To she who much is given
If you are reading this it is likely that you have a place to sleep tonight, food to eat and some degree of safety. It is also likely that you live in a country that allows women to go to school, read, write and express their viewpoints and that you can exercise the power to vote. We are most fortunate. There are many who have none of these things, who have been forced to leave their countries due to war or lack of opportunity and are seen as pariahs in strange lands. Within our borders are families living paycheck to paycheck just trying to survive, children and parents unable to afford a home to live in, teenagers incarcerated for lack of bail money. These struggling families are our families. As our practice develops, the division between “them” and “me” narrows and their happiness becomes our happiness, their pain becomes our pain. A deep yearning for all others to enjoy the same freedom we are enjoying, for all others to be free and awakening does not need to be mandated. Compassion naturally arises in an awakening mind.
In this media connected world, awakening to the pain of others can be overwhelming. We can’t bear to see others in pain and not do anything to help them. On my desk are letters soliciting donations from global projects, local food and housing shelters, political campaigns and other worthy causes. All of them are important, but I can’t possibly give money to every cause each time they solicit. So when I sit down to pay my bills I pick one of the causes and write them a check. When my coffers are full I give more and when there is less I give less-but I always give something.
As our heart opens ever wider we need to remain aware of our limitations and unique talents. We may feel helpless, or even guilty for our good fortune. But feeling guilt or shame is not helpful to anyone. Instead, we can calibrate our activities so that we take care of ourselves, our families, our communities and beyond without burning out. Meditation practice can help us feel the place of balance in our giving. Continuing with our meditation practice keeps us in touch with the current state of our body and mind. Listening to our body and mind with unconditional attention we notice when we are tired, when we are energized, when we need to back off from giving and when we need to lean in. With awareness we can determine if a task is more than we can handle at the time and let go if it is not ours to do.
People sometimes have a romantic view of spiritual practice that involves sitting in a quiet peaceful space with incense burning and responding to all situations with calm and a smile. This is partially true, we do develop more calm and there are times of great peace. But if this internal respite is not followed by taking the calm we developed into the world to help ease the suffering of others then our practice is nice, but just nice. The work of awakening continues on, past our developing calm, as we move into the fray.
There is no end in sight to human suffering. We need to settle in for a lifetime of caring, a lifetime of voting, a lifetime of giving what we can for the well being of the planet and it’s inhabitants. There is no political system, no economic system, no religious system that will eliminate all greed and fear from the human psyche. Caring for the world is a marathon, not a sprint. We employ our unique talents, find ways to express ourselves and enjoy the process while staying attuned to our ever shifting energy level in order to live a sustainable life of service. It is essential to keep up our strength, take good care of our body and personal lives and give with an open heart, but give wisely. We’re of no use to others if we break our own backs. We are part of an ever growing team of amazing people. Find your team and go for it!