Today I bring to you Allan Lokos to give us some hints on how short practices throughout our daily lives can make big change. Allan is the author of the book Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living and is the founder and teacher at the Community Meditation Center in New York City. Allan has published numerous articles in various areas and studied with teachers that you may be aware of such as Sharon Salzberg, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joseph Goldstein, among others.
Elisha: What are Pocket Practices, and how can they help people find peace?
Allan: Pocket practices are concise, incisive versions of the Buddhist teachings known as the “Parami” (Pali) or “Paramitas” (Sanskrit) that can help us think, speak, and act wisely under pressure. They are compact but effective practices that we develop slowly so that we can call upon them quickly, instinctively. They are light, responsive, and powerful.
Some pocket practices uplift the spirit, while others provide a method for dealing with disappointment, anger, insecurity, reactive patterns, and judgmental tendencies. Others simply bring us more in contact with the person we want to be––our kinder, more compassionate, more generous self––our true self. They don’t require a meditation cushion, sacred space, candles, incense, or a holy attitude, just a desire for a greater sense of inner peace and happiness.
Elisha: You had a long career in the performing arts before becoming an Interfaith minister and the guiding teacher for Manhattan’s Community Meditation center. What compelled you to pursue spiritual studies?
Allan: There is no simple answer to that question. I was happy with the earlier part of my life, but of course, one cannot sing beyond a certain age (unless one is Placido Domingo). Sometimes I think it was just a calling. In Buddhist terms, it was the coming together of various conditions and events. I met a few people who seemed to be at peace in a way I had experienced. When I spoke with them they all referred to spiritual aspects of their lives. I became intrigued and began to attend retreats, read books, work with teachers, meditate––that was the biggest factor, meditation. It has been transformative. Now it is my great joy to share the teachings with others in both the spoken and written word.
Elisha: If you could recommend just one Pocket Practice for every reader to try today, what would it be?
Allan: We are all subject to conditions and events outside of ourselves, and within, that can cause stress, anxiety, and turmoil. I would suggest that readers sit quietly for five minutes a day for a week and remind themselves that many things happen that are beyond our control. How we perceive these things, what our experience is of all events, is totally in our control. The specific pocket practice reads, Only I can destroy my peace and I choose not to do so. It is a good idea to do this practice every month or so until one truly owns it.
Elisha: Q: If you were sitting across the table from someone right now who was going through a difficult time, what advice would you give them?
Allan: The first thing I would do is listen. It is sad how many people go through life without someone who has actually listened to them. I believe we have the answers we need within us. Often, when we have someone who listens, without trying to fix, correct, or assist, we are able to find our way.
A universal truth, of course, is that all things are impermanent; this too will pass. If we have courage and look directly at our suffering we will see its cause. Often as we see the cause of our suffering we also see how to alleviate it.
Thank you Allan!
To the readers: As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom we can all benefit from.