I'm grateful that others, including my partner Betsy, plan to make it that day to sit quietly in peace for awhile before the traditional Memorial Day celebrations emerge later in the day with parades, marching bands, military honor guards and 21 gun salutes.
It seems appropriate to spend a bit of time with Tonglen practice again.
Memorial Day is a deeply poignant occasion for me. As a child living in the aftermath of WWII, I raised on movies that glorified the military in a society that periodically celebrated those who served and generally revered the "ultimate sacrifice" of those who were killed. I guess things haven't changed all that much. Violence and warfare are still a part of our world.
As well as the sorrow I feel for the innocent victims of this senseless reality, my heart still sometimes burns like a hot coal as I bring to mind images of the courage and valor and sacrifice displayed by the countless men and women who, to this very day, place themselves in harms way in the belief that warfare is somehow necessary.
Although I can easily get into my head here to make an impassioned case for the non-violence taught by Jesus and Buddha, I'll leave that to my alter ego, Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.* to do at some point. I want to stay closer to the Heart of the matter.
I guess that is precisely why Tonglen practice is has been so helpful at this stage of the journey. It seems to help me open my heart to embrace the Reality of Life--not only as I would choose it to be--but as it is. I want to keep my heart open to those soldiers, too.
It's pretty clear that there is boundless beauty and joy to be experienced as we open more fully to the Sacredness of Life. It is also clear that an incredible amount of grief can emerge as our heart opens to the immensity of the Human Condition. Although most of us are trained to shy away from feeling that, as our meditation practice develops we can move gently toward opening to what Chogyam Trungpa calls "the genuine heart of sadness" more readily. We begin to see that what breaks our heart also is that which heals our hearts.
It may not seem that just sitting down for a few moments to focus our awareness on the process of breathing in and breathing out has much to do with all this, but it does.
At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it--or not!
See you Monday!