Where did Buddha rest in peace

20 Misconceptions About Meditation

Meditation does not mean staying calm and serene all the time

Of course, we should be careful with some of them. I once had a friend, a German monk, who came to the temple where I lived. He came to Korea for a special reason, which is a very group-oriented country. He had previously been to Thailand, where he practiced on an island, all alone, only his dog was still there. He had deep meditative states. He saw the island and it was wonderful. He was breathing and he was so wide and calm. But whenever he came back to the monastery, he instantly got into an argument. Right away. So he returned to the island and it was fantastic again. Then back to the temple again and it was the same again. So he thought to himself: there is a problem. I can meditate, it works, but it doesn't work in everyday life. So he came to Korea to see if things could get a little better in a very group-oriented situation.

It was a little difficult for me as a translator. Sometimes I was called and asked to translate for him, saying that he shouldn't do this or that and that there was a problem. One day I realized its difficulty. It was a great learning experience for me. In our free time he always came to see me for tea. And then his favorite thing to do was arguing with me. He was looking for a topic to argue about and I let myself be carried away. After he left, I felt really bad every time, very tense.

So I asked myself: what actually happened? And the third time I said, “Wait a minute! What is actually happening? ”I realized that he was provoking arguments. I thought: But I don't have to go along with it. Because of me, he should do it if he can't help it, but I can't do it with myself.

So this became my practice from then on. Whenever he came, he got his tea and began: “How about that?” - “Oh yes. Very interesting, ”I replied. - "And with that?" - "Hm, interesting thought." And he left without my having given him food for an argument. There was no longer any fire behind it because I didn't allow myself to be drawn into the game. And it was very educational for me to see how it worked.

So meditation is not just about staying calm and calm, but basically also about asking what is happening, where do I get entangled through automatic reactions. How can I change creatively, how can I deal with things in a different way? Such a thing is also due to clarity. For me, meditation is also about clarity, creativity, the ability to react or respond appropriately. And that's why I mean, when we meditate, then we cultivate, develop, we basically develop creative awareness.


Meditation does not mean staying with your breath as long as possible

You cannot really see the effect of the creative awareness or the creative awareness. However, you develop it when you concentrate, when you inquire, when you get to the bottom of things and when you develop insight through meditation. Then cultivate their creative awareness so that you will be able to respond adequately to everyday life in your relationships, in your work, and with yourself when it returns to everyday life.

I know people who actually think that concentration in meditation is about staying with your breath all the time. You can of course do that, but the most striking feeling about concentration for me is the fact that it enables us to see our habits. This is the interesting thing about it: meditation enables us to become calmer, we become more conscious, and we see more clearly and without bias what we think, what we feel; what we often, repeatedly, feel in our physical body - and then we see it very differently. At the same time, while we are still seeing it, we are breaking it down into its components. Because in meditation we do not try to get rid of the body, mind or heart - on the contrary. We are trying to regain what I call "optimal functioning": that the mind functions with freedom, alertness and creativity. The same goes for our emotions and our bodies. We try that. And that's exactly what I think is important: to see how we are fixated on certain habits or behavioral patterns.


Meditation doesn't change anything if I don't work on my own habits

To get back to the habit, I would like to give a few brief examples. A mental habit at the beginning of my meditation practice as a nun in Korea was daydreaming. I loved daydreaming! It was my favorite thing to do. I sat in meditation and imagined that I was in a hermitage and that enlightenment (Pali bodhi) literally means awakening or recognizing. In secular Buddhism, bodhi is translated as awakening, which means understanding and doing ... attaining and saving all people. That was my favorite daydream. Until I realized that I wasn't meditating at all - I was just dreaming about it. And that didn't do anything useful at all. Realizing this led to some frustration with my meditation. But then, after a while, I stopped daydreaming. I sort of saw through it.

But the interesting question is: where did daydreaming come from? - From the imagination! And imagination is a very important function of our mind. So it is very important to be able to use them creatively. Hence, we should recognize when it is creative imagination and when it is daydreaming. The latter is very abstract, has very little relation to reality and often leads to frustration. We need to recognize the difference between what I would call "ordinary functioning" and habits that really fix and limit us.

