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 a meditation student on a retreat in an urban setting in California practising loving-kindness meditation. The teacher asked the students to do their walking meditation out on the streets.
This is what he says …
Since we were directly across the street from the Amtrak station, several people chose to do their practice on the train station. When a train pulled in, one woman from the class noticed a man disembark and decided to make him the recipient of her loving-kindness meditation. Silently she began reciting the phrases for him.
Almost immediately she began judging herself: I must not be doing it right because I feel so distant. I don’t feel a great wash of warm feeling coming over me. Nonetheless, reaffirming her intention to look on all beings with kindness instead of estrangement, she continued thinking, “May you be happy, may you be peaceful.” Taking another look at the man, who was dressed in a suit and tie and seemed nervous, she began judging him: He looks so rigid and uptight. Judging herself, she thought, Here I am trying to send loving-kindness to someone and instead I’m disparaging him. Still, she continued repeating the phrases, aligning her energy with her deep intention: to be a force of love in the world.
At that moment the man walked over to her and said, “I’ve never done anything like this before in my life, but I’d like to ask you to pray for me. I am about to face a very difficult situation in my life. Somehow, you seem to have a really loving heart, and I’d just like to know that you’re praying for me.”
I recognise this, painfully. I used to take my thoughts and feelings deadly seriously too. If I had a thought, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t do X because Y could happen”, I wouldn’t do it. I thought the voices in my head knew better than me, whoever “me” was in that statement. I thought my thoughts and feelings mattered, treated them as my barometer of reality.
What a nut I was!
Thinking about it now, I would say one could do the exact opposite of what every thought or feeling suggested and one would be infinitely better off. At the very least, there’d be variety.
In Landmark’s leadership courses, we’re taught about the necessity of taking action in the face of “no agreement”. To be a leader is to take action in the face of blame, attack, cynicism, resignation, indifference and so on. But every person who’s been a leader in some aspect of life knows that as daunting as an absence of agreement can be when it comes from other people, by far the deadliest is the absence of agreement that comes from ourselves.
Nelson Mandela said it best, quoting the words of Marianne Williamson, in his inauguration speech:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are
powerful beyond measure
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, “Who are we to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just some of us; it’s everyone.
And as we let our light shine
We unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically
Tomorrow: another Meditation on Kornfield’s book.