February 13, 2012
Lucky day 13. With all the luck from today and all the love accumulating in advance for tomorrow, here's hoping that today is a good day to be a meditator.
As for me, I'm not sure yet—I haven't had a chance to practice yet today. But I'm excited to, and I will. Over the weekend I re-read Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's book Mindfulness in Plain English. It was the first book on meditation that I ever read. I love that book. I owe a lot to it. And reading it again made me feel like I did the first time I read it: just so excited. Like a child.
The first week of meditation month I was raring to go. By the second, I was finding all sorts of excuses not to practice. Now it's the third week, and I feel rejuvenated. Today's Daily Dharma is from none other than Bhante Henepola Gunaratana himself: "We experience the freshness of life. Every moment is a new moment. Every breath is a fresh breath."
Rejuvenation, freshness, newness. Today just feels like one big exhale—letting it all out, ready to inhale again.
If you haven't read Mindfulness in Plain English, it's available for free download here from urbandharma.org. But before you hasten over to the download page, let me whet your appetite. This excerpt is from the chapter "Meditation: Why Bother?"
There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by. You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meet somehow and look OK from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you, you keep those to yourself. You are a mess. And you know it. But you hide it beautifully. Meanwhile, way down under all that you just know there has got be some other way to live, some better way to look at the world, some way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then. You get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game. and for a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to yourself, 'OK, now I've made it; now I will be happy.' But then that fades, too, like smoke in the wind. You are left with just a memory. That and a vague awareness that something is wrong. (...)
Meditation is called the Great Teacher. It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly through understanding. The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant you can be. The greater your understanding, the more compassionate you can be. You become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher. You are ready to forgive and forget. You feel love towards others because you understand them. And you understand others because you have understood yourself. You have looked deeply inside and seen self-delusion and your own human failings. You have seen your own humanity and learned to forgive and to love. When you have learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic. An accomplished meditator has achieved a profound understanding of life, and he inevitably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical love.
If you want some more of B.H.G., you can read our interview with him here and his article "Mindfulness and Concentration" here. And don't forget, if you have any questions about your practice, "Meditation Doctor" and Zen teacher Brad Warner will be answering questions here all month. There's also our meditation e-book, free to supporting and sustaining members, available here, and a Tricycle Talk with meditation author Jason Siff available to listen to here.
Image: © 2002 Steven F. Radzikowski. From http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html.