1. Before Getting out Of Bed.
As soon as you wake up don’t immediately jump out of bed. Instead, as the first moments of conscious awareness begin to take over from the world of dreams, imagine how you will begin the day with meditation practice and how you will remember meditative awareness, the state of non-distraction during the day. Make an aspiration that the day will be one of mindful awarenesss, not to be completely lost in distraction.
It is an ordinary Wednesday morning, I'm just arriving at my agency. Park the car, go upstairs, say hello to still somewhat sleepy colleagues on the way to my room. Wake up the screen and sign in to online banking. Like most of the mornings.
SHOCK! Red numbers. BIG red numbers, right in front of me on the screen, and it´s MY business account. Nothing to interpret, nothing to reconfirm, this is a matter of fact - the account is not only in the red, it's close to its limit. And it's only a few days until salaries have to be paid. In plain language: big problems ahead.
From Pali, the language of the original Buddhist texts, metta has been translated as lovingkindness, love, and friendship. Metta is knowing deep in our bones that our life is inextricably interwoven with all life, and that because of that we need to take care of one another -- not out of sloppy sentimentality or pretentiousness, but out of wisdom.
A couple of months ago I wrote a series of blogs that explain how to begin to integrate meditative awareness, the state of non-distraction, into daily activities. Here everything is brought together so that you don’t have to go searching through many different posts.
I am still blogging from the retreat (this might seem like a contradictio in terminis, but for me blogging is a way to reflect on the teachings we receive during the retreat).
A few days ago we had a wonderful visit from Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, who is one of the most important advisors for the Dalai Lama. In that capacity, he has not had a lot of time to practise, but he has a lot of experience bringing his practice into daily life.
Recently, I've been writing a lot on using meditation within the field of nursing and healthcare. Really, besides the setting, which is important since as a nurse I am interacting with people who are suffering and really need my attention and compassion, there is no time like the present moment - wherever we find ourselves - to work with our mind.
Minding the bedside mindfully, aware, and compassionately comes from realizing the changing nature of our thoughts and from turning and returning the mind inward, transforming the stormy arisings of thoughts, emotions, and feelings and recognizing them to be impermanent phenomena like passing clouds in the sky.
7:35 h Sunday Morning, Montpellier Airport. I am on my way back from that very intensive meditation retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche. Sitting in a cafė in the check-in hall, an advertising banner, hanging from the ceiling, catches my eye. HSBC, one of the largest banks worldwide, tells me: "Pakistan is the world's second largest exporter of textiles." And then: "We see a world of opportunities. And you?" Without even thinking about it, the answer pops up in my mind right away: Yes, I see a world full of opportunities!
I ran into a young girl today, who was part of the Rigpa Yeshe (a parallel program for the children of people attending the retreat). We bonded over my iPhone 4 and the Zen timer app I have on it – it has gongs to start a meditation session; interval bells to divide a session into segments; programmable presets for your morning and evening practice and a journal option to record your thoughts. All in all it’s pretty cool in a very nerdy way, and Noa Sussenbach thought so too.
Excited to find somebody on my wavelength (and to talk about something other than mindfulness, awareness and spaciousness) I asked her if she wouldn’t mind participating in my blog. I was curious about the experience of this retreat from the perspective of a teenager, and also pretty amazed that a teenager would even come to a meditation retreat. When I was in my teens, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know my rear end from my front. I was definitely ensnared in the ocean of samsara, and its pounding waves of high school, boy crushes, mean girls and adolescent acne (a fate worse than death).
According to an article by Thomas Roth, PhD in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine titled, Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology, and Consequences, up to 30% of the adult population in the United States suffer from some form of insomnia or sleep disturbance. That's 90-million people just in our country who don't sleep well!
A common question that seems to come up in conversation a lot these days is whether meditation can cure insomnia. As an avid practitioner of meditation – and insomnia! – I can attest to the fact that meditation and mindfulness practices can help to alleviate insomnia. I'm not sure about cure, since underlying factors are usually to blame for sleeplessness.
While these aspects of meditation can provide us with the support necessary to achieve a stable meditation practice, and while a formal meditation practice is the only way to become familiar with our mind, the primary reason to meditate is to become familiar with our true nature within our ordinary daily life.