“You mock my pain!” Exclaims the Princess in that lovely classic fantasy farce, Princess Bride.
Farm Boy/Pirate Roberts replies, “Life is pain, Princess. Anyone who claims otherwise is trying to sell you something.”
This isn’t bad news. We are born into a life that will be marked by loss; impermanent, imperfect, and painful. But this is what all of us face; this can be a place of compassion, not depression, maybe of holding ourselves and others with a little grace.
The Buddha and every philosopher before and since grappled with the same question. What is our purpose here on Earth? How do we best live our lives? What is really important and worthy of our attention and focus?
In Buddhist teachings, there are three commitments to be made to live a purposeful life; the first is to refrain from causing suffering to self and others, the second is to acknowledge and lean into the impermanence of life, and the third is to commit to service, deepening compassion for self and others.
In my life, it was easy to focus on the third, to make it my mission to fix and manage and wring my hands over the ‘mistakes’ and needs of all those around me, including the whole wide world. What a burden. Impossible, even.
This grasping, moving constantly outward without having my feet firmly planted on the ground, never accomplished what I thought I needed to accomplish. So much easier to focus on everyone else’s failings and feel the need constantly to make other’s needs my work— what I perceived, through my own cracked lenses, not what was real. This cloudy vision and a focus outward prevented me from real freedom within.
What can I do today to treasure life? To refrain from ruminating on pain, loss, I turn toward joyful gratitude.
What can I do to celebrate life? Not in hoarding way, or a pitiful -tomorrow-we-may-die way, but a gentle unfurling of petals, a quiet blooming of resting in sensation over and over— just a moment to fully be present with my living experience in this moment. Then let the next action or thought be born from that presence.
Asking the question: Am I in line with my heart’s deepest desire? What can I shift with kindness? Just one degree closer to my true north? Can I lean into a place of maybe, gentle possibility, that the world and it’s inhabitants are far more beautiful and precious than I can imagine?
I can try. We all can; over and over and over. Gently peeling away the layers of protection and fear, softening into the truth of life as it is, not as we wish it to be.
In meditation one day, I asked how I could love the Earth better. The quick thought to my head; love yourself better. Maybe, lean in to the beautiful mess that is life with a wink and a hug. So, that’s the plan. How’s your heart song singing these days?