Our meditation practice can help us soften our rough edges.
This is an analogy that I’ve seen more than once. We are like rocks with sharp edges and we’ve got to get polished so we can be smooth. So we are doing the work of polishing ourselves.
How do we do this?
By cultivating Virtue, Meditation, and Insight.
These three things are like our polishing tools. We apply them to our rough edges in hopes that we can be a little more mindful, a little more compassionate, and a little more wise. And if we’re really diligent, maybe that little more can become a lot more.
A lot of people seem to talk these days about how meditation practice can make you more focused and help you make better choices. That’s definitely true. But sometimes it seems like the rest of the message can get lost. Meditation can make you more wholehearted, more open-minded, more loving, and many other things. Meditation practice can make you, for want of a better term, a better person.
Although the truth is sometimes that will only happen if you set that intention. But also sometimes it will happen all by itself, whether you like it or not. You can practice meditation to have more patience for dealing with stress and end up becoming a nicer person without intending to.
Some people say, “You shouldn’t talk about goals in meditation” and I respectfully disagree with that. I think we can easily get off track if we talk about goals too much, but we are doing this for a reason.
So, meditation can soften our rough edges so we aren’t pushing back against the world all the time, so we aren’t making enemies out of everything, so we aren’t getting eaten up by things that really don’t matter.
I’d like to present my own version of the analogy.
People that are my age will get it.
(I’m Gen X but this is probably meaningful to older Millenials too)
We are like Edward Scissorhands. If you don’t know it, that’s a film where a guy has scissors for hands. Any effort at explaining that will sound absurd, so please go watch it yourself.
In the film the main character (Johnny Depp) has blades instead of fingers. This means that there are a lot of things he can’t do and also a lot of things that he can do that are just more difficult. And it also means that he accidentally causes harm. His hands are dangerous, obviously. They’re sharp. The film is exactly as weird as it sounds.
We are like Edward Scissorhands.
Lots of things are hard for us. We all make our share of bad decisions. We all cause harm when we don’t mean to. We hurt the people we care the most about and sometimes we do that without meaning to. Plenty of times in our lives we do the wrong thing without meaning to. Often we try to do our best and we still fail. We usually don’t want to hurt other people but the truth is we’ve all been hurt in our lives, we’ve all been kicked in the heart many times and maybe you’ve heard this, I’ve seen it on a bumper sticker, “Hurt people hurt people.”
That’s not to excuse bad behavior, of course. But so many of us have had some level of trauma in our lives and that can lead us to make mistakes, even when we’re trying hard to do the right thing. None of us are perfect.
So it’s like we have scissors for hands. Maybe we want to be gentle, but we often don’t know how. Our spiritual practice, not just meditation, training in virtue, meditation, and insight has an important purpose. We’re trying to turn our scissorhands into regular hands. Or, maybe that’s unattainable, we’re trying to make them a little less sharp.
Sometimes a little less sharp is all we can really wish for.