The picture above is of the text from the Dhammapada that I read today after my meditation session. The text reads:
Whatever (harm) a foe may do to a foe, or a hater to a hater, yet an ill-directed mind can do oneself far greater harm.
I find that the best time for reading and digesting Buddhist scriptures is straight after meditation, as that is the point at which my mind is clearest and most focused.
This verse really struck a chord for me today. Usually I meditate at least once every day, and often more. Yesterday though, for various reasons, I didn’t have time to fit in any meditation sessions. As always, I really felt the difference. The biggest negative effect was on my mental state.
As I have mentioned before on this blog, I first came to meditation, and through that to Buddhism, because of mental illness. I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its related conditions anxiety and depression. I have undergone intensive therapy and I take antidepressants, and both of those have helped tremendously. However, the biggest thing that took me beyond simply coping with my illness to actually being able to reduce the symptoms and live my life again despite the illness was (and is) meditation.
The thing is, meditation is one of those practises that has to be done regularly to get the real benefits from it. In no field is that more true than in the field of mental health.
If you are into sport and fitness, you will know that if you miss a session or two of training it has a noticeable effect on your body. It can make your performance suffer in your chosen sport. Back in the days when I played rugby and was in the gym three or four times a week, that was certainly my experience.
The same applies to meditation. One way of seeing meditation is as a training regime for your mind. If done regularly you feel the benefits, but if you miss a session or two it can have a noticeable effect on your mental state, especially if you use it to help with mental illness. It can make your performance suffer in the most important “game” of all, i.e. life.
Meditating again today was in some ways like going back to the gym after a short absence. It was difficult at first, but once I got started I found the “zone” quickly enough.
To get back to the Dhammapada verse I quoted, having PTSD shows me in graphic detail that an ill-directed mind can indeed do oneself great harm. That’s one form of dukkha which I can claim to know fully. Thankfully, the reverse is also true. Training and disciplining my mind through meditation and mindfulness drastically reduces the harm, and instead causes my mind to be peaceful and positive.