Nine Powerful Life Lessons From Studying with a Monk

By Robert Piper

monk-300x267When I was 18 years old, I suffered from anxiety and stomach problems. A compassionate physician and practicing Buddhist referred me to a Taoist monk who specialized in meditation and martial arts. I ended up  healing myself of anxiety  and stomach issues by doing meditation, and went on a great  journey of self-discovery.

Here are 9 lessons I learned while studying with a monk:

1. Keep trying until you get it right.

The most important life lesson I learned was trying something three times (maybe even four times) before you stop trying and  move on. Also, this monk taught me that, even after multiple tries, you should work on different angles to approach things that are difficult.

If you keep trying, you’ll eventually get where you’re going.

2. The answer to your question is inside of you.

As part of the original monastery training, a monk didn’t answer direct questions from a student unless it was a well thought-out question. A Chinese proverb says, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”

Some forms of Zen Buddhism use a very similar style of training.  An old saying (by Taoist monks) goes like this: “In making a four corner table, the teacher shows the student how to make one corner. It’s the student’s job to figure out how to make the other three.”

They did this because they were preparing a student to deal effectively with problems in the real world.

I traveled to South Korea one time, and I found it fascinating how much you have to rely on your intuition when you don’t speak the native language of a country. I remember one instance, I had trouble explaining to the cab driver where my hotel was, and he didn’t speak English. So I had to get out of the cab and ask several people until I could find someone to tell the cab driver in Korean how to get to my hotel.

In life, whenever we try new things, we have to go into new places with only a small amount of information. The real world doesn’t give us all the answers. The greatest teacher is inside of us.

3. Real wisdom in life comes from doing something and failing.

Prior to starting meditation, I used to get upset when I’d try something and fail.

I’ve been in sales since I was sixteen. I remember going to work and getting so angry with myself because I didn’t get a sale. If I ever got rejected, I’d get upset with myself, and I’d want to quit my job. But I just keep failing over and over—until I became good at it.

I remember, when I first  started doing meditation, I ran into several problems. For example, at first it was difficult to calm down; but if you stick with it, its gets easier and easier. I tried for only a few minutes, and then every day, I added more time onto my meditation.

When we struggle, we learn about ourselves and what we need to do to become stronger.

4. When you start to do meditation you recognize the egotistical mind.

READ MORE OF THIS ARTICLE >>

It Might Get Worse, Before It Gets Better

“I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats.”  Eckhart Tolle

“I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.”
Eckhart Tolle

Our higher mind is split between listening to our ego and our Divine self, and is always choosing which side to listen to. When a person meditates, the ego realizes that the person is no longer listening to It and will use attack methods to get the person’s attention. The ego may induce fear, old grievances, anger, anxiety, random thoughts, etc., switching from one to another in an effort to force the person to pay attention to the ego’s concerns instead of their Divine self.

Because of the ego’s attacks, you may initially find meditation difficult
During meditation, you may remember old events or feel deep-seated, negative emotions. You may become fearful or angry when these arise, but keep in mind this is an opportunity for healing (although it might not feel like it). Each unwanted emotion or thought that comes to your attention is an opportunity to release it through forgiveness. With each release, the veil becomes thinner and your connection to the Spirit becomes stronger. For more on releasing unwanted thoughts and emotions, read Meditation Techniques.

Another common frustration is feeling that nothing is happening when you meditate. I assure you that just by trying, you are achieving something. I spent months meditating before I felt the ‘connection’ to the Divine. Suddenly I knew why so many people touted the benefits of meditating! For a brief moment, I “lost” myself in the golden rays of love. It felt wonderful and still does!

Through meditation, you will:

  • Realize that the ego’s negative thoughts are not true
  • Train your mind to listen to your divine self instead of the ego
  • Quiet your mind and feel peaceful
  • Reduce fear, anger, anxiety and other unwanted emotions through recognition and release (forgiveness)
  • Let the love of the Divine flow through you, which energizes and restores your mind and body

Freedom of the Mind

When we use the spiritual to accommodate the physical, we have lost our correct perspective. The physical should be the tool for finding our spiritual selves.

Freedom is often a goal we want. We desire freedom from financial concerns and pain, such as anger, anxiety, depression, etc. We believe that once the body’s concerns are taken care of, we will feel free. But those who have achieved fame, fortune and health, realized that this is not true. It’s in the mind where happiness, joy, love and true freedom is found. The mind is not your brain, but rather a spiritual conciousness which is the gateway to your true self.

Finding freedom for the mind will eventually lead you on a spiritual journey towards love and a strong connection between the Creator and all of humanity — and away from fear, pain and loneliness.

Freedom is achieved by:

  • Connecting to our Creator, through methods such as prayer, meditation, shamanic journeying, yoga, etc.
  • Forgiving others and ourselves
  • Understanding that this life is a temporary awareness and a complete distortion of our true spiritual selves
  • Learning that we are loved completely by our Creator and are able to share that love
  • Knowing that we have the power of our Creator, since we are created in his image. We are not weak and held hostage by this world.
  • Learning to follow the Spirit’s guidance on a daily basis. We can begin to make the correct decisions for our lives when we follow the Spirit’s lead, instead of following our own perspective which is often incorrect and limited.

