Posts Tagged ‘reality’

The presence of compassion

November 15, 2011

I have never been very good at compassion. I especially have difficulty being compassionate with people who I view as behaving badly (including myself). My initial reactions have been to point out their shortcomings, avoid them all-together, let them ruin my moment/day/week/month/year/life, and ruminate endlessly over how they (I) should behave.

I came upon this story from the book Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg. Sharon tells a story about meeting a Soviet official at an airport with “the most hateful stare I have ever received from anybody in my life. It was an icy rage.” She felt as if he had “poisoned her being.”

Some part of her woke up. She realized that every day this man experiences the state that she had just experienced. She writes: “A tremendous feeling of compassion came into me for him. He was no longer a threatening enemy, but rather someone in what seemed to be in intense suffering.”

The path of compassion begins with the knowledge that we do to others what we do to ourselves. None of us really know what is going on inside another human being. We don’t know what they might be experiencing, thinking, or feeling. Even if we ask them, the answer may come back nebulous and arbitrary. I have witnessed people in obvious distress and asked them about their state of being only to be told that they were “fine.” Such a response can indicate that they are truly fine, realizing they are in distress but handling it. It can also mean “I don’t know” or “none of your business” or “NO, I’m NOT!” Distress might be a normal state of being and as long as they are feeling distressed, they feel normal.

This is as far as I have gotten along the path. Compassion is a moment-by-moment, person-by-person phenomenon. It encompasses my projection of myself on to others. It realizes that I am being projected upon. Somewhere in between is a reality I can speak to.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

Advertisements

the presence of thinking

January 8, 2011

A little miracle occurred in my head this past week. I don’t have to think anything about anything ever at all. I can choose to be thoughtless — which is not the same thing as being inconsiderate, unconscious or unaware. It simply means I can choose to think or not think about anything.

A person who often comments on my blogs introduced me to Jan Frazier. (See the discourse at the presence of obligation.)

Frazier says that “the thinker produces the thoughts. But what is not so obvious is that the thinker is really just another one of the thoughts, basically. An elaborate thought, maybe, but invented just as sure as the thoughts are invented. You think yourself up and then the self you thought up thinks thoughts.”

I am a product of my own imagination. You would think I could have been more creative with that product or at least given myself a metabolism that could easily handle a quart of ice cream a day.

Frazier goes on to say “What’s important in all of this is to realize that there is something within a person, an intelligent knower that is not the same as the thinker. That is actually of an order of reality different from the one the thinker and the thought occupy. When you wake up, you realize that this other something is what you really are.”

What is this presence, this “knower” in me that allows me to observe my own thinking? Some might say that it is the mind. Frazier acknowledges it is a different “order of reality.” For me, it is the eternal presence I have always been. I wonder if I (the eternal presence) created me with certain characteristics and specifications because I (the eternal presence) knows what I need to learn to evolve. I purposefully gave me the obstacles I perceive in myself to challenge me enough to develop the spiritual muscle required to take me to the next level.

My new challenge is to not think any particular thing about anything: any situation, person, idea, object, animal, insect, or even a thought. When my mind begins the whirring and spinning that elicits some kind of response, I think “I don’t have to think anything about this.” The hundred gears that make me process life don’t grind to a complete halt, but they sure slow down a lot and some of them get a little creaky. A new game begins. I purposefully think different things about whatever is before me. I waltz with various positions, flip perspectives, and pause to consider the feelings that result from each of those thoughts.

When I actually get a chance to find my mind silent, an open channel to connect with my eternal presence opens up. There isn’t anything to say or think. There is just being. Thought stops.

I know all of you are crying out in angst wondering what the heck I am going to write about here on Eternal Presence if I don’t have any thoughts to write down.

Fear not. We are hardwired by our creation to think something. It helps keep us alive. I will still be here shooting my fingers off from the keyboard, except I will be more who I truly am.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

homeless presence

September 21, 2010

“Sha’up.”

She says this several times, to other children, to adults to might stop to talk with her.

“Sha’up.”

She is all of two years old. I know this because I have overheard the conversation her mother is having with one of the staff of the homeless shelter. I am at this homeless shelter as a part of my service learning commitment for my degree in pastoral counseling and spiritual care at Loyola University.

Service learning is not just volunteering to “do good” for others so that we feel good about ourselves. Service learning is just that: learning about service to others. These families who are homeless are going to teach me an awful lot over the next 10 to 12 weeks about my limits and boundaries, my capacities and abilities.

Meanwhile, I am listening to this child and realizing that she says “Sha’up” when anyone begins telling her something she does not want to hear or if she wants to be talking.

Shut up.

This is a homeless shelter for families. It is just a temporary place with a strictly ruled game-plan to get these people self-sufficient and into housing of their own. This two-year-old little darling of a girl who has learned to say “shut up” hasn’t a clue that there might be a different way to live. It is the hope of the staff who work at the shelter that she will learn.

It is not for me to question why any of these families became homeless, but I want to hear their stories. How I respond to this environment and the people who live here is going to introduce me to my prejudices, my projections, my illusions, and my realities . . . but only if I pay close attention and am willing to learn.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Courage in the presence of reality

April 15, 2010

Every day, I get a Daily Buddhist Wisdom (sharingbuddhism.com) that encourages me to seek the way of the Buddha and offers some insight and inviting knowledge that inspires me along my path. Today, the wisdom words were:

“Each of us wants to be wiser, more compassionate, and more courageous – to be better than we are. We would like to turn suffering into happiness, affliction to benefit, hardship to ease. We would ideally face both trial and tragedy in ways that could exalt and strengthen us. In every purpose we want and seek these higher tendencies-wisdom, courage, and compassion. These are also the prime qualities of a Buddha.” –The Buddha In Your Rearview Mirror

I agree with just about all of this . . . but the part about “ideally face both trial and tragedy in ways that could exalt and strengthen us” . . . well, um, no. Not really. I don’t need the exalt thing. My ego might want it, but in the presence of reality, I don’t think I could stand it. Exalt means to praise or pay tribute to someone. I might praise myself for having dealt ideally with difficult circumstances, but the fact of my reality is that I really don’t want to face “trial and tragedy.” I certainly would not seek them out. Both seem to find me just fine all by themselves. And I don’t know that I have faced all of them “in ways that could exalt” me. Sometimes, I just sort of caved and whimpered my way through. I probably came out of those a little bit stronger, but mostly smarter. If I have to suffer to attain the rank of Buddha, I would rather pass. Thus ends my Buddha quest.

The idea that we must suffer in life is all about our point of view. Suffering begins because we have the idea that someone or something is not the way we want or think we need it to be. In the presence of that reality, it takes courage to admit the root of suffering and still continue through it.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass