“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” -Mark Twain-
“Each of us can tell some sort of story about our lives, who we are, what gives our lives meaning, what we are capable of, what our lives are about. Think for a moment about the stories you tend to tell yourself. Are you a winner, a loser, a hero, a frightened person who will never change? Stories of course aren’t always true, but they’re often how we make sense of the world. They’re born of what we say to ourselves, what we say to others and what others say about us” (Sharon Salzberg).
I came across this lovely Ted Talk by Sharon Salzberg, a seasoned meditator who started IMS (Insight Meditation Society) with Joseph Goldstein. Sharon describes having a “painful home life” which led her to India when she was a junior in college to learn meditation. It was difficult learning how to do something as simple as paying attention to the breath, but she found that in time she was able to train her attention, become more receptive, and ultimately, transform negative thought patterns into compassion. Since then, Sharon has devoted her life to studying and teaching both loving-kindness and mindful meditation to children, high-powered executives, extremely ill patients, and everyone in between. She believes that without meditation we are confined by a “habit of distraction” where we tune out and “don’t see the people we love and others. Someone can be in front of us but our attention is so obscured we don’t notice their gifts, their vulnerability.” Moments of seeing (truly seeing) others, ourselves, and the world is something we are trying to generate more of through our mediation challenge. More specifically, not just seeing, but feeling genuine compassion and empathy.
The picture above of Meenakshi represents a moment of truly seeing and connecting. A moment I will always hold dear. I was taking pictures of her throughout the morning and lost her momentarily when my group gathered to eat lunch with the village. Afterwards, people rushed to find seats for a special dance performance put together in honor of our visit. The townspeople were encouraged by their leaders to let the visitors sit in the front seats. I found a chair and before sitting, turned around to see who was behind me. There she was, her elbows propped up on empty red chairs, gazing into my eyes as chaos ensued around her. I took a quick picture and waved her over to sit with me. Naturally, everyone followed and we started taking pictures! 🙂 These ones below are with my iPhone.