We do not need to go out and find love; rather, we need to be still and let love discover us.
When I let myself be still, when I unplug from the onslaught of virtual connection and lean into the quiet of no planned events, no social engagements and turn off the phone, I feel grief rise. I sit alone and yet I feel the collective experience of grief. The flurry of the virtual activity, emails, texts, chats, Zooms, WhatsApp, even all that is intended to comfort such as reminders to be mindful, online performances and concerts, daily poetry readings and more, can keep us away from being still and feel the grief of all the suffering the pandemic is creating.
I can understand the desire not to feel grief.
Compassion is a daring practice~Pema Chodron
Over the last several weeks I have returned to a daily practice of tonglen, the practice I used to begin this year-long experiment in daily compassion practices. I returned to it after weeks of several different self-compassion practices and found in returning to tonglen, my ability to turn towards and accept suffering, both mine and others, has increased and become stronger.
I feel the self-compassion practices have heightened my awareness of and ability to be with our common humanity, especially in recognizing how we all suffer, everyone one of us, regardless of our life circumstances.
I feel the regularity of self-compassion based practices is enhancing my resiliency and stability. Yesterday, I was troubled by the activity of a very discursive mind. Thoughts led me down old rabbit hole patterns of failure, defeat and despair. I tried to move away from it by keeping busy. I was able to distract myself for a couple hours when I met friends for an afternoon concert. Yet as I drove home, the thoughts came rushing back in. Finally, after I arrived home and began to make some dinner, I happened to look outside and see the pink glow of the setting sun across the snowy fields and said to myself, “Okay, it’s time to stop and be in this.”
“The wonderful irony about this spiritual journey is the we find it only leads us to become just as we are. The exalted state of enlightenment is nothing more than fully knowing ourselves and our world, just as we are. In other words, the ultimate fruition of this path is simply to be fully human.” Pema Chodron – Welcoming the Unwelcome
I recently have found myself drawn back to the teachings of Pema Chodron. Pema was one of the first teachers I connected with when I began looking for a new spiritual home after I felt the religious upbringing of my childhood no longer had a place for me. I accepted my sexual orientation of lesbian when I was 21. I knew this was an inherent part of me, not something I was choosing. The strong Calvinistic, Protestant religion I was brought up in told me homosexuality was a sin and abomination. I knew in my heart it wasn’t. I couldn’t stay in a religion where I was not welcome, so even though it was wrenchingly painful to leave the spiritual ground my life was built on to that point, I had to find another path.
The effect of consistent practice of the self-compassion break exercise has been subtle but deep. In some ways, it feels like the effect snuck up on me. As I practiced it every morning, it took on the feel of being rote and I wondered if I had made a poor decision in choosing it as a daily practice, perhaps it wasn’t a juicy enough practice.
If I wasn’t experiencing some sort of strain or stress at the time of meditation, the directions of the practice asked me to recall a time of suffering, a situation requiring self-compassion. Quite a few mornings of these last two weeks I found myself needing to recall a time of distress to engage the practice as it is written. The first few times this occurred, it felt alright to recall a past experience of suffering, yet as it continued, it felt more like I was needing to stir something up and this felt counter-intuitive to a daily meditation practice of being with what is. So, I modified the exercise to the immediacy of my experience, rather than reaching for something which qualified as distress or suffering.
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