The Beloved Can Only Be Everything

The poet Rumi wisely said that grief is the garden of compassion. In a fundamental sense, spiritual practice is the inner work of transforming the separation inherent in grief into the connectedness of compassion, which is our true nature. So long as we live with unresolved grief in our hearts, grief that has not been transformed into compassion, our lives are lived only partially and death comes too soon. We are all grieving until we no longer feel separate – separate from those we care about, separate from our own true selves, separate from God.

Those who have had near-death experiences often report that they have learned three things about life: We are completely loved and cherished; there is absolutely nothing to fear; and, we can never do anything wrong. These are the truths that will be revealed to all who step beyond feelings of separation. These are the truths that are the sweet fruits of spiritual practice – meditation, contemplation, and prayer.

Again and again we begin movement toward wholeness from a place of fear and separation. Finding motivation in the midst of these feelings requires great honesty and the courage to ask from the depths of our hearts for surrender into this compassion. Can we trust that compassion will carry us from woundedness to wholeness? Only by letting go, again and again, into the spaciousness, the emptiness of self that is our heart, not knowing what will happen, will we see that each experience, each moment, can reveal the Beloved, the Beloved who can only be everything.

I once was called to the bedside of a tiny, week-old baby whose birth had gone horribly wrong. The birth process had deprived his brain of oxygen for much too long. He only had brainstem activity and couldn’t think, see, hear, or swallow. He seemed to have no connection with the outside world except a slight response to touch. Ostensibly I was there to help him die well, but really, the crying need was to help his parents survive their almost unbearable grief. Every time I visited their home, I first picked up and held the baby. While holding him I went into a state of deep bliss. My guess was that since he hadn’t been pulled into the world by his senses at all, he remained in a state beyond fear, a state we might call love; entirely pure, boundless – a space available to each of us now. Becoming fresh again, becoming selfless, touching the nature of experience and letting go of the incessant need to understand experience was the gift he gave me. We find that our nature truly is love, compassion. The Beloved can only be everything.

A few days ago, I visited my dear friend Josh, who is in a rather advanced stage of the disease ALS. He is gradually losing his ability to breathe. For short, frightening periods of time, Josh can’t catch his breath. Imagine that you almost suffocate again and again. Could you or I remember at such a moment what the baby showed me and what people who had near-death experiences have reported? Can we find the strength, the courage, to surrender into the boundless emptiness of compassion where there is nothing to fear, knowing that we are loved? Can we see even the failing body as the beloved?

On the wall near the reclining chair Josh rarely leaves is attached one of my favorite quotes, a quote which seems to be a perfect description of his situation and, of course, also of ours:

We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When we understand this, we will see that we are nothing, and being nothing we are everything. That is all. – Kalu Rinpoche

– Dale Borglum