On Tuesday nights, our sangha or meditation community meets in Sherman Oaks for a 40 minute meditation, a check-in (where members tell about the progress of their meditation practice or ask questions) and about a 30 minute lesson from our instructor, Daniel Davis. Here is what we learned this week:

All the choices we make in our lives are motivated by the desire for happiness. The past is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, the present is a gift which is why it’s called present.

You start with what you think you should be. Then life comes along and knocks you over and it’s easy to fall into the trap of judging your self. You think you’re not good enough, you think you’ve failed to live up to what you should be. Now you can give these thoughts the attention they deserve, but you don’t have to embellish. For example, you get sick. Then you think, now I will always be sick. In fact, I’ll probably die. This is a wrong view.

And you don’t have to take judgmental thoughts and “stuff them back into the cellar”. Just realize that when you are “beating yourself up” about something, it’s just noise. It’s the mind making noise. When you light a match, it makes a big whoosh then it goes out. Remember impermanence.

Imagine being a mountain that can take all the weather that comes but doesn’t significantly change. We can choose to not make a big deal about being sad. After all, we don’t make a big deal about laughing.

Daniel said that when he’s driving near a vehicle that has a television on in its backseat, he will sometimes get mesmerized by the flickering screen, start watching whatever the kids have on, and forget he’s driving. The flickering screen has no meaning, but it can take the attention.

What deserves real attention and what’s just an emotional fart? Don’t buy in to a scenario about your life that creates suffering. What if you don’t have to prove anything then what? Perhaps it goes against everything we’ve been taught in our Western culture, but it’s freeing.

So what is most useful? Daniel said that he suffered for years thinking that he was defective, that he was “behind the 8-ball” and it was only through his meditation practice that he learned to not be driven by ego. By not having rigid ideas about who he is, Daniel says he’s come to a place where he can live in the present moment. By not having the insanity of his mind making him believe “this isn’t good enough” or “You shouldn’t be doing this”, he’s gained a sense of freedom. If we avoid locking ourselves into the “Who I’m supposed to be” trap and the subsequent suffering of not being able to live up to that image, it can ease us up to be free.

When a person is learning to land a plane, one of the first things he realizes is that the runway isn’t in the same place as it was when he first took off. From the air, runways “keep moving” and a pilot has to constantly course correct. It’s the same for musicians who’re performing and have to keep tuning their instruments. In meditation practice, we course “correct correct” by coming back to the present, by coming back to the breath.

Our lives are bigger, more filled with possibility than we realize. When we are stuck in suffering, we must recognize we have a “wrong view” and that we have more internal resources than we think. After only eight weeks of meditation practice, there are measurable benefits to the brain. Don’t let the mind say meditation is too difficult. When you reach a plane of stability, the possibilities are much greater than you ever thought. The more you can suppress the ideas of who you are, the greater freedom you will have.

Find a way to love all the parts of you that you deem dysfunctional. Don’t turn your judgmental assessment into suffering. Work with kindness, self-acceptance. Break down delusion to find freedom and happiness.