Finding True Refuge

“Each time you meet an old emotional pattern with presence, your awakening to truth can deepen. There’s less identification with the self in the story and more ability to rest in the awareness that is witnessing what’s happening. You become more able to abide in compassion, to remember and trust your true home. Rather than cycling repetitively through old conditioning, you are actually spiraling toward freedom.” –Tara Branch in “Finding True Refuge”

Four years ago today, we lost Jack.  Each year, I think this day will get easier, but it still creeps up on me…the grief, the overwhelming loss of life through such senseless and violent means…..I end up weepy, irritated and exhausted as I cycle through the events of his short time on this planet.  Replaying those few months over again, I can say the experience, as a whole, was a tale that bore the worst of humanity, but also the best.  Knowing that someone, his own father, was capable of doing that amount of harm to a frail, sentient being, brings up feelings of anger and a distraught sense of helplessness.

Rather than run away, I have learned to allow those feelings to simply ebb and flow and as they subside I am able to shift my thinking to reflect upon all that Jack taught me in his short life….and all of the lessons that I have carried forward from that experience.  Because of Jack, I learned what forgiveness looks like, I learned what compassion truly is, and I learned so much about the dharma from my family blood line that put Jack in harm’s way.

Until I met Jack, I avoided this karmic pattern in my own life, using all of the normal distractions we all use as human beings, but after Jack died, the time came to bear witness to the suffering that all of those distractions were hiding.  When I let go completely, and all of the pieces fell apart, I could see more clearly the fractured causes and conditions that led Jack’s mother to make the mistakes she made, because I too had fallen for the wrong guy on more than one occasion and put myself into violent, life-threatening situations.

It wasn’t easy to look at these parts of myself, or to accept responsibility for the role that I played in the harm that was done to me, yet I knew that there was one common denominator in each of these situations throughout my life, and that denominator was me.  I didn’t treat myself with the utmost of care, so it was hard to expect anyone else to do the same.  Then, I got the idea to start looking at myself the same way that I looked at Jack, the first day that I laid eyes upon him in the hospital.  He was covered with so many bandages and tubes, yet I fell head over heels in love with that little boy.  Beyond the battered and beaten body, I saw how beautiful and truly perfect he was.

Why couldn’t I do the same for myself?

Then I learned I could. And I did. And, it didn’t happen all at once, but with lots of practice, it led me to freedom. Freedom from the patterns that led to suffering in my own mind and freedom to be able to truly love myself for all of the mistakes and the triumphs I had made.  I hope that it will one day do the same for his mother because we all deserve the chance to forgive ourselves and learn that we are all sentient beings.

Those we have held in our arms for a little while, we will hold in our hearts forever.