My contribution to the eJournal was three ‘guided’ meditations which I created based on the practice of Reflective Meditation. In That’s Taboo I present our meditation instructions as “Our story is that we want to hear your story.” Not your typical meditation instruction, eh? We want you to sit with your stories in the meditation, not to concretize them, but because they can help you develop a meditation practice that is relevant and integrated with your life. These instructions also set up a relationship with meditation practice that you can reflect upon, review and explore over time. They can also help you cultivate calm states and other wholesome qualities.
In meditation, a story can be many things: a narrative, an account of your experience, a tall tale, entertainment, a moral lesson, views and beliefs, a commentary… Instead of seeing our stories as intrinsic or absolute truth, I am pointing to the likelihood that, like memories and dreams, we refine stories over our lifetime, as conditions change. In meditation we can discern which stories lead us onward, ease hurt and pain, and inspire us to more harmless action.
Early on in my practice, I was introduced to the Attributes or Qualities of the Dharma (Dhamanusati), a Dharma teaching respected by many Buddhist sanghas in the East, but one that has yet to become part of the mainstream in the West. I rely on these attributes as my precepts for sharing the Dharma, and to assess the ongoing evolution of our teaching and training.
Two of the attributes are pertinent here.
The first: The Dharma is inviting, literally meaning “Come and See” while encouraging investigation. (Pali – Ehipassiko) We invite you to come to meditation practice, just as you are. Start with what interests you. “Come and See” with all of your senses. We want to know your stories, your thoughts and feelings about your struggles and the world you live in. By starting modestly, not pushing change too quickly, you can become more aware of which story lines support you and are useful. It is not atypical to start sitting with thoughts about everyday life only to find yourself concurrently relaxing and contemplating deeply personal questions and Dharma teachings.
The second: The Dharma is realized by the wise, each individually. (Pali – Paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi ti) Finding your own path is no simple endeavor. Our intention behind encouraging you to start with your stories, before we heap on directives and suggestions, comes from trusting that you will find your own way, your own voice which is more important than us agreeing on THE WAY. A more familiar reference for developing wisdom from your own experience is the Kalama Sutta, which encourages not only investigating your own experience, but checking it out with the experience of other wise friends and mentors.
Taking some creative liberties in the analysis above, I have tried to remain close to my experience and study of Buddhism, while building a bridge between Reflective Meditation and Dharma teachings.