To give ourselves compassion, we first have to recognize that we are suffering. We can’t heal what we can’t feel. We certainly feel the sting of falling short of our ideals, but our mind tends to focus on the failure itself, rather than the pain caused by failure. This is a crucial difference. The moment we see something about ourselves we don’t like, our attention tends to be absorbed by our perceived flaws. In that moment, we don’t have the perspective needed to recognize the suffering caused by our feelings of imperfection, let alone to respond with compassion. We need to stop for a breath or two and acknowledge that we’re having a hard time, and that our pain is deserving of kind, caring response.
Frequently on Mondays we wish we were somewhere else. We have difficulty realizing that the only moment for us to be alive is this one. We wish our lives away, and they pass us by without us having seen the opportunity that lay in front of us.
All of our listening brings us home. This is what the teacher-soul keeps saying to the student-self in each of us: To accept our place in the miracle before us, to listen to our experience, to our bodies, to our pain, to our wonder, to our place in the mystery, until we land and sing – this is what all birdsong calls us to remember. Try as we will to fly away, all flight leads us to land where we began, different but the same. Try as we will to get out of here, life simply and harshly returns us to the heart of here, which, if listened to, opens us to the heart of everything. What the teacher says to the student who complains is that there is no lesson plan for living but to live. And all our dreams and plans and strategies are necessary detours to the brilliant reality of the life we already inhabit.
As for life, I’m humbled,
I’m without words
sufficient to say
how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over
Mary Oliver, Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond
The desire to know your own soul
will end all other desires
There’s no inner landscape in the invisible world of our souls and hearts but is full of the most melodious and nourishing and wild freedom. And everyone should go there, to the wild place, where there are no cages, where there are not tight rooms without windows and without doors. Everyone should go to the free clearance places in their own hearts
When we find our life unpleasant or unfulfilling, we try to escape the unpleasantness by various subtle escape mechanisms. In such attempts we are dealing with our lives as if there’s me and then there’s life outside me. As long as we approach our lives in this way we will bend all of our efforts to finding something or somebody else to handle our lives for us. We may look for a lover, a teacher, a religion, a center — something, or somebody, somewhere, to handle our difficulties for us. As long as we see our lives in this dualistic fashion we fool ourselves and believe that we need not pay any price for a realized life.
Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen