In December 2010 I went to a week-long silent meditation retreat. Bhante Vimalaramsi would lecture every night and among his words of wisdom he said, “We cannot give others something we don’t have. In order to spread love and happiness to others, we must first have this love and happiness within ourselves.” How can we hold stable and meaningful relationships or careers if we feel unsettled? When we are unsure, when we are lost, when we feel stuck, it is quite difficult to get ahead in any facet of life. It is not enough to just aim for the top; we must first solidify what our purpose in life is. If what we want keeps changing–if indecisiveness is our only constant–then in the words of Morgan Page, we will end up “down the longest road to nowhere.”
If we do want to get to the top–in this case, happiness–we must first want to get rid of any and all clutter: in our minds, in our lives, and in our hearts. If we look to others to build us up, we will surely fall time and time again. Bhante Vimalaramsi’s philosophy is that we must first love ourselves, be kind to ourselves, and know how to lift ourselves up; only then can we show genuine love and kindness to others.
Bhante Vimalaramsi’s method aims at teaching others how to reach mind clarity by understanding how the mind works. His “6R meditation” technique enables a person to recognize how the mind wanders and tries to cling to certain thoughts and ideas, especially negative ones. It is crucial that we are aware of the effect thoughts have on our feelings.
Psychotherapy (i.e., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) stresses that only we can control how we feel – no one else is responsible for our feelings. Rather, we are responsible for how we react to other people’s words and behaviors (Chernin, 2009). No one can make us feel a certain way; we are in control of our own self. For example, if we are unhappy in a certain environment, then we have the choice to leave that setting. What usually holds us back from leaving is fear: fear of how others will view us, fear that we won’t be accepted, fear that we will be unsuccessful in leaving, and/or fear of the unknown.
When one is consciously aware of how certain thoughts influence particular moods, then one can learn to break out of this damaging cycle. This is why Bhante stresses that a person smiles in meditation – smiling lifts our conscious and thereby lifts our mood and general wellbeing.
This is our life, and ultimately, what are we living it for?
We can only answer that for ourselves.
For more information, check out:
- 6R method
- Psychotherapy Article
- Zen Article