Thich Nhat Hanh, the noted Buddhist monk and writer, has written a collection of poems entitled Call Me By My True Names. He and his poems assert that within each one of us, resides everything that resides in all of us.
Why is this important? Its importance lies in the tendency that we have to be critical of others, to finger-point at how others behave or express themselves. It means that we each have within us the potential to cause other people hurt and suffering.
In Call Me By My True Names, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
“I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And, I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.”
In essence, we are all one, at different places in our awareness about life. All of us are born and form an attachment with those we turn to for essential nurturance, security and having our basic needs for survival met.
According to Donald Winnicott, the British pediatrician and psychoanalyst, if we experience such a sense of attachment, nurturance, security and having our basic needs met—70 percent of the time—we will develop into human beings who will be able to handle frustrations and fears.
If we don’t have such support in our childhood, we will run into life issues that will cause us greater stress, anxiety and suffering throughout attempts to survive on our own.
Our sense of belonging
As children, we attempt to make sense of what we experience as we encounter people and life situations. We create storylines that are our best attempt to cope with what goes on around us.
Given the immaturity of our cognitive and verbal abilities as young children, our storylines are often inaccurate and will often cast us in a negative light. For example, the six-year-old who assumes that Daddy’s yelling at Mom has to do with something they’ve done wrong.
Throughout this growth process, there emerges an ‘inner critic’ who defines how we perceive ourselves as we grow through childhood, adolescence and the beginning of our adulthood. And that ‘inner critic’ will be with us at our gravesite, unless we deal with its place in our life.
For those whose formative lives were inconsistent, unpredictable and filled with anxiety, their Teddy bears or security blankets served as objects that would protect them from what might come next, leaving them with an ongoing sense of vulnerability.
As these members of our human family grow up, they are constantly on alert to threats in their environment, and develop ways to protect themselves from such threats. Teddy bears become guns, security blankets become the sanctity of the Second Amendment. For many, their fear is our government’s potential to overpower them and leave them feeling helpless and vulnerable.
While it is easy to judge people who band together into protective groups that provide a sense of belonging and security, it is essential, in this time and place, to see one another as fellow human beings who are all dealing with our own forms of suffering. Byron Katie has written:
“No one has ever been angry at another human being—we’re only angry at our story of them. […] The world is nothing but my perception of it. I see only through myself. I hear only through the filter of my story.”
Our task is to see ourselves in someone else, to see someone else in us and to realize, in essence, we are each a part of one another. Our need is to relate to ourselves and others with compassion.
What exactly is compassion?
In order to relate to others with compassion, we must first become aware. Adyashanti writes, “Awareness is that part of us that perceives, observes and witnesses our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and body. It can be quite transformative to realize that you are not what you thought you were, that you are not your feelings, that you are not your beliefs, that you are not your personality, that you are not your ego. You are something other than that, something that resides on the inside, at the innermost core of your being. For the moment we are calling that something awareness, itself.”
Such a view of awareness puts our ‘inner critic’ in its place and frees us from its negativity in our lives.
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama wrote the following about compassion in the Essence of the Heart Sutra [emphasis added]:
“According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive, it’s not empathy alone, but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and loving-kindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings. This is loving-kindness).”
Tara Brach shares,
“Our capacity for compassion is the antidote to our negative judgments and our suffering.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn has written that
“When we are truly present, in the now, our natural state of being is to be compassionate, to feel empathy with another person or living being.”
One human family
Our love of others has to have, as its foundation, our love for who we are, for ourselves. It is through our lens of being aware and being compassionate that we can express awareness and loving-kindness towards others. Those who feel vulnerable can feel safe in our presence, and those who behave in ways that are hurtful to others can begin to become aware of how their behaviour impacts the lives of others.
We are all members of our one human family. Our survival depends on us being there for one another, working on behalf of the betterment and welfare of all of us.
«RELATED READ» CHALLENGING TIMES: Forgiveness can ease stress and boost immunity»
image 1 Pixabay 2 Pixabay 3 Pixabay