When I was younger, my first real interest in any kind of religion or spiritual philosophy was with Buddhism.
Now, at the time, it was initially restricted to an academic interest but, perhaps inevitably, it grew to something far more.
In time, I began to buy and read books on Buddhism that did not just explore the subject matter in an academic manner, but revealed how to practice meditation.
In 1999, my family and I went to Central Park in New York City to see the Dalai Lama speak. Special guest movie star Richard Gere introduced the Dalai Lama, and there were traditional Tibetan monks doing that strange throat singing, all of them dressed in traditional Tibetan monk style, like you see in movies like "Kundun" and "Seven Years in Tibet." It was enjoyable to watch him speak, although still, that level of wisdom seemed to me still very foreign and inaccessible at the time. But I kept reading books and learning about it, and began to feel that perhaps I could begin to truly understand it, that it required effort to translate, if you will, an eastern philosophy or religion (whatever you want to classify it as) and implement it in my admittedly very western lifestyle. Little by little, it felt like I was getting better at it, grasping it more and more with each book read.
However, I was never very good at meditating, and so somewhere around 2004, I began to pursue some kind of Buddhist worship services or group meditation, or some kind of help, in any case, to help me do it right. And a bit to my surprise, such a group existed, and not too far away from me, on the campus of my then wife's former university, William Paterson.
It was interesting, and it felt strange to suddenly be part of a group which not only had the same kind of interest in Buddhism, but which also, by and large, had far more experience with it, and especially with meditation. Still, I never really did get good at meditation. Working two jobs, I found myself falling asleep from time to time, and more often, I struggled not to fall asleep. When this was not a problem, my mind still tended to wander, and it was difficult to reign it in and focus on what I was supposed to focus on.
So, while my interest in and knowledge of Buddhism flourished, my actual practical application of it in daily life remained largely absent. Sure, I had learned much about Buddhism, but was not actually using this knowledge in a manner that might prove helpful in a personal way. And this kind of defeated the point of learning about it. Admittedly, I am still not especially good at meditating, as it is still a work in progress. Trying to find the still waters when my mind sometimes feels like a rushing torrent is a skill that has admittedly eluded me to this point, and as embarrassing as this might be to admit, I cannot even remember the last time that I actually attempted to meditate.
Surely, I am not the only one with this problem. Others also must struggle with this meditation, which is viewed as the key to using Buddhism in a practical and intimate manner in one's everyday life. This must be especially true for us here in western society, no matter the country, because we have been conditioned from the beginning to be busy, busy, busy. In fact, it sometimes feels like we are to view it as a vice if we are not extremely busy at all times, and this has become very problematic, because the pace of our lives, far from loosening, has actually gotten even more hectic over the course of recent decades. As if so sure of the merits of these values, we are now imposing this spirit of being tremendously busy, to the point of being overbearing, onto our children. Many people of my generation and older feel that younger generations have to too easy, and are too lazy, with their video games and texting and such. However, paradoxically, we have imposed tight schedules on kids as a society. They have far more school work and homework than ever before, and more often than not, parents seem to load up a busy schedule for kids. In between all of that extra school work and other things, such as extracurricular activities after school (sometimes multiple activities) and other things outside of school (martial arts or piano lessons or being tutored for all of those standardized tests that kids are forced to take), it seems that kids are essentially being prepped for busy, busy adult lives. Frankly, it sometimes feels like kids are being robbed of their childhood in the process, and this seems like a crime to me.
But I digress. Indeed, we need to focus on trying to find that inner peace, which means separating ourselves to the extent possible from our busy, busy, busy lives whenever possible. And Buddhism offers a conduit with which to do that in mediation. Again, though, it is hard to do. It might look easy at first glance, when you see people folding both laps and simply sitting, seeming to do nothing. However, I assure you that they are doing a lot more than that, that they are trying to find some measure of inner peace, and this is the trick that has proven exceedingly difficult for me, admittedly.
The Dalai Lama recently gave some tips on how to meditate properly. Obviously, he is more than an authority figure on the subject, because he is likely the authority on meditation. And he understands how difficult it is for many of us, especially here in western societies, for the reasons stated above. So please, if you are interested in trying meditation, take a look at the article where the Dalai Lama gives his tips. I have included the link below, so that if you are like me and have struggled with meditation, this can perhaps help guide you, at least a little bit:
The Dalai Lama Reveals How to Practice Meditation Properly May 3, 2017: