This May, my husband Michael and I met our young adult children in New York City. Besides enjoying walking through museums of art, we saw a metropolis waking up from its long pandemic shock and slumber, re-creating itself in a new era.
We learned about the concerns, worries, and excitements of our children and their friends. I, for one, found out there is a huge amount of uncertainty in the big city—a re-shuffling of values, great beauty, and plenty of horror at the same time. When I saw so many living in the street, stores boarded up, and countless others seemingly aimless, wandering around, I felt a deep ache in my heart.
How can we live the Bodhisattva path: the path in which we see ourselves as part of the interdependent, unified field of life that leads us to recognize how important it is to be fully present to our suffering world? That seems what the world needs, from all of us.
It helps to feel love for ourselves and others, as well as to experience the whole interdependent field of awareness. How do we do this in the long run, in a deep way, so that such an attitude becomes sustainable? How can we walk our world and hold that kind of attitude?
We need to find a path, a heart-centered approach, that is informed by Western as well as Buddhist psychology and practice, and any other wisdom tradition that can contribute. We need to find a path that is complex yet simple, so we, as humans, can easily become helpful and useful for the evolution of our world.
First, we need to find support: a mentor or perhaps a caring community. Then, we must learn to rest our minds in the heart. As we get to know that feeling in our heart center, that place becomes a stable base. From there, we can set up a meditation that allows us to feel the whole field of experience. Every time we get pulled out of the wholeness of the heart-field into a thought, emotion, or painful sensation, we learn to reorient ourselves to the wholeness of the field, where we can rest. We learn to hold both the depth of our feelings as well as the spaciousness of the field around us.
As we become grounded in our hearts, we naturally feel kindness and compassion. From there, we can expand those feelings to the field of awareness. The heart is the center at every level.
The deeper our love for the world gets, the more motivated we become to find solutions to address suffering.
When we have a really open heart and experience situations we cannot figure out, then we naturally try to grow in such a way that we develop the complexity and capacity necessary to be of support. This growth shows a high degree of ego development in Western psychology, as well as what we call bodhicitta in Buddhist psychology. Now it becomes possible to touch into the ground of being, the web of life, to feel a sense of belonging and connection, and to help.
The bigger our heart is, the more permeable the structure of our self, and the more we can think beyond our self-interest. Slowly, our world transforms into a place all of us, as people on the planet, can feel at home.
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.