Many people resist getting to their meditation cushion. When I ask why, the occasional person will confess something that most of us feel deep inside: "I don't want to face my own mind."
Much of my first year in a three-year meditation retreat was spent clearing obstacles that blocked my mind from reaching meditative stillness. As tough as it was, I found great benefit in facing my personal failures and shortcomings so that my heart and mind could finally be at peace.
At times, meditation felt like cleaning out a garage. First, you move out the big stuff you know is there and then you discover things you're still holding on to—maybe even from decades ago.
Because agitation is a major obstacle you face when you first start to meditate, clearing mental obstacles is among the very first things you have to do.
There are no short-cuts to spiritual progress. It's better to deal with your stuff first. You can bury it, you can suppress it, you can pretend it isn't there, but when you're free of obstacles everything proceeds easier.
So when spiritual masters work with people, getting them to stop and let go of the things that are hurting them is often the very first thing done. This helps to settle the mind so it can stay on your meditation object.
We all have stuff that we are holding on to—baggage that is weighing us down—things that we have to let go of. We all know we have habits that are no good for us, that agitate our mind, and hold us back from becoming who we want to be.
But sometimes it's not so clear what it is precisely. And even if we know, we don't have a mechanism for dealing with it and letting it go.
So that's what you're going to gain today: the first of the three most powerful meditation techniques. This is a problem-solving meditative technique to clearly identify your obstacles and let them go. You can call this process: Compare and Dare to Let Go.
Step 1: Invite your image of an enlightened being into your meditation and think about their good qualities.
Notice I said your image of an enlightened being. It can be Jesus. It can be the Buddha. It can be an image of your future enlightened self. Choose whatever enlightened image resonates with you. But don't settle for an ordinary image, because the purification will be too slow.
Your mind is like silly putty. Whatever you expose it to, it becomes. If you bring an extraordinary image to your mind, you will get extraordinary results. The great 9th century scholar-saint Dharmamitra, in his Clear Words Commentary, noted this principle:
Meditating is making the mind take on the state or condition of the object of meditation.
Simply, meditate on what you want to become.
Step 2: Compare your mind to the enlightened image you've invited into your meditation and ask, "What do I have to give up to be more like you?" This brings your obstacles to your attention.
Perhaps now the benefit of inviting an enlightened being into your meditation is even clearer. You gain a rare chance to see who you'll be without all your blockers. See that it will be better.
It takes courage to let go of some of your stories, because you're not sure who you will be without them. Having a goal in sight of the kind of being you want to become greatly speeds the process.
Amazing things happen in meditation when you're willing to listen. Ask the question again, "What do I have to give up to gain more peace?"
Just listen. The answers will come.
Step 3: Once you have identified your obstacle, prepare to destroy the thing that is holding you back and causing you and others suffering. Decide to let it go. So you can be available to be the person you want to be.
Put your obstacle in a box and label it clearly. Recognize that your enlightened being wants you to be free of this obstacle so you can be of more benefit to more people. As you prepare to give it to them to destroy, remember once you give it away, it's no longer yours. Don't try to take it back.
When you give your obstacle away see it destroyed in a flash of white light.
Step 4: Enjoy feeling clear of your obstacle. With no obstacles in your way, bring your enlightened being into your heart. Radiate golden or white light throughout your entire body and mind. Send that goodness out into the world.
Letting go brings further peace and clarity to our lives. Experience will show you that purifying your mind of obstacles and growing in goodness are the two keys for reaching meditative stillness.
Of all the techniques I worked with over 1,000 days of isolated meditation, tethering my mind to a powerful object was among the three most powerful meditation techniques.
Note: This article was originally published by HuffPost in the Life Section.