Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Living Gratitude

Yesterday afternoon my sons and I spent two hours in the waiting room of a MedCheck while my oldest son found out about chest pains that had begun earlier in the afternoon. Ordinarily this wouldn't be the best place for contemplation--the waiting room was full, my older son was grim and concerned; my younger son was anxious about a school project due today. The fear that usually accompanies an event like this for me wasn't present--I knew from Christopher's voice and color and breathing that all was reasonably well (although I did feel it was important to have his symptoms checked out because my dad had heart problems). After two EKGs and lots of listening, the doctor told Christopher he had strained a muscle in his chest, just above his heart. Nothing a few Ibuprophen and a couple of days' rest can't fix.

While we waited, I read an old book by the Dalai Lama that I found at the library last weekend: Kindness, Clarity, and Insight. The book is a compilation of lectures he gave the U.S. 20 years ago, and they are wonderful, simple, and clear.

In the midst of this experience, the Dalai Lama's voice and thoughts washed soothingly over me. He wrote about compassion, compassion for all beings. This type of compassion is not simple empathy but a kind of love and gratitude that begins within a heightened awareness of our own blessing. He suggests we remember a great kindness someone in our life has done for us--perhaps a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend. Then we allow our gratitude for that great kindness to shine brightly within us. Soon we respond to others with that same sense of gratitude, a thank-full approach for the blessing they are bringing into our lives. And from this ever-growing underground stream of gratitude, true compassion pours out naturally--beginning with my thankfulness for you, I want happiness for you and as well as health, freedom, creativity, joy, and love. When I act from compassion, it is because the idea of us as two separate beings has dissolved and I recognize that as you love, I love; as you hurt, I hurt; as you seek peace, I seek peace.

May we flourish in the true compassion that arises from the grateful Heart of all being.

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