Love the life you live,
Live the life you love.
When we can open our hearts and work with what we’re given, loving what’s before us, life stays possible.
Then, through effort and grace,
we do what we can with what we have.
And when exhausted by all that’s in the way,
we’re faced with the chance to accept and love what’s left, which is everything. This is how we discover that Heaven is on Earth.
 
~ Mark Nepo
Willing to experience aloneness, I discover connection everywhere.
Turning to face my fear, I meet the warrior who lives within.
Opening to my loss, I gain the embrace of the Universe.
Surrendering to emptiness, I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me.
Each condition I welcome transforms me,
and becomes itself transformed into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so; who has crafted this Master Game.
To play it is pure delight.
To honor its form, true devotion.
 
~ Jennifer Wellwood

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver, Wild Geese”

The hardest state to be in is one in which you keep your heart open to the suffering that exists around you, and simultaneously keep your discriminative wisdom…. Once you understand that true compassion is the blending of the open heart and quiet mind, it is still difficult to find the balance. Most often we start out doing these things sequentially. We open our hearts and get lost in the melodramas, then we meditate and regain our quiet center by pulling back in from so much openness.  Then we once again open and get sucked back into the dance.
 
So it goes cycle after cycle. It takes a good while to get the balance…. You have to stay right on the edge of that balance. It seems impossible, but you can do it. At first, when you achieve this balance, it is self-consciously maintained. Ultimately, however, you merely become the statement of the amalgam of the open heart and the quiet mind. Then there is no more struggle; it’s just the way you are.
 
~ Ram Dass, “How Can I Help”
Resilience is the ability to respond to extreme stress with extraordinary competence.  Numerous studies cite qualities such as intelligence, emotional flexibility, independence, sensitivity, curiosity, and the willingness to reach out for love and support as central components of resilience.  
Other protective factors include introspection, altruism, self-awareness, a sense of humor, optimism in the face of adversity, and a willingness to rely upon ones own inner resources… resilient people believed they had the ability to exercise some measure of control no matter how dire the circumstances in which they found themselves.  Because they were committed to living as fully as possible, they developed their talents and abilities, acquired a high degree of personal discipline, and were willing to fight to preserve their own souls.
 
~ Dr. Kathleen D. Noble in “Spiritual Intelligence” lead article for Advance Development Vol. 9, 2000.
In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
 
~ Lao Tsu, “Tao Te Ching”
Rabbi Zalman Schachter once helped us to understand the relationship between the active and receptive dynamics of questioning, prayer, and intuition.  He reminded us that our lives are filled with prayers, albeit mostly unconscious ones.   When we are hungry, our prayer for food organizes our attention to look for restaurants, or fruit trees, or whiffs of dinner on the wind.  When we are lonesome, our prayer for companionship organizes our attention to notice people who have partners and those who are potentially available.
 
Our questions, conscious or unconscious, spoken or unspoken,  individual or collective,  are prayers, aspirations, and yearnings that infallibly organize our attention and, in the most subtle ways, make us more intuitively receptive to inspiration in whatever forms it may take.  As our understanding of this process deepens, we discover that we live in a responsive universe.   If you drop a little stone in the pool it sends out and draws back a little wave.   If you drop a big stone in the pool, it sends out and draws back a big wave. 
 
The moment there is a yearning in our hearts or a question in our minds — consciously or unconsciously — there are echoes of information intuitively available to us.  The answer or clues might be revealed in the patterns of a cloud, in a bird’s song, or by what a person three seats away is saying.  As we learn to listen more deeply, we discover that the answers to our question are always here, though generally speaking our circuits are usually too jammed to hear them.
 
~ Joel & Michelle Levey, “Living in Balance: A Mindful Guide for Thriving in a Complex World” 

The human resource of mindfulness is free and it is accessible to everyone in every moment of our lives once we learn how to access it.
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in…
Breathing out…. I know I’m breathing out…
Gently smiling…
resting in awareness of the tides of breath flowing moment to moment….
receiving… and… radiating…
Here…. now….
Breathing …. smiling….
Each breath offers the potential for a moment of awakening…
Each breath weaves us into the fabric of all life… 21,600 times a day.

~ Joel and Michelle Levey

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth,
a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us…
 
It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…
I have no program for this seeing. It is only given.
But the gate of heaven is everywhere.
 
~ Thomas Merton, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Our sorrow is the other face of love,
for we only mourn
what we deeply care for…
The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel
is a measure of your humanity
and your evolutionary maturity.
As your heart breaks open
there will be room
for the world to heal.
 
~ Joanna Macy

Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects. Smiling (tenderly to our selves as we behold whatever is arising in this moment of mindful self-reflection) means that we are ourselves, that we have sovereignty over ourselves, that we are not drowned in forgetfulness.

How can I smile when I am filled
with so much sorrow?

