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My Life - Meditation

Kara Moses explains how meditation has changed her life

I don’t really remember exactly how I got into meditation. About four years ago I wasn’t very happy. I was working three jobs, as I was saving for a Masters degree, which sometimes meant I worked more than 70 hours a week. I was living in Birmingham with my parents when all of my friends were having a great time in London doing jobs they liked and living in their own places. My life consisted of working extremely hard, being stressed, binge drinking, and not much else. I was dissatisfied, and I started thinking that maybe there was more to life. 

For some reason I can’t remember now, I bought a book on Buddhism. The ideas I read in it resonated more deeply than anything I’d ever read before, and eventually led me to the Birmingham Buddhist Centre, where I learnt to meditate. 

Not long after, on a trip around Southeast Asia, I booked myself onto a ten-day meditation retreat at a forest temple in Thailand. When I arrived I was issued with white robes to wear and told that I was to get up (from a tiny cell with only a straw mat on the floor) at 4.00 am and meditate for nine hours each day. I was not to speak, read, write, listen to music, leave the temple, eat after midday or adorn my body with make up or jewellery. Spiritual bootcamp. Ten days later I walked out of that place a completely different person; and I haven’t looked back since. 

These days, I meditate most days for anything between 30 minutes to an hour. There are two main practices I do, both of which are traditional Buddhist practises. The ‘mindfulness of breathing’ works with the mind, cultivating awareness, concentration, equanimity and calm. The ‘metta bahavana’ (or ‘loving kindness’) practise is more about working with the emotions, cultivating loving kindness and positive emotional and mental states. This practise helps to develop a kindly, positive regard for yourself and others, regardless of whether you like them or know them. It’s beyond the scope of this article to explain the practise, but visit www.wildmind.org for a guide.

How has meditation changed my life? It has totally transformed who I am and how I engage with the world. Something magic happens when you start meditating regularly. It’s like you wake up from a sleep you didn’t know you were in. As you become more aware, it’s as if the volume of life is turned up – colours become brighter, food becomes tastier, feelings become more intense, you start to notice things you never noticed before and see things with a greater clarity. You start to see more deeply into the true nature of things, and the superficial preoccupations you spent so many hours obsessing over just seem to drop away. You start to engage with life on a much deeper level. 

I’ve noticed that the more aware of reality I’ve become, the less I want to escape from it. I don’t want to go binge drinking anymore. I don’t want to distract myself from my experience so much. I gain so much pleasure from simple things – chatting to a friend, looking at the sky, going for a walk, listening to music, sitting around doing nothing – that I’m less interested in dashing around looking for the next new and exciting thing that I’ll be bored of in five minutes. I’ve realised that peace, happiness and satisfaction are not found in the gratification of a desire but in the absence of desire in the first place – that true peace is the fading away of stress without having to gain anything. Learning to let go of selfish wants and desires is a delicious fruit of meditation. You learn to stop trying to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t want, and just accept things as they are. 

Through meditating, I’ve got to know myself on a much deeper level and have become aware of unhelpful tendencies and habits I have. I’ve noticed how I make the same mistakes over and over again. But with awareness comes choice – if you become aware of how you habitually react in certain situations, you can catch yourself in the act and choose to do something different. Breaking out of these patterns of behaviour is a wonderfully liberating experience. 

My relationships have improved dramatically as well. Certain difficult relationships in my life that were previously the source of much anger and pain are now actually enjoyable, as I’ve learnt to put my own needs and expectations aside, respond with compassion and communicate in more positive ways. My friendships now are deeper and more meaningful than ever before as I have become less self-centred and better able to communicate, being more able to articulate and express my emotions. 

Meditation isn’t a quick fix though, and it’s not an easy ride. It won’t solve your problems or make them go away. But it may enable you to face difficulties head on, fully aware of their heights and depths and implications, rather than try to bury them or turn away from them. You will almost certainly discover things about yourself that you don’t like. This can be a painful process, but once you’ve discovered them you can start to change them, start to break out of your limitations and live more fully, more freely, less driven by habitual patterns. This is a truly meaningful life – experiencing the joys and the sorrows as fully as possible. Which is, I think at least, definitely worth the bumpy ride. 

• See www.freebuddhistaudio.com for downloadable MP3 guided meditations and talks on meditation and Buddhism. For an excellent online guide to Buddhist meditation go to www.wildmind.org

Would you like to contribute to My Life? Email your positive experiences to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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