The Buddha said that life is suffering. And in many ways I agree. It doesn’t take much to find suffering in this world – turn on the TV, go for a walk down an urban sidewalk, eat an animal for dinner…the ways in which we suffer are innumerable. Last night when I was driving home to our place in Oakland from San Francisco I could see the fires on Telegraph Avenue from the freeway. When I got home I sat outside with my neighbor for a while listening to the helicopters swirl above us, watching the smoke rise in our neighborhood, sharing our feelings of grief and frustration and helplessness. We hugged each other goodnight and went into our respective apartments; for me the conversations continued with Stan. Eventually the evening wound down, and as we crawled into bed Stan told me a few things he was grateful for – about his own health, and about my role in his life. It was such a nice reminder of the influence of gratitude in my life.
I had the opportunity to attend an evening meditation event with Jack Kornfield and Alice Walker a few years ago; the event title was Carrying the Lamp of Love. Something Jack said that has stuck with me was this: “It is not your job to fix this world, that would be egocentric. Your job is to love this world.” He led us through an eye gazing exercise during which we sat in silence for several minutes gazing into the eyes of a complete stranger. Before actually doing this exercise he spoke about four emotions of recognition – compassion (aka universal friendliness; finding the beauty in others), grief (noting the intimacy that arises when love meets pain), shared joy, and peace (aka equanimity, recognizing the deep seeds of truth). There were so many things about this exercise that moved me – not the least of which was just spending time in silence with someone; allowing that person to exist for those few minutes without judgment or words to define that experience. Just simply being two people in the world, willing to stop for a few minutes and breathe into the intensity of our suffering, and soften into the peace that arises when we are seen as unique and loving beings.
So while I agree that life is suffering, I also believe that there is so much more to this life. The practice of gratitude has been one that I return to again and again. Every day I try to think of a few things I am grateful for, and I either write them down or I share them with someone next to me. Spending time at Reverie offers me the opportunity to tap into my gratitude of the natural world on a regular basis. The breathtaking views from the various hillsides, the vibrant colors of the trees changing with the seasons, the intricate patterns of leaves as they fall to the ground and decay, the hue of light at sunset…the list is seemingly endless. And you – what are you grateful for?