Tag Archives: compassion

Staying Awake

Standard

Staying awake
long enough
to breathe for my sisters,
my father,
my husband,
the world…
Feeling drowsy, peaceful,
almost nodding off,
but remembering
why I’m here,
why I’m doing this.
Stay awake
a voice says,
and I shake off my fatigue
for a moment longer.
And I realize
awakening is one thing
but staying awake is another.

The Universe Opens

Standard

Valentine’s Day is coming
and I want to teach a class
on heart opening.
So I research this and that pose
that helps to open the heart…
backbends, twists, forward folds,
lunges…
And I don’t have time
to practice a sequence.
And I want to be more prepared.
And I worry that I’m not good enough
as a yoga teacher, as a mother…
And it strikes me
I’m missing the point.
How can we open our hearts
to the world
if we haven’t opened our hearts
to ourselves?
So I start to open my heart
to myself.
I let myself feel compassion
for this woman
who tries so hard to be good,
this woman
who worries that
she never quiet measures up,
who compares herself to others,
who dreams about
being far away from the noise
somewhere in nature
somewhere quiet
and peaceful
and beautiful.
Now let me keep my heart open.
Let the compassion
continue to flow.
If I can help my students
reach this place
the postures really won’t matter.
What our bodies are doing
seems far less important
when seen from a perspective
of limitless connection
with all that is.
When the heart opens
the whole universe opens.

I’ll Do It Anyway

Standard

He is in pain
and there is nothing we can do about it.
He has been to doctors of all kinds
and no one knows what is causing it.
He has tried exercises, supplements,
undergone all sorts of tests and imaging
and now he is trying to modify his diet.
I feel helpless watching him suffer.
He manages to work through it
because he wants to continue
to support our family,
worries what would become of us
if he couldn’t work…
He comes home, grimacing
from the pain in his back.
I rub that gooey green gel on him
when we both know it won’t do much.
Again I feel helpless.
I don’t want to see him suffer.
There is nothing I can do for him…
And then today I remember tonglen,
the taking and sending practice.
I sit
and picture him in front of me.
I visualize breathing his pain
into the vast inner space of my heart,
so that he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.
I breathe out, seeing him
healing, feeling good, feeling happy,
balanced, at ease, at peace.
I do this over and over again
for thirty minutes.
Later in the day I ask
How are you feeling honey?
Actually, not so bad today he says.
Dare I think my meditation helped him?
Dare I think it didn’t?
It doesn’t matter.
I’ll keep doing it anyway.

This Practice

Standard

As I sat this evening
it suddenly occurred to me
that I was spending
a lot of time mulling
over the decisions
of our current commander in chief.
I have spent time worrying,
feeling frustrated,
feeling angry,
feeling incredulous,
feeling mortified,
feeling cheated,
feeling afraid.
As I sat, I remembered
that sending the thoughts
born of these feelings
into an atmosphere
already charged with fear and negativity
will help no one, including myself.
What to do, I asked myself.
It doesn’t do any good to hate.
Although I completely disagree
with his actions, his rhetoric, his decisions,
his vision,
he is a human being after all,
and like me, he wants happiness,
safety, peace.
Lovingkindness is the antitdote
to hateful feelings.
Ah yes, lovingkindness, or metta
meditation. Here goes.
As I have done many times before,
I pictured the object of my meditation
sitting there in front of me.
There he was, Mr. Trump,
his face in my mind,
and I began repeating the phrases of metta:
May you be safe
May you be happy
May you be healthy,
May you be peaceful and at ease.

I was able to generate genuine
feelings of compassion for him,
and to feel sorry for him,
being the object of so much hatred,
and under so much pressure
to make so many decisions
that will affect so many beings.
May you be safe,
May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be peaceful and at ease.
Given recent events,
I know I have my work cut out for me,
but I commit to this practice
for the benefit of all beings,
this practice that gives me hope,
this practice that brings healing,
this practice that reminds me
of the inherent goodness of all.

Life Fully Lived

Standard

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
connected universe
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.

What About You

Standard

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.
Be brave.
Find the courage to move beyond
self-absorption.
Look around and ask
What about you?

Tonglen for Parents and Caregivers

Standard

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,
quiet, nourishment.
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,
stillness, serenity.
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.