Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stepping toward peace

This morning in my reading, as I near the end of The Wise Heart, Kornfield is writing again about the loving-kindness meditation: visualizing and offering love, first to ourselves, then our benefactors, then loved ones, friends, neutral people, and eventually difficult people, even our enemies.

Kornfield is a wonderful story-teller, and he illustrates this practice with numerous tales, but the one I loved best this morning was a story of an old Hasidic rabbi.

"He asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and day begun, for daybreak is the time for certain holy prayers. "Is it," proposed one student, "when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?" "No," answered the rabbi. "Is it when you can clearly see the lines on your own palm?" "Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell if it is a fig or a pear tree?" "No," answered the rabbi each time. "Then what is it?" the pupils demanded. "It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that they are your sister or brother. Until then it is still night."

I smiled, finished my reading, closed the book, rinsed out my coffee cup, and went into my dark living room. Lighting the candle on the lap of my little buddha, I sat down to practice the loving kindness meditation.

It wasn't easy; I couldn't seem to get past the part where you extend the loving kindness to yourself: lots of parts of me seemed to be blocked. I think I fell asleep at least once in the dark, then lost track of time, checked the clock, closed my eyes again... it wasn't one of my more "successful" meditations.

But at the end I bowed my head briefly, took a deep breath, and began to fold my blanket. And when I opened my eyes and looked out my window, I saw that the sky was beginning to lighten, and two men I'd never seen before were fly-fishing off my beach. "Welcome, my brothers," I thought. "Welcome, day." And, blowing out the candle, I went and got my camera.

It wasn't a perfect shot, and it wasn't a perfect meditation -- it never is. But when the intent is there; when we make the effort and stay the path, there's still a chance for the spirit of compassion to emerge. Though we may not have mastered the challenges set before us, we've at least taken one more step toward peace.

No comments: