Mental habits drive our actions, and our actions lead to outcomes. If we find that the ways we’ve tried to create benefit for ourselves and others haven’t produced the outcomes we wanted, we must change our mental habits. Meditation is a means to produce that change.
Meditation can be defined as the process of repeating something over and over in the mind. What we repeat affects our experience. The Bodhisattva Peace Institute teaches contemplative meditation to examine and transform what it is we repeat in our minds—consciously or unconsciously. These contemplations help us cut the root of negative thoughts and habits and replace them with beneficial ones by challenging our belief that happiness requires us to place our own needs above those of others.
Disentangling ourselves from deeply ingrained habits takes time and is accomplished in proportion to how often and sincerely we practice. We can sit in formal meditation alone or in a group, practice informally throughout the day, or both.
These meditation practices help us become more compassionate and responsive as we face the many challenges life presents. We’ve all dealt with difficult circumstances in the past, and we’ll all experience more in the future. Loss and pain are universal. These contemplations strengthen and encourage us to move beyond self-importance to skillfully face obstacles as they arise and enrich the world through consideration of and concern for others.
“Most people think that meditation just involves allowing the mind to rest in a non-conceptual state. But if we simply strive to let the mind relax without having applied methods to transform our habitual patterns, we won't see much change. If we push the "pause" button on a tape recorder, the sound will stop; when we release the button, the tape will continue to play the same tune. Just because we pause and take a break from our mental habits during resting meditation, this doesn't mean that we have erased the tape of the habitual mind. To actually do so and record a new one, we don't force a non-conceptual state but instead engage in effortful meditation — repeatedly bringing the mind back to a spiritual topic or point of concentration, no matter how often we become distracted.
The method of effortful meditation that we use in the Bodhisattva Peace Training is contemplation. We repeatedly contemplate the teachings, imprinting them on the tape of the mind. Then we press the pause button, relax, and release it, what we hear will be different than before. Contemplation has the power to change the mind's patterns, replacing our negative habits with virtuous thoughts.
Effortful meditation will produce a degree of understanding and some change in mind's habits but will not, by itself, bring [awakening]. Only effortless meditation — resting in recognition of mind's nature — will do that. Because the verb "to meditate" implies effort, in this training we use the phrase "allow the mind to rest or relax." Effortless meditation does not involve any striving; the mind simply abides in a state of relaxation that allows us to know its nature.
In meditation, we work toward a balance between contemplation and mind at rest. Contemplating without resting is like stirring the sediment in a pond. On the other hand, resting without contemplating is like practicing archery without a target. We cut through mental dullness and attachment to emptiness through contemplation. Then we cut our attachment to concepts by letting the mind rest. We go back and forth, so that we are neither consumed by swirling concepts nor lost in a dull or coma-like state free of thought.
Alternating between contemplation and relaxation keeps the mind fresh, more wakeful. Effective meditation lies in the turn from one experience to the next, the point where the mind is instantly open and unadorned. Ideally, the mind in meditation is like water tumbling down a cliff. It becomes clearer each time it hits a rock and changes direction, until it reaches the bottom and its pure."
- Extracted from Change of Heart: The Bodhisattva Peace Training of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche