By Paulo Coelho
Is this new perception really important?
LeShan agrees that the problem is truly complex. On the one hand, we can “operate” very efficiently in this world such as we know it. On the other, we know that a considerable number of people worthy of our trust, such as Gandhi, Teresa D’Avila, or Buddha, sought to perceive this reality in a distinct manner, and that this led them to take giant steps and change the destiny of humanity.
Just like at the gym, where a good teacher always has a series of different exercises for each type of student, there is no single technique for meditating, and anyone interested in the subject should try to discover his own way. However, there are a few elementary steps which are present in almost all religions and cultures which use meditation as a way of encountering inner peace, which I shall now describe (based on Lawrence LeShan’s highly interesting book, How to Meditate: a Guide to Self-Discovery)
The first thing is to be aware of one’s own breathing.
Counting the number of times we breathe every two minutes, helps us concentrate our attention on something we do automatically, and thus removes us from that which is normal. At first, this may seem very simple, but we mustn’t be fooled by this simplicity: whoever decides to try out this exercise in practice, notices that this requires considerable effort and large doses of patience. However, as we do so (and we can practice conscious breathing anywhere, before going to sleep, or on public transport on the way to work), we come into contact with an unknown part of ourselves, and feel the better for it.
Choosing the place:
The next step is to try and dedicate ten or fifteen minutes a day to sit in a quiet place, and repeat this conscious breathing, trying to remain still (like the Zen monks we have already talked about here). Thoughts will appear, against our will, and at this moment it is useful to recall the words of St. Teresa D’Avila about our mind: “it is a wild horse which goes anywhere, except where we want to take it.”
Silencing without violence:
Finally, as time passes (one should know that this requires two or three months of exercises), the mind has emptied itself naturally, bringing with it great serenity to our everyday lives. However great our problems appear, however stressful our lives, these fifteen minutes every day will make all the difference, and help us to overcome – generally in a subconscious manner – the difficulties we face.
According to a well-known Zen story, Lao Shi asked his master, Wang Tei:
- What must I do to be closer to God?
Wang Tei told him to follow him high up onto a mountain, There, he took a candle from his bag and gave it to his disciple to light. Lao Shi tried several times, in vain.
- It is too windy, I can’t light it.
- But it’s not windy three kilometers away from here.
- What use is that? I’d need to walk all that way, to light the candle where there is no wind.
- Similarly, in order to educate the mind and light the flame of God within you, you must walk to a calmer place – replied Wang Thei.
Whether in search of God, or just in search of oneself, a man who meditates will find a calm place, and succeed in obtaining a clearer, more object view of the world.
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