The Dalai Lama recommends this meditation for the early morning, right when you wake up. Instead of reaching for your phone, just quickly use the restroom, splash a little water on your face, and then come to the place in your home where you meditate, which can be right back in bed if you like.
Elevate your seat by sitting on a cushion or pillow. Cross your legs. Straighten your spine. And rest your hands in your lap, palms-up, the tips of your thumbs touching one another. Slightly tilt your head down and half-close your eyes.
From sleep, your body should already be relaxed. And we take two deep breaths, trying to place our mental focus on the breath and nothing else.
(Ten seconds to meditate on two breaths in silence)
Motivation to benefit ourselves by benefitting others
We fill our minds now with a motivation to create the true causes of happiness today by making our day of benefit to others; by becoming a source of joy and compassion, an open ear and an open heart to those we encounter today.
This is the path His Holiness the Dalai Lama recommends to a truly happy life.
Instead of immediately checking the news or our email or Slack when we wake up, we’re going to build this habit in our mind of benefiting others.
Meditation on the nature of mind
In the morning our senses are still groggy and weak, which is the perfect time to hone in to the subtler aspects of our consciousness. Because, though our senses are slow, our concentration is strong at this time. We can take advantage of our rested mind to go inward and try and understand what the mind is beneath our senses.
We start by briefly touching the senses with our mind. As you feel the light coming in through your eyelids, realize that there is actually no color, no brightness, no darkness in nature. These are psychological phenomena that the brain fantasizes from the invisible vibration of electromagnetic energy.
Light and color are illusions. For a moment, try and see this with your inner sight: how light and form and color are actually made of something subtler, of mental energy.
Now look at sound, another synthetic phenomenon. Vibrating air makes no inherent sound. But our brain turns vibrating molecules of nitrogen and oxygen into the experience of sound.
Look below the sound. And see how sound too is a mental experience. Something underlies this experience of sound, dependent upon neurons, but not neurons either, something that rides upon them, an energy which is our sixth sense of mind.
Now examine smell and taste and touch, which you feel in your palms, and with the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
Each of these sensual phenomena occurs within your mind. There is no smell, taste, or touch inherent in nature. These senses too are mental, psychological phenomena. The brain is a virtual reality simulator that translates the colorless soundless scentless reality of our universe into the beautiful illusion we call the outer world.
Now try and let go of these senses and look only at the mind. Direct your mind inward to look upon itself and watch how the mind moves without sensory input.
Watch mental experiences pass by and notice how they differ. Some are emotional, colored with a strong drive toward pleasant feelings and away from unpleasant ones.
Some are memories. Where is the past? Does it exist anywhere but in our minds?
Some are plans, our hopes for the future.
Some are an urge to action, that drives us to act in the world.
And then some moments of consciousness occur between thoughts. If we watch closely the gaps between thoughts, we can experience moments of pure awareness.
Try and let your attention move away from thoughts and emotions and memories and plans and spend more time in the gaps between thoughts.
Then, if you can, let the gaps between thoughts widen. Lengthen the experience of the mind looking at itself without thoughts. Let thoughts subside and stare at pure awareness.
If thoughts intrude upon this open awareness, try and let them pass by without forcing them away. They’ll naturally disappear on their own. Be gentle with your mind and it will open further day by day.
Try and observe this mind now for a minute. Using your analytic faculties, examining the space of your mind with curiosity and openness. Does the space of the mind have a size, a brightness, a sense of awareness or intelligence? What do you see when the mind is free from thoughts?
(Meditate for one minute analyzing the nature of mind)
Now, for the second minute of silent meditation on the mind, let go of your analysis. Dissolve into your awareness itself, where there is no separation between observing the experience and the experience itself. Let go of analysis and words and concepts and rest in the nature of the mind beyond concepts.
(Meditate for one minute on the nature of mind)
Meditation on the kindness of others
Now as we come out of that experience, we move from deep inside ourselves—from this sixth sense of the mind—to the outer world.
Love and compassion are the main practice of the most highly realized spiritual practitioners. All else follows.
If you have a loving mind, you have self-respect. You rejoice in the beautiful qualities of others without jealousy.
When you love somebody, that state of mind of love, of caring, of liking, is a pleasant state of mind. Whatever you say, do, or think becomes a positive state of mind. If your emotions are happy, the outcome of your actions will be positive.
To increase our capacity to love, to have affection not just for the ones closest to us, we can reflect on the kindness of others. The more we remember the kindness of others the more we have affection for them.
When we came into this world we were each born a naked baby, unable to feed ourselves, unable talk. Somehow, I became an adult. All I’ve become is only due to others: my parents, my brothers and sisters, my teachers, my friends. Even what’s on my plate comes from people breaking their backs picking vegetables, raising and slaughtering animals. Due to their kindness we can enjoy our meal.
Think of people on assembly lines doing backbreaking jobs their whole life – assembling iPhones, flat-screen TVs, cars; sewing our clothes. So we can enjoy our car, our iPhone, our TV, our clothes. How tedious, grueling some of those jobs.
Your heart will slowly melt if you think how much your life rests upon the labor of thousands, of millions of others. You’ll feel a warmth, an indebtedness toward all beings. The more you think about their kindness, the more love you’ll generate in your heart.
Just the fact that we’re still alive is due to all these people taking care of us. Think of those that build our roads, grow our food, make our medicines, care for us when we’re sick. We only exist due to others spending their whole days—their whole lives—to help us.
Our parents cleaned our bodies, fed us, clothed us, kept us from hurting ourselves. They taught us language, manners, patience. If you can’t remember your own childhood, just look at mothers in the park taking care of their babies; or mother animals, dogs with puppies, how they take care of their children. Set aside any resentment and think of the thousands of hours they spent taking care of us. Had they ignored us for even a few hours, we might not be alive today.
Think of your teachers, who taught you all about language, mathematics, science, history, culture. And your colleagues, your mentors, your bosses, who taught you how to make a living. To support yourself and your family.
Think of everyone you’ve ever known. They each taught you something. Even your enemies and rivals and ex-lovers and friends taught you lessons in communication, patience, humility, resilience. They showed us affection, they listened to us, they cared about us, they fed us.
Think of the kindness of the great mass of humanity, a humanity that mostly gets along 99.99% of the time. We walk down the street and others respect us. We politely get out of each other’s way. It’s not like being a creature of the jungle or the ocean where animals attack and kill and eat each other in the normal course of life.
The basis of our life depends on others. The vast mass of humanity helping us and not harming us. The vast majority of humanity keeping us alive, safe, and happy.
Other peoples’ motivation doesn’t matter. It’s the value of what they provide us that matters. Civilization itself is based upon this everyday kindness.
As we go through our daily life we can look at everyone we encounter and generate this sense of gratefulness for keeping civilization together, for letting each other go about our lives.
By seeing how everything around us, everything that supports and sustains us comes from the efforts of others, we can come to understand why the Dalai Lama says, “Kindness is society.” Of course, there are moments of hatred and violence. But look at the great mass of nonviolent support we enjoy from countless millions of other human beings every day.
We can take this thought—this natural understanding of our debt to our fellow human beings for their casual kindness—into our day today. We can focus on the gratitude we built up as we encounter others, as we enjoy all the fruits of humanity’s labor in our meals and devices and roads and sidewalks: all the labor and infrastructure of the built world around us.
We can feel gratitude toward all of humanity, in each individual face we see, in the unseen masses behind the scenes making our lives comfortable and safe; and the in the part we too play in sustaining a safe and abundant world for others.
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Hosted by Scott Snibbe
Produced by Stephen Butler
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio