how to meditate

Most of us try our best to avoid frustrations and difficulties in life. David Schneider thinks that with a little effort we might actually come, if not to welcome them, then at least to make use of them and accept them more graciously. The key to this radical shift in attitude, he says, is meditation practice. And this, ironically, is usually a counsel of last resort.

"When things are going along sweetly, we don't think, 'Oh, maybe I should meditate'. It's only when we're in pain, or heartbroken, or in grief or frustrated, when some terrible thing has happened, that it finally occurs to us to take a closer look at our lives. So, in some sense, obstacles actually push people on to the meditational path."

Schneider, a meditator for more than 25 years, has been teaching meditation for the last 18. A native Californian, he was recently appointed European director of Shambhala Training, an American organisation set up to promote meditation practice in a secular, non-denominational context.

Although founded by a Tibetan Buddhist lama, Schneider insists Shambhala has no interest in winning converts. "You can retain your Christianity, your Judaism, your Catholicism, your atheism, whatever, and still meditate. The core teachings of the Shambhala path are really about meditation, courage, and gentleness. These are just human qualities, not inherently Buddhist or Asian qualities. They are just ideals which we can find in every culture."

Though based in Germany, Schneider will be in London this weekend leading an intensive seminar in meditation practice and the cultivation of awareness. Called "Obstacles as Path", the course will involve instruction from experienced teachers, guided meditation sessions, discussion groups, individual interviews, and Schneider's three keynote lectures.

Meditation is not about creating a cosy New Age cocoon, says Schneider. Rather, it equips the practitioner to deal with the grit and frustration of everyday life. "The posture is very important. You have to sit upright, and that gives you a feeling of being solid, strong, unshakeable, immovable. This solidity allows you to relax your mind, see things directly, accept them as they are, and let them go. The stability of the posture, and the technique of letting thoughts flow in and out, gives you all the space, allows you to see - but not be swayed - by what occurs."

Schneider says that this detachment - he calls it "spaciousness" - can alleviate petty aggravation. "You can allow moods to occur without denying them, without having to rearrange your whole day. You're not pushed around by your feelings in the same way. You don't have to stop, or go off and find something to distract yourself. You can continue, you can allow yourself to be what you are, without getting dragged down - or overly excited."

Another consequence of this openness is a heightened appreciation of others' difficulties which, says Schneider, makes for closer relationships. "If you are open to the obstacles in your own life - the frustrations, the pain, the grief - you can be a better friend when someone comes to you with their troubles. You can be the kind of person that people can talk to, a genuine, authentic presence, as opposed to someone who's superficially kind. The difference is subtle, but it's very easy to feel. Certainly, it's instantly apparent to the person who's in pain."

Of course, all of this requires a certain discipline. But it's hard to argue with Schneider's belief that 20 minutes a day is a small investment, especially since a lot of the hard work is done for you: apparently, the knack is in not making so much of an effort.

"Out of meditation, awareness arises, and that is probably more powerful than any attempt to change your mind. You see, you don't have to fight off your so-called negative tendencies. If you practice meditation and watch, your negative thoughts get ashamed and run away by themselves, because they don't want to be seen."

ALIX SHARKEY

'Obstacles as Path', 19-21 Jan, at the London Shambhala Centre, 27 Belmont Close, London, SW4. Details: 0171-720 3207

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory