This is a lovely idea…
When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees.
And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever.
And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is.
You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.”
That judging mind comes in.
And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.
Ram Dass, On Self-Judgment
Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the
tumbled pine needles she toiled.
And I thought: she will never live another life but this one.
And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength
is she not wonderful and wise?
And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything
until I came to myself.
Mary Oliver, Reckless Poem (extract)
There is great practical wisdom in understanding how the mind
creates boundaries of concern and interest, and how we can work
with these. Of course there are boundaries; there are other beings
on earth. But what counts is how those boundaries are maintained,
opened and closed.
When we consider otherness — the way beings
are different from us — we can feel either insecurity, ‘How does
she compare with me?’ or contempt, ‘You’re not as good as me’; or
fear and intimidation, ‘You’re better or stronger than me.’ Or, we
can feel adoration/attraction — ‘I want to be bonded to you.’
These immediate assumptions are called ‘conceit’: that is, we conceive
of people as worse, better or the same as us. The effect is that the
mind’s responsiveness gets stuck.
Caught in the conceit of self-view, the heart doesn’t extend its boundaries of appreciation and concern.
We take each other for granted as ‘my wife,’ ‘my boss,’ ‘my teacher’; and that fixing of them freezes our sensitivity. In that state, the heart easily tips over
into complaining about the other not being the way they ‘should
be’ (or rather the way I want them to be), and so the heart becomes
a breeding ground for ill-will.
Ajahn Sucitto, Parami: Ways to Cross Life’s Floods
In being with dying, we arrive at a natural crucible of what it means to love and be loved.
And we can ask ourselves this: Knowing that death is inevitable, what is most precious today?
Roshi Joan Halifax, Letting Go, Letting in Light:
Halifax Talks about Her Life & Groundbreaking Book, Being with Dying
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Mary Oliver, Don’t Hesitate from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Normally when we are taken by surprise, there is a sudden narrowing of our visual periphery that exacerbates the fight or flight response… But in the Japanese self-defense art of aikido, this visual narrowing is countered by a practice called “soft eyes”, in which one learns to widen one’s periphery, to take in more of the world. If you train a person to practice soft eyes, then introduce that same sudden stimulus, the reflex is often transcended. This person will turn toward the stimulus, take it in, and then make a more authentic response — such as thinking a new thought.
Soft eyes, it seems to me, is an evocative image for what happens when we gaze on sacred reality. Now our eyes are open and receptive, able to take in the greatness of the world and the grace of great things. Eyes wide with wonder, we no longer need to resist or run when taken by surprise. Now we can open ourselves to the great mystery.
Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach