Recently in privately training someone how to meditate I spent the first 3 days not even talking about meditation. There is a lot to learn before one even begins to sit down to meditate. Everybody is in a rush these days. Even in a rush to learn to meditate.
They know what they want which is, quite often, to sit, breathe, calm the mind, find peace and a place of center. That is want they want as a student. As a teacher I see a big difference between wants and needs. What a student wants is not necessarily what they need. So do you give them what they need or do you give them what they want? Giving them what they want is certainly a lot more profitable but the conscience may stay up a few nights feeling unsettled about it. Giving them what they need however is not always popular, may not be so profitable, but the conscience will have not trouble sleeping and it is the right thing to do.
It was how I was trained as a monk by my guru. He did not give me what I wanted but rather as a teacher gave me what I needed. Having been up and down the path many times he knew it well, could see where I was on the path and knew what the next step was for me. I fortunately had a student that truly wanted to learn and was willing to let me lead the way. These are the students to have. These are actually students. Students who led the teacher lead as oppose to telling the teacher what he or she should be teaching them. Three qualities of a good student are humility, obedience and responsiveness.
We spent the first three days not event talking about meditation. Many things needed to be covered first. Life needs to be in order before a meditation practice can begin and be sustained. And this something you don’t learn in most meditation classes and courses.
After 3 days of learning my student, and a very good one indeed, remarked to me “I get it. Meditation is not something you bring to life. You bring life to meditation. People seem to think meditation is some sweet sauce you add to life to make it taste good.” I responded “Well done. Now you know what it is about. It’s actually the other way around. Life is a sweet sauce that you add to meditation to make it taste good.”
Truly without an established lifestyle that is conducive to a meditation practice you will not be able to sustain such a practice let alone make serious progress in it. This is not someting new that I’ve come up with. In fact it is prescribed within the sacred Hindu texts written thousands of years ago. In the traditional study of raja yoga, which is the Hindu eight fold steps to enlightenment, the first two steps are focused on establishing a solid foundation for spiritual growth. The taller the building the stronger the foundation needs to be. Similarly the deeper you want to go within the stronger your foundation needs to be.
The foundation prescribed within Hinduism, primarily within the Raja Yoga text, is based on observations and practices to minimize the loss of energy, circumvent experiences with tumultuous repercussions and redirecting life force to a lifestyle that will allow for a serious spiritual practice to be built within it.
If you are serious about establishing a meditation practice start with getting serious about your lifestyle first. Remember, “Life is a sweet sauce that you add to meditation to make it taste good” and only then will meditation blossom and start bearing fruit that will begin to influence your life in an amazing way.