The Cook Awakening


March 3, 2019
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Spiritual Practice

I hear some version of this statement a lot from clients. “Life feels hard, but so many people have it worse than me. I should be able to manage my life better. It’s my fault that I’m suffering, I should just be able to get over it.”

Last year I had the good fortune to be able to sit with and participate in a discussion with Lama Rod Owens, co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. An excellent book, highly recommended. Lama Rod is a self described Black, queer male. He is recognized as a teacher in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism after receiving his teaching authorization from his root teacher the Venerable Lama Norlha Rinpoche.

Emerging Buddha

A question was asked by a white participant about how to deal with the guilt of realizing how much Black folks had suffered at the hands of white people.

Lama Rod was very clear. “You can’t talk to me about my lineage and suffering until you really know your own lineage and the suffering there.”

We have a tendency to want to skip the most basic first steps. It’s a cultural thing. We’re taught perfectionism and individualism in this western, white culture, along with a goodly dose of competition.

Everyone has trauma. Being born, even the most perfect, uncomplicated home birth, is traumatic. Being in a body is traumatic. Your work is to feel and heal (to the best of your ability) your own suffering. It’s not a pain competition.

Let me play this out a little bit, on the rational level. If only more wounded people are worthy of compassion and care, what does that actually mean?

It means that somewhere in the world is one poor damaged individual that really deserves our tenderness. The One Most Wounded. Everyone else should just buck up and get on with it. (That’s actually from one of my clients, she came up with it as we were exploring the concept during a session. It was a revelation for both of us!)

Comparison kills connection.

If you can truly own and embrace your own pain, you have the possibility of actually taking care of yourself, whether that means meeting your own needs, or asking for help in a way that is less likely to drain your loved ones. It also means you’ll be more able to protect yourself from the very real inequities and dangers of various types that exist in the world.

Dealing with your own emotions doesn’t mean minimizing them. It means embracing them wholeheartedly with tenderness. This takes some time. But, the more you do, the more you’ll be able to extend that same care to people who need it. It doesn’t work like “they need it more than me, therefore I shouldn’t feel kindly toward myself.” It’s more like, they need it as well as you, and when you’re in the practice of extending it to yourself, it’s an easier next step to care for those around you.

Comparison kills connection, connection with yourself and with others.

Your pain does not negate anyone else’s pain. And, their pain doesn’t negate yours. If you can’t feel your own pain with an open heart, how can you be present for theirs?

It might not be appropriate to talk about your emotionally absent dad when speaking to someone who’s dealing with daily violence. But, if you’re really tending to your own emotions, you won’t have to.

Just exactly where you are now, I invite you to take a breath. Maybe place your hand on your heart. Out loud, or silently, say your name, and say, “I love you. I care about your pain. I’m here for you.” Notice what that feels like. Is there something that resists hearing the words? Do you feel uncomfortable? Or, perhaps the opposite might happen, and something feels almost relieved? You might just feel a little numb, like you don’t even know how to receive it. There’s no wrong way to feel about it, just notice. Just notice.

And, if this feels overwhelming, get some assistance with it. Talk to a friend. Get some support from a counselor, if not me, someone you feel safe with. You deserve support.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 3rd, 2019 at 5:18 pm and is filed under Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Spiritual Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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