Some days, just getting through the day is like slogging through molasses. Sometimes, even when you can list a thousand things for which you are immensely grateful, and point to many things that are going well, the wet blanket of all-that’s-wrong/all-that’s-lacking/all-that-could-go-wrong covers everything, even the good stuff, in a heavy, grey, cloudy mass. Eventually, you reach a point where trying to throw off the blanket seems like so. much. work.
How do you get out of those periods? How do you scrabble your way up through the murk to the light again? I don’t think there’s one way that’s right for everyone. However, I do think there is a truth inherent in such periods of darkness. This truth is that, just as the body signals disease with physical symptoms, these periods of dark discomfort let us know there is something that needs our attention, something that needs to be looked at more closely, something that we’ve been sweeping under the rug, hiding behind the door, shutting away in a closet.
This is where I’ve been in recent months. First, I swept because I was busy. Then I hid because I was exhausted and not ready to look. Then I shut because it had become too painful. Continue reading
I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it. Most of us don’t value ourselves or our love enough to know this. It has taken me a long time to believe in the power of simply saying, “I’m so sorry,” when someone is in pain. And meaning it.
One of my patients told me that when she tried to tell her story, people often interrupted to tell her that they once had something like that happen to them. Continue reading
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.
~Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world. But before it produces a transformation in the other person, it has to produce a transformation within us. Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.
~Thich Nhat Hanh, Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh: 365 days of practical, powerful teachings from the beloved Zen teacher
If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.
~The Dalai Lama
Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust… and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
A friend of mine has a saying, “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ‘round. Unfortunately.”
Other people are the most challenging aspect of our lives, particularly when we strongly disagree with their views, choices and behaviors. The ideal of unconditional love and acceptance of all people can sometimes seem like reckless folly, but on the other hand we can exhaust ourselves with endless worries about, and judgments of, the actions of others.
Try this idea on for size: the development of individual human beings tends generally from ignorance toward wisdom, and from selfishness toward compassion. In a sense everyone is on their own path toward greater wisdom and compassion, although these paths tend to be circuitous. Over the long term someone’s path leads eventually toward greater wisdom and compassion, but at a given time they may clearly be headed away from these virtues.
Seeing everyone as being on a path of positive growth and development may seem like Pollyanna-ish wishful thinking. It may seem like a hypothesis impossible to prove, but it can actually be confirmed by direct observation of life. It is similar to a hypothesis that every object will eventually fall to the ground. Such a hypothesis is not proven only when every last object has fallen to the ground, because life goes on – there are always still birds, clouds, satellites and planes in the air.