This is an idea that seems difficult for Westerners to accept: when someone harms us, they create the cause of their own suffering. They do this by strengthening habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion. It’s not that we are responsible for what someone else does, and certainly not that we should feel guilty. But when they harm us, we unintentionally become the means of their undoing. Had they looked on us with loving-kindness, however, we’d be the cause of their gathering virtue.
What I find helpful in this teaching is that what’s true for them is also true for me. The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.
~Pema Chodron, No Time To Lose
And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.
~Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
I’ve been in this place before, and I know exactly what Anne Lamott means when she says “I just had to lie in the mud…grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.” There were people who wanted me to “get help”—which was code for drugs to dull the pain—and I stood and listened while people tried to tell me that I shouldn’t still be feeling what I was feeling. But I believed then, and I believe now, something that I once heard Oprah express beautifully on one of her shows, “When someone says something to you about how long you’re taking to get over a loss, just remember, it’s different for everybody—tell them it takes as long as it takes.”
I don’t discount the benefits of antidepressants in certain situations, and yes, there are people who wallow in their grief to the point that it takes over their lives and becomes who they are. However, I think we as a society have become increasingly uncomfortable with uncomfortable feelings. We want to “fix” them and make them go away, in spite of the fact that those feelings are often the very means by which we grow and deepen as human beings and by which we become more truly ourselves.
Most of us are not raised to actively encounter our destiny. We may not know that we have one. As children, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others, that we will (or should) find our satisfactions as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are schooled to ask others. We are, in effect, trained to listen to others’ versions of ourselves. We are brought up in our life as told to us by someone else! When we survey our lives, seeking to fulfill our creativity, we often see we had a dream that went glimmering because we believed, and those around us believed, that the dream was beyond our reach. Many of us would have been, or at least might have been, done, tried something, if…
If we had known who we really were.
~Julia Cameron, The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart
Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.
May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.
~John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us. All rights reserved.
Wisdom consists in doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.
Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.
Peace is not a result inside us from everything around us. Peace is not submissive nor passive. On the contrary, peace is an overwhelming force which comes from within us, disrespectful of everything around us, a firm coalition of spirit and soul standing against all the unrest that abounds.
~C. JoyBell C.
Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and in the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.
~Anne Lamott – Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut you more deeply. Let it ferment and season you as few humans and even divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight has made my eyes so soft, my voice so tender, my need for God absolutely clear.
I had lunch with an old friend today. Our life paths diverged around the time I got married, and it’s probably been at least fifteen years since we’ve actually seen each other, maybe even closer to twenty, though we’ve emailed and Facebooked in recent years.
But Liz is one of those friends you can go years without seeing and pick up right where you left off. We hugged each other hard and expressed our amazement that it had been so long since we’d laid eyes on each other. The love and respect we’d always had for each other was right where we’d left it—no awkwardness, no small talk. There were catch-up questions, of course—inquiring after our respective mothers, etc.—but there was also “What are you doing to feed your creative spirit?”
How had I managed for so long without her?
Being with Liz today, seeing myself in her eyes, I touched back into a part of myself that I’d left behind on my journey these last couple of decades. It was balm for my soul, a homecoming of the heart. What a gift.
At every level of society from the family up to international relations, the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.
~The Dalai Lama, Foreword for It’s A Meaningful Life, by Bo Lozoff
Tenderhearted. It’s a word I’ve heard all my life, used to refer to someone who is particularly sensitive and empathetic towards others, someone who “takes things to heart” and feels deeply.
This definition would certainly describe me; I sense easily (and sometimes take on) the feelings and moods of both people and places. My former husband used to tease me because I always get so involved in movies—flinching at violence or crying over a sad ending. He would say, “It’s just a movie, Viki.” And I would always reply, “Yes, but if they’re doing their job, I forget that!”
During the past week, the word tenderhearted has come to mind repeatedly and has definitely described me, but in a different way. For reasons both clear and not so clear, my heart has felt tender—raw and open and ultrasensitive. It’s been like walking around with my heart outside my body…no protection, no filters, feelings moving through it completely unchecked and unedited. I’ve teetered on Continue reading