inside the past, my family as well as friends would certainly’ve typically described me as pleasant nevertheless hurried. My baseline restlessness as well as edginess, however, have right now nearly vanished.
Without difficulty, I have sustained attention when my young children spend time with me. Instead of constant surveillance of my phone, there is actually an ability to quickly hyper-focus on the task is actually at hand as well as a corresponding joy of living in a distraction-less world.
in which change seems to have commenced the end of last year, after I spent a morning meditating with the Dalai Lama.
First off: Yes, I do feel a little ridiculous writing a line like in which, as well as I didn’t feel worthy of his invitation at the time. Even though I meditate, I’ve never been sure whether I was using proper technique or whether there was an acceptable way to meditate inside the presence of His Holiness.
If he was looking forward to a not bad meditation partner, I worried he was unlikely to find the idea in me. Even my posture is actually terrible when sitting cross-legged on the floor. My back starts to hurt, followed by my knees. Thus, my breathing, which is actually supposed to drive my focus, sounds raspy as well as uneven. All in which makes my mind race instead of slowing down as well as calming.
Just thinking about meditating with His Holiness was doing me anxious.
Nevertheless, who says “no” to a chance to meditate with the Dalai Lama? I agreed to join him early the next morning at his private residence.
A practice in which begins at 3 a.m.
At 81 years, old, the Dalai Lama keeps a very active schedule. I met him in Mundgod, India, at the Drepung Monastery, where he was overseeing a symposium bridging Buddhism as well as science.
The monastery itself is actually a dazzling bejeweled structure built 0 years ago. Inside, there are enormous golden Buddhas standing next to ornate walls. The discussion hall itself is actually grand nevertheless warm, with doors as well as windows open to the hot South Indian sun.
For three days, his Holiness moderated sessions on weighty metaphysical topics such as the criteria for valid reasoning, the fundamental constituents of the universe, origins of life as well as the subjective experience of the mind.
the idea was fascinating as well as mind-bending — nevertheless also mentally exhausting. the idea was difficult to stay awake, let alone keep up with the rapid-fire debate between the Buddhists as well as the scientists. Yet his Holiness was mentally engaged as well as inquisitive throughout, even more remarkable given more than half the comments were being translated for him.
The Dalai Lama typically wakes about 2:40 a.m. as well as starts his daily meditation routine at 3 a.m., even as most of his staff is actually still snoozing.
in which was the backdrop when one of his senior staff members picked me up outside the monastery early one morning. We drove in a three-car convoy to the gates outside his private residence.
via there, several more staff members escorted us to a tiny conference room where his security detail was slowly waking as well as drinking their morning tea. Finally, his chief of staff walked me just outside the personal quarters of the Dalai Lama.
Meditating is actually hard for him, too
There were a few minor instructions before we entered. Eye contact is actually not a problem, as well as shaking hands is actually acceptable if you use two hands, not just one. Try not to turn your back to him when leaving the room, as well as instead walk backward, as much as possible facing him. When sitting cross-legged on the floor, don’t point your feet at the Dalai Lama. as well as the correct address is actually “your holiness.”
Shortly after, the doors opened, as well as I nervously walked into a very modest room where the Dalai Lama was sitting on a raised platform, already deep in meditation. I slipped off my shoes, sat cross-legged at a slight angle on the floor to avoid my toes being pointed in his direction, closed my eyes as well as commenced to focus on my breathing.
All my meditation insecurities immediately commenced to kick in. After a few minutes, I heard his deep, distinctive baritone voice: “Any questions?”
I looked up as well as saw his smiling face, starting to break into his characteristic head-bobbing laugh.
“in which is actually hard for me,” I said.
“Me, too!” he exclaimed. “After doing daily for 60 years, the idea is actually still hard.”
the idea was at once surprising as well as reassuring to hear him say in which. The Dalai Lama, Buddhist monk as well as spiritual leader of Tibet, also has trouble meditating.
“I think you will like analytical meditation,” he told me. Instead of focusing on a chosen object, as in single-point meditation, he suggested I think about a problem I was trying to solve, a topic I may have read about recently or one of the philosophical areas via the earlier sessions.
He wanted me to separate the problem or issue via everything else by placing the idea in a large, clear bubble. With my eyes closed, I thought of something nagging at me — something I couldn’t quite solve. As I placed the physical embodiment of in which problem into the bubble, several things commenced to happen very naturally.
The problem was right now directly in front of me, floating weightlessly. In my mind, I could rotate the idea, spin the idea or flip the idea upside-down. the idea was an exercise to develop hyper-focus.
Less intuitively, as the bubble was rising, the idea was also disentangling itself via any various other attachments, such as subjective emotional considerations. I could visualize the idea, as the problem isolated itself, as well as came into a clear-eyed view.
Too often, we allow unrelated emotional factors to blur the elegant as well as practical solutions right in front of us. the idea can be dispiriting as well as frustrating. Through analytical meditation, His Holiness told me, we can use logic as well as reason to more clearly identify the question at hand, separate the idea via irrelevant considerations, erase doubt as well as brightly illuminate the answers. the idea was simple as well as sensible. Most important, for me — the idea worked.
Meditation for skeptics
As a neuroscientist, I never expected in which a Buddhist monk, even the Dalai Lama, would certainly teach me how to better incorporate deduction as well as critical thinking to my life — nevertheless in which is actually what happened.
the idea changed me. as well as I am better for the idea. I practice analytical meditation every day, usually early inside the morning. The first two minutes are still the hardest, as I create my thought bubble as well as let the idea float above me. After in which, I reach what can best be described as a “flow” state, in which 20 to 30 minutes pass easily.
I am more convinced than ever in which even the most ardent skeptics could find success with analytical meditation.
Over the holidays, I spent as much time as possible relaying the Dalai Lama’s teachings to my family as well as friends as well as teaching them basic principles of analytical meditation. in which was the gift I most wanted to share with them. as well as right now with you.