Class this week fell on my birthday, and since current conditions are such that other kinds of celebration are off the table, I decided to teach and enjoy the Zoom company of my sweet sangha sisters. I’m so glad I did! It turned out one of them had her birthday the same day, and another in a few days. One student wore a Happy Birthday T-shirt and brought out candles for us to faux blow after we all sang. And after class, we stayed on a bit longer and turned on Uptown Funk to boogie down together. It was great! Thank you, thank you!
As to birthdays, I’m not unusual in having a complicated relationship with them over the years. But I’m comfortable with them now, appreciating whatever sweetness arises. And I’m grateful to be alive to experience life as it unfolds in every moment, even when it’s a tangle of challenges. Whatever maturing has happened I see as a gift of my daily practice of meditation.
When I sit down to meditate, it is a fresh gift every time I sit.
No two meditations are exactly alike. I sit in the same place in the same way with the same intention, and yet each experience is different. The more attention and compassion I am able to cultivate, the more clearly I discover the gift.
And unlike the gifts that once opened lose their delight, meditation keeps on giving, becoming ever richer and sweeter, yet never losing its sense of freshness.
So on my birthday, I want to acknowledge this precious gift, and to remind myself of my good fortune to have received meditation instruction relatively early in life, to have rediscovered it when I most needed it, to open the gift each morning, and over the past several decades to be able to share it with others.
It feels like a gift to me to see students discover meditation and the Buddha’s concepts, and to see them bloom with their practice, finding joy and ease in life where there had been so much suffering.
So it’s not surprising that I can easily forget to let go of the teaching mode when I sit in meditation. When insights arise, instead of being fully present to receive them, I might lurch right into planning how to share them.
I am taking this opportunity to set the intention to let whatever arises in my morning meditation be the simple gift it is. To accept that it was meant for me in this moment. To give it my full attention. To let it arise and fall away in my experience. To not bypass the felt sense of it by immediately re-gifting it, turning an insight into a dharma talk before I’ve fully received it. To let whatever arises in meditation be just for me. And to trust that whatever insights may come, if allowed to be fully experienced, will be of even greater value when eventually shared.
So I guess I’m saying I want to be the birthday girl every morning when I sit!
I want to take in the whole of the experience, my surroundings, the wrappings, letting all my senses celebrate the unfolding of that sense of discovery. I will slow down the process, not rush to find out what’s inside. I will remember that the real treasure is revealed only when the mind has received the gift of calm and awareness. I will allow for the possibility that the gift has its own way of revealing itself. I will make all my senses available to experience it, and allow it whatever time it needs, even beyond my sitting practice. It is a gift that might not be fully received at a glance but needs to be felt, heard, read, or tasted.
Can I trust that being an open receptor rather than a conveyor belt is of more value, not just for me but for my students and all beings? Will whatever writing wants to be written arise when I sit at my keyboard? Oh, what a scary challenge of a thought! But that is my intention. For now, for these thirty minutes of meditation, I will let them speak to me. Just me.
How selfish! I think. And yet, in being selfish, I am able to tap into something I would otherwise bypass in my rush to share it. And in staying present with it, letting my own experience steep, what I end up sharing is bound to be much richer. Right?
So that’s my big birthday present. But wait, I’m noticing there are more. I am making a list, and invite you to make one too. I discovered that the gifts I give myself are all gifts of permission:
I give myself permission:
- to be kind to myself
- to not hide my light under a bushel
- to take care of my body and mind
- to not wait for permission as if there is some gatekeeper I must appease
- to let myself dive in instead of lingering at the water’s edge of life
In class, everyone took a few minutes to write down the gifts they wanted to give themselves, and then we shared them. Turns out we were all birthday girls! After all we are all born anew in every moment.
What gifts are you ready to give yourself?