As I sit to write this blog, I am drawn to think about my dear Teacher Sudharma.  She was the most resilient woman I have ever known and the most honest with both herself and others.  She was a simple, humble, self-taught, honest, and loyal woman….all traits difficult to find in our modern-world Teachers, mostly consumed by money, vanity, fame, greed, misconceptions, and dishonesty.  With so much going on in the world at the moment, it can be easy to feel that survive rather than thrive is the new normal.  Reflecting on Sudharma’s personal traits led me to write this blog.

In even the worst landscape of human darkness and difficulty there shine beacons of light.  They are not necessarily cast by particularly powerful or holy people who possess grandiose strategies for changing the world.  They most often radiate from simple, ordinary people who in their intimate encounters with tragedy, injustice, and terror have been transformed and have learned how to respond to the world around them with the simplicity and power of their faith, love, and compassion.  The Dhammapada (a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form) often notes that there is no power greater than the power of love, no shadow that can withstand the power of compassion, no demon that can overwhelm the power of openheartedness.  Through their example our eyes are opened to the possibilities of bringing light to our own shadows.

Whether we are in positions of power, or in poverty, we will be tested.  We will be asked to summon the spirit of greatness, of compassion, of openheartedness over and over again in our lives.  Perhaps this is what we are here for, to learn this single lesson.  In the end the strength we have to fall back upon is not our credentials or accomplishments or the ideals we hold but our humanness itself.  Our basic ordinariness underlies all our attainments and experiences.  The fact is that we, too, like the seasons and the sun and the moon and all the other living creatures, are born and die.  We awake each morning and go to sleep each night; we eat and walk and feel in deep ways the preciousness and mystery of our very humanness.

We also hold within ourselves an extraordinary precious gift…..our capacity to be aware.  This is the blessing that allows us to make choices, to sense the possibilities open to us.  It empowers us to learn and grow through life’s tests rather than be swallowed by them.  The gift of our awareness allows us to nurture our capacities for forgiveness and understanding rather than be driven by self-protective instincts, hostility, and fear.

We have not yet plumbed the depths and possibilities of our own awareness.  How close can we come to another person?  How deeply can we feel the wind that seems only to brush us with its touch?  How attuned can we be to the changing rhythms of our universe?  What is the extent of freedom?  The only thing that is certain about awareness is that it removes all distance, it shatters mistaken notions and superficiality, it connects us with the heart of all life.  It allows us to meet the tests in our life with greatness of heart.

As you go through your day, reflect on the challenges in your life.  Bring to mind the times you have been tested, and recall the forces that you have brought to those tests.  What would it be like to touch those tests with your utter humanness, to be vulnerable and through that ultimate honesty to be strong and balanced in your heart?  Has worthiness, ambition, fear, or pride prevented you from learning from and growing through the challenges?  What other qualities do you have to bring to those same challenges that would truly make a difference?

It is so much easier to grow love and compassion than it is to grow hate and fear.  Yet all too often we find ourselves drifting away from our humanness.  Love is so much stronger than fear and it is something that every one of us carries an unlimited supply of.

There is no better time to love like there is no tomorrow, grow in grateful awareness, and to beautifully bloom in the absolute face of adversity.