Empathy …

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.
― Thich Nhat Hanh from At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life

 

The way I define spirituality is a deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to one another by something bigger than us, and something that is grounded in love. Some people call that God …
Brené Brown

 

The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?
— Terry Tempest Williams from Engagement and Healing the Heart of Democracy

 

When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

If we are stretching to live wiser and not just smarter, we will aspire to learn what love means, how it arises and deepens, how it withers and revives, what it looks like as a private good but also a common good. I long to make this word echo differently in hearts and ears—not less complicated, but differently so …
What is love? Answer the question through the story of your life.
― Krista Tippett from Becoming Wise

 

My mom had this really incredible rule when we were growing up, which was we never look away from pain. So if something hard happened, we’d always be the first to go to that house. She said ‘Look people in the eye when they’re in pain, because when people look away, it makes you feel alone’.
Brené Brown

 

Healing The Wounds of War

We have held many meditation retreats with Vietnam veterans in the US. They are wonderful, but they are not always easy, because many veterans are still struggling with their pain. During a retreat in the early nineties, one gentleman told me that in Vietnam he lost 417 people in one battle alone, in one day. He has had to live with that ever since.

One soldier told me that the retreat was the first time in fifteen years that he had felt safe in a group of people. For fifteen years, he had not been able to swallow solid food easily he had stopped talking to other people. But after three or four days of practising mindful sitting and mindful walking, he began to open up and talk to people. You have to offer a lot of loving kindness in order to help people like this touch life deeply again. During the retreat, we encouraged each other to come back to the many positive and healing elements within us and around us.

We ate our breakfast in silence. We took mindful, peaceful steps as we practised walking meditation, touching the Earth with love and compassion. We breathed mindfully to get deeply in touch with the fresh air, and we looked deeply into our cup of tea in order to be truly in touch with the tea, the water, the clouds, and the rain. We sat together, breathed together, and tried to learn from our experience in Vietnam.

Veterans have experience that makes them the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the roots of war and the way of peace. We can learn a lot from their suffering. Nothing exists by itself alone. We all belong to each other; we cannot cut reality into pieces. My happiness is your happiness; my suffering is your suffering.  We heal and transform together. Every side is “our side”; there is no evil side, no enemy.

― Thich Nhat Hanh from At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life

 

Questionnaire

  1. How much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons.
  2. For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.
  3. What sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy.
  4. In the name of patriotism and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing to desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, towns, farms you could most readily do without.
  5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security, for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.

― Wendell Berry from Leavings

 

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