Basic meditation is sometimes called “calm abiding”, “peacefully remaining” or “tranquility meditation.”
Sounds good, right? Given the 15,000 to 50,000 thoughts popping about in your brain on any given day, a moment of quiet seems like outright bliss. I bet you’re wondering, “Where can I sign up?”
Many novice meditators believe that meditation means putting an end to thoughts and emotions. Well, at least the bothersome ones. I’ll tell you a little secret. Even experienced meditators may be hoping for the same isle of peace.
Is it devilish of me to burst the bubble?
The Iron Rod Technique
The great meditation master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche once said,
That’s right. He called it the “iron rod technique”. That will work perfectly if you want to reach the “stupid state of complete oblivion.”
Likewise, the contemporary meditation teacher, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche shares an illuminating perspective on the reality of thoughts and emotions in meditation. He says,
He goes on to share this sage advice, especially for experienced meditators:
What About Peacefully Remaining?
Here’s the deal, the peace of meditation doesn’t come about from eradicating all risings in the mind and remaining in a static state of no thoughts. You might experience the absence of thoughts from time-to-time in meditation, but it’s not a permanent state. And it’s not the goal of meditation.
The way we work with thoughts and emotions is to observe them arise and dissolve without adding on afterthoughts. In basic meditation, we use an object like the breath or an image to facilitate the process.
When, through regular meditation practice, we recognize the impermanent and insubstantial nature of thoughts and emotions, they no longer lure the mind into drama or disturb it in the same old ways. A greater sense of space, relaxation, and yes, even peace, gradually dawns. There’s no need to struggle against thoughts or emotions because, when we practice like this, gradually they settle on their own.
Thoughts and emotions will never cease altogether, but, through regular meditation practice, they will gradually lessen as the source of suffering in your life.
Unless you prefer the swift iron rod technique, of course.
Reference: It’s Up to You: The Practice of Self-Reflection on the Buddhist Path by Dzigar Kongtrul