January 23, 2018 Group Meditation Part 2 of 2
This talk happened at the Boundless Love Project’s Group Meditation. Before listening to the talk, we suggest you listen to this guided loving-peace meditation, which preceded the talk.
The Queen and The Sage
An ancient Sufi story went something like this: There was a great queen who ruled several kingdoms in the Middle East. Despite her power, wealth, and abilities, she was unhappy. One day she would be walking on air with excitement, elation, and the power to take on the world, but the next day she would be lost in despair, disappointment, and fear. Her life was intolerable. She sent her servants to scour the land in search of an enlightened spiritual teacher who could show her the way out of her misery.
Finding an enlightened teacher, the servants asked her if she could counsel the queen to help her out of her misery. She agreed and went with them to the palace and met the queen. The queen told her, “I want to be serene and peaceful like you. Can you give me something that will bring balance, peace, and serenity into my life? I will pay you whatever you whatever you ask.”
The wise woman responded, “I may be able to help you, but what you ask for is worth far more than all you possess. Since you cannot afford it, I will give it to you freely, if you promise to honor it.”
The queen agreed. At this, the wise woman gave the queen a simple gold ring inscribed with the words, “This, too, will pass.”
The queen suspiciously looked at the wise woman with a questioning expression. The wise woman explained, “Wear this ring always. No matter what happens, before you judge the situation as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ look at the ring and read its inscription. In this way, you will learn the ways of peace.”
The queen faithfully followed the sage woman’s advice. When the droughts came and the crops failed, the queen looked at her ring and read, “This, too, shall pass.”
When her birthday arrived and she celebrated joyously with a great feast surrounded by friends and family, the queen looked at her ring and read, “This, too, shall pass.”
Over time, the Queen experienced a shift in her perspective. She saw clearly how every thought, emotion, mood, and situation would arise and pass away. Seeing the changing nature of everything, she stopped depending on the fleeting, transient things of the world to bring her satisfaction. She let go of needing and wanting things to be a certain way. She was no longer attached to the things of this world. The queen came to understand a paradoxical truth: everything is precious and to be honored, and at the same, everything is insignificant, and not worth getting upset over.
Seeing clearly that everything changed, and was thus unreliable, she stopped demanding that the world make her happy, and she became more concerned with how she could benefit and serve life. She found her skillful desire to live in accordance with truth, love, and service to be a reliable, dependable source of inner peace, joy, and tranquility, regardless of her situation.
The queen could now constantly feel her radiant inner peace, love, and joy. These qualities had been with her all along, but the delusions of greed and aversion had hidden them from her. Living with a balanced mind, open heart, and relaxed body, she ruled her kingdoms skillfully with wisdom, kindness, generosity, compassion, and love, and all life thrived under her rule.
The Truth of Change
When we embrace the truth that everything changes, we stop reacting with greed and aversion to the inevitable ups and downs of life. Why? Because that’s how this world works. Everything changes. Why be upset by it? Why resist it? Why resist the truth of what has already happened? Why try to force something that is going to change to stay the same? Does any of our clinging or resistance benefit ourselves or others or positively impact the situation?
The more we pay attention, the more we find out that the delusions of greed and aversion only intensify our mental and emotional suffering, and cause us to act in ways that harm ourselves and others. When we see this clearly, out of a concern for our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of all life, we start to let go of greed and aversion. As a result, inner peace naturally arises.
In today’s talk, we will review peace: the love that allows. Peace enables us to weather the eight worldly winds with a calm, relaxed body; an open and connected heart; and a balanced, spacious mind.
Why Understanding Love is Important
This series of talks covers the four kinds of love, because as your meditation and mindfulness practice deepens, you will be living more and more from these states.
Your body is your detection system for when delusions are present and active. If a delusion is present, there will be a corresponding emotion in the body or mood in the mind. This tells you a delusion is active.
When delusions are not present or not active, your mind is balance and spacious, your heart is open and connected, and your body is calm and relaxed. In addition, you will be in one of the four states of love: kindness, peace, compassion, or joy.
By understanding these states of love, you are better able to distinguish states of love from egoic states of delusion. Knowing whether ego or love is present aids you in purifying your thoughts, weeding the delusions from the garden of your mind. Whenever you find an egoic, self-centered thought that cause you to suffer and act unskillfully, you substitute it with an absolute truth, a life-centered thought that allows you to be calm and peaceful in the same situation.
For example, the egoic thought “How dare he insults me!” becomes the life-centered thoughts, “This person is trapped by ego and suffering. I will offer him compassion.”
In an effort to help you purify your thoughts, this talk will go over what peace is, and which delusion attempts to disguise itself as peace.
Peace is the love that allows. Peace is a state that allows you to confront challenges and difficulty with a calm, balanced mind. Peace is a very pleasant, soothing, relaxed state that is free of emotional disturbances. Peace is epitomized by a loving mother who gives her teenage son the freedom he needs to make mistakes, grow, learn, and mature.
Peace has a Universal View
Peace looks at the world from a universal or life-centered perspective, and recognizes that we are all one. Peace views yourself as one cell in the body of life, and works for the benefit of all life. Peace knows that your individual happiness can best be served by working for the happiness of the whole of life.
With this view, you stay tranquil, nonreactive, and skillful during difficulties, inconveniences, and slights, because you realize life is not about you. Life is about life, and when we work in harmony with life, we can be a glorious and fulfilled part of that life. This life-centered view allows us to transcend difficulties and challenges in our life.
Peace Has an Open Heart
The delusion in us confuses the state of peace with state of apathy. Although both states can feel peaceful, the state of peace has an open and connected heart. Apathy, on the other hand, has a closed and uncaring heart. Apathy simply does not care about other’s suffering and that is why it doesn’t bother them.
When a loving mother gives her teenage son the freedom to make mistakes, it is because she wishes the best for him, not because she no longer cares about what happens to him. So when you feel peaceful, be mindful that your heart is open and connected, so you are not practicing apathy.
The antidote for apathy is compassion, which we will cover in next week’s talk.
Peace is the Antidote to the Delusions of Greed and Aversion
Peace is the antidote to the delusions of greed and aversion. The queen in the Sufi story was in a constant cycle of elation and discouragement because of her greed and aversion. As she realized that everything changes, she saw how unreliable all these changing things were as a source of happiness and security. In this way, she became calm, tranquil, and at ease despite all of the inevitable changes.
When peace is present, we respond to whatever arises with skill and ease. Greed and aversion are seen as the delusions they are, and they are let go of because we see that they cause us misery and cause us to harm ourselves and others. If you are in a state of greed or aversion, shift to a state of peace through a mini-breath meditation. Tell yourself, “It is as it is.” Let peace be your antidote to these delusional states.
To Summarize, peace feels good and allows us to do good. Peace keeps the mind balanced and spacious because it is focused on how we can best contribute to the common good. Peace keeps the heart open and connected so we are best able to serve the common good. Peace keeps our body calm and relaxed, because when we serve the common good, we benefit too.
Delusion tries to pass off apathy as peace, but apathy has a closed heart and doesn’t care. The cure to apathy is compassion.
Peace is the antidote to both greed and aversion. So when these delusions arise, do your best to greet them with a clam and relaxed body, a balanced and inquisitive mind, and an open and connected heart, so these delusions can be swallowed up by your inner peace.
Peace is the love that allows. This is why peace even allows delusions to be present in the body without reacting to them.
Danna Faulds’ “Allow”
I conclude with a poem by Danna Faulds titled, “Allow.”
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.
Activity: If you can’t change it, let it be.
This activity comes from Toni Bernhard’s book How to Wake Up. On a trip to Paris in 2001, Toni was diagnosed with an acute viral infection, and has never recovered. Her continuing health problems, and the resulting limitations, caused her to go deeper spiritually. In 2010 she authored the book How to Be Sick to give and comfort to others who suffer from chronic disease.
Here is how the activity works:
1. Bring to mind a minor irritation.
2. Then acknowledge that you are fine with all of the options.
For example, after the snowstorm last night and this morning, there was concern as to if the street I live on would be plowed in time for me to come to the meeting, and if the library would be open tonight for this evening’s group meditation. Given this minor irritation, here is one way in which to acknowledge that you are fine with all of the options:
“If the street is plowed today, fine. If it is not plowed, that would be fine too. I may need to leave much earlier for the group meditation and ask neighbors to help push the car when it gets stuck. All of this will give me the opportunity to practice remaining at peace with what is.”
“If the library is open today, fine. If it is not open, that would be fine too. I can simply email everyone to say that our group meditation will not happen.”
Now, you bring to mind a minor, yet annoying situation, then be fine with all of the options.
If, as you are voicing being fine with an option, you hear another voice inside you yelling, “No! this is not OK!” notice that. That is the aversion in you. See how aversion only adds unpleasantness to an already unpleasant situation. See how aversion intensifies your dissatisfaction. See how it complicates your situation. See how aversion wants to make you act out in unskillful ways. When you clearly see aversion, and all of its negative consequences, you see its delusional nature and let it go, for your benefit and the benefit of all life.