Meditation means practicing compassion for ourselves and others. It sounds rather easy, but it ain’t. Silencing the Judgy McJudgerson that dwells within is very tricky because that J-McJ is a wily, well-armed bastard.
He’s got two guns–one aimed at your head and one at everyone else’s. I’ve been listening to Pema Chödrön’s Noble Heart lecture where she revisits meditation instructions and provides solutions for meditation challenges. A common thread in the meditation instruction involves two intentions:
- The end of suffering for yourself and others.
- Happiness for yourself and others.
Each intention starts with the self and moves outward. Sounds simple. As Pema Chödrön so succinctly puts it, “When you’re sad think of others, and when you’re happy think of others.”
The benefit of this approach is that when you’re sad, angry, in pain, or lonely, and manage to think of others, you know that you’re never alone. It reminds me a bit of that old adage “misery loves company”, except that you truly wish for the best for all concerned.
I think that we do a lot of damage to ourselves when we start thinking that we’re the only ones dealing with painful emotions or circumstances. This can arouse our inner J-McJ who’s quick to jump on our own vulnerabilities and hit us with two quick kicks to the kidneys.
The least of the damage is self-pity. The worst is self-destructive coping mechanisms that further erode our connection to ourselves and others, such as drug and alcohol abuse, over eating, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, or other numbing out strategies: workaholism, compulsive TV watching, gambling, you-name-it…
We’re all pretty good at self-defeat. Many plod along the downward path, while others drive Kawasaki Ninjas down it. The faster and farther you travel down the bad road, the harder it is to change direction. As long as you’re still alive, it’s never too late to take a turn for the better.
Lately, I’ve been in the position where I have more time to practice meditation, and the intentions that I mentioned above. Why? Well, because I was recently laid off.
I thought I would be spared, but I was wrong. I was flabbergasted and stricken because I so enjoyed the work I was doing and the people I was working with. I remember walking down that long hallway to the HR office and feeling stunned.
I felt submerged when severance details and condolences were expressed. As I tossed my stuff into a file box, people streamed in to say goodbye. That was really hard. Kindness is often my undoing, and it’s difficult to say goodbye for an ending I didn’t plan.
I thought of all the others in the office that day who got the news, and the awful task of my colleagues who had to notify the unlucky. I thought of all the other laid-off workers I’ve read about in business news and only gave a momentary “poor-them” consideration. I now have more of an appreciation for how they felt.
Then, I went home and cried for a while. But that’s OK because crying when I’m sad is my new thing. It helps me feel better and then move on. I’m also spending more time with my family and friends, looking for work, re-evaluating my personal and work goals, and having some fun.
The other day, I went for a three-hour ski through the back-country trails in the Gatineau Park with my husband. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping; we laughed, and talked, and whooped our way down some wild downhills. It was magical.
Today is my birthday. My husband and I went out for lunch, and he was flabbergasted at the amount of sushi I could put away. I savoured the sweet rice, the fruity avocado, the salty tang of glistening fish, and the chewiness of the seaweed that held it all together. Every bite was superb.
I’m wishing you sun and fresh air, and the most exquisite sushi ever. Unless of course, you don’t like sushi. In that case, you are a cretin with the palate of an infant, and I wish you Chicken McNuggets instead.