Meditation: Keeping it Light, by Catherine Rathbun (Lama Jetsun Yeshe)

In the midst of ordinary life, finding time to answer a spiritual thirst can seem impossible. We are ‘too busy’, have too many calls on our time already and can be forgiven for postponing spiritual work until some mythical date when we will ‘have time’ for it. Besides, spiritual search can seem mysterious and heavy, as we carry our burdens into our quest.

But there are things we can do that are nourishing to the spirit and can help us to move in our chosen direction. We can easily do these each and every day. They can make our journey to the light a seamless interweave with ordinary living.

Here are a few examples:

1) Upon waking in the morning, make a statement of aspiration for the day. It could be cloaked in religious or philosophical terms, if you are already connected to one of the planet’s spiritual traditions. Or it could be something as simple as “May I use this day to develop the good and the wholesome.” Or “May I be kinder and more generous today.” Or “May patience guide my footsteps”. Assessing our lacks and our mistakes and resolving to alter a difficult pattern takes self-honesty and a commitment to a disciplined approach to change your self. Patterns don’t change overnight, so renewing our commitment and setting the tone for the day is a very important step.

2) Practice ‘The Pause’. Before speaking, especially to someone who is troubling to you, pause, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, allowing the mind to feel a momentary quiet. Then focus on the impact that your words are having on the person to whom you are speaking. This seemingly simple technique, all by itself, can allow us the chance to respond rather than react to what has just been said. Slowing down, pausing before speech and paying attention can increase our overall mindfulness in any situation. New pathways of development can spring up and our dialogue with others becomes more meaningful.

3) Sharing Merit. This is a Buddhist term that relates to energy. The tradition teaches that when we aspire, speak and act in a wholesome way, positive energy is built up within. This is called relative merit. When we make a request to the universe to share this energy out to help all beings who are suffering, we are consciously moving outwards to recognize that many on this planet are suffering terribly and hoping that this wholesome energy we have built will pass invisibly to change the overmind towards peace and harmony.

Many more words could be written on this topic and have been by many wise men and women over centuries of time. But if we aspire to live consciously, there is no time to lose, for anger, greed and the delusion of separateness rule our world at the moment. Try these three simple ways to frame your day and watch to see the difference it can make in your personal life. A simple beginning but one with profound implications.

Catherine Rathbun

Catherine Rathbun has studied meditation with His Holiness XVI Karmapa, head of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, and with pre-eminent individuals like Ven. Kalu Rinpoche, Ven. Karma Thinley Rinpoche, Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche and John Coleman. She received her traditional teaching name, Lama Jetsun Yeshe, from Ven. Karma Thinley Rinpoche, a lineage master of the Sakya and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, in 2002. Catherine taught meditation studies at York University for seven years (1989 to 1997). With a background in dance — she was a member of the National Ballet Company of Canada from 1962 to 1963 — and a modern dance career in England (1967-69), she frequently incorporates creative movement exercises into meditation studies as a way to bypass the tight hold that the Western intellect has on one’s development.

She is the author of Developing the World Mind and will soon publish a new book entitled Clear Heart, Open Mind. The book offers clear and practical advice on how to work with the meditation practice of compassion. The author reveals how its force, once activated, can open our world to a place of joy and freedom. When we realize the deep interconnectedness of life, many of our perceived problems disappear.

She is the founding teacher at Friends of the Heart, a meditation centre in Toronto.