This past weekend I flew to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. to attend a Buddhist Psychology Seminar with renowned meditation teacher, psychologist, and author Jack Kornfield. Although Jack and I go back a number of years, I always find new takeaways and ever-important reminders of the important things in life. To me, that’s what mediation and (loosely) Buddhism means, to become centered, reminded, and grounded in the essence of who we all are.
In my work, I repeatedly see the impact—for better or for worse—of our amazing ability to tell stories. In a previous post, I commented on how our stories shape our perceptions, ideas about ourselves and others, actions, and attitudes. Indeed, the old saying concurs that we all need to watch our thoughts, for they become the words that produce the actions and habits that determine our character that ultimately becomes our lives.
Mediation and recalling our true nature, is one of the most powerful means of combating such storytelling. For brevity, I will focus on just one such place of remembrance. A simple example is this: At some point we have seen so much of someone that when you now see them you actually don’t see them any more at all, you’re merely seeing your ideas of them. Think about when you’ve met someone and there’s an abundance of curiosity and observation in your budding relationship. Now think of someone you know well, perhaps a parent or spouse. How much curiosity and intrigue is evident? In all relationships—though especially beneficial in romantic relationships—a level of newness, fascination, and interest are paramount in keeping experiences new and partners exciting. When we become complacent in our view of the world and of each other, we loose our child-like zest. One’s ability to enjoy life, people, and experiences to the fullest is directly correlated to our attitude, thoughts, and beliefs about any given part of it.
If you’ve ever taken a beginning meditation class, you’re probably familiar with the raisin exercise. Its simple premise is to remind us that we don’t know everything about the things we think we know so much about. Mediation and Buddhism, in part, remind us that each moment, each person, each day is unlike any other—and any similarity or recognition is just our memories and stories we’ve already placed onto them. Indeed, our ability to assimilate, compare, and habitualize are important survival instincts, but I would propose that we need to balance this innate ability with the cultivation and spirit of inquiry in our everyday lives.