Yesterday was my 41st birthday. I wanted so badly to stay in bed, but I’ve been trying to take the kids to Dharma on a regular basis, every other Sunday, so that they develop a spiritual foundation and practice. The Dharma lessons emphasize kindness, compassion, sharing and other principles that decent human beings follow. The kids get to practice being still and mindful, and it’s another opportunity for Mae to practice social skills.
So, I made myself get up and we got ourselves to Dharma. Lo and behold, the lesson for adults, who study in a separate room, was making life more meaningful by developing a spiritual practice and doing so right now.
To paraphrase, the Teacher said that we spend the first 20 years of life having fun. It’s the rare individual who is focused on building a spiritual life in their first 20 years. Then, we spend the next 20 years building a family and career and say that we don’t have time for a spiritual life. We tell ourselves that we’ll make time later.
Now, there were people in that room who looked to be well under and well over 40. It seemed that the lesson was for me. That’s what I’d been doing . . . waiting until I have more time . . . time to fix up our piddly home shrine; meditate at home with the kids, which we hadn’t done in months; become a dues-paying member of the meditation center; and volunteer in the community on a regular basis.
The Teacher said listening to and reading Dharma are important and necessary; however, there is no substitute for practice. No substitute for regular meditation and engaging in activities that make us beneficial to others. She said helping family doesn’t count. Animals take care of their families, and if we limit our “benefiting others” to family, we’re not much better than animals. Ouch. Our lives are more meaningful when we consciously behave in a way that benefits our community and the world.
As the Teacher said, worldly activities never cease and everybody is busy. The next 20 years could pass and then we’d look back and ask, “What happened?” She said of the present, “You either make time or you don’t.”
As we walked away from the center, I told the kids that we’re going to work on making our lives more meaningful and beneficial to others. Before I could say how we can do so, Jay asked why we haven’t meditated at our shrine in a long time. I told him we’d start there.
As I begin my next 20 years, I know what I want to do and why and how. I know what I want my kids to see and learn. I just have to do it. Starting now.