I think the problems of the world aren’t caused by people coming together and saying “let’s make problems.” They’re caused by people coming together and saying “let’s make solutions” without having solved the problem of their own suffering. — Shinzen Young
Shinzen’s words inspire me, because they remind me that, while we all desire to improve ourselves and the world, our clouded minds are generally unable to parse the world enough to do so. I believe that in this endeavor, meditation is the key. In the written word, it’s easier to be convincing than emphatic, so I’ll try to be as convincing as I know how to be.
Meditation will change your life — drastically, and there’s a very good chance it is the answer you are looking for. In the short term, it provides more focused attention, ability to deal with emotions, and fulfilling relationships. In the long term, it will drastically transform you into a person in control of your own mind, mindful of the world around you, and liberated from mental chaos.
Our minds are out of control. If you’re anything like me, a quick look into your thoughts will reveal that while a few are productive or new, the majority are ruminations and critical statements borne of a mind constantly spinning its wheels. Any attempt to stop or control these thoughts will quickly reveal that willpower alone is not enough; it takes careful training.
Consider, then, a reality where your mind has even 20 percent less clutter… or 40 percent, or almost none. Where thoughts, observations, and intentions are felt clearly. This is the promise of meditation.
My first attempts at meditation were half-hearted. A friend convinced me to sit for about 15 minutes several times per month, which was just enough to notice how badly I needed meditation and nowhere near enough to do much about it. It was unbearable sitting still and being in my own mind. Practicing more seriously was a way to directly address this aversion, and doing so has been so helpful to so many parts of my life. Practice in sitting still has already helped me in all elements of life — a writing project that used to take several days can now (on a good day) be done in a few hours, because I’m able to sit still and focus.
The black box of machinery that is my mind has become a touch more transparent, and I’m a touch more able to see what is going on inside. Our minds are composed of disparate pieces, many of which want different things, and understanding these processes better has helped me accept when some of these parts are unhappy. By extension, I’ve been better able to deal with unpleasant situations and conflicting emotions without fear.
There is plenty further for me to go. I have not reached a point where I can spend 45 minutes focusing solely on my breath; most of the time, to even sit down involves a mental battle, with half of my mind dragging the other kicking and screaming onto the meditation cushion. But these same sits end with a feeling of clarity and an uptick in joy that can last the entire day.
by Michael Morgenstern, Huffington Post