With compassion we come to trust our capacity to open to life without armoring. As the poet Rilke reminds us, “Ultimately it is on our vulnerability that we depend.” This is not a poetic ideal but a living reality, demonstrated by our most beloved sages. Mahatma Gandhi had the courage to be jailed and beaten, to persevere through difficulties without giving in to bitterness and despair. His vulnerability became his strength.
Martin Luther King Jr. exhorted us, “Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the instruments of love.” At the worst times such an attitude may seem impossible. Yet even though some of King’s followers later rejected his precepts of non-violence, something in us knows that hate does not end by hate, that closing our heart is not the way.
Yes, the world is full of pain, uncertainty, and injustice. But in this vulnerable human life, in family, community and society, every loss is an opportunity either to shut out the world or to stand up with dignity and let the heart respond. When we come to rest in the great heart of compassion, we discover a capacity to bear witness to, suffer with, and hold dear with our own vulnerable heart the sorrows and beauties of the world. Then we can act with courage, standing up for what matters, all from a center of wisdom, peace and love.
opening doors is the most courageous act of our spiritual path…who wants to change things that are working? nobody…..
inquiry for today~ how will you be curious today and remain on your own sacred ground?
And then there is the inner orphaning. Many hours on a meditation cushion have spotlighted the subtler psychologies of exiling myself from myself. Before I realize what’s happening, I’m driving away some unwanted emotion that arises, or judging my memories, ideas, and actions. I realize I’m relating to myself as an enemy, an object to be fixed into some ideal notion of who I should be. It’s apt that Ajahn Sumedho, a major figure in the Thai Forest tradition, calls the thoughts and feelings that we shame into the dark corners “orphans of consciousness.” I have many of them. So do we all. Orphan is not only a noun; it’s a verb. We fence ourselves off from one another despite a primal instinct to belong. We also become experts at abandoning ourselves.
The dharma offers us hundreds of modalities to reverse the habit of experiencing ourselves as separate from the world and each other. Ajahn Sucitto of the Thai Forest tradition enjoins us to bring a sympathetic intimacy to all that arises in our field of experience. There are thousands of stories, sutras, and methods from every tradition that can affect this turn toward inclusivity, but we have to practice and know them well enough that they begin saturate our awareness away from a default to aloneness. Frank Ostaseski, another well-known Buddhist teacher, gives a short, positive directive: “Welcome everything; push away nothing.”