Thank you, dear friends, for your wonderful practice tonight. I just returned from speaking and leading meditations in Minneapolis this past week. And I almost canceled it, just like I had canceled the last three times in the last two years because of my health. But I really wanted to go, and I just was trying to see how I was feeling on the day of the flight. I felt enough energy, so I went.
At first, I was a little bit scared because it is sometimes difficult when you have a health challenge to fly, the lines and the airport and all of that, the luggage and baggage claim. But I decided to just do it as slowly and mindfully as possible and not overdo it, and to really ask for assistance. And you know, I am so glad I went.
There were so many college students at three different universities, who after the meditations and the teachings were just so full of bliss and hope and encouragement. I could see that many of them would take this as an inspiration to practice more diligently in their lives and to create a whole new generation of mindful practitioners.
I also had a couple of practice sessions with peers and adults. Those were very sweet. I was able to go into deeper teachings with them and to really speak from my heart. I wish I had recorded some of those talks. I think they were some of the most sweet and heartfelt that I have shared all year.
So I am very grateful to the enlightened ones and all of my angelic helpers who gave me the energy and took away my fear of flying so that I could get there and share. And I am so grateful for those of you here who have been coming regularly and giving regularly because you actually make it more possible for me to travel and share in other cities and states.
One of the students asked a question about out-of-body experiences and other dimensions and realms and whether or not it was okay to use substances to help you have these experiences. And part of my answer was, you know, who you really are is an infinite, eternal being, and you have already explored many realms and will explore many realms, and when you leave this human body-mind construct, you will be at one with the infinite once again in a very conscious way, so as a human being, you don't need to worry about all of that.
Put your focus more on being here and now. Put your focus more on being a human being. You don't need to worry about other realms, and you don't need to worry about past lives and you don't need to worry about the afterlife. Where you want to focus is this life, so instead of trying to get an out-of-body experience, try to have an in-the-body experience through mindfulness. Do not always try to escape and distract.
You know, the number one addiction in America is distraction. We are always wanting to distract ourselves from being fully present here and now. But the real point of life is to actually be here, to really actually taste the food you are eating, to really see the flowers, to really hear the music, to really feel the wind caressing your face and the sun warming your body, to really be present.
You know, a lot of religions talk about worshiping God with praises and songs and words and prayers, but I think the best way you can praise God is to actually appreciate what God has made here. That is the best gift you can give to the creator, is by appreciating the creation. That is a way we say thank you. Every time we feel our breath with gratitude for life, every time we mindfully eat our food and truly taste and appreciate it, every time we appreciate and mindfully hug our beloved ones, every time we take a step on the earth with full presence, that is your thank you to the universe. That is the real, true praise and worship.
You know, many years ago, I had this metaphor come to my mind during meditation that there are many, many love letters from the universe from the divine, from our true nature all around us—love letters everywhere—and also inside of us, love letters. But they are in an envelope that is sealed, that can only be opened through mindfulness. Every time we are mindful, we open up a letter, and we really see and appreciate and receive the contents of the letter. So when you are practicing mindfulness through meditation or chanting or just being fully present in your activities throughout the day, you are opening up the reality and receiving this beautiful message from the universe.
And you know, I think that gladdens the heart of the infinite when we receive the letter, when we receive the message. I mean, think about it. If you wrote a beautiful letter to your beloved, and they said thank you and held the letter but never opened it, how does that feel for you? You know? So I think it gladdens the heart of the infinite when we not only praise the envelope, but actually open the envelope and read the letter, receive the message. Now through mindfulness and meditation, we start to realize that the flowers and the grass and the trees and the people and our lives and all of the experiences that we are having, they are all saying beautiful messages to us, important messages to us, one of which is the most fundamental message, that you are loved.
You know the reason why we have so many addictions to distractions and so many mental problems and emotional problems and relational problems? I believe it stems from the fundamental core issue that we do not realize how loved we are, which is why we do not even seem to love ourselves, but when we don't know that we are so deeply loved, it is very difficult to love ourselves, and when we don't love ourselves, it makes it very difficult to really love others.
So please, please, please practice mindfulness through meditation and spiritual practice in your daily life, being fully present, because that is the number one way to open that love letter from the universe and really receive that message that will indeed transform your life and the lives of everyone that you touch.
