“I’m sitting in front of my alter, a little collection of plants, photos, crystals and statues that I love.
It’s early morning. I can feel tightness in my belly and my jaw.
Then I exhale.
It’s dark out, still. Everyone is sleeping.
My mind and body are vibrating with the love for these sleeping souls.
I can hear the dog start to shift around downstairs, getting restless. One more breathe cycle.
I am very gentle with myself and my thoughts because I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this home, these people, this life.
I don’t want this moment to slip by without my presence. But, alas it does and it will. They won’t always be here like this.
It won’t always be so sweet. The reality of family life, of the sacredness of the season. This too, shall pass.
Hands to heart and on my way into the day.”

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast with author and Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzberg and heard her say something that stopped me right on the sidewalk.

Sharon had a traumatic childhood filled with lots of pain. And, she said when she first heard the Buddhist teachings she was blown away because she realized that other people suffered too! Then, she went on to say that what was even more unbelievable than everyone suffering was that these teachings help you find a way out. Essentially, learning the Four Noble Truths.

The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha’s teachings, though they leave much left unexplained. They are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.”- PBS

Okay, so I stopped because I think that was the exact same experience I had.

I mentally and emotionally suffered a lot for the first 25 years of my life until I started studying these teaching and texts and it was like “Whoa, you mean everyone suffers at some level, at some point in life? You mean that girl who looks “perfect” and that family who has it “all together?” and that successful lady who seems to know what she wants? She suffers too? You mean people who went to great schools and people who did not go to college at all? We ALL suffer? Whoa.”

This concept was mind-blowing to me. I spent so much of my early years only focusing on what a victim I was and how life was not fair and blaming the world for my trauma. Meanwhile, I had a lot of things to be grateful for that I really did not pay attention to. And, this repeating of negative thoughts and emotions and outbursts caused damage to my relationships. Also, I remember getting into UPenn for grad school and thinking, ”Now, I have made it. I got into an Ivy League School. nothing can go wrong now.” I was so naive, so self involved and so immature in my own development even though I was studying groups and sociological concepts. I was still seeing everything in such a narrow lens.

The 2nd part of Sharon’s insights around the Buddhist teachings helping you find a way out of suffering was another life affirming concept for me, because it has been my experience as well. As simple as it is, I have always been eager to be stable and content emotionally and physically. So, having something simple to digest and study and learn and put into practice over time has truly been awakening for all areas of my life.

Teachings like Lovingkindness and The 4 Immeasurables and so many others (I love this cheatsheet) have truly impacted my daily life more than anything else, mainly because I found myself in these teachings, I found my way hOMe.

Another practical teaching that I share and think about a lot is that most of our suffering IS related to aversions and attachments. Wanting things to be different than they are or wanting things to never change (which is just not the true nature of being human). Since we are all in transition at all times, evolving our cells, our thoughts, our actual brains and identities can change and shift too. Are we re-generating each day or de-generating each day? And, can I stay close to the ways I want to be with the 4 abodes (lovingkindness, compassion, joy, equanimity). Can they penetrate my writing? My work? My presence with my loved ones?

Once I started to see and feel my own thoughts and patterns with attachments and aversions I began to see how much they cause suffering in others as well. And then, the release, the actual prescription put into action, not just concepts in a book. When we are aware of this and we learn to sit with the feelings and the discomfort of these huge emotions the intensity and the duration lift a bit. And, we learn to trust and listen to ourselves. We learn to feel life as we move through it and that helped me become less afraid of loving, living and leading.

Here’s a meditation for you:

Gratitude/Healing Life Practice
Start with meditation. Sit upright. Few breaths. Drop third eye. Breathe from back brain. Expand.
Feel the connection in your body, in your vertical alignment between the air above and the earth below.
Feel the lightness of the air above you.
Feel the rootedness of the earth below.
Feel the sensations arise. Relax. Breathe like the air is an internal massage. Creating the space you crave, trust the prana flow.

  1. Identify a difficult situation or person. Bring them close. Breathe. Sit relax. Feel the energy of the vertical line, connection to earth and sky. Expand beyond your realm, your aura. And, keep it close. If it gets too intense breathe it back a little. Create some space with your breath and then just keep playing with the closeness of this person/situation. Keep the person/situation in mind. WATCH THE FEELINGS. WATCH THE EMOTIONS. WATCH THE THOUGHTS. What is happening in the body? What is happening in the mind. STAY. STAY AND BREATHE.
  2. Now, do the same thing with an area of the body that needs some love. Hold it. Warm it. Love it. Send the gentle kindness of support and unconditional love beyond this earth, beyond what is possible. Don’t push past the sensations. STAY WITH THEM. Send them loving, kindness, space and earth, connection to all things, to others in the room, to the pain of the world. Just sit with it and breathe.
  3. Once you have done what you can with healing, love, breath and space and when you feel you have been present with all that is true, LAY DOWN AND RELAX. Sink and surrender. Let the whole back body melt. OMMMM

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