July 11, 2017

Wholehearted Living

imagination In my prison sangha, there are a variety of men—young and old; tough and tender; expressive and quiet. One of our quiet leaders is a burly guy with a shaved head. No one messes with him. Yet I know he’s a kind soul who had an amazingly difficult childhood. He practices meditation diligently. His heart continues to open in new ways. He shows up every week and sits in the circle.

During a one-on-one visit, another teacher and I shared with our “big, tough guy” exactly how and why we value his wisdom, presence, and practice. We let him know we care. He paused and the tears came, rolling down his cheeks. I asked, “Are these tears because no one has told you this before or because you don’t feel worthy?” He quietly nodded, “It’s both.”

This powerful interaction touched me in two ways: It was a reminder to tell people why and how I love them—to not hold back these words—because it makes a difference; it was also a reminder of our western-culture core wound: a deep-seated feeling of unworthiness.

It’s a life-long practice to build awareness, understand ourselves, and bear witness to our own pain; to apply self-compassion. It begins when others see us—really see us, as is—and accept us without conditions. It continues when we do this for ourselves.

BrenĂ© Brown writes, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

May we all live and breathe in a more wholehearted way.

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  1. Blessings to you, Joy, for your courage and healing spirit. These men need you and I suspect you need them as well.

    I'm sharing an article I read long ago: http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/451/the_run_on_sentence/. I love The Sun and highly recommend it, by the way. (I don't receive any compensation from making this recommendation.) I will mail you an archived issue or two if you provide me with your address.

    One quote from that article that definitely applies to your work:

    "Being in prison was a monastic experience. You’re isolated from the world. You’re completely restricted. You lose your freedom of mobility and of choice. But the one invaluable gift that prison grants you is time – time to think and reflect, or time to waste." Eddie Ellis

    1. Thanks for sharing that link, Kim. I just read the interview. Eddie is a fascinating man. I love what he's doing. So much need and not enough people to serve. But every little action does make a difference--it's how we move forward. (PS: Yes, I love the Sun, too. It's a beautiful magazine.)

  2. This post absolutely made my day, Joy.
    Bless both of you for your kindness to this man.
    Thank you!