by Michael Kelberer
I intend that this writing benefit all beings.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lack of an overtly spiritual practice in my life. I’ve gone through quite a few in my six plus decades: Catholicism, sect-less Christianity, shamanism, Buddhism (although this mainly involved reading about Buddhism, not practicing it). And here I am still seeking.
I thought mindfulness might be just the ticket, and meditation would be The Answer. No canon of beliefs, no antique rituals, just “connection.” After two and a half years though, I can still feel the spiritual hole.
I recently read an article in Lions Roar (May 2018) with the title “Through this merit, may all beings awaken.” It was about a Buddhist practice whereby, when you finish your practice, whether it be meditation, yoga or praying, you dedicate any “merit” (goodness or value) you have gained from that practice to the benefit of all beings. This, says Lama Palden Drolma, “expands our meditation beyond ourselves.”
“Expanding beyond ourselves.” It seems like that is a common thread in human kind’s search for spiritual meaning. And a definition that works for me. At face value, meditation appears to be self-centered and isolating, but those who practice know that it profoundly influences one’s relationship with the world. Lama Drolma’s guidance takes this further, encouraging us to feel part of the greater world. Adding a spiritual thread to our practices is the act of connecting to a sense of the greater good itself.
Lama Drolma says that when she first started this practice, “I immediately noticed a big shift in my meditation. It felt like my whole practice opened up and become more effortless. It wasn’t just about me anymore.”
While it is fine to make the dedication to any group of beings, she suggests making the group as large as possible, by including “humans, animals, and any and all sentient beings – maybe even alien life forms – in our practice. This expands our consciousness to the unbound vastness.”
This also, she adds, has the effect of helping us get beyond any beliefs we might hold about our separateness from other life. “When we dedicate the merit of our meditation to all beings, we are in alignment with the truth [that we are interdependent], and our self-concept expands, even if we don’t immediately notice it.”
So how do we actually do that?
The dedication itself comes at the end of the practice, and in the article Lama Drolma gives several examples from Buddhism. Here is one that fits my more secular spiritual sensibility:
“I dedicate whatever fruits have arisen from my practice to the wellbeing of all living creatures, that they may awaken and be free.”
Lama Drolma also suggests that we can add to this practice by setting a complimentary intention at the start. For example, beginning a meditation session by setting the simple intention of benefiting all beings by virtue of your practice.
She also points out that the acts of setting an intention and making a dedication can bookend not just our formal practices, but really any activity we perform throughout our day. We can do it before and after washing the dishes, cooking a meal, or walking the dog. I like this idea a lot – being not just mindful during the mundane acts of my life, but elevating each into a spiritual practice.
So I’ve made a commitment to try this practice (when I remember!), and am looking forward to seeing if quenches my thirst for an “overtly spiritual practice.”
I dedicate whatever merit has arisen through this writing to the benefit of all beings, that they may awaken and be free.