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cultivating mercy for yourself

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In a letter of reference, a former teacher wrote that “at times he is too emotional.” Can’t be sure what was meant by that, nor what the anonymous reader will make of it. I do know that I react with emotion to everyday events. That’s why I do so well when listening to someone’s personal story, why I can empathise and listen from the heart. At other times, being ’emotional’ can cloud my judgment and interfere with taking things in stride. In terms of Zen practice, I’m called to welcome ‘what is’ and see what it can teach me. But I resist such welcoming as if something else must come first …

It’s been three weeks since my hospice job ended and I continue to feel its absence. “Loss is the absence of something we were once attached to,” writes Stephen Levine,”grief is the rope burns left behind, when that which is held is pulled beyond our grasp.” Days go by as if in a fog. My eating habits have gotten worse, my sleeping pattern erratic. I do a bit of this and some of that. I am adrift in a sea of not-knowing. What can I hold on to, laments the voice within. Throughout the spiritual literature, and certainly in Buddhism, we’re told that clinging leads to suffering, holding on generates pain, dis-ease, and unhappiness.

Before I can loosen my grip on what used to be and move to learning from the experience (and similar lofty aims) I need to extend compassion to my/self. In attending to our sorrow, Levine says, “we must first cultivate mercy for ourselves.”

source: Levine, S. (2005). Unattended sorrow: recovering from loss and reviving the heart. Rodale, p. 15.

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5 responses »

  1. from “B”:

    just now read your post for today. I always appreciate the realness and authenticity that you express. Someone who is willing to take the risk and reveal themselves without a mask is a rare and special person. I have always appreciated your openness… Know that I am concerned for you because in my experience those of us who feel things very deeply can be the most prone to depression and what appears to be unending sadness. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts

    Reply
    • ah, yes, depression, that creepy grayness that slips under the pillow at night and hovers nearby on the walk to the cafe. what is there to do but acknowledge its presence. thank you HB.

      Reply
  2. It is that willingness to be with all those feelings that you talk about, that seem important to me. It is not easy that’s for sure and yet I hear you being willing. Seems like the heart of practice to me. Offering healing wishes and a prayer.

    Reply
    • thank you, carole, you understand these things. i hesitated writing today’s post: my Inner Critic was chiding me for being so “over-sensitive” and “slow to bounce back.” But there it is, heart practice at its purest, albeit messiest.

      Reply
  3. i am sorry for your rope burns and those of others
    and sorry that the answer to ‘What can I hold on to’ is
    nothing

    but, at least, jizo will come along –
    and something about a staff and you could use it to get partway across…
    (not the whole way, though)

    and i just read your this month’s entries
    and they made me to cry real tears –
    also to feel grateful towards
    you
    and the
    knowing of you

    and the finding of you in the
    tunnels of cyberspace
    always at
    just the right thyme

    you are a good egg, plumb p.
    please accept this virtual stock foto of a well –
    it is already filled up with good wishes!

    c

    Reply

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