Day 28 Meditation
What we do in terms of inner work is never for ourselves alone. As alone and cut-off as we sometimes may feel, the reality, the truth of our existence is that we’re all connected. If you go out and look at a tree, there’s a way of looking at that tree and sensing the earth which has nurtured it, all of the relationships, influences, and interactions that make up the tree. In that same spirit, for the close of our time together, we dedicate the positive energy we have generated to others, and ultimately to all of life.
Each of us has a genuine capacity for love, forgiveness, wisdom, and compassion. Meditation awakens these qualities so that we can discover for ourselves the unique happiness that is our birthright.
Now that we’ve come to the end of the four weeks I’d like to encourage you to see if there’s a commitment you’d like to make towards a dedicated meditation practice. A reasonable commitment for a reasonable length of time. For example, ten minutes each day for two weeks or a month, whether sitting, walking, or lying down.
Choose whichever practice you want, because you resonate with it, or it seems appropriate, or you feel intrigued yet somewhat challenged by it. If on a certain day you only have two minutes, do that rather than skipping a day altogether. At the end of that period of two weeks or a month or whatever you’ve chosen, you can decide if you want to do it again.
Question & Answer
Q: A daily practice seems so hard. How do I commit to that?
A: The best way to make meditation a part of your life and your being is to do a daily practice. But that can be difficult; it can feel like too big a commitment. My colleague Joseph Goldstein once resolved that he wasn’t going to go to sleep at night until he’d at least gotten into a sitting posture at some point during the day. That’s a thirty-second commitment. I’d suggest trying that: If you haven’t formally practiced during the day, before going to bed, just sit down and assume the posture you usually meditate in.
Notice if and how it affects your state of mind. Of course, sometimes getting into the posture tricks us into meditating. The resistance is usually about beginning, and less often about continuing. If you do fulfill this commitment just before going to bed, notice whether it seems to affect the quality of your sleeping and dreaming. I feel that I sleep better if I meditate just before going to bed because I’m not carrying all the jittery, jangly thoughts of the day with me. This resolve is not like saying, “I’m going to sit for two hours every day and for half the weekend.” It may not even be a five-minute commitment. Even if it turns out to be a thirty-second commitment, at least you went within and had a sense of connecting to yourself.
Welcome back as we continue our exploration. As you come to the end of a period of retreat, or even the end of a single day, you can dedicate the force of the work you’ve done within to the happiness and welfare of others. In fact, what we do in terms of inner work is never for ourselves alone.
To begin you can sit comfortably. Again, close your eyes or leave them slightly open. You can feel a kind of delight that you spent this time caring for yourself, paying attention, being willing to begin again, offering love and kindness, letting go of habits. All those things are part of a very positive force, a positive energy. And you can let yourself delight in that. It’s not arrogance or being egotistical, but rather experiencing the joy of making certain choices.
And you can become aware of how interconnected we actually are as people, creatures, this planet. As alone and cut off as we sometimes may feel, the reality, the truth of our existence is that we’re all connected. If you go out and look at a tree there’s a way of seeing it as a single solid entity. There’s a way of looking at that tree and sensing the earth which has nurtured it, and all of the things that affect that tree. Reflect on this way of seeing for a moment. We can look at the tree and sense the rainfall and everything that affects the quality of that rain. The air, and the sun, and the moon. Perhaps all the people who have stewarded the plot of land the tree’s growing on, perhaps centuries of that. If you go out and look at a tree, you can also sense all of these relationships, influences, interactions, connections that make up the tree.
Think of your own life. How many people, how many encounters, how many joys, how many sorrows have brought you to this moment in time? Who we are is not really separate from that. Who gave you something or told you something that made you interested in meditation practice? Who’s helped you and inspired you? What about those who’ve hurt you? Not in just an annoying kind of way, but perhaps the ones who’ve really brought you to some kind of edge. So maybe you’ve thought, I’ve really got to find another way or look for another kind of happiness in order to be free. Because those people may be a part of why we’re here together right now. Who grew the food that you’ve eaten so far today? Who transported it? How many creatures of the earth were involved in that food? Who made the clothes that you’re wearing or built the building that you’re sitting in? Our own lives are so connected. None of us really exist apart, independent. And in honor of that, as a quality of remembering, we dedicate or offer the positive energy we generate in meditation to others. And ultimately to all of life.
We dedicate that positive energy to those who’ve helped us. Maybe somebody took care of things at home so you’d have more free time. Or maybe someone has been encouraging you. You can take the energy, the positive force, the sense of possibility that you’ve been generating and dedicate it to them so that the work you do within is for them as well. You make that offering just as if your hand was open, your fingers spread, and someone was pouring water. You’re not holding onto or retaining the water, it’s pouring right through.
In just that way you dedicate the positive energy you’ve developed to the happiness and well-being of those who’ve helped you. And those you know who are hurting, seem frightened or challenged, so that the greater awareness, sensitivity, love, and kindness you’ve developed can be dedicated to their happiness as well. Then your family. The greater community.
Every step we take toward greater peace and understanding is affecting everyone around us. So we dedicate this positive force to their happiness and well-being. And all beings everywhere by virtue of the actions that I have taken toward the good, toward understanding myself, toward being more peaceful. May all of that be of benefit to all beings everywhere. And when you feel ready you can open your eyes. This is one of the strongest perspectives we can bring into our everyday experiences.
This past week we’ve explored various dimensions of lovingkindness, for ourselves, for others, and for all. We have looked at intentionally including recognition of the good in oneself and others. Remembering that all beings want to be happy. And the fundamental reflection on how interconnected all of our lives are. It’s a useful time to look back and reflect on your experience and think about how you’d like to carry this forward.
Now that we’ve come to the end of the four weeks I’d like to encourage you to see if there’s a commitment you’d like to make towards a dedicated meditation practice. A reasonable commitment for a reasonable length of time. For example, ten minutes each day for two weeks or a month. That would mean that you aim for ten minutes of formal practice, whether sitting, walking, or lying down.
Choose whichever practice you want, because you resonate with it, or it seems appropriate, or you feel intrigued yet somewhat challenged by it. If on a certain day you only have two minutes, do that rather than skipping a day altogether. At the end of that period of two weeks or a month or whatever you’ve chosen, you can decide if you want to do it again. Having regular more formal practice periods is the best platform to help us remember to breathe when we’re at work and starting to get agitated. It reminds us to simply walk from room to room without also texting all the time. You will find these principles and ways of being naturally coming more and more into your day. With that daily practice being the regular powerful mini course that refreshes our skills and helps us make this a part of our lives.