Tips on Practice During These Troubling Times
Some people are religious, and I am sure turn to those sources for support and hope. Others are spiritual, and I hope also pursue those sources for emotional stability and closeness to the “their” divine. Other people may be Agnostic or Atheist; I am certain such people also find ways to cope and move on during these very bad times. Let’s take a moment to examine some aspects of using religious belief to deal with “the terrible.” We will end with brief sage advice from Pema Chodron on how to turn your world around.
Religion – Buddhism and Others
Much of this post is based on the work of Jack Miles. Miles is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a religious scholar. Personal understanding of what religion means is at the core of differential practices. We recognize that religion is separate from the typical activities and beliefs of secular experience. In the ancient past, however, such separation between religion and secular life was far less clear; in fact in those times religion entered many aspects of secularism as a norm. In the end, of course, what matters is what is helpful to the individual person. The reinforcement of feeling better is a powerful motivator. So, religious or not it may be important for you to at least visit your spiritual or religious self to find “the way.” Remain there a while until you obtain some of what you need. I am sure your deep and personal beliefs about the Divine will help you in one way of another. Or, perhaps, you simply need more support for the Self and its many adventures.
Now let us consider a few thoughts from Pema Chodron, one of the most popular world leaders in contemporary Buddhism. In this post I will refer to specific steps she recommends (without much detail). If you want to learn more read one of her many books or refer to Prajna/Shambhala publications on this topic. First, for positive emotional transformation to occur we need to know and understand to some degree what our emotions and related experiences are. Furthermore, we need to learn through regular practice how to remain there and not escape from the suffering and pain. Humans desire happiness and dread suffering; however, we will experience both in our lives. There is no escape from suffering, and sometimes happiness may require some mindful effort and skillful means. Second, we must discover, learn about, and use various tools and processes to engage our emotional lives successfully without increasing fearfulness. This is where daily meditation practice may come in. It is when we have the courage to engage in meditation dealing with our pain an suffering that new, important insights may occur. It also may make us more brave. Third, since bravery and courage are required to do deep work on your emotional realities, we need to remain motivated for the path and our struggles on it. This is very important when we engage in meditation about our most serious personal suffering. If we are serious about our practice, and we continue to do it regardless of the many challenges that exist, then we may experience emotional transformation and positive changes in our mind, body, life. Here is where our spiritual practices may blossom.
For more information refer to Jack Miles book, Religion as We Know It: An Origin Story. See also Pema Chodron’s online teachings, Turn Your World Around. This is a Prajna/Shambhala Publication.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness