There are some people I only love from afar.
The way one might revel in a painting in a museum
while standing across the room.
There are others I love like
dipping in close to smell a wild rose.
Absorbing it full throttle
but only for a short burst of time.
There are some I love like movie theater popcorn:
ravenously but only once in a great while.
And then there are those I love like music and tea,
drinking them in as often as I can.
When I was younger, I wanted to save the planet. Now, I want to save the people.
But my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak, and I need to remember that I can both only do so much AND what I am able to do is not only enough, but abundantly helpful and a direct manifestation of my highest calling.
I realized just this morning, that I have not only been over-extending my heartspace but also putting certain expectations on doing so. And it doesn’t feel good.
A little thing I tend to do is forget that there is only so much time in the day, only so much heart-full energy I can extend, before the day is over and/or before I find myself weary and forlorn. I’m certain that one of my superhero names could be the Reacher-Outer. It’s one of the things I do well. When loved ones or sangha members are struggling, I reach out. I check in, extend offerings of support, and send love. If I haven’t seen or heard from a friend in a little while, I reach out. I check in, say hello, and ask what’s shaking. I send emails, texts, Facebook messages, postcards, and letters. It’s what I do.
As I grow older and interact with more people, I’ve come to understand that most people are either not skilled in this department or are simply un-interested in developing this quality of character. Most of the time, I happily and gratefully fill this role. Then there are times – like now – when I find myself getting burnt out with it. When I reach out to folks, I’ll often hear back from them one way or another, but seldom do people reach out first. And it grows taxing to be that person on a regular ongoing basis, especially when I have a rather large network of those I hold dear. As a spiritual leader and sangha director, the number of those I care about continues to grow as well, as more people come to sit with us and engage with the community. So I find myself in a quandary: How do I continue letting people into my heartspace without depleting my inner resources? How do I keep reaching out, knowing not many are able to return the gesture?
Part of the answer I think is stated in the meme above, that I came across on twitter earlier today: Do small things with great love. (P.S And keep doing them.)
The other parts of the answer that I remind myself often about are as follows: Continue taking good care of yourself; Pull back when you need to; It’s okay to say no; Have confidence in your practice; Be diligent in sticking with the things you know are helpful for you; Keep the practice of joy as a top priority; Letting go is an ongoing and ever-unfolding art; Stay in touch with your priorities and don’t make compromises or excuses when it comes to manifesting them; You can only do so much, you can’t save people, you can only support and love them as best as you’re able.
My notes to self are rather extensive on this subject at hand. Sometimes, they’re all that keep me afloat.
It’s good to be BFF’s with one self. It can really come in handy during those lagging moments when our energy wanes.
My morning post on my writer’s Facebook page:
Why I meditate everyday:
It’s cuz love.
I meditate to restock it, replenish it,
reinvent it, recirculate it, and re-approach it.
Without its graces,
my powers of love would become null and void of merit and sense,
absent of the energy needed to propel it near and far.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from my cousin Matt’s girlfriend, asking folks to write a little something up about/for Matt, to help celebrate his 40th birthday. She wanted to put together a surprise book for him, filled with personal sentiments from his friends and family.
When I first read her email ask, my first reactionary thought was: Gosh, I’d love to do this – especially since I can’t be there to help celebrate his birthday (he lives in Philly) – but I’ve got so many other projects and events and articles I’m working on. The dust of my running to-do list quickly settled, however, and this more heart-centered response soon followed: I love my cousin. This is important. This is more important than most of the other stuff I’m doing. How wonderful that she’s pulling this together. Of course I’ll write something!
Here’s what I wrote and sent her to include in the book:
A little something I wrote early this morning, upon waking:
Within five minutes of waking, I had come up with a handful of things to be grateful for.
Within fifteen minutes, I was reminded of how sometimes – lots of times – my husband does not smell good, even when he’s sound asleep.
Within twenty minutes, I had scooped a teaspoon of loose gunpowder green tea peals into my tea strainer and delighted in the noise it made whilst tumbling in, akin to graupel on a windowpane. And I’d been bowled over for a brief moment by the realization that having running water is a great luxury not everyone has (the sound of which reminded me that in my exuberance to put pen to paper, I’d forgotten to pee).
Within thirty minutes, I deflated a bit when remembering that today, my Saturday would include an unscheduled trip to Grimebusters Laundromat, due to the fact that one of our cats peed in our bed last night, all the way through the comforter and both sheets. And I invested brain power in once again trying to come up with a less churlish-sounding substitute word for ‘pee.’
