They Have Enough Love

A few years back and posted on a previous blog I wrote about an article in Process Theology Here is the link to that entry: What kind of food….

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and starting thinking about what I was going to write about for today’s post. I had been thinking about a letter my son wrote to me during the touch and go days at the beginning of my aneurysm odyssey.

 

As I recuperate there is seemingly endless time to contemplate all kinds of things. At times these thoughts rest softly on remembering and thinking about significant people in my life. People who molded and shaped the pudgy infant and toddler edges into the more defined softer shape of an emerging “adult”. People who guided me, picked me up, looked me in the eye, believed in me. In the above article there is reference to how the people who “fed” me the “food” of their love and care allowed me to grow into the adult person I was to become. I am the product of the “food” I was “fed”.

As I moved into adulthood I married and had children. As my children grew the reality of them moving away from home for college set in. Sharing feelings about this with friends getting ready for the same, we all knew we would miss our children deeply. On occasion one friend or another would express how hard it was, for the “selfish” reason of missing their child, to worry and concern about how their child would fare without the watchful eyes of parents. I would try to express that yes, I would miss them, but I also believed in the young adults who were ready for this part of life. I believed my husband and I had raised our children in ways that had prepared them well for this chapter in their lives. The “selfish sadness” I did have was tempered by excitement for them, confidence in them, and curiosity as to what the future would gift to them.

So here we are, a couple of decades later. Children grown, successfully educated and employed, living their own lives in other cities and towns. Parental pride is an understatement. I am in awe of who these two adults are and what they offer to our world and to others.

Then, world seemingly crashed around us when I experienced a ruptured aneurysm and many things became not only unknown, but also uncertain. My family: husband and children, as well as siblings and extended family, found themselves in the precarious and sometimes dark space of just not knowing how things would play out. Each day became a balancing act……The “unknown” and “hope” performed together in an unsure juggling act. I was nestled in a foggy, drug induced sleep state and remained unaware of the of the goings on and the falling tears.

Months later, here I sit trying to come to terms with the missing months of my life and at the same time experiencing a new sweetness in my life as if I am being wrapped cozily in a soft blanket of grace and love. There were some instances when I felt giddy, as if I was falling in love with my husband and children all over again. As I become aware of time again, and the days turn from weeks to months my family and friends help me continue to process what happened. Tears of joy as well as tears from past fear fall and we take turns wiping each other’s cheeks dry.

My siblings and children ventured back to their lives, friends headed home and everyone just hoped we/I had gotten through the worst of it all and that the days might become softer for us all. Eventually I was cautiously allowed to go home under the protective wings of several therapists and the loving, patient care of my husband.

As everyone’s days slowly became more focused on healing, time allowed us all the chance to process the past weeks and months. Slowly I think we all began to believe I had made it through the toughest part of recovery and began to look forward to continued progress.

A few weeks ago my son emailed me a letter he had written to me when he had become stranded in Pittsburgh and couldn’t get home in time for one of my earliest surgeries. Prognosis was unclear and the uncertainty weighed on him heavily.  His heart felt, emotionally full words, while hard for me to read, have helped me in my coming to terms with some parts of this experience. First and foremost, his words let me know that while he had been in a dark and scary place bordered by walls of uncertainty, fear/worry, those walls were coming down and perhaps there were even some openings that led to a clearer view of the horizon.

Rewind to the link at the beginning and how we are nourished by others in our lives. As my son was explaining what was happening and how sad he was feeling, he wrote : “I keep realizing so much of me is you. Big stuff and small stuff. Good stuff and not-so-good stuff. But I have so much of you in me.” As I read this I of course cried, but at the same time knew the truth of what he wrote, we are made of parts of important people in our lives. In his heart the pain of not being able to be with me, not knowing the outcome of the surgery was almost unbearable, yet he also knew the power of love : ” But dad and Caitlin will be there and they have enough love to make it work. It will work. It has to work. I’m not ready for the alternative.”

They have enough love.

love with all your heart

They did. And here I am. Each day I rest and walk in the embrace of love that was more than enough to carry me through.

It’s very hard to think about all this, but the point I am trying to make is that we all do matter to each other, and we have a responsibility to each other becasue of that. Also, sometimes important lessons and insight come through turbulent times.

a morning offering

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This Path

“This is my wish for you:
Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes,
rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips,
sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag,
beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being,
faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt,
courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth,
Love to complete your life.”

*Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I have wandered down this path of recovery I have done so hand in hand with family and friends. Holding me tight so I wouldn’t trip and fall at the uneven parts, each companion offered physical support, but more importantly spiritual and emotional encouragement. My unsteadiness, which caught me off guard, was anticipated and brought to balance again and again by the mindfulness of my companions. While the pace slowed and turned cautious at times, I did find the courage to know myself and to have  the confidence to trust and reach out and a faith that glued everything together.
My wish for all of us mirrors the poem. That each of us have a source of comfort when we face challenges, smiles that can soften sadness, a glimpse of the beauty that is ahead, laughter to lighten the weight, arms to circle us, open eyes and heightened senses, others to shine a light to show the way for us, belief in a higher plan, the knowledge that we are stronger than we may think, to sense what is true and to know and share a love that binds everything together.

Being in a place of uncertainty and dependency I have learned that there is grace in vulnerability. This vulnerability teaches me  to let go of the uncertainty and fear of the unknown, and to spend less time working to control that unknown. As I remind myself to slow down a bit in body and mind, to savor the flavors of this moment rather that looking too far ahead especially with expectations and longing. Right now is what is and when I slow a bit I find great comfort and even security in the moment. I can feel myself wrapped in a blanket of love: the love of the moment, the past, and yes even the future. A love that allows this moment to be full and enough.

Before the aneurysm I had had several experiences that I knew had come from a place of grace and love. Things that at first were difficult to explain, yet held recognizable truths for me. The “message” or “lesson” was clearly for me at that particular time.

In the course of difficult days there is a comfort that comes when I am open to receiving. There are tender smiles for me when sadness intrudes.
When I look up and outward there are rainbows that do follow the clouds. There are smiles and  laughter lingering on my lips.
The sunsets do warm my heart. A hug is always available when my spirits sag.

jan 2013a
Beauty is all around me. Friendships brighten my life.
In my heart there is a faith that sustains me. Tucked inside there is a confidence to lean on when I have doubts.
As I grow I find I do have courage to know and honor my true self. It comes with a patience that is able to accept the truth of what is.
I have been blessed with many great loves that are all a part of the greater circle of love that surrounds me.

Today. at lunch, my husband, daughter and I talked about my recent time in the hospital and rehab after the aneurysm. So many thoughts and feelings surfaced for each of us. Memories and emotions that we each are still processing. Contained in all of these were tears, smiles, and soft laughter. The balance of awe and awareness that could only be witnessed at this moment. We each had a palpable memory of the uncertainty, fear and helplessness that comes at such times. As we looked at each other, the power of the moment, THAT one moment, there was a whisper of understanding, grace, love and gratitude. We were lifted up. I felt so full.  Here, around a table looking out over the lake, a love that is so enduring bound some of the worry and fear and placed it to the side. This moment was for being in the loving presence of each other and breathing in the gratitude that nourished us body and soul.

I am on some kind of a journey. One I had not planned nor was I prepared for. The ride has been bumpy and I have strayed a bit from the path, but have been guided back on course.
Each day I struggle to see the same progress those around me see that I have made. I think I am beginning to allow myself to see the same healing and change as the fear and worry fade a bit to the back ground. I know I am so much more aware of the blessings in my life and am able to give them their rightful place of guiding lights on this amended path.

Writing this I might even go so far to say that I see and understand this aneurysm , as terrifying and scary as it has been, has brought me to this day, on this path, with a new perspective on many things. Now, I ask to be given the strength and courage to find my way on this path. I believe it will lead me to opportunities to explore the rawness of a powerful love, the parting of the fog that covers what is right in front of us, and a inner strength that goes forward with a brighter light showing the way.

 

“Becoming The Sanctuary We Seek”

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I’ve been “away” for awhile. I had a brain aneurysm that ruptured and the result was hospitalization, being kept in a sleep state, surgery, therapies and the still happening recovery. It has been a long and challenging time. As I learn more about all the events and concerns, I feel so deeply for my family and friends and can only imagine the worry and fears they must have endured. All the while lifting me up with their love, presence and care.

I have been home now for several weeks and sit here looking at the material remains of Christmas morning. Christmas morning, as soon as my eyes opened my heart called out “I am here! I get another Christmas with the loves of my life!” I paused a little bit letting that sink in….emotions flooded me. Overwhelming me.

