It’s very difficult to persuade someone not to go after their own pleasure, profit, prestige, or power because it’s asking them to go against the very grain of their conditioning.
Since we were very young, we’ve been taught to want to achieve fortune, fame, recognition and all of the material riches that might go along with it. We’ve been taught to believe that is in essence, the very nature of why we exist; for personal profit and gain no matter at whose expense.
I’ve taught my students over the years to begin practicing what I call the “Five Senses Practice” which suggests that each day, we choose one of our five senses and all throughout the day, focus on that one sense when we think about it. For example, if it’s our sense of smell, during the day, see if we can simply stop for a moment and dwell on what we smell. Maybe it’s the smell of the salt air at the ocean, a freshly mowed lawn, the scent of roasting chicken or even of dog dew. Then the next day, focus on another one of our five senses.
I also suggest that my students tap into what they consume by way of all five senses using a practice I call “Mindful Consumption.” This practice (click the link to download the free worksheet) asks us to ask ourselves to bring conscious awareness to what we are we put into our mouths by way of the foods we eat, what are we putting into our consciousness by way of reading materials or movies we watch, what types of music are we listening to - is it heavy metal or rap with lyrics that connote violence and discord? Only by way of awareness, can we change some of our unconscious habits to bring mindful attention to what we consume through our five senses.
The reason I want my students (and you) to tap into your five senses and to practice mindful consumption is because for the most part, we are creatures captivated and driven exclusively by our five senses. It is only in noticing this that we are able to shift our way of being.
This is where the basis of our lives originate and where both meditation and rebellion come into play.
If we are to take a peek at one of the most powerful of the Sanskrit scriptures of ancient India, the Bhagavad Gita, we are shown how we can awaken from the dream that our desires, grievances and needs are the way to approach our daily lives.
The Bhagavad Gita shows us how we can awaken from this dream. In the Gita, the underlying reality of life is called by a simple but very powerful name: advaita, or “not two.” In other words, there is no division between us, no fragmentation in life at all; no matter how much we may appear different on the surface, the welfare of each one of us is inseparable from the welfare of all others. We can find lasting fulfillment only by contributing to the joy and fulfillment of others, in which our own joy and fulfillment are also included.
This isn’t philosophical, it’s a practical principle which we must learn to live by if our civilization is to survive.
The very word “rebellion” takes on a sort of angry or violent connotation in most modern mass media. But when Buddha encourages us to seek nirvana, he is suggesting that we engage in a sort of rebellion. He is asking us to blow up our self-will, to extinguish our limited, selfish personality.
So how do we go about doing this? We do this by questioning our selfish desires and sense cravings. And, of course we can’t do that if we first are not aware of what those desires and cravings are.
Even Jesus, one of the greatest rebels in the world, tells us to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.” This is a direct example of how we can rebel against our selfish desires to instead bring love and compassion instead of retaliation against someone who may have harmed us.
Gandhi, with the incredible influence of just one little man and no desire for reward of any kind, lived in utter simplicity in a one-room hermitage, and yet he received everybody with the same love and respect. He taught the world that even the greatest of international problems can be solved nonviolently.
Any suffering inflicted on others is suffering inflicted on ourselves; any joy given to others is joy that will permeate through our own consciousness.
But to practice the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, those in the Bible, the Quron and other spiritual texts, cannot be successful as an intellectual pursuit because intellectual knowledge, by its very nature, has little power to transform our character, our conduct or our consciousness. Meditation is the most powerful instrument which enables us to bring the timeless teachings of all of these powerful spiritual texts into our daily lives, day by day, step by step.
Meditation is how we establish ourselves in stillness so that we can notice our sense cravings and selfish desires as they arise. We can begin to use that stillness to become aware of how much of our desires and little tragedies and grievances interfere with our capacity to contribute to the welfare of our family and friends.
In meditation is where we become aware that we are not on this planet to serve ourselves.
In meditation we are reminded that we are not our body, our mind, our desires or our self-will. Neither are we our intellect or our ego, but instead, we are pure love, eternal and immutable.
In order to rebel against our sense cravings and self-created grievances, we must first be aware of how much they run our lives. If you're looking for where to begin, consider joining me for a Beginner's Guide to the Basics of Meditation!