Before I left Afghanistan I decided that the one of the key challenges of learning to live back in New Zealand would be learning how to make a positive difference to the balance of peace and compassion when it was no longer my paid job to do so.
Obviously, the first thing I have learned about this is something I learned 10 years ago - when I first started working full-time as a human rights advocate (in the Gaza Strip). What I learned there is that you can't rely on the "big" choices of your life, or on the "big" gestures, to be your compassionate practice in the world. You can't sit back and say "well, I decided to come and work as a human rights advocate in the Gaza Strip so I've made the right choice and I can relax and expect my impact to the positive".
What I learned was that it is the small choices, the daily moments in which we chose to feed the peaceful wolf, that really add up to our practice of peace in the world. I learned that if I did my humanitarian work with a heart filled with anger and fear it didn't add up to more peace and compassion in the world. Not exactly rocket-science, but I've never been too hot on maths and it took me a while to work out this simple equation!
So it was a great discovery for me when I learned, much more recently, that there are practices that can help to cultivate our natural compassion. In Afghanistan I learned that taking even ten minutes every morning to practice meditating on my true nature, my compassionate nature, which is free of ego and self-grasping and which is open and effortless, could actually begin to cultivate more presence of that nature in my day to day life.
Then I got home to New Zealand and I got to go out for walks in the sun, I was able to go for bike rides and to yoga classes and to spend delicious evenings in the company of good friends. I could go shopping at the market for fresh vegetables and cook them into gourmet meals. Life was good and filled with love and incredible yet simple pleasures.
So I stopped sitting to meditate every morning.
I went on a two day seated meditation retreat and found a wee practicing Shambhala community with whom I could sit in meditation on Thursday evenings. But I dropped my regular morning practice.
I've just recently really begun to notice the difference. But now that I see it, it feels glaring. So I'm getting back onto my morning cushion. It fascinates me how much I resist this simple practice. I avoid these ten minutes even while I happily spend 50 minutes readings blogs. I don't beat myself up about the resistance. I know it is really common. But it is kind of perplexing, to resist something so simple which has offered me so much in the past.
So for now, with gentleness and compassion, I'm nudging myself back onto the morning cushion. Just for a few minutes every day. To practice cultivating compassion so that I can access my compassionate nature more freely when I need it out here in the world.