Meditation: Epiphany, Discovery and Newness, by Catherine Rathbun (Lama Jetsun Yeshe)

Epiphany, discovery and newness: these three words cover a wide range of experience, from the mundane to the esoteric.

In terms of Buddhist meditation practice, the most important aspect of all is the moment by moment mindful attention to what is taking place at any one time. When we train the mind to do that, then we discover much.

We discover the moment of ‘now’ that brings a sense of freshness or newness to each day. We begin to appreciate that each day we are alive is a precious gift that has been granted to us. As we pay attention more and more, we uncover layers of understanding that have been waiting there all this time for us to notice. We discover how connected we are to each other, as human beings, that we are part and parcel of our environment and part of in interweave between all of creation that is vast, for it stretches beyond us to the natural world. The epiphany that results is the waking up to that fact.

What follows is our responsibility to participate in this world in a different way. If the epiphany statement is true, that we are deeply and inextricably connected to each other and to the natural world, then we must stop harming each other and our planet. For in harming others and abusing the environment, we are harming ourselves.

At the personal level, the precious gift of life and our awareness of it, brings us daily into a place of joy and gladness. We find ourselves easily taking a vow to “make each day count”. When I made this vow for myself on my 30th birthday, I understood it in a very action oriented way. Now at 69 years of age, I perceive it differently. Without the energy of that 30 year old self, I must find new ways to make a day count. That includes rest periods. But during those rest periods, I find that the creative juices are stirring. Rising from that rest period, I come to my writing or my class preparation with newly integrated ideas and confidence.

After more than 40 years of meditation training and experience, I am mostly comfortable with living within a multi-layered world where consciousness can abide alongside ignorance, where seemingly unstoppable greed can exist alongside supreme generosity. Yet I know that I have a responsibility to choose how to live each day and I choose to try to always live according to the moral principles of honesty, restraint, kindness and generosity. These are small things in the small life I lead but I only know how to do this work one heart at a time, one day at a time.

This may seem a small effort with small effect but because I have been so fortunate to work with so many people of varying professions, all of whom wish to make wholesome changes in the world, I feel reassured that the light of compassion and clarity will not go out in this world. The darkness of ignorance may seem to threaten us all at the present time, but if each one of us tries to find an authentic path through life with non-harming as our first watchword, then the world will change.

Perhaps, humanity is like a selfish teenager. May we wake to adulthood before it is too late!

Copyright 2012 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.