Tuesday, 15 January 2013

In Praise of - The Mantra of Avalokiteshvara

Today I would like to talk a little about the effect of the Avalokiteshvara mantra (Om Mani Padme Hum or Om Mani Peme Hung) on my life. Before I start, I just want to state how glad I am to be able to really enjoy some good music (Tame Impala's new album just rules), together with a nice mango tea and the clarity of mind that only the straight edge mindset can provide. Sometimes I wonder, if I broke from the vegan straight edge lifestyle, would the way I feel about things change? It probably would, and I am definitely not about to change my whole life around anytime soon.

On to the main theme of this post and the benefits of the Avalokiteshvara mantra. It is true what they say: mantras are not just words; they actually embody the wisdom and the compassion of a Buddha and can really transmigrate powerful feelings of love, health, strength etc straight into the madness of our everyday lives. Same with this one -- Avalokiteshvara is not a he or a she (pictured as either according to different schools), it's not a person who lived and died in a country somewhere; it's more of a thought process and a notion of compassion that arises within our minds. Be sure though, that we can practice it and get real benefits from it because in essence, it does exist and it is available to help us.

It goes without saying that Om Mani Peme Hung is the most classic mantra in Buddhism. Each day it is recited by literally millions of people all over the globe. This in itself is something that astonishes me, to think that when I wake up in the morning and recite the mantra, someone in the Himalayas and someone in Japan and someone in Germany is doing the same. It makes me think of people who seek for something positive and we all together go for refuge at one place. I am sure that we all experience it in our own different ways, but in essence we all share the same wealth. It unites us under the umbrella of compassion, kindness and positivity -- and that's something truly great!

The way I do it is this: whenever I fell I need to deal with my negativity (because negativity and ignorance are indeed the sources of our problems), I go and inwardly recite Om Mani Peme Hung. The sound itself dwelling in my head eases my mind and transforms negativity, into good thoughts and compassion. How? I couldn't tell, but because it works, I do it. Some other times, I make a mental picture of Avalokiteshvara which on its own pacifies and soothes me (sometimes together with the mantra). Crazy as it may sound, both the mantra and the visualisation work miracles. This cannot be expressed through words. It's something you have to try it for yourself, but with TRUST. Without trust, even the greatest gift becomes unworthy and ignites second thoughts. So please try it of you're reading this!

I guess there is a lot of wisdom into religious patterns that we - as westerners - have developed a habit of ridiculing. I don't know what artistic geniuses envisioned and created the wonderful form of Avalokiteshvara, but somehow they managed to create something of value, something that has power to pacify the minds of people. Perhaps because it expresses all those good qualities. The same goes with the mantra. Perhaps (if you don't "believe") you can work with the fact that wise men carefully put together those words thousands of years ago. These were people who have thought a great deal about man's inherent tendencies, and practised a lot on what helps people on a subconscious level. So maybe these words somehow create an echo in our inner mechanisms. Or you can drop justification altogether and just embrace!

In the past, I have always tried to keep a good and positive mental state throughout the day but have failed like a champ... I always had the best of intentions, but in practice remaining positive and kind has never been easy. It's hard to stay posi when you wake up at 7am and have a long day ahead, or when things go terribly bad. Trouble comes, trouble goes -- it's how we deal with it. Avalokiteshvara, his mantra and many other Buddhist practices have helped me keep myself in check right when I need it the most: when I feel weak, alone, or out of place. These are trying times, things are changing fast for me and it is so good to have a constant and a friendly source of inspiration!

How wonderful!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Dealing With Physical Pain -- Mentally

What could be considered more of a problem than physical pain? Yes, I guess physical anguish is at the top of what we consider as a "problem". Ranging from a sprained ankle to a bad headache to the more serious and permanent stuff, we do wholeheartedly hate pain. And of course that's totally natural, we should hate it because it is against our well being. But I want to have ways to deal with the pain. Since I know that this material existence will undoubtedly involve physical pain, I want to be able to deal with it.

I guess that the two most common ways of reacting to pain are: 1. pushing it back and 2. anger/frustration. None of these two reactions do us any good, if anything they can only worsen our situation. If I have a bad headache and don't acknowledge its negative effect over my well being and equanimity, I am seriously harming myself. Letting it destroy my day by trying to not think about the pain is no way to deal with it. Yet it is a tendency that most of us humans do have (to ignore the pain). The second category (getting angry with our pain) is also self-destructive. Lashing out on others because we are in pain or getting angry with ourselves and our bad luck will add psychological distress to the physical pain.

OK, so what are we to do with pain then? Of course I am getting towards some sort of self-healing notion. Using medication is obviously number one, but hey, we want to add to it and fill that gap that medicine doesn't fill. So let's see... Meditation, visualisation, breathing exercises and everything else imaginable are all in the picture here. I would use anything in my powers to be able to cure my pain.

AWARENESS - The single most helpful thing to have (which is also always at our disposal) is our good, old fashioned mindfulness. Observing the pain and acknowledging it from a dispassionate distance is utterly important, and always the first step of self healing. We have to locate and acknowledge the pain if we are to deal with it. And oddly enough, this is something we don't do in many occasions.

Giving  physical pain the attention it requires without trying to act tough or push it back can do miracles on its own, because it makes us more ready for it and willing to adapt to it. This procedure will limit the extent to which pain will influence us. Yes -- we can decide the extent to which our pain will affect us. By being ready for it, we can build up our defence, we can understand pain's subjective nature over our bodies & mind. It's like getting a tattoo; some people hurt a lot and some people just don't. It all has to do with how we face and how we even... welcome it.

VISUALISING & MEDITATION - This takes us to the next level. Visualising pain and also visualising methods to heal it is a big thing and a great method to get relief. Be prepared to employ your mind to heal whatever it is that's causing you trouble. Be ready to bring it on against your pain.

At this stage we can first locate where exactly the pain is as well as the exact feeling of pain. Next up, we can imagine it has a certain form, any form. Then we can start to slowly go around it and ask it why it is there, and why it wants to hurt us. This will do miracles if approached with honesty and seriousness. This type of high level mindfulness will help ease the pain. Repeated sessions of the above procedure will bring better results (you can do it as many times during the day, while doing other stuff and not just during 'serious' meditation sessions).

You can also ask for the back up of a higher power if that's OK with you. This is like bringing in the heavy artillery. If you have something/someone you believe in (i.e. Medicine Buddha), well ask them over to do the work. They will be happy to oblige and come to help you, because that's what they do. They help people. Imagine that their physical presence or their positive energy going over your pain, and dissolving it, calmly making it go away. Even if they don't do the job straight away, you know that help is on the way or at least that a source of higher power has acknowledged your pain.

CONCLUSION - Don't forget pain has a subjective nature, and we have power over how much it will affect us. After treating something with medicine, there is a lot we can do to relieve ourselves from physical pain. Starting from mindfulness and awareness of pain, we can move over to various forms of visualisation and meditation in order to heal ourselves. So be brave, and I hope you'll achieve and maintain the best of health!

P.S. I'm also posting a good article that I found helpful (it's from a Buddhist meditation website). Make sure to check it out!