Meditation Series. Part 1: Why Meditation Is More Important Now Than Ever
Mindfulness with Breathing is a meditation technique anchored in our breathing, it is a tool which most schools of meditation have as their base. The breath is vital, natural, soothing, revealing. It is our constant companion, if you are alive you are breathing. In practicing mindfulness upon and through the breathing, we develop and strengthen our mental abilities and spiritual qualities. We learn how to relax the body and calm the mind. As the mind quiets and clears, we investigate how life, how the mind and body, unfold. We discover the fundamental reality of human existence and learn how to live our lives in harmony with that reality.
The benefits of correct, sustained practice are numerous. Some are specifically spiritual and others are more everyday. Firstly mindful breathing is good for our health, both physical and mental. Long, deep, peaceful breathing is good for the body. Sitting quietly alive to the breathing, free of stress, worry, and busyness. This gentle calm can be maintained in our other daily activities and will allow us to do everything with more grace and skill.
It brings us into touch with reality and nature. We often live in our heads - in ideas, dreams, memories, plans, words, and all that. So we do not have the opportunity to understand our own bodies even, never taking the time to observe them (except when the drama of illness or sex occur). Through the breathing, we become sensitive to our bodies and their nature. We ground ourselves in this basic reality of human existence, which provides the stability we need to cope wisely with feelings, emotions, thoughts, memories, and all the rest of our inner conditioning. No longer blown about by these experiences, we can accept them for what they are and learn the lesson they have to teach us. We begin to learn what is what, what is real and what is not, what is necessary and what is unnecessary, what is conflict and what is peace.
With continued practice we learn to live in the present moment, the only place one can truly live. Dwelling in the past, which has died, or dreaming in the future, which brings death, is not really living as a human being ought to live. Each breath, however, is a living reality within the boundless here-now. To be aware of them is to live, ready to grow into and with whatever comes next.
Lastly, meditation helps us to ease up on and let go of the selfishness that is destroying our lives and world. Our societies and planet are tortured by the lack of peace. The problem is so serious that even politicians and the military-industrialists pay lip-service to it. Still, nothing much is done to blossom genuine peace. Merely external (and superficial) approaches are taken, while the source of conflict is within us, each of us. The conflict, strife, struggle, and competition, all the violence and crime, the exploitation and dishonesty, arises out of our self centered striving, which is born out of our selfish thinking. Anapanasati will get us to the bottom of this nasty "I-ing" and “my-ing" which spawns selfishness. There is no need to shout for peace when we merely need breath with wise awareness.