At this holiday time of year, our pleasures and hard times of working with colleagues, the boredom and adventure of modern travel, the frustrating lines and delays—or, the loneliness of missing friends and loved ones—it all can remind us that because everything is relative, everyone we encounter can be considered to be our relative.
Yes: the pharmacist, the doctors, the barista or cashier, the person waiting beside you at the bus stop—everyone offers the opportunity to be friendly and patient, and thus fuels our post-meditation practice.
And as meditators, we can be grateful that the world gives us feedback. How else do we know if we are any more generous, patient and any less self-centered?
Especially at this heightened holiday time of year, recognizing choiceless difficulties can be a 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 off, as well as on the meditation cushion.
If there are no irritations, if the bus or airplane is never delayed, if the child on board never cries and our neighbor’s dog is always quiet—how do we know if 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 about ourselves? 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 know.
Thus we can truly be grateful to everyone.
We can appreciate everyone as our relative—part of a nutty family of sorts—for giving us these opportunities to be mindful, aware and open. Everyone is so helpful—even if not in the conventional sense.
Practicing with this attitude off the meditation cushion is so valuable as we are faced with the hopes, excitements, exhaustion and disappointments of this darkest time of year—at least in the Northern Hemisphere.
Even if we find ourselves with unsurmountable difficulties…like sustained power outages in a Canadian winter, we can breathe out, actually see our breath (!) and relax a bit; that at least diminishes anxiety and brings us to the present moment, giving space for some resourcefulness to occur.
Do we have a fireplace? Does our friendly neighbor have a gas stove? Let’s do a barbecue outside!
Meanwhile, at least it’s cold enough to keep our food fresh. This practice is how we develop equanimity when things go awry and how we have more resiliency and unconditional good cheer to share with whomever we encounter.
No matter what we are doing—walking to work on icy sidewalks, stuck at an airport overnight, feasting with family and friends—it is possible to make a New year’s resolution to Be Grateful to Everyone and Everything!
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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo Credit: Sofarianty Agustin/Pixoto
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