In the opening editorial of the November 2018 issue of Lion’s Roar, associate editor Lindsay Kyte reflects on the simple lesson her father taught her about staying in the present moment.
My Dad always told us growing up, “Be at the party that’s happening right now.” This is as true in meditation as it is in life.
We’re a very social family who make up reasons to throw parties so we can wear funny hats. “The dog is having a half-birthday! Someone order an ice cream cake!” Dad always said our job as party hosts was to have plenty of food and drink, play good music (you can’t fail with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson), and then let whatever happens—be.
“Some nights people will dance on chairs, so dance on chairs! Sometimes, everyone will just sit and talk. So just sit and talk. Don’t try to force it into a party that it’s not. Be at the party that’s happening right now,” Dad taught us.
Reading Judy Lief’s piece in this issue about “our attempts to manufacture meditation experiences we presume will be better than what we’re already experiencing” brought this bit of wisdom to mind.
I wish I were the person who could just let it be when everyone is chatting calmly at my party. I’m not. I turn up the music, make fancier drinks, put out the ruffled chips, and execute ridiculous dance moves so people will get up and boogie on down on those chairs.
I do the same in meditation. I try metta, and if I instantly don’t completely love myself, I switch to tonglen. If I can’t then instantly take in everyone else’s pain and send out so much comfort that everyone in the world suddenly feels like they’re wearing handknit socks, I switch to another practice. I spend so much energy trying to get an “A” in meditation by wanting to make something happen, I miss the whole point.
In our section of working with obstacles, Thanissaro Bhikkhu highlights the importance of having admirable friendships along our spiritual path. Not all dharma lessons, he says, are in words.
Years ago, someone took me canoeing. I told him story after story as we paddled along. Finally, we stopped, paused, and sat on the sparkling water under gorgeous weeping willows. It looked like the scene from The Little Mermaid where the seagull scream-sings while the fish harmonize. I didn’t know what to do for a second, and was searching for yet another oh-so-amusing story when he looked at me, took my hand, and said, “I love your stories, and I will listen all day. But if you just want to be here right now, and take it all in, I want you to know you’re enough, just being there.” I wish I recorded that and made it my ringtone, so I could be reminded of this daily.
Karen Maezen Miller writes about the beginner mind she experienced at the start of her Buddhist journey where she accepted whatever circumstance crossed her path. This somehow morphed into “twisting round and round in my head about how things should be, rather than accepting how things were.” I get that. May all of us trying to be at a different party than the one we’re at have someone take our hand and remind us that we are enough and we can just be. And may seagulls and fish sing back-up vocals while they do.