Click on the link to join in this meditation moment.
Click on the link to join in this meditation moment.
There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes “prognosis, poor.”
You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?
Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.
Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take the money you would have spent on beers in a bar and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Tutor a seventh-grader.
All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.
No matter how much of a free thinker you are, it is impossible to escape the structures placed upon you through which you have come to know about the world. The way in which society expects us to live is strongly influential and it powerfully impacts our idea of what constitutes as a “good” life. Cultural norms run deep, affecting our perceptions and choices in ways which we are often unaware.
Feeling the pressure of today’s society
Our societal milieu is outcomes and performance based. There is a constant pressure to be the best, to outdo your neighbor and to win at all costs. We are told that if we do not maintain this competitive edge we will fail at life. Therefore we strive to be the cleverest, the thinnest and the fastest. Consequently, we have become a society of manipulative and conniving beings. This way of being borders on the sociopath, as the only bottom line we look out for is ourselves, while treating everyone else as collateral damage.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. affecting around 40 million adults. In 2012, an estimated 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode within the year. Clearly we are not coping with the pressure and not only are we harming others in our quest to the best, we are also harming ourselves. Moreover, we are destroying the planet and all the natural resources we depend upon for survival. It isn’t difficult to see that this mind set is not serving us well. It doesn’t take a genius to look around and to see that that our “win at all costs” attitude is actively helping us to fail. So why do we continue to cling so tightly to it?
At the core of our nature, we are social creatures. Human beings have a deep need for acceptance and belonging, which is very difficult to overcome. Those who speak out against the evils of the world tend to be ostracized. This is one of the deepest human fears – rejection. So while we try to sculpt our lives to match our individuality as best we can, we still ultimately march to the beat of society’s drum, however faint.
So what’s the answer?
Awareness is always a good place to start. Take note the next time your hand feels forced or you feel ‘there is no other way’. What societal expectation is in play? You may not be able to change anything, but at least you are no longer an automaton or a sheep blindly following the flock. You are aware and as soon as you become aware, you start becoming more responsible. Maybe next time you’re faced with an impossible choice, you will identify room for compromise. Perhaps avenues you hadn’t considered will start to appear.
The truth, the real truth, worth repeating over and over again, is that all our decisions come down to a choice between love and fear. We fear being excluded so maybe the answer is to begin to include others. We fear rejection, so maybe we should focus instead on acceptance. We fear the fear itself, so maybe we should begin to practice compassion. This may not solve all our problems, but it reminds us that change happens one small step at a time. Never underestimate the power of a single smile or a small act of kindness. It is the only place to start.
For most people, when you say that suffering is Grace it seems off the wall to them. And we’ve got to deal now with our own suffering and other people’s suffering. That is a distinction that is very real, because we may see our suffering as Grace but it’s quite a different thing to look at somebody else’s suffering and say it’s Grace.
Grace is something that an individual can see about their own suffering and then use it to their advantage. It is not something that can be a rationalization for allowing another human being to suffer. You have to listen to the level at which another person is suffering. When somebody is hungry, you give them food. As my guru used to say, God comes to the hungry person in the form of food. You give them food and then when they’ve had their belly filled then they may be interested in questions about God. To give somebody a dharma lecture when they are hungry is just inappropriate methodology in terms of ending suffering.
So, the hard answer for seeing suffering as Grace, and this is a stinker really, is that you have to have consumed suffering into yourself. There is a tendency in us to find suffering aversive, and so we want to distance ourselves from it. Like if you have a toothache, it becomes that toothache. It’s not us any more. It’s that tooth. And so if there are suffering people, you want to look at them on television or meet them but then keep a distance from them. Because you are afraid you will drown in it. You are afraid you will drown in a pain that will be unbearable. And the fact of the matter is you have to. You finally have to. Because if you close your heart down to anything in the universe, it’s got you. You are then at the mercy of suffering.
To have finally dealt with suffering is to consume it into yourself. Which means you have to, with eyes open, be able to keep your heart open in hell. You have to look at what is, and say Yea, Right. And what it involves is bearing the unbearable. And in a way, who you *think* you are can’t do it. Who you *really* are, can do it. So that who you think you are has to die in the process.
Like, right now, I am counseling a couple who went to a movie and when they came home their house had burned down and their three children had burned to death. Three, five and seven. And she is Mexican Catholic and he is a Caucasian Protestant. And they are responding entirely different to it. She is going in to deep spiritual experiences and talking with the children and he is full of denial and anger and feelings of inadequacy. In a way, that situation is so unbearable and you wouldn’t ever lay that on another human being but there it is. What may happen is she may come out of this a much deeper, spiritual and a more profound, more evolved person. And he, because the way he dealt with it was through denial, may end up contracted and tight because he couldn’t embrace the suffering. He couldn’t go towards it. He pushed it away in order to preserve his sanity.
