Good Morning. It is a bedrock principle of Zen that change is not possible without acceptance. One must radically accept that a problem exists and fully accept the magnitude of a problem, its consequences, and our feelings and thoughts about a problem in order to move towards fruitful action. We all have a problem right now.
The second paragraph of the declaration of independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” At the time he wrote those words, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. History tells us that he loved Sally Hemmings, an enslaved woman, and that he fathered six of her children. Jefferson was deeply troubled by slavery, but failed to find a way to extricate himself or the country from the scourge of slavery.
It feels as if there has been a cosmic shift in the willingness of Americans to accept that racism exists and persists in our country, and to accept the magnitude of the problem and the magnitude of pain associated with it. The USA, has held itself up as a model of individual liberty in the world and we have failed to live up to our stated ideals. The rights alluded to in the Declaration of Independence are not afforded to all citizens and basic human rights are afforded to all people within our borders.
I realize this is a heady way to begin the day. What does this have to do with mindfulness? The most difficult thing to do is to stay attentive to this overwhelming reality, to accept all aspects of it, so that we can change. Mindfulness helps us to accept the enormity of the problem and to have the perseverance to actualize change.
Recent studies have demonstrated that mindfulness practice increases students’ perseverance when solving difficult problems. When we practice mindfulness, we learn at least two things: 1) we train our brain to actually stay on task and connected to the present moment, and 2) we train ourselves, like an athlete, to persist despite frustration, fatigue, or obstacles. This is what’s most needed now.
So today, sit comfortably and watch this guided meditation on persistence. The point of this practice is not relaxation, it is to cultivate persistence. Persistence is not giving up, even when things are challenging. It means breathing and discovering each new moment, carving out change.