Meditation has the potential to transform our minds and so transform our lives. If we could recognise our fundamental goodness, we could relax into it and find some space and so some peace. Rather than relaxing, letting go of our thoughts and emotions and finding some space, we tend to go over and over them and so increase their power and their influence on us.
According to Aaron T Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy, when we have a strong outburst of emotion – anger, for example – we mask reality by up to 90% through adding onto it all our prejudices and our distorted view of things. So, when we see situations from the point of view of anger, we can say that 90% of what we experience is mental projection and only 10% of it really corresponds to reality.
Shamatha meditation practice calms our thinking mind and brings stability. Our thoughts and emotions settle and this allows our sky-like nature of mind to dawn: the ‘calm abiding’ of shamatha leads to the ‘clear seeing’ or insight of vipashyana. Once we have trained our mind well, we gain confidence, because we know we have a way of working with it. When we want it to settle, it will settle. With a calm and serene mind, it is much easier for us to be objective and see reality as it is. Then we will realise the truth of Shantideva’s advice “If you can solve your problem, then what is the use of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?” And wouldn’t we all like to reduce our anxiety and worry less? So what more incentive do we need to start a regular meditation practice?