Meditation's Big Questions
by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
Meditation's Big Questions by Marcus Antebi
A very big question that I would consider is whether or not to accomplish high levels of meditation you will have to give up all of your worldly possessions and attachments to people. Is the answer yes?
A more thorough answer would be that it just really depends on your level of intelligence and your dedication to practice. It also depends a lot on what you have going on in your life at any one given time. You don’t have to really give up all of your possessions to achieve the highest levels of meditation and become fully enlightened and have the mind and the clarity of the Buddha.
But it’s advisable that you learn how to compartmentalize all of your material possessions and put them in a little treasure chest in your mind. Lock them away, and then put a big label on the chest that says “not so important.”
In terms of the people that you have attachments to, you just have to keep those attachments in perspective. You can love people, care for them, and enjoy them but don’t worry yourself over them. The worry will distract you and make it difficult for you to quiet your mind. But what if you worry about your children? What if you worry about a sick parent?
Those types of worries qualify as something a little different. If there’s something real happening where there seems to be cause for worry, it might be important to sit down, put pen to paper, and figure out exactly what is going on for those people that you worry. What do they need from you? Are you accomplishing your obligations with those people?
Generally speaking, we allow ourselves to worry too much about the people we care for. Sometimes we’re worried that our spouse doesn’t love us the same way we do. Maybe we're worried that they won’t like the same things that we do, or that they don’t really fit into our total plan. This is often the case in marriages; it’s part of the human condition.
Of course there’s a time and a place to think about these things and resolve whatever it is that we think is a problem. But there’s also a point where we need to rest our minds and think of other things. We have to be able to sometimes sit quietly, put all of our problems aside, and just be with ourselves. We need to make space to feel the positive things that we’re experiencing in this world. We need to make space to feel the natural world around us and the miracle of existence.
This may seem like a tall order, or a typical thing that a spiritual person might say. But I think any person with a positive attitude would figure this out. And a positive attitude isn’t something that you buy in a store. You just make up your mind one day that whenever possible you’re going to shift your focus away from negative thoughts. From time to time you may have to come back to them to analyze problems, but solve those problems with a positive frame of mind. This is one of the primary purposes of meditation.
Does this mean we have to build up the ability to form some type of denial? Perhaps. Maybe a degree of denial, provided that we are good people and we make time to concentrate on our real problems, is acceptable. For example, if it’s freezing cold out and I can bear it and I don’t feel pain, I can say to myself, “Wow, what a beautiful day!” I don’t have to concentrate on the coldness. But if the coldness is unbearable for me, it might be easier for me to say, “Hey, I can easily get a warm jacket and cover myself. I’ll do that.”
You find it silly to believe that there are people who get stuck in a problem like this for years. They can’t make a decision one way or the other. Are they happy about the coldness? Do they find it to be a beautiful day or are they shivering and in pain? Do they need a jacket but yet do nothing about it? Such situations are typical of the types of mind games we play with ourselves when we leave our meditation practices and go back to daily life.