giving and receiving
one thing i have come to know closely this last onth is that when i make efforts to change and the universe responds, well then thing are going to be different. damn! it is not easy to be different. it is easier to grow into being different. and of course that’s what happens when we change. we grow. and there is a death. and a dirge. and a birth.
tara branch’s quote is precisely reflecting my conundrum du jour. if i am to change, how best can i do this with true healthy change in view? how can i not make emotional decisions?
there is a young acquaintance who has been recently battling with overwhelming anxiety. i have never had that specific issue, but of course i have had my share of others. she is quite young and i think it is my opportunity here to be of some help.
she has agreed to assist me with a project this saturday at my home. we will pick up a ginko tree from the park people and plant it along the right of way. we planted an english oak in that very spot 2 years ago, however it failed to thrive and needs to be replaced. the park people has a program intended to make the city greener. Our little enclave was xeriscaped years ago and resembled the surface of the moon. slowly and season by season i have been replacing the low evergreen shrubs with flowering plants. we have 5 really lovely korean lilacs, 5 hydrangeas bushes – mostly pink, and 5 white oakleaf hydrangeas. i have added shocking pink spirea to already evenly spaced white spirea, and there are a couple of carol mackie daphnes peppered with some tall grasses that wave in the winds of late summer. this last year, along the right of way, we added russian sage, and some golden colored perennials that resemble alium. i have to admit here, just how very regal the variegated purple and gold blowers look along the sidewalk that frames our property.
back to the ginko- my new acquaintance will participate in this planting and hopefully it will be as a ritual. the intention here is for this process to act as a prayer or affirmation for her and for myself. there can be something very powerful in the act of planting a new intention in this world. she is 17 and has moved here from texas to attend school. she is on the brink of a huge change in her life and might benefit immensely from a deliberate and positively purposeful intention. and i might do well to include this act “letting more love in my life” as a truth. this idea was born from some spiritually channeled information that came why way.
love is as layered as cloud atlas to me. letting love in seems as tender sandpaper. i certainly love others, but regulate the in and out of it like someone a diet might count calories. for me, love is measured and rationed so that is lasts. this ain’t no proud post, but meant to be more of a frank and impartial glimpse inward intended to see just what might be some of my barriers to love. and if i can share this self-assessment process with this young person and help give her a new prism through which to view her life, then i am giving love- much more comfortable with the giving that receiving as giving is so much easier to control.
post script… another acquaintance is now in the hospital and being checked for bone infection where the abscess had eaten into it. he has demonstrated a lack of facility and the inability to care for himself. i am relieved he is in care.
i got calls from two of my dear friends today and both seemed to be swept up in a storm of harsh self-judgement. they did not sound at all happy and they seemed a bit untethered.
the first was describing his inability to get out of bed some days and has been feeling lost and disconnected for some time. i honestly think i could sense the hidden anger over the phone. i offered the idea of a medication and a provider which he had been considering. i also insisted he try to incorporate some loving-kindness into his day. the idea of loving-kindness can be the most challenging to give to ourselves. this is an awareness i have much personal experience. and it continues to baffle me some days.
so i asked him to breathe in loving-kindness for himself with each in breath. on the out breath he could offer loving kindness to the rest of the world who suffered as he did today. i don’t know if he engaged in it, but i felt sure it moved his understanding of his situation a little. or at least i hope so.
then another friend called and began to unravel some thoughts she was having about her life on this holiday. she had gone into the field to visit someone before court tomorrow and was about to write up a report. she was lamenting about her untidy home, her inability to keep track of everything, and her imperfections were laid out like hot coals she was forcing herself to walk across.
i reminded her that she is far from faulted. she is a single mother of 2 boys, works full time, has a house, was a caretaker for her ailing uncle, sponsors newbies, and still makes time to criticize herself. i offered her the idea of loving-kindness as well. it seemed so apropos. maybe she could take a walk and breathe in some loving kindness for herself, and then breathe out loving kindness for the rest of the world that was suffering as she was today.
tonglen- the practice of giving and receiving is a practice of balance that has found its way into my life’s toolbelt. somehow it always reminds me that i am not as alone as i think i am. giving is always a gift and receiving becomes more of one each time. today was a shining example of this. it was a good day.
reprinted from naljorprisondharmaservice
personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.
In Tonglen practice, through our compassion, we take on (embrace without resistance) the various sufferings of all beings: their fear, hurt, frustration, pain, anger, guilt, bitterness, loneliness, doubt, rage, and so forth. In return, we give them our loving-kindness, happiness, peace of mind, well-being, healing, and fulfillment.
1) Sit quietly, calm the mind, and center yourself. Reflect on the immense suffering that all beings everywhere experience. Allow their suffering to open your heart and awaken your compassion. You may also choose to invoke the presence of all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and enlightened beings, so that through their inspiration and blessing, compassion may be born in your heart. In this way, you are resting in bodhicitta—the enlightened nature of the mind. Bodhicitta, is an inexhaustible source of purity, generosity, and compassion.
2) Imagine in front of you, as clearly as possible, someone you care for who is suffering. Although this may be more challenging, you may also imagine someone you feel indifferent toward, someone you consider to be an enemy, or those who have hurt you or others. Open yourself to this person’s suffering. Allow yourself to feel connected with him or her, aware of their difficulties, pain, and distress. Then, as you feel your heart opening in compassion toward the person, imagine that all of his or her suffering comes out and gathers itself into a mass of hot, black, grimy smoke.
3) Now, visualize breathing in this mass of black smoke, seeing it dissolve into the very core of your self-grasping (ego) at your heart center. There in your heart, it completely destroys all traces of fear and selfishness (self-cherishing) and purifies all of your negative karma.
4) Imagine, now that your fear, self-centeredness and negative karma has been completely destroyed, your enlightened heart (bodhicitta) is fully revealed. As you breathe out, imagine you are sending out the radiance of loving-kindness, compassion, peace, happiness, and well-being to this person. See this brilliant radiance purifying all of their negative karma. Send out any feelings that encourage healing, relaxation, and openness.
5) Continue this “giving and receiving” with each breath for as long as you wish. At the end of your practice, generate a firm inner conviction that this person has been freed of suffering and negative karma and is filled with peace, happiness and well-being. You may also wish to dedicate the merit and virtue of your practice to the benefit of all sentient beings.