I sat for awhile in the quiet of the early morning, Christmas tree lights the only lights on, glowing softly. A cold, just turning to light, morning. I sat there, looking around, allowing everything to seep into my heart and memory: the cold, the quiet, the lights of the tree, the purring of the cats, the birds fluttering at the feeders, the fire slowly warming the room, my heart beat. I sat there blanketed gratefully in awe of the healing powers of the body, and in the love that carried me through a very difficult event.

Soft sounds of awakening began in other parts of the house. My husband and children were rustling and sleepy faces peered around corners and at the top and bottom of stairs. My heart was so full. This could have been a very different story. I caught myself holding my breath at the thought of a different scenario.

As I have been healing I have been reading, maybe even searching for some small morsel of coming to terms with each new day. Days that are filled with therapists, canes and walkers, discomfort, pain, medication, worry, uncertainty, doctors and tests. I think I was looking for answers. Answers to the question “Why me? Why now?” and “When will I be healed and whole again?”. There are also the very strong, very emotional thoughts of “I hate this.” The therapies were and continue to be very challenging and sometimes a little painful. I mourned so deeply all the things that were now either impossible for me to do, or very difficult to do. There was no other option: this was the path I was to travel now. Thankfully I was not traveling alone. Husband, children, co-workers, siblings, friends all walked next to me, protecting, guiding, literally physically holding me up and caring for me. While they held my hand and provided support for my wobbling steps, this journey was physically mine alone and it was an alien experience for me. This was new territory. I was feeling so dependent on others for just about everything. Gratitude and humility, even fear,washed over me.

I would sit during the day and think. Think about the past, and take in the present moment and wonder about the future. There were gaping holes in my memory of the past days/weeks and events. Trying to be present in moments that were full of frustration and sorrow, yet feeling them being softened a little by perseverance and the love from others. The future was still very unknown, but it was colored softly with hope in that my left side, which had not been working as a result of the rupture had regained strength and was slowly coming back to working.

And always, the questions and wonderings. Trying to find a way, any way, to make sense of all this. It was hard to offer up “It is what it is.” I needed something more. I so desperately wanted there to be just one person who could scoop me up and make everything okay again. I wanted desperately to just wake up from a bad dream.

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Early days of my hospital stay.

And when I awoke, there I sat, much like today, watching birds at the feeders, rubbing my hand over the bulge on my head where a drain is keeping my brain healthy and safe. The care and support of others, family, doctors, nurses and therapists provide the only road to getting “better”, “Healing”. I am not asleep, there is no bad dream. Still, there is a chasm I continue to almost fall into. This is hard work and the results are not fast enough for me. I have no memory of much of my hospital and rehab stays, so I can’t even compare where I am today physically and mentally, to where I was a few short months ago. There are literally months that have passed that I have no recollection of. No record in my memory of those days and months ever even happening. Poof. Gone.

Yet, here I am. I obviously lived through the days and months I don’t remember.

I was reading a passage by Jack Kornfield, and there was this sentence about one way to approach life and the circumstances and experiences. He says we must find a way for “Becoming the sanctuary we seek.” I read it and I felt a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. “There is no place like home, there is no place like home.” I needed to find a way to come home to myself and discover that “I” am the very sanctuary I seek at this time. I am it. Even in my “brokenness” I am what I seek and need. However, I feel like I need a clearer view of the road ahead, and I need to allow time for rest stops to replenish myself.

So, Jack offers these: safe guard a day of rest, create and protect daily time for meditation and prayer, have regular periods of silence, move towards simplicity in life, go out in Nature, go on retreats, ration the news, on occasion place my hand over my heart and take deep breaths. One of my therapists listened intently as I spoke of feeling something akin to anger at how tired I was all the time. He smiled gently and said, “Just listen to your body. It knows what it needs. If you’re tired, sleep. Healing comes through sleep.” Instead of labeling tiredness as a lapse or weakness, I need to find a way to acknowledge this real need for sleep as a means of care-taking the sanctuary that is “me”. And of remembering our heart’s task is here on Earth. Here. Now.

Jack was right. I knew in my heart I was on a challenging path of realization, allowing and honoring the becoming of and being the very sanctuary I was seeking.

