Call it a boon. Call it grace.
It only seems evident in retrospect. Before I found meditation, I only had the tools of self-will to power my life. Since I was only able to identify with my thoughts and feelings, I was acting only out of ego gratification. If my ego was displeased with any aspect of my life, I judged that situation to be untenable, unendurable. I was doomed to live a sad life, lonely, and angry with the universe and my fellow travelers in it.
But in spite of my warped world view, I made one or two decisions that turned out to be prescient and wise. Where was this guidance coming from? Certainly not from my ego. In spite of the negative bent of my view of the world and the culture I was born into, despite the prevalence of unhealthy examples around me, I made the choice to become vegetarian at around twenty years of age.
At age twenty five, I started practicing yoga. Los Angeles was not the overt marketplace of all things eastern that it later became, and I had to tape Richard Hittleman's yoga instruction programs off of KCET, a local PBS affiliate. I practiced alone, told no one, and managed to become more and more proficient. I later let the practice go, but I never forgot the asanas. When I resumed decades later, it all came back.
Then about ten years ago, I met the man who taught me to meditate. I knew that I did not know how to do it, and that he did. I paid him to teach me. Although it seemed like a large amount of money at that stage of my life, I know now that it was the bargain of a lifetime.
I don't feel like I made these choices. I feel these choices made me. No amount of money could dissuade me from continuing these habitual actions.
Where did I get the willingness to set aside my ego and take on these seemingly risky practices? The only answer that makes sense to me now is that I became open to a higher power's direction and ignored the pressures of the prevailing culture to conform.
In retrospect I can clearly see the guiding hand of a loving God.
This season, let's strive to not take our own emotional temperature too much. Let us look outward toward our fellows, put their happiness before our own. Let us be open to the joys of anonymous giving.
"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life."
Francis Bernadone, (St. Francis) 1204, Italy.