Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I care about your suffering

Haiti. I hardly knew anything about the small country until last week's earthquake. I knew my friend Smokey had adopted a child from Haiti twenty years ago and that her biological daughter had changed her name to Haiti. When the earthquake hit and news of the horrors of the disaster started pouring in the amount of suffering was very hard to imagine. I chose not to watch many news reports because I came away feeling helpless and overwhelmed.
What I'd like to focus on in this blog is the positive outcomes in the midst of a crisis.
There is an unprecedented outpouring of financial contributions. For example, I read tonight that twenty seven million dollars in donations has been charged to cell phones. At first the cell phone companies were holding the donations until the bills were paid and now they are releasing the funds before the bills are paid. There are many organizations that were already in Haiti doing good work that are in a position to help more immediately. Many countries have been sending aid and food and water. I read tonight that Holland is sending a plane to pick up 109 orphans who are being adopted by Dutch parents. People seem to be coming together in the effort to help.
What has come up for me is a sense that we are all one and that this is happening to our global family. It is important in a time like this to be able to have clear boundaries and take in other people's suffering rather than taking it on. I read about a practice in the notes from Peter Williams' meditation class. He suggested in imagining the suffering of others, that we breathe in and say to ourselves "I care about your suffering". With our exhalation we say to ourselves," May you be free from suffering." When I do this practice I imagine sending this energy from my heart to the people I want it to reach. Remarkedly I actually feel like I'm contributing. It is something to do when there is nothing to do on the physical , besides helping financially.Today I practiced with my own suffering. I imagined my own suffering. Suffering is my experience of resisting what is. In my experience, pain is inevitable . Suffering, however is optional. I can breathe into my experience of suffering, even the suffering created by feeling helpless about not being able to fix other people's suffering and say to myself,"I care about your suffering. May you be free from suffering." This is very comforting. It brings compassionate attention to my suffering and allows me to get to the sensations in my body.
Bringing compassionate attention to the sensations in my body underneath the story of what I am suffering about now, often triggers my past to be experienced and healed. I remember being with my parents as a kid and feeling the tension between them and so wanting to make it better. It was such a helpless feeling. Instead of being able to hang out with my feelings because I could share them with my parents and be comforted I learned to adopt the believe that if I couldn't make it better there must be something wrong with me.
I say to the little girl inside me,"You didn't do anything wrong. Your parents didn't know how to be direct and clear and loving with each other when they wanted or needed something. This was not your fault. You wanted to love them with all of your heart. It was difficult for both of them to let your love in. In order to let love in a person must be willing to feel the pain of not being loved in the past. Your parents didn't have the skill set to do this. They did the best they could. In the process a lot of your needs didn't get met. I, as your adult self, am here to nurture you and protect you and help you to see that you are lovable and smart. What you want and need is Ok and it is OK to ask me for it. You are not too much. You are just enough." She doesn't understand the words. She gets my intent. We breathe together and feel the pain of all of this. the pain wells up in my chest moves to my throat and releases into tears. The little girl inside me smiles and asks if we can go play now.
See if you are moved to practice breathing into the suffering of yourself or others and say"I care about your suffering with your inhalation and May you be free from suffering with your exhalation. I have been practicing it today and it has helped me to feel lighter. When I went for a walk today I said it like a mantra. I imagined sending it to myself, then different people I know and then to the people in Haiti. "I care about your suffering. May you be free from suffering." Thanks for listening.

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