24 Nov 3: Alertness in Good Meditation
A core factor that influences good meditation is Alertness.
Think of mindfulness as the guard who stands inside a building, protecting you from anyone entering your home. Alertness is the guard that stands outside. It won’t even let anything enter the home.
Let’s say a bird is flying in the sky. A good shooter can shoot that bird from a great distance. An average shooter or a beginner will not be able to do that.
Alertness is seeing the bird approaching you. Mindfulness is shooting the bird down, if it does approach you. Together, alertness and mindfulness form the basis of good meditation, or even generally, mindful living.
Once, there was a monk who went to his Guru. He said, “Master, I’ve been meditating for years, and I still don’t enjoy meditation. I don’t get that peace and bliss that, you said, come from meditation.”
The master looked at him and asked, “Is it raining outside?”
“Yes, it is! How did you know?!” exclaimed the monk.
“I saw your wet feet,” responded the master. “I suppose you must have brought an umbrella since your shoulders aren’t wet.” The monk nodded.
“Can you tell me,” the master continued, “whether you left your umbrella on the right side or left side of the door?”
The monk thought long and hard. “I think I put it on the right side,” he said uncertainly. Upon the master’s instruction, he went out to check and found the umbrella lying on the floor.
“I found it on the floor,” he said, returning.
“If, even after twenty years,” the master said quietly, “you are not mindful enough to know where you left your umbrella just a minute ago, how can you possibly claim that you’ve been meditating all these years?”
Almost every day, many of us climb flights of stairs on a regular basis. Have you ever counted the number of steps you climb in a day? Or how many steps your flight of stairs has? Most of us probably don’t. We may even think we don’t have to know it. Yes, you don’t. But mindfulness is climbing each step with the awareness that you know what you are actually doing.
Alertness works hand in hand with mindfulness, to help you bring to the fore, both your quality of thinking and quality of actions. Both cannot be built overnight. They are done in tiny chunks through mindful living. To maintain both, simply practice and focus on your meditation, gently drawing your attention back to your present moment.
In the beginning, after a few minutes, your mind will get tired. No problem. Stop meditating, take a break, and then resume the meditation. I cannot stress it enough that the quality of meditation is what brings the rewards of good meditation; not just the mere quantity. You could sit still like a crocodile or a frog or lizard. But that’s not going to bring the results.
Eventually, in good meditation, you will have to have that quality of meditation, which means, maintaining your mindfulness and alertness while you are meditating.
This article is part 3 of Learn to Meditate series, and is transcribed from the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Dw0JUL8bK0
Read Part 2: Four Hurdles in Meditation, Part 4: How to Begin Meditation – Black Lotus