There was a different kind of therapy and work that I needed to do. I had to listen to, talk with, and respect that soft voice inside that expresses what “I” needs when “I” am not always aware of it “myself”. So, I work at this. I make a greater effort to express thanks and gratitude towards those who steadfastly uphold me. Let me be clear, without their support I would stumble and fall. I savor the moments of silence I make time to allow and place my hand over my heart and breath deeply, aware of the rise and fall of my chest and the thump-thumping of my heart. Here I find some comfort and peace. I find a place where I can pause and just bask in the light of healing, promise, possibility and gratitude.

At night as I settle under the warm blankets on my bed I talk quietly to myself going over the day. I recall those moments of comfort and peace, giving energy to those moments so I can gently place the more challenging moments and frustrated feelings just to the side as if to say, “I know you’re there, but right now I need for you to just be over here. I am basking in the healing energy of hope and promise, gratitude, being present, love, receiving, and patience. And these are things that will hold me up and carry me forward.”.

I am the very sanctuary I seek. It is time to care-take this sanctuary.

I am stronger than I think. There are numerous people standing with me as support and offering encouragement. They are the pillars of my place of sanctuary. Without them I would fall, my sanctuary would crumble.

ireland bridge

Me just a few short weeks before, in Northern Ireland.

Thank you for reading this. Peace and love to you all.

 

 

 

Sitting on a Bench

I went for a walk with my husband earlier this week. It was a glorious blue sky July day.

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Highbanks Park, Cols. Ohio, photo by me

Sometimes my hip bothers me, and it did on this day. So, I sat on a bench in the shade, facing a small stream, eyes closed. It was very quiet. Except for the sound of gurgling water. It was very still. Except for fluttering birds and scurrying chippies.

The setting, the silence and the alone-ness were a recipe for a little meditation.

I felt my feet planted firmly on the ground. Silence and stillness. I was alone.

I opened my eyes after a little while and listened to the quiet sounds of this place. I saw in front of me the pale purple of vetch, the greenness of leaves. I could smell the earthy scent of slightly damp soil.

An emotional wave of humility and gratitude washed over me. I was so aware of the gift of sitting there, on that bench, in that spot, with the trees and flowers and a singing bird there with me. There was nothing that could have been more complete. And as I sat there in the awareness of the moment, feeling small and insignificant in a larger world, I also felt a pang. There was an out-breath that seemed to release from deep inside of me the sorrow and sadness for Others. Those struggling in poverty. Those who struggle with addiction. The incarcerated . The misunderstood. Refugees. The people in Syria and South Sudan. People we make invisible because of fear or misunderstanding. Or simply because we are unaware.

It was a profound moment. It was a bit of a confused feeling. On the one hand I was so grateful to be in this calm, serene, safe place under a blue sky, feeling the warmth of the summer sun. On the other hand I felt guilty, uncomfortable. This is where I often find myself. This weighs on my heart and my soul. Why am I blessed with all of this when so many others struggle and suffer so unimaginably?

Some folks read these blog posts and contact me with comments like, “I’m sorry you’re so sad.” These thoughts often don’t feel good and they do make me feel sad. But the feelings tell me I haven’t shut myself off to or given up on caring, on feeling, of being concerned for others, of wanting others to be lifted out of pain and suffering. I’d rather experience the sadness than have no awareness, thoughts or feelings about these things. Sometimes people say, “Just turn off the news.” Nope. I dial it back sometimes, but not off. I don’t want to be dumb and blind to the realities of the people on this planet. I want to be informed. To understand. I want to know so I know how to help. To learn. To grow. To learn what needs to be done to heal.

Healing and transformation are possible the moment we accept the actuality of things as they are—good, bad, or ugly—and then act on that understanding with imagination, kindness, and intentionality. This is not easy or painless, by any means, but it is both an embodiment of and a path toward wisdom and peace.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

I do not accept that this is as good as we get as a country. There is much to be improved on. As a piece of the global puzzle and as a home land.

“What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals? ” ~Barak Obama

All kinds of people and communities have to make a choice. To decide to do, to be, something different. Or not. To respond, react and act differently. Or not. We have to be unafraid rather than afraid. Or not. We have to ask questions and listen in order to understand instead of assuming we “know”. Or not. We have to figure out how to look outside of the box for new ideas and solutions. Or not.

In among all the struggles what are the common threads? What do we share with the people we fear, disagree with, hate? There has to be engagement, generosity and community building. We have to figure out what inspires us as individuals to act from a place of integrity even when it means going contrary to the status quo. And how can these circles of compassion widen? How do we, you, I, facilitate this?

