Radiance in Samsara

Holding equanimity in the face of suffering is a challenge, even though I surprise myself with how unguardedly I can feel without being paralyzed by it. Not turning away is by no means easy but there is no other choice I can accept. I feel increasingly liberated from samsara the more I drink of it.

Recently many of my friends have been going through painful and adverse periods. Gwen’s father is dying and that has torn at her in ways that are excruciating just to witness. Two of my friends recently have had unexpected hospital stays. This past week Nathan had his appendix removed and is now recovering. Just last night Jana was admitted to the hospital for a week to recover from a bone infection caused by an attack from Mithra a couple weeks ago. They and my other friends going through painful times are in my thoughts often now. There’s no lack of suffering in those dear to me, and because of that I’m endlessly thankful for my own increasing ability to be present in the face of that.

The broader world shakes some ugliness at me often too. This week, on a break at work, I turned on the television and stopped on an NBC news station. Talk was about Mexico and the planned fence for its border with the U.S. Each of the supposed experts interviewed while I watched were asked “Is Mexico an enemy of America?” and responded with an unwavering “Yes!” For people to sincerely believe a non-hostile nation is an enemy makes no sense to me at all. It’s sometimes easy to ignore the sting of such hateful ethnocentrism, but moments like that really shake me up and remind me of the importance of working to lift people out of that stage with as much grace, compassion and resolve as can be mustered.

In all of this, a practice of Tonglen has been valuable.

Tonglen is the Tibetan practice of “sending and receiving.” Tong means “sending out” or “letting go,” len means “receiving” or “accepting.” Tonglen is ordinarily practiced in sitting meditation, using the breath. Put simply, the practitioner breathes in the bad and breathes out the good, taking on the suffering of other sentient beings. At first the practice may appear self-defeating, but as the late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “The more negativity we take in with a sense of openness and compassion, the more goodness there is to breathe out. So there is nothing to lose.”
L. Shulman

Through facing the suffering without in an open manner I am in turn able to be intimate with my own pain and reside in freedom of greater and greater clarity in the midst of anything that arises. It hurts more but bothers me less; divine joy sneaks into every colliding spark even as I am undone. More radiant and mysterious is every moment.

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