(Lao Tzu – 6th Century BC)
‘The future enters into us………long before it happens’
(Rainier Maria Rilke)
‘The true leap or growth of a person occurs when he is utterly alone. It is in human relationships or in the actual world that he makes sure of his own leap or growth. But it is not in the actual human relationship or in the actual world that true growth occurs……………….
In Buddhism a particular form of ‘being alone’ is highly valued. This is the kind of aloneness in which one is not troubled by visitations from either seductive or troubling memories from the past, in which one is not hanging onto ‘unfinished business’, in which one is not living in hope or longing, nor waiting for real life to begin. This particular form of being alone involves letting go of ‘internalised objects’ and accepting life as it is, as it comes……………….Creating space clear of the clinging visitors from the past and future must be a central effective ingredient of therapy..’
‘Perfect love means to love the one through whom one became unhappy.’
“True love and prayer are learned in the moment when prayer has become impossible and the heart has turned to stone”.
We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die
(W H Auden)
Don’t look back
Progress is made by loosening the heavy grip of the past.
Healing involves clearing the pathway to the open heart- the heart that knows only connectedness.
…..’all the path of compassion requires us to ‘do’ is give up our need to control situations and to change people to fit our preconceived notions. As we learn to be open to whatever presents itself and to offer our own being in return, we experience the basic connectedness that is the heart of compassion.’
‘Who we really are, is life’s energy flowing through us. To open our heart means experiencing this river of love that we are and allowing it to manifest as and through our conditioned package.
This is our true healing.
Rather than concerning ourselves with what happens after the death of the body, we can attend to and heal the ‘deaths within life’. These are the deaths we feel each time the heart is closed – in anger, in fear, in protective stances and strategies, in avoiding pain, in resisting the unpleasant.
We fragment ourselves to pursue chimera, often for years and decades at a stretch, and in the process, lose touch with or even betray at times our true nature, our sovereignty, the beauty of who we actually are, and our unfragmented, unfragmentable wholeness.This is one symptom of our endemic distress and dis-ease, as individuals and as a society. Perhaps this splitting ourselves off from ourselves is the root conflict. Perhaps it lies at the core of all conflict.
Healing is a process; one that involves the recognition of our wholeness, and a steadfast refusal to allow ourselves to be fragmented even when we are terrified, or broken apart by life. Ultimately healing is a coming to terms with things as they are, rather than struggling to force them to be as they once were or as we would like them to be to feel secure, or to have what we sometimes think of as our way. As Saki Santorelli put it in his book…… ”healing is a matter of knowing that we can be shattered and yet we are still whole”.
And so it goes in our perpetual attempts to define ourselves as
somebodies rather than nobodies, perhaps suspecting deep down that we really are nobodies and that our lives , no matter what our accomplishments, are built on shifting sands, with no firm foundation, or perhaps no ground at all.
Robert Fuller in a highly elegant analysis in the book, ‘Somebodies and Nobodies’, sees this tension in ourselves and between each other as the fundamental motive force behind the social and political ills of violence, racism, sexism, fascism, anti-Semitism and ageism plagueing the world. His solution?
What he calls ‘dignitarianism’, that we treat everyone as having the same fundamental dignity that transcends their standing and accomplishments, which are, he argues cogently, as does Jared Diamond in ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, in large part more a matter of accident, opportunity and geography than anything else.
Harvard AIDS public health researcher Jonathon Mann, who died in the Swissair Flight 111 crash off the coast of Nova Scotia, himself a tireless advocate for the role of dignity in creating and sustaining health on all levels in our world , wrote, “Injuries to individual and collective dignity may represent a hitherto unrecognized pathogenic force with a destructive capacity toward physical, mental and social wellbeing equal to that of viruses and bacteria.”
We human beings are , indeed, all geniuses of one kind or another and what we hunger for most and most requires protecting it seems, is our fundamental dignity.
“it turns out”, writes Fuller, “that what people need and want is not to dominate others, but top be recognised by them”.
‘It is all a matter of what we are willing to see or reflexively ignore, how reflexively we are willing to berth our momentary perceptions at the dock of the habitually inattentive, secured by stout lines of really-not-looking-but-pretending-to-yourself-you-are rope.
In the world of this conventional reality, we do the best we can. We earn a living, we put food on the table, we love our children and care for our parents, do our work and whatever else we need to do to maintain our forward momentum through life and perhaps learn to dance as Zorba did, even in the face of the poignant existential realities of the human condition: stress, pain, illness, old age, and death, Zorba’s ‘full catastrophe’.
All the while, we are immersed in the stream of thoughts whose origin and content are frequently unclear to us and which can be obsessive, repetitive, inaccurate, disturbingly unrelenting and toxic, all of which both colour the present moment and screen it from us. Moreover, we are frequently hijacked by emotions we cannot control and that can cause great harm to ourselves and to others, or are the result of earlier harm or perceived harm. These also prevent us from seeing with any clarity, even though our eyes are open.
Unpleasant moments are bewildering and disconcerting. So they are apt to be written off as aberrations or impediments to the ever-hoped-for happiness we are seeking and the story we build around it. Such moments get papered over by persistent inattention and are soon forgotten. Alternatively, we might build an equally tenacious unpleasant story around our failures, our inadequacies and our misdeeds to explain why we cannot transcend our limitations and our karma, and then, in thinking that it is all true, forget that it is just one more story we are telling ourselves, and cling desperately to it, as if our very identity, our very survival, and all hope were unquestionably bound to it.
What we also forget is that the conventional, consensus reality we call the human condition, is itself inexorably and strongly conditioned in the Pavlovian sense.
As a result of this lifelong conditioning, we are not really as ‘free’ as we think, when we think we are free to do whatever we want, which may mean that we are totally at the mercy of our mind’s habitual grasping and pushing away. We do not even perceive our own potential for freedom in the sense that Einstein or the Buddha spoke of it.
Why? Because we forget or do not know that we do not have to be perpetually caught up in reactions to events, in our often unconscious decisions to do this or that, relate in this or that way, see things this way or that way, avoid this or that, forget this or that, including that all this conditioning adds up to the appearance of a life, but often one that remains disturbingly superficial and unsatisfying, with a lingering sense that there must be something more, some deeper meaning, some possibility for being comfortable in one’s own skin, independent of conditions, whether things are momentarily ‘good’, or ‘bad’, ‘pleasant’, or ‘unpleasant’.
(Excerpt – ‘Coming to our Senses’ Jon Kabat-Zinn)