There is a process of suffering that requires you to die into it or to give up your image of yourself. When you say, “I can’t bear it”, who is that? In India, they talk about their saints as being the living dead, because they have died to who they thought they were. And they talk about the saints for whom all people are their children, so that everybody that is dying is their child dying. In that way, suffering leads to Grace.
Ram Dass first went to India in 1967. He was still Dr. Richard Alpert, a prominent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary. He continued his psychedelic research until that fateful Eastern trip in 1967, when he traveled to India. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means “servant of God.”
Everything changed then – his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “Be Here Now” ever since. Ram Dass’ spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying along millions on the journey, helping to free them from their bonds as he works through his own.
Do not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer. Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve.
As we grow, we all develop a wide range of emotions responding to this predicament: fear that bad things will happen and that we will be powerless to ward them off; love for those who help and support us; grief when a loved one is lost; hope for good things in the future; anger when someone else damages something we care about. Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger. But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them. […] People don’t know how to deal with their own emotions, or to communicate them to others. When they are frightened, they don’t know how to say it, or even to become fully aware of it. Often they turn their own fear into aggression. Often, too, this lack of a rich inner life catapults them into depression in later life. We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals.
What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings. Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world.
So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.
Discussion about enjoying A Newly Rich Life With Yourself:
1 – What do you understand by a self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self?
2 – Can you share a personal experience of a time when you discovered a newly rich life with yourself?
3 – What works for you in relating to yourself at a deeper level?
One who destroys life, utters lies,
takes what is not given,
goes to another man’s wife,
and is addicted to intoxicating drinks —
such a man digs up one’s own root even in this world.
Dhammapada 18.246, 18.247
The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom,
translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita
My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It’s simple — how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings,
But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.
Let’s not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride — let’s give ourselves to it!
Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage:
There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children anymore.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.
Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope!
What does the notion of “grieving our losses fully, without being betrayed by them” mean to you?
Can you share a personal experience involving life’s exquisitely precise compassion?
How do we develop the strength to stop making deals for a safe passage?
As the entirety of the sun is reflected in every glistening droplet of water, so is the entirety of life reflected in your individual lifetime.
And in each of your years, you pass through the entirety of your life.
And in every day of your life you are born, live your life through, and pass on from this world.
All of life is found in your hands, today.
“People who don’t have a concept of the whole, can do very unfortunate things.” ~ Joseph Campbell
You don’t need to know.
Life wouldn’t be this grand adventure if you knew what was coming.
Love the mystery.
This is Lana. I have folded thousands of cranes for 30+ years and have imbued them with healing energies and left them for others as prayers for peace and blessings. My expression of spreading the Aloha Spirit to anyone and everyone. For many years while commuting on the Vallejo Ferry to and from San Francisco, I folded and left cranes for people to discover and take away with them … I have left cranes at the various places I visited throughout my day. Every December, I would use specially made beautiful Japanese washi papers to fold cranes and create ornaments for my Yule tree … only to give them away to friends and family during the course of the new year. I find folding and sharing Origami cranes is a willful way to connect myself with those around me and the spirit of mystery. Gassho.
In Sanskrit, the word Veda means life. The Vedic tradition of knowledge, which is often referred to as Vedanta, deals with the meaning of life, the purpose of life, and the place of life in the universe as a whole. According to Vedanta, there are two symptoms of enlightenment. They are indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher level of consciousness …
Dhammaṃ sucaritaṃ care.
Dhammacārī sukhaṃ seti
asmiṃ loke paramhi ca.
Arise! Do not be heedless!
Lead a righteous life.
The righteous live happily
both in this world and the next.
The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom,
translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita
Head into the difficult parts. Dive into the things that scare you. For inside the fear, there is wisdom. When you sit with it consciously, it will soften and often like a blossom, transforming into something entirely different. You would not suppose a cocoon held a butterfly if you didn’t know the life cycle of a caterpillar. You would not realize that fear holds within it understanding, if you did not see the Grace that is present in the evolution of all things. With the power of the Light Source flowing through you, fear will dissolve, blocks will dissolve. You will be left loving all, relating to all. The world will exist in your heart. It might have to grow a few sizes, but it will fit.