Neil started us off with some reflections on why habits might be important, to balance the view on challenging habits. He mentioned Viral's lovely piece on Why I Make Time to Sit, where Viral writes, "Looking within is a major pillar in my life, and if I wasn’t setting aside timeto focus solely on that, that meant I was prioritizing other things, and did I really want to do that? The answer that came up for me was invariably, no, and so this became a good litmus test for how my intentions were manifesting in actuality."
I liked this piece very much, for it brings up some deep questions. If we are in Viral's position having similar thoughts, how do we know that we're reacting to an impulse to feel good in meditation, versus reflecting and responding to make a better decision? The answer is in the lines that Neil quoted - Viral shared that conscious decision on prioritizing what is important, which necessarily involves stepping back, enlarging our view, and then selecting what is most judicious. It is what we mean by "freedom" - we are free to choose, and when we accept our freedom and manifest it through our actions, there is a marked difference in quality when compared to those times when we act impelled by an urge that controls us.
CFDad also referred to Viral's piece - he could connect most with the following part, "the hardest part is to get yourself on the cushion – often, things flow on smoothly from there. In my experience I’ve found that, while I might regret not having sat, I’ve never regretted deciding to meditate." He found that this was so true and many of us would concur :).
To me, this passage brought up the need to distinguish between reaction and response. In an interview with my professor that I had the privilege to record, he shared how one might develop awareness in life when undergoing an "episode" of being upset. Here is my paraphrase, "First, accept that I am upset. That is an important awareness and creates some distance from what is happening. Next, accept that you I am having the thought "upset." We know that we are not our thoughts, and this creates more distance. Then, accept that the thought "upset" is having me. We now have enough distance to recognize that we can select our thoughts, and we might want to make a better selection." This, to me, is meditation with my eyes open.
The passage was really remarkable for it points to an important psychological theory, that of cognitive dissonance, which is now well-established in the literature (now in book form, through Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me). The theory says that we don't like having contradictory opinions, and we will go to great lengths to leave out or filter information that would have otherwise caused us to revise our beliefs. In other words, we choose "fight or flight." How might we transcend this?
In my own life, I have seen two separate instances where Nipun, and a monk I know, were being scolded for something. In both instances, both Nipun and the monk jumped over to the side of the scolder and encouraged them on, which of course led to the scolder being unable to scold any further! While developing awareness is like hitting cognitive dissonance with a hammer and cracking it up after several blows, love is like a bulldozer that scares cognitive dissonance with its mere appearance. There is something about the love that Nipun and the monk were able to invoke, definitely after a long practice of awareness, that transformed the situation.
In my own experience, whenever I have experimented loving someone that I had previously not loved (or worse, judged), the relationship has transformed, with me learning so much more than what I thought was possible. Judging others is the antithesis of love, and Jennifer's sharing reminded me of a quote that Chris sent me really made my day. "We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions." What a disparity!
Pancho shared three deep things - one that I particularly liked was the third option, which my professor often advocates. Be not a believer, nor a disbeliever/skeptic. What is left is a third space, which cannot be appropriately labeled. Any questioning in this space comes from a foundation of openness and a desire to learn in the deepest way possible.
Santosh shared how she continues to learn from her children, and is more conscious of her own habits in order to set a good example for them. Parenting is a blessing-in-disguise, a great opportunity for introspection. Ripa shared beautiful thoughts which I hope she will write as a comment.
Lynn's sharing took me into a space of deep gratitude for Wednesdays - CFMom, although unwell, was there to support our journeys.