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“For Us, There Is Only The Trying”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different ways people relate to the explorations of their lives. Certain underlying views can significantly inhibit a person’s sense of skill, capacity and security in exploring (in careers, partnerships, etc.). These views tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies, leading to timid, incomplete ventures and unreliability.

But they are not objective truth. (Is there such a thing?) They are merely colored lenses we were long ago conditioned to wear. We can treat these views as meditation objects, watching the distortions arise and pass instead of assuming that we are seeing things the way they are.

As I’ve worked with my own distortions, I’ve realized: more than keeping me from succeeding, they keep me from trying. When self-doubt and fear prevent me from being both-feet-in, I never get to know if I would have succeeded or not. In other words, giving in to fear of failure ensures failure.

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The Great Grief Cry

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Another beautiful (and dark) piece by Rilke. Sometimes, meditation can feel like this. A great grief cry. Not for present-day losses, but for things long ago lost which have never been mourned. It is this retroactive grieving—a sort of settling of emotional accounts—that brings us into congruency, allowing us to respond to present conditions without the added weight of buried associations.

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.

Rainer_Maria_Rilke,_1900

Rilke and No-Self

Rainer_Maria_Rilke,_1900

You are the future, the immense morning sky
turning red over the prairies of eternity.
You are the rooster-crow after the night of time,
the dew, the early devotions, and the Daughter,
the Guest, the Ancient Mother, and Death.

You are the shape that changes its own shape,
that climbs out of fate, towering,
that which is never shouted for, and never mourned for,
and no more explored than a savage wood.

You are the meaning deepest inside things,
that never reveals the secret of its owner.
And how you look depends on where we are:
from a boat you are shore, from the shore a boat.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

I was deeply moved by this poem. My understanding is that it was written as a love letter. I haven’t read up on Rilke’s spiritual experience, but what the poem seems to be pointing to is something much deeper than romantic love. It is an expression of the Buddhist insight of no-self, or anatta.
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The Circle of Compassion

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“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

—Albert Einstein, 1921

When The Pain Is Great

wave-768522_640A beautiful take on equanimity, from Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

“When the pain is great, go with the pain. Let it take you. Open your palms and your body to the pain. It comes in waves, like a tide, and you must be open as a vessel lying on the beach—letting it fill you up, and then retreating leaving you empty and clear. And with a deep breath (it has to be as deep as the pain) one reaches a kind of inner freedom from the pain, as though the pain that you experience were not yours but the body’s. The spirit lays the body on the altar.”