by Sharon Salzberg: Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg takes an honest look at the pain and heartsickness in the United States and offers a few words of hope.
I think more than almost anything, the quotation that has returned to my mind again and again in this last period of time is from James Baldwin, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
Pain abounds, and it’s often so hard to look at. Anyone who has practiced introspection—meditation, psychotherapy—has had to work to separate revelation of their damaging emotional patterns from humiliation about them. They’ve worked to not add shame to challenging states, to keep love and compassion toward themselves the predominant environment within which they can then keep looking.
It seems easier, and more automatic, to project that pain outward, to declare someone the “other” and at fault, to feel safe in the certainty that some view you hold is superior to all others, to finally feel you amount to something.
How to Meet Pain Without Fear
I don’t know how to get someone else to look at their pain—their fear, grief, sense of unworthiness—unless we are in the context of mindfulness training that they have chosen and I can be the voice of loving clarity that can help them through it. I don’t know how to effectively challenge vicious, destructive views of whole sections of society (though I’m committed to trying). I freely admit I can be wrong or deluded in my own views, but that doesn’t mean I think all views are equal.
The internet tells me the most popular thing I’ve ever posted is, “Compassion doesn’t mean we don’t fight. It means we don’t hate.”
Resourcing the often neglected but available strength of love and compassion [is] rooted in how I relate to the pain I am experiencing right now.
I think that taking a stand for the truth of interconnection, seeing our lives as intertwined rather than separate, maintaining the possibility of wisdom rather than delusion, and resourcing the often neglected but available strength of love and compassion are rooted in how I relate to the pain I am experiencing right now. I am being as honest as I can be, not adding some sense I shouldn’t be feeling what I’m feeling, recognizing that this is a part of the human condition and not just me, having compassion for myself and others, resolving to do the good that is in front of me even if it seems very small—and forging the path to turn pain into strength, clarity, and love.