Tag Archives: compassion

Owning Both Halves of Me

One word can either open a wound or a world. Words stretch into sentences, then stories. We love stories. They show us who we are, no matter what they reveal.

Today, I return to the Cherokee story of the two wolves who live within us. A grandfather tells his grandson about the ongoing battle between good and evil, light and dark.

Always, the wolves hunger and gnaw. The grandson asks what to do. In most versions of this story, the grandfather says you starve one and feed the other.

That never made sense to me.

And then I found a version where the grandfather advises to feed them both. Starving one makes the other uncontrollable. They are two halves of a whole and not two beings stuck in eternal struggle.

I try to feed both; therein, my battle lies.

Putting on the armor of the bodhisattva is to wear the most powerful weapon ever known to existence–compassion–owning both halves of me.

And when I do, I stand with my wolves not in fear but in awe.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

What to Think

Things to Think

Think in ways you’ve never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you’ve ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you’ve never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

Robert Bly, Morning Poems (1998).

The first stanza of this poem appeared in a March 20 post, Not Running Short of Small Change. Yet, a single stanza is but one piece of the pie when the poet has meant for us to have the whole. To deny, is to shortchange.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

It’s Not About Saving the World

A lot of people turn away from activism because who can save the world, anyway? Maybe the better question is who would even want to try? I’m not sure activism has ever been about saving anyone or anything.

What seems more likely is that effecting change is equated with saving or being saved, especially in times like these. Yet, life is and always has been impermanent so change is our one constant. There is no saving from that.

We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder

how other people are doing and to reflect on how

our actions affect other people’s hearts.

 Pema Chödrön

Every morning before I begin my yoga practice, I pause. I pray that I meet each moment with compassion, joy, loving-kindness, and equanimity in all things, in all ways. I open myself.

On so many days—sometimes in a seemingly long succession—I am so unsuccessful but in failure, I return to my breath. Once again, I open myself to the moment, in search of hearts.

new-year-2017

I do not have to have anything in common with another’s heart but it is easier if I do. Even so, I struggle not to offer answers but sometimes, my head seizes the moment, and I fall into world-saving.

This can have quite the boomerang effect, especially if I have been clever at another’s expense.  And it will return to me, this boomerang, often on a day when I am already low.

Less and less do I even think of world saving. It takes too much energy, something of which I have in short supply. In the least, it seems a lesson in futility.

Rather, I open myself to each moment that is offered, wondering how other people are and how my action may affect a heart. It lifts me, this reflection, and keeps me clear-eyed.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

In the Absence of Privilege

Every morning, I want to wake up to a world that recognizes the connection we have with one another.

I want us to celebrate the kind of love each of us has to give. I want us to remember that the truth of who we are is what connects us, not how we look.

I want us to free fall into the unknown of each and every day–secure in our vulnerability, curious in our courage.

It is foolishness, my wishing, but it is deeper than that, darker I’m afraid. It is a luxury to be able to wish, an exclusive privilege.lake-ella-fountain-0115

What of the wishes of those in Aleppo? Basic, if they wish at all anymore.

There is not sufficient food, water, or shelter for children, much less their families—” a meltdown of humanity.”

I want to hide behind the Gordian knot of issues that led to Aleppo.

Empathy is insufficient, woefully so, and yet another illustration of my privilege.

Amidst the rubble of Aleppo, a teacher of English tweets to the world, “there is no freedom” in what may be his final message. He is weary, resigned, yet it is still of freedom that he writes.

Freedom is all or nothing; no one excluded. No one. It is a basic human right.

And just what is it that I can do for Aleppo? Put down my shield of privilege and practice tonglen—the giving and taking, sending and receiving of compassion. Open myself to fear, to hopelessness—the chaos that is the world.

Vulnerability is how I own my fear, eschewing blame, excuses, and reasons to walk away. That moment of mindfulness is connection, discovery of ways to aid Aleppo.

Tonglen leads us to what hopelessness hides; it eases the ache in our heart. Tonglen pulls together tendrils of the ever-expanding web that knows no weaver.

We respond to fear not on its terms but on ours. We have only our kind of love to give but illuminating truth absents fear.

We are Aleppo.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

No Greater Beauty

Don’t worry if you feel you can only do
one tiny good thing in one
small corner of the cosmos.
Just be a Buddha body in that one place.

Thích Nhất Hạnh

Every morning, I wake to my “small corner of the cosmos.” Its immensity is never lost on me. Mine is not to save or change the world but to be a “Buddha body.”

I meet the energy of each day, exploring the field of possibilities. Chronic illness may confine me but it does not keep me from a virtual walk within the world. Mine is to offer something somewhere.

Everything counts. No one act is greater than another; there is no sliding-scale in courage. Compassion comes in all sizes and shapes. There is no greater beauty.

budda-nature-glimpse-0414

Rare is my glimpse of Buddha nature, the world in full bloom, balanced in the hush of the moment. It’s humbling and reassuring but always, there is the question of being worthy.

Mary Oliver says “we need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.”

Being a Buddha body is to know such an ache.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Why the Open Heart?

Buddhists believe the “genuine heart” (bodhichitta) resides in all beings–no matter the selfishness or unkindness. It is the possibility in each of us to awaken, to change.

mindset-0115-3The genuine heart is neither neutral nor doormat. It is fiercely hard to be compassionate. After all, it’s so easy not to be. Why meet every situation with equanimity? For that matter, why risk a broken heart?

Elizabeth Gilbert says a broken heart is a good sign; “it means we have tried for something.” We are wounded but to wound in return only increases our pain.

Nor in the healing of the heart do we harden. We repair not to repeat but to renew, fortified in our compassion. We have a better understanding of pain for we opened ourselves to it. We tried something.

Equanimity is the spirit of risk, of accepting that the bloom is on the rose for such a short time butthe-blossom-0814 what a time it is. Never to risk the bloom is never to know compassion, that sacred space where we are taught what we need to know.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

Standing in Signature

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Every thought you produce, anything you can say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”

What else is authenticity if not accepting responsibility for our every footprint? Accountability is standing in our signature, the steps of our lives.   Footprints 1013

Old signatures are reminders of other times and tribulations.

The more mindful we are, the more methodical we become, not hesitant just thoughtful.

Some signatures we’d rather not recognize yet they are the effects of our every thought, word, and deed. Our footprints in the sand may fade but signatures do not, until we own them.

That’s accountability, accepting that we now know better; as well, we own the time when we did not.  

There is much to be learned in the flourish of a signature, especially those times when our emotional drama—frustration, anger, fear–marked our every step. That is the common ground we share with everyone else.

As narrow a space as that may be, there is always enough room for a seed or two of compassion. It will not grow unless we own who we are. Compassion requires a signature from everyone.  

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity in daily doses. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.