Musings of the InsightLA teachers
When I was little, I wanted to know about money, and why some people were called rich. I asked my mother, “Are we rich?” My father was an academic and my mother a homemaker who sewed and ironed our clothes and froze our tuna sandwiches in bulk. After they defrosted in our lunch boxes we ate them, damp and soggy… My mother answered, “We’re rich in love and happiness.” I felt frustrated. This answer didn’t address my wanting to know where we stood with the money part.
Years later, as a grown-up, I appreciate her answer. Love and happiness are indeed our truest riches. It was on my meditation cushion that I first learned to trust that there is ample love in the universe. I learned to open to and connect with my inner riches with metta, with creativity, with understanding, with the inner sources of love and happiness that are ever available to all.
It was through psychotherapy and continued meditation practice that I began to know and accept all parts of myself, to feel truly at home in my own life. I remember walking into my little Cambridge apartment one day and hearing an inner voice say, “Trudy, you are complete!” It was startling, and true; I felt completely at peace. I hadn’t felt such total ease in my own skin before. And now I did. It had happened gradually, but I realized it all at once.
Breath by breath, moment by moment, with loving awareness, we create a home for the heart and this home is our refuge. We build community and the community supports us. We reveal our minds and hearts and our minds & hearts strengthen us. We open to life and life opens to us. We open to love and love opens to us
I'm in San Francisco at the Wisdom 2.0 conference asking how to bring wisdom and compassion to our use of technology. There are many competing views on this. It is like the ancient story about six people who are blind touching different parts of an elephant and describing what they discover. Touching the side, one says it is like a wall, the trunk is like a snake, a tusk is like a spear, leg, a tree, ear, a fan or tail, a rope. They get into a fight about the truth each has seen. A wise woman witnessing this calmly explained to them, "All of your are right. The whole elephant has all those features each of you named."
Each of us carries part of the truth through our unique perspectives, but we need each other to see the whole picture, the whole elephant. Mindfulness offers us a way to do this, like a Super power. It suffuses what we see with clarity and compassion, revealing the panoramic nature of interrelatedness and interconnectedness, of consciousness itself. When we learn to open our consciousness, we can step beyond our fixations on what's often a limited, partial and particular view.
Here at the conference, we see technology, too, as a Super power - social media and the digital world have the potential to hugely enhance our ability to communicate and understand different points of view. But without mindfulness and technology being wed, in the way the current online world is designed, we are at the mercy of algorithms constantly filtering what we see, restricting and narrowing our view. These 'filter bubbles' polarize and silo us, making it increasingly difficult to look at people and current events in all their rich, nuanced diversity - with a wider lens of unfiltered awareness.
With mindfulness we can step back and see with a broader perspective. Whether in our use of technology or in our personal and collective problems, seeing the whole elephant is wisdom, and wisdom brings compassion. Wherever you are, step back. Let yourself see the whole picture, and with an open heart and mind see the miracle, diversity, and kinship of all life.
Retreats are powerful. They give you a chance to reset, refresh, and de-clutter your mind. They offer time to resolve unfinished things in your heart, to learn to see yourself and the world with eyes of compassion and forgiveness.
Retreats help to attune to your inner rhythms and to the immense current of universal life flowing through you as you. On retreat you can let your guard down, let your heart open and your body-mind unwind. In the safety and refugeof community, you learn to relax and rest in the richness of life as it is. And at the end of the retreat the benefit is visible: whether it's a day or a week or longer, everyone looks younger, more open, clear-eyed, and radiant.
As practitioners at InsightLA, you benefit from the practice and presence of those around you in your classes and sitting groups. There is a nourishing energy and support in sitting together. This is further strengthened in retreat. Take a moment now and ask yourself: is it time for a retreat? Can a retreat serve you? What might be stopping you from taking time to support your being in this healthy way?
If you can, take the opportunity - and plan to include a silent retreat in your life this year! Retreats can be healing, transfomative and profound, so I encourage you to dip your toes in and explore. You'll be glad you did!
P.S. there is a daylong retreat with me happening next Saturday February 17th. Or better yet, mark your calendar for our 6 night residential Insight Meditation retreat in April.
Ram Dass, speaking from his wheelchair, said: "It's easier to go around the world to help cure blindness and build hospitals than to need someone to pick me up and put me to bed." Even when we're able-bodied, we know what he means. It's easier for me to help you than to ask you to help me -- whether it's to pick up something heavy I'm not allowed to lift yet, or drop something off at my house because driving is still off limits, or -- to ask you to support InsightLA.
Asking feels as though we are making ourselves vulnerable, and we are! We open ourselves to possible rejection or refusal. Yet, as the poet Rilke said, "Ultimately it's upon our vulnerability that we depend." We're vulnerable to each other, we're raised by other mammals. Our safety riding through a green light depends utterly on other people stopping at a red light. The truth is that we are all interconnected.
We can choose to shut down our vulnerability and never ask for what we need, or we can open to the reality that we depend on mutual caring and let the heart respond. Our openness and responsiveness as human beings leads us to one another. This vulnerability we feel is actually a gateway to experiencing interdependence.
When we understand this, both asking and giving build trust. We know that we can be here for one another, and we are. Just as we trust that sunlit days will lengthen after every winter solstice, there comes the trust that we can practice receiving as well as giving. As we open to receiving, we generously allow others the chance to give. In this way, we experience our interdependence, our interbeing, and love - a quiet joy that enriches our lives and makes the Dharma, the teachings of mindfulness and compassion, flourish.