Normal awareness is always grasping. By normal awareness, I mean the awareness that is present throughout most of the day. It's the awareness when you're driving in the car and forget where you are driving or are in the grocery store shopping while also thinking about what your plans are for tomorrow. It's the default awareness, which one of my teacher's calls "monkey mind."
Through monkey mind, you look for pleasure in material things - food, cars, clothing, etc. These things bring a temporary pleasure, and are soon grasping for the next thing. In the Buddhist text, grasping is described as a bottomless well. The more attached to finding happiness outside, the more you feel unhappy inside. Meditation can help to realize the enlightened qualities of the mind such as non-attachment and happiness. These qualities already exist within your mind, it's just that most of the time the monkey mind is distracted by thoughts.
But meditation is not just about helping yourself. Ultimately, it's about being of benefit to others. And by benefiting others, then the most precious qualities arise. A good practice for this exchange between self and others is Tonglen meditation. By breathing in the suffering of all beings and breathing out loving-kindness and compassion for all beings, your heart expands out to others and the boundaries between self and others begin to fade. You may see the suffering of others as though it were your own.
Another way to incorporate the benefit of others in your practice is by reciting a dedication prayer after your meditation. It can be something simple like, "I dedicate this practice so that all beings may be free from suffering and have lasting happiness." By doing this, you recognize that every sentient being wants to be happy and free from suffering. When reciting your dedication, really try to feel the essence of the prayer and bring it into your heart.
Posted by Kate Dutton on June 16, 2018.