Q & A: meditation

The following questions and answers are summarized from a session with Mr SN Goenka from India

Q1. Why silent meditation?

Q2. How is the breath related to the mind?

Q3. Should we not plan the future?

Q4. Should we not be ambitious?

Q5. Why the physical discomfort?

Q1. Why should we be silent while meditating?

All our efforts are towards quietening the mind. We have already experienced how talkative the mind is. Even though we want the mind to observe the breath, it hardly observes a couple of breaths before it goes back to its old habit of thinking and talking endlessly with itself. We want it to quieten down and become involved in the task of observing the breath, but despite all our efforts, it does not calm down. On top of this, if you talk with other meditators, then the mind will get more food for thought. It will think about this conversation while meditating, thus weakening your meditation. The other person cannot meditate properly either. We have a habit of wasting our energy by talking uselessly and unceasingly. Our conversation should always be purposeful. But for now, our task is to meditate, which we do while observing complete silence.silent while meditating

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Q2. How is the breath related to the mind?

We are observing the breath; and in the process, we begin to know our mind. While learning about the mind we can also reform it. The mind and respiration are closely linked. This will become more evident as you progress on the path of meditation. While observing the breath, some angry thoughts may occur in the mind. You will notice that the normal pace of the breath gets disturbed and it becomes fast and heavy. And the moment the mind gets rid of anger, the breath becomes normal. This shows how the disorders of the mind are related to our breathing process. As you meditate further, you will understand all this better. But you will only understand this phenomenon clearly if you work with the pure breath. If you add anything to the breath, then you will fail to grasp all this. For these reasons, we work with the breath. Respiration is related not only to the body but to the mind as well. When we breathe in, the lungs get inflated with air and when we breathe out, the lungs are deflated. This is how the respiration is related to the body. And as it was just explained, if an impurity arises in the mind, the normal pace of the breath gets disturbed. This is how respiration is related to the mind.

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Q3. You have asked us to live in the present. Does this imply that we should not plan for the future at all?

It is certainly not wise to live in the present and not think about the future at all. While observing the breath, you are also gaining awareness of the workings of the mind. You have observed that it has become a permanent habit of the mind to always generate thoughts about the past or the future. The mind does not want to focus on its present task of observing the breath. When it is involved in thoughts of future, the mind’s energy gets reduced and therefore it is unable to work with full potential on the task at hand. And, when the actual time for taking the right action comes, the mind has exhausted all its energy. So with the mind firmly rooted in the present, think and plan for the immediate task at hand. Set your goal and keeping it in sight, walk step by step towards it. Once the goal is set, you should not think about it any more. This way, every step you take will be a step in the present. But remain aware of each and every step you take. This will eliminate all possibilities of making mistakes.

You may wonder how you will be able to lead your life if you do not plan for the future. We have a limited reservoir of energy and therefore it should be utilized with wisdom. We should only use as much as is required for planning the future. We tend to exhaust our energy by unnecessarily tormenting the mind with thoughts of the future. “This might happen or not. Should I do this or not do this?” Oh! Indulge in all this thinking only when it is required. Right now, your job is to observe the breath so that you learn to remain in the present. If we adopt the habit of remaining firmly in the present, we will be able to take the next step properly. Thus, to establish this habit pattern of the mind, we emphasize staying with the present. present moment

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Q4. Does this mean that we should not be ambitious?

To be ambitious is not bad at all. We set a definite aim for our life. For instance, we study to fulfil a certain ambition, or we are doing meditation for a certain purpose. But if we get attached to our goal and constantly worry about it while making no efforts to achieve it, then it is futile to have any ambition. What is the point in being ambitious about a thing which prevents you from taking the right course of action? Decide about your aim and then strive to reach it. If you are thirsty, then go and get water. Merely crying for water and worrying about it will not quench your thirst. Make the desired effort to obtain water, drink it and satisfy your thirst. What is wrong with this? Similarly, there is no harm in having a good ambition and making efforts to attain it. But if you get obsessed with it and only worry about its fulfillment without making any efforts in that direction, then you will go off the track and fail? even a good ambition will not be successful. So have the right ambition and strive hard to achieve it.achieve

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Q5. Why do I suffer from physical discomfort such as agitation, headache,backache, nausea, etc. while meditating?

It is good if you feel such discomfort during meditation. Do not get disturbed by it. But understand the cause behind it. It is due to this meditation technique. You will observe that as long as your mind remains focused on the breath, it does not generate any craving or aversion. The moment the mind becomes pure, there is an explosive reaction in the stock of impurities, which appears on the surface of the body in the form of various discomforts. Let us understand this through a simile. Coals are burning in a fire and we sprinkle some water on them. What happens then? The water is cold and the coals are hot. The contact between the hot coals and the cold water will produce a loud hissing sound. This reaction is the result of two things coming together with radically opposite characteristics. If we keep sprinkling water on the burning coals, each time there will be a hissing sound but gradually they will cool down and stop hissing. Similarly, as the mind gets concentrated, it becomes pure and brings relief. These short moments of purity are like water being sprinkled on the burning coals of negativities. Their contact generates all these physical discomforts like headache, backache, restlessness, nausea, pain in the feet, etc. Do not be disturbed or discouraged by them. Slowly and gradually, these will disappear. Just as continued sprinkling of water on hot coals cools them down, similarly these discomforts will also be cured. You will not come to any harm. So do not get disturbed at all.overcome agitation

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