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.
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
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:
The next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you’re feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves. This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering – yours, mine, and that of all living beings.
Every time we breathe in and go home to ourselves and bring the element of harmony and peace into ourselves, that is an act of peace. Every time we know how to look at another living being and recognize the suffering that has made her speak or act, and we are able to see that she is the victim of suffering that she cannot handle—that is an act of compassion. When we can look with the eyes of compassion we don’t suffer and we don’t make the other person suffer. These are the actions of peace that can be shared with people.
~Thich Nhat Hanh
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Thich Nhat Hanh gems
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
It is as if what is unbreakable – the very pulse of life – waits for everything else to be torn away, and then in the bareness that only silence and suffering and great love can expose, it dares to speak through us and to us. It seems to say, if you want to last, hold on to nothing. If you want to know love, let in everything. If you want to feel the presence of everything, stop counting the things that break along the way.
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches.
If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise,
since everyone suffers.
Suffering must be added mourning, understanding,
patience, love, openness, and the willingness
to remain vulnerable.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Image and quote courtesy of: The Path of the Mystic
The Path of the Mystic