Gifts and Sorrows

His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested this excellent exercise (paraphrased through my mind):

Picture yourself sitting in a line of other sitting humans that stretches out as far as you can see to your left and to your right. Now bring to your consciousness a sorrow or burden you feel.

Imagine yourself looking to your right. Imagine that all of the people in that direction have more resources and an easier time with their sorrows and burdens. Maybe they have fewer problems, more or better friends, they are more clever, and they have abundant access to whatever they need to ease their suffering. Imagine they suffer less that you.

Now imagine yourself looking to the left. All of the people in this direction have it worse than you. They are carrying burdens and disabilities that are more challenging than yours. They have fewer resources to draw upon to meet those challenges. Imagine they suffer more than you.

And now bring your consciousness back to yourself and check in again on your gifts and sorrows in this moment.

I have found that exercise to be quite useful. And now I realize that I prefer circles to lines. I love the small circles of family and tribe. I participate in many gatherings where we form circles for celebration and communication.

So now I’m picturing, curling that nearly infinite line of sitting humans to my left and to my right into a circle, and this meditation becomes quite powerful.

I am an equal part of the circle.

As I become aware of my tribe mates,

I am aware that each has gifts and sorrows greater than my own. And that I have gifts and sorrows greater than theirs.

In this moment, which is all there is.

Perhaps we can be useful to each other’s sorrows with our gifts.

Advertisements

Wind swept

You know, we all go through rough patches in our lives.
And it is dawning on me, as I sit here, that THIS is not a rough patch.
For the first time in a long time, it feels like I’m not fighting the wind.

This is not to say that those howling emotions have ceased,
but they aren’t coming from being in the wrong place, 
or the wrong time, or from being the wrong me.

It turns out, the second life is just …noisier,
this is how it sounds on the skinny branches
where I’ve always wanted to be.

No, this is not rough, it is an urgent invitation
to remember how to sway, and listen,
and not hold on so hard to past ground.

What is in my hands?

I have just learned from David Whyte about a certain sect of Irish monks who pray, not with their hands together, but with them out and palms up. We have two hands, David reminds us, one for receiving and one for giving.  So the invitation I take from this insight is to wonder a series of important questions about my giving and receiving:

Are my hands presently held in balance?  Is my giving equal to my receiving, or am I favoring one over the other? Am I giving gifts that are of a nature that is in sync with what I have been given? Am I giving what is needed, or simply what I am seeking to receive?

This last question is one that deserves my significant attention.  Sometimes givers (and yes, I include myself in this characterization) aren’t altruistic at all. Needy givers can impose their “gifts” unsolicited onto others in order to allow themselves to feel significant, in effect, to manufacture self-importance. David implored the audience to “make yourself large enough to be able to hold what you have been given.” Trying to understand this will be a significant shift in perspective for me. My practices in expansiveness have been about becoming large enough that my grief is small in comparison to my wonder and appreciation, or so that I can be capable of giving without becoming depleted. It had not occurred to me that the expansion was for greater getting. But in David’s model, the two-handed monk model, this makes perfect sense – larger hands to accept, hold gently, and then pass on greater gifts.

And this beckons an even deeper wondering:

What have I been holding for far too long, that I can set down or pass on, to empty my palms so that they are ready for what is up next for me to receive, share, and give?

 

On Why I Like Pebbles

A beloved with helper tendencies tells me:

“I have an urge to tromp in and sweep every pebble off your path so you don’t stub your toe.” 

This is my appreciative response:

Pebbles

Sometimes pebbles get in your shoe.

Most people think that is a problem. Some people even get angry or sad about that pebble, and start telling themselves stories about how it isn’t fair that they always get the pebble or maybe if they had better shoes they wouldn’t have to cope with so many burdensome pebbles. Some people don’t have much feeling, so they don’t even notice the pebble. Or they notice and just don’t care. That’s the saddest way to feel a pebble in your shoe. To notice and just not care.

And then some people, the “way out there” ones that feel a little less like humans than the rest of us (or maybe a little more?), they notice that the pebble helps them be more aware of their foot. They notice that they’d forgotten to notice that foot all day, and here is this little pebble reminding me that I have a foot. Some people don’t have a foot, they think, and that must be sad, but I do have a foot, and now I’m remembering how great that feels and so in this moment, I am happy. Happy about this foot, happy about this pebble, happy about this moment of awareness.

We went to a mandala dance where people had gathered.  They built houses and a dance floor in the middle of the woods because they noticed that when other people come along, it helps to remind them that they have a heart. Just like the pebble in the shoe, the other people draw our awareness to ourselves in a way that can be experienced as a problem, or a burden, or a blessing, or as care.  And these people were mostly trying to mostly see that as a blessing. So they had a dance to celebrate that dance, and they invited us.  

And they brought pebbles. And flowers, and spices and we put them in bowls around an empty circle on that dance floor. All night long, the dancers paused to sit around that empty circle and make it less empty. The children helped too. We dripped pebbles and other little gifts into patterns that felt like the patterns of the people dancing and the way my heart feels when someone notices me. They call that a mandala dance.

A mandala is a celebration of impermanence. Like the thought about the pebble, like the dance, like a lover, a mandala is a human creation meant to help you notice that you forgot to be aware of God today.  It is a practice in this contemplation:

Some people don’t have a connection to source and that must be sad. But I have found my connection, and now I am remembering how great that feels and so in this moment, I am happy. Happy about this foot, happy about this pebble, happy about this moment of awareness, happy about this love, happy to be here where people can get in my heart as unexpectedly as when a pebble gets in my shoe.

Pebbles are nice. I like pebbles.

pebblesPhoto credit: http://www.southnorthsouth.net/2012/07/pebble-stone-and-river-rock-foot-board.html

Compassion

One of the basic Eastern meditations on compassion starts with visualizing the loving care of your mother.

When the masters first brought this meditation to the U.S., they were shocked to learn that this very same meditation brings up anger, sadness, and anything but a universal source of compassion in Western practitioners. I find this story to be amazing, both as a daughter and as a mother.

How have we created a culture in which our most fundamental and basic form of nurturing is generally perceived as not good enough? Think about it – in those countries where poverty is more pronounced and opportunities are more limited, people generally regard their mothers with gratitude and appreciation, yet in a country where we have all of our needs met and most of our wants, we tell stories of deprivation.

I believe that our stories matter — the good, the bad, the truthful ones we all have in common and the illusory ones we make up for so many ego personality reasons. I’m not saying we should stop telling our sad stories, or the stories where we were hurt, or violated, or truth was not served. Telling these stories is a key step to breaking free of the pain they caused.

But I am inviting myself to also be mindful of the weight, time, energy, and heart space I give to the various types of stories I tell myself, and to make a practice of telling the good ones too. I expect this practice will significantly alter the nature of the future stories I have to tell.