Meditation as a Toolbox
“There is a Tibetan saying that just as every valley has its own language so every teacher has his own doctrine.” ~ Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism
While this saying contains many exaggerations, it speaks to the variety of Buddhist traditions within old Tibet. In the same way meditation is not just a handful of techniques, but rather a multiplicity of methods that have evolved over the millennia as those who have used meditation have found the need and want for that development. Indeed that development continues until this day.
Meditation is not the purview of any one tradition or philosophy. It can be practiced by someone following a spiritual belief or none. And what that meditation practice might be, possibly even within a single tradition, can be different from one person to the next. The different mediation practices have arisen out of the needs and dispositions of the individuals who practice it.
Some things that meditation might be used to develop and work with include, but are in no way limited to,
- Quietening the mind
- Developing compassion
- Developing patience
- Connecting with God
- Seeing the humanity in everyone
- Walking meditation
- Achieving better focus
Through learning meditation it is possible to develop a toolkit of techniques for working on the mind, whether that is a single technique or many. This is a toolkit that you can carry with you at all times. No one need know that you are carrying the toolkit, but when the need arises to apply a certain technique - to calm yourself down, to bring you back into the the present, to develop your compassion, to be more patient - you can reach into your toolbox and apply that meditation method, quietly and to yourself.
On the cushion and in practice
Our formal meditation sessions have their place, they are important, very important. It is there that we get to focus on the practice that we wish to develop in an environment that we control and is (hopefully) undisturbed. But our life is lived out in the wider world, and if your patience, compassion, or focus stay on the cushion, they are of not much use to you. Indeed then we might question the usefulness of our meditation practice aside offering us a quiet place to be.
So with the benefit of our formal meditation practice, we step out into the world and use the tools that we have developed in that place where the rubber meets the road.
The toolkit’s contents
There are no prizes for how full that toolkit is. What is important is the quality of the tools within it and how often you reach in to use them. In my opinion it is better to have one tool that you regularly use and develop, than have a catalogue of tools that occasionally see the light of day.
And you will find that your formal practice will feed off the efforts that you make in your post meditation practice and vice versa.
What’s in your meditation toolkit? Are those tools getting some good use, or could they do with a bit of cleaning up?
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