Many people believe that meditation is used only to calm or pacify the mind. This is certainly one of its benefits, but if that is the only benefit we experience, then it would be difficult for meditation to have a positive effect on most of our day—when we are not meditating the effects soon wear off; and also, we will then only associate a peaceful and calm mind with the practice of meditation, rather than with the practice of our daily life.
Let’s say, for example, that I am a person who might be standing in the street and I want a cigarette. I tear the plastic wrapper off the packet, then pull out that little paper inside too and just throw them in the street, so I can get on with having my cigarette. I am not even aware of what I’m doing. It is just a habit, something I do without thinking—and especially without thinking of the consequences of my actions or anything beyond my desire to smoke.
As long as the cigarette is in my hand, for that moment nothing else really matters to me. And the tragedy is in those words: nothing matters. If we aren’t aware of what is going on around us or what is going on in our lives, how can anything matter? How can we care? Even something that seems like a tiny act of littering, when you think about it, is a very negative thing to do to the world, destroying the beauty, health and cleanliness of our environment.
This is why it is so important to be a little bit more aware of how all of our actions have consequences—that everything we do matters. Some people may say that ignorance is bliss, and that those who don’t care very much for others or for the world are quite happy in their ignorance. But for me, ignorance is definitely a form of suffering.
It is therefore a good idea to think of meditation not only as a calming practice, but also as a way to become more aware of yourself. In this way, you will be able to merge meditation with daily life, rather than consider them to be separate. Be aware of yourself as you eat your breakfast, pay attention to your body and senses as you drink a cup of tea or talk with a friend. Don’t be quick to be critical or judgmental of yourself if you don’t always act as you would like to, but simply notice your thoughts, words and actions.
This kind of awareness will not only deepen your appreciation of life and your connections and interactions with others, but it will also help you develop the meaning of your life. Because when your life has your attention, meaning is not difficult to find. Life is full of meaning, it is full of opportunity, and if you find the meaning of your life, it is difficult to be sad or depressed.
If you want to be someone who is able to live in the moment more, then you can’t just wave a magic wand and expect it to happen. You have to practice because this is something you do with your mind—and, as we all know, the mind easily becomes like a wild horse if we leave it entirely to its own devices. As monks and nuns, we are fortunate in this respect because we are taught meditation from such a young age.
But it is not just as simple as sitting on a mountain and praying, without any of the responsibilities of living in the real world; after all, I am responsible for hundreds of monasteries, nunneries and schools in the Himalayas, and for the wellbeing of the monks, nuns, students and many other projects. But the mind practices that I have been taught over many years, and now have the opportunity to teach to others, mean that I am able to understand the pointlessness of worry or regret; that even as we make preparations for things that are still in the future or learn important lessons from the past, today is what really counts.
To live in the moment doesn’t mean that we let go of our responsibilities; actually, we focus better on what we need to do to make sure we are looking after our responsibilities, rather than wasting precious time and energy on rumination and over-analysis of what has been or anxiety over the uncertainty of what is to come.
When we dwell too much on either the past or the future, we come out of the natural flow and rhythm of our lives, so that we might miss out on the opportunities of the present.
Awareness makes us cognizant of the situation. Ignorance keeps us in the dark. How can we make deep connections and interact with the world if we are ignorant and full of misunderstandings? How can we develop meaning in our lives? How can we be happy? When your life has your attention, meaning is not difficult to find.
It is only with awareness that we see all the connections and join the dots. Bliss is the end result to a completed circle of awareness. When we are aware of what we do and how our actions impact us, and those around us, we glide into a state of joyful equilibrium. That is what we call bliss.
The author is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas