A Life of One’s Own

Wood Stork 0214The life we have is a singular strand in the undulating web of existence. Each life has its own tensile strength, the maximum stress point before it is pulled apart. The actual experience of living stretches us into a life of our own.

Yet, to live the life we are given is more than undulating with the ebb and flow of existence. It means remembering each experience is unique, even if the situation seems familiar. No two moments in existence are exactly the same. We have not “been there, done that.” Not precisely.

In fact, lulling ourselves into the familiarity of a situation may just get us to the maximum stress point for we are not meeting the moment but escaping it. We believe there is nothing new in a situation that is so familiar and the tension grows.

At some point we release the familiar, put down the past for the present, drop the known for the unknown. We take “refuge in the Buddha”:

Every time we feel like taking refuge in a habitual means of escape, we take off more armor, undoing all the stuff that covers over our wisdom and our gentleness and our awake quality. We’re not trying to be something we aren’t; rather, we’re reconnecting with who we are.

(Pema Chodron)

Often, denial runs parallel to the ego-mind and around certain bends they dump into one another before separating into their own meanders. Both are rivers I traverse frequently.

A few months ago, I volunteered with a professional team, offering work that once defined me. It did not seem like I was escaping but rather, opening to a new moment—which it was—yet I opened to the new day clad in ancient armor.
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My administrative abilities were essentially intact but I was heavy with haze, out of sync. I persevered, taxing my physical strength as I have done for decades in order to escape the life that is mine for a life that is not. My body responded with a resounding “no.”

Give your real being

a chance

to shape your life.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj~

It is the tensile strength of a life to stretch without snapping. In these last few months of working with the team there was a niggling, an actual yearning to be somewhere else. I wanted to walk away—leave the armor to a life past–but doing so felt like fear so I lived in-between.

Nobody else can take [our armor] off because nobody else knows where all the little locks are, nobody else knows where it’s sewed up tight, where it’s going to take a lot of work to get that particular iron thread untied. You have to do it alone.

(Pema Chodron)

It is in vulnerability that we trust completely for all armor is removed, and what is left is who we actually are. It is then one claims a life of one’s own.

I began by cleaning some of my neglected writing tools. All the ink cartridges in my fountain pens were empty, and the nibs were clogged with dried ink. My writing bag was in total disarray–I had not even replaced my daily journal—I tossed memos, meeting notes and added a soft, Virginia Woolf journal embellished with notes from “A Room of One’s Own.” The journal is a gift from a thoughtful friend.

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On an overcast, humid morning I went to Waverly, welcomed by a noisy chorus of snowy egrets, wood storks, and anhinga. There was much flapping about as a lone hawk swooped and circled even alighting for a moment. Having thought better of it, the hawk had somewhere else to be. I understood.

That I am able to hold my own physically again in a relatively short period of time indicates the incredible progress my body and I continue to make together. That some joints are too well-worn for some activities does not mean there are not other ways to live.

All was as had always been, and all was as had never been. Such is living the life that is one’s own.

(Regular blog posts will resume by March 2, 2014; recovery is assured but always at a pace of its own.)

Rather Than Resolutions, Consider Laziness

I am not much on making resolutions for any period of time. My mostly Buddhist self knows that each moment is its own clean slate. Rather than becoming anything or anyone, I just need to meet each moment I am given and aim for even.

Some may consider that laziness, and I accept that label in any year, moment, hour, or nanosecond. As with any feeling or emotion, all we have to do is accept that each emotion has its own drama and demon players. Ours is to experience but not to become.Laziness 010514

Once we have named the emotion—“this is laziness”–we strip away the drama that has kept us from continuing the story that is our life. Laziness is not “…particularly terrible or wonderful…it has a basic living quality that deserves to be experienced just as it is” (Pema Chödrön).

There is no reason to run away or hide from any emotion. Removing the drama reminds us the duty of being alive requires us to experience our emotions, laziness among them.

If we enlarge our sense of what it is to live, we realize events and emotions are mere scenes in a daily drama, each replaced by the next experience. We are moved by the emotion of each experience but sometimes, we get caught.

“Whatever we discover, as we explore it further, we find nothing to hold onto, nothing solid, only groundless, wakeful energy” (Pema Chödrön). Our discovery that we have experienced laziness and that it is no longer worthy of our rapt attention is the dawning of a new day, a new moment or a new year. Transformation occurs when we no longer disguise or repress what our experience is.

“When we stop resisting laziness, our identity as the one who is lazy begins to fall apart completely” (Pema Chödrön). We have named it so that it becomes nameless and no-thing. The ego is revealed for the groundless dramatist that it is.

What remains is the wakeful energy that allows us a fresh look at ourselves and the world around us. We open to the experience of being alive as the drama unfolds yet again. All we need to do is show up and experience.

Walking the Walk of Friendship With Pema Chödrön

Recently, I “Walked the Walk” with Pema Chödrön at an online seminar offered by the Omega Institute. Chödrön has the ability to make you feel that she is speaking only with you; I have found the same in reading her books. In my mind, she and I converse frequently.

Chödrön is anything but pretentious—no transcendental soaring with Emerson’s oversoul or escaping into the ether—she is often pithy, adept with any koan, softening much of what she says with anecdote. Frequently, humor is the connection with her audience.

Warning us to beware of “spiritual people” dressed in special clothes to draw attention to their spirituality, she directed our gaze to her own Buddhist nun clothing of burgundy and yellow. Then, she looked up and smiled, eyes twinkling. Laughter filled the room. When all was quiet, the two-day retreat began.
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In walking with Chödrön we explored “making friends with ourselves” unconditionally. Kindness, compassion, and a deep love are what true friendship offers. Why not become friends with the one we know best?

Being friends with ourselves does not mean that we will not know disappointment or concern for in all relationships there are times of confusion. Yet, at some fundamental level we trust the confusion will pass for deep friendship is worthy of unconditional reflection.

Reflection—specifically self-reflection—is found in all of the great spiritual traditions for it is in reflection that there is transformation. In making friends with ourselves, we learn who we are. The transformation comes with accepting who we are unconditionally. As our biggest supporter and ally, we show up for life.
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“Don’t speak, don’t act” is what Chödrön offers as a way of meeting the moments of every day. It means we embrace the feelings we have about what is occurring—we receive what we are given–without the reaction of a label, judgment or opinion. We experience the rawness of the moment.

In embracing the emotion of each experience without acting or speaking, we are practicing what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls the “reference points of nowness,” gaps between experiences that allow us to strengthen our minds as we meet the moments of life.

The reference points are the practice, and the attitude is one of developing an unconditional friendship with ourselves. With gentleness and kindness we become fully aware of all of our traits. The key is to accept them–give ourselves a break— for that is what we do for friends.
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Chödrön suggests dissecting F-E-A-R as a specific way to examine those darker characteristics that are in all of us. In revealing them, awareness begins and transformation is possible.

F— find it in your body

E— embrace it

A—allow the thoughts to dissolve; abide with the feeling

R–remember or recall that other people are also feeling it (Pema Chödrön , “Walk the Walk” seminar).

Pulling apart fear creates an atmosphere of kindness and compassion. Unconditional means that no matter what we are there for ourselves.  It is not a matter of condoning behavior but viewing it with an open heart. We see and feel with our heart; we listen and experience with our head. It is our heart that leads.

We make choices to cease our suffering. We remember that temporary gratification is unconscious thought, a repetition of old behaviors, following old patterns with the same results. “We do not have to bite that hook” (Pema Chödrön).

It takes courage to be vigilant, to live with an open heart, but the reward is a life of compassion and kindness with ourselves and thus, with the world. It is experiencing life as friends. “Show up for life as it is and drop your preconceptions of how it should be” (Pema Chödrön).

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Life Churns for Everyone so Why Swirl With the I?

As Pema Chodron says, “there is no way to make a dreadful situation pretty.” Often, I find myself searching for language that removes the dualistic labels of good or bad, happy or sad. For me, writing makes this somewhat easier for it affords a pause, whereas in conversation, I tend to forget the gap between thoughts and even my breathing is shallow.

These past few weeks have been full of opportunities for me to “make a big deal” out of situations or to remember that the underlying emotion of my experience is what every other human being feels at one time or another. Remembering that we are all in this together reminds me of what I have in common with all sentient beings.

My specific moments are unique to me yet woven into the undulating life “web that has no weaver.”* One week it was a car mishap and the next moment it was a family member facing a life-threatening situation. The illness was not entirely unexpected, unlike the car incident, yet both provided a life-changing moment. Life churned.

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The car is repaired but the loved one’s recovery remains uncertain. The human body, our personal vehicle, endures a life of dents, and occasionally, broken parts. We heal or get replacements but I suspect the heart and mind–and in that order–have more to do with longevity than repairs to the physical body.

Regardless of the wearing out/replacing of parts, all are allowed a life, a length of time known to none but allotted to each. The not knowing churns the emotional pool within each of us. Whether we choose to immerse ourselves in the eddies of emotion or await the stillness that comes with reflection is the ongoing dilemma.

“Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed” (Indira Devi).

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Initially, I swirl within the emotional eddies more than I sit in reflective pause yet I know it is the motion that separates me from everyone else. The swirling, downward spiral isolates me in my own pain, unaware that my pain is what connects me to humanity.

“Shantideva said that since all sentient beings suffer from strong, conflicting emotions, and all sentient beings get what they don’t want and can’t hold on to what they do want, and all sentient beings have physical distress, why am I making such a big deal about just me? Since we’re all in this together, why am I making such a big deal about myself?” (Pema Chodron).**

Until we see in ourselves those emotions that we so readily assign to everyone else, we cannot pull ourselves out of our own pain to reflect on the pain that connects us all. In recognizing the human bond, we come to reflect on what is common to all.

We must dive deep to sit at the still waters of our own existence to reflect upon the life force that binds us all.

A personal note: As of this writing, my family member’s recovery continues to be remarkable as well as inspirational.

Text Notes:

*This phrase is from the title of Ted Kaptchuk’s thorough book, The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. I highly recommend it.

**Omega Institute is offering another online workshop with Pema Chodron on October 25-27 with early bird pricing. The event is sold out for anyone wishing to attend in person. Click here for more information.

The Wisdom in Compassion, a Matter of Nuance

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The practice of compassion requires considerable courage, for the way of compassion is living an active life amongst all beings. Practicing compassion means we trust ourselves enough to connect to life completely, making ourselves vulnerable, a daring in its own right.  Such is the wisdom of compassion.

Compassion (Late Latin: com=”together” + pati “to suffer”) offers us a perspective on suffering. Its etymology—the peeling back of the layers of its life—reveals its nuance, allowing us a peek into its past. Much of the mystery of life lies in such nuance.

The practice of compassion is a commitment to connect with the suffering of all beings, including those we do not like. Connecting is not condoning but rather a revealing of the nuance inherent in every being. “It involves learning to relax in allowing ourselves to move gently toward what scares us” (Chodron).

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Moving toward what scares us allows us to soften rather than harden, to open to options previously hidden from view. In acknowledging that all suffer, we recognize that all know pain in its various guises. Suffering reveals our connection to all beings.

In practicing compassion, especially when to do so challenges us to our core, we appreciate the pain of other people. The nuance is in recognizing the suffering without judging the behavior. In this coming together with those who suffer— the etymology of compassion—we glean the wisdom inherent in living such a life.

Dr. Grace Damman terms this as the aligning of compassion with wisdom: “What I mean is that when I am served by other people who are driven by their own standards of excellence, and not by the demands of my ‘whiny self,’ then I am best served by them.” It is what she discovered in her recovery from a serious car accident, a truly vulnerable state.

In reaching for the wisdom within compassion, our perspective broadens, leaving us less susceptible to shenpa or getting hooked by our emotions. When we are hooked, we soar with our neuroses, oblivious to objectivity. We sever our connection with all beings, hearing only our own demands, our own needs.

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The churning of our emotions slips us into solitary confinement with our suffering, devoid of compassion. We sharpen our selves, harden our hearts to resist what scares us–creating the classic boomerang effect—the life of the infinite loop.

When we finally stop and peel back the layers of our pain, we open up to compassion, softening into the realization that all suffer. We connect to the nuance of life. The practice of compassion is not for the faint of heart but for warriors—bodhisattvas—who trust their vulnerability, for they know it is their connection to the wisdom of existence.

“We cultivate bravery through making aspirations. We make the wish that all beings, including ourselves and those we dislike, be free of suffering and the root of suffering” (Chodron).

Such is the way of a life of compassion.

In a Free Fall Flare

My regular Thursday and Sunday posts have been rather irregular for I remain in a free fall flare or the state of still falling apart, which is not to say it is not enlightening for it is.

