The other day, I stood alone in the temple in front of an altar full of a stunningly beautiful and potent mandala of crystals, Tibetan singing bowls, and Buddhas.
As I breathed with my palms together in prayer in front of my heart and wished that the journey my family and I are about to embark upon be safe, peaceful, and joyous, for one brief second my mind was clear and radiant.
I realized that this wish for myself and the two beings closest to me (my husband and daughter) was simultaneously a wish for all beings without exception. The pure and simple aspiration, “May the journey of all beings be safe, peaceful, healthy, and happy” welled up from that indescribable source that lies within each of us and is ever surrounding us all.
This year, I realized that my boss at work is also my primary spiritual teacher. It took me a solid two years of working with her for this to dawn on me. She is a subtle teacher: precise, humble, gentle, and yet fierce when need be.
After leading two successful, dream-come-true retreats this past January, I’ve been inexplicably unable to pull together any more retreat groups despite many efforts. In response to a letter in which I mentioned this struggle, my teacher kindly wrote to me:
“Your highest aspiration is always to fully awaken for the benefit of all beings without exception. This and the practices that are associated with this, in turn, create a field of merit. All is then manifested from the energy of this merit field. Beyond merit, being able to manifest is based on full-spectrum integrity which is what we are always reaching for when we maneuver through our life with impeccability. Within the brilliance of this full spectrum expansion, great goodness is magnetized into our fields.
All good things come in all good time—or when you have accumulated enough merit to draw them to yourself. Stay strong and trust that you are finding your alignment, and, in the meantime, we will all keep practicing.”
Such a timely and brilliant reminder. I always dedicate the merit of group yoga classes that I lead, aloud, to the benefit of all beings at the conclusion of the session, but I was often neglecting to do the same during my own personal yoga or meditation practice. Just plain forgetting in the blissful state I would often achieve after reciting mantras or practicing asana.
Re-inspired, I have been dedicated to dedicating the merit each morning during my formal practice. Still, no retreat registrations have come through, but I trust that they will when the time is right. Instead of focusing on teaching and leading retreats, I am focusing on learning and deepening my own practice, staying on my own path, while at the same time holding the truth that I and all beings are one.
Dedicating the merit is fundamental to all meditation. It is absolutely essential and not to be overlooked. Here is an example of a dedication of merit you can recite at the end of your practice:
May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed
May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed
May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.
May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.
From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma.