My most recent visit to one of the prisons I volunteer at was delightful. I arrived in a downpour and by the time I reached the prison receiving area was mostly soaked. While waiting to go through prison security I had a conversation with an orthodox rabbi. He inquired if I was going into Catholic or Protestant services and I replied that I was facilitating a Buddhist gathering. He said that I didn’t look Buddhist and I playfully replied that he looked like a Buddhist:-) Luckily, he had a sense of humor and inquired further. At some point he asked me my name which is of Jewish origin and after hearing it he became even more interested in me. He suggested I contact a well know Jewish meditation master and I was happy to oblige him!
Arriving to the Buddhist meditation class was a joyous occasion as usual. We started with some morning chanting and then meditated for about 30 minutes. After meditation practice we began a discussion about “change.” We started with looking at how change occurs in the natural world such as changes in weather, etc. Then we focused on how change occurs on an internal psychological level. Thoughts, emotions, and sensations are all in flux and appearing and disappears with great frequency.
We chose to place all of the change that occurs in the context of our resistance to it and our resilience in it. We listed all the qualities of our resistance to change such as fear of the unknown, isolation from others, anger about trying to hold onto what we have lost and so on. We also listed the qualities of our resilience in the face of change, some of which were openness to new situations, tolerence of the differences that appear among folks, and a willingness to let go of rigid ideas and concepts that we may have about how things should be. This exercise was useful for us to understand where we tend to get stuck in habitual patterns of behavior which are often harmful to us and others. Allowing mental change to take its course and honoring the natural arrival, dwelling and departure of psychological events provides enough space in our experience to permit us to live our lives in a more empathic, loving and fearless way.
Finally, we dedicating whatever good that may have resulted from our gathering to all beings. This dedication is a type of protection against becoming arrogant and helps us cultivate a kinder, more generous attitude towards others.
We ended the class with some friendly banter and began to shift into the next situation comfortably and at ease.