To describe an emotional pattern: be it because I come from the south of France, be it because it belongs to my biological circumstances, for whatever reason - I get angry easily. I am lively and easily upset. That was much stronger in the past. It's gotten a lot better now through my meditation. However, that does not mean that I no longer have this tendency. But meanwhile I get upset for two minutes, then I see the anger go away again. I used to be angry for days and that was quite agonizing for me and for others. However, if we look closely at anger, it is ultimately just energy. Anger as a feeling in itself is energy. Just one energy for many different reasons. We are angry, we have this feeling. It's seething, it's blazing. It is painful to see how we toss and puff it up in our minds.


Meditation does not mean that we will never be angry again

Can anger be useful as a feeling? In January 2007 one of the great French heroes died in France. You may have heard of it. He is called Abbé Pierre and was one of my heroes. He was a famous figure in France everyone knew. Everyone indulged in his holiness, so to speak.

I met him once many years ago at a peace conference. Everyone was talking about peace, and it was “multi-religious,” and they used phrases like “yes, we are for peace” and so on. And suddenly this little man - he was pretty small and gaunt - came and said, “I am angry! ”- I thought, wait a minute! Everyone was talking about peace and he was talking about anger! Poverty made him angry. Homelessness made him angry. And that made him use it very creatively. Because the anger was not lost, did not become a disturbing emotion. Instead, he was an energy that enabled the priest to create a huge movement that advocated many causes.

So we see again: the problem is not with the emotion itself, but with the habit and the way of dealing with it.


Meditation does not deny pain

In the body, on the other hand, that which is repeated is different for each of us due to the different physical conditions. For example, I regularly have sciatic pain when I sit in a chair. At first, when I had this pain, I asked: Why me of all people ?! You think: why me? Which ultimately means: why not someone else? - Very compassionate!

But then I thought: what is actually happening? Instead of thinking, “Oh, it's awful, I shouldn't have this,” I began to think, “But Why do I have it? It's not there all the time, but I have this tendency, what can I do about it? ”That's how I learned. The sciatica problem was a sign that helped me manage my body much better. So I can behave accordingly while running, lifting something or gardening and treat my body more considerately instead of doing things carelessly.

So meditation helps us not to deny the pain - “oh, that doesn't hurt at all” - but to see it; to see where the pain is located, and also to recognize how I can get relief, as far as I can under the given conditions.

The other aspect is experiential exploration and intuitive cognition. That is the ability we have to be clear and unclouded. That is why I believe it is important that meditation is not about becoming or being "empty". Meditation is very much about cultivating liveliness, clarity, openness, creativity by looking deeply into the experience and seeing what happens. So the awareness is not just indifferent awareness. I would call it creative or engaged awareness.


Meditation is not passive endurance

In meditation we see the way we experience ourselves and our environment and we see the changing nature of our experience. Both are very important: to recognize the changing nature, but also to see that things can remain relatively constant. I'll be sitting here in the morning - hopefully if I don't have a heart attack that night. I do not believe that there will be any significant change in my being during the night. So I guess I'll look relatively the same here in these four days.

But who knows? Something could happen. Recently I was teaching in South Africa and I don't know how it happened, but an insect stung me one night and the following day - wow! My face! I didn't look like usual. I had a bad allergy, was puffy and mottled reddish-yellow. The people took it very calmly, they said nothing about my changed appearance. So from one day to the next I looked completely different. And my face felt very different. But I thought: Well, that's the way it is. I tried to do something about it and then it changed again. It took a while, but it has changed.

It is important to see the changeable nature, but also to recognize that there is a certain constancy. We're not going to change quickly all the time. But changes can happen so that we don't feel so rigid and immutable. The feeling, “I am like this and I don't change,” is one of the pains that we create ourselves. We may tend to be a certain way. But this way is not always the same. What causes it? What happens?


Meditation does not change the conditions in which we live

The nature of all things and phenomena is conditioned, i.e. all arise from conditions or prerequisites, both external and internal. Nothing exists by itself. In everyday life, the meditation process basically consists of learning to increasingly discover the conditions to which we are subject and also the way in which our internal conditions relate to the external conditions. (I'll say more about this tomorrow night.) For me, that is why meditation is a journey of discovery, in the course of which we recognize the conditions of our existence.

Often times, practitioners see meditation as something that allows them to overcome their conditions, so they think it's a good idea - "one day we'll be floating somewhere up there and nothing can harm us". I don't think that's going to happen. Who knows? But I do not think so. On the contrary, I mean that we have the conditions understand become: Which conditions help me to become calmer? What conditions do not help me to calm down?

I think it is very important to know the conditions or requirements, to see how much we are influenced by them. How can we be creative with them? At this level, meditation gradually gives us choices to look deeply into the conditions; and the concentration that inquiring inquiry engenders activates creative awareness.


Meditation is not for those in a hurry

It is important to realize that we don't develop creative awareness or awareness in one day - I am meditating and suddenly I am creatively aware 100 percent of the time. It arises naturally. So I would call it a process, a four-step process. We go through the cycle of negative habits, we get caught up in it, we go through it, and at the end of it all we see: Oh - I've done it again! It happened, I reacted like this, I was angry, jealous, sad, angry, etc. And yet it happened a second time. In the end we realize: “Oh!” We begin to see.

The first step

That's the first important step: to see that something has happened that repeats itself. It's important to realize, “Oh yes, that happened. That's how I felt, I said that; it happened and it was painful for me. ”- This is the first step.

The second step

Then there is one secondn Step - the hardest I feel - when we catch ourselves in the middle of this pattern. I remember that when I had just come from Korea with my husband, I would sometimes wake up at night and feel angry. Then I said to him: “I'm angry!” - “About what?” He wanted to know. And I replied, “I don't know.” There was nothing to be angry about. It was a feeling. Realizing that feeling didn't stop it, but it made me realize that it was there. I was less carried away by it.


Meditation cannot quench our emotions

The third step

Then there is what I'm starting the third Call step. We perceive the feeling, but there is nothing we can do about it. But seeing this makes it a little weaker. Eventually we get to a certain point when we see the feeling at its beginning. Gradually we realize what is causing it. I learned that about myself and my anger. I found myself angry: "Hmm, I'm angry, I'm angry." And then I looked for someone to be angry with, but only found people who had done nothing. So instead of continuing to search for someone to get angry with, I started investigating: Why am I angry? After a while, I realized that the trigger was fatigue. When I was tired I could get irritable easily. So by feeling anger, I could tell that I was tired. So I rested and after an hour it was over. So the relationship with the people around me was much more peaceful. I think it is an important process to realize that anger or jealousy or whatever it is arises from certain conditions. What's the trigger? We recognize the feeling at the beginning and then reverse it with creative energy and in this way do not get into the previously inevitable pattern.

The fourth step

And then we do that fourth Step, in a certain sense the most beautiful: We see the feeling before we are captured by it. Even before it rises. We are on the verge of falling into our negative pattern and doing for the hundredth time what we have already done since we were born (or shortly afterwards), but the creative awareness says, “Wait a minute! Couldn't you do something else? ”And then it can happen again and again that at that moment we have a strong feeling that creates a voice:“ How can I do something else? I've never done anything else! ”That is why we often do not change painful habits.We prefer the suffering that we know to the unknown non-suffering.

And that is precisely why we meditate: to develop the power of creative awareness so that we recognize this moment in time and dare to do something else. And then it's such a relief - "ah, why didn't I do this before?" - we didn't do it before because we didn't have the power of creative awareness. In a way, it's about realizing that it doesn't matter what stage we are in. Something will be more intense. And so we will all eventually find ourselves in the last or middle stage, and something will be a little easier, or we will finally be able to recognize something in time and then we will be free to choose what to do.

When we break through the feeling and do something else, the pattern really goes away. Because in this moment we realize how painful it was for us and for others. And out of compassion for ourselves and others, we are no longer able to repeat it.

I would like to end at this point. Do you have any questions or comments?


Question about the term creative awareness or creative awareness

question: You use the word “creative” quite often. (…) Creative awareness or creative awareness - could you explain a little?

MB: This is something that I noticed with increasing practice. I gradually realized that awareness is not just about being aware, becoming aware. Awareness or awareness is creative. I felt that there was a movement that, over time, meditation would remove the obstacles that opposed my creative potential. That instead of thinking, "That's the way it is, and that's it", I began to think: "I could act differently on this matter. I could react or answer differently. I could talk differently ”. That's what I mean by creative ...

I try to learn in many different ways and also try to think a little more before I say something - which is not to say that I always do it. But I've now learned that. Before I react, I'll try to see how I can put it. For me this is a creative act: trying something that you may never have said before. How can you tell someone something, considering all the conditions? I mean that. What is the most creative thing you could think or say at this moment?

So I would see creative awareness or creative awareness as giving us choices. It enables our potential to emerge and that we have the opportunity to say something that would never have occurred to us before. And that we often surprise ourselves with what we do, what we say and how we act.