Meditation isn't just time spent on the cushion. It's equally about bringing awareness to daily life. At the Y, I bookend my meditation class with suggestions for everyday awareness. Speech and relationships are rich places to pay attention. I pose these questions about speech: Is it truthful? Helpful? Kind? (And is this the right time and am I the right person?) These are deep questions. So much of our cultural chatter is unhelpful, untrue, and unkind. It makes a difference when we attend with care to what we say. The more years I meditate, the less I speak.
My friend Peter took these questions to heart and wrote a lovely song about skillful speech. When he shared it with a neighbor, he got this response: "Isn't that too simplistic? It sounds like kindergarten." This exchange made me wonder: perhaps all we need are basic lessons learned in elementary school.
I recently met with a group of educators of young children. The preschool director said, "Many days, we don't get into curriculum because we're helping kids resolve conflict. We let them know it's okay to disagree but they must treat each other with kindness and respect." Wisdom from preschool. If we all practiced this, our world might heal.
Karen Maezen Miller is a meditation teacher who resurrected a Zen garden in her backyard years ago. Now people flock to her house for garden tours. Her basic rules: 1) Be kind; 2) Don't throw rocks; 3) No running; 4) Pay attention. Ostensibly, these rules apply to young children, but if we overlay them on our adult lives, they're wonderful instructions.
We spend so much time in our thoughts. Thinking, judging, analyzing, planning, and replaying. In doing so, we can over-complicate life. We blame (throw rocks), busy ourselves, and speak unconsciously. We see life as a puzzle to solve rather than a mystery to be lived, moment by moment, with our whole being. Our way back home is through simple lessons we learned as kids:
- Slow down.
- Pay attention.
- Be kind.
- Tell the truth.
- Get outside.
- Take quiet time.
- Help each other.
Back to basics. We don't need much more than this. Simplicity is a beautiful thing. We can practice awareness with the next breath: