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Monday, August 19, 2013

Trite Cliches

It's easy to face difficulty with cliches and trite aphorisms, like 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" or "G*d never gives us more than we can handle."  The problem is that only the barest hint of truth lies within these comforting cliches, but it's just enough to stop us from going deeper into real understanding, useful compassion.

Never be quick to dismiss the suffering of others, not with cliches or sympathy or anything really.  Because suffering is real.  It is not the only thing.  It is maybe not the most important thing.  But it is real.  And dismissing the sorrow, the loss, the grief, the struggle, the suffering of another isn't actually helpful.  It doesn't take it away or cheer someone up; it simply separates you from them, puts you on the outside of what they know to be true.

If you care for someone who is suffering, if you yourself are suffering, simply acknowledging that suffering, that struggle, that pain, can be the most compassionate act you might ever offer.  You don't have to weep or suffer along with your friend.  You don't have to feel the same pain as your loved one feels.  You don't have to pretend that you know what they're going through.  Just simply acknowledge that the pain, the suffering, the struggle is real.

No need to think it must last forever, that what is happening today is what will happen every day from now on.  But don't dismiss it.  Because maybe it will. And regardless, maybe you can't do anything to take away their sorrow, but even in the midst of their sorrow you can build a bridge to the person you care about with your love, your compassion, your understanding and your patience.

We can't always help in the lives of those we love. We can't always fix their world in the ways we might want to. We can't overcome obstacles for them.  But we can always be true to the love we feel with our honesty and our presence. And sometimes that's the only thing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Patience is a Virtue

Why is patience such a virtue?  Because the passage of time has the potential to do what nothing else can, which is give us distance from the impact of the moments that define us for better or for worse.  It is with distance that we gain perspective, wisdom, insight and understanding.  The newness and rawness of experience need time to deepen and mellow for us to see the meaning created by experience.  Without patience and reflection, we simply lose ourselves in an endless cycle of action and reaction.

Friday, August 9, 2013


It is not easy to be human.  It is not easy to come to terms with our weaknesses and limitations, and the sorrow we create and inflict.  It's not easy to acknowledge the ways we do this to ourselves and to those important to us, and horrifying when we see it on a massive scale, when we learn about the ways that human beings hurt each other all over the planet in ways big and small.

You know the sorrow and suffering of your own heart, of the ways you've failed yourself or the ones you love even for understandable reasons - the ways you were failed, or neglected, the hurt and suffering inflicted on your and now passed on to others.  It's so predictable and so eternally true, that we share what we know, even when we don't want to.

But if you want that to end, if you want that cycle to stop, it's possible to change.  It's not easy.  But it's possible.  And continuing to suffer and cause suffering isn't easy either, so that's something to take into consideration.

I don't think you can do it on your own.  Or all on your own.  And the first step is a reckoning, a willingness to see the full truth of you are, who you have become, who you can be, and what you have done, however much discomfort, fear, shame or uncertainly you may feel.  The reckoning, the full tally of all of it can be overwhelming.

But pretending isn't a better alternative.  We pretend a lot.  We hope and imagine and project and dream and wait.  We want the life we can imagine, we want the dreams we've invested in.  But sometimes, real life stands in front of us and requires that we simply pay attention to what is, what exists, and what we have created, not what we wish for.

On the spiritual journey, there is really only one possible response to this reckoning, to being faced with what we hoped to avoid, and that is to embrace what is before us.  Not to equivocate or defend or explain or wish away.  It is to stand naked before it and embrace it as my own creation, and to love it, even if I know I want to change everything about it.

Because my life is my creation, even the aspects I judge and despise and reject.  It's still what I have before me and what I have to work with, and the only place I can actually start making change.

It's ok to ask for help.  I would suggest it strongly.  Start with asking G*d for that help, for humbling yourself before a Divine presence, even if you don't know what you believe about G*d.  You don't have to have a belief system or a religious tradition to know that undending and divine love, acceptance and forgiveness can help heal and restore your bruised and broken heart and your bruised and broken life and your bruised and broken relationship.  It's worth a try for sure...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Cost of Integrity

The price of integrity is honesty, the kind of truth and honesty that require you to dig down underneath what you think you know about yourself, and bring that essence up into your daily life, and live according to it.

Wherever you don't, wherever there is omission, denial, secrecy, or deceit, ask yourself why.  Who or what are you trying to protect?  Because we create a lot of deception in the name of protecting those we love, but really we are just protecting ourselves - protecting something or someone we don't want to lose from the fallout of telling the truth because we know that truth could equal loss.

But anything that you are maintaining at the expense of honesty is also at the expense of yourself.  Because where there is deception, there is an energetic suck, a place where your intention and your thoughts, words or actions are out of line.  And wholeness, integrity, depends on alignment between these aspects of the self.

It's like plumbing pipes.  Even if most of the pipe connections are solid and strong, just one small leak will compromise the entire system.  One small joint where two ends are out of alignment is enough to wreak havoc on otherwise well-functioning plumbing.  But any homeowner can tell you that even one small little leak, one small break, one small fitting out of alignment, can cost everything.

You can convince yourself all of the good and helpful reasons for not being honest, or completely honest, but with every instance of deceit, you are simply creating more unsustainable structures in your life, more places of potential sorrow, because you know what can happen if the secret is revealed.  And if it is, it will be so much worse for having made it a secret in the first place.

I'm not saying it's easy. And some times are harder than others. And sometimes the cost of honesty is high. But so is the cost of deceit. But at the end of the day, all you have is who you are, and if you're serious about the spiritual journey, of facing and confronting the challenges of being human, this is one challenge you simply can't shy away from.

Use discretion and sensitivity. Honesty isn't a license to hurt people.  And even AA says apologize and make amends except where to do so would cause more harm. But take an unflinching look at yourself.  Who have you lied to, about what, and why?  And is this how you want to continue? Or do you want to be a person of integrity and wholeness, someone who is honest because that's simply the kind of human being you choose to be.

And if you find there are lies in your life that you don't want, even if you can't fix them right away, ask yourself why you're willing to live a life that requires dishonesty.  Why are you willing to deceive to get someone or something you want, and what does that say about you?  That kind of dishonesty is just selfishness or immaturity, or a combination of both, no?.  Lying to the Nazis to hide Anne Frank?  Different kind of lie for a different reason.  But you know the difference, don't you? The good news? It's always the right time to do the right thing.