This has been a beast of a year. Political tension, threat of nuclear war, rampant racism, gun violence, violence against women, you name it. I’m exhausted even writing those words. As co-founder of MNDFL meditation studios I’ve noticed that I’m not alone in feeling this way. In a time of increasing divisiveness and aggression, people are seeking out safe spaces like ours to simply take a breath and recharge their emotional batteries.
I will remember 2017 as a year where I attempted to cultivate love in the face of seemingly ever-increasing levels of hate, but it’s been a struggle. “Sure,” you might think, “meditation is a great tool to teach people how to love a bit more.” Each time you get distracted from the object of your meditation, you have this incredible opportunity to offer yourself a moment of kindness and forgiveness—it’s not a big deal that you got distracted—and then you start anew. But offering yourself love in that moment is just one part of the equation.
I worry that people think meditation is all about only feeling good, never feeling bad, or that you should feel just as refreshed at the end of a session as you would if you had a massage.
I worry sometimes that meditation, as it goes more and more mainstream, will get degraded to the point where people think it’s 100 percent sunshine and unicorns. That if you sit down on the meditation cushion and realize that you’re actually having a hard time with the state of society or your own mind, that you’re feeling a little sad or worn-out, it means that you’re doing it wrong. I worry that people think meditation is all about only feeling good, never feeling bad, or that you should feel just as refreshed at the end of a session as you would if you had a massage.
But that’s not how it works. Meditation makes us see the totality of our humanity, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet, as we sit there with all of who we are on a given day, we sit there and offer ourselves love. The more we cultivate these qualities of love, patience, and understanding with ourselves on the meditation seat, the more we’ll be better prepared to show up for others and wield those qualities as the very tools this society needs.
I’m a firm believer that 2018 is going to be a year marked by more love
As 2017 draws to a close and I prepare for 2018, I’m inspired to expand the efforts of MNDFL so that more people can learn traditional meditation techniques in an accessible manner. But our special sauce isn’t just sitting there with your own mind; it’s what occurs when we spill out from the classroom and into the community space—where a diverse and supportive group of people comes together, made up of those who want to get to know themselves better and help the world around them. The glue for that part of the emotional battery recharge? Good conversation.
I’m a firm believer that 2018 is going to be a year marked by more love, and that the way we’ll express that love is through good conversation. Part of this thinking is inspired by my teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and his new book The Lost Art of Good Conversation. In it he argues that the more we meditate the more we realize the totality of our humanity and our own basic goodness. The more we see that in ourselves, the more we see it in others. Thus, even when we need to have difficult conversations or talk to people we fundamentally disagree with, we can recognize that at their core they are just as fully whole, complete, and wise as we are, but also might be confused at times, too, just like us. Through offering love in meaningful conversation we create a brave space.
We can transform this world. It’s not just politicians or celebrities that wield influence—it’s us.
Self-care is important, but if we indulge in it to the point where we live on the yoga mat, meditation cushion, or massage table and never step up to help the society around us, we are missing a big opportunity. We can transform this world. It’s not just politicians or celebrities that wield influence—it’s us. It’s each one of us, in this moment, offering ourselves love but then stepping outside our comfort zone to have conversations that matter, offering our loving presence in each one until the tide of hate recedes. Let’s make 2018 the Year of Love.
Lodro Rinzler, the co-founder and chief spiritual officer of MNDFL Meditation in New York City, is a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and the author of six books on meditation, including The Buddha Walks into a Bar… and Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken.