Every one has troubles to contend with in this life. We have minor irritations and major frustrations, enormous losses and tiny cuts, swamps of disappointment and oceans of sorrows.
Every one has blessings to enjoy with this life. We have the gifts of breath and kindness, the chance to create more love and to live generously. We can hold and create goodness, nurture a better world, learn and change.
We have both choice and creative possibility in how we live with the troubles we have. We will have sadness and anger and resentment and self-pity, even. But we can also make greater happiness, greater goodness.
There are five practices that each of us can try out and grow skillful in, five practices that have no financial barriers to doing and that can be carried out by people of every religion and none. Truthfully, there are probably more than five practices, but these are the ones I know from my own life with troubles and with blessing.
1. Act for the greater good. Tending the earth, tending the city, tending a person reconnects us to our own power and abilities, to doing something good, and to reconnecting us with the whole.
2. Make friends and spend time with them. Sitting around, laughing together, is one of the most precious of blessings. Expensive outings and gear are not required, only the heart to treasure another person.
3. Be grateful. Bing Crosby sings in Holiday Inn, “I’ve Got Plenty to Be Thankful For”. Naming and focusing in on what we can truly be grateful for, all the little and big things, eases and opens our hearts and returns us to a place of well-being.
4. Live compassionately. In my own struggles with yearning for revenge (or “justice”), I have to choose compassion, remind myself, and turn to an act of compassion to reopen my heart. What are some acts of compassion? A kindness to a stranger, mercy when you could press the advantage and triumph, an act of charity all qualify. Learning to name compassionate acts and then live into them is part of growing this practice.
5. Connect to the goodness going on. Others all around us and with us are acting compassionately, lovingly, and for the greater good. Seek out and share their stories. Give thanks for them and help them out. You’re not the only one hurting. You’re not the only one who’s living for greater hope and greater love in this world. I find that really good news, making the difficult easier to bear and the good easier to share.
The good life may be summarized: share and bear. Share the kindness and the joy, the love and what you have. Share the sorrows, too. Bear one another up, and bear on, doing all we can to ease each others' burdens, to add to the love in this world, and to act each day as part of the greater good.