One of the skills we can develop as a meditator is to be able to pick things up, practice with them and put them down again. It can be very useful to use external prompts to help us to do this. I am sure people will remember the stories of the miners stuck down the mine in Chile or the kids stuck in the cave in Thailand. Both of these were brought to my attention and I made it a practice every day to chant and spread mettā to the people underground and their families. Someone gave me photos from the newspaper and I put them up on my shrine for my afternoon meditation. Then I would take them down until the following day. In this way I managed to pick up these events and use the pictures to focus my mind. Then I could put the whole thing down and not carry it with me the whole day.
It was actually a patient on one evening shift in the hospital, many years ago when I was a student, who taught me the importance of this skill in a way I never forgot. I said to him with great enthusiasm, “if there is anything at all I can do for you this shift please let me know.”
Actually there was very little I could do and he knew it. He said very firmly, “what you can do for me is to go out tonight and have a really great time.”
I offer this for your reflection