Do any of you feel like you are on a roller-coaster emotional ride these days, Dear Readers? I know I certainly do. One day, one moment up, or at least holding steady, then the next– bam, slam, and down again. Awake again at 4 am, I finally decided to get up and at least make an attempt at something other than sleeping. The buzzing from an old fluorescent light in the kitchen kept me company until there was a horrendous crash, bringing the framed picture on the wall over said light, down into the kitchen sink below in pieces. Weird, right? Until some moments later, our landlord-upstairs neighbor and friend Bob knocked on the door, asking if we could hear a strange buzzing noise. This was just after 5 am. Sheepishly I mumbled, ‘oh, yeah it is the old kitchen light I have on, couldn’t sleep, so sorry,’ and quickly turning it off again, proceeded to sit in the darkness with only the computer screen for company. Not the best way to begin a new day.
Today was a whirl of emotional states, mostly on the low end of life’s spectrum. I watched myself go through grief, anger, overwhelm, confusion, blahness, and other such things. By the afternoon I was so tired of myself that I walked over to the part of town where others are also experiencing similarities, known as Colfax Avenue. At least there I could see that I am far from alone in my suffering. First I went to the women’s place, which is a large three story building containing kind-hearted volunteers and helpful women who are helping other women who aren’t having such great lives at the moment. There I received information about all the various services and resources available to me, made a couple of appointments for next week, and left feeling slightly better. From there, I walked a couple of blocks down to Urban Ministries, which is a truly wonderful place. They offer help for the homeless and basically anyone who needs some humanity, in the form of a food pantry, legal aid, help with obtaining ID and birth certificates, job information, computers, the use of telephones and one’s own voice mail box, and access to other resources a person who is down on their luck might need. Today I was there to see about using their food pantry, seeing as ours was a bit empty, as well as my purse. An hour later, I had been given not only an amazing and healthy array of all kinds of wonderful food (thanks to the local Whole Foods market who gives their nearly out-of-dates and perishables to them each week), but also a very kind and friendly young woman was there to listen to my rant and my rage today. I entered nearly in tears, and left with profuse blessings on my lips.
The past weekend I attended a Kadampa Buddhist meditation and talk. The leader spoke about anger, and its cousin, aversion. She said that whenever we have the impulse of No, I don’t want this, and want to push it away, that is a form of anger which has not yet manifested outside of ourselves. As always in Buddhism, the invitation is to look at whatever it is that comes up in the soul, or the mind, acknowledge it, and then simply let it go. Simply let go. Of course, this is the tricky part. Today as I spoke with the young intake worker at Urban Ministries, I realized a kind of vehemence in my words. I had thought I was simply discouraged, sad and frustrated, yet my words once out of my mouth, told me how very angry I am, how helpless I feel. There is so much need in the world now, so many hurt humans walking around not having a clue what to do, where to go, how to fix themselves or anyone else. We are a broken people. Yet, if we ourselves are okay enough, getting by alright, managing our lives even barely well enough, then it becomes easy to simply forget our less fortunate brothers and sisters on the street. What I am finding out now, living in Denver, is that there are many people who are in need. And there are many people who are doing what they can to help. There are hundreds of charity organizations in the greater Denver metro area, working at every level to raise up our brokenness, to offer help, both material and emotional, to the youngest, the oldest, and everyone in-between.
As I walk through the streets on these mostly sunny January days, I see myself reflected back in all the faces– on the bus, in line at the grocery store, everywhere I look I see the human condition. They are me and I am them– we are all part of a great organism, we are each important to the whole. If the man on the street is without a home, money, and self-respect, then a part of me is also. Conversely, it must also be true that the ones who are extraordinarily blessed with wealth, beauty, and every material object their heart desires, also dwell within me somewhere. Inexplicably, it is much more difficult for me to experience them inside of me than the ones who are hurting. Obviously I still have much more soul work to do.
My heart is wide open and vulnerable now, more than ever before. Perhaps this is why I have days like today, where I so profoundly feel the pain of the world within my own personal anguish. Yet I would rather it be this way, than to have a closed heart and mind, unable to empathize or be compassionate. There is nothing else to do: once one’s mind and heart are awakened, there is no going back.