Friday, February 4, 2011

Tibetan Meditation (2) - Projections

I was going to talk about meditation on realization, but to be honest, I couldn't focus at all during the meditation.  The meditation technique itself is simple. Before meditation, ask a higher power to guide you through this exercise. Then, meditate on a simple topic. In the workshop, we meditated on the concept of "I". In your mind, ask yourself what is the true nature of "I"? Really think about it. Debate the topic in your head. According to Reema, your mind will eventually come to a conclusion. Then hold on to that conclusion until it settles with you.  This is the Lamrim meditation, designed to help you realize the wisdom that's already within you.

Reema mentioned that if we go through all the meditation techniques, meditating on love and wisdom, one will eventually reach a state of constant bliss. However, being at bliss with oneself is not enough; upon realizing all the truths the it will become unbearable for the meditator to see others suffer and will have great desire to want to help others out, until everyone is relieved of suffering.

I think this explains why some people who are really into spiritual studies and meditations have this airy fairy smile on their faces and why they have this huge desire to travel around the world and teach what they have learned even though most people don't take them seriously at all.

So why couldn't I focus during this particular meditation? She mentioned at the beginning of the workshop that one major realization we will eventually come to is emptiness. The world is actually just a blank sheet of paper.  What we see in the world are our own projections, based on our thoughts and past experiences.  I think ever since she said that, my analytical mind has been going on overdrive debating on this topic of emptiness and projections instead.  

Is the world really a blank sheet of emptiness and everything is our personal projections? I don't know. I've been hearing yeses and noes in my head the entire week (maybe I'm still under Reema's hypnosis?)

As a molecular biologist, I know that our DNA contains the instructions to construct every cell in our body.  My DNA is 99.9% identical to every other human's DNA, so of course we're all extremely similar, with minor variations in our body proportions, skin colors, metabolism speeds, IQs, health issues, personalities etc.  We seem to have different degrees of the same fallacies.  Very few people seem to be able to come up with "new" thoughts. Every time I think I've come up with a brand new profound idea, I find out that Aristotle or Socrates or Confucius or some other ancient full-time thinkers had already thought of it thousands of years ago (darn those people for stealing my million dollar ideas!!  :P )

So, in that sense, we're not really "blank", are we? We're pre-programmed beings, with built-in capabilities and potentials that can be realized with training and practice.

I guess I'm trying to figure out why I went to the meditation class to begin with
--> to relieve mental anxiety. I guess I should have just meditated on my breath to stop my mind from over-analyzing instead of meditating on realization. Oh well, too late.

So what's the source of my anxieties and sufferings? I guess I currently have two main things -- relationship with family, and trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing with my life.  I guess that's when this teaching of projections really came in handy. I don't know how many years I've been on an auto-pilot mode.  It's always the same pattern every time I have to hang out with my extended family:

1. I feel like everyone is always try to give me advice and tell me what to do for every situation - from Chinese etiquette ( "always fight for the restaurant bill") to how to park my car.
2. I keep quiet, but feel rage and annoyance build up
3. They point out more things (I should eat less sweets. My sleeve is folded funny. How old am I, 5?)
4. The annoyance builds up to a point where I stop listening to anything else they try to say to me and I look like an angry person.

Luckily I could't get the "everything you experience in the world is just your projection" idea out of my head, so I was able to back off a bit from my attachment to my emotions, and kept listening to what they were saying. Turns out when I listen to people talk with an open mind, I hear different things than when I listen while feeling angry/hurt/annoyed.  What I heard was that everyone else in my family was also suffering when others would not behave as they expected their projections of how the world should be. And oh my, their projections of the world are so wildly different from my projection, with dramatically different rules and etiquette (none are set by current law; some are even out of date with current social trends in society). When they try to tell me what to do, it's just them on autopilot mode as well, thinking I need all the guidance I can get as the youngest kid, not because they actually know everything better than I do. I have the freedom to listen and not react, and I am not required to do everything as they say.

I guess the workshop was useful after all. Maybe meditation on the "I" for 30 minutes had helped too, even though I had thought I failed to meditate at the time :)


  1. I thought fighting for the bill was a latin tradition!

    It is said in Buddhism that any agitated state of mind is a delusion. I am constantly in a deluded state around people who can push my buttons. All 21 teachings of the Lamrim are great tools for creating a meditation practice. Good luck!

  2. There are 21 teachings? Sigh... time to buy a book and study them all (coz I just might need all of them)

    Does the Latin tradition involve physically restraining another person by his/her limbs or by the purse strap, and/or taking the credit card out of one's hand until your own card has gone through the system?

  3. Haha that's not me. That's what people have done to me. I always lose bill fights and I'm okay with it :)

  4. I know nothing about Tibetan Meditation, but I certainly can relate to your family relationship issues, especially the part about people trying to tell me what to do/micromanage every aspect of my life. Like you, I also tended to keep quiet and feel rage and annoyance build up. But at some point I realized that this was getting neither me nor my family members anywhere. So at some point, I basically blew up and gave a few people a piece of my mind! Which wasn't pleasant. But looking back, I think it was for the best, because now the cards are on the table, and people know what I want better. I attribute this ability to blow up to my yoga practice, as strange and unyogic as this might sound. Actually, it's not really unyogic: I once heard a famous yoga teacher say that one of the first siddhis one acquires is the ability to say what you mean and mean what you say. So maybe I'm getting there :-)

    Sorry for all this irrelevant rambling. You can go back to whatever you are doing now :-)

  5. Thanks for commenting Nobel. I've always said what's on my mind but no one ever seems to listen. So I rely on meditation and changing my perspectives to find a way to not automatically have an emotional response. After all, my family still helps me out more than any of my friends when I really need it.

  6. Jiddu Krishnamurti telling a joke...

    “There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?”

  7. Hi Guzman, thanks for the joke. I also wonder if I'll find the world noisier if I keep on pursuing the meditation path.