Life is not somewhere waiting for you, it is happening in you. It is not in the future as a goal to be arrived at, it is here now, this very moment — in your breathing, circulating in your blood, beating in your heart – whatsoever you are is your life, and if you start seeking meaning somewhere else, you will miss it. Man has done that for centuries
photo Billy Hathorn
For things to reveal themselves to us,
we need to be ready to abandon our views about them
Thich Nhat Hanh
photo sumeet moghe
Some thoughts from St Francis de Sales, who lived in the beautiful French town of Annecy, on the soft approach we should take toward challenges and towards ourselves:
When you encounter difficulties and contradictions,
do not try to break them,
but bend them with gentleness and time
St Francis de Sales
photo of tree in County Clare by Maureen
When we sit we are doing two things. First, sitting becomes a container; whatever has happened we sit still and feel it. The other side of sitting is the stillness of non-reactivity. We feel all…without doing anything to anybody. The feeling becomes our own responsiblity. Instead of our attention being directed, as it usually is, to making somebody else treat us differently, the way we want to be treated, we come back to experiencing what is at stake in being treated this way, what the hurt is really all about, and who we think we are that we can be hurt.
Barry Magid, Ending the Pursuit of Happiness
Roshi Joan Halifax developed this practice in relation to her work with the dying, but I think it can apply in any workplace. In meditation practice we develop our capacity to sit still, settle into, and be held up by, the body, rather than our habitual relating to life from just our thinking mind. The strength of the spine allows us to support ourselves. We can then carry this supported sense into whatever our workday brings, keeping an open, soft, welcome for whatever each moment brings. Whenever something challenging is encountered, we can remind ourself of our inner strength by quietly saying to ourselves, “Strong back”. Rather than retreating into a position of defensiveness or fear, we open to things as they are:
All too often our so-called strength comes from fear not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open, representing choiceless compassion. The place in your body where these two meet – strong back and soft front – is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply.
The word authentic comes from the Greek, authentes, which means bearing the mark of the hands. Doing small things with love is how we care for each other, one hand at a time. Doing small things with love releases our courage. And each small act we’re led to leads to more. Doing small things with love is the atom of bravery. I tell myself when afraid, “to be courageous, I don’t need to become my best self, I just need to open who I already am and courage will fill me”.