It has been raining every day for over a week now. Last night it turned to snow. My lilacs are frozen, broken lumps. It’s Mother’s Day and I know people who are sad today because they are children without mothers or mothers who have lost their children or women who want to be mothers but struggle with infertility. Three friends have lost dogs this past week. Yesterday morning, our friends’ beautiful, sweet black lab, only 5.5 years old and completely healthy, had a seizure and died instantly, most likely from an aneurysm. I’m so sad.
The first noble truth of Buddhism is life is suffering. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try or how careful we are, change and loss come, sometimes suddenly and without warning. Earthquakes and floods will come, accidents happen. We will get sick and eventually die, and so will every being we ever love. This is life.
What we CAN do is stop generating more suffering. Wherever we are making things worse — with our confusion, our willful ignorance, our laziness, our anger, our jealousy, our judgment, our various cravings and addictions and distractions — we can stop. Even if we can’t yet do anything to help, we can stop adding to the difficulty, aggravating the situation. We can work to heal ourselves, to be sane, and in that way, at the very least, not make things worse.
It’s the most important thing we can do with our life — get our shit together. Only then is there a chance that we might free up the time and energy, be able to access the wisdom and love we need to help. It’s so simple, so important.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche gave a talk in Chicago this past week, “Making Peace Possible: the Shared Wisdom of the Human Heart.” He talked about how with all the awful things happening in the world and our personal lives, it can be easy to become overwhelmed, to lapse into apathy rather than turning towards the possibility of peace — peace as not just the absence or war or suffering, but a true engagement with life, the vitality of love, joy, and celebration. He suggests that this peace is our natural state, and can be our personal, lived, embodied experience. To find this peace in ourselves and cultivate the same in our world, we have to take love seriously.
Love is not weak. Kindness and love are what give us strength, allow for transformation. We don’t have to have all the answers or know what to do, we simply need to stop generating suffering, stay open and curious, see what might arise. We must nourish our conviction that our natural state is peace, love, basic goodness, and not give up. As the Sakyong said in his talk “when we connect with our own sense of who we are as a human being [worthy, whole, basically good], we then value others,” and with that “people naturally look out for each other.”
Peace and love are hard work. The are expensive — in energy, emotion, effort. And yet, we can take small steps, realizing that these steps add up. We can cultivate peace, return to our natural state. We can be peacemakers. We can be the helpers. We can manifest the power of love, encouraging and uplifting others, allowing our innate wisdom to arise, enabling transformation.
Every living thing is beautiful because it is, as it is. The only thing hiding this beauty is the belief that there is no light, no innate goodness and purity at the heart of one’s being. Touch the inherent goodness at the center of your own heart and beauty will radiate through you, as you. ~Julie Daley