Tag Archives: Sorrow

Kindness

Grief“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

Words can lose their depth sometimes by overuse, or simply by becoming too thrown about, too much a part of our daily lexicon. The word “kindness” can be like that.  But it is such a profound idea that the Dalai Lama uses it as the single word to define (not describe, but define) his religion.  We could spend a lifetime exploring its depths in that context.

I love this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Notice how vivid the idea of “kindness” becomes in her expression.  It makes me weep!

KINDNESS
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Blessings!

The Practice of JOY

Life's enjoyment

Life’s enjoyment

Today I want to talk about the practice of JOY. For weeks I have been teetering on some kind of brink in my meditation practice. I have written about this – the hard rock I have come up against inside that is angry, resentful, even hateful – a primal , dark place that I don’t have a rational explanation for, but its power has been my unwillingness to simply look at it because, “Hey, I’m a good person!  I don’t have hate!”

Now, I am being shown, not just theoretically but experientially, that we all have EVERYTHING in us. We have what Jung would call “shadow” selves, and those shadows have power because we don’t look at them, because they are hidden. In order to regain our wholeness, we must move the shadow into the light of our compassionate awareness. As I said, I’ve known this theoretically for thirty years or more, and have done this with other shadow selves (sorrow and fear are prime ones).  But hate?  Oh my goodness!  Hate was well hidden.

So I’m looking, and naming. Another tendency is to try to jack-hammer the rocks in our path. The teetering I have been doing is going back and forth between refusing to see/feel this hard rock and alternatively taking a jackhammer to it, attempting to violently blast it out of existence…neither of which has been working.

But today I am remembering the practice of JOY (and capitalizing it to call out its holy elevation beyond a mere emotion).  JOY is the river that will move the rock naturally. JOY is a practice and a challenge because we must shift gears to experience it, and there might be an initially uncomfortable, grinding quality in doing so, to allow JOY to touch us in those deep spaces. Why is that so? It may sound counter-intuitive, but the truth is  JOY is an even more vulnerable emotion than sorrow or fear, and certainly more vulnerable than anger or hate. If you haven’t heard vulnerability researcher Brené Brown talk about the subject of JOY, you can watch it here. She explains it so beautifully.

I have known this for years now, that JOY is medicine, that JOY is a practice… but I forget it all the time.  Today, I sat and looked at the dark, cool clouds that might very well drop some rain on our parched ground, and I let JOY grow inside as I appreciated the clouds just as they were. Then I clipped the dead flowers from my geraniums and let JOY grow as I saw the plants seem to smile at me in gratitude for helping them look their best. I wrapped a peach-colored shawl around my shoulders and felt its softness against my skin, and let its color touch my eyes and heart.  Simple things. Easy, available things, done intentionally, prayerfully, invitingly, receptively.

And guess what?  The rock moved a little!