As the Monday Evening Meditation class – Opening the Gate – resumes this week on September 11th at 7pm, I would like to thank the members of the community who have been coming regularly for your patience during the month long retreat at the center. I hope that you all had a prosperous and restorative summer.
Hopefully, your meditation practice and our weekly conversations have given you some helpful tools to use in your daily life. Practicing the dharma is much more than just sitting on the cushion. Though our sitting practice is absolutely important in helping us calm the mind and gain insight into the working of our mind, the integration of what we learn on the cushion or on the chair is vital to the transformation of our habitual patterns that cause us to suffer. And as we work with these patterns throughout the day, we are paving the road for a more stable and reliable happiness.
For example, learning to sit in meditation with some of our more intense sensations, be they physical or emotional, meeting them with acceptance, loving-kindness and compassion, helps us develop the muscle of presence in our day to day life, especially when things ramp up. Because we have taken the time to sit, we are much more prepared to bring conscious, aware spaciousness to whatever is arising in our experience, be it a cranky child, a traffic jam or a disagreement with a loved one. We can breathe and make a choice to respond rather than react which, again, helps us to rewire the old habitual reactive patterns. Our practice then becomes living dharma that has applications in every aspect of our lives.
As we all know, emotions can be extremely intense. I was privy to a moment of this the other day. While I was in my car at a stop sign, my attention was drawn to a young woman in a parking lot who was screaming into her phone. I could tell by the little I could hear that she was angry, hurt and in pain. As she finished the call, she raised up her arm and threw the phone across the parking lot, shattering it, I am sure. I could see the fury of the emotional storm that she was in. This could be any one of us. We have all had and will have our moments. It takes enormous presence and awareness to work skillfully with these powerful emotions as they arise. Learning how to work with the underlying power of these states and use it in a positive way rather than creating more suffering for ourselves and others is the work at hand. And there is nothing like a regular sitting practice to help support us in this endeavor.
I look forward to seeing you and sitting with you all.