I remember, on one of the days during my Mid-Term seminar we had a group discussion on the definition of solidarity. The opinions splitted into two main groups. One group was trying to convey an idea that solidarity first of all is a feeling inside that manifests the sense of unity, belongingness and being in the same boat. Another group was insisting upon the statement that the feeling does not matter much and it’s all about real action of aid to those who need it. In fact, both groups were right, as the term “Solidarity” is a complex and multileveled one. Thus, we can put it easily like this: Solidarity is a psychological sense of unity that is expressed through actions of actual help and support. This bond can be shared by a family, a small village, a work team, a nation, or humanity as a whole. It is also worth noticing that often we regard solidarity as something common and big, or in other words we look at it from a global perspective. This is true, however, the feeling of solidarity begins on an individual level. In order for this feeling to get realized or to appear at all, there should be some level of empathy and compassion in an individual.
Mechanics of Meditation
To make a smooth transition into the question of what meditation has to do with solidarity, let me first introduce its mechanics. There are many methods and various techniques for meditation. Still, the ultimate instrument is setting one’s mind on one thing and one thing alone, which is called an object of meditation. In other words, it is a deep contemplation on one thing. It can be a feeling, or some bodily sensation, an idea, a thought etc. This object can be literally anything. The idea behind this is that our mind is gradually acquiring qualities of the object it is brooding over. Ancient sages used to say: “You become what you think”.
Let me share a few examples of how it works in our daily life. Imagine you are irritated today. You keep thinking about this colleague at work who really annoys you. Now you go through a park and these obnoxious children are laughing too loud! And these neverending cyclists passing by! Who let them out?! In a way, everything annoys you. In this case, the recurring object in your head is this feeling of irritation that keeps coming over and over. The world around you is painted in irritation all over. What’s more, you will start looking subconsciously for situations in your life, where you’ll be able to release your anger on another person.
Another instance may be an image of a person who is constantly thinking about getting more money. Their thoughts are directed into just one current. Their whole reality is revolving around it. This affects their choices, their priorities in life, the quality of relationships with other people, etc.
One may also constantly think about how to look perfect and attractive all the time. Here, the mind of such a person acquires certain qualities as well. Their self-narrative will be mostly about their self-image. Every mirror attracts their attention. People around are used as a resource of constant supply for confirmation and appreciation. Over time, it will become the main objective of this kind of personality.
These were some very generic examples, of course. In a sense and to some extent, each of us is already meditating when deeply pondering any object: an issue at work, an upcoming exam, a recent fight with a family member, some desired gadget, food, how to get more matches on Tinder etc. This is how our mind works. Our outer perception is manifested through the contents of our mind. We see the world around through a filter of our inner state. We think what we are, and we are what we think. It is deeply interconnected and interchangeable. By changing our behaviours, we change our thoughts and vice versa. And here the practice of meditation comes into play.
Practice of Meditation
The practice of meditation is different from a mere daily contemplation. The difference lies in the systematic approach and quality of the object. Usually our mind is very unregulated. It’s jumping, it’s racing, it’s rushing, it’s struggling, it’s constantly searching for pleasures, it gets frustrated, if the latter ones are not satisfied, and it’s quite self-oriented. Therefore, the first important aspect is regularity. By practicing regularly, our mind becomes more and more regulated. The practice does not stop the mind from thinking - no, it is the mind's very nature to think. What it does is that it places the reins in our hands. We become more aware of the contents of our mind, of our automatic reactions, hidden motives and our conditioned behavioral and thinking patterns. First we learn how to accept all this content. Then we gradually learn how to work with it. And finally, we learn how to let it go and to change, where we feel a change is needed. By getting to know ourselves better, we become more and more self-compassionate, which is the basis for our evolution as social beings. One cannot truly understand and accept the other without understanding and accepting oneself.
The second aspect is the quality of an object. Keeping in mind the mechanics of meditation, it is very advisable to pick up some virtuous object, which will uplift your consciousness and bring about many good qualities into your being. For instance, the idea of unconditional universal love in one’s heart can be a great object for meditation. At first you may not feel anything. But with practice this idea will start manifesting more and more in your life. In silence, receptivity and stillness, you cultivate within yourself a feeling of love every day. You teach your mind a new pattern of thinking. Furthermore, you’re creating new neural paths. This particular object is very subtle and all-embracing. With time the center of your being shifts from head to heart. You slowly transit from I-orientation to We-orientation, which makes you more caring about your surroundings and people around you. You find this deep love within yourself and realise that each and every person possesses the same. The boundaries between gender, color, ethnicity, age etc are disappearing. Those who seem wicked to you are just entangled in the afflictions of their own minds. During your practice you get to know how severe the mind can get. This knowledge reduces hate and creates compassion. If you already have these qualities, you will deepen them.
One may think that it all sounds too good to be true. Yes, everything is not that easy. Meditation is far deeper than just another relaxation technique. In order to reach such results, one must develop strong determination, much patience and a lot of devotion for the practice. One must undergo many highs and lows. One has to accept unpleasant encounters with one’s weird and not so good sides. Lastly, one should practice every day without breaks. Meditation is a thoroughly transformative process with its bliss and discomfort. It can change one’s personality to the core. The experiences and qualities one cultivates during the sessions slowly penetrate one’s whole life.
Meditation and Solidarity
Coming back to the question of what these two have to do with each other, the answer should be quite evident by now. Speaking from my personal experience, the sense of solidarity has grown in me since I started to meditate seriously and regularly. From the lives of many people I happen to know, who practice meditation as their lifestyle, I observe how empathetic and responsive they are. They are not sitting in their caves renouncing the material world. On the contrary, at some point of practice, people get this urge to serve others and to be active in their own ways. Actually, even transforming oneself is already an act of service to others, as you become an easier person to get along with. This is what spirituality means to me: go deep within yourself, find treasures, and bring them to people around you.
In the next part, I will tell how meditation affects my ESC and share a simple method for the practice.
Book: “Let us Learn Meditation” by Arvind Narayan
Book: “The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness” by by John Yates, Matthew Immergut and Jeremy Graves