Friday, June 29, 2012

Forgiveness

Here are some updates from the Rehab Retreat...thank you to everyone for your well-wishes and support.  Here I am with Tami Sherman at the exquisite SB Farmer's Market.  She and her family have been kind enough to welcome me into their home.  I get to laugh and play and be around a family of five, a dog, a bird, three chickens, and a snake!

The farmer's market is brimming this time of year with earthly delights...it is one of my simple pleasures to get some farm fresh food and cook at home.  I love seeing my farmer friends and eating their bounty.  Thank you farmers!

This week also marked the sentencing hearing for Mr. Gomez, the driver of the truck that hit me.  As the victim of a crime, I was invited to read an impact statement in front of the court.  How powerful to express myself in front of Mr. Gomez and everyone there.  The court allowed me to make a recommendation for sentencing and I asked that in lieu of jail time that Mr. Gomez be given more community service.  To my surprise they accepted.  I just didn't see how going to jail would be useful to anyone. 

After the sentencing, Mr. Gomez came up to me.  He apologized sincerely for what he had done and asked for my forgiveness.  I took his hand in mine and said, "I forgive you.  I do.  I forgive you."  We both had tears in our eyes, and later it struck me, that is how peace happens.  The best part is that the forgiveness came spontaneously and effortlessly from my heart.  Many times in life, I have had to struggle to get to forgiveness, but for whatever reason, this experience has been different.  I am different.

When I reflect on what has changed, the only thing I can imagine is that Buddhism has deeply transformed me.  Sitting on the cushion day after day, it isn't as clear that change is happening.  Yet somehow, when I awoke in the emergency room, I felt as if a powerful positive force had entered me.  I said to myself, "No matter what happens, I can deal with it". 

To stand in front of Mr. Gomez, look into his eyes, hold his hand, and offer fogiveness is one of the most potent moments of my life.  It freed both of us.  It was the powerful force inside me, that universal force, that got me to that place. 

So I guess my point is...if we really want to transform, to be more kind, more patient, more loving, and more connected, we can't get there with our brains.  We must dig deep into our hearts and root out what keeps us angry, selfish, and lonely.  We cannot think our way to forgiveness.  The only way is to open our hearts, and I think meditation is the best tool for that.  Sitting quietly, breathing, and opening the heart is the antidote to suffering.

Everyone left the courtroom feeling lighter and joyful.  Thanks to the power of forgiveness what could have been an awful experience turned out to be freeing.  And I can't take credit for it really, it came through me, but it is bigger than all of us.  What a blessing.  I wish you the same and may you be well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Party for One


Party for one, that's a pity party!  I had my first post-accident full-blown pity party a couple weeks ago.  Oh aren't they so sad?  I know you've been there too.  And I write this not so we can commiserate, but so we can stop the madness.  No more pity parties.

You might be thinking that it's justified in this case.  I was after all bombarded by a full-size pick-up, thrown fifteen feet, left for dead, and multiply broken.  But it's not a reason to cultivate suffering on top of suffering or indulge in ego-clinging.  I mean why?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why would we want to make things worse?  What value is there in emotional pain?  Can we find a way out and be happy?  Yes, we can.

Here are some signs you are hosting a party for one:

1. NOBODY STATEMENTS: as in "Nobody understands what I'm going through" or "Nobody remembers to call and check on me"

2. EVERYBODY STATEMENTS: such as "Everybody has an easier life than I do" or "Everybody else is having a good time but me"

Don't you feel depressed already?  But wait, there's more...

3. SUFFERING LISTS: anything you can add up like "I haven't slept in exactly 65 days" or "I've been in constant pain for 6000 hours"

4. NEGATIVE REMINISCING: thinking about what could have been...what might have been...how things used to be better.

I cried really hard.  I called a friend.  I complained.  I did everything on the list.  It felt crappy and pitiful.  Then I remembered a little post-it note a friend had by her computer "If there is suffering, there is ego".  Then I remembered my commitment to the Buddhist path.  I gently grabbed my attitude from the gutter and told myself that all this suffering was due to my own ego-clinging.  I was making things worse for myself. 

Here are some ways to make a graceful exit from the Oh So Pitful Pity Party...

1. HEARTMIND PAUSE: take a moment to just stop everything.  bring your breath and awareness into your heart space.  breathe.  pause.  rest.

2. INNER SMILE: put on your inner smile.  neuroscience shows that this helps turn on the feel-good part of the brain.  just a little smile in every cell.

3. PRESENT MOMENT: focus on the present moment.  what is actually happening right now?  not the past and future happening in the thoughts, but the what is of now, now, and now.

4. GRATITUDE ADJUSTMENT: open your mind to appreciating all the big and small things in life; all the people who help you; all the ways in which your body and mind do work; all the freedoms and good fortune

Phew, it worked.  The party was over but the fun had just begun.  I felt lighter and happier and more connected.  Ego-grasping only produces isolation, self-obsession, and suffering.  So let's remind each other to just stop, pause, and regroup instead of cultivating suffering in our lives. 

This is not to say there aren't times for a good cry and compassion for ourselves.  But you can feel the difference inside when it gets messy, overblown, and clingy.  Let's not go there.  We can allow our pain to tenderize us so we feel more compassion and lovingkindness for others.  Instead of pity for ourselves.

The next party I'm hosting will be all about joy, connection, and sharing.  I hope you can come.

PS the above photo is of my two main teachers, good examples of healthy minds!