About a month ago I posted a blog called Dealing with Anxiety – For Good. In that post I talked about my recent discovery of Buddhism and Buddhist meditation and how it’s been helping me to reduce my anxiety and be more at peace. I continue to feel that way today – I feel more at ease and my anxiety has drastically reduced. It’s a really beautiful thing. If any of you have experienced anxiety you know how debilitating it can be.
I was thrilled that so many of you connected to my message after reading that piece. I received several emails from readers asking for more information and I even met a reader at one of my meditation classes! Since then I started my own little blog where I post a few times a week about the different teachings I hear and things I’m thinking about. It’s called My Buddhist Journey and feel free to join me over there as well.
Because of your interest in learning more about meditation I asked my Buddhist meditation teacher Eve (from the Odiyana Center where I practice) to answer some questions about what meditation is and how it can help busy moms find peace and happiness. I hope you enjoy reading through our Q&A and if you have any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What is meditation? Can anyone do it?
Eve: Meditation is a mind that concentrates on a virtuous object (one which causes us to develop a peaceful mind when we concentrate on it), and is the main cause of mental peace. If our mind is peaceful, then we are calm, clear and happy and we are free from worries and mental discomfort. Meditation helps us to improve our good qualities and our relationships and therefore allows us to deal more skillfully with daily life.
Anyone can learn to meditate. No matter how distracted the mind appears, all of us can improve by training in meditation.
Q. You don’t have to be Buddhist to benefit from Buddhist meditation – people from all different religious backgrounds are welcome, right?
Eve: Everyone can definitely benefit from Buddhist meditation and all are welcome at the center. If you think about it, everyone has the same wish: to be happy all the time, to be free from pain and suffering. The purpose of the center is to help people learn how to train in compassion and wisdom, qualities that all living beings need in order to be happy. Buddha gave these teachings so that everyone could become free from negative states of mind such as anger, jealousy and attachment and experience lasting happiness.
Q. These days it seems like everyone is really busy, especially our audience of working moms. Why is it important to fit in some time for meditation?
Eve: Everyone does have busy lives. In order to be able to care for others (like moms!), we need to take some time for our mind. Just like we pause to take care of our bodies (eating, sleeping, exercising), we need to “exercise” and “develop” our mind. Basically, if we don’t have inner peace, there is no real happiness. Problems don’t exist outside the mind. Therefore, it is important for everyone to take time to develop peaceful, positive states of mind. Busyness, worry and stress can make us feel exhausted and unhappy. Just by doing breathing meditation for 10 or 15 minutes a day, we will be able to reduce that stress, improve relationships and deal with difficult situations more easily.
Q. I often hear from moms that they experience a lot of anxiety and guilt in their lives, especially related to their parenting choices. How can meditation help calm their minds?
Eve: Meditation is a method for becoming familiar with positive states of mind. The more we learn about our mind through meditation, the more easily we begin to discriminate which thoughts are helpful and which ones are not. We can then skillfully develop and increase positive states of mind and reduce and finally abandon negative states of mind.
Only when our mind is calm and clear, free from distractions can we gain this insight. When we’re worried, anxious or distracted, we don’t view situations clearly. Meditation allows us to develop this clarity of mind and thus increase our wisdom and compassion, which help us in all aspects of our life, both now and in the future.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add that my readers should know?
Eve: Learning how to be happy is a skill. Like any skill, the more familiar we become with it and the more we practice, the easier it becomes. By training the mind through meditation, we can really begin to enjoy our mind and understand its limitless potential. Just knowing that we can reduce and finally eliminate all negativity from the mind is empowering. We can then actually enjoy creating causes to experience happiness in the future. In this way, we can benefit ourselves and others. Like my teacher, Geshe Kelsang, says: “Don’t worry, just try.”
Note: More detailed information about meditation can be found in “The New Meditation Handbook” and “Joyful Path of Good Fortune” by Geshe Kelsang. You can also do a google search for Buddhist meditation and see if there are any places near where you live. I’ve also used meditation CD’s which are great as well! And if you happen to live in the area of the Odiyana Center you are always welcome to join me! They have evening classes which work out great for working parents.