I read the following words from The Parents Tao Te Ching by William Martin this morning and they moved me:
Our bodies produce the bodies of our children. Our noisy minds produce the fears of our children. But the Tao produces the spirit of our children. Still the body. Quiet the mind. Discover the spirit.
How often we need to be reminded of that in this modern life. We have constant streams of input, even when we aren’t seeking them out or asking for them. We have constant competitions for our attention and for our dollars. And pursuing those things often leaves us no more satisfied than before the pursuit.
However, being still and relaxed enough to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise or sunset or a giant hug from a loved one or a beautifully written word or photo is satisfying. My encouragement to you today is set a timer, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and focus on one, single pleasant word for two minutes. As the mind wanders, just bring it back to that word. Keep breathing. Take another deep breath to close the practice. And enjoy your day!
In “The Five Invitations” Frank Ostaseski writes, “In the end, the only way through suffering is for us to allow what is happening, welcoming the experience and introducing awareness and compassion where denial was prominent”. Nobody is going to do this well all of the time, but as a practice it helps us to move through troubles rather than getting stuck in the yuck.
In “Daily Affirmations For Adult Children of Alcoholics” Rokelle Lerner writes “Life is not a test where we are constantly graded for performance”. What do you think – is that easy to believe or hard to believe? For those who grew up in a home where performance was a mark of significance or a sign that you mattered, this may be a hard pill to swallow. I wonder what then would replace performance? If I am not being graded at performance, on what am I being graded? Am I being graded at all? How do I know how I am doing? Whew! On and on we go. We can tell what life is about because when we find it, it creates a gentle, inner serenity. It creates pleasure. It invites ability to get along with others and in the world. It creates a peace within us. When we find what life is about, others look at us and say “it’s great to be with you”. We find enjoyment. It’s not that we don’t have to work hard. It’s not that we don’t suffer. There are places that continue to be difficult. But we find softness. We find help and connection. I hope today you begin or continue to find what life is about.
When I talk about empathy and compassion, I often get asked to explain them.A practical definition of empathy is when somebody tells you how they are feeling and you say, “well, of course you feel that way!”.Empathy is the thought part of understanding the context of someone’s background or their point of view.You can imagine the place they are coming from that leads them to the experience they are having.Compassion is when you feel a mix of love and hurt or pain or another feeling toward that person as they are telling their story. Empathy says, “yes I can understand how you feel” and compassion says, “I also feel for you”. Empathy and compassion don’t require agreement with the person.You neither have to agree with their point of view, nor say they are right in feeling that way.You only need to allow your mind a short time to imagine their experience. Using your imagination allows you to practice empathy and compassion for almost anyone at almost any time.The benefit of this practice is that receiving empathy and compassion makes us more caring people.Do you want less crime, less road rage, less theft, less abuse?Treat each person like a human, practice empathy and compassion, and do your part to contribute to a better environment for all of us.
We can be so quick to say “I” when taking credit for something – “Look at what I _________”(fill in the blank).But none of us has ever accomplished anything without some form of care, support, encouragement, influence, opportunity, or feedback to get where we are.Each of us was, at one point, fed, clothed, and kept safe.Each of us has had someone help us along the way.Each of us has had some advantage we were born with.While we have had traumas and setbacks as well, those don’t negate the means by which we have arrived where we are.And others are a part of our journey.Today,we will be grateful for and acknowledge how the universe has used others to help us accomplish what we have today.Today we will say, “By the grace of love and with others’ help, I have ________”.Pride and humility are siblings that keep us balanced best when they are holding hands.
Please know that, today, the universe loves you and is conspiring for your greatest good. You may not be able to see that truth through the struggle right now, but hold onto hope and one day it will become clear how your struggle today will lead you to something very important. It will lead you toward greater satisfaction or healing or contentment or connection. All roads can and are intended to lead us, ultimately, toward healing. Today, open your hand and ask the universe to create and to show you the greatest good in this difficult place.
Why is it that joy and intense grief so often go together like mac & cheese?Maybe one thing they have in common is change.Joy often comes from change and so does grief.Change is a funny thing.We can’t live without it.From the day we are born we are changing.Right down to the cellular level.Red blood cells have a life of about four months.New things are constantly happening within us.And as much as we might like to remain stagnant at times, we cannot.Life brings twists and turns, bends in the road, and unexpected bumps to move us along.We can wonder what it would be like to live without change, but I’m not sure we can accurately imagine it – maybe like the movie “Groundhog Day”?Anyhow, change is always comin – like a freight train bearing down the tracks.
We are wired to recognize patterns and situations to avoid danger and to conserve energy.Change makes us use energy to learn a new pattern or situation.We are wired for memory.Change makes us consolidate new memories.So now we have to use our energy to see and do something different and we have to store and differentiate between the old and the new experience.And sometimes the difference is not even between what was, but what we imagined and what actually was or is.
So it is painful because it takes our energy and forces memory change.Why is it often accompanied by joy?New things can be exciting.New things can present options and choices.Newness can invite greater space for enjoyment, pleasure, and fulfillment in an area that had been lacking.As the old red blood cells die, new ones take their place.When we let go of an old paradigm, there is room for a more adaptive view to take its’ place – something that’s going to work better.
So, I think we just have to live with it.Joy and grief are inextricably linked.Most of the time we will have one with the other.If we can hold both and go back and forth flexibly and freely, then good for us!Enjoy the joy and grief that are part of life, my friends.