Sitting meditation isn’t for everyone. Some people have bad knees or bad backs. Some are always on the go and just don’t always have the time. Fortunately, the Buddha gave us walking meditation as well. Here’s a quick how-to:
If you’ve been practicing for a while, you probably read this title and chuckled a little. But maybe you’re quite new to the Buddhist path, and maybe, like me, you started with some misconceptions. I know I did. My misconception was that Buddhism would be easy, that it would make my life easy somehow. All I had to do was start seriously meditating and after a few weeks or months all my problems would just start to vanish into thin air. I realize now how silly and naive that was.
Following the Buddhist path hasn’t made my life easier at all. Has it made my life better? ABSOLUTELY! It’s deepened my relationships and refocused my priorities. It’s helped me begin to make peace with the abuse I suffered as a kid. The daily practices have helped me to realize a measure of peace that I’ve never known before, and, for the first time in twenty-five years, I can honestly say that I feel happy with my life. I feel grateful. So following the path has definitely changed my life for the better, but it hasn’t been easy at all.
The practices we encounter on the Path, particularly meditation, are a lot like a mirror. It reflects back to you who you really, truly are. But most of us, in order to get back to our true nature, have to uncover a lot of dirt first. You have to dig through the mud to get to the jewel, and that’s tricky. It’s not easy to admit how judgmental you can be, or how you could be more compassionate, or generous. It’s not easy to admit that you’re scared to face a person or situation in Life. It’s not easy to face yourself.
I really like the above quote. I think it sums up what I’m really trying to say. Following the Buddhist practices, meditating every day, can sometimes be bitter and sour. Committing to becoming your true self will always be a bittersweet experience, I think. But once you’ve learned and practiced and learned some more, the results can only be pure and refreshing and sweet.
I finally did it last week. After being on the social media site since 2009, I decided to delete my Facebook account for good. It wasn’t a decision made quickly or taken lightly, I spent weeks mulling it over in my mind. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Facebook was actually hindering my spiritual practice. I’ve been doing Vajrasattva practice for months now, learning to purify my mind and release the obstacles in my life, and the more time I spent visualizing Vajrasattva and chanting the mantras, the more I realized that Facebook was a huge obstacle. I had to get rid of it, stat.
The election this year was hard on everyone I know. We watched in horror as mindsets such as misogyny, racism, sexism, etc, dominated the American media. We thought that Americans were above justifying things like racism and rape, that we were better than turning away refugees from the country that claims to make a space for “your tired and weary…”, and boy were we wrong. We were mad about it too, everyone was mad about something. And where did we go when we were mad about something political? Facebook. Every damn time.
I know I did. I got on that site and made my opinions very clear to anyone who would listen. For the first time in my life, I started sharing deeply held beliefs that I had felt strongly about for years, but had always carried close to the chest. I didn’t start to share what I believed until this year, when I saw so many people around me running in the opposite direction. People who I had know for years began to defend racism and sexism. I read post after post and meme after meme defending bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, you name it. And I made it my job to call people out on their shit, because someone had to, right? Fun fact, no one likes having their opinions and beliefs challenged. People like it even less when it’s online. I got involved in some pretty nasty fights over what I thought was just common sense. But once politics get involved, common sense and truth tend to fall by the wayside.
There was a lot of religious discussion as well. I don’t do well with that, at all. I’m still trying to heal from the abuse I went through as a kid raised in a fundamentalist home, and anytime the evangelical Christian Right were involved, it set me off like a grenade. That’s when I really realized that I had to get away from Facebook. Here I am trying to follow a path that teaches things like compassion and love, non-judgement, non-attachment, and so on, and I’m staring at a computer screen and shaking with rage because I’m reading a story about fundamentalist Americans defending bigotry and xenophobia, again. I kept getting triggered left and right. It was making me an angry person. I was basically becoming my teenage self all over again, and I didn’t like it. It felt like I was undermining my own progress.
I meditated A LOT over the course of the election, and the more I practiced, the more I became convinced that I had to get rid of Facebook. I practiced sitting and breathing, not chasing my thoughts, not judging them, just breathing, without getting attached to a thought, and it hit me- Facebook was like one giant thought. A thought that I was grasping onto with everything in me. It was time for me to stop judging that thought, to stop being attached to that thought, to stop chasing after that thought, and to just let it go. Plain and simple. So I did. I took a breath, went to my computer, and shut down my Facebook account for good.
The crazy thing is that I don’t miss it one bit. It actually feels like a weight is gone from my shoulders, a giant judgy, negative weight. It’s even gotten a bit easier to meditate over the past few days, now that there’s one less thing on my mind.
I’ve been encouraging my friends to delete their Facebook accounts as well. If you can relate to what I’ve written here, you might consider it yourself. Or maybe just delete your mobile app from your phone. Take a break from it all. Your experience could be vastly different from mine, but maybe even you have noticed a shift on the site, and in social media in general. Gone are the days of Facebook consisting of cat pictures and recipes from Grandma. People go to Facebook to have their beliefs validated now, and when that happens, you end up seeing a side of your friends that you didn’t know existed. Or maybe you knew and were just hoping to avoid it. It’s hard to do when it dominates your computer screen.
Maybe you have a completely different experience. If that’s the case, then please don’t take this as me saying you MUST delete your Facebook. That might not be what you need. I had to. I realized that I’m just not mature enough yet to stand up to blatant racism and bigotry without becoming intensely angry. I had to withdraw for a while and grow up, I guess. It feels good. I don’t think I’ll go back to Facebook again. I don’t miss it one bit.
I found this quote on Instagram the other day, and immediately saved it to my phone. It’s so true: so many times we go to our cushion with an agenda, with a plan of changing ourselves into something “better”, and it’s that plan that ends up getting in the way of our practice more times than we might care to admit.