Many seem to associate meditation with religion. There are the statues of Buddha in deep meditation; the strange lotus posture of practitioners, often in a room reeking of incense; and the reference to bizarre words like Vajrayana and Vipassana.
Meditation is, however, neither exotic nor mysterious. It is a down-to-earth activity that has been a part of practically every ancient tradition of developing yourself. It is a practice that brings peace and calm, helps you overcome tension and lets you focus on whatever means the most to you.
Rimpoche Chokyi Nima is a pleasant middle-aged person. He has a strong build and a soft voice. For a spiritual person he has a singularly earthy style, and speaks on the most esoteric themes in the most pragmatic way. He will readily show you around the monastery and explain its procedures, but he seems most at home answering your questions at length. No question is too basic or too silly for him. He answers you simply, clearly and with utmost humility.
He helped me realize how much my past training restricts my view of myself. If I break my leg or develop high fever, I go to the doctor and take a medicine. Short of that, I rarely notice what is happening in my own body. I eat at certain hours, but I seldom notice a twinge of hunger. I work during the day, as I am supposed to do, but scarcely observe any special pleasure or discomfort while doing it. My body may be telling me of a certain unease, but I would usually ignore it until it became onerous.
Take another example. If my colleague was rude or my client insulted me, I would nurse my pain in silence, because that is the ‘manly’ thing to do. At best, if I shared it with a friend, he would probably curse the perpetrator and urge me to ignore it. But the pain would persist and would fade only with time.
It is amazing that, though we flatter ourselves as reasonably disciplined people, we find it infernally hard to keep our mind on a single theme, like our breathing, for a few seconds. I live in a beautiful area with charming trails, and, when I walk, I have noticed that I have often, over a twenty-minute stroll, noticed nothing. Nothing at all. I am blinded by my thoughts, imprisoned in a small cell of trivial concerns and petty regrets.
Let alone the majestic green trees in my suburb or the shiny gray clouds of the season, I go through my day, like most of my neighbors I guess, observing little, feeling nothing, caged in a daily routine of insignificance. The little attention I pay to my own body, shaving or showering, lets me detect a scratch or cut after days, and a change of feeling or sensation possibly after weeks.
I have a good friend back.