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misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the
earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get
comfortable. You can see this even in insects and animals and birds. All of us
are the same.
much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to
begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our
inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness
and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our
own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we
must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of
finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world
ticks, how the whole thing just
we're committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least
edge of pain, we're going to run; we'll never know what's beyond that
particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.
people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they
often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle
aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I
jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer
house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down,
I'd be a better person." Or the scenario may be that they find fault with
others; they might say, "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect
marriage." "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I can't get
on, my job would be just great." And "If it weren't for my mind, my
meditation would be excellent."
loving-kindness—maitri—toward ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything.
Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be
angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of
feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves.
Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become
something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of
practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the
ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous
curiosity and interest.
among Buddhists the word ego is used in a derogatory sense, with a different
connotation than the Freudian term. As Buddhists, we might say, "My ego
causes me so many problems." Then we might think, "Well, then, we're
supposed to get rid of it, right? Then there'd be no problem." On the
contrary, the idea isn't to get rid of ego but actually to begin to take an
interest in ourselves, to investigate and be inquisitive about ourselves.
path of meditation and the path of our lives altogether has to do with
curiosity, inquisitiveness. The ground is ourselves; we're here to study
ourselves and to get to know ourselves now, not later. People often say to me,
"I wanted to come and have an interview with you, I wanted to write you a
letter, I wanted to call you on the phone, but I wanted to wait until I was
more together." And I think, "Well, if you're anything like me, you
could wait forever!" So come as you are. The magic is being willing to
open to that, being willing to be fully awake to that. One of the main
discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the
present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are. That's not considered
to be a problem; the point is to see it.
or curiosity involves being gentle, precise, and open—actually being able to
let go and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves.
Precision is being able to see very clearly, not being afraid to see what's
really there, just as a scientist is not afraid to look into the microscope.
Openness is being able to let go and to open.
effect of this month of meditation that we are beginning will be as if, at the
end of each day, someone were to play a video of you back to yourself and you
could see it all. You would wince quite often and say "Ugh!" You
probably would see that you do all those things for which you criticize all
those people you don't like in your life, all those people that you judge.
Basically, making friends with yourself is making friends with all those people
too, because when you come to have this kind of honesty, gentleness, and
goodheartedness, combined with clarity about yourself, there's no obstacle to
feeling loving-kindness for others as well.
the ground of maitri is ourselves. We're here to get to know and study
ourselves. The path, the way to do that, our main vehicle, is going to be
meditation, and some sense of general wakefulness. Our inquisitiveness will not
be limited just to sitting here; as we walk through the halls, use the
lavatories, walk outdoors, prepare food in the kitchen, or talk to our
friends—whatever we do—we will try to maintain that sense of aliveness,
openness, and curiosity about what's happening. Perhaps we will experience what
is traditionally described as the fruition of maitri—playfulness.
hopefully we'll have a good month here, getting to know ourselves and becoming
more playful, rather than more grim.