“What is meditation good for?” is one of the recurrent questions I get asked by my non-Buddhist friends. Now and again, I surprise them by answering with an apparently unrelated story. 

Once, I opened the door to the fridge, and before I could do anything, a whole pot of chicken broth landed on the floor and spread widely. My usual reaction would have been screaming, crying, and engaging in an unending chain of self-deprecatory expressions, in other words, total drama. But this time was different.

Something new, which I later identified as an aftermath of meditation, unfurled. It was as if time had stopped, or slowed, or somehow opened up, allowing me to look at the mess without actually seeing a mess. Rather, I saw something that had to be dealt with. 

Chicken broth is especially difficult to clean due to the fat it carries. Yet, I simply started cleaning, focusing on my actions instead of pursuing my habitual train of thought. One tile at a time, I scrubbed and washed—without thinking about the ultimate result (the future) nor about the causes that had led to the accident (the past). 

In the gooey present moment of spilled chicken broth, I discovered that there was no need to blame anybody (myself, my six-year-old son, a passing neighbor). There was also no need to brood over the incident. Mishaps are part of life, and as unpleasant as this one could have been, it also was fixable.

Before I knew it, the floor was clean, the fridge was clean, the tiles under it were clean, and the pot was washed. As the Buddhist nun and teacher Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo put it in a recent Facebook post: “Then, one day when we are not even thinking about it, in the midst of total confusion, we suddenly become totally present. We see everything clearly, yet inwardly our minds are silent.”

This clarity does not have to come from a moment of splendorous importance, with the sky pouring myriad light rays upon us. In the mere details of everyday life, we can find spiritual realizations, even if we might not be aware of them at the time.

As I have told my friends: The practice of meditation spills from the cushion, permeating our life and offering us the opportunity to experience the present with a much more open and calm state of mind.

Exercise

The next time you identify a potential drama arising in your life, try to imbue it with a little dharma.

  1. Breathe mindfully so you can connect to the spaciousness within yourself.
  2. Take a step back from the situation, allowing a safe distance (or mindful gap) between you and what’s going on.
  3. Assess what you can do in the present to deal with the situation and do it, one step at a time, without losing yourself in past recriminations or future solutions.
  4. Repeat as needed.

 

Adela Iglesias
Adela Iglesias

is a writer, translator, psychotherapist, teacher and, mother from Mexico. She is now working on a bestiary in poetic prose. She has practiced meditation for over 24 years and has been a student of Ponlop Rinpoche’s since 2002.

Explore More Posts

Awakening

3-day Retreat: The Three Higher Trainings

What seems to be the key to all Buddhist practices is the training of the mind. This training falls into three categories: Discipline (Sila), Meditation (Samadhi) and Wisdom (Prajna). Hosted by Nalandabodhi Montreal, please join Lama Rabten during this 3-day Retreat with teachings about these Three Higher Trainings in order to penetrate the true nature of reality and free ourselves from the fundamental ignorance that causes suffering.

Read More >
Awakening

Celebrating Chökhor Düchen 2022

How to teach about enlightenment to others? According to tradition, for the first seven weeks after his enlightenment, Buddha did not teach. Then, encouraged by Indra and Brahma, he gave his first teaching on the Four Noble Truths at the Deer Park in Sarnath. Buddha taught the truth of suffering, the truth of the origin of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path of liberation.

Please join Nalandabodhi Vancouver and Lama Rabten Tshering for a celebration of these First Turning Teachings, which laid the ground for the entire Buddhist teachings and path.

Read More >
Compassion

Home Improvement

While planning a “small change” to the home, the author receives an unexpected jolt of insight.

Read More >