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These are Vipassana (Insight) Meditation instructions that were written by Ram Dass. Ram Dass passed away yesterday at the age of 88. He was a beloved spiritual teacher who wrote the books “Be Here Now” and “Be Love Now”. He said, “I want my life to be a statement of love and compassion and where it isn’t, that’s where my work lies.” Giving this guided meditation is my tribute to him. Go here for more: https://www.ramdass.org/meditation-2/
Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.
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“The Great Way Is Not Difficult for Those Who Have No [Addiction to] Preferences” -Sengcan
Have you ever had the experience where someone says, “Where should we go eat?” and you say, “I don’t know, what do you want?” and you really mean it?
Sometimes this is a frustrating situation, one of the little things that really bothers couples. I want to apply that to “those who have no addiction to preferences”. Can we apply this sort of attitude to other areas of our lives? Can we reduce our preferences and stop having such strong opinions all the time? Or at least stop holding them so tightly? I think we can.
We cling tightly to our preferences, so much so that if something goes wrong, we obsess about it at times, instead of trying to work through whatever the problem is. We sometimes tend to think that if we got the right job, the right situation, or the right spouse…then we can finally be happy. Ironically, that kind of thinking can tend to stop us from being happy. It can stop us from taking opportunities and it can stop us from appreciating what we have.
When we’re self-obsessed, when we’re thinking too much and too often about the ways we wish our lives were different, that makes us unhappy. But we get caught up in those feelings. It’s really similar to feelings of “I’m not good enough.” We get so wrapped up in these things sometimes that we don’t even see them.
But, if we can learn to relax, to stop thinking about controlling things so much, then we can find a sense of ease. There is a lot of comfort in just relaxing and waiting to see what happens. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to improve our situation or better ourselves. Of course we should. But I wonder if, with practice, we can hold onto our preferences a little more loosely.
“When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised.”
When we pay attention to our preferences, we begin to realize that we’re trapped. We’re pulled around by these preferences, even when they don’t make sense to us. The mind distorts the way we see the world and keeps us obsessed with preferences and delusion. If we can bring some equanimity to the situation, then things can become more clear to us.
* quotes are taken from “Trust in Mind” by Mu Soeng
Want to come meditate with me?
Here’s your chance.
Monday Night Meditation
Nelson Atkins Museum – South Lawn
This is a public event. We’re meditating on the lawn of the Nelson Museum, just south of “The Thinker” statue. I’m going to give a short talk and a bit of guidance, then we will sit together. Tell all your friends.
“Gentleness indicates greater strength than harshness.”
-Han Shan Deqing
I wonder if we can solve a lot of our problems by being nicer to each other.
When I hear things like “People are too sensitive these days”
“That guy got what he deserved” when someone experiences the consequences of bad decisions
I just wonder where the compassion is.
Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone. All of us are facing many challenges throughout our lives. This can be a tough thing to remember. Suffering is the norm in human life. It’s fundamental. It’s not our fault we suffer. Some of our problems are self-inflicted, certainly. But many of them aren’t.
We judge each other harshly. We look down on people who have made different decisions than we made.
We could all soften our tone with each other. We can all be gentle and in this way make our world a slightly better place.
When someone is terminally ill, you often see a manifestation of kindness. We are generally pretty nice when we know someone is about to die. We respond to them with gentleness and compassion.
Can we try to apply that the rest of the time?
The world needs more kindness, more compassion, more love.
Can we handle people with care?
I’m interested in trying. Are you?
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what is compassion?
Is there great compassion and regular compassion? What’s the difference?
Can we have compassion for people we don’t like?
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Once we realize the truth of emptiness and interconnectedness, we are free. The path is sometimes called ‘liberation’ and that is the reason why. There is freedom in the path. We can meet the world without such strong expectations. We can face the world without making enemies out of it all the time.
In this way we can stride through the universe, wild and free in our understanding of the way things really are. We can expose ourselves to the world with complete openness.
When we begin to realize that the nature of things is actually empty, then things don’t seem to be in our way anymore. There is nothing stopping us from expanding our love and compassion infinitely.
The purpose of talking about emptiness is to realize that if there’s no separation, then we are free.
I’m a struggling writer.
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The tragedy in Orlando was still fresh in our minds.
And then Alton Sterling was shot by two police officers in Louisiana.
