A New Day in the Life of…

If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it. Attributed to Vladimir Horowitz
6:00 AM. Alarm clock rings. Time to wake up. Oh no, time to get up for work already. Where did the night go? Although I still feel tired, I feel a new meaning to my life. It might be due to that email message I got from my friend about three months ago, telling me about a website called, Event Temples. I downloaded and read the website’s primary article, “Living from the Heart” and liked it. There was something about it that just resonated with me.

6:30 AM. A 5-minute time of reflection on the six heart virtues. I have been doing the Virtuous Cycle Technique from the “Living from the Heart” paper. Some days I feel too tired or I’m in a bad mood, and I just can’t seem to do the meditation. Some days, even when I meditate, it doesn’t seem very effective. But I’m trying my best to do it as often as possible and for the past couple of weeks I have been steadier in the practice.

6:50 AM. Breakfast. My wife is already reminding me about the after-school soccer match I must attend, while I am already stressing over the project I have going on at work. It’s getting close to the critical launch. Meanwhile, my two children are arguing about something and I discover that my morning newspaper is lying in a puddle of water.

I am getting irritated and am bordering on anger when I suddenly realize that this past year I have become callous and thankless in relation to my family because of the stress and anxiety of my job. I have been avoiding the guilt associated with this and feel ashamed of myself.

I don’t know what comes over me, but I spontaneously decide to try the Six Heart Virtues Grid Meditation that I read about in “Living from the Heart.” I visualize myself as a point of divine love with the six heart virtues surrounding me and encompassing the kitchen. I had read about this in the paper I downloaded from Event Temples, but except for one attempt, I haven’t tried it because I’ve had my hands full just trying to do the Virtuous Cycle Technique. So I breathe the virtues through my system and into the energy fields of my family. At first this feels kind of weird and airy-fairy, but I finally admit that it actually feels kind of nice. (I remember trying it for the first time at work last week, but I felt embarrassed and self-conscious about it, so I stopped.)

Aware of my insensitivity I realize that I need to show more appreciation for my family, I also realize that I need to apply understanding and compassion to my own shortcomings. This may take a while, but at least I have made a start. Who knows, maybe I will even be able to overcome my guilt and eventually forgive myself.

There is too much confusion right now to express any of this to my wife, but at least I feel better inside knowing that I have become sensitive to the problem. This, in and of itself, gives me energy and my stress level actually feels like it has gone down a little bit.

The arguing kids are too much to deal with now and I don’t know what to do about the irritation I feel because of the wet newspaper. All I can do right now is observe this irritation and feel it in my gut.

7:30 AM. I ponder the meaning of life while slowly driving in the morning traffic jam. Suddenly all traffic comes to a dead stop and I realize there is an accident ahead and I may be late for work. I notice my frustration and anger building up as it usually does in these situations. I decide to apply the virtues of humility and understanding to this situation, but to my surprise I cannot seem to activate these feelings.

Wondering what is going on, I realize that it isn’t easy to activate the virtues when negative emotions have gotten into my system and are running riot. It takes a while for me to allow these negative emotions to subside before I can focus on bringing forth the feelings of humility and understanding.

Humility allows me to deflate my own self-importance. After all, I’m not the only person in this mess. I’m in this traffic jam along with other people who will probably be late for work just like me. Besides there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.

This attitude actually helps the virtue of understanding emerge. It seems natural to me in this situation because understanding implies a combination of knowledge and reason, leading to meaning. I know there is a large volume of traffic at rush hour and therefore it’s just common sense that accidents are more likely to occur under these conditions.

Now I feel better. The pain of frustration has subsided and I feel so much better that I decide to send this same combination of humility and understanding to my fellow prisoners of the highway. I try my best to visualize the heart virtues grid around my body and imagine these two virtues flowing out to those around me.

8:30 AM. I get to work just in time for my project meeting and I immediately find out that something has gone wrong with the project. I know it’s not my fault, but is obviously the fault of some idiot in another department.

Observing the thoughts and feelings that come into my mind, I cannot avoid the fact that I have just condemned someone for making an error even though I have no evidence to back it up. My heart tells me that this is not the right attitude. Despite my certainty that it isn’t my error, I need to practice forgiveness and not condemn another person. After all, if I cannot forgive someone for a mistake, the resentment I feel toward them will only create unhealthy, negative emotions that create more stress on the job. I imagine the virtue of forgiveness flowing outward to that “someone” in another department.