As a dear friend pointed out, a flare is a flash of light, and this recent lupus flare is full of light for me. It is not so much a matter of physical or emotional discomfort but more a matter of “nowness” as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls it:

“The way to relax, or rest the mind in nowness, is through the practice of meditation.

“In meditation you take an unbiased approach.

You let things be as they are, without judgment, and in that way you yourself learn to be.”
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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I, myself, learning to be is what this flare feels like, if not quite a true free fall at least in constant motion. Sometimes, the flare feels like a game of pinball, silver-steeled balls bumping up against this teaching only to zip over to that tradition and back up to yet another healing alternative–all disappearing only to re-emerge.

No doubt that sounds rather scattered and perhaps unpleasant but it does not feel that way. Frankly, it feels like heightened awareness for unlike the game of pinball, I am allowed to sit in the energy of each moment and explore it through the practice of meditation.

“Sitting meditation opens us to each and every moment of our life. Each moment is totally unique and unknown….

“This very moment, free of conceptual overlay, is completely unique. It is absolutely unknown.

“We’ve never experienced this very moment before, and the next moment will not be the same as the one we are in now.

“Meditation teaches us how to relate to life directly, so that we can truly experience the present moment, free from conceptual overlay.”
(Pema Chödrön, How to Meditate: A Practical Guide)

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In the eyes open meditation that Pema Chödrön is describing, we separate the storyline or thoughts–the conceptual overlay– from the energy of the emotion or sensation we are feeling. In essence, we are open to it.

I am new to the eyes open meditation that Pema Chödrön advocates and first tried it during the online retreat offered by the Omega Institute. In eyes open meditation, the gaze is downward but the head is erect and one is constantly aware of what is occurring in the present moment.

“Open the eyes, because it furthers this idea of wakefulness. We are not meditating in hopes of going further into sleep, so to speak.

“We are not internalizing. This isn’t a transcendental type of meditation where you’re trying to go to special states of consciousness.

“Rather, we meditate to become completely open to life— and to all the qualities of life or anything that might come along”
(Pema Chödrön, How to Medicate: A Practical Guide).

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Meditating with my eyes open was not as difficult as I thought it might be, even the first time, but then, I have the advantage of being in a flare, of being in a flash of light. In a flare, it is obvious that the gift of any moment of discomfort is present moment awareness.

Beyond the flare, practicing this wakeful kind of meditation at the start of my day prepares me for the post-meditation moments. Sitting meditation isn’t always comfortable and neither is life but meditation helps us sit down into the shifting emotional energy that flows through our daily lives.

We learn to go deep, beneath the conceptual overlay or storyline, to the energy of our emotions, of our pain. When we sit within the energy of our pain, we see into the state of us. There, we begin to heal—to suffer less—for we accept the alternating pain and pleasure that is the nature of our human condition, part and parcel. We, ourselves, learn to be.

Thank you for reading my blog. It matters a great deal to me that you do.

Thursday Tidbits: The Way to Fall Apart

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post considers retreat as a meditative withdrawal and as the idea of falling apart. As Pema Chödrön says, “Everything that comes together at some time falls apart.” Ours is to experience pain and pleasure–usually alternating but not always–for the nature of existence is impermanence.

Recently, I attended an online retreat offered by the Omega Institute, featuring Pema Chödrön. The retreat covered the four marks of existence–impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace–during the first minutes of the retreat, Chodron referred to the four as the facts of life. I felt a familiar stirring.

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I had been drawn to the retreat from the moment the invitation arrived in my email box, about 72 hours prior to the event’s first session. I was not aware of having any connection to the Omega Institute, which is not to say I did not but is to say I do not remember a connection. Still don’t.

Serendipitous email or no, the retreat affirmed my suspicion that I was, indeed, falling apart again–health, writing, life–but the initial session on impermanence revealed how adept I had become at avoiding falling apart. That was an unexpected moment yet it was obvious I had been creating various bubbles of escape for some time. No wonder they felt so familiar, so comfortable.

You might think all my posts about allowing bubbles to float up and through us while remaining in present moment awareness might have had some effect on me other than escaping with the bubbles. They did, ultimately.

A few months ago when I started reading Pema Chödrön’s books, I chose The Places That Scare You over When Things Fall Apart. I felt a familiar stirring of avoidance when I made my selection but convinced myself I needed to read the former title–for what reason now escapes me.

