It’s not the 60’s anymore. The message of love, unity, compassion and understanding for the other, regardless of circumstances, in today’s political climate of division and blame, seems corny, even to me.
I took an informal survey of as divergent a group I could find in Ulster County and discovered that regardless of age, ethnicity, economic level country of origin, or LGBTQ status, we are all linked by having survived pain and suffered wounds.
I asked, “Have you ever had a frightening diagnosis, felt betrayed by someone you trusted, been scammed, robbed or unacknowledged? Have you stopped talking to a friend or relative? Have you been disappointed, ghosted, believed no good deed went unpunished?” Check. Check. Check for all or most from everyone. When you were hurt or angry, have you ever caught a vengeful thought fly-by your stream of consciousness? Check!
The examples of acrimonious thoughts given ran the gamut from, “I hope they learn their lesson,” to visualizing your antagonist bleeding in the road after being run over by an 18 wheeler.
Our thoughts, although ephemeral, especially hostile negative ones, affect us in destructive ways.
How can we take all the hits life serves up and react with compassion and humility? I had no idea so I asked a wise friend. I was told to become a Buddhist.
“It’s a matter of perspective, another friend, a theater teacher, said. ”I notice that when I am really angry at my teenager’s disrespect, upset all day, the very same behavior has no affect when something way worse happens.”
In a moment when I am swept away by internal belligerence, waiting for a bomb to fall, to clear my imaginings, is not efficient.
Another person, who happens to be a Buddhist, said, ”Since everyone is suffering, not just you, remember that all beings have a list of tribulations as long or longer than your own. We are all good at heart, doing our best and deserving of compassion. When an ugly thought arises, try a loving kindness meditation. There are dozens on YouTube.” I tried. Sitting still, regardless of how much potential efficacy, produces in me an irresistible overwhelming compulsion to jog in place.
Finally, my daughter, another theater teacher said, “Mom!” (She always sounds stern when she is about to teach me a lesson or correct my behavior.) It’s so interesting how bright memories burn within us when we think of all the occasions when someone else has caused us harm. What we forget to remember are all the bruises we have caused. Most people have a very flattering image of themselves. Just mentally perusing both lists, what was done to you, and what you have done to another will quiet your mind and produce humility.”
Dragging my feet, figuratively, while jogging in place, literally, I envisioned both of my lists. It worked.
At least for today, while I have the grace to remember, I wish for myself and all other beings to be surrounded by loving kindness.