Near the end of the book I’ve been studying, “Caring”, there is a passage that surprised me and caused me to review a deep seated tendency I observe in myself. It is the tendency to put off to some disembodied future all celebration and sense of appreciation for what is already here. This robs me of a starting point from which to view the future. So I am obliged to stand on shore and watch as an ocean liner sets sail; while I dream of standing on deck where the passengers, whose company I would love to join, wave in my direction.
What most surprised me about the passage was that it includes five statements, all written in the past tense, which express the very hopes that I always put off to the future.
The context in the book (“Caring” by Tarthang Tulku) was that people we know might say to us, “There’s something different about you these days. You seem wiser and kinder. What happened? How did you change?”
That has not happened for me. So that part of the passage remains a hope for the future; the hope that something already underway might one day cause a visible transformation in me. But the remainder of this passage provides a response I would love to be able to give, should such a moment ever arise and someone I know says, “How did you change?” Then I could respond:
“I practiced caring awareness and did my best to love myself. When I was able to do that, I discovered goodness in myself that I wanted to protect. Then I began to notice that same goodness in others. “I learned through my own imperfections: that is how I got this knowledge.”
As I try to accept that some of this is true to how I am now living, I am helped along by the recognition that so many people I know already live like this. And I have no trouble recognizing this goodness in them.
I hope you know who you are.
You are caring for children, for grand-children and for parents. You are caring for your friends, including those who have fallen on hard times, and you are leaving room in your busy and difficult lives to do so. You are caring for your spouses as they age. You are bringing into your work a desire to be of help and to share your skills with those who are in need of them. You are caring for our world, so full of sadness.
Let’s all try to learn that most difficult task: lets learn to care for ourselves. Let’s learn to swim in a time that embraces the past, the present and the future. From this day forward, let’s give thanks for the past that has carried us here, like a ship might carry us to the shores of a new, unexplored land–setting us down so that we can explore this beckoning future together.