January 1, 2014 § 5 Comments
As 2013 ends and 2014 begins, many of us turn our thoughts to how we can make this planet better for our family, neighbors and the succeeding generations. Daily meditation, such as that found in Buddhism and Zen, is one way that should not be overlooked.
Unfortunately, daily meditation is not always possible with today’s hectic pace where jobs and family often take up much of our time. Daily life, however, can be made the foundation of our practice if we strive to give every task our full attention. Our practice then becomes one of staying focused on what we are doing in the moment.
If you make life your daily practice the first thing you’ll notice is that we spend most of our days on automatic. We tend to think the same thoughts and behave the same way with little variation. These habitual patterns are, in fact, a form of relative unconsciousness in which we live and act through most of our life.
Staying focused counteracts the habitual unconscious state and allows you to stay in the moment and experience its joys. I still remember many of my bike rides of years past because I stayed alert to my surroundings. Images of eagles and ponds are still fresh in my mind. The feel of the rubber handles have not left me, or my body’s aches as I rode in the August heat. Later, at times when things were stressful, I would recall these moments to ease my mind.
Staying focused on the moment can create better memories but what, you may ask, of the one’s we’d rather forget. Do we really want vivid memories of pain and suffering? This question brings us back to that first posed above, “How we can make this planet better.”
Buddha told us that we all suffer and by attaining enlightenment we end suffering. What is sometimes overlooked here is that our mutual suffering connects us to each other and to our humanity. By closing to our own personal suffering we deny our humanity and prolong the global resistance to change that such denial creates.
Staying in the moment creates a common ground upon which we can see the suffering of all as our own suffering. The pain of loss is found to be the same in us as it is in any other. Grief, although expressed differently in different cultures, is the same grief we might feel. Illness we’ve known bridges us to those whose illnesses are more pronounced. Suffering in others is found to be the pain we felt, the pain we will one day feel or the pain our loved ones feel.
Staying in the moment and giving our full attention to any task at hand has the potential to open us to each other with responses that are well chosen and compassionate. We may not make the world better at the stroke of midnight. But we can add to its improvement on a daily basis by making life our daily meditation.