Day 17 Becoming a Bodhisattva
If we make a sincere effort to practice alleviating our inner suffering and the suffering of others, we too become bodhisattvas, awakened beings. We support our family, friends, and coworkers, and help them to manifest as bodhisattvas; we do this for the entire world and for the happiness of all beings. If through your practice you become a bodhisattva, those around you will see that beauty, genuine spirituality, and true love are possible. Living like this, you are happy and will become an inspiration for others.
This all sounds great and it all sounds a bit too saccharin sweet at this moment. How do I even begin to alleviate suffering when each week seems to bring a new tragedy? How do I begin to alleviate suffering when it feels so big, so global, and so wrong?
I feel powerless. I hate feeling powerless. I am an optimist. I am the one who can find the silver-lining in a situation. Where is the silver-lining in another mass shooting? What is the silver-lining in another person subjected to any kind of abuse? What kind of silver-lining is there to be found in the increasing number of homeless individual in my city?
If I refer back to this lesson then perhaps I find some clues: Start by alleviating my inner suffering. So much of my inner suffering is about worrying. I think about things in the past that I wish could have been different and what I could have done better. I spend time ‘Future-Tripping’; thinking about what might happen. I attempt to solve problems that are not really yet problems and more importantly, are usually not mine to solve.
Being present helps, yet who knew it could be so difficult and so healing to stay in the moment. Last year, I found myself going about my day with a constant, low-level buzz of anxiety. It would stay with me as I went to sleep. It was there when I woke up. It traveled with me as I worked, shopped, spent time with my family. I realized that it was becoming my norm, my baseline, AND that something had to change. The simplest and most effective practice I implemented was to stop whatever I was doing and check in with the question, “Is everything okay?”. What I was really asking was ‘what is happening in this very moment’-Do I have a roof over my head? Are the kids safe and healthy? Is there food in the cupboard?
Big, obvious questions that immediately gave me a sense of relief from the anxiety both because the questions I asked myself are the really important questions and in order to respond I have to be present.
Lastly, I can’t expect to become a bodhisattva overnight. I can tend to be impatient. Once I identify a problem then I want to fix it, immediately if possible. However just as I have made progress with my anxiety, I have to check in with myself regularly to keep the anxiety from taking up permanent residence. My being grounded allows me to make better choices and be of service to others. My being present is the key for connecting with others.