YO U R
Fendalton - Ilam
LO C AL
N E W S
B USIN E SS
PEO PL E
Don’t Worry Be Happy: Buddhism has many rituals, but at its core it offers a reliable method to solve all our daily problems and be happy no matter what. Meditation practitioner and teacher, Martin Luff, says he has learnt to transform life’s every day difficulties, improve his relationships and fulfill his true potential. Kick start your New Year with meditation classes around Christchurch or take respite from everyday life on a meditation retreat at www. meditateinchristchurch.org.
Meditative Equipoise Searching for the meaning of life? Meditation practitioner and teacher, Martin Luff, talks about his revelations, miracles experienced, and advise for others seeking inner peace and happiness. What was your initial introduction to meditation Buddhism? From quite early in life I had burning questions about what makes us tick, what makes life meaningful. I’d grown up in a Christian family, but the particular presentation I grew up with seemed to leave too many questions unanswered, so I’d become something of a seeker. It wasn’t until I was traveling in my early thirties that I got my first taste of inner peace through meditation and Buddhist teachings in Kathmandu. It was interesting to discover that not only were many of the things I thought I understood about Buddhism were wrong, but the philosophy was even more intriguing than I had imagined. On my return home to the UK I discovered that there was a Buddhist centre not that far from where I lived and there I found a kind Buddhist nun who patiently answered all my questions. Each week I’d go away and think about all the reasons why her answers had holes in them, and each week she’d patiently answer all my objections. After some time, she actually refused to answer one question so I had to work it out for myself. That one took me about ten years to answer! Sometimes I thought she was just plain mad since some of the answers she provided seemed so outrageous, but I’ve since discovered I was the one who was mad and those apparently outrageous ideas were flawless. What’s more, I didn’t have to take her word for it - I could prove them to be true for myself. Modern day relationships seem to be more challenging than ever before. Can you describe how meditation has made a positive impact on your own personal and professional relationships? My meditation practice has helped in so many ways. I am now more patient, forgiving, compassionate and humble. A lot of the progress for me has been around steadily refusing to abdicate responsibility to anyone else, understanding my responsibility to solve other’s problems, and steadily becoming more selfless and outward looking. It means that there are fewer and fewer things that feel impossible to resolve. It’s also about turning conventional thinking on its head. Instead of thinking it’s our partner’s job is to make us happy; we focus our thoughts on their happiness, which in turn this is the best job we can have since it ensures we get all the happiness we’ve ever wanted.
The teachings also help to eradicate our clingy attachment and instead develop a much more authentic unconditional expression of love and affection. What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt on your spiritual journey? That all of us (without exception) have an unlimited potential. The idea that I have the capacity to change things more than I ever could ever have imagined, and an understanding that we’re all victims of our negative states of mind, which is the only enemy that any of us has, and that it is not due to anything outside ourselves as we often mistakenly believe. What is the greatest gift you have received through meditation? It’s hard to pick just one, but perhaps the greatest gift is having a practical method to realise my full potential, which has proven to be a reliable route to solving my own and others’ problems and to be happy all the time, no matter what is going on around me. Explain the nature of your meditation practice. My wife and I make offerings for our shrine at home, which is something that seemed pretty alien to me in the past, but over time I’ve begun to appreciate the benefits of this daily practice. Every Friday evening there is a formal chanted/sung practice at the Kalpa Bhadra Buddhist centre and I also attend a study programme at the centre every Sunday, and during term-time I teach evening classes at the university, which requires preparation. Aside from my daily formal meditation practice I engage in a lot of contemplative meditation during my day and try to apply the lessons learnt from my formal meditation practice throughout the day. It helps a lot that my partner is also on the same path so we can look outward in the same direction and discuss things from a shared perspective. What path has your spiritual journey has taken? From early on I’d been captivated by the teachings that explain how things really exist rather than how they appear to exist and how that began to explain our full potential, how we can change our world for the better, and how to solve our problems; not just temporarily, but once and for all. There was one particular teaching, which occupied my attention for about ten years
before I finally had a huge breakthrough that significantly altered the course of my life. This was to be the turning point from something that was still largely intellectual and conceptual to something of the heart and beyond conception. What was also interesting to me was that my meditation practice started to better explain my Christian faith - which at its heart, and for me, is not contradictory but an expression of the same fundamental truths. Most importantly I have been fortunate to connect with a fully realized meditation master (Venerable Geshe-la, founder of the New Kadampa Buddhist tradition), who remains a constant inspiration and guiding force that has proved invaluable. What are some of the miracles you’ve witnessed through meditation? I’ve seen practitioners who are severely crippled and ought be in constant severe pain, but when you ask them how things are going they can honestly say that things are good and getting better and better. I have known people with what the established medical and scientific community considered terminal conditions who have fully recovered, and I have met people who are now in a position to actually enjoy their own death. What’s the biggest misconception people tend to have about meditation? That the sole purpose of meditation is to completely empty the mind of all thought. For some meditations this is a crucial preparatory stage, but it’s not actual meditation. All meditations have an object either a positive, or virtuous state of mind, or some other helpful object, which is useful in training our mind; just completely emptying the mind might be temporarily relaxing but has no lasting benefit. What do you say to those who say, “I tried meditating once, but I can’t do it”? Generally, the process of learning to control our mind (rather than it controlling us) is a long-term process. As is often said, it’s simple, but not always easy. We lead such busy lives these days that it’s only natural for us to have a very distracted mind, but if we think about all the other things we’ve had to learn, like driving a car or using a computer, in the beginning it can feel almost impossible - but if we persist then simply through familiarity it will become easier and easier. At some point, if we keep applying
effort, we’ll reach the point where it’s second nature. The main thing is to persist, give yourself time, and just relax and enjoy it. What’s the best recipe for a long-lasting, successful meditation practice? Understanding the benefits and then experiencing them first hand by putting the instructions into practice. When we start to really understand the benefits through personal experience we develop a strong motivation to practice more and then one naturally begins to exert a sort of ‘effortless effort’ - like a child at play. What kinds of people attend meditation classes and what keeps them coming back? The class I take at UC is mostly made up of students, but it’s open to everyone from all walks of life with varying levels of meditation experience. People come for different reasons and take away whatever they find personally useful. Sometimes it’s about wanting to be less fearful and more confident, it could be about reducing stress and anxiety or anger, or wanting to know how to find a reliable way to get a more stable and happy life. Sometimes it’s simply curiosity and an intellectual improvement in knowledge. I think the people who keep coming back term after term probably come back because they recognize the benefits which they can feel from engaging in the practices.
Everyone wants to be happy and free from suffering, but they don’t know how - meditation practice is the ‘how’
Fendalton Ilam Gazette 02-12-16