A couple of months ago, I would have been irritated at least all day over an incident like this one. Comparing that feeling of irritation with this new feeling of forgiveness is like a breath of fresh air. Instead of feeling locked into an irritable and uncomfortable emotional state, by contrast, I feel liberated, able to let go of this emotional discomfort. Ordinarily, I would have been drained of energy all day, but now I feel energized and somehow more empowered.

10:30 AM. My boss calls me into her office to inform me that it wasn’t an idiot from another department who screwed up, but it was, in fact, me. I am the idiot who screwed up. I am suddenly in a state of shock! How can this be possible? Here I am, sending forgiveness to someone who made this huge mistake and all along it was me. I was nice enough to take the time to send forgiveness to somebody and they didn’t even need it! I AM an idiot. Not only that, I am a conceited, egotistical idiot, for I automatically assumed that because I am such a superior person the mistake could not possibly have been mine. For some bizarre reason, Carly Simon’s song, “You’re So Vain” began playing in my head.

What’s more, my manager now informs me that I better stay late tonight to correct the problem. I’m afraid to tell her I can’t because of the soccer game my son is in after school. My stress level has just doubled.
12:00 Noon. Sitting in my office at lunchtime, I reflect on the morning’s events. I have recovered enough from my emotional reactions to look at the attitudes and behaviors I expressed as a result of this crisis. First of all, from the beginning of this incident I was so into my own ego that I automatically believed someone else caused this crisis. I was able to practice when-which-how by centering in my heart and sending forgiveness to this individual.

That part was fine, but when my manager informed me that the crisis was my fault, I lost it and condemned myself to idiot status and even resented the fact that I sent forgiveness to someone who didn’t even earn it. To be honest, that’s pretty bad. Not only am I egotistical, but in my anger, I actually resented sending someone a heart virtue!”

Okay, enough wallowing in what has already been done. All I can do now is realign to my energetic heart. Immediately, I close my eyes and visualize myself as a point of divine love surrounded by the six virtues. After some effort to calm down, I see and feel appreciation in front of me and compassion behind me. I am aware of forgiveness to my front left and humility to my front right. Behind me on the left is understanding and behind me on the right is valor.

The simple act of performing this exercise, allowing the energies of these virtues to flow through my being, somehow renews my spirit. Yes, I screwed up, I lost control, but now I can feel the healing energies of the virtues restoring my balance—giving me the strength and insight I need to move ahead.

This crisis is turning into a breakthrough. I now see that my heart has led me to the soul itself. I feel uplifted and shifted in consciousness to a state of serenity and unity. From this higher and wider vantage point, I can observe my ego-personality and pour love into it. I feel compassion for all the mistakes and needless suffering it has created and endured. I allow this compassion to flow into my awareness. I surrender to the inflow of love. Compassion leads to understanding. The light of understanding reveals how I have been denying the flaws and imperfections of my personality structure. I have donned the armor of war and protection, and built a fortress to hide within.

The ego needs these devices for protection, but the soul does not. I can understand this now and I can release myself from the burden of deception. I can remove the restricting mask of the social order and show my true face. This release, this liberation, is the result of self-forgiveness.

I feel so good I want to pour these feeling out on everyone. So without even thinking about it, I spontaneously send a wave of heart virtues out to my family, friends, co-workers, and the entire world.

When I come out of this meditative state, I am a little embarrassed because the experience seemed so out of proportion to the event that triggered it. But then I recall stories I’ve heard about Zen Buddhist monks who became enlightened so suddenly and without warning that it was like being struck by lightning. I think the word they used was Satori.

1:00 PM. Feeling confident about this heartfelt experience, I do something that I never would have dreamt of before today. I go to my boss’s office and ask to talk to her. I apologize for my emotional outburst and the mistake I made on the project. I am especially sorry for blaming someone else for it before the evidence showed the true source of the error. I think to myself how great it feels to admit my true position in all this—to not have to defend a false position. The virtue of humility has lifted this burden from my shoulders.

I then find the courage to tell my manager that I really can’t stay overtime today to correct the problem because my son is playing in a soccer match after school. To my utter astonishment, she understands. For the first time since I have worked for her, she is sharing information about her personal life. She relates that her daughter also plays soccer and that she always tries to attend her daughter’s games. She knows how important it is to her daughter when she makes the effort to get to her games. So my boss tells me that she doesn’t really care when I get this problem resolved as long as I get it done by the weekend.

