Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Running around, looking for my Buddha nature

I’m up early. Before the crack of dawn. I love it. I feel energized and excited about a new day, about being alive and having the opportunity to contribute, learn, and receive.

I get dressed and make my tea. Green tea. Yum.

Then I hear the alarm on my phone go off. First softly, then loudly. I rush toward the sound, I don’t want my husband to wake up. It gets louder, the closer I get to the bathroom.

As soon as I think I am getting close, the sound fades. Shoot! So where is it? I don’t want it to go off next to his ear. I feel relieved to hear it again, in the kitchen. That makes sense, it must be on the counter, where I made my tea.

And again, as soon as I think I am close, the sound subsides. No! My husband worked late last night and needs his sleep. Where is my phone?!

The sound increases, in the dining room. I look around, more frantic now. Nothing to be found nowhere.

Then it dawns on me. My cell phone has been in my pocket the whole time.

My alarm sounds like ocean waves rolling on the beach: softer and louder with each wave coming in and fading away. The precious thing I was looking for, was right there in my jeans all the time.

It made me think of a story Pema Chodron tells in “When Things Fall Apart”. It’s about a woman who’s sent out into the world with only a coat. She ends up destitute, with no means to support even her basic needs for survival. She complains about her poverty. Her coat goes to shreds, and in the hem she finds diamonds. Plenty enough to sell and support her.

That woman is me, running around, looking for my Buddha nature, my Christ essence, my basic goodness. All the while, I’m stuck in my anger, fear, jealousy, and judge myself for having these feelings.

I hope there comes a moment where I realize that I had Buddha nature all along, buried in my hardened heart. The place where I stop, connect, and celebrate my innate compassionate nature. Where I acknowledge my love, care and gratitude as “enough conditions to be happy”. Where I see my happiness and suffering as expressions of our shared humanity.

Our shared humanity with people I like, and people I don’t like. People who think and vote like me, and people who do the opposite. People whose words and actions are in alignment with my values, and people who speak and act in ways that conflict with my dreams for our world.

I imagine that when I am grounded in my own goodness, I can offer my insight to help others see theirs. To help them pause, take a breath, and smile at life.

I think that thàt is the best gift I can give to others.


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Living a life of purpose

It’s Easter weekend, and many Christians are commemorating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

One of the things that always struck me about how the event is told in the Gospels, is how reluctant Jesus was at being crucified: “Please, Father, take this cup from me”. Jesus wasn’t that excited about being killed, and I wonder if he was convinced he would be resurrected from death. His fear tells me he might not have been. To me, this is the most poignant example of Jesus choosing a purposeful life over a happy life.

Martin Seligman describes in “Authentic Happiness” a happy life as a life where you cultivate positive emotions about the past, present, and future. An engaging life is a life where you use your core strengths and virtues to achieve a sense of flow, being fully engaged with what you’re doing. The purposeful life is a life where you use your core strengths and virtues to contribute to a goal that is larger than you, even if it comes at personal cost. It is the life where you see the oneness in the fragmentation, and your motivation follows meaning.

History is full of examples of people willing to make personal sacrifices for a higher purpose. Martin Luther King and Ghandi are well-known, my grandfather and millions of others less well-known.

Jesus inspires me to live a life of purpose, pledging allegiance to love, care, and inclusion of the outcasts. Up till now I have enjoyed a comfortable life, being married and enjoying my beautiful home and loving friends. I have a happy life, an engaging life. I also believe my life has meaning: I have a strong sense of purpose in the work I do.

And yet. I wonder if I have the guts to sacrifice my comfort, when circumstances call me to stand up for what I believe is true. I am scared that I won’t be willing to follow Jesus’ example, when it comes at an expense to me. I ask myself ‘Do I need to?’, hoping the answer will be ‘no, sweetie pie, go back to sleep’.

When you ask yourself these questions, what comes up for you? I would love to read your response.