What matters in life is simple. Are you free and loving? Are you bringing your gifts to the world that so badly needs them?
To recap: This is how Jack Kornfield opens his book, Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are. Kornfield is a Buddhist teacher and meditator from the US, and this week I’m writing a post each day relating to the content of the book. I’m calling them Meditations though they’re not necessarily about meditation or Buddhism per se. They’re about that opening statement.
Today, the final instalment, concerns a meditation student of Kornfield’s called Ruby. This is what he says …
Ruby has been a Buddhist practitioner for fifteen years. Today Ruby exudes happiness and joy, but this is not because her life has been easy. Several years ago, Ruby asked me what might be helpful next steps in her training and development. In addition to her work as a university administrator, she was caring for her mother and helping with two grandchildren, so she could not go on long retreats.
To balance Ruby’s caring for others, I suggested that she undertake a year of loving-kindness practice just for herself. At first she resisted. “You mean a year of wishing that I be happy? It feels so self-centred. I don’t know if I could do it.” But she decided to try it. In her morning meditation, and throughout the day, Ruby wished herself well, with loving intention, at work, driving, shopping. At times the meditation felt tedious and difficult, but she stuck to it. Over the year Ruby became happier and more radiant. Then, I suggested she attend a weeklong retreat of loving-kindness meditation.
After two days of resistance, Ruby dropped into a silent and concentrated stillness. Through her practice, Ruby had learned not to resist her resistance … As she did, the loving-kindness grew. Over the next few days Ruby experienced a stream of luminous energy filling up the core of her body, expanding to a boundless ocean of love. She was incredibly happy. “I have opened,” she exclaimed one morning. “I am nothing and I am the whole world. I am the crab-apple tree and the frog by the stream and the tired cooks in the evening kitchen and the mud on my shoes and the stars. When my mind thinks about past and future, it is only telling stories. In loving-kindness, there is no past or future, only silence and love …”
Now Ruby tells me she doesn’t practice loving-kindness meditation formally for herself or others much anymore, because “it just comes.” She says, “We’re not separate, and love is just what we are.”
What Ruby experienced is what I experienced standing on the corner of Collins and Exhibition Streets waiting for the lights to change. I would describe it in the same way; that who we are is everything/nothing. Here are some other words for it:
- the peace that passes all understanding
- eternal life
- the presence of God