I admit, I’m a bit puzzled by “selfies." Isn't life complicated enough? We’re parents, children, employees, bosses, lovers, loners, counselors, seekers. Sometimes the sheer complexity of switching between all the different roles we play throughout the day becomes overwhelming and we find ourselves momentarily confused, genuinely wondering, “Who am I?”
Eric SwansonEric Swanson has co-authored four books, including the New York Times bestseller, The Joy of Living, and is the sole author of several additional works of fiction and non-fiction. He's studied Tibetan Buddhism for many years and most days he makes peace with the cranky guy inside his head.
Articles by Eric Swanson
Some people do seem to “wake up” right away: A single bop on the head, a whispered word from a master, an angelic or otherwise otherworldly visitation—and hey presto!—the inner light goes on, the true nature of reality becomes manifest, and suffering bites the dust. I am not one of those people.
This year, I’ve decided on a different approach. I’m challenging myself to turning Spring Cleaning into an opportunity for practice. To do this, I’m taking along a couple of tools from my meditation room: looking (or noticing) and appreciating. Cleaning as an act of creativity. I can work with that, too.
I started to notice the nuances: the trees on the side of the road, for example, were beginning to sprout buds. Bright little blossoms had started to appear on formerly forlorn sticks of forsythia. Light and color was returning to the world.
In practice, metta means cultivating a genuine wish for the happiness of others, as well as exercising patience and generosity. What I know is that when I extend a smile or a kind thought to someone and they smile back, something warm and golden has occurred. And maybe they’ll pass that on to someone else.
Gretchen Rubin tells us that “A true home must suit the people who live there, by incorporating the elements important to them.” But how do we discover those elements? Well, how about asking a few pointed questions? What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old? Whom do you envy? What do you lie about?
Gretchen Rubin shares tips to stay true to your resolutions. Try giving yourself treats. “Not rewards,” she cautions, “Treats you just get because you want a treat. [Treats] keep your self-command high so you can keep your habits better.”
“If you feel like it’s going to be stressful either to host or be hosted,” Gretchen Rubin suggests, “make sure you get enough sleep. Make sure you don’t let yourself get too hungry. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time so that you don’t feel harried and you’re just racing against the clock to get to the airport or wherever you’re headed.”
When you step into a room, take a moment to breathe it all in. Yes, just breathe in all the sensations—the lights, the sounds, the smells. Savor the newness of it. And people you see? The friends? The family members? The co-workers? Really look at them as if for the first time. Listen as if for the first time.
If we practice meditation to gain clarity, joy, and bliss only for ourselves, whatever perks we enjoy will be transitory, at best. Genuine meditation is about busting through the dichotomies of “self and other” and “my stuff and your stuff.” If we’re not practicing to benefit others, we’re not truly benefiting at all.