Happy holidays! Here at SuperOptimist headquarters, we favor meditation as a way of detaching from the madness of the material world and connecting with the universal truths that transcend trade wars, social media, and the quandary over wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” vs. a “Happy Holiday.”
To that end, in the U.S. a person interested in “mindfulness” is often told to begin their practice by meditating 20 minutes a day. They’re also encouraged to download a Headspace app, buy a special cushion and mat, purchase a statue of the Buddha, and sign up for a weekend retreat in the Catskills.
In India, it’s a bit different. There, a teacher would tell a beginner to start by meditating 6 hours a day — no questions asked.
So how do you go from 0 to 6 hours all at once? Teachers encourage the practice of “Japa;” repeating a mantra or a divine name over and over again so it takes root in the mind. Whether you choose “om,” “1-2-3-4,” “hare krishna,” or “cocoa butter” filling the mind with a simple word or sound will lead the practitioner away from the grasping, clinging and suffering generated by material world thinking and move you towards a higher realm of existence.
Sure, 6 hours of meditation a day may seem excessive. But if you want to rid yourself of anger, fear, sadness, and petty grievances (and gain the benefits of pure consciousness), why not give it a whirl?
The truth is, whatever practice you undertake can ultimately grow to 24 hours a day. It goes beyond sitting on a custom made zafu waiting for the chimes on your iPhone to go off. Every waking moment you can actually be awake!
If you find this hard to do, we recommend you join a like-minded sangha, or spiritual group, so you may gain energy from others on the same path. Here’s one in the northeast where you’re always welcome.
In the meantime, may we all give a cheer for Jesus of Nazareth. Whether or not he was the son of God, he was surely a bodhissattva with his message of love and tolerance. No doubt he’d appreciate us putting aside our supposed differences to remember we’re all just flesh and blood. (And teeth that we can flash, if we’re so fortunate.)
*Notice the pictures of the monk and Jesus laughing. Our petty concerns would certainly elicit a chortle from both. True, you often see them depicted as serious and dour. But the monks we know have a great sense of humor. We’re taking the leap and assuming Jesus did as well, since he was human like the rest of us. Considering that every night Jesus would sit around a camp fire with twelve guys after a long day of speechifying and miracle work, it stands to reason there would be plenty of room for a few guffaws.