“Meditation can reintroduce you to the part that’s been missing”
The following is an article written by the founder of “The Way of Meditation” Mr. Chad Foreman. I thought I would share this with you all as Buddhism is an important aspect of my life so his message resonates strongly with me. So with your blessing Mr. Foreman, let’s see how we get on.
Meditation As A Refuge From Suffering
I would like to introduce a concept that’s not common in the modern mindfulness movement and probably not very familiar to non-Buddhists and also re-translate the idea for people familiar with it. The idea is about ‘taking refuge’.
In Buddhism taking refuge is an entry into becoming a Buddhist and is most commonly taken as refuge in the triple gem – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha which is taking refuge in the teacher, the teachings and the community following the teachings, respectively. This practice is the starting point to escape the conditions of suffering, eliminate ignorance and liberate into freedom and peace. Buddhists usually recite the ‘refuge prayer’ before any formal meditation session.
The triple gem protects you from negative states of mind and firmly places you on the path to enlightenment but how does it actually do that? My Buddhist teacher whom I studied with for over 5 years full time living in a Buddhist community would always say the ‘real’ refuge is the Dharma. It is the actual thing that protects the mind, transforms it and opens up the possibility to realise the deepest nature of your being. Dharma is the actual practice of loving kindness, mindfulness and understanding the real nature of yourself and the world.
So how does this help the average person trying to practice meditation?
Firstly, I would say taking refuge implies we are a bit lost, struggling and our strategies for peace and happiness have fallen short of their mark. From this place of vulnerability and surrender we adopt new strategies and methods to help heal, transform and create the life we want for ourselves and others. Basically we turn to something for help.
This first stage is about admitting what you have been doing so far has not created the peaceful, stable and joyful mind you would like. Everybody already naturally takes refuge from difficulties and suffering in something. Whether you turn to friends or partners in troubling times or you reach for drugs or alcohol or even if you distract and overcome negativity through working harder or going to the gym, we all have a ‘go to’ when presented with suffering.
Taking refuge from suffering should not increase or delay the suffering but should serve to manage it skilfully and eliminate its causes. The Buddha more than 2,500 years ago promised his methods are a pathway leading away from suffering and toward the elimination of them entirely. And today scientific research has conclusively shown how mindfulness, loving kindness and meditation can reduce and eliminate serious mental and emotional distress.
Secondly, taking refuge implies putting your trust and faith in something. Unlike unconsciously reaching for a drink, the phone or other distractions when things get tough you reach for a few deep breaths, opening yourself to the experience through mindfulness, transform the situation with loving kindness or come to rest in the ultimate refuge of non-dual awareness. Importantly, unlike blind faith, the trust you develop in your meditation comes from your own direct experience and the more regularly you meditate the firmer that trust becomes.
A meditation teacher or mentor is important as well as a community of like-minded people to support your practice is very helpful too but ultimately it’s your responsibility to use and strengthen the tools that will assist you directly to protect yourself from harm and eliminate the fundamental causes of mental and emotional disturbance.
For example, perhaps you might not think to do a loving kindness meditation when you are troubled but I have found loving kindness is actually a powerful refuge from your own suffering and a direct antidote to selfishness and being overly self-focussed which often amplifies and exaggerates the issue at hand. Having loving kindness opens your heart to the fact that others are suffering too, not just you, which gives you a greater perspective and also helps you enter a space of healing and growth that love and compassion provides.
Next, taking refuge in meditation is a true and lasting friend that is always there for you no matter what and can always be relied upon. Whenever you feel angry or about to shout or you want to destroy someone or something a few deep slow conscious breaths is always available. Connecting with heartfulness and kindness is a flick of a mind-set away to help transform hatred and jealousy and resting in the wide-open spaces of clear awareness is ever present right there in amongst the turmoil. Meditation is the most skilful means available that can be trusted and relied upon.
An essential aspect to mindfulness and meditation practice is being able to detach from thoughts about the past and future and be able to direct and consume your attention into the present moment. This in itself is a huge refuge from suffering because so many of our troubles are not actually happening in the present moment instead, they are often fears, doubts and desires about what could happen in the future or how the past could have been different. Being in the now is a simple and powerful remedy to these types of mental projections.
Simply becoming familiar with present centred awareness protects the mind from negative thought loops and useless ruminations and helps to skilfully manage whatever is happening with clarity and honesty. Mindfulness has become a revolution in psychotherapy known as the third wave after the first wave of Freud’s psychoanalysis and the second of cognitive behavioural therapy. Mindfulness is now recommended by doctors, psychologists, counsellors and even psychiatrists as an effective frontline treatment against stress, anxiety and other mental and emotional disturbances.
Finally, we take refuge in meditation in the same way a mountaineer would trust the ropes helping them get to the top. Ultimately meditation promises to reveal and connect you with your authentic nature. Hatred, greed, ego etc. are all apparitions that come and go within your experience but are not one with your true identity. In other words, they can be removed, just like clothes, to reveal the naked radiant awareness that is your real identity and highest potential.
Therefore, taking refuge in meditation is not just to overcome suffering but is also a reliable means to blossom to your fullest potential as a human being. Buddha advised on his deathbed not to worship him when he died but instead to follow the path he presented, and we too can achieve the same results. In other words, the Buddha advised to take refuge in the path of meditation.
I can personally testify to the efficiency of loving kindness meditation to transform your emotions, mindfulness to bring about a calm stable attention and non-dual awareness to reveal an infinite dimension of spaciousness and bliss. The way of meditation is a holistic approach that engages every dimension of your being and everybody can access this refuge at their own level of understanding and practice. This incredible inner technology of meditation is now available to everyone to turn to for refuge, transformation and self-realisation.
So there ya go.