Good morning! Here I am with another quote from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Art of Communication. The title of this blog is also the title of one section…though I added the question mark. The chapter answers my question of course and the passage below is a beautiful summary of his teaching.
Please breathe this in and be willing to sit with what he is saying. What we breathe into and embrace diminishes our resistance and makes life easier, more gentle and loving.
We all should learn to embrace our own suffering, to listen to it deeply, and to have a deep look into its nature. In doing so, we allow the energy of love and compassion to be born. When the energy of compassion is born, right away we suffer less, when we have compassion for ourselves, we can more easily understand the suffering of another person and of the world. Then our communication with others will be based on the desire to understand rather than the desire to prove ourselves right or make ourselves feel better.
I also believe that this level of understanding allows me to support others as they deal with their suffering. That support may at times be material but, most of the time, it is most powerful if I support another in their journey of embracing and understanding their suffering so that they develop compassion for themselves. This allows them to expand more fully into True Self, transcending definitions and expectations of what life “should” be.
Life is often daunting. Getting older, facing serious health issues, financial challenges, and relationship struggles are just a few of the things that can create disappointment and fear for us. If these experiences go on long enough, we can begin to lose hope that things will get better and that we will be truly happy.
Several people I deeply admire have spoken in recent weeks of the importance of being a source of living hope in our own lives and, as a result, shining the light of hope in the lives of others. Their comments have caused me to spend time sitting with and focusing on this experience, this emotion, we call hope.
When I was growing up (next Monday will be my 71st birthday), I was taught to put my hope in God. I was taught that God is love. I was also taught that God is this distant being who demands that I make up for having been “born in sin” and earn his approval and love. I think I was only in third grade when I began to realize that I could never be good enough to accomplish that. Underlying that realization was the feeling that putting my hope in a God that difficult to please might not be hope at all.
In the many decades since that time, as I have been on this spiritual journey of learning to be human, I have come to understand that God indeed is love and that the truth is this: I exist and inhabit this human form because a spark of the Divine is the very essence of my being. The Divine within me is the reason I am.
Therefore, the hope that I seek dwells in the very essence of my own being. I need not look outside myself to others even though I am often inspired by others to fan the flame of that divine spark and to live a life of hope. Please do not misunderstand what I just said. We do need one another; we need Divinely-inspired spiritual teachers and guides to instruct us in the use of tools that lead us into communion with the Divine Within. We also must understand that each of us is responsible for our personal journey. Practicing the tools given by our teachers, we find the love, peace, joy, and hope that we seek.
Today is a gift. Please unwrap it gently and open your mind and heart to its many aspects and layers. May you experience this gift with grace, peace, understanding, and joy. May you be a blessing to each person you encounter for you are sharing that moment with a brother or a sister. May you openly and lovingly receive the blessing each person brings to you. And me these mutual blessings radiate out to our world.
Have you ever noticed how your mind has a tendency to go to the one thing in your life that worries you or makes you sad? Everything else can be wonderful but you get hung up on that one thing? Welcome to the human race.
So, if it is part of human nature at times to dwell on what makes me sad, then I am given the opportunity to lean into and live from my spiritual nature.
It is a spiritual practice to return over and over again to what I believe is true. The emotion of the moment that creates my discomfort becomes the u-turn sign that points me within. When I turn within, I connect with the Divine, the Source of all life, all love, all peace and contentment. Now I am able to experience contentment even as I acknowledge sadness, worry, fear, etc. I can even have fun!
It is a practice and practicing means to do something over and over until it becomes natural to you. Remember that, even when it becomes natural to you, there will always be the need for consistent use of the practice to maintain your peace and contentment.