I recently held a meeting with the Jewel Heart Program people (Kathy & Hartmut) and the Ann Arbor Dharma Co-ordinators. We discussed the next series of courses coming up in Ann Arbor and briefly reviewed our general curriculum. One thing that I’m not sure we have been making clear is the purpose of our meditation practices. What I would like to encourage our facilitators to emphasize, especially in our meditation series, is that the purpose of meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is to learn how to manage your mind.
I have no objection to using meditation to reduce stress. I know it can be done because when I go to the doctor’s office and they take my blood pressure, if it is high I ask them to give me a minute and then take it again. They always get a big shock and ask me what I’m doing because after a minute my blood pressure is back to normal. So meditation does indeed reduce stress.
However, we at Jewel Heart want to give people a little bit more than that. Buddhist meditation practice really gives us a tool to learn how to watch our mind and become aware when the mind is under the influence of our negative emotions. When we are angry or become obsessed, that emotion influences the way we think and our thoughts control our behavior. We are trying to improve our lives by improving our behavior, and the best way to achieve that is through managing our mind.