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​​From Chaos to Inner Harmony

Intentions to change something are almost always interesting, desirable, romantic... How wonderful it would be if such matters were otherwise! But many desires never materialize. It would be perfect, for example, that all words and all expressions were unequivocal.

"Intelligence, give me the exact name of things! I want my word to be the thing itself, created by my soul a second time, so that those who do not know them, all those who have forgotten them can go to the things through me”, demanded Juan Ramón Jiménez, the great Spanish poet, almost a century ago. But it is not so. Definitions are always lagging well behind from the words’ random evolution.

Until rather recently, meditating meant thinking carefully about something. Nowadays, besides the traditional definition and on top of numerous variations, meditating is "sitting to become aware of our body, our sensations and our mental states, with impartiality and detachment... With no thinking at all". The original instructions for this approach to meditation were developed by nobody less than the Buddha himself.

The evolution towards this technique in the West did not happen all of a sudden. In the intermediate stages all kinds of distortions came up generating much confusion to meditation neophytes. Many newcomers would want to sit down right away with their eyes closed, to focus their attention inwards for a while.

But contradicting signals would complicate things for many enthusiastic newcomers. There are too many ways to “meditate”: individual or group, silent or with repetition of sacred words (mantras), static or dynamic, with broad guidelines or very specific directions, transcendental or irreverent, religious or secular, Zen or yoga, Sufi or Kabbalah…

​​Out of curiosity and long before my interest in the Buddha’s teachings, I participated in two sessions of something called “chaotic meditation”. The instructor played a super-noisy music cassette, with more percussion than melody, and participants were expected to perform all kind of uncoordinated, purposeless, quick motions (jumps, flips, gestures, pirouettes…). Suddenly, music was stopped and, right there, we were to remain still. Half a minute later, new noise, new contortions, new hops... And the sequence repeated for almost an hour. An interesting experience? Yes. Repeatable? Maybe not.

Meditating is not about carrying out specific actions but about suspending as many activities as possible; in the resulting stillness and silence, we are to look inwards to explore within ourselves. Meditating is becoming aware of our consciousness while doing nothing else. We know that we are conscious when we come in contact with our mind and our thoughts, and when, through our senses, we are able to notice both what is going on out there in the environment and what is happening in here within our body.

Mindfulness is the quality or state of remaining attentive to the motions of the mind and the signals of the senses. Mindfulness meditation is meditation of undivided attention. When, for the purpose of saving words, I write or say “meditation”, I mean “mindfulness meditation”. Adding lines to improve the description of this practice, this is, expanding the basic narrative beyond “a comfortable posture, silence, stillness, and the impartial detached self-observation, with the awareness on the breath as the entry point”, most likely will bring in unnecessary confusion.

When we sit down -in a comfortable position, in silence, in a quiet place, eyes closed, without scents or fragrances, without sacred phrases or mantras, without rosaries or malas, without figures or mandalas, without chants or music, without any expectation, simply observing whatever is going on- and we become aware of all that we perceive, we are practicing mindfulness meditation. Please notice the repetition of “without”. As simple as that.

The continued practice of something so simple appeases our mental conditionings -our attachments and our hatreds; it then​ reduces anxiety and stress-the Buddhist suffering- and we move toward inner harmony. When we run after inner harmony, we lose it. For it to appear spontaneously, we just have to get rid of the obstacles that block it. We do not need to move much, as with chaotic meditations or loud chants, for inner harmony to enter us; we should just eliminate cravings and aversions. Inner harmony will show up almost unnoticed.


Gustavo Estrada
Author of “Inner Harmony through Mindfulness Meditation”


Atlanta, January 26, 2016​