Monday, December 26, 2016

Loving Kindness in this Moment

The theme of the recent meditation retreat I attended was summed up by this mantra: May I meet this moment fully, May I meet it as a friend.  The wonderful teachers of the retreat laughingly stated about 10 minutes into the retreat that this was pretty much all we needed to know and the rest of the retreat would be just repeating this theme.

When you think about these words you realize how profound they are.

May I meet this moment fully.  In other words, breathe and be here now.  Meeting this moment, I can no longer worry about the past.  I can forget about what happened yesterday or last week or many years ago.  We all hold on to so many memories that don't serve any purpose for us.  I was especially touched by a story one of the teachers told at the retreat.  The teacher was Sylvia Boorstein, a very well known Buddhist educator, who is also 80 years old.  Despite being 80 she could recall in detail a humiliating experience she had in elementary school.  That would be more than 70 years ago!

I think we all have those certain episodes that replay in our mind of when we were embarrassed or ashamed or saddened.  And sometimes elated too.  And it isn't that memories are bad but when they pop up and still create anxiety or sadness then they take away from our contentment with the present moment.

It may not be a long festering memory either.  Often it is what happened yesterday or this morning that we are still fretting about and missing the experience of the moment.  When I went on retreat last week I flew to Oakland and rented a car.  At the rental agency they asked if I wanted to fill the tank myself or pay for a tank ahead of time.  I thought I might not have time to fill it myself so I agreed to pay for the tank.  I wasn't sure but it seemed like it was $40 for the tank.  As I drove to the retreat, I realized I would only be driving a small amount.  I anxiously watched the gas monitor not dropping, ridiculously annoyed that I was using so little gas.  Even at the retreat it kept popping into my mind that I made a wrong choice about the gas!  Finally, at the end of the trip, as I dropped off the car, I mentioned to the woman at the agency that I used less that 1/4 of the tank. Guess what?  She gave me half my money back which it turned out was only $24 anyway.  So I only paid $12 but stressed over it off and on the whole weekend.  It was so silly and I tried to reason with myself to not worry about it or think about it but that didn't work.  What does help?  I'll get to that in a minute.

Meeting this moment, I also no longer worry about the future.  We get swept up by stories of what could happen.  And so often, it doesn't happen like we think it will.  I've mentioned this before but one of my favorite quotes attributed to Mark Twain is "I've had a lot of worries in my lifetime, most of which never happened."

The second part of the mantra, May I met it as a friend, is about love.  May I meet this moment with kindness.  Even if in this moment you are worrying about the past or the future, meet it with love. Be compassionate toward yourself for forgetting to really be here and then take a breath and see what is. To see and to love.  To meet the moment in kindness.  It is all the same.

So it is about being here and now but it is also about how you are in the here and now.  Be a friend to yourself and to others.  Is this moment, whether you are arguing with your spouse, hugging your child, or driving to work, greet the experience with kindness.

I mentioned above that I tried to reason with myself to not worry. I told my self that I was being ridiculous and stupid to worry about the gas tank.  I have learned that "reasoning" doesn't really work.  It is not really nice to chide myself or berate myself for thinking or feeling something.  In fact, what does work is to, wait... you got it... greet it with kindness!  I can say oh hello painful memory, I love you, now I am going to take a breath and be in this moment.

May you meet this moment fully.  May you meet it as a friend.

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