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Patience doesn't mean making a pact with the devil of denial, ignoring our emotions and aspirations. It means being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that's unfolding, rather than ripping open a budding flower or demanding a caterpillar hurry up and get that chrysalis stage over with.
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Meditation is not the construction of something foreign, it is not an effort to attain and then hold on to a particular experience. We may have a secret desire that through meditation we will accumulate a stockpile of magical experiences, or at least a mystical trophy or two, and then we will be able to proudly display them for others to see.
Contemplating the goodness within ourselves is a classical meditation, done to bring light, joy, and rapture to the mind. In contemporary times this practice might be considered rather embarrassing, because so often the emphasis is on all the unfortunate things we have done, all the disturbing mistakes we have made. Yet this classical reflection is not a way of increasing conceit. It is rather a commitment to our own happiness, seeing our happiness as the basis for intimacy with all of life. It fills us with joy and love for ourselves and a great deal of self-respect. Significantly, when we do metta practice, we begin by directing metta toward ourselves. This is the essential foundation for being able to offer genuine love to others
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Not everyone wants to take up meditation, but most people can feel an alignment with values like mutual respect, insightful investigation, listening to one another. Meditation is a way to help those values become real in day-to-day life, helping people to understand themselves more and more and have a way to not get lost in old patterns.
If you're reading these words, perhaps it's because something has kicked open the door for you, and you're ready to embrace change. It isn't enough to appreciate change from afar, or only in the abstract, or as something that can happen to other people but not to you. We need to create change for ourselves, in a workable way, as part of our everyday lives.
It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn't depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn't depend on how long you've held on to the old view. When you flip the switch in that attic, it doesn't matter whether its been dark for ten minutes, ten years or ten decades. The light still illuminates the room and banishes the murkiness, letting you see the things you couldn't see before. Its never too late to take a moment to look.
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In one of the verses of Lal Ded, or Lalla, a fourteenth-century mystic from Kashmir, Lalla says: 'At the end of a crazy-moon night the love of God rose. I said 'It's me, Lalla.' 'It's me, Lalla, ' becomes 'It's me... whoever you are, ' proclaiming that we no longer stand on the sidelines but are leaping directly into the center of our lives, our truth, our full potential. No one can take that leap for us; and no one has to. This is our journey of faith.
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It doesn't matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn't matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years - we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.
In contrast, compassion manifests in us as the offering of kindness rather than withdrawal. Because compassion is a state of mind that is itself open, abundant and inclusive, it allows us to meet pain more directly. With direct seeing, we know that we are not alone in our suffering and that no one need feel alone when in pain. Seeing our oneness is the beginning of compassion, and it allows us to reach beyond aversion and separation.
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Compassion allows us to use our own pain and the pain of others as a vehicle for connection. This is a delicate and profound path. We may be adverse to seeing our own suffering because it tends to ignite a blaze of self-blame and regret. And we may be adverse to seeing suffering in others because we find it unbearable or distasteful, or we find it threatening to our own happiness. All of these possible reactions to the suffering in the word make us want to turn away from life.
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Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected with others. Instead, we often contract, fear intimacy, and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely. Our delusion of being separate from one another, of being apart from all that is around us, gives rise to all of this pain.
It's easy for us to feel separate from other people and from other forms of life, especially if we don't have a reliable connection to our own inner world. Without insight into our internal cycles of pleasure and pain, desires and fears, there is a strong sense of being removed, apart or disconnected. When we do have an understanding of our inner lives, it provides an intuitive opening, even without words, to the ties that exist between ourselves and others.
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One of the primary conditions for suffering is denial. Shutting our mind to pain, whether in ourselves or others, only ensures that it will continue. We must have the strength to face it without turning away. By opening to the pain we see around us with wisdom and compassion, we start to experience the intimate connection of our relationship with all beings.
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