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’s story is about an experience Kornfield had after practising loving-kindness meditation on a long retreat. Loving-kindness meditation is about bringing to mind a person in one’s life while interiorly creating statements such as “May John be happy. May John be peaceful. May John be liberated.”
This is what he says …
The experience of practising loving-kindness in this systematic way illuminates new possibilities. For example, when we shift our attention from benefactors and friends to neutral people, a whole new category of love opens up. In this practice, neutral people are defined as people we see regularly but don’t pay much attention to. We might choose our regular bank teller or a waitress at a local restaurant as our first neutral person. On one long retreat, I chose an old local gardener. I spent several days and nights picturing him and wishing him well in my meditation. Later I unexpectedly ran into him. Even though I didn’t know his name, I was so happy to see him, I swooned: Oh, my beloved neutral person! Then I realised how many other neutral people I had ignored. As I included them in the practice of loving-kindness, my love grew deeper around me.
I had a similar experience to Kornfield’s recently. A few months ago, I met a man in a company I was doing business with who was phenomenal at what he provided to the company’s customers. I became fascinated with this man and his gifts, and I was not alone. He had people clamouring for his services. One day, I overheard him talking to someone and he mentioned a painful experience he was going through. On the way home, I wondered to myself if I should invite him to do the Landmark Forum and then thought, “Nah, he’ll think I’m crazy. He doesn’t know me and he’ll wonder why I’m asking him,” and I put the thought out of my mind.
A week or two later, I found out this man had resigned after four years with the company. I was shocked at how sad I felt. Incredibly, this man whom I only knew at a distance, who didn’t even know my name, left a big hole in my life.
For a few weeks after, I thought about him often and told several friends about his leaving, what he’d provided and how I missed him.
Then 10 days ago I went to Landmark to help out as I do once a month. I walked up the stairs and the very first person I saw was this man. He was there doing the Landmark Forum and was sitting outside on a break. Just imagine! In a city of four million people, this man I’ve been thinking about, this man I thought I’d never see again, is magically there.
When I saw him, like Kornfield, I swooned. With love, joy at seeing him again, astonishment. And the perfect certainty that I had had him be there.
We had a beautiful conversation. I got to tell him how much he’d meant to me and to thank him; he got to tell me what had been troubling him and what he was discovering in the Forum. We embraced in love and joy. Oh, beloved neutral man!
Tomorrow: another Meditation on Kornfield’s book …
Image: Renée by Jacques Lartigue