How can we can stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

How can we can stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

You and I are in training to be free. We’re in training to be so present, so spacious, so embracing, we’re in training to not look away, deny or close our hearts when we can’t bear something. The statement, “I can’t bear it,” is what burns you out in social action. When you’re in the presence of suffering and contracting, it’s the contraction that starves you to death.

When you close your heart down to protect yourself from suffering, you also close yourself off from being fed by that same life situation.

If you can stay open to both the suffering and the joys and the stuff of life, all of it, then it’s like a living spirit. It just connects to your living spirit and there’s a tremendous feeding going on.

Once you see all this, what else is there to do but keep working on becoming conscious? You’d be a fool not to. You’re only going to perpetuate your misery and suffering and everybody else’s if you don’t. I’ll give it one year, I’ll settle for two, for you to live on two planes of consciousness simultaneously. The other thing is to do it joyfully! When you meet somebody that’s suffering, what do you have to offer them? You could offer them your empathy. That’s a good thing to offer because they feel somebody else is listening to them. The other thing you can offer them is your joy, your presence, and your ‘not getting caught in it all.’

 

Having that empathy for another means you’re heart is breaking, because you understand the intensity of their experience, and at the same moment, you are absolutely, equanimously, present. You are not clinging to anything, just watching the phenomena of the universe change.


It’s then that your acts can be compassionate. That is where the root of compassion is. The root of compassion is not empathy; that’s along the lines of kindness, and that’s good, but it’s not compassion. The ultimate compassion is the act itself, which has the potential to relieve every level of suffering, not just the food in the belly, or the mattress to safely sleep on at night. The suffering that comes from separateness is only relieved when you are present with another person. So the whole game of helping another human being becomes about realizing whether or not you’re busy being the ‘helper,’ and making them the ‘helpee.’ If so, you’ve just created suffering.

Isn’t that bizarre? With the very act of helping someone you have to jump out of it and ask, “Who’s helping who anyway?”

It seems that we string moments together where we feel deeply connected, and then a moment later it’s a new moment, but we only want to cling to the previous experience.

I invite you not to cling. I invite you to open to the next moment and allow it to have its own richness. Nothing will kill the glow faster than clinging.

I was with Aldous Huxley years ago, and I didn’t know him well, but when we were together there were just a few words he kept using: “Extraordinary,” “How curious,” and “How odd.” I realized that everything in life is extraordinary if I just want to look. It’s true there’s nothing new under the sun, and yet it’s all fresh.

-Ram Dass


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