Living on the edge of my comfort zone,
seeing how many hang-ups I still have,
wanting to embody perfection of patience,
compassion, understanding, self-restraint,
being confronted with human reality…
I feel the disappointment when I fail
and wonder if I can do better the next time.
After so many years of strengthening the habit
of reacting with anger
what can I realistically expect from myself now?
My loved ones are the most ruthless
at pointing out how far I have yet to go
and the least likely
to celebrate how far I’ve already come.
So there is the added disappointment
of wanting to be seen and heard
and not being met with the understanding
I so deeply long for.
Perhaps I can have compassion for all of us,
for the challenge of existing in an apparently
while simultaneously living in the isolation
of one’s own imagined world.
This is the plight we all must navigate
and the gift we must all unwrap
if we are ever to experience
the bliss of divine union,
the peace of life fully lived.
I have found that the greatest degree of tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success. —His Holiness The Dalai Lama
If you start the day thinking
What about me?
How will you notice the sunrise?
If you go through the day thinking
What about me?
How will you see the blessings
pouring down upon you?
If you finish the day thinking
What about me?
How will you feel anything but loneliness?
What kind of life is this?
Shift your focus from asking
What about me? to asking
What about you?
Notice how different this feels.
Suddenly, not so self-absorbed,
the whole world opens up
and you see how your presence
can bring great benefit to others.
Find the courage to move beyond
Look around and ask
What about you?
Breathing in the exhaustion
of every other caregiver
who is experiencing this very same fatigue
I’m feeling right now,
breathing out peace, rest, relaxation,
Breathing in the guilt and shame
of every other person
who was losing their temper
at the very same time I lost mine,
breathing out peace, calm, patience,
Breathing in the regret
of every human being
who wants so much to be good
but often falls short
just like I–
breathing out self-love,
forgiveness, hope, acceptance
the willingness to keep trying.
Breathing in this desire to awaken
felt by every person on this path,
breathing out trust, perseverance,
humor, enthusiasm, support.
We will all one day arrive
at the same destination,
one breath, one step at a time.
I had a really tough day today. Both of my kids are sick and they were very needy and often whiny, demanding, and unkind to me. They woke me up two nights in a row wanting comfort because they aren’t well–and I certainly did what I could for them–but now I’m feeling sleep deprived, at the very end of my tether. After a day of trying to meet their needs and not getting my own met, I finally lost my temper right at bedtime. They weren’t cooperating and just going to bed so that I could just go to bed. The guilt and shame erupted within me after my angry outbursts. I finally meditated, barely staying awake because I am so tired, and I was in bed before 8pm. I decided to do a poem about Tonglen in case there is anyone else out there who was in the same boat as me today, whether they were caring for children, elderly, clients, patients, students, animals, colleagues–when you are called to give of yourself and you’re tired, it takes superhuman strength to maintain a positive outlook. I just want to reassure you that if you lost it today, you’re in good company. There were many people feeling exactly the same thing as you in the moment of your difficulty. You are never alone.
Learning to mind your own business
is a precious and rare skill,
and essential if you are to realize
true and lasting happiness.
Imagine. You are sitting there
enjoying a bite to eat
and you hear a couple arguing.
Suddenly, your mind is full of judgment.
They shouldn’t act like that in public.
That poor man–having to put up with such
a whiny woman!
They shouldn’t be together.
How dare they be so inconsiderate…
Like lightening your mind
pulls forth from your memory vaults
everything you’ve been taught
about social niceties
and you feel a sense of moral superiority
as you tell yourself
that you would never behave in this manner.
If you have trained
in being aware of your own awareness,
you might smile at such thinking,
acknowledge that you were just caught up
in a bunch of thoughts,
and go back to your meal.
You might feel compassion
for the two beings
who are having such a difficult moment,
remembering that you have been there before,
remembering what it feels like.
Your heart opens.
If you haven’t been training
in being aware,
you might actually believe your thoughts
and perpetuate the mentality
that leads to the very same discord
you just witnessed.
while you were over there in that couple’s business,
who was minding you?
Who was there for you
to taste your food
and notice that you were being breathed by life?
Who was there to feel grateful
for how you are supported by the chair
that holds your body?
mind your own business.
Someone has to take care of you,
might as well be you.
Don’t you have enough to worry about
without having to arrogantly assume
that you know how other people
Reality is always so much kinder
that our narrow interpretation of it.
If you want true and lasting happiness,
mind your own business.
I put up the rest of the Christmas lights today,
took time arranging and rearranging them,
imagined others seeing them
and enjoying their cheerful colors.
My hands became cold and I went inside
periodically to warm up.
I thought about what a luxury it is
to string up these lights
and I wondered if it’s completely insane
to use electricity to power them.
I felt grateful for the warmth of my home
and how it took the sting of cold away,
and my heart ached for those who have no home
to go home to.
I wondered how they survive the night
when it’s cold like this,
what it must feel like to know they have no shelter.
As I peer deeper into ordinary moments
I see this enormous opportunity
to be more awake, more aware.
May I awaken for the benefit of all beings.
May my life energy help end the suffering
of all beings.
Wanting to be seen, heard,
and not being met
as I had hoped,
a deep welling up of grief
for needs unmet
and questions unanswered.
And then freedom.
Remembering that people
what they do not know they have.
Looking for compassion
from the inexhaustible source within,
setting everyone free
to be exactly who they are.
Moving through the grief
to find the freedom,
this is a sacred journey indeed.
We teach what we most need to learn,
and what we see in others
is simply a reflection of ourselves.
This realization washes over me
again and again
carrying with it
a sense of profound responsibility
and a drive to be even more awake
in my thoughts, words, and actions.
I am human,
and often I don’t succeed
in being the patient, loving person
I really want to be.
This is where self-compassion steps in
and reminds me that we all fail sometimes,
and my failure connects me with all other
fellow human beings
who have set their marks impossibly high
and who fall time and time again
stretching upwards to reach those marks.
May I be patient with myself.
May the patience I cultivate within myself
radiate outwards and bless the world
with the calm certainty
that we are all doing the best we can,
that we are all worthy of forgiveness,
and we can all keep trying one more time
to bring forth the best that is within us.