Changes in both our environment and the seasons demand that we adjust how we greet the days. When the weeks as a pilgrim are filled with walking as a stranger in a foreign land, I seem alerted to the constant wonder everywhere. I am aware of the injustices and ugly bits too, of course, but the simple things, like how the rain collects on the leaves and the prisms the sun creates upon them would stay with me. Enough to feed the well that will give me courage to embrace life’s natural suffering, mine or others.
This week in Toronto I was doing some medical tests at St Mike’s Hospital at Queen and Yonge. If there is a corner of the city that displays the hurting humanity, it’s there. People sleeping in the subways stairs, or huddled over the grates for warmth, garbage strewn everywhere. People of all ages silently screaming the stories of their desperate lives. People half dressed in wheelchairs outside smoking, even in our first snow storm, dialogues of madness that keep you on your toes while the hopelessness on these faces crack my heart wide open.
In the waiting room at the Breast Clinic I scanned the fearful faces of the women. While waiting for their name to be called, nobody speaks, only the exaggerated newscaster voices on CP24 playing overhead. Why on earth, I ask myself, would any medical facility choose to inform the patients with breaking news updates that will keep their unease heightened? Are these women not suffering enough at that moment? Is it not common knowledge that stress is a big contributor to illness?
I arrived back at home in dire need to smudge away the turmoil and sedate the agitation running through my veins, at least enough to ask the questions of how it gets to be so hard for so many. It is easy to follow the thread to blame, to share the suffering. Our system let these people down, the government could do better, their families are not there for them, they made bad life choices? Perhaps all of the above, but blame will never help us arrive at a better place.
In some of my listening this week, I came across a powerful dharma talk with Jack Kornfield given at Berkeley U in 2010 on the heart of forgiveness. It was exactly the medicine I needed. He expresses in multiple ways how forgiveness is indeed not passive, but its capacity to liberate us remains unparalleled. It helps us to build courage to hold our suffering. The more we understand the psycology of suffering, the less we suffer. Not because we learn how to keep it at bay but because we learn how to embrace it.
Love and forgiveness are not for the faint of heart. This talk helped me shift my energy enough to want to share it. Love to know what you think.
I also want to give you a heads up that within the next few weeks I am going to start using Substack as my writing platform. It may take on a different look but the content/intent will be the same or better. On this platform you will also be able to access the archive and find a library of other writers. I am hopeful that it will expand both the writing and reading experience.