The universe started with a bang. Out of that explosion, came gases, cosmic dust and energy that formed our galaxy and our solar system. In that solar system, is our planet earth, also the product of those gases and dust. And out of that dust on one of the planets circling the sun, came life and after many millions of years, came the amazing thing that is the human being.
A mass of cells, fluids and bones and millions of tiny electrical sparks that keep our heads and hearts functioning from the day we were conceived to the day we pass on. Truly, when we die, we return to our origins. As the book of common prayer says, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. This is so profound. Even just thinking of all this puts a shiver up my back when I think that the book of common prayer was written in 1662- long before the theory of big bang was known. Other religions also talk about going back to dust when we die.
Like us, the stars also go through life and death and turning to dust and light. They expand and contract, have their systems and life spans. The whole universe seems like a gigantic system of life. When I meditate, I picture the light and energy from the universe permeating my life and re-uniting with the bits of the cosmic dust that must be part of my body and were part of the lives of the stars before we separated and became different things. I imagine the light echoes or the light reflected from the gases around an exploding star coming to me through the vastness of space.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how close the photos of galaxies taken by the Hubble telescope are to the images of inside our body taken by a micro cameras. We are the universe in miniature. I tell myself I am part of this giant cosmic drama, I am this dust, I am this light, I am the energy and I am the star!
I had heard a lot about meditation and its benefits, including enhancing creativity and receptivity to ideas. However, I always used to think that meditation was for people who did not have jobs or children. Yet after reading ‘Healing power of mind’ by Tulku Thondup, I realised that everyone can incorporate meditation in their lives. It does not have to be for hours (although I have heard that even many industry leaders meditate for hours- apparently Rupert Murdoch (News Corp); Bill Ford (Ford Motor Company); Rick Goings (Tupperware); and Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com) and others do so.
Meditation is part of many religions, not just Buddhism or Hinduism but also Islam, Christianity and Judaism amongst others. Reading the holy scriptures of these religions, we find that the founders spent much time, reflecting and meditating alone. So I started doing it for about 5 minutes every night and it has been amazing. Much of my sleep problems have gone and I feel quite relaxed, even in stressful situations. On the other hand, I feel alert and able to concentrate through long meetings at work or at conferences- whereas previously my mind used to wander. Apparently it has ‘beautifying’ effects too, although I have not yet experienced those yet! But do take a look at these amazing photos- http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/15/meditation-younger-happier-before-and-after_n_5328261.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-third-metric
“Though worldly troubles may arise, never let them disturb you. No one can avoid problems, not even sages or worthies.”
The Buddhist monk, Nichiren, wrote this to a samurai warrior in 1276 in a letter called ‘Happiness in this world’. I was listening a youtube TEDx by Dan Gilbert who has also written a best seller on his ideas. He classifies happiness as ‘synthetic’ i.e made by you and ‘natural’, i.e happiness that comes from external events such as getting a prize, finding a partner, etc. He says that synthetic happiness is better than natural happiness. I agree and am pleased to note that scientific results have proved what Buddhists and other philosophers have known for thousands of years.
However, apart from the strangeness of calling happiness synthetic, the other point is that we need other things to realise this kind of happiness. And what are those?- this Gilbert does not say. First, one needs a degree of control over oneself and be free from external influences. In today’s world, this is not easy task. In Buddhism, we talk about two kinds of happiness- relative and absolute. Relative happiness depends upon external events and objects while absolute happiness is within us, all the time. To compare those to Dan Gilbert’s definitions, relative would be similar to natural and absolute happiness to what he calls synthetic. I prefer to call them in the Buddhist way rather than in Dan Gilbert’s terms. Spiritual practice offers a way of resisting those external temptations in order to find absolute happiness. This way is through mediation or chanting. Many other religions also do this through use or stilling of our voices- through praying, singing or through silence. To try to achieve Dan Gilbert’s synthetic happiness without having the support of a spiritual practice is not possible. Spiritual practice leads us away from material practice or happiness. Secondly, a belief in the essential of our beings as happy is the key to being happy. If you believe you will be unhappy, you will be and vice versa. Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) said in 40 BC, ‘No man is happy who does not think himself so.’
Even two minutes of meditation have proved to be beneficial to people. I have been doing this for many weeks now and have noticed a clear difference in my way of thinking and feel quite relaxed. By believing that happiness lies within me, I have also learnt to overcome the sorrow of losing a loved one. Try feeling happy today without referring to any thing external- it is wonderful freedom!