What is Meditation?
What is meditation and how do we define meditation? Meditation is the art of cultivating awareness and insight. It can be used as a practical tool to undo destructive emotional patterns, to develop positive qualities like wisdom and compassion, and to access the mind’s fundamental nature of pure awareness.
Awareness: The Essence of Meditation
As Mingyur Rinpoche often says, awareness is the essence of meditation. What he means is that practicing meditation is a process of exploring the heart and mind, of fully experiencing the richness of awareness itself. This implies that meditation is not meant to eliminate the things we don’t like about ourselves, or even to become “better” people. Meditation helps us to see that we are already whole and complete. It is a practical tool that enables us to get in touch with our true nature.
The path of meditation unfolds in two stages: We begin by recognizing that the nature of awareness is fundamentally good and pure, and that it is the source of true and lasting happiness. Once we have directly experienced the basic goodness of awareness, the path of meditation then consists of nurturing this recognition and allowing the qualities of awareness to manifest fully.
The path of meditation can thus be summed up in these two aspects: recognizing our true nature and nurturing this recognition until it becomes a living experience throughout our lives.
The third option: Making Friends with Difficult Emotions
When we encounter challenging situations and painful emotions, we typically respond one of two ways: In the first case, we identify with our feeling and believe what it tells us. Mingyur Rinpoche calls this the “Yes sir!” response. In the second case, we resist the emotion and try to push it away, and perhaps even repress it to the point where it fades from our conscious experience. This is what Rinpoche calls the “Hey, get out!” response. Both of these responses keep us locked in a cycle of dissatisfaction and suffering.
Meditation gives us a third option, in which we use painful feelings as supports for awareness. This approach undermines the resistance we often feel toward difficult feelings. At first, it may feel like there is a bit of space between you and the emotion, or like you are learning to be with the emotion rather than become the emotion. This may not feel all that pleasant at the beginning, but eventually we can even learn to embrace and appreciate these feelings as natural expressions of awareness.
Everyday Life as Meditation Practice
In the same way that we can use painful feelings and emotions as support for awareness, we can also use our everyday experiences, even the most mundane details of our lives, as opportunities to deepen our practice. Everything that manifests in the present moment can be used as a support for awareness. We can meditate with the sound of a ringing phone, with the sensations of our body as we sit at our desk or walk down the street, and with all the imagery that displays itself as we go about our day. The beauty of this practice is that nothing is an obstacle to meditation. You can even bring awareness to feelings of drowsiness and agitation. Eventually, everything will become meditation and you will feel completely at home in the present moment.
The Joy of Living
Joy is not the absence of suffering, the absence of challenges, or the absence of anything else. Living with joy means that we develop a sense of inner well-being that allows us to embrace whatever the present moment offers. Meditation instills in us a genuine sense of curiosity and wonder, even toward the mundane and challenging details of our existence. The joy of living is to live with confidence, lightness, and humor, with the knowledge that all our thoughts and emotions are nothing more than ripples on the surface of awareness.
Where can we find true happiness? In the modern world, we are surrounded by unparalleled levels of material wealth and comfort, yet our sophisticated exterior often masks feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and depression. Ironically, it often seems that the more “progress” we see in the world around us, the less content we are with our lives. So what are the benefits of meditation and why should we meditate?
One of the primary benefits of meditation is that it shows us that true happiness is found within. The feelings of contentment and wholeness that we often seek outside ourselves are actually part of our basic nature. Unfortunately, we have become so habituated to looking outside of ourselves for happiness that we often do not know how to discover this “inner wealth.” Though we all have the potential to find a deep and lasting happiness that does not depend on external circumstances, simply hearing that we already have what we need to be happy is not enough; we need practical methods to uncover our true nature, practices that will enable us to move beyond the cultural conditioning that perpetually tells us that we are incomplete.
Another one of the primary benefits of meditation is that the practice of meditation awakens us to the joy of the present moment. By cultivating attention and awareness, even challenging situations like chronic pain, destructive thought patterns, and difficult emotions can be transformed into sources of inner peace and joy. This inner transformation does not require us to retreat from the world. On the contrary, daily life is filled with endless opportunities to use the practice of mindfulness to find the preciousness of every moment. Meditation is not meant to remove us from the world, but to open our hearts and minds to the beauty of what we already have.
For centuries, various forms of meditation have been taught and practiced in virtually all of the world’s religions. While there are important differences between the techniques found in each tradition, they share the belief that true happiness cannot be found in the shifting conditions of the external world, but rather by turning inward and exploring the landscape of the heart and mind.
Scientific Evidence of the Benefits of Meditation
In recent years, meditation has also received a great deal of attention from the scientific community. Researchers from Harvard, MIT, the University of Wisconsin, and many other renowned institutions have explored the effects of meditation on everything from high blood pressure to peak states of consciousness. Their research has shown not only the profound effects that meditation can have on the brains of advanced meditators, but also how practicing meditation for only a few minutes a day can create a dramatic increase in the parts of the brain associated with happiness and wellbeing. Meditation has also been shown to boost the body’s immune system, to improve the brain’s capacity to concentrate for extended periods of time, and to be an effective treatment for many psychological disorders.
Tergar Meditation Training
Tergar Meditation Training provides an in depth course of training in both awareness and insight meditation. The Tergar journey begins with the Joy of Living, a series of three seminars in which Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche presents practical advice on how we can use meditation to calm our minds, open our hearts, and develop insight into the true nature of reality. Emphasizing universal principles like inner peace, compassion, and wisdom, the Joy of Living teaches an approach to meditation that can be practiced by people of all faiths and belief systems.
The Path of Liberation builds on the foundational teachings of the Joy of Living, presenting a series of meditative practices designed to strip away the causes of suffering and uncover the radiant awareness that underlies all experience. This course of practice and study, based on the ancient Buddhist teachings of Tibet, addresses the fundamental confusion that lies at the root of all suffering, enabling us to uproot the distorted ideas and destructive behaviors that keep us trapped in a cycle of anxiety and dissatisfaction. This course of meditation training is recommended for those who feel inspired to make Buddhism their primary spiritual path.
Tergar’s unique approach allows for the integration of theory and meditation. The most important principles of the spiritual path are presented in an experiential manner so that they can be directly applied in our day to day lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
This FAQ provides answers to general and more specific questions about meditation.
General Questions About Meditation
nbsp;Once you’re ready to dive in, you can take our Joy of Living Level I class online. Or look for a retreat, workshop, or meditation group near me in your area.
nbsp;If you feel drawn to our approach, then you're in the right place! If you have questions, feel free to contact a community leader or send us an email via our contact page. We’d be happy to tell you more about our approach to meditation and help you get started in practice.