The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it. – Henri J. M. Nouwen
I admittedly struggle in my life’s work as a global educator. The systemic issues of poverty, suffering and inhumane labor practices at times shackle my heart and mind with an unbending futility.
I must constantly move into some form of mental reconciliation, referring to Jesus’ instruction to be in the world but not of it. None of us see, hear or experience the entirety of infinite intelligence at play, what some would call our infinite karmic blueprint. We only see what’s in front of us through our limited physical vision. I falter when responding from "in the world" perspective without partnering with what Ram Dass termed "keeping your heart open in hell". Faith makes the suffering bearable; action helps the sufferer.
The cultivation of a compassionate heart requires it to be both broken and operational. It’s like the monk who is...
Ram Dass wrote about visiting death row inmates in San Quentin. He recalled those visits to be equal to visiting the holiest of monasteries. As they meditated together, he described light pouring out of their hearts and how the whole experience was immeasurably profound. Those on death row, he said, “had been pushed into a situation that cut through their melodramas”. It was as if they had discovered the truest form of freedom. When moving to the cell blocks of those given life sentencing, the result, he said, “was nowhere near the same”. These prisoners showed cynicism and doubt, offering putdowns and sarcasm.
He wondered, in the most bizarre paradox of examination, if those in death row would lose that inner freedom if transferred to the life sentence cellblock.
I’m always moved and fascinated by this story for I see my own behavior in those of the prisoners. I often examine the relationship between surrendering and freedom. For me, it seems...