The function of meditation is to heal and transform. Meditation as understood in my tradition of Buddhism, helps us to be whole and to look deeply into ourselves and around us, in order to realise what is really there. The energy that is used in meditation is mindfulness; to look deeply is to use mindfulness to light up the recesses of our mind, or to look into heart of things in order to see their true nature.When mindfulness is present, meditation is present. Mindfulness helps us understand the true essence of the object of meditation, whether it is a perception, an emotion, an action, a reaction, presence of a person or object. By looking deeply, the meditation practitioner gains Prajna, insight or wisdom, that has the power to liberate us from our sufferings and bondages.In the meditation process, fetters are undone; internal blocks of suffering such as fear, anger, despair, and hatred are transformed; relationships with humans and nature become easier; freedom and joy penetrate.We become aware of what is inside us and around us; we are fresher, more alive in our daily existence. As we become free and happier, we cease to act in ways that make others suffer, and we are able to bring about change around us and to help others become free.The energy of mindfulness is constantly produced, nurtured, and strengthened during meditation. The meditation practitioner is like a lotus flower in the process of blooming. Buddhas are fully bloomed human flowers, beautiful and refreshing.All of us are buddhas to be. That is why in practice centres when people meet each other, they form a lotus with their palms and greet each other while bowing, saying: ‘A lotus for you, a Buddha to be.’ As they inhale while saying ‘a lotus for you’ and exhale, smiling, while saying ‘a Buddha to be’, they have the appearance of a blooming flower.You can meditate on your own, without a teacher or a Sangha, namely a Buddhist community of practice. But to practice with a teacher and a Sangha is more advisable and much easier. A teacher is someone who has experience of the practice and succeeded in it. A sangha is a meditation community where everyone follows more or less same kind of practice, hence it becomes easier for you to practice, too. You can also learn from members who have realised some degree of peace and transformation. In Buddhist tradition, we consider Sangha one of the three gems. The three gems are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. As we see it, the three gems are already within your heart. The Sangha in yourself may guide you to the sangha that is somewhere near you. Maybe the teacher and Sangha are right there, very close to you, but you have not noticed.Breathing and knowing that we are breathing is a basic practice. No one can be truly successful in the art of meditating without going through the doors of breathing. To practise conscious breathing is to open the door to stopping and looking deeply in order to enter the domain of concentration and insight. Meditation master Tang Hoi, the first patriarch of the Dhyana school in Vietnam, third century CE, said, “Anapananusmriti, being aware of the breathing, is the great vehicle offered by Buddhas to living beings.” Conscious breathing also leads us to the basic realisations of impermanence, emptiness, interdependent origination, selflessness, and non-duality of all that is. To practise stopping and looking deeply, conscious breathing is safest and surest path we can follow.Thich Nhat Hanh
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