Our best qualities are revealed through meditation practice
When we meditate, we’re training in being present to each moment without judging or allowing ourselves to be fascinated or repelled by what arises. We’re able to meet each moment, each challenge that appears, with equanimity because we can access the essence of each moment as it truly is. By relating to our minds moment by moment with non-judgment and awareness, we discover that even situations, thoughts and emotions that we might ordinarily find unacceptable hold spaciousness, creativity and peace. This is how the mindful journey leads us to a sense of unconditional well-being.
There will always be challenges. In this life, we can never count on being free from challenges. Once we’ve managed to work through or overcome one challenge, another is bound to surface sooner or later. If our well-being is dependent on the absence of difficulties and challenges, it can’t possibly be stable. So whether challenges appear or not may not be the best measure of well-being. What’s the alternative? The alternative is our innate sense of well-being that is revealed through our meditation practice.
Here, our measure of well-being is how present we can be with challenges and pleasures. Because meditation promotes unconditional well-being, we feel confident that situations that provoke strong emotions—the ones we run away from as well as the ones we delight in—can be met with openness and curiosity. Each situation is an opportunity for practice. Can we stay open and see what happens? Can we remember not to feel like we need to control, enhance or suppress what arises?
With the spaciousness that comes from meditation practice, we can maintain awareness of our emotional reactions and meet challenges of all kinds in the most beneficial way possible. How so? Because they don’t really mean anything about us. The challenges themselves are not a measure of who we are. The real measure of who we are is what we bring to this very moment. If we bring our sense of resilience, our practice, our kindness, our compassion and our confidence, then however we end up managing our challenges, concretely speaking, we’re giving it our best shot. We’re focusing on what is most beneficial for others and ourselves. Knowing this is precisely what gives us a deep and lasting sense of well-being. Instead of depending on results, it comes from focus: a moment by moment ability to be present with and bring our best intention to a given situation. There’s a spontaneous wish to be as beneficial as possible, right here and right now.
What happens, happens. Things are the way they are. Everything is continuously appearing and disappearing in a flow of experience. Our well-being doesn’t have to be enmeshed in the feeling that we have to be in control of things. I think that’s a key insight. Meditation teaches us that we can simply be available to whatever arises and give it our best shot. There’s a balance here between spontaneity and our commitment to working with the mind. Even though well-being is innate and we all have access to it, we need to work on ourselves to uncover it and give it stability. Mindfulness gives us that stability, and awareness practice leads to the insight that it really, truly is possible to work with every moment.
For me, the feeling associated with this deep sense of well-being is tremendous joy, tremendous humor. Everything is quite interesting—even what you might have thought of before as a challenge, a problem or a headache, well, it isn’t! It doesn’t have to be that way! I find that problems are part and parcel of the interesting journey I’m on.
When faced with difficulties, if I have the feeling that I know how this is going to end and I tell myself a big story about what a headache it is, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What happens if I embrace the fact that I don’t know what’s going to happen next? What if I don’t know where this is going, and that’s just fine?
I find that this attitude brings so much delight to my life, so much joy, relaxation and humor. Everything becomes quite interesting. There’s never been a moment before like this moment, there’s never ever going to be a moment exactly like this moment again. We’re not in control of this. We don’t have to be in control—let’s just see!