Deep in our hearts there is a call to live in communion with others, a call to love, to create, to risk. But there is also that radical feeling of our poverty when faced with human misery. I am afraid to give myself. I have constructed a world of security around me…so many so-called interests which keep me from communing with others…I want to, but cannot. So many things seem to prevent me from loving and I feel them in my inmost being…so many defences and fears. I risk losing hope. I risk entering into a world of sadness and I begin to doubt myself. I have doubts about others. I doubt the value of my presence. I doubt everything.
This is our human condition. We want so much but we feel incapable. We believe in love but where is it? There are so many obstacles to break through within ourselves in order to become free and to become present to others; to their misery and to their person.
There will always be the facts of life to contend with, and there are times when the facts can become overwhelming. Yet, there is a poem at the heart of things and a mythic story in the heart of each of us. At certain times it is the poetry of life and the mythic imagination of the soul that become necessary in order to heal the wounds inflicted by an excess of reason or an overuse of force. When we unfold the story wound within our souls and untie the knots within us, we add presence to the world and contribute to the spirit of life in a specific and authentic way.
It is rather paradoxical for our task-focused self when it isn’t the quality of the practice, but our honest and humble acceptance of the emerging moment, that prepares us for nonjudgemental, agendaless presence with another.
Being kind to ourselves can be helpful as we seek to practice this way of being, because it places us at cross-purposes with our culture, where performance and improvement are so valued and the limits and variability of our humanness are cause for criticism and correction.
Many aspects of our training as well as our everyday experience in this society urge us to take control to achieve a particular result, and this can become so implicitly ingrained that it feels wrong to sink toward our innate humanity.
Again, just listening with kindness to the competing voices inside is good preparation for extending this attentiveness and kindness to all aspects of the person about to come in our door.
― Bonnie Badenoch, The Heart of Trauma: Healing the Embodied Brain in the Context of Relationships
Even today, more than eighty years after Oort’s bold guess, we still don’t have a clue what this dark matter is made of. We know it exists. We know where it is. We have maps of its presence within and around galaxies throughout the universe. We even have stringent constraints on what it is not, but we have no clue what it is. And yes, its presence is overwhelming: for every one kilogram of ordinary matter made out of neutrons and protons and electrons, there are five kilograms of dark matter, made out of who-knows-what.
― Christophe Galfard, The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond
To want to run away is an essence of being human, it transforms any staying through the transfigurations of choice. To think about fleeing from circumstances, from a marriage, a relationship or from a work is part of the conversation itself and helps us understand the true distilled nature of our own reluctance. Strangely, we are perhaps most fully incarnated as humans, when part of us does not want to be here, or doesn’t know how to be here. Presence is only fully understood and realized through fully understanding our reluctance to show up. To understand the part of us that wants nothing to do with the full necessities of work, of relationship, of loss, of doing what is necessary, is to learn humility, to cultivate self-compassion and to sharpen that sense of humor essential to a merciful perspective of both a self and another.
― David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
We are called at certain moments to comfort people who are enduring some trauma. Many of us don’t know how to react in such situations, but others do. In the first place, they just show up. They provide a ministry of presence. Next, they don’t compare. The sensitive person understands that each person’s ordeal is unique and should not be compared to anyone else’s. Next, they do the practical things–making lunch, dusting the room, washing the towels. Finally, they don’t try to minimize what is going on. They don’t attempt to reassure with false, saccharine sentiments. They don’t say that the pain is all for the best. They don’t search for silver linings. They do what wise souls do in the presence of tragedy and trauma. They practice a passive activism. They don’t bustle about trying to solve something that cannot be solved. The sensitive person grants the sufferer the dignity of her own process. She lets the sufferer define the meaning of what is going on. She just sits simply through the nights of pain and darkness, being practical, human, simple, and direct.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Many African societies divide humans into three categories: those still alive on the earth, the sasha, and the zamani. The recently departed whose time on earth overlapped with people still here are the sasha, the living-dead. They are not wholly dead, for they still live in the memories of the living, who can call them to mind, create their likeness in art, and bring them to life in anecdote. When the last person to know an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the sasha for the zamani, the dead. As generalised ancestors, the zamani are not forgotten but revered. Many … can be recalled by name. But they are not the living-dead. There is a difference.
― James Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
There are seconds, they come only five or six at a time, and you suddenly feel the presence of eternal harmony, fully achieved. It is nothing earthly; not that it’s heavenly, but man cannot endure it in his earthly state. One must change physically or die. The feeling is clear and indisputable. As if you suddenly sense the whole of nature and suddenly say: yes, this is true.