This is my first of three pieces on despair and empowerment in challenging times.
It has seemed throughout the entire last year that we couldn’t count on anything. So many of us have been distressed and despairing about the interminability of the COVID epidemic, the craziness of our government, and the rage of both white rural people and minorities at being marginalized and disenfranchised. It’s not at all surprising that so many of us feel isolated, cut off, alone and that there has been an exponential increase in depression.
During a time like this, it’s natural for us to give up our dreams and aspiration to do things that bring deep joy. So easily, our heart-mind closes down. We lose our trust that it is here at the middle of our being, supporting us regardless of what happens, since it is also the heart-mind of the universe.
Heart-mind is more likely to be closed if your parents told you dreaming is nice, but real life not like that or If your parents stripped their own lives of dreams and downplayed imagination or did not get what they wanted. Do you really need to believe that parental voice that says you should or shouldn’t do something or be someone even in a time like this? Did your parents not give you what you wanted because of expense or did they modify what you wanted so it didn’t give you joy?
My childhood friend Fulton loved listening to the electric guitar from the time he was little. His parents knew that, but instead of supporting him directly, they gave him a piano because he loved music. (He quickly developed an aversion for the piano and piano lessons.)
Sometimes we take jobs we don’t like, because they are kind of similar to an activity that brings us joy or marry someone who is kind of similar to someone whose company we really enjoy. Can you learn to check in with Heart-Mind instead of believing that parental voice?
Coronavirus or no, social chaos or no, when you want something, go after it! Don’t say it’s selfish; do the things that bring you joy so you can bring joy to others. So many spiritual practitioners think that selfishness is a bad word. But if we don’t pursue the activities that bring us joy, how can we bring joy to others?
In my twenties, all I wanted was to open up to the great spaciousness beyond my small self. I gave priority to my sitting as the vehicle to accomplish this and it worked!
Take a risk and act on your deepest wishes. When you turn against your wishes and push them out, you wound heart-mind (although in a larger sense, heart-mind can never be wounded).
I had a Zen student I will call Barbara. She really wanted to be a mother, but as the youngest child and as a girl, she stayed home with her parents up and including her childbearing years running their house as they had health problems. And when they died her brother asked that she take care of his last child, since she was so good at it. She agreed but after a few months she felt the strain of her overly responsible nature. Horrible thoughts entered her mind, including drowning the boy in the bathtub. When she came to seem first, we talked about how trapped she was by loyalty to her family. I suggested she allow that feeling of being trapped to permeate her meditation without doing anything about it. She began to see how overwhelmed she had been for years by others’ needs. She tapped into her heart mind, told her brother she needed to move on and adopted her own set of twins.
Whenever, you have a horrible thought and many of us do, there is an innocent wish behind it which you are not even aware of.
Who you are is different than who you were told to be. Possibly, you have hidden behind someone else’s idea of who you are supposed to be. Possibly, you have overlooked your deepest admirations or those activities that bring you deep joy. If you open up to those, you may find yourself being more generous. It’s so natural to give to others when we feel full rather than empty. When we are happy, we want others to be happy. Our cup runneth over.
Tim Burkett, Guiding Teacher