

I don’t really want to go into more detail as I am no expert myself, but I got a lot to think about out of this course and I bought a few books to further delve into this philosophy, so you can expect some further thoughts on this to appear further down the track. I hope that this has been interesting and helpful.

This course was run at the Mahasiddha Kadampa Buddhist meditation centre in Surry Hills, Sydney. If you are curious to attend the meditation centre just check them out online at www.meditateinsydney.org or give them a ring on (02) 9699 9902. Please note that I have no affiliation with the organization – I just attended one of their courses and am sharing this information as I found the course to be interesting and useful.