I’m sitting in the Amtrak waiting area in Penn Station in New York, computer balanced on my lap, as I write to you on my way to an annual board meeting of the Lion’s Roar Foundation. Celestial classical music plays between announcements, long lists of far-flung towns and cities strewn along the coast. A few clangs, a sooty whiff of trains eager to streak across the country waft up from the tracks below. Endless streams of human beings clutch suitcases, children, backpacks, devices, quietly lining up to glide slowly down escalators to the trains. Occasional small groups of soldiers look so young and self-conscious that their camouflage uniforms could be elaborate Halloween costumes festooned with black plastic weapons.
A disheveled man with a scruffy beard limps by, talking to himself non-stop angry at someone who talks ‘every single hour’. He’s oblivious to his own behavior, reminding me how easy it can be to forget mindfulness about ourselves and slip into judging others. Yet, we human beings are all in the same boat! Or the same train, headed into the unknown… The comfortably dressed man slumped in his chair across from me, the tall grey-haired redcap schlepping luggage, the blonde lady eating a huge pile of gooey nachos, a little braided girl cradling her stuffed animal while her Mom chats on Facetime…we are on different journeys. Each one of us. Yet here we are, sitting patiently in this transitional space, sharing this particular, peaceful moment in eternity.
In your practice, you’ve probably realized that mindfulness meditation is not always soothing or pretty; it’s about awareness. This kind of meditation stirs/offers us expanded curiosity, wonder, awe, and courage to explore the unknown. After practicing meditation for long hours, we’ve seen everything arise in the train station of our consciousness – positive and negative, discouraging and encouraging. Our hearts inevitably soften, opening into to a friendly sense of companionship, even at Amtrak in a sea of strangers. And somehow, the accumulated power, energy, and blessing from thousands of years of people going for refuge in buddhadharma — in wisdom and compassion — enters our bloodstream. Sitting here, it’s so clear — everyone can become our sangha, our community, our sister, brother, friend.