Sometimes stress gets the better of me.
Because I know that about myself, one of the things that I do is make time in my schedule to be inspired. I think there is a very strong part of us that develops in adolescence of our right and wrong. Remember back how strongly you felt about some of the things you believed in middle school through college. There is a piece of that in you today.
When I was that age I was consumed by my own drama. But I was given an opportunity as a representative of our student government to go to a retreat. It was a leadership retreat and it was kicked off with a film with interviews of people who had overcome enormous odds against them. I remember a particularly compelling man with stumps where his arms and legs should be and how he had started a support center for those who had lost limbs in war. I will never forget the powerful feelings that inspired for me.
In the 60’s, Thich Nhat Hahn (pronounced Tik Not Haan) was a Vietnamese Monk that had been started several intentional communities of peace during a very difficult time. He wrote a letter to Dr Martin Luther King encouraging him to come out against the war publicly. During a time when Dr King was struggling with civil rights, he was reluctant to take a stand on the Vietnam War because he did not want to take focus away from the civil rights movement. In his “autobiography” he describes Thich Nhat Hahn’s letter as the turning point on changing how he felt in his heart. Dr King later nominated Thich Nhat Hahn for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I spent this weekend visiting Trinity Church in Boston to see Thich Haht Nahn speak. He is now 87…but he looks my age and although he has a little bitty, heavily accented voice, he is a focused and passionate man. His teachings are simple…
Live in the present moment.
and Breathe out
I told you all about my experience at a Zendo in Surry, and if you didn’t read it, let me give you the Readers Digest version….
I suck at meditation.
If you could stop every once in awhile and make lists or talk to people, I might be better. I’ve read article after article that meditation is good for your blood pressure, your mental health, your stress management..
But just like the bell went off for me 30 years ago at that conference, I heard one again yesterday. As he was talking about breathing in and breathing out and cultivating compassion, as he was talking about present moment awareness something finally clicked for me.
While I am thinking about being 16, and while I am thinking how much this man has done in his life, and I while I am thinking about how the past few months have been stressful, and while I am thinking about the traffic coming down here and how much the damned hotel cost….
I am making myself suffer more.
None of that stuff is inherently worth dwelling on, or particularly useful. But its tied to a lot of emotion, all of which I feel each day, every day a thousand times over.
I trigger my own anger, fear, anxiety, pride, worry all day long every day. My work brings me back to focus on another’s suffering and that inspires compassion and gives me a break from the voices in my head.
After that voices in the head thing, do you still want to come to Kindred Spirits? I hope so, because I am very grateful that I do work that inspires compassion in me. I think you would have to be one messed up soul to see a pet in need and not have it bring out deep, nurturing feelings.
But in a way its made a problem that I was not aware of. The reason my wife and children have suffered is that when I am plugged into my work is when I am at my best. Don’t get me wrong….my kids are grown up now and my wife has a busy schedule of her own.
But this weekend an 87 year old Vietnamese Monk taught me something about myself. Our habits are strong, but they are not always good. There is always room for improvement.
A good place to start is by paying attention to our body, and our breath. Step off the rollercoaster for just a second. Be grateful that you have breath to take, be grateful that you have functional eyes to open and see the wonders that are around you. See the person that is beside you and has been beside you. See the people around you and recognize they suffer too.
Suffering is where compassion starts…
Easy for me to see at the vet clinic, harder to see in me and in those around me. I feel fortunate to be alive and have wonderful people around me all day long. I also feel fortunate to have friends and family that I love.
So now I go back through Boston traffic to get back home. I’m sure I will be breathing in and breathing out.
I’m pretty sure Thich Nhat Hahn would not flip anyone the bird if he were cut off in traffic.
Now lets see how this Mark Hanks guy does….
Have a great week. Take a minute to breathe and appreciate the amazing world you have.
Give your monkey mind a break.