Challenging times – pandemic, politics, fires and smoke and floods, racial inequality, social unrest, financial uncertainty. The list could be much longer. It feels like there is more to be anxious about and to grieve than ever before. Many are sinking under the weight of the imbalances that have been revealed in our world recently. Many of us feel profoundly disconnected from others, from ourselves, from God.
For years I have been exploring and teaching practices to heal our grief and anxiety, our fear and anger. This gradual approach works directly with what blocks the individual from moment-to-moment aliveness. The coming together at this moment of so many personal challenges can be the inspiration for lifting our practice to another level. If ever there were a time to cultivate an unshakable hardcore love, this is it.
Here are two practices that directly take us beyond self concern. The first is cultivating universal compassion, taking the attention off our own problems, realizing the boundless nature of our hearts. One of the defining qualities of compassion is connectedness. It’s compassion with, not compassion for. Trusting the loving, spacious heart even when connected with suffering. Can we feel compassion for all those feeling financial insecurity because of the pandemic, for all those grieving, for those whose politics we disagree with, opening our hearts to something much bigger than our own concerns. Aren’t we much vaster than we think? We desperately need these feelings of connection not just with our own tribe, but with those we have been seeing as the other.
Whenever I do a “big compassion” practice I feel full, joyful, beyond concern. Here we are not denying our own grief and anxiety, but at least temporarily acting from the truth of our fundamental interdependence, our essential oneness. Grief dares us to connect and to love again. Compassion is the connectedness beyond our grief. As Rumi so beautifully wrote, “Grief is the garden of compassion.”
Compassion doesn’t necessarily alleviate suffering in the moment, but an open heart makes the pain bearable, workable and creates the doorway to healing. In the boundless heart is a joy that transcends happiness and sadness, wellness and illness, life and death.
Secondly we can learn to love the fierce, the wild, the difficult faces of God. The difficult is much easier to embrace if we don’t relate to it as an imposition, as an obstacle to being present. Can divisiveness and chaos and uncertainty also be seen as manifestations of the Divine? We stay awake by going beyond the struggle, devouring rather than being devoured by our experience, by loving what was previously unlovable.
The Hindu dark goddess Kali appears ugly and terrifying at first glance, but She reveals her inner beauty when loved. To find this beauty within the messy and the distressing, we are called upon to love the wildness within ourselves. We invoke Presence vaster than our fear. We open to deep bodily sensation that underlies our background agitation and anxiety and thus manifest the inherent gifts in our lives.
Rather than just surviving the pervasive chaos, can we use our challenges as an opportunity for deep awakening? Can this new life so different from the “time before” be not merely fearful reacting, but the inspiration to do the big practice of hardcore love? Can we create a life based on this love. We need connection now more than ever. What is the most important thing? The most important thing is remembering the Beloved can only be everyone and everything.
~ Dale Borglum
Something has been calling to you
For longer than you can remember.
Calling you to step out into the light, into your life.
It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re ready or not
The time has come.
Roll away the stone!
Roll away the stone!
The Dakini* Speaks
My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It’s simple – how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like human ripe beings.
But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.
Let’s not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child, she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion exquisitely precise.
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride – let’s give ourselves to it!
Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage –
There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children anymore.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.
Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope.
– ©Jennifer Welwood
*A dakini (Sanskrit: “sky dancer”) is a Tantric priestess of ancient India who “carried the souls of the dead to the sky” and acts as a muse for spiritual practice.