I wanted to sit down and write. Yesterday, when I got home from work I found myself here looking through old blog posts trying to put pieces together. The pieces of my life that brought me here. I haven't blogged in a long time. I think I was told no less than four times yesterday that I am a writer. I've been neglecting this part of myself; maybe due to school work, teaching, and all the other stresses of life that swirl around what it means to grow up. Right now the news is muted. My coffee is waiting is for me, but there was one thing I needed to do this morning more than anything: write. I could feel my fingers ache last night, and that little whisper pulling me back here. Maybe, I even talked myself into being something else. Something other than a writer, because in the grand scheme of things, all I've ever really written about is on this blog... but, somehow it's enough. It's enough to remind me that deep within myself, without putting things down into words that form sentences, there is a part of my voice that gets lost. It's as if this is my way of anchoring; just like using my breath in a yoga class, it's an anchor providing me some sort of support to lean on. I wish I really knew where to begin, so I guess aside from searching for something to catch you up on I will just say that when looking through this blog, it makes sense. It all makes sense. The last blog post I read before going to bed last night was one I wrote before moving back to Arkansas.
I'll leave a part of it here:
But this issue of growing up, it's not all that easy because it requires a lot of courage. Particularly it takes a lot of courage to relate directly with your experience. By this I mean whatever is occurring in you, you use it. You seize the moment? moment after moment? you seize those moments and instead of letting life shut you down and make you more afraid, you use those very same moments of time to soften and to open and to become more kind. More kind to yourself for starters as the basis for becoming more kind to others.
One time when I was a child, I was feeling very upset and angry at one point. I think I was around seven or eight. And there was this old woman, who I later become very close to. But the first time I ever met her, I was walking down the street kicking stones with my head down, and I was feeling very lonely. I was basically feeling that nobody loved me very much and that people weren't taking care of me. So I was walking along angry at the world, kicking stones. And this woman said, "Child, don't let the world harden your heart."
And I always remember that. It was the first real teaching I received, I think. It's still a teaching I remember. And in terms of this teaching on maitri, this is really the key. People's lives, through all of time, have had a lot of difficulty in them The Buddha's first teaching was that there is suffering in life, If you're born as a human being, there's suffering. At the very least, there's the suffering of illness, of growing old and of death at the end. Not to mention that the more you love are able to open, there's the suffering of not getting what you want and of losing what you do want. Just some inevitable sufferings.
Nowadays, this is an especially difficult time in the history of this planet, Earth. it's a difficult time. And in times of difficulty, people get very frightened. Often when I'm teaching a lot of the questions are that people ask about just the subject. People inevitably say, "Yes, but it's dangerous, it's getting more and more dangerous just to walk down the street. We need to protect ourselves."
I think the point is when our lives are difficult, in small ways or large ways, when we're going through a lot emotionally, or when difficult things are happening in our environment, do those things cause us to become more uptight and afraid. Or do those very same things, when the teachings are applied, soften us and can open us?
To me, this is how I practice and this is the most important thing. You never know what's going to happen to us. In any day of our lives you never know what's coming. That's part of the adventure of it actually, but that's what makes us scared, is that we never know. And we spend a lot of time trying to control it so that we could know, but the truth is that we don't really know.
Really, I think a lot of people, like children, you're wanting some kind of practice that's not going to take you into anything uncomfortable but at the same time you want the practice to heal you. And it just doesn't work like that.
The question is how do you relate when things are uncomfortable? That's really the question.
As far as I'm concerned, in terms of spiritual path, that's the main question: how do you relate with the difficulties? How do you relate with the feelings you have and the situations you find yourself in?
This particular teaching on the Four Limitless Ones, on maitri, compassion, joy and equanimity is really a teaching on how to take the situations of your life and train- actually train- in catching yourself closing down, catching yourself getting hard, and training in opening at that very point, or softening. In some sense reversing a very, very old pattern of the whole species, which is a pattern of armoring ourselves. It's sort of like the essence of the whole Path is in that place of discomfort and what do you do with it?
Pema Chodron tells this story so well, and I really love the message of this. In my life, I have experienced things that I blamed myself for, that I realize now, after a lot of therapy, were not my fault. I didn't practice loving kindness to myself at all for a long time, because I believed I didn't deserve it. The truth is, we all deserve it. When things are uncomfortable, it's a reminder that we are human, perfection isn't needed, but compassion is.