Friday, October 15, 2010

Empty and Whole

So light, I felt as I walked out of Zen Hospice! and so whole also . . . 

Something very wonderful happens when the right conditions are set for mind to empty itself from unnecessary self- related thoughts. 

The place, the people, the traditions have a lot to do with it. Years of beautiful work have filled the walls of the house with the same kind of stillness I felt back in India in one of the caves up Vulture Peak. One starts walking, speaking, feeling, thinking, acting differently, past the old green door. 

Inside, the unspoken code of respect,  love, and service holds everyone in its own sweet way. This house is not about going anywhere but about being completely present for what is, right now. And of course, the most powerful influence of all has to do with the residents, and the transformation that impending death brings to each one of them, and those who have chosen to serve them.

I was remembering many years ago, when I had felt moved to 'do good', and had signed up to visit an elderly woman in her home. What a difference mindfulness practice can make . . . Back then, my urge to serve did not have a foundation of mindfulness to rest on, and I had burnt out very quickly. It was all about being a receptacle for the old woman's loneliness, without the awareness of how full my bowl was already.

There are several lessons to be drawn here, not just for me, but for all those in a position of giving care. Being a care partner demands that one be completely mindful of oneself, of the other, and of everything in between. It demands the wisdom to know what should be cultivated or not in one's mind. It requires to be completely present. And last, it exacts the gift of one's whole person, nothing denied or pushed aside.

Experiencing compassion fullness . . . 


  1. This part where you speak of the urge to serve without any foundation really spoke to me. I remember many times I had a need to give that came from a place where I wanted to prove something about myself ... mainly because deep down I felt I was lacking.

    What a huge difference presence makes. For me, presence always carries with it energy and discernment and compassion.
    Now, to stay there ;)
    Beautiful post.

  2. Yes, that is the magic isn't it?

    Compassion fatigue comes not from giving too much, but from not being present enough.

  3. I work with animals, mostly dogs at a shelter in Westland, Michigan and they remind me always about being present. I've never believed that dogs don't remember things, you can see the fear and betrayal in their eyes and sometimes just sitting with them is all you can do. Just sitting and talking quietly or opening your heart up as big as you can so that they may discover that you are safe. They never cease to amaze me these dogs, as they show so much courage and willingness to try again, but it is in their ability to be present that allows them to do this and why I haven't been quite as successful.

    Slowly, ever so slowly, this lesson carries over more into my practice and my life.

  4. Yes, Adrienne. Dogs, children, persons with dementia . . . are all master teachers in disguise, by their embodied ability to be completely in the present, that which, we the regular human adults have such a hard time with, and yet so much need.

    Thank you for the gift of your inspiration! And may you continue to practice well.