Change your mind
There’s a saying that “in order to become the buddha, first you have to imitate the buddha.”
We generally want to become less stressed, calmer, happier, more emotionally intelligent, more in the “zone” – we may experience all these states of mind from time to time or even frequently, but we’re not completely satisfied and want to change our mind, so to speak, or understand more about how our minds work. That’s generally the motivation to start meditating – one gets fed up with one’s state of mind and our seeming inability to control it.
So we see that someone, the buddha or another role model (we’ll get to that), seems to have some wisdom, information, learning that maybe could help us. The instruction then is to imitate the role model – if we’re talking about the buddha, imitation is meditation practice. You pretend to be like him, sitting upright and still, but our minds aren’t like his – even though we’re sitting still, our minds aren’t. But we imitate him, and sit through the chaos, and eventually our minds start to calm a tiny bit. But we wouldn’t get anywhere without the imitation part.
It’s like playing an instrument – first we imitate the teacher, and eventually we become better at it. But we don’t expect to be perfect when we’re just beginning.
When we’re not meditating, we can still imitate the buddha – we could be angry, hostile, jealous, and instead of acting out we could make a choice to simply feel the way we feel and not necessarily try to change it, and still do the right thing, whatever that may be. We’re pretending, in a way, but it’s real pretending. Next time you feel angry, notice how you feel, inhabit your body – and pretend that the anger isn’t running the show, and that you can act in spite of the anger as opposed to because of it. You may be surprised at the result.
I’m always impressed with how actors inhabit the bodies of others – I recently saw Invictus (a great movie, but I’m a sucker for inspirational sports movies), and Morgan Freeman seemed to inhabit the body of Nelson Mandela. I would think that it’s hard to imitate the dignity of Mr. Mandela without having it rub off on you. So we could do the same – imitate dignity, imitate peace, imitate relaxation even, and then the imitation starts to become real.