“The journey is what brings us happiness, not the destination.” – Dan Millman
In Istanbul, every morning at seven, I meditate while walking at Hidiv Kasrı. This is both sport and meditation for me, as well as a fantastic way to start the day with breathing exercises. As I walk, I focus on a specific intention. I call this my mantra of the day. Recently, my mantra of the day has been “I am in balance.” When you concentrate on a certain intention, you inevitably begin to attract experiences and awareness into your life. This very morning I looked like someone walking quietly from an external perspective, but listen up people. What was happening inside me?
First, I want to go back five years to December in 2010. Back then, my mind was unbelievably active, and the concept of internal silence was unknown to me. I threw myself at a meditation camp so I could make some progress with the intense thoughts circling in my head. All I wanted was to feel healthy and happy.
From day one, I understood it was going to be a much more difficult experience than the one I anticipated, yet I decided to see it through to the end.
I went through ten days of Vipassana Meditation, which was called a silence camp, with the days starting at four in the morning and lasting until nine at night. There were ten-minute drinking and bathroom breaks every two hours, but other than that, the only thing I did was sit down on my assigned mat and observe my emotions. When you sit this much, man you sure know for how long. It was a full 11 hours!
The first three days were the hardest. I felt myself in a kind of mental hell where my thoughts were active and crowded. There was nothing to consider, though. I even thought about our old neighbors from when I was two years old and Jennifer Lopez’s twins. Understanding that I had no control over my thoughts went contrary to what I assumed was going to be a very important face-off for me. If we make our choices based on our thoughts and emotions, and if our thoughts develop out of our control, who is actually making the decisions? It certainly was not “me.” 🙂
I’ll never forget the fourth day at meditation camp. Just as I was climbing up the ladder to my room, I realized that my mind was completely silent. It was astoundingly nice! I felt a glow of contentment for no reason.
At the beginning of the meditation sessions, we listened to tape recordings of awareness speeches by S. N. Goenka. In one of these, he said (at least as I understood it), “The nature of the events outside of us is temporary. Eventually, everything passes over. If we attribute our happiness to something, its nature is temporary, and our happiness will never be permanent. However, inside us all, there is a serene place that always remains constant. If we attribute the source of our happiness to this, no matter if we feel good or bad, we will recognize what is temporary, and no matter where we live, we will have an inner happiness and be in balance.”
These words impressed me very much, because just like Goenka said, me being happy meant feeling good myself. When the nature of things made me feel good, it was just temporary. Thus, all the efforts I’d continuously made for the sake of feeling good were in vain. At that moment, I realized what kind of an addict I was. I was outright addicted to “feeling good.” As I increased the dose each day, so I could feel good all the time, I found myself needing more. In laymen’s terms, we politely call this habitual pursuit “dissatisfaction.” 🙂
Going forward five years again, I was taking a morning walk on a trail in İzmir. I had the the mantra of “I am in balance” in my mind, and it was raining. As I continued forward with an umbrella in hand, a metaphor came to mind concerning this situation. In fact, life was much the same as my walking. When the conditions change, to keep pace with the new situation, despite everything, and go forward, we cope with certain responsibilities, just like holding this umbrella. Even if this new responsibility is uncomfortable, we can still keep our balance in some way.
The falling rain symbolized the changing conditions, and the umbrella in my hand symbolized the new responsibility that needed to be taken in order to move forward in the new conditions. Although it was less comfortable, I was still able to enjoy a pleasurable walk, at least until I came across a pack of dogs (six even). They were obviously street dogs, and they often tagged behind someone each morning. When a few of them started to approach me, I lost my balance. I wanted to take refuge behind a man, but he told me. “Don’t try to run! Be calm! If you don’t run, they won’t hurt you.” Only then did I manage to compose myself. Even the dogs then moved away with that man. I was clearly feeling the energy of the fear they triggered, specifically in my back. At that moment, I understood something: The difficulties we face in life are not due to the changing circumstances of life nor the responsibilities we should bear—what’s really upsetting the balance is our fears related to these things.
Yes, sometimes these fears are not obvious in my experience. They hide behind things or people. We also deal with people or things rather than facing these fears, even though this upsets our balance even more.
When that man told me to be calm, it enabled me to recover myself. When you’re not in balance, it seems that someone else’s clarity can be very useful. Once more, I understood the importance of getting support from someone trusted, especially in times when we lose our balance and cannot regain it.
In the past, if you’d asked me what happiness was for me, I probably would have said, “To feel good myself” or “To have no difficulties in life.” I now understand that these are merely short-term aspirations. The same applies for the richest, the most powerful, or the wisest person in the world. Okay then, isn’t there a way to incorporate this into the general lifespan instead of fleeting moments? Of course there is. According to what Goenka told us, that internal, invariable, serene place always remains the same. It’s just like the calm, peaceful place in the eye of the storm.
Here’s one way to enter that serene place when things are blowing up outside:
grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.