Good at the Beginning

28 Day Challenge aspen leaf

In February, meditation teacher and author, Sharon Salzberg sponsors a 28-Day Meditation Challenge. Everybody is invited to commit to meditating every day for the month and join the mindfulness community. As part of the challenge, I’ll be blogging throughout the month (along with other meditator/bloggers) about the experience. You can find the posts on Sharon’s site and I’ll share mine on Focus Pocus.

28-Day Meditation Challenge ~ Day -4
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our meditation group is listening to a series of dharma talks by Pema Chodron called Noble Heart, about the Bodhichitta Practice. Her description in the introductory talk of the three noble principles captured my imagination. She describes the principles as “Good in the beginning, good in the middle and good at the end.” The idea is to set an aspiration at the outset of any meditation practice or other endeavor, then to proceed through the practice with openness and, as best we can, without grasping and then to share the merit of the practice at the end.

I’m a huge fan of saying grace at the beginning of a meal, so this makes sense to me. It’s like spreading the intentionality of grace through the whole practice. I’m doing my best to use the noble principles at the beginning, middle, and end of my meals, the classes I teach, and my meditation sessions.

Pema’s workbook has fancy language for setting an aspiration and dedicating merit, but for now, this is my three noble principles practice:
Good at the beginning ~ “May this meditation/class/meal be of benefit and lead to happiness.”
Good in the middle ~ Practice with a relaxed, open heart and mind with honesty and gentleness.
Good in the end ~ “May the merit of this meditation/class/meal free all beings from suffering.”

Annnnnd if, as sometimes (often, ahem, usually) happens, my practice wasn’t particularly open-hearted or I forgot all about my aspiration and was grumpy or harsh or mindless, I say instead at the end, “May all beings be free from this suffering.”

As I look forward to practicing and writing during the 28-Day Challenge, I set my aspiration ~ “May this practice and my words be of benefit and lead to happiness.”

If you set aspirations or share merit before and after your practice, I’d love to know the language you use!

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