It's Universal, Not Personal!

“When we begin to respond to discomfort instead of reacting to it, an enormous change occurs. We begin to experience it not as just ‘our’ pain but as ‘the’ pain. And it becomes accessible to a level of compassion perhaps previously unknown. When it’s ‘the’ cancer instead of ‘my’ cancer I can relate to others with the same difficulty, and I can send compassion into the cancer rather than helplessly avoiding it and turning its pain into suffering.

As this ‘experiencing of the personal in its universal aspect’ develops, we feel a great weight lifted in what can now be seen as ‘the’ mind. When it’s ‘my’ depression, ‘my’ cancer, ‘my’ AIDS, I am isolated from the source of my greatest comfort. I am locked in with my suffering and unable to give it any succor. But when it’s ‘the’ depression, I take it less personally and am not too threatened to investigate it. When it’s ‘my’ unworthiness I feel unworthy to investigate it. When it’s ‘the’ unworthiness – the pain that so many struggle with – compassion flows naturally toward it. It is said that we must love ourselves before we can love anyone else, and this is true. But the opposite is also true: We must love others before we can love ourselves, before we can even recognize ourselves. Seeing the universality of our shared condition offers a broader path of healing on which to continue.

… When it’s ‘the’ pain, it has the whole universe to float in; when it’s ‘my’ pain, I’m standing alone in it.”

Stephen Levine. “A Year to Live. How to Live This Year as if it Were Your Last.” Bell Tower, NY, 1997.

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