Archive for April, 2013

We are continually bombarded with reports in the news of atrocities that invite us to distance ourselves from suffering that we can’t wrap our heads – or our hearts – around.  But the beginning of suffering is actually that separation.  Suffering doesn’t start in a vacuum and neither does compassion.

Everything is alive, connected, and sacred, including the incomprehensible.  To become conscious of this web, start by offering gratitude, which awakens an awareness of the basic fibers of our connections.  It’s easier to start becoming aware of these connections in our day-to-day lives rather than waiting to try to make sense of things in difficult times.

Some practices I recommend:

  • Start right where you are.  In this moment.  Breathe.  Connect to your heart.
  • Start by offering gratitude for our bodies.  For the elements.  For the elements which are all in our bodies – water, air, earth and fire.  As you take a deep breath, offer gratitude for each, one at a time.
  • Offer gratitude before you eat the food on your plate.  Say thank you to the life forms that gave their life for your meal, for all the energy and elements that went into its being on your table, for the people that harvested and transported it.
  • Build up to saying “thank you” to a difficult person or circumstance in your life.  If your difficulty is that you don’t feel connected to anything, start by offering some gratitude to that, to whatever you will learn from that.  Acknowledge it.  Connect to it.  Try this once a day for 30 days.  Note how you feel at the beginning and how your relationship shifts as you go along.
  • Select an element or cause that you feel particularly connected to, and find a way to improve its condition in your neighborhood (or on a larger scale).  Be of service.  Get out of your head and into your heart.  Clean a river.  Adopt a pet.  Install solar panels.  Read to a child.
  • A formal mindfulness meditation (or other meditation form) can be extremely helpful.  Besides books, retreats, and DVD’s, you can also learn to practice on your own with some apps that are available for smart phones.  One that is very user-friendly and loaded with great information and practices is called Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson; he has a book by the same name as well.
  • And of course shamanic journeying is a great way to connect consciously with the essence of things.  Learning to practice shamanic journeying changed my life.

The farther away we feel from ourselves, each other, the natural world, and our spiritual essence, the more depressed and angry we are likely to become.  Just remember that it’s ok to start small, to start right where you are.  Breathe.  Breathe again.  Connect to your heart.  Practice remembering.  Start small – with saying “thank you” for your meals, smiling at a stranger, opening the door for a loved one.  Eventually, acknowledge your connection to natural disasters and even psychopaths.  We don’t have to understand.  We are connected to what we understand as well as to the Mystery.  Start small; save a seat for the rest.

As we offer gratitude for this moment, for our connection to All That Is, for its incomprehensible beauty as well as sometimes awfulness, we can start to feel the suffering of alienation eased by the reality that we are all connected.  We are not alone.  We are part of the web of life.  And that we don’t have to figure it all out before we can love and be loved.

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