It is natural—you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk & peace activist who witnessed widespread intense suffering, cruelty, and the deaths of many friends

There’s a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change.
But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
 
~ William Stafford
May the nourishment of the earth be yours 
may the clarity of light be yours 
may the fluency of the ocean be yours 
may the protection of the ancestors be yours. 
And so may a slow wind 
work these words 
of love around you 
an invisible cloak 
to mind your life.
 
~ John O’Donohue
What is happiness, and how can we achieve it?
 
Happiness can’t be reduced to a few agreeable sensations. Rather, it is a way of being and of experiencing the world-a profound fulfillment that suffuses every moment and endures despite inevitable setbacks.
The paths we take in search of happiness often lead us to frustration and suffering instead. We try to create outer conditions that we believe will make us happy. But it is the mind itself that translates outer conditions into happiness or suffering. This is why we can be deeply unhappy even though we “have it all”-wealth, power, health, a good family, etc.-and, conversely, we can remain strong and serene in the face of hardship.

Authentic happiness is a way of being and a skill to be cultivated. When we first begin, the mind is vulnerable and untamed, like that of a monkey or a restless child. It takes practice to gain inner peace, inner strength, altruistic love, forbearance, and other qualities that lead to authentic happiness.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often teaches that, while there are limitations to how much information one can learn and to our physical performance, compassion can be developed boundlessly.
 
Practicing Happiness
It is not difficult to begin. You just have to sit from time to time, turn your mind within, and let your thoughts calm down. Focus your attention on a chosen object. It can be an object in your room, your breath, or your own mind. Inevitably, your mind will wander as you do this. Each time it does, gently bring it back to the object of concentration, like a butterfly that returns again and again to a flower.
In the freshness of the present moment, past is gone, future is not yet born, and-if one remains in pure mindfulness and freedom-disturbing thoughts arise and go without leaving a trace. That is basic meditation.

Pure consciousness without content is something all those who meditate regularly and seriously have experienced-it is not just some sort of Buddhist theory. And anyone who takes the trouble to stabilize and clarify his or her mind will be able to experience it, too. It is through this unconditioned aspect of consciousness that we can transform the content of mind through training.
But meditation also means to cultivate basic human qualities, such as attention and compassion, and new ways of experiencing the world. What really matters is that a person gradually changes. 

Over months and years, we become less impatient, less prone to anger, less torn between hopes and fears. It becomes inconceivable to willingly harm another person. We develop a propensity toward altruistic behavior and the cluster of qualities that give us the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life.

The point here is that you can look at your thoughts, including strong emotions, with a pure mindfulness that is not associated with the contents of the thoughts.
Take the example of malevolent anger. We usually identify with anger. Anger can fill our mental landscape and project its distorted reality on people and events. When we are overwhelmed by anger, we cannot dissociate from it. We perpetuate a vicious circle of affliction by rekindling anger each time we see or remember the person who makes us angry. We become addicted to the cause of suffering.
But if we dissociate from anger and look at it with mindfulness, that which is aware of anger is not angry, and we can see that anger is just a bunch of thoughts. Anger doesn’t cut like a knife, burn like a fire, or crush like a rock; it is nothing more than a product of our mind. Instead of “being” the anger, we understand that we are not the anger, in the same way that clouds are not the sky.

So, to deal with anger, we avoid letting our mind jump again and again to the trigger for our anger. Then we look at anger itself and keep our attention upon it. If we stop adding wood to a fire and just watch, the fire will die out. Likewise, anger will vanish away, without being forcibly repressed or allowed to explode.

There is no question of not experiencing emotions; it’s a question of not being enslaved by them. Let emotions arise, but let them be freed from their afflictive components: distortion of reality, mental confusion, clinging, and suffering for oneself and others.

There is great virtue in resting from time to time in pure awareness of the present moment, and being able to refer to this state when afflictive emotions arise so that we do not identify with them and are not swayed by them.
It is difficult in the beginning, but becomes quite natural as you become increasingly familiar with such an approach. Whenever anger arises, you learn to recognize it right away. If you know someone to be a pickpocket, even if he mingles in a crowd, you will spot him right away and keep a careful eye on him.

Interdependence
Just as you can learn to deal with afflictive thoughts, you can learn to cultivate and enhance wholesome ones. To be filled with love and kindness brings about an optimal way of being. It is a win-win situation: you will enjoy lasting well-being for yourself, you’ll act in altruistic ways towards others, and you’ll be perceived as a good human being.
If altruistic love is based on an understanding of the interdependence of all beings and of their natural aspiration to happiness, and if this love extends impartially to all beings, then it is a source of genuine happiness. Acts of overflowing love, of pure, disinterested generosity-as when you make a child happy or help someone in need, even if nobody knows what you have done-generate a deep and heartwarming fulfillment.
 
~ Matthieu Ricard (former geneticist, now French translator for the Dalai Lama)
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