I have on my refrigerator a picture of a solitary Chinese man returning from shopping with grocery bags in both hands, courageously blocking a row of military tanks in Tiananmen Square, unwilling to let them pass. We admire those who remain cool-headed in difficulties, those who carry the lamp of wisdom so beautifully in the world, and we are moved by images of dignity and courage like his. But that spirit is not only in him; it is in us too. Although we sometimes lose touch with it, we each have deep within us a lamp of wisdom, and a powerful spirit of compassion and conscience and understanding that we can draw upon. To find this lamp, we must listen in a new way. Some years ago, one of the greatest primate biologists, George Schaller, came back from studying gorillas in Africa. He spoke of the relationships between the young gorillas and their uncles and aunts, what the sibling relationships are, and the role of the silverback male- all with rich detail and understanding that had never been known before. One of the professors at the conference asked, ‘We biologists have been studying these creatures for several centuries and we did not know any of this. How did you get such detailed information?’ And Professor Schaller answered, ‘It’s simple. I didn’t carry a gun.’ In the same way, the visualization practice of bringing in a wisdom figure will help you to learn how to bring this respectful attention and awareness to the most difficult situations and to your relationships with others. As you open to this illuminating consciousness beneath your struggles, a way through your difficulties will become clear……Jack Kornfield
where do we really belong? caught in this body, walled in by the trance of doing good, being good, fitting in the strained morality……it is here we miss our basic humanity, trapped into forgetting what is true to each other….when was the last time we really trusted enough to not carry our bag of hurts around?…may we lean into fierce compassion….
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social activist, once said that as he grew older he came to understand that it was not ideas that change the world but simple gestures of love given to the people around you, and often to those you feel most at odds with. He said that in order to save the world you must serve the people in your life. ‘You struggle less and less for an idea,’ Merton wrote, ‘and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.’ …..Elizabeth Lesser
Imagine, we are all expressions of the same Original Being, and much of our lives are spent recovering that deep knowing. This notion of God as a Divine Presence that keeps expressing itself uniquely through all beings and our journey to rediscover that we share the same truth is at the heart of the Hindu concept of Tat Tvam Asi, which is Sanskrit for ‘Thou Art That,’ the most significant teaching of compassion; which requires that we die to our smaller selves in order to rise to a vision that reveals that we share the same human nature with all other persons. Hard as it is at times to accept, we are each other: as beautiful as the next and as brutal. And rightly, what’s brutal in each other engenders fear. If unaddressed, such fear can force us to live by how different we are. In contrast, being wholehearted can lead to the discovery of our shared human nature. In essence, realizing we are each other helps alleviate fear. So here we are, dusting off the misconceptions to find that we are asked, and have always been asked, to be wholehearted more than perfect. To free ourselves from all that holds us back. To enter life with our hearts wide open. And to honor that we are all made of the same filaments of being. For this is our best chance at quieting fear- our best chance at hearing the almost inaudible sigh of God opening His eyes by opening ours…..Mark Nepo