Friday, December 20, 2013

Time for a pat on the back

Today is the Solstice, the day when the North Pole is at its maximum tilt from the sun, creating the
longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. I imagine that for the ancients, this marked the beginning of the new year, not some 10 days later when the ball drops in Times Square.

So maybe it's time to take stock. We associate the New Year with resolutions and intentions. Maybe we could make the solstice a celebration of our achievements.

When you deal effectively with a problem, it’s important to acknowledge this to yourself. In daily life or meditation, anytime you heal some suffering you have felt, you must recognize this. Such recognition can enable the powerful energy of joy to flare up. That could be a great focal point for further healing. The third Dodrupchen writes, ‘‘You must recognize that the suffering has actually transformed as the support of the path. Then you must feel a strong and stable stream of joy that is brought about by that recognition.’’ Tulku Thondup

We don't do this enough. We dwell on our faults. Somewhere back in time, it was important to know that we were slow runners and to develop our climbing skills so that if we couldn't outrun a predator we could get away by going up. Then religion told us for hundreds of years that we were bad, maybe born with sin already staining us before we even took a breath. And a consumer-driven culture came along with commercials that tell us the ways that we're inadequate and the things that we need to buy to make up for it.

Not much there are about acknowledging success.

The Dalai Lama says that you should evaluate your practice every 10 years to see if you've made progress. But he speaks with a consciousness that's been around for many, many lifetimes, so he can afford to stretch out the timetable. Conversely, considering your practice after every meditation session or interaction is counter-productive. Every one is different.

But once a year seems about right.

It's Buddhist tradition to end a retreat at sunrise, completing your practice as the sun peeks over the horizon and imagining that the sun's light is the merit of your practice spreading over all beings and everything equally, bringing them toward a realization of their true, brilliant, joyful nature.

So on this solstice, take stock of things you did well. Maybe there was a situation where you were responsive rather than reactive. Maybe you did something kind for someone who won't directly return it (holding doors open counts). Maybe you were generous or loving -- or maybe you just saw the humanity of another person, with all their complexities and frailties and foibles stemming from causes and conditions you don't know, rather than locking them up in a box labeled "Jerk."

Maybe you smiled. And the light of that smile touched innumerable others.

Happy solstice. May all beings, every one, be happy, be healthy, and be safe. May all beings live with ease.

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