Hope and Joy

Sometimes we really do reap the rewards of good practice. I’m about to turn 56. To be honest, I have grown to simply accept the karma of my life that relates to self-reliance and lack of support. I figured: Oh well, I may as well keep working at it and trust that I am accomplishing more than my consciousness in this lifetime can grasp. Hopefully that’s true. Regardless, my intention is still the same: Less suffering, more peace and harmony.

Just Breathe by jurvetson
Just Breathe by jurvetson

Then, to my complete surprise, something unexpected happened. Once again, I found myself in familiar territory as I attempted to navigate the rough seas to calmer waters. I hoped and prayed for wisdom and guidance to find a middle way, to be proactive, trust in myself, and not take on another’s suffering as my own. I took action as skillfully as I could. And there it was: Support, kindness, and compassion.

What made the experience surprising was the source of such kindness. All I had to do was open to receiving it. I had made my choice, and followed through with action. But, this time there were others who bore witness and recognized my wholesome intention. I wasn’t invisible which has been a rare occurrence in my life.

It’s interesting to me because I did what I’ve done so many times before. I recognize unkind and unskillful behavior which is being directed towards me. I practice, and then I practice some more. One of the luxuries of a simple life style is that it creates a lot of space to support practice. I don’t have to wait until I have time or can go on retreat. I try not to push something off into the future. I dig down, do the work internally, and adjust my choices and behavior from there. Frequently, it then becomes a matter of dealing with the fallout and trying to move on.

I’ve also written quite a bit about energy. While I was processing what was going on, I was sensing a lot of toxic energy directed my way. I admit to not being so skillful at disconnecting from it, and it really messes with my sleep. In part, that is due to my tendency to own more than my share. Once I was clear on how I wanted to proceed, I noticed a shift. Toxic energy was replaced with metta from friends including monastic support. Such a gift! I can’t even convey with words my deep appreciation.

Image by Tom Bech
Image by Tom Bech

Compassion and kindness can go a long way, and they can be wonderful signs that let us know we’re heading in the right direction. Instead of finding myself stuck in current, I break free and sail on. Kindness fills my sails, joy and peace calms the waters, and I gently move out of the storm. Due to the kindness and compassion that I receive, instead of cleaning up debris, I am basking in the sunshine.

A senior monastic was visiting last weekend. He said that the way we know when we have acted skillfully and with wholesome intention is by what it creates within us. Peace verses suffering. Harmony verses chaos. Peace with myself and harmony with those that offer support. Those are the rewards of healing.

So, I find myself having weathered another storm. It seems like so many journeys that I’ve taken before. And, in many ways it is. However, we do grow, we can heal, and eventually if we stay true to a genuine intention to ease suffering, we may find ourselves surprised by the gifts we receive. For that I am grateful.

My practice for this moment: Accept the metta (loving kindness) and support; enjoy it, heal the stress, and reap the rewards of healing and growth.

© Sallie Odenthal 2013

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