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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 25 and a sort of relief. It was not until I arrived home that day that I realized it was as if I had been holding and comforting George. Pondering this experience in the next few days, I remembered the Buddha’s response to a woman who was caught in unbearable grief at the death of her children. He told her that he could not help her with her present predicament; through countless previous lives she had been crying for lost children, her tears enough to fill all the oceans. Hearing him and recognizing that she’d already cried enough, she felt her grief begin to dissipate. I thought about all the brothers who have died throughout all time and all the siblings who have felt guilty or helpless at their brothers’ death. And I found myself breathing in regret and sorrow, not just for my own situation, but also in solidar- ity with everyone in the world who has lost a brother. I breathed in all our pain as I’d been taught to do in the ancient Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen, and breathed out compassion for all of us. As immediately as I had with my cancer friend, I felt the stability of strong human contact steadying me. Now, when I think about the past and am confronted with my complicity in someone else’s misfortune, I do this prac- tice. The regret doesn’t go away, yet I am returned to the feelings I experienced in the cancer support group. Comforting that young man, I realized that my brother is alive in people who suffer, and while I cannot reach back in time to change his reality, I can aspire to touch him in oth- ers, to make myself available to act with delicacy and compassion toward my fel- low human beings. Sometimes I cannot manage this brave maneuver, but at other times it is possible. Recently, after several days of practice with the Tibetan Buddhist nun Tenzin Palmo, I and others were invited to take the Bodhisattva vow with her. This I did, experiencing it as the continuation of what I had been doing with tonglen and a support for further explorations. I breathe in guilt and sorrow and breathe out peace. ♦