All human experience as a privilege

The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.

Marilynne Robinson, The Art of Fiction, No. 198

Getting out of the way

Bernie Glassman, a Zen teacher, has a practice called ‘Bearing Witness.’ You go into a hard, complex situation with the mind of not knowing, of having no idea or opinion, and instead, feel, listen, and be in the actual situation, becoming one with it. This nonjudgmental state of mind can position you so that you might be able to find a way to help, not out of your own need to make something better so that you feel better or in order to alleviate your own fear, but so that you act when empty of yourself. You get yourself out of the way.

Natalie Goldberg, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language

The privilege of this day

Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.

Bill Bryson, 10 Simple Rules for Happiness, Graduate College Commencement Ceremony Address

Protect and care

The Shambhala teachings speak of  “placing our fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness.” Another image for maitri is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young until they are strong enough to fly away.  People sometimes ask, “Who am I in this image – the mother or the chick. The answer is both….Without loving kindness for ourselves it is difficult if not impossible to genuinely feel it for others.

Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty


Every morning the world is created…

If it is in your nature to be happy..

And if your spirit  carries within it

the thorn that is heavier than lead….

there is still somewhere deep within you

a beast shouting that the earth

is exactly what it wanted –

each pond with its blazing lilies is a prayer heard and answered

lavishly, every morning,

whether or not you have ever dared to be happy,

whether or not you have ever dared to pray.

Mary Oliver, Morning Poem