Updated On — 28th May, 2021
As I think about recent events here in the USA, a line keeps coming up, from a poem by Pablo Neruda:
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.
The Republicans in the House just passed a tax bill, about which the Buddhist teacher Ethan Nichtern tweeted “the biggest heist in history-a money grab for the uber wealthy.”
And the biggest tragedy for millions of children’s health insurance, to mention only one likely consequence.
You can’t keep spring from coming
Neruda was probably addressing the humanitarian and political crisis of his native Chile when he wrote that line, reminding us that at times of oppression, dehumanization cannot last.
But I think that line also describes the fruit of our mindfulness practice. With a calm mind, we live in a bigger, fresher space that accommodates everything with ease. As Jack Kornfield reminds us:
What would it feel like to love the whole kit and caboodle—to make our love bigger than our sorrows?
When I read the Japanese poet Issa, I see cherry blossoms blooming in the dead of winter (despite it’s unlikeliness), and I feel the acute poignancy of life, with all its joys and sorrows:
What a strange thing!
To be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.
the power of non-contention
Mindfulness softens the contracted heart many of us experience these days. Diana Winston calls this special power of our mindfulness practice non-contention. “You release the need to struggle and oppose the present moment,” she explains.
If I don’t practice non-contention, I suffer, fret, struggle, complain, and basically ruin my day. If I do do it, I grieve briefly but my mind is at peace. I let go of what are merely ideas about the way things should be and open to the truth of things as they are.
But let’s not miss one key point.
“We can practice mindful non-contention while opposing this disastrous tax legislation. We can still bring out the pitchforks, but mindfully, and with loving-kindness, of course.
In fact, our opposition will be much more effective this way.
Mindfulness hastens the coming of the Spring Neruda mentions. Our practice prompts us to question how long will I keep my heart contracted.
whatever blocks your heart is unreal
Which is really asking, how long will I turn my back on kindness and caring? Jack Kornfield observes that whatever blocks your love is, in the end, unreal.
The twelfth-century Sufi philosopher El-Ghazali observed:
If you can lose it in a shipwreck, it isn’t yours.
I don’t think we can easily lose this love in a shipwreck.
We just rest for a moment, being purely and simply present, awake and aware, with no agenda at all, we radically step out of our habitual comfort zones of control, manipulation, and could have-would have-should have.
this takes courage
Living with mindfulness and meeting each moment as it is takes practice, and a kind of courage. I’ve been told this courage is depicted symbolically as those fierce figures in Vajrayana Buddhist iconography.
In times of stress and uncertainty, we may cling to a protected place. This is a small space, where we aren’t fully ourselves, and want to control life. We like to think in this space that we aren’t vulnerable, but that’s not so.
Mindfulness mirrors our humanity. It’s just plain vulnerable to be human, to be in a body, and be intimate with others in this way.
To meet that vulnerability fully, not half-assed, that’s tenderness. We open little by little into the warmth and tenderness of our own essential vulnerability. It’s the birthplace of the renewable energy sources of courage, love, empathy, and compassion we all need so much these days.
And the good news is that they are already here for us, at the center of our being, just waiting for us to easefully put down our burdens.
I love the line by the poet Rilke:
Ultimately it is upon your vulnerability that you depend.
In the spirit of the holidays let’s celebrate courage, love, empathy, and compassion.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
May your heart be light.
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.