Compassionate Learning

We are in a constant state of learning whether we realize it or not.  The question is whether we are willing to learn the lesson.  In second grade, learning to do multiplication, we had the option of understanding how to do it.  It may not have felt like it with the pressures of teachers, parents, and even, our peers, but the option was there.  We could have chosen, and some of us did, to not learn multiplication.  Perhaps it was too confusing or complicated.  We became nervous and anxious that we weren’t understanding.  We began comparing ourselves to everyone else, and our fears soon steamrolled over us.  It may have carried on into division, or even other subjects like english, science, and history.  The scenery changed, but the feeling was the same inside the car: we were scared of not knowing.

In being scared of not knowing, we began to be scared of learning.  Learning is the bridge between not knowing and knowing.  Once we are afraid of the process that will actually relieve us from our suffering we have ensured that we will be in a constant state of it.  And, in fact, the only way that we can “escape” our suffering is to surrender to the experience at hand.  In this, it is not an action we are taking, but in some regard, an inaction.

This is the powerful ocean behind the path of Zen, and one that scares most all people.  Inaction is the bridge between knowing and not knowing.  Inaction works just the opposite of school-taught-learning, it untangles us from the idea that we KNOW and returns us to our natural state of we do NOT KNOW.  Again, the pattern rises to the surface by resisting to believe we “do not know.”  When one begins to fear the process that will remove them from suffering, they have committed themselves to suffering.

By not “acting,” enough times, we will see that there is a process that we are scared of engaging in, while we will also notice that there is a process that we are involved in regardless of whether we believe we are acting or not.  At that point, it becomes easy to see that there are things in our lives we are keeping suspended for our “safety.”  Yet, this is not a compassionate, secure kind of “safety,” we feel, but rather, one that is very guarded and protected by layers of fear.  It is a comfort we have in our own suffering cycle.  Each time we go ‘round and ‘round that cycle we are shown a doorway out of it.  We know exactly what that door looks like, and when it arrives we have the option to walk through it, or continue walking around in our circle.

How could we blame ourselves?! We have worked hard many years wearing this groove in its place.  It’s like that old couch we have with nicely worn butt-imprints on it.  It is the most comfortable place to rest your bum after a long day of worldly adventures, but you see the years of dust, dander, and mold plume into the air each time you plop down into its inviting arms.  We can see it causes us “suffering,” but we are in love with the comfort of it, and have our apprehensions about getting rid of it as well as spending money for a new one.  We can see the doorway out of our, say, breathing problems, is to just get a new couch, or at least, begin by ridding ourselves of this one.  However, if we are comfortable in our suffering and afraid to make the motion toward change, we will not exit.

Our inner Self and suffering cycles within it are probably a little more emotionally stirring than our old couch, but the idea is there.  Do we have enough presence within ourselves to consciously exit our cycle?  The other option is to shut off our emotional response and unconsciously experience the rest of the ride, which is only going to return us to more suffering.

If we are acting and “trying” to escape our experience, we will only continue to suffer.  This can be a confusing concept when translated into words because just like all life, it just is as it is.  The words attempt to describe an experience, but they are not the experience itself.  Everyone can agree, the word “pizza” is much different than the experience of, “pizza.”

With this established, the golden key in regards to suffering and learning how to gracefully exit its tight grip, is compassion.  The experience of compassion cannot be summed up into one word, or words defining what it is.  It is going to be greatly different for every individual, and vary according to every situation.  Without context, compassion can sometimes feel like the opposite.  For instance, if someone were about to unknowingly step in front of a bus, you may tackle them to prevent it from happening.  Without context, this could appear to be a hostile act.

Once we begin to engage in non-physical exchanges between people it can get very difficult to grant ourselves compassion.  When there is not that tangible and obvious looming threat of danger, like a bus, our mind wants to search for formulaic ways of resolving the matter.  It begins to look for past experiences and the judgments made upon those experiences.  It might say that yelling of any kind is bad; saying something disagreeable is bad; or, being reserved and withdrawn is bad.  This is all part of our unique and special learning experience.  When we can compassionately accept that we do not have the answers, and that every moment calls for something different, we allow for mistakes, uncertainty, and error.  We allow for what IS to BE.  In this process, we also allow time for loving reflection, free of judgment and criticism, so that we can see our actions for what they are, knowing that we are acting from a place of love for ourselves, which ultimately is a love for those around us.  It is here, in this compassionate space, we begin to truly trust ourselves and each unique moment that we experience.

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