Reflection: “Be a Lamp unto Yourself”

The Buddha’s last words to “be a Lamp unto yourself,” and some translations of the Bible has Jesus saying “kingdom of God is within you.” We don’t have to look far for wisdom. Quakers believe that each person has the Divine Light within them, and part of sitting in silence is to truly listen and nurture that inner Light.

Buddhism makes sense to me on a practical way that sometimes my own Christian faith does not. It asks us to trust our experience that there’s no other authority or teacher than what’s happening right now, Charlotte Joko Beck beautifully captures this idea:

There is only one teacher. What is that teacher? Life itself. And of course each one of us is a manifestation of life; we couldn’t be anything else. Now life happens to be both a severe and an endlessly kind teacher. It’s the only authority that you need to trust. And this teacher, this authority, is everywhere. You don’t have to go to some special place to find this incomparable teacher, you don’t have to have some especially quiet or ideal situation: in fact, the messier it is, the better. (16, Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck)

So this is what I have been trying to do as I keep coming back to my practice. My meditation practice deepened about 6 years ago, but my daily sitting practice shifted with the birth of my daughter 3 years ago. I was no longer able to sit first thing in the morning…but I’m slowly reestablishing my daily sitting practice.

I am trying to work with the messiness of my life. There’s a lot I can learn from Buddhism as a Christian. The Christian monastics also live this reality of authentically encountering life, but for them they are encountering Christ in each other on a daily basis in community. What good is prayer, if you can’t love the brother who burnt your lunch?

Centering prayer and meditation seem similar and yet the intentions are very different. However, I personally find both practices deeply enriching and help me live a spiritual life as opposed to just believing in it as a theory.

A Letter about Learning to Breathe through Change

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your openness and honesty about how overwhelmed you feel recently with all the new transitions in your life, sometimes even through the good changes.  You asked me how I get through change, when I feel overwhelmed? There’s no one shot answer to this I am afraid, but maintaining a regular practice of prayer and meditation has helped me be present to my life, when I feel overwhelmed by changes I associate as being positive, and changes I deem as being negative; I’ll clarify what I mean by positive and negative change later on.

It’s hard not to give into that feeling of busyness, and finding balance between time with God, family, and work. I often make mistakes, but some days I am able to remember through out the day that God is with me through all my ups and downs.  We’re only human.  It often helps me to start my day reaching out to God, and just sitting still and being quiet.  Contemplative prayer traditions have been really helpful, and I also learn from our Buddhist friends who have also a deep and rich contemplative practices, but centering prayer is something that I’ve found helpful in our own Christian tradition.

http://www.centeringprayer.com/

Even good things in life can become overwhelming like getting married, expecting a baby, learning to  be parent, or adjusting to a new job.  All in all, it’s helpful when I make time to be still and know God is with me, and God loves me as I am.  Never forget that you are a Beloved Child of God.

 

Blessings to you and your family,

Your Friend on this Journey of Life