This changes everything

As I struggle to balance the fact that I live in peace and privilege while the people of Ukraine and others around the world suffer, I turn to the wisdom Thich Nhat Hanh.

Nhat Hạnh, who died January 22 at the age of 95, was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, author, poet, teacher and founder of the Plum Village Tradition. Known as the “father of mindfulness,” he was one of the world’s most influential Zen masters, promoting compassion, nonviolence and mindful living.

In the beautiful poem, Please Call Me by My True Names, Nhat Hanh, reminds us of the concept of interconnectedness. He suggests that we cannot separate ourselves from the world around us, even from those who do harm. This is almost impossible for the modern mind to understand!

But because everything is energy, we are inextricably intertwined with all other people, creatures and things whether we like it or not. This view, which is embraced by many spiritual traditions, makes little sense in today’s world that promotes individualism and self-interest, and it certainly does not fit current power structures.

The more I listen to my inner voice, the more I see the truth of interconnectedness. Yet that doesn’t make the concept easy for me. I wrestle with it every day and most often lose. It is especially difficult to see myself interconnected with people who intentionally cause suffering. Yet, the principle of interconnectedness tells me I am as much a part of that person as I am the person who is doing the suffering.

I often wake in the night or in the wee hours of the morning with a word or phrase in my head. I believe they are messages from the Universe. Today’s phrase was, “This changes everything,” and indeed it does. If I can go about my day remembering that everything is connected, that we are all one, I honor all that is and empower myself. Nature is not mine to use, we are interdependent. The person whose political views I disagree with is not wrong, we are seeing the same issues through a different lens. The dictator whose behavior I abhor is not evil, but his actions are. I don’t have to accept these evil deeds, but I do have to admit that I am capable of my own. Wholeness includes both darkness and light and as I expand my awareness, I expand my capability to hold it all.

Nhat Hanh says it so well in his poem. Here are the last three stanzas:

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

When I read Please Call Me by My True Names, I thought about Vladimir Putin who is also a Ukrainian child who is also a blade of grass who is also me. I can barely wrap my mind around it, yet believing it anyway changes everything. This–as Thich Nhat Han says–opens the door of compassion.

Perhaps that’s the best place to start.

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Jennifer Reeve

I am  a healing guide, a space holder and a reflector of your sacred light. My aim is to help you connect with your wild, expansive Divine essence so you may freely share your gifts with the world. I offer intuitive readings, non-touch energy healings, spiritual mentoring, embodiment practices, nature connection and sacred ceremony. It would be my honor to guide you toward your expansion.

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