No one can solve the mystery of the Supreme and the manifestation of the Supreme.
You can only come out of the small pond of ego and somehow be merged with the Infinite.
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
✨ To be able to enjoy fully the many good things the world has to offer, we must be detached from them. To be detached does not mean to be indifferent or uninterested. It means to be non-possessive. Life is a gift to be grateful for and not a property to cling to.
A non-possessive life is a free life. But such freedom is only possible when we have a deep sense of belonging. To whom then do we belong? We belong to God, and the God to whom we belong has sent us into the world to proclaim in his Name that all of creation is created in and by love and calls us to gratitude and joy. That is what the “detached” life is all about. It is a life in which we are free to offer praise and thanksgiving.
✨ When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, “Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.” But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.
✨ Intimacy between people requires closeness as well as distance. It is like dancing. Sometimes we are very close, touching each other or holding each other; sometimes we move away from each other and let the space between us become an area where we can freely move.
To keep the right balance between closeness and distance requires hard work, especially since the needs of the partners may be quite different at a given moment. One might desire closeness while the other wants distance. One might want to be held while the other looks for independence. A perfect balance seldom occurs, but the honest and open search for that balance can give birth to a beautiful dance, worthy to behold.
✨ Being with a friend in great pain is not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. We do not know what to do or what to say, and we worry about how to respond to what we hear. Our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain. Sometimes we say things like “Well, you’re doing a lot better than yesterday,” or “You will soon be your old self again,” or “I’m sure you will get over this.” But often we know that what we’re saying is not true, and our friends know it too.
We do not have to play games with each other. We can simply say: “I am your friend, I am happy to be with you.” We can say that in words, or with touch, or with loving silence. Sometimes it is good to say: “You don’t have to talk. Just close your eyes. I am here with you, thinking of you, praying for you, loving you.”
✨ To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.
Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.
✨ All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.
Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.
✨ God’s love for us is everlasting. That means that God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. It is an eternal love in which we are embraced. Living a spiritual life calls us to claim that eternal love for ourselves so that we can live our temporal loves –for parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, friends, spouses, and all people who become part of our lives– as reflections or refractions of God’s eternal love. No fathers or mothers can love their children perfectly. No husbands or wives can love each other with unlimited love. There is no human love that is not broken somewhere.
When our broken love is the only love we can have, we are easily thrown into despair, but when we can live our broken love as a partial reflection of God’s perfect, unconditional love, we can forgive one another our limitations and enjoy together the love we have to offer.
Without evaluating or analysing, when we simply recognize thought as thought, it begins to slow down and stop. This isn’t annihilation, this is allowing things to cease. It is compassion. As the habitual obsessive thinking begins to fade, great spaces we never knew were there, begin to appear.
The sufferings are of different kinds, some obvious, others delicate and not so obvious. On the obvious level, as we become busier, we move quickly and hold many responsibilities in our hands, so that even when we try to do good, we do good badly. We don’t have the wisdom required to hear what is truly necessary to hear right action, right understanding, right livelihood. We inadvertently break things even as we try to fix them. Our busy-ness becomes a kind of violence because it destroys the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. On one level, suffering comes because we inadvertently bring harm to the world that we’re trying to help, whether we’re raising money to pay the bills, serving the homeless, or feeding the hungry. Having been in non-profit worlds for twenty-five years, I can say that the faster we go, the more we unintentionally mishandle the ones we love. They become an object of our ambition rather than the subject of our heart’s attention, which requires a certain amount of time and company as well as money.
On more delicate levels, suffering comes because we don’t allow time for the ache in our soul to be healed or for us to be shown the way. In spiritual practice we invite forces larger than us, such as Jesus, Mary, or the Buddha, to work on us in some way. Some amount of time is required for us to be worked on. Healing doesn’t always require us to work; sometimes we need to be worked on. Sabbath allows us to compost in a way that the quiet seeds planted in the soils of our bodies, hearts and minds can germinate. If the seeds that we so diligently plant with our spiritual practice aren’t given a period of dormancy, then like iris bulbs planted in the fall, without dormancy, they will not flower in the spring. We lose the harvest of our practice if we don’t have time to take our hands off the plow and rest in the hammock of delight provided for us by the Sabbath precepts of many spiritual traditions.
Are you saying that suffering isn’t caused as much by the pursuit of accomplishment as by our sped-up relationship with time?
The problem is imbalance. Clearly both time and action are necessary. Things need to be done in the world. Homes need to be built, children need to be raised, food needs to be grown, medicines need to be discovered. Because we’re incarnated in human bodies, there are things in the world that require our attention in order for us to be healthy and to grow as a family of beings on the earth. The problem is not necessarily working hard, the problem is working so hard and long without rest that we begin to imagine that we’re the ones making everything happen. We begin to feel a growing, gnawing sense of responsibility and grandiosity about how important our work is and how we can’t stop because everything is on our shoulders. We forget that forces much larger than we are, in fact, do most of the work. When we don’t stop, we don’t remember that. One thing I love about the Sabbath practice in most spiritual traditions is that it starts at a particular time, like the sun going down in the Jewish tradition or the sun coming up on Easter Sunday morning. The onset of Sabbath is usually tied to the sun or the moon, something that you can’t mess with. You can’t negotiate away the time to stop working. You can’t say, “I’ll stop as soon as I finish this report.” Sabbath time is the time when we get stopped.
When Sabbath begins is determined by forces greater than us.
Exactly, and it invokes humility by remembering that the peace we bring to the table, while precious, is also quite small. For some people that might seem like an insult, but for a lot of us, it’s a tremendous relief.
In our society, we think of rest as useless. You describe rest as joyful as well as useful.
We need to listen to the spiritual traditions. Jesus said, “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy,” and “Come, that you might have life and have that abundantly.” The Buddha spoke about joy being the fruit of spiritual practice. No spiritual tradition says that God wants us to be exhausted. No scripture says we’re supposed to be totally burned out. Almost every scripture says that the fruit of life is joy being happy in all that we have been given and all that arises in the course of human life. There are sorrows, but the more spacious we become, the more joyful we become in being able to embrace everything.