Please take a few moments before you begin this teaching to settle yourself. Sit upright, yet naturally relaxed. Before listening to and/ or reading the teaching make aspirations such as: "I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to the precious Dharma. I am doing this for the benefit of all sentient beings so that they may be free from suffering and attain complete awakening".
Preferences dominate our thinking most of the time whether we consciously note them or not. We carry them into our meditation practice. But is that smart? We like or we dislike–often intensely. And if we are practicing meditation, we may be surprised to notice that we spend a lot of time pursuing or discussing our own preferences. Moreover, we may invest preferences with a lot of power. Often, we decide that we don’t like a particular practice. And then we decide we shouldn’t continue it. Some people react strongly against ritual practices, for example–and think that they are happier just sitting in meditation quietly. But is that really so easy?
Preferences: Just Habits and Patterns
Here, instructor Erric Solomon points out how we subtly cling to our own preferences, opinions and habits. Now, we can’t just turn this thinking off–we’re wired that way. But, we can start to develop a curiosity about our own mind. Preferences don’t have to rule our reactions–instead we can use them as an opportunity to observe our patterns. As we do that, we can gently begin to explore practices we may have found irritating or frustrating. We may not feel immediately comfortable–but can we be open to that experience? Holding on tightly to our own preferences may feel powerful, but do we really benefit from continually repeating our old habits?
In the next month or so, take a few minutes to check in with yourself as you approach your meditation practice. Where might you feel resistance, even if it is subtle? What might you learn from that slight dislike or discomfort–what is being challenged? These investigations can be quite interesting and you may find yourself uncovering layers of subtle patterns. Take some time to play with this, and to discuss your findings with Dharma friends and your teacher.
At the end of the teaching, please remember to dedicate the merit of receiving a Dharma teaching. As you go through your day, take a few moments from time to time to recall these instructions.