by Esteban da Cruz
Now is a time to actualize your practice(s). The question then becomes, well, “how do I actually do that?” Often the best answer(s) come in the form of another question: How are you expressing your practice (and the values, attitudes, skills you cultivate through it) in your daily life? The practice itself then begins to spread off the mat and becomes the individual process, moment-to-moment, of exploring the answer to that question for yourself: only you know how you can best integrate and utilize your resources for the greater good. We all have a unique and diverse combination of skills, qualities, resources, relationships, funds, time, privileges, and perspectives that we can put to good use helping others in these times of great need. How can you help?
Loving-kindness and compassion are not just words to be repeated when we’re sitting on a mediation cushion; they are signposts that point us in the direction of a felt experience of benevolence, kindness, warmth and the courageous embracing of suffering, as well as a deeply felt desire to alleviate it in whichever ways possible. Often when we think of loving-kindness and compassion, we think of qualities that must be oriented outwards, towards some “other” object of those qualities, which is true. But what about ourselves? Now more than ever, it is important to be kind, patient, and compassionate towards ourselves. How can we spread peace, tolerance, and acceptance if we are not at peace with ourselves, tolerant of ourselves, accepting of ourselves?
Rather than meeting guilt with guilt, anger with anger, fear with fear, anxiety with anxiety—which are all forms of resisting our inner experiences, of failing to bear witness to the truth—we must open our hearts and meet them with courageous kindness, here in this moment. Anger, guilt, fear; these are not negative qualities. They may have an unpleasant feeling tone initially, but when we approach them with willingness, attentiveness, and openness, what they reveal is that behind their sometimes monstrous facades are childlike versions of ourselves who failed to receive the proper nourishment and who are asking to be seen, held, and loved. By embracing all of our experience, by sharing our collective discomfort unflinchingly, we water the seeds of compassion that already exist in all of us, which can motivate us to act for the benefit of alleviating our own pain and that of our communities.
I urge you, please, to not be afraid of your pain and the pain of others. It is a part of us that needs to be accepted, acknowledged, and calmly observed in order for it to begin to reveal the wisdom it contains, which is ultimately the wisdom that we are all in this together. We suffer alone only as long as we are unwilling to explore and expand the capacity which we have for reaching out to another human in order to help them suffer less, even when it is inconvenient, effortful, and uncomfortable. By accepting these experiences within ourselves, we begin to enact the wisdom of practice, the wisdom of interconnectedness, the wisdom of hope, the wisdom of courage to confront and stand together against ancient systems of racial oppression and human rights violations that become increasingly intolerable in the face of our shared humanity.