One of my favorite stories was repeated during a day-long dharma talk I attended on Sunday: that of the two wolves in the heart--love and hate--and the response of the highly revered elder, who, when asked how she had found so much peace in her life, answered that early on she had recognized that there were two wolves in her heart, and, "Everything depended on which one I fed each day."
I'm having a moment when I have so many ideas floating around my head that I'd love to be able to communicate, that I'm just going to have to give up the expectation that they come out in any particular organized way, and write them out.
One of my favorite quotes from Sunday was, "It's a joy to be hidden; a tragedy to remain so." I think that this tension, this desire to be self-sufficient, to hide our vulnerabilities and our need for others is so prevalent in all of us, particularly in a culture that seems to communicate regularly that if we "need" someone else that we are "needy." We can all discern between healthy and unhealthy approaches toward "needing" others, but the bottom line is that any feeling of separateness we may have is "an optical delusion of consciousness" (aka, bullshit), and we all want to have people seek us out, to prize us, so why do we resist doing the same?
The interrelatedness of autonomy and intimacy is so essential for empathy. We have to develop ways of understanding others, but we also have to develop ways of being able to stand in ourselves. I don't think that standing in ourselves is in opposition to intimacy. What I love is the idea that we can all support each other in tending to the causes--to notice what we're influenced by and what our actions influence, but also being discerning enough to know that we have no control of the results. In this, I find agency.
I love the idea of settling the quarrels in my mind so that I can let go and love. The hardest part, of course, is loving unilaterally. What I appreciated in the talk I attended, was the idea that we, of course, have the freedom to walk away, to discern, to put down the quarrel without losing our ability to send loving kindness in all directions. Does this mean that I want someone who has continually harmed me (or who cannot see me) in my life? No. But it does mean that I can continue to tend to me, and to not carry that person with me, to not cultivate hatred or ill-will. This is freeing in itself. It takes time.
I do believe that there are many of us who have such a secure base to operate from that we have a secure base to explore from and that we are able to "go forth into homelessness." A friend commented, in response to this idea, that she was also awed by those who, even without a seemingly secure base, were willing to take huge risks--emotionally, spiritually, etc. And I concur. Our life circumstances, depending on how we react to them, allow for some pretty amazing freedoms--and I've been thinking a great deal about how important it is to be both quiet and malleable in order to enact these feats that require such amazing trust in the universe.
One last story that was shared was that of a monk who was violently attacked, bringing him to the edge of mortality. When asked if he had feared for his life during the attack, he answered, "The only time I feared for my life was when I thought I was losing my loving kindness."
I had a heart tattooed on the inside of my left wrist last year to serve as a physical reminder regarding which wolf I want to feed, and even so, I still toss the other a morsel now and then. Here's to tending to the causes, loving kindness, and leaving nothing out. Easier said than done, but I'm having a difficult time thinking about anything more worth doing.
[Check out www.rickhanson.net for more information on the speaker I heard and the inspiration for these musings.]