A flurry of emails has alerted me that the great Buddhist teacher “X” is coming for a multi-day, multi-dollar extravaganza to a campus nearby. Several acquaintances are excited that they’re going, that they’ve already registered for an event that’s still six months in the future!
Obviously, there’s a hunger for such gatherings and I’m glad that hundreds will be able to go (if they can spare the time and have the money). At the same time it troubles me to see people flocking to podcasts, books, CDs, webinars, and sacred events to hear someone tell them how to find a better way to live.
Attending a lecture by a celebrity teacher may well offer a spiritual high and open the door to an awakened path. But what happens when the buzz wears off (as it will) and life’s messiness floods back? When the high of another’s enlightened words becomes muffled by the drudgery of everyday ordinariness? What then?
What’s needed (and don’t take my word for it) is a sustained practice of mindfulness. A practice of taking responsibility for our own awakening. An awakening from the delusion that all will be well, if only … a better job will come along, health improves, relationships blossom, neighbours cooperate, violence disappears, politicians speak the truth, a cure for cancer is found, the war on drugs is won, friends don’t die, and so on.
Wishful thinking diverts attention from the reality of everyday living. Fact is that the world’s not a safe place, illness and death are inevitable, and chaos is the natural order of things. Regular meditation* offers a set of tools — free of charge and easily accessible — to help calm our agitated mind and literally come to our senses. It can take us to our innate wisdom, remind us of our birthright to be at ease, help our hearts unfold amid the confusion.
* emphasis on regular — if only 10 or 15 minutes each day.