Friday, March 11, 2011

Loving the Stranger

No dog, no iPod, no friend. This morning, I went for a long walk with myself only. 

And before long, encountered a familiar presence. Sad, depressed, lonely. With it,  I kept on walking, along the quiet streets, past the new Facebook campus, across and amidst the Stanford students housing, back into my neighborhood. A whole hour, I stayed with this company. I thought of the dying ones I sat with yesterday at Zen Hospice, and the patience that arose naturally in me, as I sat at their bedside. Being there for their fears, their pain, their aloneness in the face of impending death. And I realized how much more difficult it is to be present for one's own suffering.  How tempting it is to ignore one's reality, and to anesthetize oneself with busyness, or food, or Dharma talks even . . . Crowding the mind with thoughts not related to the moment. Keeping the body in constant motion so as to not feel the physical pain from difficult emotions. Hyper connecting with a crowd to displace the focus of attention outside of one self. Anything to not feel the pain. 

The more I walked, the more tenderness I felt for myself. There was no denying the extraordinary effort required and at the same time, I knew there was no other way to be. Heart turning towards itself, doing exactly what it was supposed to. Again, I thought of the ones I have been privileged to serve, and who have taught me to love. It is said you cannot love others unless you can love yourself. I am convinced it works both ways. You cannot love yourself unless you can love others.  Stretching the compassion muscle . . . 

I came home happy, that I had not abandoned myself:

You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another who knows you by heart.

~ Derek Walcott ~

Today, will you take the time to love the stranger that is you?


  1. So much can come up when we are willing to be with ourselves. My life long dance with fear in its different forms is what I've been seeing lately.

    And so important not to push it away, because if we just stay with it like a good friend we get to see that it arises and passes away on its own. And there we get to know ourselves, in the things that continually arise.

    Such a nice reminder to be a friend to ourselves. It is a softening, a gentleness, one that grows for me as I do it, not at all a natural response for me.

  2. thanks, nice to hear of your gentle acceptance. a true benefit to all.

  3. I think it's hardest to like ourselves and forgive ourselves .
    Good to be reminded.

  4. what courage you have to express your vulnerability because of that experience. it is true that we do our best to shut out our emotions in circumstances that make us feel vulnerable. but i learned that being emotional is something we could not escape, for human beings are created to be "feeling beings." it is essential for us not to ignore what we feel because it is part of us and we feel something because our body is calling our attention. beautifully written, Marguerite! :-)

  5. Was thinking something similar yesterday, before fell of to sleep:)

  6. Carole (ZenDot),

    Yes, fear is another frequent visitor in this life that I call mine . . . It's fascinating to watch this merry go round of emotions, isn't it? Not just difficult ones, but also happy ones as is the case for me right now.

    Ah! the freedom from not being swept in the illusion of solidity of emotions, or thoughts for that matter!

    Talking with friends, as right now with you, is so helpful in staying aware . . .

    thank you, for the gift of our pen friendship.

  7. Smiling Heart, thank you for your appreciation! This gentle acceptance is such a foundational piece of intrapersonal and interpersonal harmony! May you dwell in it, often . . .

  8. BD, indeed, it is. Often when I run groups, I see people repeatedly extend kindness towards others in the group, while struggling very hard to be kind to themselves! I have found for myself that the repeated practice of kindness towards others becomes imprinted somewhere in our heart, and can then be used during those moments of intimacy towards ourselves when faced with difficult emotions.

  9. Irene, thank you. Yes, being fully human means embracing all of our reality. I am not sure about 'being emotional' however. Rather, a more accurate description for me is of being with the reality of transient emotional states. So that there is no identification with the emotion itself.

  10. Thank you for the beautiful words...yes it is hard to be with oneself, so easy to distract. A wonderful reminder to be tender with myself and with others.

  11. Thank you Linda, and wishing you a kind day in your company :)