I know I do not want to be afraid of anything simply because I do not understand or agree with someone or something. I do not ever want to feel I need to distance or separate myself because something or someone is different from me. With that kind of defensive behavior I run the risk of running back to and hiding in what is familiar, what is comfortable, what I identify with. I run the risk of being closed off. Of being constricted. And, in all honesty, I do these things. I am trying so very hard to be stronger than my fears, than my anger. But it is very, very hard.

It’s a tough job reining in all our identifications with the worries, the fears and the narratives our mind creates. Our expectations, judgement and opinions create divides that we give great importance and power to. All those things come from our biases, our lack of trust, our sense of protecting what we perceive is ours.

 Nisargadatta says, “The mind creates the abyss, and the heart crosses it.

What could we be without all the crazy, worry filled, fear based ideas that come into our minds and our lives? What would it be like if we stopped separating ourselves from others and Nature? What would happened if we nurtured our fundamental awareness and being that realizes the connected-ness in life rather than the isolating, separated-ness that sometimes happens in life?

Wisdom is knowing we are all one.
Love is what it feels like.
Compassion is what it looks like.”
Ethan Walker III

We really need to get to the point of healing, bridging the abyss, regaining the power and force of being connected to others and other living things. Of cradling Earth in gentleness and respect.

This force of separateness grows fear. We claw at and grab in attachment, to things, ideas, places, power. We become constricted, grow defensive, ambitious, and territorial. We protect things that cause us to feel separated from, better than, more deserving of, entitled to. We work to bolster and protect these things, forgetting to look up and around. It is seen in religion, in politics, in National pride…..it manifests as jingoism, racism, intolerance, aggression, repression, oppression….

If we stop. Just stop. What whispers to us? What calls out to us? Who are we? Who do we want to be? What is our true nature…?

Do we find ourselves standing at the place that is common ground for each one of us? All of us? The shared Earth? The need for the fundamentals required for a healthy life: food, water, shelter, medicine, clothing. The human need for love, both in the giving and receiving of. Companionship. A sense of belonging. A sense of purpose.

So, how do we inspire ourselves and others to work towards this? To walk away from apathy, isolation, separateness, our sense of correctness/ superiority?

“…we must also inspire, because inspiration is how we motivate action.”  Ian Reifowitz

Please share, please tell me: What inspires you? What calls you to action? What bridges do you want to build?

**Readings from This Week

Starfish

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”
~Anne Lamott

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
― Loren Eiseley

It’s a big wide world with lots going on. Billions of people all over this pale blue dot wake up to a life of ease or suffering, joy or sorrow. There’s a million things “right” in the world. And a million things “wrong”.

Despair and hope dwell and linger in everyone’s life. Some days we try to close the door against despair. Other days we open the door to hope.

In this story the wise man walking along the beach knows what a huge act of hope and faith he is undertaking tossing star fish, one at a time, back into the ocean in the hopes of offering each one a chance at life. Something inside of him was incredibly strong, calling on him, to act for the benefit of one starfish each time.

 “It made a difference for that one.”

Isn’t that all any of us can do at any one time? Lift each other up one by one. To reach out again and again and to just try our best.

I cannot, even in my dreams, believe I can make much difference in this world. But I do know when I go to work and hug a child, it matters. I know when my husband and I hold each other in joy or sorrow, it matters. I know that my children knowing they have a home to “come home” to matters. I know that when I look someone in the eye and call them on a racist or misogynist comment or joke, that it matters. My taking action, one action at a time, matters.

And I know, like the man on the beach, that each star fish is worth the effort and hope just like I know each person is worth, and deserving of, the same kind of effort and hope.

One by one, even against the odds. It is about what we are called to do. This showing up, this reaching out to lift others up, this hope that is born in the light of love, and hope, and patience that glows in each one of us.

Again, from Loren Eisley:

Looking so, across the centuries and the millennia, toward the animal men of the past, one can see a faint light, like a patch of sunlight moving over the dark shadows on a forest floor. It shifts and widens, it winks out, it comes again, but it persists. It is the human spirit, the human soul, however transient, however faulty men may claim it to be. In its coming man had no part. It merely came, that curious light, and man, the animal, sought to be something that no animal had been before. Cruel he might be, vengeful he might be, but there had entered into his nature a curious wistful gentleness and courage. It seemed to have little to do with survival, for such men died over and over. They did not value life compared to what they saw in themselves — that strange inner light which has come from no man knows where, and which was not made by us. It has followed us all the way from the age of ice, from the dark borders of the ancient forest into which our footprints vanish… Man may grow until he towers to the skies, but without this light he is nothing, and his place is nothing. Even as we try to deny the light, we know that it has made us, and what we are without it remains meaningless.

