Meditation is sitting. Breathing. When you meditate, you detach from your thoughts. You don't try to stop them, you don't focus on them. You let them pass. You focus on your breath.
Sometimes, depending upon which specific meditation practice you do, you focus on cultivating gentleness or non-judgment as you breathe. You breathe in the cool, damp, heavy air of judgment and suffering. You breathe out the warm, light air of compassion, kindness, and patience.
Your spiritual life is divided into spiritual practice and post-practice--meditation, and post-meditation. Meditation, and the rest of your life. And gradually you dissolve the barrier between practice and post-practice, so that the qualities defining your spiritual practice--patience, gentleness, non-judgment, egoless-ness--become the qualities defining your day-to-day life. Slowly you move away from "me, me, me!" habits. You learn to put others before yourself. You learn to reserve judgment and offer compassion instead.
At least that is how it is supposed to work.
Sometimes I offer no compassion. Sometimes I am angry; I judge, as I have been unjustly judged, and I hate, as I have been unjustly hated. I fight against this urge. I repeat, "Compassion! Forgiveness! Patience!" in my head like it's a mantra, but it sounds more like a battle-cry.
By myself, I am a visibly gay woman, and I pay its day-to-day toll. I don't need my girlfriend to kiss me in public for people to give me the angry looks that I know all too well. My hair is short, and my body is athletic and efficient from five years of karate. I've had little girls at my karate dojo come up to me in the locker room and tell me bluntly that I need to be in the boys' locker room. I am so frequently mistaken for a man at first glance that it hardly gives me pause when people address me as "hey buddy," "yo man," or "excuse me, sir." My girlfriend's mother had only one comment about me: "If you insist upon dating women, why do you have to date women who look like men?"
They say it was a straw that broke the camel's back. I fight a day-to-day battle of straws. I keep breathing.
How do I offer my compassion?
How do I cultivate gentleness, patience?
When I am directly confronted with intolerance and bigotry, what is my duty? What is my duty as a spiritual human being? What is my duty as a member of this society? How should I act in order to be a patriot?