This week has been a week of dedications for me. It feels like every time my mother rings me she is telling me about some friend or past colleague who has been diagnosed with a long- term illness or has passed away or is struggling with mobility, etc… I suppose it comes with her age as she is in her late 70s and many of her friends are even older. My brother and I usually speak about how depressing it can be to endure this almost ritualistic citation of all those who have been touched with hardship. Yet, for my mother, it is almost like an honouring or a meeting with the suffering of those all around her.
But then she usually moves on with the ‘Oh well, I guess it’s just that time in my life where these things can happen’ to telling me about a recipe she has made or her trip to the gym and all of the weekly deals on at her local supermarket. She doesn’t hold on to it. She meets it, expresses it and then goes on living. (BTW- watermelons are on cheap in The Superstore in Winnipeg, Canada at the moment!)
My mother’s news has often seeped into moments of my practice. At times when I am sitting, I will start to think of someone she has told me about, an old neighbour whose young daughter has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, one of her fellow teaching buddies who is in palliative care, her own best friend who passed away before her time and I realize that it must be so difficult for my parents to watch their friends and colleagues suffer and lose their lives. It can leave me feeling helpless. So how can I honour? How can I meet this suffering in my own way? And go on living.
One of the ways I feel of some use in a constructive way is to dedicate my practice to specific people that my mother has mentioned, or indeed, to anyone who I might know personally who is going through a hardship (or even a joy). If you have been at any of my weekly sits, you might have witnessed me guiding the group to choose someone specifically that they know of that is struggling or even celebrating at the time and to dedicate the benefits of the practice to this person before sending out the benefits in ever-expanding circles. I do this because this is what I do in my own practice.
We made this dedication in this week’s sit and heard from some of the members of how this practice of dedication can be so helpful in that it can really aid the process of turning towards the suffering or joy of others in a safe way that is supported by the practice. It felt good to share and hear how dedication was having a positive impact amongst the group.
Then, later that night, I received a call informing me that one of my dearest friends in Canada had lost her mom the night before. She had passed away unexpectedly. Being so far away, that feeling of helplessness seeped back in but in a much more profound way as this loss was so close to my heart.
Immediately, I touched base with my friend and extended my condolences. However, there is only so much I can do from this physical distance. One way that I have felt a more tangible connection has been through my dedications of my practice to my friend, her mother and all those touched by this grief. Somehow, I feel an active part of the process that she is going through with the loss of her mother, which engages my empathic heart, and also relieves some of the turmoil I experience from not being more ‘there’ for her. I can turn towards the suffering in a way that I don’t get stuck in a guilt of not being there. This allows me to be with, but also to carry on with my everydayness.
So this week’s challenge is to dedicate. We can make a small dedication to anyone we know that is going through a life event at the end of our sitting practices, or even after a lovely walk through a beautiful park, or after a delicious meal, a good laugh, a healing cry. We can dedicate any part of our day that generates some benefit to those all around us- and specifically to those who we know may need a bit of positive energy. This can help feel like active engagement with the suffering and joys of those we know and care about. A ritualistic citation. A remembrance. And at the same time, we carry on living our moments.
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