Last October, my friend Vanessa invited me to her home for her mother’s surprise birthday party. I had been teaching her meditation over the past year. http://wgrnradio.com/blog/2011/09/16/positive-potential-medicine-22-calming-your-thoughts-with-meditationlook-before-you-flushcognitive-therapy-for-happiness/
As a combined graduation and house gift, I gave her a framed poster of my seven mantras: the “answers” to the seven questions I use as angles of reflection in daily meditation.
The seven questions remind us that we exist at many different levels though we often restrict our conscious gaze to a narrowed aspect of our experience. When we are caught up in the busyness of the day, preoccupied with a crisis, or reacting to the heat of an emotional moment, we can get stuck in unhealthy mental or emotional states. In panic, in anger or in inattention, we may act or speak in ways out of sync with our deeper values and true selves.
How often do we say things we don’t mean? How often do we regret acting rashly? Without reflection, it is our nature to take our relationships for granted and be blind to the beauty before us.
Last week at Vanessa’s own birthday party, I saw that she had mounted the framed mantra poster in an appropriate place for daily reflection – the bathroom. I also noted a long crack in the glass.
My first thought was that I should replace that piece of glass. Not only might it pose a safety hazard, broken glass may make it difficult for a meditator to make her mind a still pond.
But upon reflection, I realized that it may be best left as it is.
Just as it is easier for students to study in a quiet library, meditation is easier under perfect conditions: alone in a quiet, peaceful setting.
It is easier to think kind thoughts and to speak mindfully when the other person is not shouting at you. It is easier to see beauty and nurture loving feelings when our children are sweet babies and not angry teenagers.
The true test of a student’s learning is the test in the field – how what has been learned is applied to the challenging conditions of real life. We – and our world – are not perfect. Yet we are still beautiful and worthy of love.
Meditation is worthless if it does not enhance peace, meaning and happiness in our messy, unpredictable lives. The test of spiritual growth is to live meaningful lives in alignment with our greatest values and to see beauty and experience love in this imperfect world.
Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese aesthetic that helps us see beauty in the impermanence and imperfection of nature. In our daily lives, we complain about imperfections in others and in everything else. We are not happy when things don’t go as planned, when service is poor, when traffic is slow, when appliances breakdown and when others disappoint us.
But when we think about even our worst days, it is never true that “nothing went right.” In fact, most things do go our way. Most people are good and decent most of the time.
A beautiful cherry blossom is not completely symmetrical. The people we love do not have perfect athletic bodies and movie star’s faces. Yet they are still beautiful and worthy of our love.
So are you.
A simple and natural crack in the glass is a gentle reminder to see through to the beauty in our daily lives.