27 July 2006

Making Room to Pray

I am not formally religous. Organized religion sort of makes me recoil, actually, no matter who's organizing it. But lately, I really, really feel the need to take what I'm thinking about and hand it up to a higher power who will make it all have been for some purpose. Nearly two years ago, I started a little nightly ritual, called the Thank-You Candle. I bought a heap of little tealight candles (fair-trade palm wax, thank you much!), and every night at sundown, I light one, put it on my altar, and say thank you for something. Anything, really. It started out as an exercise in gratitude, in seeing at least one positive thing in every single day, and winding up my evening by dwelling on the up side. Then, as the candle burned and the smell filled the room, I'd smile a little, and think again about what I'm grateful for. But lately, my little statements of gratitude have been being overshadowed by bigger things. First, is little A. Diagnosed with a form of brain cancer, he is fighting all the time. And just a few days younger than my Rowan, well, let's just say that every time I chat with his mom, M, I am amused that two little boys on opposite sides of the world should be so alike. Rowan and I talk about him all the time, especially when we light the candle. And while Rowan's thinking about little boys being sick and then being well, I am thinking about mothers who carry it all upon them. How can we keep being expected to be so strong? Because the only other option is failure, and that's not acceptable. Second, is this whole Middle East thing that I have already ranted about. I can't even manage to think about the big stuff any more, the whys and wherefores. It's all just babies dying, in my mind. And it's too big for me to even come up with words for any more (although I'm sure I'll keep trying). Third, is fear. It's been hot here, and we're going to bed with the windows open. That means we can hear the sirens charging up and down the highway and the main street a few blocks over. We used to joke that "someone's having a crappy night." But lately, the sirens are going all the time, and it's just not funny any more. I'm not so naive that I think that every siren is simply good cops doing their best to protect me and mine. Why so many more sirens? Is everyone crazier? Are there suddenly more bad guys than there used to be? Fourth, and always, is compassion. I keep trying. But some days it is so incredibly hard to remember to treat those around me with compassion. I'd like to say that I had it in me to just do it, but lately, I have to remind myself in terms of juxtaposing it with the horrors going on elsewhere. I have to remind myself that "it could be worse, I could be living in Lebanon, or Afghanistan, or Iraq, so I can afford to be kind to pretty much anyone, no matter how churlish." I guess it's OK to take enlightenment in baby steps. As heretical as it is to say out loud, I've been listening to Yusuf Islam singing the Adhan, and it's comforting. I think there's a deep need, across humanity, to have a time every day where you just take it all, wad it up into a big ball, and hand it over to an omnipotent being who can handle it better than you can.


At 7/27/2006 11:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The compassion of the wise man does not render him a victim of suffering. His thoughts, words and deeds are full of pity. But his heart does not waver; unchanged it remains, serene and calm. How else should he be able to help?

May such compassion arise in our hearts! Compassion that is sublime nobility of heart and intellect which knows, understands and is ready to help.

Compassion that is strength and gives strength: this is highest compassion.

At 7/27/2006 11:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

love that lies like a soft but firm hand on the ailing beings, ever unchanged in its sympathy, without wavering, unconcerned with any response it meets. Love that is comforting coolness to those who burn with the fire of suffering and passion; that is life-giving warmth to those abandoned in the cold desert of loneliness, to those who are shivering in the frost of a loveless world; to those whose hearts have become as if empty and dry by the repeated calls for help, by deepest despair.

Love, that is a sublime nobility of heart and intellect which knows, understands and is ready to help.

Love, that is strength and gives strength: this is the highest love.

At 7/27/2006 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noble and sublime joy is a helper on the path to the extinction of suffering. Not he who is depressed by grief, but one possessed of joy finds that serene calmness leading to a contemplative state of mind. And only a mind serene and collected is able to gain liberating wisdom.

Joy means a sublime nobility of heart and intellect which knows, understands and is ready to help.

Joy that is strength and gives strength: this is the highest joy.

At 7/27/2006 11:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight.

Looking at the world around us, and looking into our own heart, we see clearly how difficult it is to attain and maintain balance of mind.

Looking into life we notice how it continually moves between contrasts: rise and fall, success and failure, loss and gain, honor and blame. We feel how our heart responds to all this with happiness and sorrow, delight and despair, disappointment and satisfaction, hope and fear. These waves of emotion carry us up and fling us down; and no sooner do we find rest, than we are in the power of a new wave again. How can we expect to get a footing on the crest of the waves? How can we erect the building of our lives in the midst of this ever restless ocean of existence?

A world where that little share of happiness allotted to beings is mostly secured after many disappointments, failures and defeats;

a world where only the courage to start anew, again and again, promises success;

a world where scanty joy grows amidst sickness, separation and death;

a world where beings who were a short while ago connected with us by sympathetic joy, are at the next moment in want of our compassion — such a world needs equanimity.

Equanimity is the crown and culmination of the four sublime states.

At 7/27/2006 12:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop. Visualize. What would that look like?

At 7/30/2006 06:58:00 AM, Anonymous Margaret in Oz said...

L, I'm late on this one - read it yesterday but couldn't write at the time... thankyou for your words, all of them. I always find something inspirational in your blog entries, but this one I really needed to read.



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