The Dalai Lama gave a wonderful interview on the Ten Percent Happier podcast a few weeks ago. In it, His Holiness described what he called a “simple meditation” for these times. Though, as Dan Harris remarked, the techniques His Holiness described don’t immediately sound simple (starts at 12:28):
Yet what the Dalai Lama describes are well-known forms of Tibetan Buddhist analytical meditation, the type of meditation we focus on with A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment. So we produced a special podcast episode to guide listeners through the two techniques:
Meditating on the nature of mind
The first meditation The Dalai Lama recommends is a meditation on the nature of the mind. In this meditation, you quiet the senses to analyze and observe the mind itself, separate from the senses and free from thoughts. Sometimes we call this observable aspect of the mind awareness or consciousness.
Meditating on the kindness of others
The second meditation His Holiness describes is a meditation on the kindness of others. This is one of numerous Buddhist meditations on love and compassion that expand our altruistic wish to benefit others.
When meditating on the kindness of others, you reflect on how your own well-being depends on everyone else.
The Dalai Lama often says that if you really want to be happy, the best path to true happiness is cherishing others. Taking care of others is taking care of yourself when it comes to cultivating a happy, peaceful mind.
Meditation is improvisation
Tibetan Buddhist meditation is in some ways like Jazz music, where you learn basic structures and outlines, and then improvise within those outlines for a personal experience tailored to your own mind (The Meditation Session: A Playlist for the Mind).
I don’t want to pretend that our meditation offers the profound impact of His Holiness’ morning meditation. But, like Jazz, we can still each have our own experience with the practice.
The perfection of John Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things” doesn’t diminish the joy my uncle feels practicing the same song at home every day. And, like that, we can each follow the Dalai Lama’s instructions for our own meaningful experience in meditation.
Practicing in the morning
The Dalai Lama recommends that we do both these meditations together in the early morning. If we can continue our practice day after day, His Holiness suggests that we gradually expand the amount of focused attention on the mind from one minute to five minutes to ten minutes to get a deeper experience of our inner nature.
Despite being amateur meditators, there’s a genuine experience we can each have with this practice, even the first time we try it.
Practice makes perfect
The word “practice” that people use to describe meditation makes a lot of sense when we think of the equal joy that an amateur or a professional gets out of playing their instrument.
And, just like an instrument, the way to make progress is to practice every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
If you want to try our version of these two meditations for yourself—on the nature of mind and the kindness of others—you can listen to Episode 24: The Dalai Lama’s “Simple Meditation.”