Today, we continue our discussion with Bernard Bessieres and his insights into meditation, physical appearance and mindfulness. It presented us with a great opportunity to not only learn from someone, but also to connect to another human being. It is always good to be reminded that, whatever your journey, you are not alone. We hope you feel the same way.
KT: If I told you that I would pay you one million dollars for 4 weeks of meditation training – what would that training look like?
BB: To start off, I would not accept the million dollars. If I learned for free, why would I charge you for that? So, no, I wouldn’t accept the money.
As for the training itself, the goal would be to find inner peace. By then end, I would want you to have so much inner peace and so much love that you’d have to practically give it away. That would be the best result. How to get there? It’s all about perseverance. That’s what I learned at the center. You need to learn to identify the different aspects of your personality; that includes the positive and the not so positive ones. You could have a temper or be impatient or be a little bit selfish. Those are aspects that everybody has up to a certain level, but you need to be mindful and work on them.
KT: If I tell you that I want to improve just a little bit in 4 weeks, where should I start?
BB: I would say, be alone in a room, close your eyes and observe your thoughts. Think about which ones are positive, negative, useful and useless. Then you would talk to me about your thoughts and I would give you the definition of each kind of thought with examples. For instance, you tell me about a thought, then I would reply -Is it useful? If you reply “no”, we would consider that a useless thought. Why would you invest precious time thinking of that?
KT: Have you found, in your practice, that constantly qualifying your own thoughts has led to a slowing down of the speed with which these thoughts enter your mind?
BB: Absolutely! You find that there are fewer things that enter your mind, giving you time to explore them and allowing you to keep the ones that are positive and useful. And in principle, when you learn to filter and keep the positive thoughts you will find yourself feeling more relaxed and at ease with yourself. You will feel peace.
On the other hand, when you allow the negative thoughts to enter your mind, more and more thoughts tend to crowd your mind – making you feel more anxious and more stressed, moving you further away from inner peace.
KT: You work-out regularly at the gym. Have you found that meditation affects your physical performance?
BB: From a workout intensity level, I have found that it slows me down at the gym. In general, however, I guess it depends on what’s your motivation to workout.
The majority of people just do it to have a better body and a better look. In short, I think a lot of people do it for their ego – which goes against what meditation is supposed to be about. At the beginning, that was the reason I used to go to the gym. But now, I’m no longer interested in that. Today, I only go to maintain my shape and feel good. The difference is that, previously, I worked out nonstop to achieve some physical goal. Today, I split my goal 50-50 between the physical and the spiritual.
KT: Do you think that your workouts sessions are more enjoyable now?
BB: I don’t feel the same level of stress to perform. It’s more about the practice than the performance. I can compare myself to others – we all do that, but at the end I feel good with myself. I can see another man and think: It’s ok that he is bigger or more muscular; that is good for him. But I understand that that’s a result of his goals, which are different from mine. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
KT: What would be the top 3 to 5 benefits that you think people can get out of meditation?
BB: The first one that comes to mind is inner peace. After that, I would say self-love and learning how to give. You know, everyone is looking for their own happiness, but we must understand that our happiness starts with the happiness of others. I have experimented with this idea and have found that it is true!
KT: With who?
BB: With people I don’t even know. You don’t need to know the person if you know how to give. One of the words I consider to be beautiful is “altruism”. It means that being generous is knowing how to give your time and even your money. Sometimes I give money to the homeless on the street because I need to know how to give. We live a daily life that is too materialistic. We all like things; and I think it is worth trying to alter that a little bit.
For example, if I want to renovate my home, I would do it to have an environment I like; but not to show it off. Before, I would have done it to show it off.
KT: How would you do to avoid confusing self-love with ego-centrism?
BB: Self-love will make you feel good in relation to what you do. For example I go to the gym to feel good and to be healthy. We all know what the results you get when you work out are. Being healthy for sure comes with a certain body shape and the physical benefits accompany it. To go a step further and show off your muscles is to be egocentric and vane.
The stress we know is one of the worst enemies of humanity in the 21st century. And it is related to the ego. That stress comes out of what we do to please others; to get their acceptance and admiration.
Having said that, we have to differentiate between “good” ego and “bad” ego. Bad ego is the one that makes you want to be seen by others in a certain way. Makes you want to make them think: wow he is big! Nice muscles! What a car! How lucky! So you can say that the bad ego makes you crave love and attention. I believe that paying attention to others helps more with being mindful. When you are mindful, you exude a nice image that will be automatically noted by others.
KT: Can you give us an example of “good” ego?
BB: That’s a lot harder to explain. The “good” ego is about acquiring knowledge and sharing that knowledge without any ulterior motives. In Raja Yoga, we never say “I know”. That would be an example of “bad” ego. A person with “good” ego would say “I understand what you mean; I will take this information and it will help me acquire more wisdom”.
KT: Thank you, Bernard, for sharing your time and your knowledge with us here today. Thank you very much.
BB: You are very welcome.
We encourage you to keep the conversation going. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!