Not surprisingly, the phrase that I kept hearing in the online retreat was “when things fall apart,” more by participants than by Pema Chödrön. That was not surprising, either.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. And they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy” (When Things Fall Apart).

The words falling apart have always been difficult for me. I eschew vulnerability in the same breath that I advocate an open mind and open heart; however, I do know “strength does not come from a bubble of safety” (Chödrön).

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My bubble burst within the first few minutes of listening to Pema Chödrön, and my tears streamed right along with the video; Chödrön is quite a wit so my tears were from laughter as well as from the pain of recognition. It was a great way to fall apart, actually.

Nothing has changed and everything has changed. I am still dealing with a significant lupus flare and adjusting my life accordingly; as always, diet, meditation, and yoga figure prominently. For me, it is not a matter of being less but a matter of being more, just as I am, which is new.

If I avoid the discomfort that is part of being alive, I am living in a bubble. Bubbles burst; it is their nature. If I open to both the pleasure and the pain of life, I am vulnerable but strength resides in accepting that things fall apart and come together. It is the nature of existence.

*****

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: Like Water Through Rock

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post considers the open mind, essential to mindfulness and perhaps “the gentlest thing in the whole world” as Byron Katie maintains.  Not surprisingly, that which is gentle may also be the most powerful for the open mind, in its awareness, accepts what is.

Acceptance may be the power behind the gentleness of the open mind: “Ultimately the truth flows into it and through it, like water through rock” (A Thousand Names for Joy: Living in Harmony With the Way Things Are, Byron Katie). Undoubtedly, accepting some truths may seem like water flowing through rock yet imagine the power of that possibility.
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The power of the open mind seems similar to Tonglen, a Buddhist teaching often translated as “sending and taking.” Tonglen “refers to being willing to take in the pain and suffering of ourselves and others and to send out happiness to us all” (Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You).

What we take in, we send out in a gentle flow if “…we drop the storyline that goes along with the pain and feel the underlying energy” (Pema Chödrön). In many ways, the open mind is “the bottom line” stripped of judgments and labels, the stuff of storylines.

It is not easy to drop storylines, not easy to resist being pulled in one direction or the other– it is much easier to react–but in the open mind of Tonglen, we stay with the energy that is stirring us. No matter how long or short our stay, in choosing response over reaction, we keep our options open.

In remaining open, we find the way for any truth to flow through us–some consider this courage—we appreciate the gentle persistence of water flowing through rock for it is not how long it may take but that it is undertaken at all. That is the power of being gentle.

The open mind is where paradoxes thrive and similes “like water through rock” describe the world of infinite possibilities for what has never been a moment’s thought may be the next moment’s reality.

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On a personal note, beginning tomorrow I am attending a three-day, online Pema Chödrön retreat as an accompaniment to a lupus flare that is worthy of water flowing through rock.

The Chödrön retreat is “The Marks of Existence,” exploring impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace. More information is available from the Omega Institute.

Also, this past week I found three other blogs that seemed related to what this post considers the open mind. I enjoyed each post for entirely different reasons.

Functional Wellness: The Body-Mind Connection is written by a medical doctor and is a thorough, practical discussion of our mind-body’s “one bidirectional system.”  This is one of the most succinct, mind-body articles I have found and includes excellent resources.

Things I have been thinking about lately offers Theodore Roethke’s poem, “The Waking,” a poem of paradox and as the analysis excerpts reveal, a great deal more.

Daily Dose of Vitamin S opens us to an everyday possibility often overlooked and a vitamin well-worth a daily dose, at least.

Finally, this week’s video features excerpts from author David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon University. It is called “This is Water: Reimagining Everyday Life.” It is nine minutes long but just may help you get through the next nine minutes you find yourself stuck in the everyday.

Video from KarmaTube

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: The Art of Peace

This week’s Thursday Tidbits is the Bloggers for Peace monthly post, specifically the art of peace.  The art of peace begins within ourselves and radiates outward into every relationship we have, in particular those relationships that for one reason or another are askew or gone awry.forpeace6

To renew a relationship begins with intention, although to re-open our heart is often difficult. That is why the art of peace begins within, for when we are at peace with ourselves is when we re-connect to serve all.

