Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sharing the benefit

Here at the Center, we end every class and every meditation sitting with something called "sharing the benefit". This is a way of dedicating the practice we have just done to the benefit of all beings everywhere. We wish for them to be happy and free from suffering. Why is it important that we do this? Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks to this in his book, Coming to Our Senses:
In the end, whether we are talking about individual people who are problematic for us, or the entire universe, what is most important is that we incline our own heart toward inclusion rather than toward separation. In the end, whatever the consequences for others or for the planet or the universe, or any levels in between, the willingness to extend ourselves in this way, literally and metaphorically, to extend the reach of our own heart, has profound consequences for our own life, and for our own capacity to live in the world in ways that embody wisdom and compassion, lovingkindness and equanimity, and ultimately, that express the joy inherent in being alive, and the boundless joy inherent in freeing ourselves from all our conditioning of mind and heart and the suffering that that conditioning engenders.

In other words, we help ourselves by being willing to help others. Sharing the benefit does something very positive to our own heart. I like Kabat-Zinn's emphasis on "the joy inherent in being alive". We create interior conditions conducive to experiencing this joy when we willingly share with others.

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