February 22, 2016

Pain is Pain; Joy is Joy

We all experience physical and emotional pain. Pain is part of life. Yet we try to avoid it by escaping into our thoughts. Instead of feeling the pain, we judge our experience. Comparing-mind is a dark, murky place, but we often apply it to pain: "I shouldn’t feel sad (or hurt or lonely), because many people have things worse than me." Or the opposite: "That person shouldn’t be so upset, because her problems aren't as big as mine." The first statement separates us from ourselves. The second statement separates us from others. Pain comparison creates separation when we actually need connection. The reality is this: pain is pain. If we feel pain (or see it in others), it needs to be honored; it needs to be felt.

Since mom died, I’ve felt a range of pain. And the pain is unpredictable. Some days I feel pure sadness. Other days I feel joy, ease, and wonder. Yet other days I feel pain that’s unexplained. It’s just pain. I engage thinking mind: Is this grief? Is this something else? What triggered this? But then I remember to return to my direct experience. There’s no need to quantify what “this” is, I just need to feel it. I heal myself by allowing for the pain. This occurs when I move from thinking mind to the visceral sensations in my body. I make space for whatever is happening. Pain is pain. Big or small, I try to allow for what's happening in the moment.

In the same way, joy is joy. If I feel happy, there's no need to mute my happiness, even in the face of world suffering. Likewise, when I see happiness in others, I can make room for itI can rejoice in the happiness of others, even if I feel irritable (or even if the happiness comes from a person I don't particularly like). Joy is joy; pain is pain. The trick is this: allow for it allallow for the pain; allow for the joy. In this way, I create connection with myself and others. My heart opens in both directions. This makes me vulnerable, but more importantly, it makes me whole.

February 8, 2016

Own Your Humility

From a young age, we develop a sense of self. We build interests, identities, and beliefs. We also build armor, because life is difficult: we all experience embarrassment, loss, and pain. It's natural to protect our heart. Yet it's possibleeven freeingto unveil our heart. It's possible to be vulnerable. To see our innate goodness, as we see the goodness in others. 

My "self" bounces between two extremes: there's something wrong with me (I'm worthless) or there's nothing wrong with me (I'm awesome and undervalued). Each of these extremes separates me. And this separation is an armor; an attempt to control an unpredictable world. But it doesn't feel good. It constricts my body and my heart. When I re-connect with awarenesswhen I sit in meditation or simply take a pauseI find a place between extremes. I find humility. 

With humility, I hold two ideas at once: I'm lovable just as I am, but I have blind spots that hold me back; I have gifts to give the world, but my gifts aren't more special than others' gifts; I have wisdom and insight, but my ideas are limited (I must keep practicing); my life matters, yet I'm not a big deal. When I move from a place of humility, work hums and connection happensall without having to try so hard. I simply get out of the way.

Karen Maezen Miller writes, "The world needs fewer people to own their greatness and a few more to own their humility." Each day I wonder: how can I own my humility? How can I know myself yet forget myself? 

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