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?