Sunday, August 4, 2013

limits to love

Sangham saranam gacchāmi
I go for refuge in the Sangha

there are three jewels of practice. the buddha, dharma and sangha.

sangha, community, support network... I find that the more that I morph, the more challenging it is to keep a strong support system around me.  and the more I grow, the more distant I become to a life that once defined me.

last night, I had a glimpse into the heart of someone who chooses self-destruction.  it was a repugnant place, and I'm not interested in going there ever again myself or vicariously through someone else.  he expressed that my inability to accept him in his tortured and painful state was unfair.  the truth is, I'm not totally sure he was wrong.  it seemed like a recurring theme last night, all these people I call friends focused on the conversation of a lifestyle that seems like decades behind me.

in the past six months, I've shed many skins.  this has been one of my greatest spiritual growth spurts in many years.  I can't say it was all positive, not at all.  in this latest effort to peel layers, I shed many people out of my life.  one of the many lessons I discovered was, people that I've supported aren't really equipped or prepared to return the favor.  if I was to go forth in this raw new layer of skin, I would have to define a new support system to rally around me.

there are people who arrive in my life and I believe them to be those kinds of friends that are going to be there forever.  because I love my pals unconditionally, I make the deluded assumption that this unconditional love will always be reciprocated.  but it isn't, that isn't our nature as people... my ability to accept people and all of their flaws isn't a shared trait among human kind.

the buddha teaches us to love everyone unconditionally as one would love their own child.  in no way am I remotely capable of this, but yet there are certain people who scrape the surface of my heart who seem to make this kind of metta practice very easy.  just because I'm able to offer them metta, doesn't mean they can give it back in the same way.

as I continue to dedicate myself to consistent daily practice, I'm going to have to continue opening up space for sangha.  this may seem to look easy for me on the outside in, but I confess, transitioning from the comforts of isolation to opening myself to new friends has been frightening and challenging.  instead of quickly closing off, I've been reaching out, making connections, sparking plans, and getting myself back into life with people that share my curiosity for practice and growth.  I'm putting effort into reigniting the friendships that have supported me, and cultivating new ones.

but what do I do with the friends with whom I can't be around anymore.  how do I detach for survival without causing them the pain I've felt plenty of times?  I'm working on this.

I've been torn on how to communicate effectively.  people have their issues with emotional intimacy, trust, and creating time in the real world.  without question these things are tremendous challenges for me too.  I don't want to just pull away from someone who needs to be supported.  sadly, I don't think I'm strong enough to carry anyone who's headed in a downward direction, when I've got myself to press onward and forward on the path to ______________________ (fill in the blank). it feels hypocritical to need to detach from friends who are struggling, but our priorities are so clearly different what use is support when the end goals are somewhere far away from one and other.

right now, I'm focused on practicing metta on myself more than anyone else.  I sit, observe and say the phrases during meditation over and over just to me.  this could quite possibly be one of the hardest things I've ever had to take on while on the cushion.  I mean, I can sit with just me... but sit with me and send metta to myself with no one else?  wow, man this is freakin hard!

I'm also fervently cultivating new sangha, a group of people who are dynamic, working towards bettering themselves and the world around them.  people who have the capacity to care and love me the way I deserve to be loved, and make it so very easy to love them more.  Making room for human interaction in the real world isn't easy.  It's something that takes tremendous effort on my part, one that I'm willingly putting a lot of energy into.

To be able to love people unconditionally, sometimes we have to create boundaries, distance and space.  It sucks having to push and pull in this way.  It almost feels manipulative.  It's self preservation that motivates me, I think.. like when your'e supposed to put that oxygen mask on yourself in that emergency flying video... before you put it on your kid.  If I'm not properly supported by the right sangha, how can I be of service and support to friends and people I love?


Cutting the ties with the people who can't give me the oxygen I need only opens up space for people who can give me so much more... and from afar I'm going to have to pray to the god that doesn't exist that the people I need to distance myself from find their way to joy, happiness and freedom from the fetters that drag them into the hells of darkness.

Dayum, it's way too early to be writing... I need a cup of coffee ASAP.


Unknown said...

amen sister.... right there with you. sigh.

Elissa Jane Mastel said...

(( hugs )) onwards and upwards my unknown friend :)

Julie Kirkpatrick said...

Julie K. here... I love reading this.. so good. Ram Dass says that Neem Karoli Baba taught "Love Everyone, and Tell the Truth." Ram Dass says that he used to keep a photo of George Bush on his altar to practice this teaching! I think that having sangha is so important SO when we are strong enough in our practice we can hang out with anyone and be "ok." All the judgements of "good" and "bad" etc. ultimately lead no where because how do we know? Really, the path someoone takes may be just the perfect path that they must take whether we like it or not. But who we spend time with will help keep us focussed in our own thoughts in the direction we wish to go. Keep writing!

Elissa Jane Mastel said...

hey @julie... it is an honor to have YOU in my sangha woman... sending lots of love and light to you you you xoxoxo!!!