Meditation: Endings and Beginnings, by Lama Catherine Rathbun (Jetsun Yeshe)

We are always involved in endings and beginnings. School ends, holidays begin; grade school ends, high school begins; childhood ends, adulthood begins; health ends, illness begins; summer ends, winter begins; day ends, night begins.  Sometimes we welcome the end and the beginning of a cycle with pleasure and eagerness and sometimes we try to prolong and hang on, hoping against hope that things will not end.  Somehow they always do, for that is one of the basics of the human experience.  Usually what causes us to suffer most is this attitude of trying to make permanent that which is constantly involved in flux.  Whether swiftly or slowly, change is always “in the air”.

Because we suffer greatly by resisting these inevitable changes in life, we need to learn how to move with them, if not in harmony, at least with a measure of equanimity.  The biggest opportunity to do this usually comes either through a failed love connection or through the death of a friend.

Watch closely how the mind and emotions hold on at these times.  See how much we may deflect the pain, with blaming others or getting ‘busy’, eating too much or too little, substituting our pain with something else, anything else, rather than feeling it directly.  None of these are bad things in and of themselves.  They are coping mechanisms but not healing ones.

Instead we could try to simply sit with the pain in all its raw intensity, watching its rhythms and its voices, hearing our own mind play its stories with a compassionate awareness, a sense of forgiveness and an openness of heart for all the breakings that humankind enters into.  If we can do that, then we can move to the new beginning, whatever it may bring, with a sense of open enquiry, even hope for a better tomorrow.

If we train ourselves in this way, when the day comes that we must meet our own death, we will have a chance of moving into that state with an open, quiet heart, ready for whatever comes next.  We will be better able to allow ourselves to move with that experience and leave this life with a sense of love as the perfume that we leave behind.

Copyright: all rights retained for future publication by 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 Clear Heart, Open Mind, and is currently working on a new book called Waiting for Truffles: Meditations for Daily Living. Her books are available from her directly or from Friends of the Heart or Snow Lion Meditation Shop, both in Toronto.

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