The holidays are upon us. The dark has moved in. My son is home from college. We begin our traditions. My human sentiments come upon me strong. The passions of our attachments to people and situations in our life are strong and wonderful even though, in Buddhist terminology, they are attachments. They are often a major part of the meaning of my life, my roles as wife, lover, mother, sister etc. I am struck with the lyrics from “How do you keep the music playing?” A song written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman that sings “the more I love, the more that I’m afraid.”
How true that is. “The more I love, the more that I’m afraid.” If I dare to open my heart as wide as it can be and the deeper I allow love in, the more I am afraid of the losses that will inevitable come. One of our impermanence verses declares “meeting will end in separation.” Oh dear, what do I do about this deep, painful, human predicament; that to deeply love, we have to be willing to deeply grieve.
For me, this is the exact point where having a deeply spiritual life is a necessity. How do I fully love and fully feel loss without going crazy or shutting down or not allowing love in the first place? How can I be completely open to my karmic life so that I can deeply experience this one precious human life?
What does it mean to have Buddha’s heart? Open and all-inclusive. In order to have Buddha’s heart, I have to increase my capacity to be intimate with suffering. I have to learn the deep, deep patience of acceptance so that I can live in this one day and experience it fully. This is the great practice and the demand of a Buddhist life. Being intimate with suffering with no escape. Not only that, but once you open your heart, other’s suffering become your own. In that case, there is not a single day where the tenderness towards suffering can be avoided or not practiced.
I have been writing holiday notes to my friends who have experienced harsh suffering in the past year. What do I say? I have found myself saying that I hope they can find the small joys of the day; the dawn light, a smile, a feeling of love, the sound of the trees, that can help them sustain themselves through the difficulties.
Going to one of the loving-kindness slogans: May loving kindness sustain me. May I accept the ups and downs of life.
The development of kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity is the basis of our Buddhist practice and yet it is not easily attained. We have to practice in many small ways every day so that when deep trouble and loss comes, we have a stability to our understanding that will allow us to receive our life as a Buddha, not attached to gain and loss, but willing to be very, very intimate with joy and suffering both.
Then, perhaps, we can be unafraid to love.