by Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
If meditators lead lives based on selfishness, they are likely to bring exactly the same approach to their meditation and will be short-tempered, angry, uptight meditators. If their ambition is to have a completely silent mind, and people close-by make noises, they will think that all these people around them are disturbing their meditation and taking away their peace of mind! Eventually, every noise will become their enemy. When we think like that, we become very emotional, and then where is our meditation? Therefore, if we notice that we are becoming short-tempered, uptight and getting headaches, we should know that we are meditating in a wrong way. Never allow yourself to meditate like that!
Noise is a challenge. If we can make it part of our meditation, we will really make progress. If we are able to somehow incorporate the noise into our meditation, we will feel confident that we can literally meditate in the middle of the traffic. Noise can no longer bother us.
While meditating, some people get disturbed by what they see. They close their eyes in order not to see what is in front of them, but then something else will start disturbing them. They want to get rid of all sorts of things and their sight becomes their enemy. Meditation should not be an excuse to blame something or somebody for taking away our inner peace. This is a wrong way of thinking, because if we accept everything that comes our way, then nothing can bother us anymore and our inner peace is there all the time. The point is that whatever obstacle arises, if a meditator blames that for not finding inner peace, then eventually every object becomes our enemy.
Let me give you an example from my own life. When I began my long retreat in Woodstock, New York, I had a nice house next to the monastery and all the conditions were wonderful for practice, so I was very happy.
However, soon after my retreat started, the monastery decided to start a major building project right next to my house. The whole area became a building site, full of heavy machinery, so my whole house was shaking. They even cut off my electricity and water supply! I was very upset – I felt that my retreat was ruined. It gave me so much trouble I could hardly meditate.
Things got really bad and I was so upset by the noise and shaking, but then my teacher came to see me and said: the noise is your meditation. This really helped me. I stopped fighting it, and began to accept it. This was a real turning point. It is very important for a practitioner to accept noise. If you don’t, if noise becomes your enemy, then eventually everything will be your enemy and you will be unable to practise. During your meditation if you are bothered with noise instead of seeing it as your enemy, you should make it your friend. So this was a very important lesson for me.
However, maybe my noise karma was not yet exhausted, because when I did my second retreat at Samye Ling in Scotland, I had a beautiful quiet house with a porch, and then the monastery decided to rebuild the Purelands Retreat Centre right on my doorstep. So again the whole place became a building site! In fact, the workers began to pile up their tools and dusty bags of cement right inside my porch! But it was okay for me. I began to think, Lama Yeshe, you must meditate for them. They are working so hard, they are building a retreat centre for others to practise the Dharma. You must practise for them. So I encourage all of you to work with noise and disturbance and not to feel that they are obstacles. Then you can meditate anywhere and find peace no matter what.
Meditation means simple acceptance. How can we talk about being non-judgemental, non-grasping, if we have so many judgements in our mind, expecting certain feelings out of our meditation and completely rejecting some other experiences? People who adopt such an attitude are in a way like boxers going into the ring. They are thumping and punching, but they are the losers, because there is actually nobody to box! For a good meditator, all mental activities are nothing more than clouds in the sky. They come from nowhere and disappear into nowhere.
Many people come to tell me that it’s an easy thing to say, but that these are real things happening! Real things are happening because you let yourself think it is really happening! If you go on insisting that it’s really there, I ask you again, how big is it, what shape, size and colour does it have? If you answer that it has none of these material characteristics, then how can you call it a real thing happening? You made it real!
We build up things like, for instance, friends. We think we really like a person and start thinking of all his/her good qualities. We build it up and that person gets better and better every day! But when things turn sour, we start seeing faults and the next day we notice more and more. Our belief in the reality of our feelings is what causes so much unhappiness – unnecessary unhappiness.These feelings may start as something very small but day after day we nurture them and make them grow. Whenever you meditate and you think that real things are truly happening, just investigate what is there. Instead of running away, confront them and say, OK, I want to introduce myself to you. I want to know you better. If you really approach it that way, you will realise that nothing is actually happening.