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Meditation as a path of unconditional self-acceptance toward the realization of our true self. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.“ Leonard Cohen
Mindfulness meditation – just be aware of whatever is happening in the present moment (feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, sounds...), without judging them (as good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant...), without identifying with them (they are just an object of awareness, no matter whether it’s a thought or sound), with acceptance and curiosity. Just be here and now fully. Loving-kindness meditation consists in sending kind wishes, to yourself (this is a very important part of the practice), to loved ones and to others. “May I feel safe, may I feel healthy...“ With every wish, we try to open our heart a little bit. What is important is not how we actually feel, but the willingness to open.
Nine years ago, I decided to go to a ten-day meditation retreat. At that time, I didn’t know much about meditation, but I was very interested and had a strong motivation. I wanted to be in peace, which meant for me, get rid of thoughts, get rid of emotions and get rid of problems. I wanted to attain some definitive state of invulnerability, untouchability, and unchangeability. As for many others, as I see it today, meditation was for me a tool for self-improvement or rather radical self-improvement, and my approach to meditation was very much motivated by the idea that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me.
Why? Because I have feelings. I have changing and unwanted emotions which very often I don’t know what to do with, I don’t understand myself and sometimes I don’t have control of my life and in life in general, while everybody else is much more… than me.
Hopefully, I will meet good teachers, I thought. Very soon it was clear for me that just sitting with whatever arises and trying to accept it, trying to take it as it is, will not help me to get rid of all of these problems. Instead, I was encouraged to face whatever arises in my heart-body-mind moment to moment without judging and with loving-kindness and acceptance. Let everything be as it is, let yourself be as you are and just be there fully present.
Step by step, as I was confronted with my inner world, with all that was unresolved, vulnerable, fragile… with all the different emotions of fear, anxiety, hopelessness… I was developing a deeper understanding and compassion toward myself and others. And alongside this, sometimes not easy path, there were unexpected moments of light, peace, freedom, gratefulness and love that were supporting in me taking a further step. It was like a beautiful view from the top of the mountain before you begin to climb another.
What I learned during all these years of practice, could be summed up in three major things. First, I’m not my thoughts, feelings or behaviour patterns. Or not only that, I’m much more and I don’t have to identify myself with some aspects of my personality. Maybe there is darkness but there is light as well. And I can be aware, I can acknowledge, I can accept things just as they are at this very moment, and then I can decide what to do.
Second, the importance of loving-kindness and self-compassion. It’s not always easy to be a human. It’s not easy to accept things as they are and it’s not easy to accept ourselves. But this is the way. As meditation teacher Jack Kornfield puts it: “Much of the spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it.“ Acceptance doesn’t mean to fold our hands in our lap. With acceptance, loving-kindness, and self-compassion we can grow naturally, being nourished by the positive energy of love, to become who we are in our uniqueness.
And third, regardless of inner confusion, chaos, difficulties, feelings of inadequacy or imperfection, the core or the centre of our being is good, full of peace, love, joy, and equanimity; just what we were seeking the whole time. And it’s always there, no matter the circumstances.
But this needs practice, regular if possible, to come again and again to the present moment, to step out of being caught in thoughts, to expand our awareness and to develop an attitude of acceptance a loving-kindness. It is also to remember or re-experience that we are already accepted for who we really are, and very often our vulnerability is a way toward our true identity.
How do you connect with your centre?
What brings you peace, joy, and love?
In which ways could you develop more loving-kindness toward yourself?
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