Sometimes, in a class, I will say, ‘Raise your hand if you have ever broken a bone.’ After people raise their hands, I say, ‘Leave your hand up if that bone still hurts you now.’ Usually, all the hands come down. Then I say, ‘Raise your hand if you still feel pain from something someone said to you in the past year.’ Lots of hands go up. ‘Keep your hand up if you have pain from a remark someone made about you in the last five years.’ Hands stay up. ‘Last ten years…20 years…30 years….a remark made before you were 5 years old.’ Many people still have an arm in the air. They look around at each other and smile, sheepishly, but I don’t think anyone is amused. It is a lovely moment of shared compassion, of being a witness to the burden we have all borne of carrying the pain of hurtful remarks. Perhaps we think that if we are mature adults we should have gotten over the rebukes of childhood. I wonder if we ever do. I think we are all quite vulnerable, like cream puffs, crisp on the outside but fragile inside and very sweet. During the 1960’s, when the social ethos was ‘letting it all hang out,’ I had recurrent fantasies about writing a book called ‘Holding It All In.’ I think I was alarmed that people had overlooked how vulnerable each of us is. In recent years, I’ve revised my book title to ‘Holding It All In Until We’ve Figured Out How to Say It in a Useful Way.’ I believe we are obliged to tell the truth. Telling the truth is a way we take care of people. The Buddha taught complete honesty, with the extra instruction that everything a person says should be truthful ‘and’ helpful. Admonitions should be timely, truthful, gentle, kind and helpful……Sylvia Boorstein
when do we feel the deepest tenderness? do we allow ourselves to be that vulnerable? how do we find the balance between each other? to inter breathe? radical love means tending to our sorrow, to the care we extend to ourselves…..then may we give back….
Compassion is just natural awareness expressing itself. Why do you think people, before they die, want to pass on to others what they have learned? The more present you are, the more you see how things are, and the more clearly you see how to respond. What may seem remarkable or wonderful to others you see as simply what needs to be done. Awake mind, big mind- such labels are for those who don’t see things as they are. You do what needs doing. In the end, aren’t you just taking care of the only world you experience?…..Ken McLeod
The bodhisattva’s path is a striking contrast with the common Western modes of therapy that so often reflect the excessive individualism of our culture. Everything can get focused around ‘me,’ my fears, my neurosis, my happiness, my needs, my boundaries. We can get so caught up in our own drama that we stop our own growth. Reflective self-absorption can be valuable for a time, but we don’t want to stop there. Every wisdom tradition tells us that human meaning and happiness cannot be found in isolation but comes about through generosity, love, and understanding. The bodhisattva, knowing this, appears in a thousand forms, from a caring grandmother to the global citizen. Lewis Thomas explains, ‘The most inventive and novel of all schemes in nature, and perhaps the most significant in determining the great landmark events in evolution, is symbiosis, which is simply cooperative behavior carried to its extreme.’ Unless we understand this, we are split between caring for ourselves and caring for the troubles of the world. There is no separation between inner and outer, self and other. Tending ourselves, we tend the world. Tending the world, we tend ourselves….Jack Kornfield