For the last several weeks, our Wednesday night group has been listening to a five-hour workshop by Pema Chodrom about releasing fear and living with courage and compassion. In it, she has talked about how Bodhisattva training encourages us to give up our separateness and act upon our deep connections with others. Over the course of these conversations, we have focused on how similar we are to each other. Yes, we have things about us that are unique, but we have far more in common with each other then we often times realize. As we practice being compassionate, we begin the process of releasing our resentments and cravings, and opening our minds to new relationships, courage, and compassion for others. Chödrön demonstrates ways to practice the four limitless qualities of loving — kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Last week, we did a meditational practice where we began by breathing in relief for suffering for someone we were close to and exhaling peace and healing in their lives. We could have actually started with ourselves. However, in her workshop she began with those we would want to pray for, then to more neutral parties in our life, and finally with those whom we would resist praying for in our lives.
What I have come to realize in this process, is that when I can inhale relief for those I would resist praying for in my life, I am actually breathing in relief for my own suffering. Conversely, when I exhale peace and healing into their lives, I am doing the same for my own. There is something quite humbling about this process. Perhaps it is because; as Chodron writes, "Self-importance is like a prison for us, limiting us to the world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up very dissatisfied." When we open ourselves up and release the notion of our own self-importance, then we expand our world and our understandings and recognize that we and others are greater than our evaluations of ourselves or others.
As we look that which we fear most in life in the face, then we free ourselves from internalized habits, which have caused us to strike out and blame others or ourselves in the past. Rather we release our fears and engage in a journey where every breath is to help us with our ability to be in this moment and to help transform us as we move from one moment to the next. In the process of doing all this, we do so showing compassion for all of humanity