Ten Thousand Joys and Sorrows

My heart has been elsewhere these last few days...Imagining moments, experiences, breakthroughs, that were not my own...

The deep ache of loss permeates everything, but I know, as I prepare my comments for the class I will teach this week for another instructor - that the Buddha taught that we are each given ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows...

In the midst of my own sadness, two students connect with me and express deep felt gratitude for experiences and breakthroughs in a workshop that I had prepared them for...Yes, their gratitude melts into a joy flowering forth from my sorrow...

Tears flow, reminding me to keep my heart open - when what I want to do is to close up tightly. This is what I will teach this week, and it is what I must learn again, and again, and again - how to remain open, despite everything that life offers us...

I think of Tony Snow, the Press Secretary who died recently - born in 1955 like I was - who said that getting cancer had been his greatest blessing. He wrote:

"We like lives of predictable ease - but God loves to go off road...

He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension - and yet by His love and grace, we persevere.

The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise...


You are called...This is love of a very special order...The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense..."

These words come from a longer and very beautiful passage.

Each one of us bears our crosses and life lessons in very different ways...Yesterday I celebrated then engagement of a former high school student of mine - now thirty, a brilliant medical resident, who is also battling cancer. It could not have happened to a more beautiful person. Yet she is not putting her life on hold. It was a joy to see her and hug her over and over again. Later, on my drive home, I thought of the losses experienced by so many around me - and how mine seem to pale insignificantly in comparison...

Every sorrow contains a seed of joy within. Every loss somehow brings us a gift. Still, we must allow ourselves to feel vividly the sense of loss, and then give thanks for its fruits...

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