Making sense of an unfair life: musings from my mat

poem by Mari Andrew

In such a connected world we often hear insanely unfair and distressing news all around us. Whether it’s Lismore friends who have lost their home in terrible floods, the terrors of Climate change or dear friends besieged in Ukraine in fear of their life.

How can any sane person make sense of such suffering and yet continue our seemingly mundane -and privileged- daily existence? Of course we can -and should- do what we can to help where appropriate. But that old chestnut of “acceptance” needs to co-exist alongside our activism and outrage if we are to function -and be of service- in life. Nature is cruel. Life is unfair. It was ever thus.

Being conscious of our own responses by cutivating self-awareness helps us find a measure of equanimity to allow us to better support ourselves and loved ones and avoid spiralling into despair and bitterness which serves no one. But like all of life it’s a fine balance between outright denial (being too selfish and uncaring) and being consumed by the horrors around us.

The practice of gratitude (being grateful for what you have rather than always wanting what you don’t yet have) is one powerful way to acknowledge the unfair brutality around us and find a way to live well despite it. This is NOT to be confused with “Toxic Positivity” which is so prevalent in naive practitioners (This is the “it’s all good, every set-back is a welcome lesson” school of new-age life!)

Instead gratitude helps us cultivate a sincere and heart-felt awareness of the suffering of others but still find meaning and peace in our daily lives… like still washing your face before bed. Gratitude is closely linked to the central Buddhist practice of compassion which is also called “the quivering heart at the suffering of others”. Compassion allows us to find a kind of Grace through this connection and empathy with others. And compassion inspires an ethical and moral compass to guide our actions and attitudes. Hopefully this practice allows us both to help and feel happy amidst so much suffering and offer us a direction for our actions which straddles the worlds of unfair suffering by others and the apparent ordinary (washing our face) life we lead.

There’s never been a better -or more important- time to find gratitude and compassion on your yoga mat or meditation cushion than now.

with love, gratitude and hope…

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