For such a time as this
“For such a time as this, we were born!”
People are waking up and many heed the call to turn the ship for all of us. In a time of turmoil in our world, when things fall apart, or we feel shocked about outcomes we did not anticipate, we may ask: “How did this happen? What can be trusted in life? And what can I do?”
Recently, I met a lovely woman who was very upset when she spoke:” What can I trust when the worst people take over and ruin it for the rest of us…When the vulnerable suffer the consequences of actions taken by those who don’t seem to care? And what can I do to stop the destruction of nature? I feel hopeless, overwhelmed, sad, and angry too. It makes no sense. And by the way, where the heck is Buddha, Allah, Spirit, the Goddess, or God in this?” I too have tasted this despair. Such questions and feelings often arise, when we are confronted with injustice, betrayal, cruelty, or insanity, whether in our personal life or on a global scale.
In such a time as this, it is more important than ever to remember who we are and act from that. Deeper than all appearances is a river of benevolence, the flame of compassion, love, and wisdom in us – that, which causes us to care, evolve, and engage in a present, connected, and wholehearted way in life. I experience this benevolence in trees, animals, and in people, even if it’s covered up or we feel disconnected – it is always here. This power and intelligence are far greater than any circumstances we face. In this, we can root, trust in and act from – for it is the truth at the core of life. It continues to flow throughout the ages, it shows up through the hands and feet of those who dare to love no matter what, and it is revealed when we see with innocent eyes. This innate goodness is beating in your own heart right now. This river beyond time and space, yet so intimate and near, is what connects us all right now.
And here we are held and loved, even if the world as we know it falls apart. Take solace and refuge in that, for it helps us to show up, to stand strong in our vulnerability, and it can guide us wisely through tumultuous times. This benevolence is accessible when we pause and connect when we ask and listen before we act: “What action is of greatest benefit for all?” We often don’t know. But taking a moment to lean into silence and listening with openness to the deeper intelligence that connects us with all of life, we will know how to sail the ship even through the biggest storm. And at that moment – by turning toward truth and taking fierce, loving action – you are the Buddha, God, a wise one,…who makes a positive difference for others too.
When I lived with Thich Nhat Hahn in Plum Village in France, he told me a story:
“Vietnamese people were escaping the war with little boats across the sea. But in the ocean, the pirates were just waiting for their victims- to plunder, kill, enslave or rape each one of them. One monk was rowing the boat with a group of women and children when pirates showed up. He asked himself: “What is the most compassionate way in this situation? Should he let the pirates take the women and children, therefore be true to his vow of non-killing? Or should he try to protect them somehow with his bodily strength; or simply pray, but be thrown overboard? His answer had to come fast for he had only a little time.
In stillness, clear guidance arose from his wise heart: If he could kill the pirate from a place of infinite compassion- meaning without hatred, anger, pain, projection, rejection, judgment, separation, or violence- he would save the pirate from terrible karma, he would stop greater harm being done and protect many people and those most vulnerable. He trusted this would be the wisest action to take. And in case he was wrong, he vowed to take on all negative results from his actions. When the boss pirate jumped into his little boat to capture the women, the little monk chanted the great mantra of compassion – and swiftly killed the unsuspecting pirate with his machete- in one fierce stroke it was done.”
Now, I am not suggesting to take a machete to kill folks that are seemingly different than us, even if you might feel righteously mad about their behavior:)) But we can affirm our interconnectedness by remaining open to people’s humanity when we have to take action to prevent greater harm. Challenging situations invite us to respond wisely, rather than react from fear, anger or pain. We can practice relaxing into stillness, taking good care of our own mind, body, and feelings, and ask ourselves: “What action or word is most helpful in my situation, in this relationship, or in our world? What can I do to turn the ship?” From here respond to others and situations, even when you are triggered, frightened or the waves rise high.
Hey, and if you fall overboard, or your ship breaks into pieces – you are not alone, one of us is out there on the great sea to lift you up. If pirates come to claim your boat, have the guts to make a stand. And sometimes you just have to let loose, cry, howl, laugh, kick up your heels, and dance. It helps. Let that light of yours shine strong, leave a blazing trail so others can see their way too. And may you trust the wisdom deep in your heart and act on that. Unabashed, courageously, and – together with many of us. And know, even in the greatest turmoil you are always held in love.
Wishing you strength, courage, and much joy as you sail in life. With Love, Nicola