Freedom is found by following the Spirit’s guidance, but we often believe this means we will lose our worldly possessions. The Spirit is not concerned about taking away something from you — whether you are rich or poor is not important. The Spirit only uses physical means as a tool to help you find freedom.

We are eternal spirits, so our concerns about this temporary physical realm are misguided. The Spirit will make sure that you have what you need. It only asks that you allow It to lead the way. When you no longer worry about having your needs met, you can be free at last!

Blessed journeys!

Three Life-changing Meditation Techniques

Below are three meditation techniques I frequently recommend to people. These meditations are useful for strengthening your connection to the Divine Energy (this has many names: Holy Spirit, Great Spirit, God, Allah, Goddess, etc.), removing unwanted thoughts, and releasing fears, stress, anxiety, depression and many other unloving emotions.

1. Connecting to the Divine Energy Meditation

To begin, sit quietly and let your mind go blank (if you have a problem doing this, try the “Releasing Unwanted Thoughts” meditation technique first [see below]).

Breathe deeply while envisioning the Divine Energy entering your crown chakra (top of your head), letting your breath carry the Divine Energy through your body all the way to your feet. Next, release your breath, envisioning the energy circling up around your body until it rises out of the top of your head. Repeat this process as many times as you feel it’s needed. I recommend 15 minutes or more daily, but even a few minutes can be beneficial.

The results will differ from person to person, and even from session to session. You may experience bliss, or at the very least, your mind will be calm and you’ll forget about life’s stresses for a little while.

My ultimate goal when doing this meditation is to connect to the Divine Energy because of its healing powers. It is possible to connect to the Divine Energy the first time you try this meditation, but it usually takes days or months, so don’t give up too soon. Each time you try, you are making progress, and eventually you’ll feel the Divine Energy.


2. Releasing Day-to-Day Negative Emotions Meditation

The first time I tried this technique was when my family moved to North Carolina. My husband and I were both looking for jobs, but it was just before the holidays and during the 2008 recession, so we weren’t getting any interviews. One day, after the stress of moving to a new state with no income became overwhelming, I was about to have my first anxiety attack. Before the feeling became overwhelming, I decided to give this burden to Divine Energy by saying, “I give this to you. Please take it and heal it. Thank you.” I felt a warmth enter my body, which caused the fear to leave within a few seconds. It was a huge relief to have the anxiety leave so quickly without escalating into a full-blown panic attack. I also like that this technique can be used anywhere, in the car, in the store, in a meeting, etc. without anyone knowing that you are doing it.

It can be used for all of your unwanted emotions, even the smaller ones, such as irritation and impatience, as they occur. This has made a tremendous difference in the quality of my life.


3. Releasing the Past Meditation

This is very similar to the meditation above, but is a more focused, longer meditation aimed at releasing many of events from your past, such as being bullied in school, a moment when your mother or father yelled at you, when you lost your job, made a mistake, etc. Although we may push these events to the back of our minds, the hurt still lingers in our unconscious.

The first time I used this technique was after an offer on a house fell through. It was the perfect house for us and the only one within our price range. It felt like nothing was going right, especially since I had been unemployed for nearly two years. I had never had a problem finding a job before in my life. At my core, I knew my inability to forgive my past was limiting me from accepting the universal abundance in my present day.

To heal the errors and trauma from my past, I spent an entire morning releasing everything that entered my mind — from my parent’s bankruptcy when I was a child (a hungry, cold and dark period) to being bullied in middle school, as well as many other events that I had long forgotten about. Then I moved onto more recent events, such as failing to keep my graphic design business afloat and having to declare bankruptcy due to the financial meltdown of 2008. All of it was a lesson in forgiveness. After I finished the meditation, I felt peaceful, but wasn’t sure what would come of it.

Well, my life dramatically changed within a few days. The low-ball offer my husband and I had placed on the house, which had been rejected, was now unexpectedly accepted. The next day, I was called to interview for a good-paying position. What made this call so odd was I didn’t apply for the job! The employer had found me online. (And I got the job.)  My daughter commented at dinner, “It’s like the universe is punking us.” Yes, but in a good way.

It was an amazing transformation that resulted from me asking for healing and being willing to release and forgive my past. With the removal of each blockage, you will have more room to accept abundance, happiness and health.

To practice this on your own, find a comfortable place, such as your bed, and let your mind go blank. When a thought passes through your mind, acknowledge it, and then release it. If the thought is unloving, give it to the Divine Energy for healing (see the “Releasing Day-to-Day Negative Emotions” technique above). It is very important once an unloving thought is recognized that it is released for healing, otherwise you will reinforce it and keep it. Continue doing this meditation until your thoughts trinkle to a stop.


NOTE: Some people have expressed a concern that they felt worse during or after meditation, so I wrote another post , It Might Get Worse, Before It Gets Better, which helps explains this.