One City

sharon_salzberg.jpgThis is another post by Sharon Salzberg for the One City Blog. Sharon is one of three Buddhist lineage mentors for the Interdependence Project. She is also one of the foremost (and most awesome) Buddhist meditation teachers in America. She will next be teaching at the I.D. Project on November 11, 2009 as part of our Fall Buddhist Study Course. Check out other opportunities to study with her below.

–Ethan Nichtern

Meditation, Stress-Relief
, Fear, and Lovingkindness

As I have learned through my own years of experience, meditation can help us to relax, defuse stress and experience greater calm. It is also a way to explore the mind-body relationship, connect to our feelings, challenge our habits of fear and self-judgment, and discover a more sustained, genuine happiness. The insight we gain in meditation practice helps us see what in fact we cannot control, which translates into our ability to have healthier
boundaries about our work and our efforts to make this a better world.

Meditation helps us see our own difficult mind states ­ such as anger or fear or a sense of helplessness­ with compassion instead of self-judgment. It also provides a refuge during life’s storms by helping us connect compassionately with others, no matter the circumstances. Especially in times of uncertainty or pain, meditation broadens our perspective and deepens our courage. The spaciousness of mind and greater ease of heart that naturally arise through balanced awareness and compassion are fundamental components of a resilient spirit.

A few years ago I was set to do a 5 week course on lovingkindness meditation at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The program director, Grace, and I planned the course and decided to ask everyone attending to undertake a service project:–helping out in a soup kitchen, serving the homeless, volunteering in a hospice ­ something along those lines. But once the notice about the course went out, people began calling Grace, saying things like
“I’d like to volunteer somewhere, but in addition to working I’m taking care of my mother with Alzheimer’s, can that count?” “I have young children, and am overwhelmed as it is; can I possibly count that as my service?”

As Grace recounted these phone calls to me, I felt quite embarrassed at having missed how much care-giving so many do every day; no fanfare, no title, often no remuneration.

Ever since then I’ve tried to be quite consciously inclusive when I consider who is a caregiver. In two forthcoming programs I’m doing, I’d like to invite anyone who considers themselves a caregiver to participate, regardless of role or title.

One is a 3 day retreat for caregivers at the Insight Meditation Society in September, where we will practice meditation and yoga and explore the nature of resilience.

And the other is an evening and daylong in New York City in October, with a friend of
mine, Cheri Maples, who is a former police officer in Madison and a student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Cheri and I, along with the group, will explore the dimensions of the heart in service.

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