There is a reason that people have been meditating since the beginning of time and yet nobody finds it easy. In fact it’s probably one of the most challenging things a human being can choose to do – to work deeply at unpackaging the hindering layers of conditioning that stop us getting out of life all that we could be getting out of it. And I don’t mean getting the most out of life as in achieving the most. I mean getting the most enriching experience out of the things that we do, what you do; the ordinary things that you do.
Most of life, actually ninety-percent of it at least, is just a series of ordinary moments. Life itself is extraordinary, but within it, it is ordinary things that tend to go on. It’s not always going to be exciting, most of it will be ordinary. It is not in the pursuit of our peak and extra-ordinary moments that we find real meaning in life, but when we learn to embrace the ordinary and find wonder even there. And that’s the point at which we all can start to breathe out. And goodness me doesn’t our planet need us all to breathe out a little.
So yes, it’s a big relief when you feel yourself not having to hanker after peak experiences in order to feel satisfied. When you can make each moment a complete moment whether it’s something as ordinary as sitting quietly with cup of tea in a break between things, when there’s a space within you to properly turn up for whatever you are doing, almost everything has a moment of serenity or wonder within it. Creating space and putting less in our lives is probably the most valuable thing we could possibly do, and as a group, as a mass of humanity, creating space and doing less would be doing the planet an enormous favour.
Somebody asked me on retreat last week, “Why do you do it Burgs? Why do you do it, why do you keep teaching meditation?”
Well, the reason I do it is because I can really feel so deeply this state of friction that people are living in, day to day. And collectively the state of friction humanity is living in. I can feel so deeply the state of friction that the planet is experiencing on account of that friction that humanity is living in. And in all our efforts to seek a resolution to it; to find answers to the challenges that we face, the real answer is that if we all started to embrace profound movement towards simplicity in our lives and started to learn to take out less and instead extract the real essence of the experience that we’re missing, then we would realise that our real needs are far fewer than we currently may think. We would then start to find infinitely more satisfaction in our ordinary moments, instead of restlessness and agitation. And with it, our sense of gratitude would be far greater, and we would move so much more lightly upon this world, while delighting in doing so.
Now wouldn’t that bring an enormous sigh of relief to the whole planet and everything on it? We would feel it individually, as groups, as would our whole planet feel it. So this letting go that I talk about, is the letting go of all the unnecessary things that we’re hankering after but just don’t really need. It involves overcoming this restlessness that means we never feel truly satisfied with anything. Gradually it brings us to the place where we can just be with ourselves and be comfortable and content to just be there, and to reach that point is probably the most valuable thing each of us and all of us could do right now. It is through learning to meditate that we learn to meet ourselves in an ordinary moment and find a joy there that replaces our restless feeling of needing more. That is what we call contentment – the feeling that it is already enough.
Nobody’s going to choose to let go and simplify while they’re still feel that hankering after things is the way forward, but when you don’t hanker after things anymore, you would joyfully let go the things that you don’t actually need. Letting go these things that actually only burden our lives brings with it such a wonderful relief. And it is through meditation that you come to this place.
You may have been struggling with the stress of holding a very complex life together, but the idea of profoundly simplifying it may be a million miles away. But through sitting, learning to just be there with yourself in an ordinary quiet moment, without needing to add anything to it, brings us to the understanding, “You know what I don’t need nearly as much as I thought I did”, or some kind of thought to that effect. That’s really why we meditate, because it brings us to a peace that is infinitely more within reach that the one we might otherwise think lies at the end of a long road when we have finally satisfied all our desires and acquired all the things we think we need.
Think of all the things that we’re doing that we distract ourselves with; why are we doing them? Ask yourselves which of them you have found profoundly satisfying. All too often we just do stuff out of a sense of something lacking.
Because while we are learning to meditate we begin a deep process of repairing the most delicate of mechanisms that allow a simple moment like, for example, standing and looking upon nature at the end of the day, to be a powerfully moving experience. The mechanism by which we enter totally into something like that, so it isn’t just looking at something nice, but it’s actually moving at a deep level, and engaging, is very subtle. That involves the most extraordinary complex, subtle and delicate mechanism that allows life to move through us. This very mechanism is constantly over-stimulated and bombarded to the point where the only way to cope is to shut it down. And then we gradually stop feeling; we stop feeling what we are doing to ourselves, but we also stop feeling such things as empathy, love, compassion and generosity of spirit. Yes these are the very experiences that make life feel truly meaningful. When they shut down we all experience a profound sense of something lacking, but we just don’t seem to know what it is. Such mechanisms by which the most delicate aspects of our experience come to us needs to be taken care of, and it is repaired through the practice of meditation.
The damage that we do to ourselves in this constant hankering after distraction and over stimulating, and never really engaging properly in what we’re doing enough to actually be satisfied by it; all of that is breaking at such a deep but unnoticed level, the mechanism that allows us to feel things like appreciative joy, deep gratitude, empathy for each other, compassion and love.
None of those experiences go on in your mind, they are all a profound but delicate interaction between the essence of what you are and the experience that you are having. And it takes a coherent mechanism, or vehicle, in order for those qualities to arise within your experience. And it is that delicate part of our operating system that we do such violence to, in the way that we live our lives now, so that we are losing our capacity to feel the deepest part of what makes us human.
It is through meditation that eventually we get back in touch with the very essence of what it is to be human, and the very essence of what it is to be alive and conscious – reclaiming consciousness. And there isn’t anything you could be investing in that would be more valuable in the long run than that, and there is no investment that you could possibly make that would cost you less, and reward you more.
I’m sure on occasion you’ll think, “Is this not a little bit self-indulgent, sitting on my backside meditating?” Sure we have to keep a balance and perspective, but when you put your heart into it, and you stick at it, you will start to really, really feel that it’s a lot more that you’re getting than a little bit of mindfulness and a little bit of concentration.
There genuinely is a reason that people have put tremendous amount of effort into learning to meditate deeply. That stillness that I point to, that I ask you to attune to when you first come to learn, is probably one of the most delicate and subtlest things in the entire universe. And yet what it contains is the most profound experience that we’ll ever have. To be connected to it, and to feel connected to it is the most alive we will ever feel. So working at that connection and then having made it, honouring it as what is sacred in your life and taking care of it is such a wonderful thing to be doing with your life at some level.
Try to feel the truth in what I’m saying, because you can’t get that from a book – reading about meditation, making sense of it – you can’t. You feel it, you reveal it within yourself. It comes alive within you through practice, and when it comes alive and it shows itself to you and you clock where it’s pointing, and you stand upon that, it becomes the doorway to everything that in your heart, you truly dream of.