I know now that, over the years, my own cries that life is unfair, have come from the inescapable pain of living, and these cries, while understandable, have always diverted me from feeling my way through the pain of my breakage into the re-formation of my life. Somehow, crying “Unfair” has always kept me stuck in what hurts.
I offer what has surprised me in my pain: that life is not fair, but unending in its capacity to change us; that compassion is fair and feeling is just: and that we are not responsible for all that befalls us, only for how we receive it and for how we hold each other up along the way.
“Hallelujah Anyway.” Hallelujah that in spite of it all, there is love,
there is singing, nature, silliness, chocolate and mercy.
Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn
to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.
There is a tendency in us to find suffering aversive, so we want to distance ourselves from it. Like if you have a toothache, it becomes that toothache. It’s not us anymore. It’s that tooth. And so if there are people suffering, you want to look at them on television or meet them but then keep a distance from them, because you are afraid you will drown in it. You are afraid you will drown in a pain that will be unbearable – and the fact of the matter is you have to. You finally have to, because if you close your heart down to anything in the universe, it’s got you. You are then at the mercy of suffering.
And then having finally dealt with suffering, you have to consume it into yourself. Which means you have to – with eyes open – be able to keep your heart open in hell. You have to look at what is, and say, “Yeah, Right.” And what it involves is bearing the unbearable. And in a way, who you think you are can’t do it. Who you really are can do it. So that who you think you are dies in the process.
You’re with me always – the weight of you like an anchor
tenacious, forcing me deeper, holding me to what matters
like the desert sun to the scorched sand.
For years I measured my life in before and after
until finally, there is only now and this relentless becoming.
Kindness and suffering are wordless teachers, ready to bend us and soften us until we accept that we are here; that, try as we will, we can’t build our way out of existence or dream our way out of being human. Once opened in this way, we come to realize that the only way out is to love being here.
Out of the Way
Kindness bends us, the way
the strike of a bell bends the
Suffering softens us, the way the
beak of a dark bird pokes the water
of the heart, leaving a ripple
that shimmers through us.
Kindness and suffering will bring us
to a clearness that everyone knows as
home, once what is unnecessary is
loved or pained out of the way.
Mark Nepo via Huffington Post
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29
Translation by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows
An aging master grew tired of his apprentice’s complaints. One morning, he sent him to get some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master told him to mix a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it.
“How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter,” said the apprentice.
The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”
“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.
“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man. At this the master sat beside this serious young man, and explained softly,
“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”
Image and Story Courtesy:
If I had grown in some generous place –
if my hours had opened in ease –
I would make you a lavish banquet.
My hands wouldn’t clutch at you like this,
so needy and tight.
Then I’d have dared to squander you,
you Limitless Now.
I’d have tossed you into the ringing air
like a ball that someone leaps for and catches
with hands outstretched.
I would have painted you: not on the wall
but in one broad sweep across heaven.
I’d have portrayed you brashly:
as mountain, as fire, as a wind
howling from the desert’s vastness.
Rilke’s Book of Hours
Love Poems To God