I teach meditation in a city with a high homeless population. I drive by homeless people almost every day. On the way home tonight I noticed a couple on the side of the road who were obviously without a home. Oddly, I didn’t notice any homeless people on my way to class. They must have been there but I was not. I was somewhere else off in my mind.
Except for after class, I do not usually jump in my car right after a meditation session. I have recently been feeling into the different level of awareness I have while driving home from meditation class than I do on the way to class. I sat at the red light and really let myself be aware of this homeless couple. I wondered who they were and what they had been through that brought them to where they are now.
I felt a deep sadness come into my heart. I know that meditation increases empathy. It builds our ability to see the goodness in others, let down our judgments, and connect . For a few moments I became irritated with my practice. Why am I spending time with a practice that is giving me the ability to tap into this sadness? Wasn’t the way to class better? I didn’t even notice them. I didn’t have to feel anything. I was free to worry about myself only and that’s a big enough worry. That reaction passed and I felt the sadness trickle in again. I silently wished the couple well and really meant it.
As I pulled my car forward my awareness went to the fact that I was driving home to a nice warm home. I was in my trusty car that would safely take me there. I was going to eat a nice warm dinner. Because I was able to feel my sadness for this couple and I was also able to feel deep appreciation for the comfort in my life.
I didn’t have to feel the sadness in my heart on the way to class because I was too lost in my usual internal drama in my head. But by avoiding that sadness (and reality), I also pushed away my appreciation. I’ve realized I can’t shut down one emotion that isn’t convenient without shutting down other emotions that add so much fulfillment to my life. Looks like I will be getting back on the cushion tomorrow.