I leave work this afternoon amazed at how smoothly everything seems to be going. Reviewing all that has happened today, I realize that I expressed compassion, understanding, forgiveness, humility, and valor. I now have an enormous appreciation for the powers of the energetic heart and the emanating love of the soul standing behind it. Amazing. I have utilized every virtue without even realizing it. Looking back on it, they just seemed to flow naturally and effortlessly from my heart. Simply making the effort to turn my attention to them was the key to their transforming power. I make a quick mental note to remember to do this more often because, up until today, I have only remembered to apply the technique once in a while. If I can discipline myself to be more aware of my interactions, I can increase my opportunities to apply the virtues to the small difficulties of life and prevent them from growing into major problems, like the crisis today.

5:30 PM. I arrive at the soccer game, but have missed the beginning and my wife wants to know why? At first, this sarcastic question annoys me and ordinarily I would just let it go, but after the events of today, I decide it is time to express my feelings about these irritating remarks. Now I understand how letting things like this build up can lead to greater difficulties later on.

I ask her to please not be so sarcastic because I tried my best to get to the game on time, but traffic was unusually heavy today. I immediately sense her surprise that I have actually given a response to her question. I continue by saying that I realize that I haven’t been very appreciative and sensitive to her and the kids the past months and therefore maybe I bear some of the responsibility for her unkind reactions to me. While relating all this to her, I am doing my best to send her understanding and compassion. She suggests that we talk about it later. I agree.

Halfway through the game, my son’s team is losing and no one is happy. Meanwhile, I’m thinking about this whole concept of competitive sports and how it fits in with emotional self-mastery. Should I be sending the heart virtues to anyone right now? What if I send valor to my son’s team, but not the opposing team? That’s similar to people praying to God for victory over another team. Or worse yet, praying to God for victory in war. This is a deeper moral issue and too complicated for me right now. How can a person send courage to one team and withhold it from another? Where is the compassion in that? Doesn’t the sun shine on the good and bad alike? I decide that I should be neutral in terms of the current soccer game. To me, it’s just common sense. So, I decide to send both teams valor. Why not, aren’t sports really supposed to be about how you play the game and not about winning or losing? I laugh to myself seeing how naive that idea has become.

As it turns out, my son’s team pulls through and wins the game and we head home for dinner.

8:00 PM. We are finally eating dinner and my wife is telling me about the chores that must get done this weekend. I am nodding in agreement, but I haven’t heard a word because I am thinking about how I am going to straighten out the mess at work.

I then realize to my dismay that I haven’t been present. My mind has drifted off and I am not giving my wife the attention she deserves (that anyone deserves). This occurrence is not a major catastrophe, but I am beginning to realize how insidious it actually is. The vast majority of people find this state of mind perfectly acceptable, but I am increasingly seeing this as a real impediment to practicing when-which-how. If I cannot hold my focus on a simple dinner conversation with a member of my own family, what does that tell me about self-mastery in general, let alone emotional self-mastery? I need to give this some serious thought later on, but for now I need to focus on the moment.

I apologize for not paying attention to our discussion and we settle our plans for the weekend. We then get back to our earlier discussion at the soccer game. Apparently, the virtues of understanding and compassion have had an effect on her because she is not defensive at all about her edginess over the past few months. Through valor, I am able to honestly express my situation at work and explain the reasons for my callous and thankless behavior of late. She appreciates my forthrightness and I express to her how appreciative I am of her efforts to support the family in so many ways. I express my understanding for how she must have felt during this stage of our relationship. Turning within, I put myself in her position and can feel compassion welling up in me, and I send it to her.

Meanwhile, another argument has broken out between the two kids in the next room and instead of screaming at them to shut-up and go to bed, I inform them that my wife and I will help resolve their argument in the morning. Having temporarily resolved that problem, we decide to listen to some music before going to bed. As the music is playing I picture the six virtues energy grid surrounding me and enveloping most of the rooms in our home. A new atmosphere of harmony descends upon our family…at least for a while.

10:00 PM. Bedtime, and I look forward to a “restful” night in order to be ready for another great day.

As I drift to sleep, I am aware that my efforts to apply the heart virtues are turning out very well. I have a lot to learn about how to use them more skillfully, but I am pleasantly surprised at how effectively they work, even for a novice like me.