The Ultimate Stress Relief

Yesterday was the first day of the Tibetan New Year. In a tranquil house far away from the throngs, it was celebrated with as much authentic elegance and power as could be found anywhere in old Tibet. At the helm was a revered elderly Tibetan Lama whose longtime fellow practitioners assisted in special prayers and festivities.

By late afternoon, a handful of American guests lingered on and a conversation ensued between me and a rare species - a highly educated American man who left behind his Ivy League degree and a life of potential economic privilege to live in Asia to study with the masters.

Back in the United States now and officially granted the status of "lama" (a teacher that holds the lineage of his spiritual teachers), we discussed many matters, among them the real meaning of meditation and the aim of practice.

Buddhism in its truest form aims to set people free from the iron-clad grasp of the ego, to penetrate the mystery of life in human form and bring a person to a state of enlightenment.

Not being enlightened myself, I can't say what that means or know what that looks or feels like. Nonetheless, the notion that one could be free from a no-exit wheel of suffering seems like the best solution to the myriad of ills that beset mankind.

For people who want relief from the daily grind and/or the neurotic grip of ego-centered fears - and don't want to use drugs and alcohol to escape - meditation is becoming increasingly popular (not to mention Yoga in all flavors). Meditation has been certified by neuroscientists to reduce stress and increase health, both mental and physical. But enlightenment? Not advertised with the benefits of contemplative practice.

Using logic, if one is attracted to meditation as a way to calm the mind temporarily, then wouldn't the next stretch involve a more lasting solution? Like an marathon runner in training, one doesn't start with the 100 mile stretch but with a few miles at a time, adding more and more discipline and strength in small increments.

Like the long distant runner, an aspiring meditator might consider: if one can get a little relief, then why not keep going for the big prize - liberation?





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