Why Meditate? A five minute audio.

Why Meditate? by Pema Chodron

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Loving-Kindness and Meditation by Pema Chodron

“When we start to meditate or work with any kind of spiritual discipline, we often think that somehow we’re going to improve, which is a subtle aggression against who we really are.  It’s a bit like saying, “If I jog, I’ll be a much better person.” “If I had a nicer house, I’d be a better person.” “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.”  Or the scenario may be that we find fault with others. We migh say, “If it weren’t for my partner, I’d have the perfect marriage.”  “If it weren’t for the fact that my boss and I can’t get on, my job would be just great.” And, if it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.”

But loving-kindness – maitri – toward ourselves doesnt mean getting rid of anything.  Maitri means that we can still be crazy, we can still be angry.  We can still be timid and full of feelings of unworthiness.  Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better.  It’s about befriending who we are already.  The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.  That’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

Curiosity involves being gentle, precise, open – actually being able to let go and open.  Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves.  Precision is being able to see clearly, seeing what’s really there.  Openness is being able to let go, and open.  When you come to have this kind of honesty, gentleness, and good-heartedness, combined with clarity about yourself, there’s no obstacle to feeling loving kindness for yourself, and others as well.”

Pema Chodron

Loving-Kindness

“When we start to meditate or work with any kind of spiritual discipline, we often think that somehow we’re going to improve, which is a subtle aggression against who we really are.  It’s a bit like saying, “if I jog, I’ll be a much better person.” “If I had a nicer house I’d be a better person.” “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.”  Or the scenario may be that we find fault with others.  We might say, “If it weren’t for my husband, I’d have the perfect marriage.” “If it weren’t for the fact that my boss and I can’t get on, my job would be just great.”  And, “If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.”

But loving-kindness toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything.  Loving-kindness means that we can still be crazy, we can still be angry.  We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness.  Practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better.  It’s about befriending who we are already.  The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.  That’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.  Curiosity involves being gentle, precise, and open.  Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves.  Precision is  being able to see clearly, even when we’re afraid to see what’s really there.  Openness is letting go, and opening.  When you come to have this kind of honesty, gentleness, and good-heartedness, combined with clarity about yourself, there’s no obstacle to feeling loving-kindness for yourself, and for others as well.” ~ Pema Chodron from Comfortable With Uncertainity

The Guest House

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Easier said than done, perhaps.  Welcoming joy, excitement, or serenity, seems a far more accessible prospect than welcoming feelings like shame, rage, or malice.  What if we could begin to connect with all of the pieces and parts that make up our whole selves.  What if we could begin to deeply know, care for, and accept our shadow side, the dark corners we most often avoid or reject?  Rumi speaks to inviting in what is most difficult, he asks us to experience fully what may arrive in any given moment, even when it’s hard, even though we’re used to running or reacting.  What would it be like to pause when we become aware that we are wanting to run away from fear or rage or when we feel we must burst into reaction, our bodies surging?   We see it arising, we feel in our bodies the tightening, the heat, the incoming wave, and then we stay with it, for a moment, stay in that yearning, that shaky place?  What a practice this becomes, indeed.  Acknowledging what is real, attending, as though an old and beloved friend privy to the darkest of secrets, in these moments, would seem to have a power, a transformation that reveals something underneath, something tender, vulnerable, someone who is loveable.  Connecting in this way changes our experience.  I wonder, does not a fearful or wounded part of myself lie at the heart of my rage, is she not in the heart of my shame?  When we practice this welcoming, an unconditional friendliness with what is arising, that gesture, that energy reverberates in and through us.  Think of how you feel when you’re welcomed by someone, and also how it is to be shunned and rejected.  What if in the midst of our most difficult situations, we could begin to experience some ease, as our experience is embraced, as we embrace ourselves?   In this way we cultivate a relationship with suffering, and can find some space to relax when we’re in the midst of its embrace.  It begins with a pause.

Tara Brach, Meditation Teacher and Ph.D offers this delightful audio meditation on the cultivation of unconditional friendliness.  Listen, and enjoy a smile.

Guided Smile Meditation by Tara Brach