In order to start, Pema Chödrön maintains it is not such a great effort to once again establish a relationship that serves, if we will just consider that a commitment we once made is now broken.

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It means we have to let go of the story we’ve been telling ourselves–the why, the what, the how, or who– and just acknowledge “…that we hardened our heart and closed our mind, that we shut someone out. And then we can retake our vow. On the spot—or as a daily practice—we can reaffirm our intention to keep the door open to all sentient beings for the rest of our life” (Pema Chödrön).

Everyday life, no matter how we approach it, is a practice that requires patience, especially when we do not seem to notice any progress within ourselves or within the world.

There are four emotions that never involve the ego—compassion, gratitude, joy, and love—these four ways have many other names including the four agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz that ask us to be “impeccable” in our speech, not to take whatever occurs personally, to be present in all we do so we are not assuming anything about anyone for when we are present, we are doing the best we can.

The art of peace is available to us in every moment we have for each moment is free from any attachment to what has been or what might be. That we affirm our intention to be the best we can be and live with true compassion for ourselves and others in every moment is what keeps peace always within our grasp. It begins with being present.

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“That’s the training of the spiritual warrior, the training of cultivating courage and empathy, the training of cultivating love. It would be impossible to count the number of beings in the world who are hurting, but still we aspire to not give up on any of them and to do whatever we can to alleviate their pain” (Pema Chödrön).

In alleviating that pain we must remember the key to the art of peace: the idea of serving rather than helping or fixing anyone or anything. It is only in serving that we view ourselves and our connection to all life as whole, not broken or weak.

When we are clear in our intention of serving, we are open to what is available for all of us. The art of peace is a celebration of the diversity that makes up the whole, an acknowledgment that uniqueness is necessary for completeness.

Here are links to other Bloggers for Peace and their consideration of the art of peace:

Kozo Hattori: Art Thou Peaceful 

Bodhisattva In Training: The Art of Peace

Grandma Lin: May Post for Peace

The Seeker: Peace is Like a River

Caron Dann: Recreationist Theory

Card Castles in the Sky: Float Upward

One of my favorite combinations of the art of lyrics, music, and painting is this well-known video featuring the music and lyrics of Don McLean and Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: Unhooking the Pain

This week’s Thursday Tidbits considers “shenpa…the all-worked-up feeling of…getting hooked on a negative emotion” such as pain (Pema Chödrön).  In order to unhook ourselves from shenpa, we must give our full attention to our pain and that includes physical discomfort as well. We must immerse ourselves in our pain in order to release it.

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In giving our full attention to our pain, we open up to the experience of it and not the drama or storyline we have told ourselves about our pain. Our storyline is what hooks us until we sit down in the middle of what is hurting us, forsaking its interpretation for its reality.

Anyone who has ever experienced chronic pain—physical, emotional or both–knows that this kind of shenpa can easily become the only story we ever live. Yet, when we give chronic pain our full attention, we change the idea of our pain. We are no longer content to live its story.

Unhooking ourselves from shenpa does not mean that we will be completely pain-free but it does mean we give our full attention to living the lives we have as the beings we are. Being in our pain completely is where all healing begins.

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Essential to all life is water, and it has more than one form, yet it is either flowing or frozen. Mark Nepo suggests that how we deal with our pain resembles the form water takes. “For when trees fall into the ice, the river shatters. But when a large limb falls into the flowing water, the river embraces the weight and floats around it” (Book of Awakening).

If we view our pain as ice, jagged and hard, we risk living shattered lives of fear and worry, holding our shenpa close. But if we give our pain our full attention and release it branch by branch into the river of life, it becomes a burden we can bear.

We release the idea of our pain and experience it as is, moment by moment, within our flow in our own time. “Once given full attention, you will come back—one drop at a time— into the tide of the living” (Nepo).

Like the river’s path, our lives wend in ways we never imagine. It is life’s way, and pain is only one part, although it can last a lifetime. It is up to us whether pain remains sharp or a bubble in our daily flow.

KMHuberImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee; Florida
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We have to show up for every moment of our lives, pain or no, giving our full attention to life, trusting that we will absorb our pain and not be shattered by it.

For the people of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for the people of West and the state of Texas, we open ourselves to each and every one of you—victims and family members—for as long as it takes to absorb the pain. There is no limit on your courage or on our love.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.