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got boundaries?

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teresaI’m in trouble at work. My manager is unhappy. You’re working too many hours; when your shift is over, I want you to go home and live your life. Ten years ago I vowed “to be of service,” which later became “To save all sentient beings.” What better place to pursue such noble intentions than at a hospice, where the need for loving-kindness never ends. And it’s all there, in this Buddhist prayer:

May I become at all times, both now and forever,
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

What a paradox: I vow to do all that while knowing that it’s an impossible undertaking. Once more I’m reminded of the temptation to see things as either/or. Reminded also of the Middle Way, the Buddha’s path of moderation away from extremes. 

Here then is my prescription for the next week: Do your best in every moment, then rest. Get up again, pay attention to your breath, listen to your heart, look at a flower, eat the best chocolate … and do your best to serve others, then rest again. With every step, do no harm, do good, aim to alleviate suffering … and include yourself as one of the beings requiring loving attention. That should keep you occupied. Ah!

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3 responses »

  1. Ah Peter, another wonderful heartfelt post . This world can be a confusing place (don’t I know it)! And when we’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to see what it is good to do. When I hear about how much you work, I think about a quote or a comment that goes something like “a light that burns to brightly” and I can’t remember the end. hmmm, but you don’t want to burn out. I think it is some law of the universe that this type of high energy output can’t be sustained for long periods?

    It is always a call to look within when we get ourselves “in trouble” with others, I think. It never feels nice but there it is. The answer is there waiting to be discovered. Is it about balance? I think you mentioned the middle path.

    I have a similar tendency to throw myself in to what I’m doing and not come up for air. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my body begins to issue warnings to me about my imbalance and I am forced to pay attention.

    It is amazing to me that you can do this kind of work at all but then to over stay your shift boggles my mind. I suspect there are some other wonderful things out there in the world waiting for your presence and attention, otherwise you would not be getting the message you’re getting from the world. I don’t mean that in any magical thinking kind of way. I wish you great joy in your search for it!

    Reply
  2. Peter –
    Something recently passed on to me, and I pass it on to you –
    Listen. Breathe and let go.
    dawne

    Reply
  3. good morning p –

    a couple of things struck me as i read your post this morning. i had a big reaction to “i am in trouble”! that reaction surprised me… and i began to look at it from your supervisor’s’ perspective. i assume your supervisor is worried about you and your health. they likely hope that when you are there you be at your very best – top form. to care for yourself is i think, an act which requires selflessness – our culture doesn’t easily allow us to “indulge” ourselves to rest, read, take time to be in the world. there is an incorrrect (my judgment) expectation to be doing!

    i also thought to myself, what if everyone at hospice wanted to stay over their hours? what would happen then?

    i truly appreciate the strength of your committment to “Do your best in every moment, then rest. Get up again, pay attention to your breath, listen to your heart, look at a flower, eat the best chocolate … and do your best to serve others, then rest again. With every step, do no harm, do good, aim to alleviate suffering … and include yourself as one of the beings requiring loving attention. That should keep you occupied.” you hold this strongly – it is in the embrace of your life, in every aspect. as someone else as compassionately suggested in these comments, “there are other things out there in the world waiting for your presence and attention” i too wish you all the best in your journey to find them.

    with my heart full in appreciation of your generosity of spirit
    xx

    Reply

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