Within an hour, I was surrounded by a collection of papered items, which would relay to someone who didn’t know me that I’m both a writer and a Buddhist.
Within an hour and five minutes, I’d been given goosebumps upon reading a new bit of writing that I myself had crafted – and I didn’t feel silly or shameful about it (which is a newer development).
And within one hour and 48 minutes, I had run the gamut of thought, vacillating from birth to old age to death; from ideas for spoken word pieces to all the people I love and adore (including a whopping 4 friends who all have their birthday today!); and from that which stirs me up to that which serves to knock me down.
I regard my spoken word show and album release – having taken place on Friday night – not as my own but as a collective endeavor of all those who offered their love, support, time, and encouragement from near and far away; all who influenced me along the way; and every life experience I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to have thus far in my 38-years of living.
It’s hard to put certain things into words – which is really saying something when you’re a writer.
But any good writer knows that you can’t capture the feelings invoked by watching a sunset in the limiting net of words scribed on paper.
Any good writer knows that you can’t fully describe the sumptuous taste of chocolate; or the depth of ease felt after taking a walk in the woods or a dip in the river; or the warmth of spirit generated from being surrounded by the very best people.
My gratitude and love for all the people I have the distinct pleasure of knowing is vast, like the expanse of ocean, sky, and stretching of the universe that weaves us all together in its grace.
With all the heart that I can muster,
To hear this love poem being read: https://soundcloud.com/inmindfulmotion/montana
Montana is the blanket I wrap myself in when I have a hard time sleeping,
the warm elixir soothing my weary bones
when the cold is all I can feel penetrating into the crux
of my rampant misgivings of what it means to be human.
Montana never fidgets from boredom or agitation and, like a lady,
always knows when it’s the proper time to look you in the eye
and when it’s time to turn away.
Montana can cradle an un-soothed babe and carry a cord of wood
in the same arms it fashions to unfurl the ties that bind our troubled ways –
it speaks in fluid solitude in the rhythm of rocks and rivers,
a native tongue down in the valley,
with unfolding fields preparing to flourish and wither on the same breath.
If death were to come calling for me tomorrow,
I’d take solace in knowing that Montana stole my heart as a girl,
and in learning how to love it back with the same ferocity in return,
I became the woman I am now.
Montana is the thread I’ve mended the tears of my past with,
the melody I sing when the very core of my teeth ache
in unison with the heartbreak of the people, and
the tonic I swallow to turn the dials of my internal static
to a station of higher frequency.
I plan on loving Montana as hard as I can,
as long as it will have me and as much as it can stand
until at last I crack wide open and melt into its roots,
the cycle of life renewed by all that I’ve absorbed.
Montana is an impossibly still lake I hold up as a mirror,
reminding me who I am and want to be –
a guide that holds my hand and whispers softly in my ear
which direction I should tread, and
like no one else,
is able to keep up with me.
Give or take a couple of years,
I’ve spent just shy of the last 20 of em here –
all my loves made and broken
in the fragrant tides of winter and spring,
beneath the great expanse of sky
spreading like a crow’s wings overhead.
And I reckon I’m head over hills still madly in love –
Montana is the ink in my pen I put to paper every morning,
the heat curving outwards from the fire,
smoothing my skin with warmth like a lover’s touch.
Montana is the drumming of my heartbeat,
the dance my hips sway to –
Montana is the monastery bell,
calling me like winter
Just this morning, I hopped onto the BBC world news online, where I clicked on an article about the current fire and state of emergency in San Diego, CA. Accompanying the article was a short video taken by a motorist who had captured footage of a man on the roadside next to a raging bank of flames, who was trying desperately to save a wild rabbit who was clearly in distress. After running into the flames, the rabbit came back out and the man was able to scoop it up and rescue it.
Tears streamed from my eyes.
The sheer fortitude and concern this man showed for that one tiny rabbit is a powerful example of our capacity to love.
We are made and built from each other’s company – whether in people, animal, or nature’s form. We rise and fall together.
May we stop running and keep loving. May we open our hearts wide like the sky at dawn.
The more we love people, the better we live. The better we live, the more we love.
So, let us love on – even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we don’t know how.
It’s easy to extend love to those whom we choose to share our lives with – but it’s not so easy with those whom we do not see a commonality with. Our time is short. We have such little time to love with wild abandon. Stop guarding your heart.
Let us express gratitude to all those who circulate around us, whether dear to us or nameless. Let us radiate love to all who are situated in the wake of our heart’s beating. Our time is short. May we love with wild, unfettered abandon, regardless of the company we keep.