At some point, we need to stop identifying with our weaknesses and shift our allegiance to our basic goodness.
~ Pema Chodron
I love this directive. And I especially like that it comes from a Buddhist thinker I so admire & respect. Because this, it seems to me, is the heart of the difference between Buddhism and many other wisdom traditions. Buddhism starts from the premise of an old song I also love: If I love myself enough/ loving you won’t be so rough. One of my deepest beliefs is that the Golden Rule means zip if you don’t begin w/ strong self-love and acceptance.
And yep: that’s the heart of the matter, right there. It’s what Buddhists & Quakers have in common (a lot of Quakers I know are also Buddhist, a fact that puzzled me until I learned more about Quakers) — the belief that there is an inner light/ Buddha nature in everyone. And — Buddhists would add — everything.
Today, as I stretched my arthritic joints on the deck, beneath the breathtaking Oklahoma sky, w/a chorus of wrens & cardinals to serenade me, I thought (as I often do) of how much the world is filled w/ beauty. Even arthritis can’t mess that up.
What my frail human status can do, however, is remind me that it’s all so very ephemeral: spring, the wren, even the arthritis. If I sit in the sun, then stretch, I’m better. It’s that simple. But if I beat myself up I’m so stiff… it hurts to move… oh woe is me I’m a mess. And sometimes (true confessions time) I AM a mess.
But knowing that, and forgiving myself for it — picking my bruised beginner’s heart up off the floor of self-loathing — I am far better equipped for empathy. Which is, I think, just another word for compassion. For metta, or lovingkindness. All branches of the same root, as I see it. (But ask your teacher — just another beginner’s heart, here.)
After all, how can I love someone I don’t know if I can’t love the person I know best…myself? If I can’t find it in me to forgive myself for my many flaws (I don’t say faults, as the geology of fault lines and splitting into pieces is NOT a good analogy), how can I love anyone at all? We’re all so damn human! I.e., flawed, the natural state of human beings. Like precious stones, w/ inclusions, but still so very beautiful.
So I’m working — gently and as kindly as I can remind myself to remain — with an aging, creaky body that bears only the vaguest resemblance to my mind’s picture (firmly set in my 30s, I’m afraid…!). I’m firm w/ my practice — my writing, for instance — but kind. Kind is grossly underrated. Well, except for the Dalai Lama — HE certainly gets is!
Do yourself a favour today: be as gentle with yourself as you would be with a lovely child. Be as helpful, as patient, as kind. Focus on your many strengths (I write well. I’m a good teacher. I can cook. I love deeply and with eyes open.). It will make you nicer to everyone else, as well. Which will bring you (& all the rest of us) joy. How simple is that?