Thursday, June 05, 2014

The lotus in a sea of fire

It hasn't been the greatest week; I've had a couple of subluxed ribs and a hip that cried "foul ball" with every step, and a frustrating realization that physically I've lost a lot of strength this year.

Then there was the deep and painful sadness of losing my dearly loved niece. That same day, after an absence of over two years, our youngest son arrived, and though he was supposed to be on holidays he spent most of the time at his brother's working. We did have a nice dinner together, and one evening we talked for a couple of hours, but we did not have the time together I'd hoped for. There is a discomfort I do not understand between us, like marching in a parade with a jagged piece of quartz in your shoe that you cannot stop to remove.

Today one of the men who stood for office at the AGM, who has not yet been legally integrated as a board member, inserted himself in the middle of a contracting dispute he knows nothing about, called the contractor to issue orders, and then publicly tore into our building manager in a rude, insulting and hostile manner. In his correspondence he made it clear he intends to "go to war" against both the management company and the board members who served last year, and that he plans to make our lives very unpleasant.

So here we have a week ripe with grounds for practice. Pain, death and loss, confusion, heartache, expectations, disappointment, anger and dread. Now, does that sound like your life as well? Maybe no one in your family died this week but I'll bet you had your share of the rest, in one form or the other.

Lotus blossom by Leesa Brown
Did I jump up from my chair and say "Whoopee! A chance to practice!" No, I sat here and shed more than a few tears and said some words that shouldn't pass the lips of anyone according to the Buddha, who took a dim view of swearing. But Martin Bayne has a nice phrase, "Turning the stream of compassion within," and despite my initial reactions, that's what I'm working on doing.

I can't do much about my pain, except ask that my doctor allow me to go back to my former dose of pain meds, so I can function. I have lived with grief before and will again, unless I beat everyone else I love to that punch. Susan and I had talked about her impending death. She was very strong. She was not afraid of death so much as the process, which is a pretty rational fear, and a good argument for the patient's right to die when they have had enough. I am missing her already.

I'm at a loss about the young man who is my son, hoping the problems we had were the result of his unexpected deadline and not some unnamed issue. I know how easily one can lose that connection. I hear from too many people whose bonds with their children have slipped, leaving them broken-hearted and adrift.

Which then leaves me wondering how I deal with my feelings of anger with our bully. He's had a difficult time this past year. He's a man of enormous intelligence and courage. He has overcome an injury he was told would leave him a paraplegic, and in the last year he has left his wheelchair and braces behind, he's retrained for a new job and is working again. I know these good things about him, I like him very much, yet he was hostile, disrespectful, and verbally abusive, which did not fit into the picture of him I know.

Joan Halifax says; "…compassion is comprised of the capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering. It is that ability to really stand strong and to recognize also that I'm not separate from this suffering. But that is not enough, because compassion, which activates the motor cortex, means that we actually aspire to transform suffering. And if we're so blessed, we engage in activities that transform suffering. But compassion has another component, and that component is really essential. That component is that we cannot be attached to outcome."

That's a hard concept to accept because I want to feel less pain, physically and emotionally. If I talk to someone I want them to feel better, to not be angry, bitter, ready to lash out and certainly not to blame me for the pain they are feeling.

When you try to express compassion for someone, you find it has enemies. People will say, "I don't want your pity!", "You don't understand what I'm going through!". Righteous indignation and moral outrage are the enemies of compassion. This is a big deal for me and something I need to sit with. How do you express moral outrage, or even opposition to a philosophy without losing compassion for the person who defends it?  Suggestions welcomed. (The first one that comes to mind is to mind my own business, but sometimes it's impossible to do that.)

But the first person you must have compassion for, before you can extend it to others, is yourself.  So once again I fall back on Lewis Richmond's mantra:

May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be free from suffering
May I be happy and at peace

May we be filled with loving kindness
May we be free from suffering
May we be happy and at peace

May all beings be filled with loving kindness
May all beings be free from suffering
May all beings be happy and at peace

All of us, you, me, the boy, the bully and the returning soldier...  

1 comment:

Linda P. said...

I have no suggestions to offer: I can only offer commiseration. I struggle with the same issue of how to react to an outrage without losing compassion for the person defending it.