Benefits of Meditation
By Sophia Blair
Graphic by Madison Mercado
Two years ago, as the COVID induced shutdown altered reality as we knew it, I turned to meditation to cope with the relentless unknowing and anxiety I faced. Little did I know, my practice would open doors to deep introspection, healing, and allow me to gain expanded perspective.
In essence, meditation is exercising mindfulness: nonjudgemental, intentional awareness and attention to the present moment. Cultivating a meditation practice can present a learning curve, as we’ve been taught to identify with our thoughts for our entire lives. Society has engrained the idea that we must have an answer into the collective mindset. When we grow comfortable with our “don’t know mind,” and can sit with the idea of not knowing, we invite peace and expansion into our lives.
Though I haven’t stayed consistent with my practice since starting, I have found uplifting communities to share it with in Boston, and have encountered wisdom accumulated by people from all walks of life.
One of these people is Rayan Fardoun, a former BU student and current facilitator at the Cambridge Zen Center. On November 2, he gave a Dharma Talk at BU Zen’s weekly meeting along with Zen Master Bon Yeon.
Fardoun spoke about how meditation connects you with your “inner-child,” the inherent playful nature each of us holds at our core. Oftentimes, we engage in negative self-talk, belittling ourselves. What we aren’t conscious of is that we genuinely begin to believe these things- we react to ourselves. Fardoun says you can disconnect from that negative self-talk and connect to your inner-child by asking yourself, “What can I do to help you?” and “What do I need right now?” Rephrasing how you talk to yourself and treating yourself like someone you love cultivates self-compassion and gratitude, ultimately reflecting into your way of being in the world and through your interactions with others.
Fardoun goes on to express the rewards he’s reaped in his own life through meditation, citing, “realizing we are one, connecting to yourself and thus others, and feeling ‘alive again.’’’ He emphasizes the realization of completeness he came to, and how letting go and trusting yourself are products of the practice. “It’s not about suppressing things, it's about coming to terms with them, seeing them, and not being attached to them, letting them flow and wash through you, versus holding onto them… Meditation is in every moment. Coming back to the present moment, being constantly centered.”
Zen Master Bon Yeon enlightened us further on the concept of the “don’t know mind.” “We try to figure everything out, but there are some places you can’t get by figuring,” she says, explaining how the “don’t know mind” emulates embracing the unknowing. The key is “loving the don’t know part of it, not having to get the answer. We’re programmed to get the answer. Your true self is your don’t know mind.”
“A + B = C, we have a whole life full of that. But we have nothing for ‘When you die where do you go?’ Don’t know. ‘Before you were born where did you come from?’ Don’t know. We put the question in our computers, instinctually try to come up with explanations, but it’s not satisfying because we know we don’t know. Understand it’s not about getting an answer.”
“If you look around at the universe,” she continues, “it’s all happening without thinking. The water always flows to the sea. The dog always barks. A lemon tree never makes cherries. In the spring, grass grows up. In the fall, leaves fall down. All with no thinking, all perfect. We have the same capacity. We are just part of the same cookie cutter, and so we, too, can function beautifully if we let our thinking get out of the way of ourselves.”