Many Paths

As I sit down to write what is current for me this morning, I find myself thinking about the stories of our lives. The ones that lie in the past, the ones we are living right now, and the ones yet to reveal themselves. Stories give name to what is apparent, and have the power to name deep patterns and threads that lie under the surface.  These stories are ones we have taken alone.  They are ones we have taken with others and they are part of our cultural inheritance.

The stories are how we know who we are, they are part of our identity. Stories unfold all the time.  They tell us about our humanity.  They encourage us to listen.  Stories talk about fear, hate, suffering, and acts of kindness and love, even of sacrifice. They present choices, and equally, sometimes, no choice.  The stories ask, what’s here to speak to?  Where am I in this?  What does this say about me?  What does it say about us?

Stories are journeys that reveal paths of darkness and of light.  They speak to horrors, travesties of justice, hatred.  They speak to acts of courage, of honesty, a willingness to challenge systems of denial, powerful acts that illuminate an integrity of purpose, and the power of love.  They capture a moment in time, or reveal the passage of years. Stories change us.  Bring us closer to our own vulnerabilities.  They help us to listen.  To process and metabolize new horizons.  Envisage who we might be, adapting.   

Stories are journeys taken with many paths. They are multifaceted and capture the intricacy of lives. 

Mindfulness meditation can support us in revealing and uncovering the complexity of our stories.  Where we see that our story is not what defines us. We are so much more. 

As I understand it, our practice is an invitation to move into our essential nature, one of kindness, love, and compassion.  Is it easy to walk this path of heart?  Sometimes effortless, as we touch into our gentleness.  At other times, we meet obstacles, challenges, and dark moments.  We catch ourselves running away or struggling in some way with what is appearing.  Then we learn to be patient, and kind towards ourselves. We rest a while. We breath and relax, to steady ourselves, before going on.  We learn to appreciate the jewels of pausing and patience.

As by now you have realized, poems have long been constant, wonderful companions and supports in my life.  You may have poems, authors, paintings, people that have been supportive to you in some way.  Each time you visit them, I would bet you find something different to reflect on.  I know I do.   

Here is a poem that may be familiar –

 Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye 
 Before you know what kindness really is 
 you must lose things, 
 feel the future dissolve in a moment 
 like salt in a weakened broth. 
 What you held in your hand, 
 what you counted and carefully saved,
 all this must go so you know
 how desolate the landscape can be 
 between the regions of kindness. 
 How you ride and ride
 thinking the bus will never stop,
 the passengers eating maize and chicken
 will stare out the window forever. 
 Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
 you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
 lies dead beside by the side of the road. 
 You must see how this could be you, 
 how he too was someone
 who journeyed through the night with plans
 and the simple breath that kept him alive. 
 Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
 You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
 You must wake up with sorrow.
 You must speak to it till your voice
 catches the thread of all sorrows
 and you see the size of the cloth. 
 Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, 
 only kindness that ties your shoes
 and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
 only kindness that raises its head 
 from the crowd of the world to say
 It is I you have been looking for,
 and then goes with you everywhere
 like a shadow or friend.

Our lives, our stories will have moments of joy, struggle, and grief.  Can we stay as close as is possible to the voice of our hearts? Clearing the path, so that over time, it is kindness that guides us.