Let that Light that is in you guide you. Show up. Bend down and toss the starfish back into the ocean in an act of love and kindness. Simply because for that one star fish it made a difference.

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Like those star fish the wise man believed worthy, so is each human being.

*Readings This Week

*NEW!! Little Works in Progress

 

Who Is Listening?

Many years ago, at the Farmer’s Market in Ithaca, my husband and I were slowly wandering from booth to booth soaking in the colors and bounty from local farms. My dearest friend, Connie, was with us as we paused in front of the booth of a local artist, Jim Hardesty. Before us were dozens of Chinese brush paintings….sinuous strokes of ink and pigment transformed into birds and flowers. And, Kwan Yin.

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I felt like she was calling my name. Calling me to invite her into my life.

Kwan Yin, Quan Yin, Kuanyin, Guanyin, Padma-pâni. Her name means

One Who Sees and Hears the Cry from the Human World.

Many of us have felt compassion towards someone else. We feel the pain and suffering of others, especially of those we love deeply. We long, almost ache, to find a way to ease their suffering.

Life is a series of waves coming ashore. There are waves of love, kindness, forgiveness and generosity. And right behind those waves are the waves of violence, division, indifference and cruelty. Lapping the shore. Pushing and pulling on our heart and our fears. Some days we may feel as if we are drowning in our own suffering or in the pain of someone we love. Barely, we keep our head above the waters churning and foaming. Some days we soften, relax, let go and float softly, cradled in a lullaby of the calm waters.

When we turn away from, run from, harden ourselves against that which is painful, we are turning away from that which is a part of life. We can become protective. We may begin to live in fear.

We can, instead, choose to look at that pain and fear and open our heart to compassion. Like a beautiful garden, tended with love from the heart, compassion grows from generosity, wisdom, loving kindness, empathy, equanimity and courage. The fruits and flowers from this garden have the power to heal suffering.

Compassion is a way, a path, of maneuvering through a world and life that brings each one of us beauty and love and well as pain and suffering.

Compassion is not reserved only for those we love and respect. It is also for those who may threaten or frighten us. This is a world full of billions of people we will never know, yet our compassion in thought, and deed must include these people too. There are human beings in the world facing intolerable suffering. Of such magnitude that I will venture to say no one reading this can even imagine the degree of suffering.

Somewhere in all this we have to think about and come to terms with the fact that our ability to heal through compassion walks side by side with our capacity to cause the suffering. And we choose…..we choose and then learn to heal or we increase the divides between us.

Enter Kwan Yin. She is sometimes holding a willow branch, flexible, able to bend and not break, even in the strongest of winds or fiercest of deluge. Other times she has a thousand arms and one, all seeing eye. She is in constant awareness and her response is all embracing. Sometimes she is a warrior brandishing weapons to root out suffering. Mine holds quince blossoms from time immemorial. Kwan Yin hears the cries of our suffering. The suffering of the people of the world. And she reaches out with compassion to heal that suffering.

I know I feel overwhelmed sometimes by the magnitude and breadth of the suffering of people around the world. I don’t, and I don’t believe I can, have the answers. But, I can choose to hear the cries, to listen to the stories, to care. To not run or hid from the suffering of others. In so doing I begin to see “the rest of the story.” The loneliness and fear in and of others, the blame and anger, the mistrust, the intolerance and ignorance. Awareness teaches us how to be helpful through compassion, kindness, strength. It gives rise to understanding and and a desire to bring about the end of suffering.

We don’t have the power to change the hearts of others. We do, however, have the power and responsibility for our own state of mind, the values we carry within our heart. We make the choice to stand hand in hand with those who work endlessly to alleviate the pain of war, disease, hunger, oppression. Or, we walk hand in hand with those who spread fear, mistrust, violence, persecution, revenge.

In order to hear the cries of the world and to find the courage and strength to uplift through compassion we first have to allow our own hearts to be open. We have to look within. We have to close our eyes and listen. To the noise of the world, the cries of those in pain and who are suffering. When we have heard, we open our eyes to see, then we choose what we will do. We take action.

Who is listening?

“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.”

~Warsan Shire

Who is listening?

Check out this week’s readings:  This Week