Why Practicing Peace Is An Ineffective Approach To Meditation

Let’s suppose that you want to be a wealthy person. And let’s suppose you’ve got a plan.

Every day you imagine yourself in a wealthy home. You read descriptions of wealthy lifestyles. And you try to be as wealthy as you can.

How long will it take you to become wealthy?

It will probably take a long, long time. In fact, it might never happen. This is because wealth is not an attitude. No matter what the New Age gurus tell you, you can’t get wealthy just by pretending that you are.

And Likewise, You Can’t Find Peace In Meditation By Pretending To Be Peaceful

If you try to be peaceful when, in fact, you’re stressed, it won’t help you to experience real peace. In other words, peace is the goal of meditation, but it is not the means.

You can’t practice peace any more than you can practice being wealthy. Trying to be peaceful yields superficial results at best.

Yet Some Forms Of Meditation Promote This Approach

You come to meditation wanting to find peace, and they teach you that you should close your eyes and experience stillness. “Try to minimize your thinking,” they say. “Be in the here and now and experience the peace of it.”

How the heck do you do that?

No wonder some people are sceptical of meditation.

It Is Frustrating To Try To Be Peaceful When You’re Not

You can sit there concentrating with all your might on getting peaceful and end up feeling more stressed in the process.

Then the self-deprecation begins. You think, “I’m no good at it. I’m not very enlightened. I’m a failure. I’m just not pure enough to meditate.” And you go from bad to worse.

Or You Take A Different Approach

You think of nice feelings of peace. You imagine peaceful scenes. And in some ways you really do feel peaceful. And you try with all your might to hold on to that peace when you’re done with meditation.

You speak softly, almost in a whisper. You avoid “negativity” because it brings you out of your “peace.” But you fail to maintain your peace when you’re faced with a real crisis in your life.

This is called mood-making. You feel nice, pretending that all is well, but it doesn’t serve you in real life.

If You Really Want Peace You Have To Start From Where You Are

That’s why I love The Work of Byron Katie as a form of meditation. It’s so down to earth. Instead of trying to be peaceful, you take a look at your stressful thoughts.

And you don’t try to hold them in your mind abstractly. You write them down.

The process starts right where you are. If your teenager is driving you crazy, that’s where you start your meditation. The mind can hold on to that. It’s got a reference. In fact, it’s really interested.

Problems Get The Mind’s Attention

So why fight against the mind’s attraction to its problems? The Work of Byron Katie lets the mind go there. But it doesn’t let the mind just wallow in the problem, or wallow in the stressful thought. That wouldn’t help at all.

No, The Work starts with a stressful thought, but that’s just the starting point. The power of The Work lies in its ability to question the stressful thought. And when the stressful thought is questioned, it loses its grip on the mind.

And this results in peace.

Let’s Look At An Example Of How This Works

Let’s say for some reason you’ve been stressed out about the thought, “We can’t afford a vacation.” The Work gets you to question that stressful thought. It asks you, “Is it really true that you can’t afford a vacation?”

This makes you stop for a second and rethink things. You knew for sure that you couldn’t afford a vacation. But is it really true?

When you look again, you may find that you can’t go to the Caribbean on this year’s budget, but maybe you could afford a trip near home. Or maybe you’d be willing to save up for two years so that you can have the vacation of your dreams.

This kind of questioning opens up your mind. And when your mind opens, you relax, and feel more peaceful. This is the peace that comes from seeing the truth, and the balanced picture. This isn’t mood making. This is a peace that’s grounded in reality.

But This Work Isn’t Real Meditation, I Want Something More Traditional

The Work was discovered by Bryon Katie in 1986, but actually it’s not new. You will find the essence of The Work in many spiritual traditions.

For example, The Work is described in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, an ancient Sanskrit document that is a long respected authority on the discipline of yoga and meditation. One of the verses of that text contains the practice of The Work in seed form.

In chapter 2, sutra 33, Patanjali writes, “When the mind is disturbed by negative thoughts, find the exact opposite of that thought and contemplate it.”

The verse doesn’t tell you exactly how to do this, but it underscores the value of this approach to meditation. Today, we have a systematic way to use this ancient sutra in The Work of Byron Katie.

To Sumarize: Don’t Mistake The Goal For The Path Of Meditation

Peace is the goal of meditation. But how can you practice the goal when you’re still on the path? Some meditation techniques instruct you simply to be peaceful. The Work invites you to first experience your stress before moving towards peace.

To experience real peace through meditation, you have to start from where you are. And for most of us, that means starting with our stressful thoughts. The Work of Byron Katie is a form of meditation that can transform stressful thoughts into non-stressful thoughts through the simple act of questioning.

If this approach appeals to you, read the article, “Three Things You Need To Do To Make The Work A Daily Practice.”

When you make The Work your meditation practice, you won’t get stuck trying to do the impossible.

People don’t get wealthy by just trying to be wealthy. And people don’t get peaceful trying to get peaceful. In my experience, peace comes of its accord when I question my stressful thoughts.

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