For someone aspiring to enter the Mahayana path of compassion, the relative reality that comprises our world is very important. Without the sensational world of appearances there would be no journey on that path. We would have no feedback from the phenomenal world to see if we were making any progress. How else do we know if we are any more generous and patient and any less self-centered?
This relative or conventional reality is so rich in experience. And at this holiday time of year all our pleasures and hard times of working with colleagues, all the boredom and adventures of modern travel, all the frustrating lines and delays—all are reminders that, because everything is relative, everyone we encounter can be considered to be our relative! And furthermore, we can be grateful to them for they fuel our practice post-meditation.
Without recognizing these situations as path, especially at this heightened holiday time of year, we have no way to develop fearlessness, exertion, insightful prajna, and problem solving. It is in fact these very hassles and obstacles, along with the good times to which we get so attached, that remind us to practice mindfulness-awareness on and off the cushion.
If there are no irritations, if the bus or the airplane is never delayed, if the child on board never cries and our neighbor’s dog is always quiet—how do we know that we have developed patience? If there is never a snowplow burying the sidewalk just after we have shoveled it, how do we know if we have a sense of humor? Are we falling back into the habitual pattern of taking ourselves seriously? Without working with and enjoying the company and chaos of others, it’s difficult to test our selflessness.
Thus as practitioner we can truly……
Be Grateful to Everyone!
We can appreciate all sentient beings as our relatives—a crazy family of sorts—for giving us these opportunities to practice mindfulness-awareness! Every being from Buddha to the cat that chases the squirrel up a tree is helpful to us.
Practicing with this attitude off the cushion is so valuable as we are faced with the hopes, excitements, exhaustion, and disappointments of this darkest time of year—at least in this Northern Hemisphere. How else can we realize our bodhisattva potential? Even if we find ourselves with unsurmountable difficulties, we can relax with the situation just as it is and at least that diminishes our anxiety. With gratitude for whatever occurs and for whomever appears we develop equanimity when things go awry and have more resiliency and unconditional good cheer to share with others.
No matter what we are doing—walking to work, stuck at an airport overnight, feasting with friends—it is possible to make a New Year’s resolution to Be Grateful to Everyone!