Day 22 Meditation
Welcome to week four of the challenge. We begin our week of lovingkindness practice by a practice on Seeing the Good. Even though our tendency might be to remember the things we’ve done wrong and the mistakes we’ve made, we can consciously shift our attention to include the good within ourselves, and so too when we look at others. This is not an exercise meant to deny that anything is wrong or regrettable, but if we look at somebody and we only think about the mistakes they have made, then a tremendous sense of self, and other, and us and them, can be reinforced.
Looking for the good in yourself is not a way to deny your difficulties or problems, but a way to broaden your outlook so it’s more truthful and balanced. Looking for the good in ourselves also helps us to see the good in others.
I often ask my students, “If you learned that there’s a simple, safe activity you could do for twenty minutes a day to help a friend in need, would you do it?” They answer, of course they would, eagerly and without question. Spending that same twenty minutes to help ourselves, however, seems to make us uncomfortable; we worry that it’s self-indulgent, egocentric. But helping ourselves is helping our friends. Our own real happiness is the wellspring out of which our ability to give to others flows. As Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “Happiness is available… please help yourself.”.
Question & Answer
Q: How do I know if I’m meditating right? When will I see a change in myself?
A: Remember that success in meditation is not based on accumulating wondrous experiences. You aren’t in a contest to see how many conscious breaths you can tally up. You are transforming your mind by gently, compassionately beginning again each time you’ve been lost in thought. You’re learning to be with your body, emotions, and thoughts in a different way.
Remember that we don’t meditate to get better at meditating; we meditate to get better at life.
This transformation may show up as visible changes in your daily life even more than in your formal practice. In fact, others may notice that you’re changing before you do. Over time you will see that you can bring more balance and awareness to any experience. One of your most profound and far-reaching transformations will be a growing conviction that you are indeed capable of loving yourself and others..
Welcome to the final part of the Real Happiness track. This week’s meditations are based on our ability to nurture and grow an orientation of goodwill, inclusiveness, and connection. We will relate to ourselves in a different way, remembering our strengths and capacity to care. We will relate to others in a different way, recognizing how interconnected all of our lives are. Even though our more habituated tendency might be to remember the things we’ve done wrong and the mistakes we’ve made, the things we regret, we can consciously shift our attention to include the good within ourselves and so too when we look at others.
This is not an exercise meant to deny that anything is wrong or regrettable. But, if we look at somebody and we only think about the mistakes they’ve made, then a tremendous sense of self and other and us and them can be reinforced. Whereas, if we include even one good thing, if we can think of it, then a bridge is built so that when we honestly and directly look at what’s difficult, it’s more from a stance of being side by side rather than across this huge gulf of seeming separation.
So, beginning with yourself, you can sit comfortably just in a relaxed and easy posture. Close your eyes or not. See if you can think of one good thing you did yesterday. It may not have been very big or grandiose, maybe you smiled at somebody, maybe you listened to them, maybe you let go of some annoyance at a slow clerk in a store, maybe you forgave yourself for not saying something totally correctly, maybe you were generous, maybe you tried to meditate, maybe you thanked a bus driver. It’s not conceit or arrogance to consider these things, but it’s quite nourishing, replenishing to take joy, to take delight in the good that moves through us that we can manifest. And if at any time, whether with ourselves or somebody else we cannot think of something good, then there’s another reflection that we do, which is simply to recall that all beings want to be happy.
Everybody wants to be happy. This urge towards happiness is nothing to be squeamish about or feel funny about. The problem is not the urge, the problem is ignorance, not really sensing where genuine happiness might be found. And so making the mistakes that might cause so much suffering for ourselves or for somebody else, but that urge toward happiness itself if rightful, it’s appropriate. And when we can combine it with wisdom instead of with ignorance, it becomes like a homing instinct for freedom that could help us cut through many obstacles. So, we start with ourselves and then with others looking for the good. And, if it’s just not gonna happen that way, we switch to this other reflection recalling that all beings want to be happy.
Think of a benefactor, someone who’s helped you. Here, the good qualities might come in a rush. You can appreciate that about them, those aspects, those efforts, those acts of kindness. Think of a good friend, appreciate the good within them. Think of someone you know who’s having a difficult time right now. Think of the good within them, perhaps the times they’ve reached out to help others. Their own sources of strength. You can see that this person is not just their problem, but something bigger. Think of someone you have a little bit of difficulty with, some conflict, dis-ease. See if you can find some good reflection in things they’ve done, choices they’ve made. And if not, you can switch to that other reflection remembering that they too, just like each one of us wants to be happy, they want to be happy.
Everybody wants the same sense of belonging, feeling at home in this body, this mind, this life, but ignorance is a very strong force. I will close with a few moments of the reflection that all beings want to be happy and may they be happy. You can silently repeat that over and over again. And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes. Notice the effect this meditation may have had on you. We can be so much more accustomed to looking at what’s wrong, what’s negative, what’s difficult. See what it’s like to have turned your attention to include the good within yourself, the good within others.