the mercer weave

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Archive for the tag “Sharon Salzberg”

New Year, New Challenge 2014

I was gently (or not so gently) reminded this afternoon why meditation needs to be a more consistent element in my life. As I sat on my cushion, I decided to jumpstart my practice by listening to Sharon’s CD from her first book, Real Happiness. I settled in, closed my eyes and grounded myself on my cushion. I listened intently, feeling like an old friend was giving me private breathing lessons. Then…

A text message came in from one of my co-workers notifying me that an arrest had been made on a case we had worked all week. I’m ashamed to say, I looked at the text and of course, was pretty distracted.

I settled back in.

Then the Fur Mob came screaming downstairs, doing a Nascar worthy lap around me that culminated in an extended play date in my lap and on my cushion.

I kept coming back to the breath, recognizing that I will not always be lucky enough to sit in silence, that interruptions, while annoying, are often there to strengthen the practice.

The Fur Mob

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Driving While Compassionate

This morning as I drove to work, I found myself behind a car with a bunch of bumper stickers that on their face, pretty much proclaimed the vehicle owner’s political bent.  One of the ‘messages’ combined religion and politics into one snarky message that, without naming a single person, made it clear exactly whom they were addressing. As I often do, I immediately decided I disliked the person behind the wheel. I even contemplated driving up alongside the car to get a glimpse of my new nemesis as though that was going to seal my suspicions about the person’s true nature. Ironically, this event served as a lesson in compassion. I forced myself to stop forming conclusions about how this person would feel about me or my friends or my vocation. And it was hard. I wanted to dislike him or her solely for what they displayed on the outside of their car. Granted, what we display to the world often says a lot about what we feel inside. One doesn’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to know that members of the Westboro Baptist church who picket everything from funerals to religious services, hate many things but most prominently, ‘the gays.’

I’m not a bumper sticker person, myself. I don’t like to disfigure my car and I hold no real desire to express something to the world that must be interpreted in a matter of minutes by someone in a motorized cage behind me. Bumper stickers can be misinterpreted, especially if they are trying to convey a message subtly about a subject that begs for a broader perspective. I’m embarrassed to say that I draw pretty clear conclusions about people based on how they adorn their modes of transportation and I suppose that is the point of putting a message on your bumper that basically says, “I believe this and if you don’t agree, you are wrong.”

So, this morning I imagined myself meeting the person in the car in front of me and having a civilized conversation about politics and religion and tried to steer myself into appreciating their humanity. I focused on having compassion for someone despite our differences. And I thought it was apropos of what I have learned from Sharon Salzberg and in my own journey down this spiritual path. It’s ultimately about seeing the commonality not the difference.

Lovingkindness is Hard

There are a few reasons I decided to investigate meditation several years ago.  For one, I felt I was sorely lacking some kind of spiritual foundation – something intangible I know, but for me it was important. The faith in which I was raised (I’m a cradle Catholic) wasn’t speaking to me. In fact, when it did, the words were not consoling or welcoming. As I wrote this, I noticed that I used the present tense to refer to ‘my Catholicism’ and that speaks volumes, I suppose. There will always be a part of me that craves the ‘smells and bells’, the ritualistic communal gathering on Sunday morning and the regimen of the liturgy. But the human element of the faith in which I was raised has (in my opinion) created obstacles too high for me to overcome.

Lovingkindness is harder the longer you put it off. I find that if I don’t include a metta practice at the end of my meditation session, I struggle to stay on task. And that struggle invades those parts of my day when I deal with difficult people. Taking the ego out of the equation is imperative. Being able to stand back and understand there is nothing personal about the interaction takes patience, equanimity and more than a passing familiarity with the power of selflessness.

But as they say, practice makes perfect. And I get a lot of practice.ht_nypd_homeless_man_jef_121129_wmain

Taking A Moment

There is a story in Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness about children learning about the importance about ‘taking a moment’ before acting on difficult emotions. How wonderful would it be if this became a part of the curriculum in every school in this nation. It seems we value ‘quick thinking and action’ and we celebrate people who can counter criticism deftly with a witty comeback. But we rarely celebrate the person who can turn away and deflect harsh words with kindness. And teaching children how to know the difference “suggests the possibility of finding the gap between a trigger event and our usual conditioned response to it, and of using that pause to collect ourselves and change our response.” *

In my line of work, I see the results of ‘not taking a moment’ all of the time. It can be as (relatively) benign as someone flipping the bird to another driver on the freeway or as  horrible as the violence of a homicide. And in almost all of those situations, the moment was there to be taken but the opportunity was lost.

We only have a limited amount of time on this earth but we have a limitless ability to pause. I think that’s what we are learning here.

*Sharon Salzberg Real Happiness pg 107

 

 

Turbo the Wonder Cat…Pausing

Prequel to Real Happiness 2012 Challenge

It’s such an honor to be a part of the meditation challenge again this year. When it was over at the end of February last year, I was reminded of when I was a child and felt that mixture of melancholy and excitement when school ended for summer break. I missed the routine and comfort of knowing I had a place to share my experience on the cushion while realizing it was time to take off the training wheels and give it a spin on my own.

 I haven’t been the ‘best’ student, often neglecting my practice out of pure laziness. (There’s really no excuse not to make the time for myself.)   But I’ve never lost sight of how profound the experience of meditating can be and how it helps to reinforce the beauty of simplicity and presence.

 I’m ready. Let’s go.

 

http://www.sharonsalzberg.com/realhappiness/blog

 

 

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