When we allow pain to teach us what we need to know, rather than fill our mind with fearful stories and try to get rid of it as soon as possible, we can learn from it.
My practice is to do my best to be mindful so that I notice when pain arises. This means paying attention to what my mind is doing, and how my body is feeling.
I have discovered that I can work with whatever happens when I remember that everything is impermanent. But I must have a deep sense of this, not just believe it intellectually.
As I am aware that each sensation in each moment is passing away, I become much more interested in what this sensation is, rather than labeling it—because it won’t be here for long!
When I label things I miss what they really are. I have judged them. I have distanced myself from them, and am one step away from feeling what they are doing within me.
Stories and labels always come from past information—which then are usually projected onto the future.
Stories do not exist in the present. They only take place from past knowledge, or in our imagination.
I make it a practice to notice if I am telling a frightening, distressing story about what is happening. Or am I being merciful—mindful—paying close attention to what my body is feeling and my interpretation of what is going on?
It is merciful to identify only with what is real, rather than cling to what is passing away, or avoid what we fear.
My definition of mercy is to engage deeply with what is actually happening, to become intimate with our attitudes and feelings, to observe them without becoming lost in them.
For when I lose myself in my commentary about what is taking place, I often feel angry, hopeless, vulnerable and sad. I find myself thinking this will undoubtedly get worse, and may never go away.
By following that train of thought I really am lost.
I have lost the present moment and am dangling in no-man’s land.
In this mind state I am several layers away from reality. I have run away from the actual sensations (the reality of the moment) occurring within my body.
I have abdicated my power and have become an “interpreter” rather than an observer—a commentator on what is happening.
So, back to the breath, which brings me into the present, where I can feel the flow of the universe as it moves through me. This is a physical sensation, here and now. This is reality—not the imaginations of a frightening future.
I find it merciful to meet the small painful feelings as they arise, whether physical, mental or emotional. This practice builds the confidence to meet the larger ones—such as illness, aging and death.
We are all subject to illness, as well as aging, and we will certainly die (that is, our self-image and our body will die).
Everything that is formed will pass away, for all is impermanent.
Positive thinking does not make us immune to these events.
Mind is the beginning of everything. This is our Source out of which we flow. We are receiving the breath from this Source right now. It’s flowing through us—we are not separate from it.
And in this stream of mind we have thoughts. Our thoughts follow our intention. What is our intention? To meet pain as it arises, and thus be merciful to ourselves and others? Or allow ourselves to get lost in a story and a commentary about what is happening?
Pain holds many stories. When pain arises I pay attention to what I’m telling myself. What are the beliefs that make up this story?
I am the one who nurtured these thoughts, thus I am the one who can bring light into them. Light dissolves darkness; it loosens the soil where roots live.
Disappointment is painful—especially to be disappointed in oneself.
It is painful to believe in unworthiness. When I sense these beliefs I meet them right away, before they develop into depression or aggression. For these states cause harm.
So I begin questioning “Who am I?” What or who do I believe I am?
Out of this will come my sense of identity. When I cling to any belief about myself I will suffer, for everything is temporary.
All the roles I have lived are NOT who/what I am.
A mother/wife/sister/minister/etc,etc,etc. is not who I am. These are simply roles I have played.
These are activities I have participated in, but they are not “me.”
What is this “me” that seems to be living in this body?
I explore each belief and realize not one of them is true in a lasting sense. Each of them is temporary.
I don’t know who I am. Labels and names are all temporary.
What is true now? I can feel this present breath. I can hear sounds. I can see objects. I can feel/touch. This brings me into the present, which is all there is.
These lines from the poet Rilke speak to me:
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
But I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know; am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
Yes, what am I? Who am I? All that is real and present is this breath that flows through me.
How merciful it is to let life flow, to be a part of this flow and act in the most non-harming way possible each moment.
There is a greater potential for goodness than I could have ever imagined. And this is what is real.