You know, one thing that helped me when I was going to Minneapolis this week—because there were a lot of college students who were going to be attending these events—and that thought scared me a little bit, and I was nervous, but I gently put that aside, because I realized the real reason I am going to Minneapolis—yeah of course, part of it is to share the dharma with all of these wonderful college students and adults, but that is not the primary reason. So I can relax. And this helped me relax and just not worry about the amount of people I would be talking in front of.
The primary reason I realized was I am just going to be with friends. I am going to be able to spend time with my peers, some of my friends I have not seen in a while. I'm going to get to spend time with my Zen teachers. I'm going to get to spend time with the leaders of the college mindfulness meditation groups. They are the ones I am really spending time with, and icing on the cake, I am also able to share with all these other people, all these other students and adults.
But really, I am just spending time with a dozen people, just being with them as their peer and just rejoicing in their good work and my good work together. And that thought helped me just relax, because you know, when you have that thought, oh my gosh, I'm going to speak in front of 100 people or more, that is a little scary sometimes, but I let that thought go, and I just realized I am just going to go to have a sweet time with my friends because I don't know if I will be alive next year or not. I don't know if I will have the energy to go back in the spring semester or not. So this is a time to just spend time with friends, my spiritual friends, and I am so glad I went.
One of the friends was a new friend I have known for many years on Facebook, but we had never actually met in person yet, and he is currently going to a Christian seminary to become a minister, and he was so happy to come to one of my meditation sessions with friends. And I felt so happy because I realized as I am in this process of not knowing how long I have to live, I started having thoughts of gosh, there were so many things I wanted to accomplish.
You know? I wanted more time. And maybe I will have that time. None of us really know when we are actually going to end our time here. I mean, you could have the strongest athletic person get run over by a truck the next day. You could have someone really, really wracked with illness and suffering, but they get through it and heal and live many more decades. You just never know.
But this thought of not being sure and certain of my time, I was like, oh, I wanted to maybe get ordained in a different spiritual tradition and try to see about being more effective for churches or maybe get a different Buddhist transmission of authority and teaching so I can have more influence and help many more people or maybe write some books or create more CDs or create a little YouTube video weekly kind of show.
I mean, all of these different things I have thought about, but I realized this week, you know, I don't have to do all of those things. If I do, great. If I don't, that is also fine, because I am touching the lives of the ones who will be doing those things, just like that dear friend from Facebook who is in seminary. He said I touched him so deeply and inspired him to practice more mindfulness and meditation, to take that into his church and his ministry and his teaching. So it makes me happy. I don't have to do it myself. I just inspire those who will do it. And that is enough.
Just like this Sunday sangha and especially the young adult sangha that meets on Tuesday, there are so many spiritual leaders, budding bodhisattvas that I see there, and I get to inspire them, and then they will do the work that I couldn't do. I love that. The ripple effect of our lives is so powerful.
So you look around the room and you might think there are not that many people in the room, but oh, you need to look with dharma eyes. Because the ripple effect of each person is touching hundreds of people, so in fact, if you look at this room with dharma eyes, you realize there are thousands of people here. Or even more, millions perhaps. Our lives are not just our individual lives. Our lives are always a ripple of effect.
So let's make sure through mindfulness it is a positive ripple effect and not a negative ripple effect. We have enough negative ripple effects throughout history, don't we? So let us now change history. This is the century that we will see the greatest shift in human consciousness, I believe. The ripple effect of our positive mindfulness will transform the present and the future and heal all that we have brought from the past.
That wasn't what I was going to talk about tonight, but it is okay. I just wanted to share from my heart with you what is in my heart right now. And I am so grateful for each and every one of you because when I look at you, I don't just see one person. I see many, many beings. I see many, many ripples. And I am very grateful for this day. You know, lately every day I have been waking up and the first thing I try to think of when I first wake up is to say thank you for another new day of life. May I live this life, this day, as mindfully as I can, and let me not worry about tomorrow, but just live and be appreciative of today.
You know, it is kind of funny. I do have pain around the tumor near my eye from time to time, but I never ever feel it during sangha or during meditation. It is weird. During sangha and meditation, I never feel that pain. So I am very grateful, at least when I am in sangha with all of you. The collective energy is so healing that I feel no pain during this time together. See how powerful you are? How powerful we are together? So may we go forth from this night inspired to continue our personal practice and also our collective practice always. Both are so important.