Several of you have asked about daily practice... and I hear numerous complaints about the DAY getting in your WAY!
Here are some helpful words from my teacher:
Establishing a Daily Practice
Waking Up in the Morning
by Ven. Thubten Chodron
The way we wake up in the morning is very important as it influences our moods and feelings during the rest of the day. These, in turn, affect our motivations, and our motivations are the chief factor in the kind of karma we create during the day. Our mind is especially subtle in the morning, so whatever we encounter or think has a strong effect.
If we wake up to music, that melody may float through our mind when we later sit down to meditate. If we wake up to the radio news, “15 people killed in Iraq” or “The CEO of Enron convicted” or “Internet pornography ring discovered,” we will likely go through the day feeling despair about the world’s situation. Or we may tune it out and feel apathetic about others. Neither of these attitudes is conducive for spiritual progress. Therefore, it’s important to wake up as peacefully as possible and immediately direct our minds in a constructive way. By practicing this repeatedly now, when we “wake up” to our next life, we will be much more likely to generate a positive motivation at that time as well.
Right away, when you wake up, think, “How wonderful! I still have a precious human life with the opportunity to practice the Dharma. I take refuge in my spiritual mentors and in the Three Jewels—the Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha.” Then contemplate, “The most important thing I have to do today is to avoid harming others as much as possible. Another important thing is to help others as much as I am able, in any way, whether large or small. The third important element is to hold the bodhicitta —the altruistic intention aspiring to attain full enlightenment in order to be able to benefit all sentient beings most effectively—foremost in my heart and to do all actions with this as my long-term motivation.”
At first this motivation may seem strange because, according to our usual way of thinking, the most important thing to do today is to meet a certain client, to pick the kids up from school, or to clean out the garage. But if you think about it, we do these activities and then forget about them. In a year we won’t even remember having done them. In addition, we are not usually thinking of everyone’s long-term benefit when we engage in these daily activities; rather, we are thinking of what will make our life easier and how we will profit.
But our motivation for doing any of the activities we engage in is critical. Thus, remembering not to harm others, to help them, and to hold the bodhicitta dear are most important in any activity we do during the day. In this way, all our activities become beneficial for both ourselves and others, and lead to enlightenment.
By setting our motivation strongly in the morning when our mind is fresh and clear, we are much more likely to remember it during the day and act with that intention. In addition, picking something that happens frequently during the day to act as a kind of “mindfulness bell” or trigger to bring us back to our positive motivation is very helpful.
For example, every time you stop at a stop light, come back to your breath and remember bodhicitta. Every time the phone rings, pause and remember bodhicitta before you answer it. One person told me that her trigger was her child calling, “Mommyyyyyy!” She would pause, breathe, remember her good intention, and then attend to her child. Doing this helped her not only spiritually but also in the moment, for she could care for her child in a calm manner.
I refuse to turn the TV on until time for the evening news... I confess, I do listen to the radio, but not until I have gotten in a sip of tea (and my thyroid pill) and some hug time with Rusty (no choice there, can't keep him off my lap), and at least a few minutes of quiet self motivation and meditation before starting on my email and breakfast.
I get up an hour or 3 before Anna so I can control my morning meditation and get my day started. Of course, now there is Rusty climbing up to my shoulder for his morning loving. And that is OK, too. It keeps me in a good place. We can all use a bit of unconditional love. I look out the window as the sun comes up and watch the colors of the trees and flowers change in the morning light. Sometimes I play soft classical music if I have to get other music out of my head. I always wake up with music playing in my head!
I miss being able to take my coffee outside and doing my morning wake-up meditation and prayer out there... My body just won't cooperate anymore. I am grateful I can still get out to feed Spook and read the rain gauge, report the weather.
I have shared my morning prayer before... it includes Thank you for this day, Hoka Hey, Let me live this day in such a way that I hurt no one, and no one hurts me. Now that I no longer have to go to school each day, I could probably leave off that 'no one hurts me' part... but it is habit.
Don’t remember what Hoka Hey means? It is Lakota… ‘It is a good day to die.’ And, no, I do not see that as morbid… and no, it is not from a desire to be with the Love of my Life who has gone on before me… it is a way of looking at what is really the most important THING I have to do today? Is it get the floor washed? Do the laundry? Buy groceries, cut grass? Even tho they may be important, even necessary if I want dinner, clean clothes, and to not crunch as I walk across the floor… but what would you consider being the most important thing if you knew this was your last chance before that big good-bye? Dumb as it sounds, it just might be that last email you send letting someone know you were thinking about them even as I am thinking about you right now.
There have been several people I have been blessed to be with as they left this planet, either actually sitting and holding their hand as they left or, in one instance, (Dr. Pease) I was the last one she spoke to… I told her I loved her, and those were her words back to me as I left her home for the last time. She went into a coma shortly after I left, died later that night. “I love you,” was the last thing she ever said to anybody. Hoka Hey reminds me that I never know what might be my last words so I better make them good. It tells me what I say might be the last words someone else ever hears. Think of all the stuff you say in the course of a day. Do you want that sentence with all those F bombs in it to be your last words? (Just a side note – none of my atheist friends ever use that word, just the so called Christian and one Muslim friend. Funny that. I think it has to do with self respect as much as respect for who ever is hearing you.) Hoka Hey reminds me to use this day well… to love… to appreciate all I have… especially this chance to make it right.
How do you start your day?