Should I Use Meditation To Fix My Problems, Or To Make A Spiritual Path?

I heard a meditation teacher give an interesting answer to a question about trauma. She said something like this:

“Don’t make a meditation project out of healing your trauma. Instead, cultivate the qualities that meditation offers, and let them do the healing.”

Some people use meditation as a collection of tips and tricks to fix specific problems. Others meditate as a path taught by the Buddha and other teachers. So which makes sense for me?

I’m struggling with multiple problems, and the one that troubles me the most changes from day to day. So there’s a regular feeling of alarm, but an irregular answer from my mind about what to do about it. The sensation of jumping from one thing to another is what anxiety and un-confidence feel like.

However, if I take the teacher’s advice above, then I have a single challenge. Meditation starts quite simply and becomes more complex as we see the options for further practice. If I take the building of a meditation path one step at a time, then I can focus. I’ll be able to think, without being scattered by shifting priorities.

Use Body Posture to Guide the Mind in Meditation

At the start of a guided meditation, the teacher usually gives some instruction about posture. The goal is usually to get the student into a position where they can sit still and comfortably, while also remaining alert.

To achieve this, the legs and hips are arranged as a stable base for the body. Then the torso and spine are upright, with the arms and shoulders relaxed, and then the head is held in a position of balance.

If we looks at these qualities of posture, they are also the qualities of mind that we want in meditation: stable, alert, relaxed and balanced.

Throughout the session of meditation, the mind sometimes notices the body. If these qualities are present they act as prompts and reminders for the mind. Specially so if we have set them up deliberately.

First, when we are setting up the posture, the mind is engaged. Then, with that posture established, the mind notices the qualities in the body and, to some degree, is influenced by them.

The posture of the body acts as a background anchor to all of our sitting meditations.

Definitions of Mindfulness

Job Kabat-Zinn gives us a definition of what mindfulness is.

Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.

Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness for Beginners. Sounds True. Hardback Edition.

Thich Nhat-Hanh’s is more a definition of what it feels like.

Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh. Happiness. Parallax Press. Kindle Edition.