“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
“If you think you are too small to make a difference,
try sleeping with a mosquito.”
– His Holiness the Dalai Lama
It’s a good question especially given that we usually attribute to meditation a clearing of the mind. The simple answer though is that the world is already in your mind. Your heart is full of the love and pain you feel for what is happening out there, your thoughts cycle through the various news stories you’ve heard or seen in the media. Even if you’ve shielded yourself from watching “the news,” it creeps in. Whether it’s boys trapped in a cave or the latest outrage from the boy-men in power. You are part of this world and there is really no escaping that; you’re in the world and the world’s in you.
About six months ago I started offering free monthly guided meditations with the theme, “Meditation With the World in Mind.” We have been able to meet in the beautiful environment of The Open Spirit in Nyack. My sense was (and is) that we need to come together to align our consciousness with the deepest life force of love and compassion. We need to counter in ourselves and the world the destructive influences that often dominate the trajectory of human activity.
It is possible to see these meditations as healing moments for yourself, to release the negative reactions to “the news” that may cause you to feel hopeless, depressed or stuck in anger and cynicism. On the other hand, you may see these meditations as a form of activism. After all, your mind-state is a part of the collective mind of humanity. Actively changing your mood, your attitude, your emotional-mental condition has an effect on the field of human energy that we all live in.
Further, practices have been developed in all the world’s wisdom and spiritual traditions that offer ways of aligning our personal healing and awakening to that of others. Native Americans use the phrase, “Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ,” meaning “all are related,” or “all my relations.” It is invoked in ceremonies and prayer rituals and calls attention to the experience that what is intended is not for the individual or small group alone, but for all life. Similarly, meditation practices can be learned to bring awareness to this reality of inter-connectedness and that the benefit of the meditation is for all beings.
Meditations are generally scheduled for the 3rd Monday of the month, 7 – 8:30 PM. But please confirm.
In developing a daily meditation practice for the first time, or re-evaluating one that feels stagnant, the question of time and frequency comes up. How long and how often to meditate? I find it most helpful to recognize that this is a personal choice and depends a great deal on your current life schedule and priorities. But it also relates a great deal to why you are meditating in the first place and just how deeply you want to explore and experience the spiritual depths to which it can take you.
I most commonly hear people speaking of a twenty-minute period of meditation, once a day. This has been shown, over the long haul, to bring about health benefits, reduction of stress, and more clarity of mind. But, while regular periods of short meditation can be quite helpful, at some point in your meditation practice you may consider that you would benefit from meditating longer. You may realize that your thinking mind is a tougher adversary than you thought. A funny way to say it is,your mind has a mind of its own. Your mind doesn’t listen to your commands to be quiet or go away, and when you try to ignore it, it gets louder and butts into your space. You may realize that the satisfaction you take in the brief moments of peace during your meditation are just hints of the shadow of an echo of a whisper of what you are truly seeking. Finally, you may recognize that the deepest truth of meditation is realized through a very long process and you need to devote lots of time to it. Your life (the quality of your life) depends on it.
It’s not really as grave as that might sound. Longer and deeper periods of meditation are a gift to yourself. They can provide an entry into the deeper realms of being that bring you in touch with the essence of your nature. Inside yourself, in this very moment, is the experience of beauty, love and compassion for all life. Whatever else is going on in your life or in the world, the essence of who you are, right now, is so good, so beautiful, so awesome, that the notion that you can only allow yourself a short period of this process seems ridiculous. It’s like starving yourself when there is a banquet of delicious food in front of you.
Moments of recognizing this, or even getting a hint of it, provide the motivation for longer periods of meditation. Let’s face it, it takes great commitment to sit and do nothing towards accomplishing the things on your “to do” list. Instead, you will pass through periods of fidgety discomfort, the clattering of mental chatter, accepting and releasing your emotional baggage, and recognizing your existential resistance to letting go of the attachment to your egoic self. What’s more, these things will seem endless as you continue to recognize them again and again, and continue to return to your breath and the focus of your practice. Yet, gradually, (hopefully with the help of others on the path) the fruits of your inner work will be most apparent in the quality of your life experience in and out of the state of meditation; you will be in touch with and expressing your eternal and infinite, true nature.