On the way to work today, I listened to a lecture by Jack Kornfield that really tugged at my heartstrings. This touching story reminds me that we don’t just carry our own trauma and pain, but we also carry those of the world.
Ordinary Heartbreak, by David LevineShe climbs easily on the box that seats her above the swivel chair
At adult height, crosses her legs, left ankle over right,
Smoothes the plastic apron over her lap while the beautician
Lifts her ponytail and laughs, “This is coarse as a horse’s tail!”
And then as if it that was all there is to say, The woman at once whacks off and tosses its
foot and a half length into the trash. And the little girl who didn’t want her hair cut,
But long ago learned successfully how not to say
What it is she wants,
Who, at even at this minute cannot quite grasp
her shock and grief,
Is getting her hair cut. “For convenience,” her mother put it.
The long waves gone that had been evidence at night,
When loosened from their clasp,
She might secretly be a princess.
Rather than cry out, she grips her own wrist
And looks to her mother in the mirror.
But her mother is too polite, or too reserved, or too indifferent
To defend the girl So the girl herself takes up indifference,
While the pain follows a channel to a hidden place
Almost unknown to her,
Convinced as she is, that her own emotions are not the ones
her life depends on,
She shifts her gaze from her mother’s face
Back to the haircut now,
So steadily as if this short-haired child she sees were someone else.
By telling this story, Jack reminds us that not only are there the big losses and suffering in our lives, but there are so many small ways in which we lose ourselves, as evidenced in the story above. I’m sure that all of you can think of a time (or two) that you felt you lost a part of yourself, that you hid away the pain and pretended that the trauma wasn’t real. But the pain likely still comes back to haunt you today in the form of the migraines, or the back aches, or the irritable bowels, or the asthma, or the addictions, or the consumerism, or the . . . [insert your symptom here].
So how do we find our way back to who we really are? How do we reach within ourselves and acknowledge the pain and suffering that we’ve stored in the hidden places? How do we release the suffering and accept it as part of humanity without defining ourselves by it? We can do this through the practice of COMPASSION. We start by holding ourselves in compassion (not self-pity). Once we realize that the measures of suffering aren’t given solely to us, but are shared by all of humanity, then we can finally realize that the release comes through the acceptance that there is suffering AND beauty in this world, and that we are all in this together. (You might also want to do some initial compassion meditation if you are feeling resistant and angry.)
So it’s time for you to share a story that elicits our compassion, for it is through interaction with others that we can heal and accept and release our own pain, thereby allowing ourselves to live fully in compassion with the understanding that we are a mirror of the universe.