I'm including in this email some "homework" exercises a fellow FAC meditation teacher, Ken Bent, uses with his group.
Be well and happy! Love, Joel
Meditation Group Homework Assignments
Discovering Present Benefactor Moments
With the intention to rediscover the innate goodness of those around us, try to notice those little moments of kindness that occur with us, each and every day: a kind word of encouragement that comes just when we need it; someone holding a door for us, an unexpected offer of help; noticing the beauty of the natural world around us; a simple smile from a stranger, someone brings baked goods to shared; etc. See what YOU can notice, what
stands out for you. These are the 'present moment' benefactors that you can notice and relate to, each and every day. As our fellow meditator, Ron, says, "Look to those 'accidental' benefactors as the true spiritual benefactors".
To make this a deeper spiritual practice: Write down or journal your experiences during this time.
Discovering Benefactors from Our Lives
Take a Sticky Note and write the word “Benefactors” on it. Put it somewhere you will see it every day, like on your refrigerator door, bathroom mirror, kitchen cabinet, car dashboard, etc. Whenever you notice this note, Stop. Take a breath, relaxing the mind, read the word “benefactors” again and see who or what comes to mind for you as a benefactor. Keep a note pad handy to write down what comes to mind. Do this for a month and see what comes
up for you.
For advanced practice: Notice how many times you see the note and Don't Stop to reflect. Taking Difficulties into Compassion
After leading an extended version the On-The-Spot practice from page 190 of Awakening Through Love, I lead the practice again, quickly, taking less than a minute to go through the steps of the practice, showing how this practice might actually be done during your busy daily life. Then, I give a hand out or include the steps of the practice in my weekly email and encourage the group to try this practice, as it seems to fit in their own lives.
Noticing Reactive Emotions
Over the next week, see if you can notice a time when you react to someone with some motivation other than compassion: anger, jealousy, fear, defensiveness, greed... Notice how you react in that situation. Perhaps you will notice this before you have reacted verbally or physically in the situation, perhaps when you are in the middle of your reaction, or perhaps
after the situation is completely over and you are looking back on it. Then see if you can think of a way you could react with compassion in similar situations and ask yourself, "What prevents me from acting with compassion in these situations?" Really be honest with yourself to see if you can see a pattern of thinking or reacting that comes up with this type of person, this type of situation or when you are in a certain frame of mind.
Remember that awareness of our reactions is the crack in that shell keeping us separate from our true self and from others, who are really just like us.
Other On-The-Spot Practices
(Thich Nhat Hanh offers a lot of this type of practice)
Try one of the following practices for the coming week:
Stop Light Practice: When you come to a stop light, keeping your foot firmly on the brake, take a deep breath in, releasing it slowly, letting the mind relax into its own natural openness. When you hear the sound of a horn behind you, it is time to focus on the road and release the pressure on the brake.
Waiting In (or On) Line Practice: While waiting in line at the store, stand comfortably straight, noticing any tension in the body and allowing that to release. Then notice what thoughts are going through your mind as you
'wait': she really has 13 items not 12; I really wish the line were moving faster; why don't they open another register; can't they see I am in a hurry?; etc. Can you try to allow yourself to stand in line and just be standing, just be breathing and just allowing thoughts to arise on their own without having to follow them or push them away?
Place one of those small sticky notes on your telephone. When you here the phone ring, and see the sticky note, Stop, Breathe, Smile and then answer the phone. Scientific research proves that if you smile, your attitude will be more positive toward the other and the other will feel better interacting with you, even though they never see you smile.
Cell Phone Practice:
Many cell phones allow you to put a picture as “Wall Paper” or as a background photo for the screen and also allow you to type some text over it.
Choose a beautiful picture from nature for the background and a short inspiring quote for the text. So, each time you open your phone you can stop and experience the beauty of nature with the heart and some inspiration
for your mind at the same time. Some possible phrases you could use are:
- You are loved by many
- Be Attention
- Friendliness is next to Godliness
- All you need is love...
- I love my family
(Come on, you don't need my help with these. You already know what inspires you)
You walk the same routes many times a week; down the hall at work, to the corner store, around the neighborhood, etc. For the next week, set the intention to notice something new on your walk, each time you go. You will be amazed at what you are missing in your life.
Independence Day Reflection
Reflect on how these meditation practices have changed you and the way you look at the world. True independence would be to let go of all of our habitual patterns of thinking and reacting and see the world just as it is. How do you see the world today, as opposed to whenyou began your spiritual practice?