My dear suffering, I know you are there, I am here for you, and I will take care of you.
Thich Nhat Hanh
There are many moments in the day when I feel my suffering or other’s suffering (which becomes mine) especially people who are close to me. The world’s suffering also overwhelms me. My first most natural reaction is to try to escape it, ignore it, or manipulate it; trying to get the world to adjust to what I like. Lately, I have been trying to be aware of suffering and to respond to it by repeating Thich Nhat Hanh's phrase above and then see what action comes out of that. Often no action other then compassion and understanding are needed. This is quite radical and I sense this practice could make a profound change in my life.
In the middle of the night, I sometimes wake up in torment or stress and I repeat this phrase. Convincing myself thru dharma self-talk, that love is the right response and can override fear or self-criticism. I practice adjusting my mind to accepting the moment as it has arisen. I encourage myself to know that this feeling will pass. Opening my heart, I can allow my suffering to make a communion with all other people, everyone really, who suffers. I want to deeply feel my sorrow and allow it to soften me into my true human life.
A corresponding practice, which also helps liberate the trapped feeling of our sorrows, is to really notice beauty and miracles in life. This is the Divine Abode of Joy, which is present to us in each moment. If I am able to concentrate, letting go of the storyline and see the moment, connection to the divine is available to me. I can give myself permission, even within suffering, to find nourishment, joy and love. Instead of thinking my spiritual life is a duty or a tight discipline, I can allow connectedness to come forth and nourish me. Meditation and other practices can become a place of nourishment and not just another place where I have to accomplish something.
I vow to produce and radiate the energy of ease, freedom, stability, peace, and joy wherever I go. Lord Buddha, I know I only need to walk with mindfulness and concentration and I am already continuing the career of awakening of you and of the Original Sangha in a beautiful way.” Thich Nhat Hanh, “Touching the Earth”.
In the midst of our suffering, is where the lotus blooms.
There is a strange paradox between being of service in the world and taking care of ourselves. This dichotomy is really a demonstration of “not I or Other”. My practice needs to include nourishment by resting and noticing that which is beautiful. Finding what nourishes us is the medicine for our deep suffering. That nourishment is both mundane like taking a hot bath or a break from our work, or having a cup of tea and the most deep perceptual change, seeing the world through impermanence and no-self. Awakening to the awe of the miracle of life can cut through many layers of our suffering and help heal us. Noticing beauty contributes to our awe, which contributes to our gratitude, which brings us more peace and acceptance even in the midst of the continual problems of life.