And then later I walked by the news on a TV at work and there was a story about a black man being shot by police. I thought it was another story about Alton Sterling, but it wasn’t.
My friend asked me, “What happened with this shooting?”
And I said, “I don’t know…I can’t keep track of all the shootings anymore..”
Philando Castle was killed by police in Minnesota when he was pulled over for a broken tail light. Because he was reaching for his wallet, after telling the officer that he had a concealed carry license and that he did have a concealed weapon in the car. He told the officer he was reaching for his wallet and the officer shot him. In the car. By the way, there was a child in the backseat. That shouldn’t matter, of course. But it does. An innocent man was shot and that’s what is really important. But thinking about that child makes me really sad too.
Police make me nervous anyway. If I was black my anxiety would probably make me stay home all the time.
I am so sad.
And our society is so fucking divided that people say things like, “If they treated the officers with more respect they wouldn’t have been shot.”
That is victim blaming. It’s no different from telling a rape victim she shouldn’t have worn a short skirt. Victim blaming makes me really uncomfortable. People are dead.
People say things like, “This person had a criminal record, they weren’t really innocent.” That’s crazy too. Who cares if they had a criminal record? Does that mean that they should be shot in the street?
When people make excuses for brutality like this I just wonder if they love and trust the government a lot more than I do. I don’t understand.
I get it, being a police officer is hard. Really really hard. But I believe we can expect more from them. Maybe police need more training. Maybe they need better pay so that precincts can be a little more discerning in who they allow to work these jobs. I don’t know. But I do know that we shouldn’t just accept this as normal and blame the victims whenever possible.
And I’m not sure if these officers had hate in their hearts when they committed these acts (but let’s investigate and find out). But I am sure they shouldn’t be police anymore. Because at best these actions were negligent. If your job is to protect people and you accidentally kill someone, that’s it.
And then some police officers were shot at a protest. (as of this writing I couldn’t find their names or I would post them here. I am mourning them too) As though violence can solve anything, as though this will do anything other than make people angry and ruin the lives of those officer’s families.
I don’t believe our society is so divided that we can only feel sympathy for either the officers that were slain or the two men. All of them are victims of a cycle of violence and division that I hope we can stop.
I think our culture teaches us that violence is the way to solve problems and I don’t agree with that.
Violence makes problems. And we should all cultivate peace and love in our hearts instead of violence and hate.
Not that people shouldn’t defend themselves when they’re under attack. People think that because I’m a pacifist that’s what I think, but if you’re against the wall, you do whatever you have to do. None of these killings were in self-defense.
What can we do?
As Buddhists, some of us take vows to try to save everyone. What can we even do in situations like this?
Today I just don’t know.
Love each other. Build bridges instead of walls. Be kind. Be connected. Stop trying to divide and separate. We do far too much of that.
The media and politicians have a role in this division, but that’s because that’s what people expect from them. So let’s expect something different.
Just be nice.
You can spread kindness and positivity in your life.
It starts with you.
I’ve noticed that some people seem to think that compassion should be conditional.
They think that if someone got themselves in trouble, we shouldn’t feel compassion for them. Or, even worse, we shouldn’t be kind.
I disagree with that position.
I think compassion is the highest virtue and I strive to feel it toward everyone, regardless of circumstances.
I’ll share some examples.
I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t feel sorry for drug users who are in jail. They knew they were breaking the law. It didn’t come out of nowhere and we shouldn’t feel bad for them.
Putting aside the discussion of legalization (which I support) for a moment, should we feel compassion for them?
I think we should. They made a mistake (buying from an undercover officer or being in the wrong place at the wrong time) but who doesn’t make mistakes?
Another example is someone who’s in a bad relationship. When someone repeatedly leaves and goes back into the same bad situation, do we stop feeling compassion for them? Do we stop because they make the same mistake over and over and they definitely know better?
No. We never stop.
I don’t stop cultivating compassion. I don’t want to stop to think about whether or not someone is worthy of my compassion. My compassion is too important for that. It needs to be constant and ever present in my life. Compassion is something we can cultivate unconditionally.
Be compassionate. Spread love. Be kind and sprinkle kindness everywhere.
Not that it’s easy, of course. Let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s hard to be compassionate. Sometimes it’s really really hard.
But we can try our best. Because cultivating compassion is best, not only for us but for the world too.