Being unafraid of this world’s pain

mindfulness-meditation-quote

This month I’ve been deep in contemplation about the world and about myself. Old questions have arisen with new urgency, such as Who am I? What is my reason for being here now? How may I best serve the world, and alleviate the suffering which seems to be everywhere? Some days I only crave solitude and stillness in order to listen deeply within. Other days I’ve sought the wisdom of other voices in order to help make sense of what feels utterly insane and incomprehensible.

Tonight I listened to a program by Bioneers, which was a conversation between several well- known wise women as they explored how Women and women’s innate knowing is a crucial piece to the process of healing our broken world. The speakers included Alice Walker and Joanna Macy, who both spoke passionately and eloquently on this topic. Joanna Macy is an activist, author and Buddhist scholar who has worked tirelessly for decades to support people in their journeys towards healing themselves and the planet. She has long taught a method called The Work that Reconnects. The gist of the method is that a person must be willing to dig into the pain which they carry (whether they are conscious of it or not) in regards to the state of our world. We must allow ourselves to feel the sorrow, anguish, rage, and despair that lives inside us which we usually stuff way inside and do not allow to consciously surface. It is through this allowing, Macy states, that we begin the process of healing both our individual and collective selves, and from there, our beloved, ravaged planet.

Clearly, this is difficult work on all levels. None of us wish to dig into our hearts and souls and dredge up painful emotions and memories. Speaking for myself, I admit that to consciously choose to look at the terrible tragedies playing out across our earth at this time is just about more than I can bear most days. It’s too big, too horrific, and too overwhelming to gaze with steady eyes and heart at what humanity is doing to itself and to our planet, our home. How can I possibly bring myself to take Joanna Macy’s advice and allow myself to feel the great weight of despair residing inside me? After all, I have to get up and go to my job, interact with other human beings on the daily, and if I truly allow myself to see what is happening in the world and to feel the suffering of those experiencing it, there is no way I will be able to function.

Yet, Macy understands deeply the Buddhist path to end suffering. She advocates that we acknowledge and feel the suffering, but that we don’t dwell there. Just as the Buddha did, we must work to find the place of peace and stillness within our soul that is untouched by the world and its vast drama. This is the most difficult and rewarding work we can do while incarnated. To be in the world and yet not of it means exactly this—we acknowledge the world’s suffering, understand that suffering is caused by mistakenly believing the illusion to be reality, and then stilling the mind and emotions enough to experience the truth—reality is not this three dimensional story of separation we’ve been telling ourselves for thousands of years. In fact, the earth itself is on a journey of ascending into a higher plane of existence, and those of us who are awake to it, are here to help it arrive safely, much like an army of midwives helping to birth the new age of Earth and of mankind.

I have a saying taped to a wall in my kitchen. It says,

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do Justly Now.
Love Mercy Now. Walk Humbly Now. You’re not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

When I become very quiet and still and can go beyond my ego mind’s chatter, then  I understand what the Buddha, Joanna Macy and many other wise teachers teach. Then, I acknowledge the pain and immense suffering of this world, while also calmly seeing that it all stems from the false belief that we are separate and discreet entities from each other, unconnected to Earth or to Divinity, the Great Spirit that dwells within each being. We have lost our way because we have forgotten our inherent connection to everything else. It’s so very easy to forget as we go through our daily routines. Other people are annoying, rude, ugly and every other negative adjective we can come up with. Why should we care about them? Why should we be kind or smile when they don’t care to return the favor? How can we bring ourselves to love those who are purposefully destroying all we love and wish to protect? To forgive those who bring pain and suffering to others and then lie, cheat, dominate and destroy? I mean, this is VERY big, and difficult work.

Coming back then, to Joanna Macy’s words that rang through my soul tonight, I get it. As unbelievably painful and hard as it is to see, acknowledge, and feel it, I know that the only way out of our global predicament is through. We cannot, we WILL NOT change our world until enough of us can do exactly this. Business as usual is destroying our planet bit by bit, fire by fire, melting ice cap by melting ice cap. We are all so busy running around our lives, failing to stop long enough to truly listen to Earth-Gaia-Madre Tierra, crying out for us to Stop, Look and Listen. To see what we are doing to our only home. To cry for what we have all done to Her. To find better, healthier, cleaner ways to live upon her, in harmony with her great cycles. Until we can collectively get on our knees and ask for her forgiveness, we will continue to teeter on the brink of extinction.

For those of you who would like to hear Joanna Macy, here are more links to some of her talks. Joanna Macy- Embracing Pain
Active Hope Show 1_ Prophecy of Shambhala Warriors