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Lions Roar : November 2018
I DON’T LIKE MEDITATING I’ve been meditating for a long time, but the truth is I don’t really like it. I meditate because I think I’m supposed to. It does help me in my life, but usually I find it boring and not enjoyable. Will I ever like meditating, or is that not the point? LILA KATE WHEELER: Congratulations! Most people never feel like meditating. How great that you actually do it, and want to refine your abilities. I bet you already have deeper motivations than “supposed to.” Before starting your meditation, try recalling a specific way you knew meditation has helped you (and others, no doubt) in life. When you are meditating, grant yourself permission to be easy, simple, open for experiences. Feel your body. If you lack joy, let it be. Instead of fixing it, explore. What’s this like for your body? Check for attitudes. If there’s disliking or judging present, that’s OK. Don’t force yourself to be perfect. Breathe. Stay present and persist in gentle exploration. Bathe the whole mess in compassion or equanimity as needed. If you get over- whelmed, shift your attention or blink your eyes. Finally, we all tend to import the obscurations of samsara into meditation. Samsara demands things to be a certain way. Can you know your own deepest heart, beyond techniques or measurements? Who’s that sweet being who persists, even though life gets hard? Can you rest with them? Hope this helps. LILA KATE WHEELER co-leads the current teacher training cycle at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and is revising her second novel, Red Lotus. PRACTICING FOR MYSELF I’m part of a Mahayana Buddhist dharma center where we are encouraged to practice for the benefit of all sentient beings. I like the idea of practicing to benefit everyone, but even after many years, I feel like I’m still practicing for my own benefit so I’ll suffer less. Is that a problem? THUBTEN CHODRON: The Mahayana intention is to attain buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings most effectively. It is based on great compassion—the wish that everyone be free from suffering and its causes—and great love, the wish that everyone have happiness and its causes. These are noble states of mind, ones that take years if not lifetimes to cul- tivate and make stable. It takes time to uproot our self-centeredness, because the attitude of looking out for ourselves first is deeply ingrained in our minds. Fortunately, it’s not an innate quality and can be gradually abandoned as we cultivate its antidotes. Seeing the disadvantages of self-centeredness opens our hearts to cherish- ing others. Doing this is a slow, but worthwhile process. It takes time to transform our minds, but however long it takes, we can take comfort in knowing we are going in a wonderful direction. Initially our reason to mediate will be primarily for our own benefit, so that we’ll suffer less. That’s normal. But slowly, slowly, as we open our hearts to others’ kindness and see that they are just like us—that we all want happiness and freedom from misery—our perspective will broaden to include more and more sentient beings. As we experience the benefit of generating love, compassion, and altruism—the joy and freedom in our hearts—we will be inspired to continue. Each day we generate these feelings— even when they are a bit contrived—we are planting seeds of virtue in our mindstream. Please be patient and give yourself credit for the small steps you are taking to go in this most wonderful direction. VENERABLE THUBTEN CHODRON is the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in Washington State. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 54