Why Practicing Peace Is An Ineffective Approach To Meditation
Let’s suppose that you want to be a wealthy person. And let’s suppose you’ve got a plan.
Every day you imagine yourself in a wealthy home. You read descriptions of wealthy lifestyles. And you try to be as wealthy as you can.
How Long Will It Take You To Become Wealthy?
It will probably take a long, long time. In fact, it might never happen. This is because wealth is not an attitude. No matter what the New Age gurus tell you, you can’t get wealthy just by pretending that you are.
And Likewise, You Can’t Find Peace In Meditation By Pretending To Be Peaceful
If you try to be peaceful when, in fact, you’re stressed, it won’t help you to experience real peace. In other words, peace is the goal of meditation, but it is not the means.
You can’t practice peace any more than you can practice being wealthy. Trying to be peaceful yields superficial results at best.
Yet Many Forms Of Meditation Promote This Approach
You come to meditation wanting to find peace, and they teach you that you should experience stillness. “Try to minimize your thinking,” they say. “Be in the here and now and experience the peace of it.”
How the heck do you do that?
No wonder people become skeptical of meditation. No wonder it’s hard to keep up the practice.
It Is Frustrating To Try To Be Peaceful When You’re Not
You can sit there concentrating with all your might on getting peaceful and end up feeling more stressed in the process.
Then the self-deprecation begins. You think, “I’m no good at it. I’m not very enlightened. I’m a failure. I’m just not pure enough to meditate.” And you go from bad to worse.
Or You Take A Different Approach
You think of nice feelings of peace. You imagine peaceful scenes. And in some ways you really do feel peaceful. And you try with all your might to hold on to that peace when you’re done with meditation.
You speak softly, almost in a whisper. You avoid “negativity” because it brings you out of your “peace.” And you fail completely to maintain your peace when you’re faced with a real crisis in your life.
This is called mood-making. You feel nice, pretending that all is well, but it doesn’t serve you in real life.
If You Really Want Peace You Have To Start From Where You Are
That’s why I love The Work of Byron Katie as a form of meditation. It’s so down to earth. Instead of trying to be peaceful, you take a look at your stressful thoughts.
And you don’t try to hold them in your mind abstractly. You write them down.
The process starts right where you are. If your teenager is driving you crazy, that’s where you start your meditation. The mind can hold on to that. It’s got a reference. In fact, it’s really interested.
Problems Get The Mind’s Attention
So why fight against the mind’s attraction to its problems? The Work of Byron Katie lets the mind go there. But it doesn’t let the mind just wallow in the problem, or wallow in the stressful thought. That wouldn’t help at all.
No, The Work starts with a stressful thought, but that’s just the starting point. The power of The Work lies in its ability to question the stressful thought. And when the stressful thought is questioned, it loses its grip on the mind.
And this results in peace.
You May Be Thinking, “The Work Isn’t Real Meditation, I Want Something More Traditional”
The Work was discovered by Bryon Katie in 1986, but actually it’s not new. You will find the essence of The Work in many spiritual traditions.
For example, The Work is described in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, an ancient Sanskrit document that is a long respected authority on the discipline of yoga and meditation. One of the verses of that text contains the practice of The Work in seed form.
In chapter 2, sutra 33, Patanjali writes, “When the mind is disturbed by negative thoughts, find the exact opposite of that thought and contemplate it.”
The verse doesn’t tell you exactly how to do this, but it supports the idea of this approach to meditation. Today, we have a systematic way to use this ancient sutra in The Work of Byron Katie.
Don’t Mistake The Goal For The Path Of Meditation
Peace is the goal of meditation, but it’s not the path. Some meditation techniques instruct you simply to be peaceful. At best this gives superficial peace, which evaporates the moment that life gets hard.
To experience real peace through meditation, you have to start from where you are. And for most of us, that means starting with our stressful thoughts. The Work of Byron Katie is a form of meditation that allows you to question your stressful thoughts and find peace as a result.
If this approach appeals to you, read the article, “Three Things You Need To Do To Make The Work A Daily Practice.”
When you make The Work your meditation practice, you won’t get stuck trying to do the impossible. People don’t get wealthy by just trying to be wealthy. And people don’t get peaceful by trying to be peaceful.
Peace cannot be imitated. But peace does come of its own accord when you question your stressful thoughts.
Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. Visit Todd’s website to learn how you can do The Work with Todd.
Here’s What One Client Had To Say About Her Facilitation Session:
“Being a long time meditator, I thought, ‘Well, I have a pretty good handle on my life and I can figure this out. I kind of understand how to turn things around, and see how I’m projecting my thought onto someone else.’
“But even though that awareness may be there, it’s no comparison to having someone else actually ask you the questions and you actually answer them.”
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