Meditation is a unique and effective instrument that is often reduced to relaxation or calming down techniques. Moreover, it is often isolated, extracted with a loss of interlinked tools from integral religious systems. Thus impaired to ineffective imitation.
Effective use of meditation — as part of an integral system
Effective use of meditation is based on its integral application along with other instruments of a religious or development system it is taken from: worldview update, disciplinary and other practices. It is important to understand how specific type of meditation connects to other instruments used, and is used to resolve specific issues.
Yoga class “meditation” only scratches the surface
“Meditations” offered in yoga classes are normally extracted from one of Hinduism or Buddhism traditions. But people practicing them normally have very nominal, purely conceptual understanding of these traditions if any.
Prerequisites for the meditation to be effective:
- Understanding: the practitioner is to be clear about its role and connection to worldview and inseparable practices of the religious or secular system it is taken from. How the integral framework of instruments delivers the long-term result — e.g. the non-production of destructive emotions, happiness, etc.
- Practice ongoingly the full scope of inseparable instruments, e.g. disciplinary,
- Adopting another religion: a prerequisite for effective utilization of its instruments, e.g. becoming a Buddhist, finding the teacher, following the teaching, taking vows, etc.
Targeting byproducts misconception, e.g. “relaxation meditation”
Relaxation, calming down, reaching various states of mind, etc. – are mere byproducts of meditation. By calling meditation “relaxation” people narrow it down to one of such secondary outcomes. Means of getting there are normally based on diverting one’s attention from a problem and thus subsiding agitation. Ultimately causing harm: temporary “calming down” yield is easily shattered by the next triggering event causing destructive emotions.
Mindfulness meditation is not a silver bullet — just being aware of issues does not solve them
Mindfulness is not a silver bullet solution that would alone tackle destructive emotions effectively and make us happier in the long run. Merely becoming aware of internal phenomena can only “dissolve” them if the causes of the reactions were already fully extinguished previously. The effect is limited to residual reactions only, the ones that are not supported by the established system of views.
Temporary relaxation outcome backfires
The calming down/relaxation effect is based on diverting attention to “mindfulness/focus/non-engagement game”. A temporary symptoms relief is nice, but if mindfulness is a sole instrument used, the long-term result would be the escalation of a problem unattended to. If the causes of reactions are left intact, repetitions accumulate, firm up and lead to larger damage.
The basis for “automatic dissolution” is a fully adopted no-harm worldview
The automatic dissolution of phenomena just by becoming mindful, non-engaging with them can be carried out by someone who is an embodiment of a no-harm worldview. The system of non-violent views is firmly established for the context the person currently interacts with.
Our ability to recognize internal phenomena is limited, obscured by currently active emotions. Awareness does not penetrate deeper than current, sometimes unobvious destructive emotions allow. Hence, subduing currently active issues is a prerequisite for being able to recognize subtler, deeper levels of phenomena.
The purpose of familiarizing with inside phenomena
The main outcome of mindfulness is we become familiar with inside phenomena. We learn about how we react to things and how it feels. It is then our choice whether and how to engage with reactions recognized.
Non-engagement: maintaining clarity and training restraint
Generally, the practice of mindfulness recommends non-engagement with any phenomena. Thus, we both maintain clarity of perception and train restraint (stopping ourselves from automatically following reactions of our mind).
Using the knowledge about our reactions to change them
Depending on our goals, worldview, and personal inclinations we can further work with phenomena recognized. Especially, if they cause discomfort, pain, and unhappiness.
Traditional prerequisites for effective use of mindfulness and the knowledge about phenomena it reveals:
- Understanding: we are to be clear about the role of mindfulness, how it fits the overall worldview, inseparable practices framework of a secular or religious system it is taken from. How does the integral framework of instruments deliver the desired long-term result — e.g. the non-production of destructive emotions, happiness, etc.
- An ongoing practice of the full scope of inseparable instruments to adopt the worldview for real-life contexts that matter, e.g. disciplinary rules, compassion, etc.
A wonderful example of extending Buddha’s son practice beyond mindfulness to achieve results.
Addressing specific concepts, visual and other objects is to be well understood. The meaning, mechanics, limits, and precautions are to be considered. Otherwise, the blind use of the instrument might prove ineffective or even harmful (not just for the practitioner, but for other people too).
NB for practitioners of meditation/mindfulness that is taken from religious systems
A traditional prerequisite for the effective utilization of a religious instrument is joining the religion it belongs to, e.g. for Buddhism it involves taking a refuge, finding Teacher, taking (and rigorously keeping) vows, etc. If the process involves changing the religion it may lead to a number of subtle complications and is rarely effective. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, “I always recommend that it’s best to keep the religion you were born into.”