We face a world that feels cruel, unfair, and unspeakable.
This is the mindset I was struggling with when I recently attended a 10-day retreat in Marin Hills. I simply could not ignore the outrage I was feeling about what is happening in our country—Charlottesville and the burning torches, the horrific shootout in Las Vegas, monumental hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico, wildfires in Northern California, and on and on. And all of this is being overseen by a government that has clearly lost its way in matters of the heart and conscience.
It seems like so many of us are going about our days almost reeling as we try to find relief from the suffering happening all around us. And despite our wishes and good intentions, these traumas don’t always beget solutions, relief, or any sense of clarity as we crash against the wall of painful emotions that emerge in our minds.
As I plodded up the hill to the meditation hall, it felt as if I was physically carrying the weight of everyone else’s suffering in addition to mine. What exactly was I supposed to do about or learn from all of this? How could I fix it?
Suffering is suffering, plain and simple.
When we begin our life journey, we aren’t informed that we will have to take the bad with the good, and we inevitably start to feel outrage and resistance to pain and suffering. We suffer because we are trying desperately to use our minds to find solutions for situations that we may not have the power to fix.
The reality is, there will always be suffering in life, but there will also always be breathtaking beauty—the wild roaring ocean, a symphony by Beethoven, the smile of a child, a bouquet of roses, or the flight of a hummingbird.
So as I sat on my cushion in the meditation hall, I focused on the beauty in life and on cultivating loving-kindness for myself and compassion for both of my daughters.
May I be happy and safe from inner and outer danger, may I be strong and healthy, may I be free of suffering and the causes of suffering, and may I live with an open heart
May your pain and suffering be held in compassion, may your sorrows and grief be eased, and may you be held in the great heart of compassion.
I breathed deeply and looked inward, keenly aware of how vulnerable I felt as my heart expanded in my chest. As I stayed with my breath, I found my way back to what lies at the heart of the brahma viharas in Buddhist practice: kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
I realized that the evil and suffering in the world I had dragged up the hill were not mine to resolve. They deserve my attention, deepest compassion, and benevolent actions when feasible. But they are in fact just heartbreaking pieces of the complicated tapestry of the world in which we live.
What I learned during my time in the Marin hills is this: I don’t have the power to fix everything that is wrong in our country. But if I can still my anxious mind and cultivate loving kindness and compassion, I can use the power of my heart to create change that comes from a peaceful place of love instead of anger.
Author: Mag Dimond
Image: Max Pixel
Editor: Brooke Breazeale
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis