How I know meditation works

I had plans last night to go into the city and meet a dear friend to see a very special performance. So many things went wrong that I could easily have had an terrible time. Instead — thanks to practice — it full of extraordinary lessons and beauty.

I left work early so we could meet before the show. Ten minutes later, I realized my phone was still charging in my office, and I knew I would need it. So I went back. “You’re such an idiot,” I said as I pulled back into the driveway. “And I love you.” (That’s a lesson taken directly from Sharon Salzberg’s book on Lovingkindness.)

The 20 minutes that took meant I’d miss the early train, but that was OK. The later train, though, was slow and got in 20 minutes late. I hadn’t noticed because I was concentrated on a good book, avoiding the swirl of anxious thoughts.

Still time to get there before the show. I hopped onto a crowded subway train, standing in the aisle. I felt my bag bump the people sitting behind me and felt bad, but it was a crowded train and I couldn’t move. A few minutes later, things emptied out and a seat opened up. The girl sitting in the seat near where I was standing smiled at me and went back to snuggling with her friend. A few minutes later, I noticed that the zippered compartment where I keep my Metrocard was open and the card was gone — likely taken by the snuggling, smiling women.

Of all of the things that I carried, the Metrocard was the least important — easily replaced and not needed until after the show. So I let it go.

When I got off, I still had 20 minutes to get to the show. But I got the address wrong and walked a half-mile past the venue, with encouragement from my phone map, before calling my friend to ask where I should be. I walked back and got there just after the show started. I picked up my ticket, stopped at the bathroom, got to the door and had no ticket. It was nowhere in my purse, where I’d put it; I retraced my steps and found it on the bathroom floor.

The performance had started.The usher offered to find me a seat; I showed her my friend’s text that she’d saved me a seat in the fourth row. I expected the usher to tell me that there was no way I could take that seat and disrupt everyone — instead she led me to it. I galumphed over people who weren’t happy to let me through, but got to my seat. My friend squeezed my hand. I joined the audience and performers on a magical trip through the bardos. (I’d actually been on a magical trip through them all night, but that’s another story.)

So many things “went wrong” that night. Before I meditated, any one of them would have ruined my night. Since all of them were due to my own inattention — forgetting my phone, not paying attention to where my bag was, not checking the address, walking in late — I could have and would have beaten myself up, sending myself into a state where I could not have enjoyed a personal performance by Prince.

On this night, I didn’t do that. On this night, I let it go and got beautiful and precious dharma teachings with clarity and grace. I let my friend love me even though I messed up. Being my dharma sister, she did.

Today, Feb. 28, is the last day of Sharon Salzberg’s 28-day meditation challenge for 2015. The theme for the last week was how meditation affects your life. You can read blog entries for 2015 or past years here.


, , , , ,