Tears and an Open Heart

I didn’t cry at all between the ages of 15 and 40.

The reason I know that for sure is because I was 15 when my father died. A part of me shut down. This means I didn’t cry when my mother died, or when we found out she was sick. I never cried when I lost a job or when I struggled to pay bills. I didn’t cry during my first divorce. I didn’t cry during my second divorce. I’ve lost everything and had to start over more than once but I never shed a tear.

And then one day last year I cried. My feelings were suddenly wide open. It was a combination of things. I’ve grown as a person, of course. I have a wife that has helped encourage and empower me to be vulnerable. It was during the pandemic and I’m sure the pandemic has opened all sorts of things for people. I was watching Hamilton with my wife and I cried during the last song. (if you know it, you know it) And it was as though a door opened in me. Things make me cry now. I have feelings and I’m not afraid to express them. I thought I was dead inside.

I spent a lot of my life keeping everything in. I spent a lot of my life being a bitter, sad, and negative person. And it has been a process to grow out of that. Honestly for years I thought I was broken and that there were a lot of things wrong with me. I have grown so much.

I think our culture doesn’t serve us very well in this area. Men are taught to not be sensitive. We are taught that sensitivity and emotion are weaknesses. It’s not always direct. “You shouldn’t be sensitive” isn’t something I ever heard. But I did hear “Don’t cry like a girl.” That’s not a good thing to say. Why do men have a higher suicide rate than women? I think it’s because we’re taught to bury our feelings. It’s not healthy and it’s not good.

Open heartedness is not a weakness. It’s a strength.

Vulnerability brings connection, compassion, and empowerment. Cultivating it is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and the world around us.

I see a lot of people saying things like “People are too sensitive these days”. I respectfully disagree with that. We should be sensitive. Facing the world with kindness and an open heart is a good thing. It’s what can uplift humanity and bring us together. Maybe nothing else can.

If the world is leaning more and more toward caring about the feelings of other people I think that is a good thing.

Kindness as an Antidote to Fear (video)

Some monks were afraid of ghosts in the woods. They went to the Buddha and asked what they should do. The Buddha offered Kindness as an antidote to fear.

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Insight Meditation by Ram Dass (video)

These are Vipassana (Insight) Meditation instructions that were written by Ram Dass. Ram Dass passed away yesterday at the age of 88. He was a beloved spiritual teacher who wrote the books “Be Here Now” and “Be Love Now”. He said, “I want my life to be a statement of love and compassion and where it isn’t, that’s where my work lies.” Giving this guided meditation is my tribute to him. Go here for more: https://www.ramdass.org/meditation-2/

 

 

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Handle With Care

“Gentleness indicates greater strength than harshness.”

-Han Shan Deqing

 I wonder if we can solve a lot of our problems by being nicer to each other.

 When I hear things like “People are too sensitive these days”

OR

“That guy got what he deserved” when someone experiences the consequences of bad decisions

 

I just wonder where the compassion is.

 Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone. All of us are facing many challenges throughout our lives. This can be a tough thing to remember. Suffering is the norm in human life. It’s fundamental. It’s not our fault we suffer. Some of our problems are self-inflicted, certainly. But many of them aren’t.

We judge each other harshly. We look down on people who have made different decisions than we made.

We could all soften our tone with each other. We can all be gentle and in this way make our world a slightly better place.

 When someone is terminally ill, you often see a manifestation of kindness. We are generally pretty nice when we know someone is about to die. We respond to them with gentleness and compassion.

 Can we try to apply that the rest of the time?

The world needs more kindness, more compassion, more love.

Can we handle people with care?

I’m interested in trying. Are you?

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Qualities of the Heart | Video

This is a video I recorded about the Yoga Sutra and the Four Immeasurables.

What if we center our lives in compassion and kindness?

 

I recorded a podcast on this subject that you can listen to  here:

Qualities of the Heart | Scharpening the Mind

Further Reading:

Four Immeasurable Minds

 

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Compassion! (video)

what is compassion?

Is there great compassion and regular compassion? What’s the difference?
Can we have compassion for people we don’t like?

 

Recommended Reading:

Compassion that is Boundless

Training In Compassion by Norman Fischer

click here for the audio version:

Compassion! Podcast

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How Do I Avoid Being Aggressive in My Practice?

A reader says:

“I recognize a habitual pattern, not to be aggressive about eliminating it. But then the self aggression in “I should be more patient, kinder, better organized, etc…” can turn into “You/they should be more….” So I guess the question is where to interrupt that cycle?”

So, there’s this thing I always say when I lead meditations. I’ll say it even when I know the person I’m speaking to has been meditating for a long time. I’ll say it even when I know for certain I’ve said it to this person in particular before. I always say it because I think it’s very important. And also, I think it’s something we overlook sometimes when we’re practicing.

That is: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Now, this can apply in our meditation practice and also in whatever other practices we’re doing. I’m going to focus on our meditation practice first. There are several things that are important to a successful meditation practice—one of them is consistency and another one is having a reasonably quiet place.

But another thing often gets overlooked. We need to have a passive attitude. If we think, “Man, I’m having a shitty meditation! I can’t still my mind at all!” that kind of takes us out of it, doesn’t it? We have so much trouble with this, of course. We expect to be good at meditation (whatever that means) and we expect those results. Expectation is a big problem for us. We’re always expecting things.

I love that fake Shakespeare (Fakespeare?) quote, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Man, that’s good stuff.

Once we start to think of ourselves as failures in our practice, then we start to suffer. The great thing about meditation is that there is no failure. Trying counts as doing. The only way to fail is to not try. And if you’re sitting on the cushion and just thinking about your cats or the plot of Spider-man: Homecoming or having a beer, that’s okay. Just cultivate awareness of these thoughts. And don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone is distracted all the time.

How’s this relate to other practices?

Well, it’s the same. We can beat ourselves up in our compassion practices too. “I could have been nicer. I could have been more helpful, etc.” We have a real tendency to tear ourselves down and think we’re not good enough, but the same thing applies. Have a passive attitude. Don’t attach so much importance to success. Just try your best. You’re not in competition with anyone (even yourself) and you are good enough. You are doing just fine, I promise. An aggressive attitude toward yourself doesn’t help, just try to be the best you can.

And the questioner also asked, “What about when this turns into an external aggression too?”

Being hard on others is also often harmful, of course. What can we do about it?

It’s the same, really. What we want to do is see others as equally important to us. We’re all just trying our best, that’s all we can do. It’s important to recognize that we’re all in this together. It would be hard for me to say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” while at the same time being hard on others.

A lot of our compassion/bodhisattva practices are based on helping us see others as equally important and I think that’s kind of what we’re talking about here. Once we learn how to stop being hard on ourselves, hopefully we can stop being hard on others too.

Life is a struggle for everyone and we’re all in it together.

 

I’m going to start taking questions. If you have something you want me to write about, write it in the comments.

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Freedom in Emptiness

Once we realize the truth of emptiness and interconnectedness, we are free. The path is sometimes called ‘liberation’ and that is the reason why. There is freedom in the path. We can meet the world without such strong expectations. We can face the world without making enemies out of it all the time.

In this way we can stride through the universe, wild and free in our understanding of the way things really are. We can expose ourselves to the world with complete openness.

When we begin to realize that the nature of things is actually empty, then things don’t seem to be in our way anymore. There is nothing stopping us from expanding our love and compassion infinitely.

The purpose of talking about emptiness is to realize that if there’s no separation, then we are free.

 

 

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