The winter-retreat here in Tilorien Monastery has ended and we are slowly emerging into a world that has changed a lot in the last three months. It is a shock to hear of the war, the inflation and suffering that we have been blissfully unaware of, at least for the most part.
But hopefully we also emerged a little wiser. Sometimes it is needed to take some time to just be with the Dhamma, to explore the mind, to see the bigger picture of Samsara. Wars have been part of human life for ever and for 77 years we have been so lucky here in Western Europe not to have a war right here. That is something we can be very grateful for. It gave us the chance to develop, to explore, and to meet the Buddha’s teachings.
Sometimes we start to take our luck for granted. We forget to look at the suffering in other countries and to contemplate the truth of suffering. We can get depressed for not having what we would like, for missing any purpose in life other than to work hard to “get better”. We forget to just stop, and look, and be here in the present moment. Happiness is to be found right here: in the present moment. Just stop, watch, listen …. Do you hear the little birds in the trees, do you see the blossoms, do you feel the warmth of the sun … What is that like? If we stop long enough we find that things are not so bad and we become grateful for the beauty that is to be found in small things.
Even in times of war, we can practice loving kindness and compassion. Not just to those around us who suffer, the refugees, the injured, but also to those who harm others. We do not have to approve of a person’s bad actions, but we can feel compassion towards them. They too are just a suffering being trying to find happiness. If we can come from a place of true compassion and acceptance for that person, we can act in an appropriate way without anger or resentment. When we have anger, we hurt ourselves first of all. It is like holding a glowing coal in your hand, ready to throw it at the person who has done harm. We burn ourselves much more than that person. So too, if there is a person who harms others, that person is hurting themselves. That is something we can have compassion for. And with that compassion, we can enact change in a more wholesome direction, maybe even help that person to see and to change their ways.
It is not something that comes easy to us to do this. We have to practice. But with time, the practice becomes easier and more natural. This way, in all situations, we can find a way to practice Dhamma, to learn a better way to respond to the things that life throws at us.
Retreat time is very valuable to help us learn. We don’t all have to go into retreat for so long. Even if it is just a day, a week, it is all very valuable. Just to just check in with yourself, give your self some space, some time to recuperate, to relax, to just be.
Take care of yourself first and then you can take care of the world.
With much metta