Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Different Paths

I hope this finds you doing well and enjoying a happy holiday season. Some of my recent observations may be a bit of review for some of you, but I had to share the thoughts while they were fresh on my mind. Hopefully you will find them relevant in your life at this point as well.

We're all on different paths in life. In fact, there are no two people alike and, therefore, no two people who are taking the exact same path in life. We're all striving for something slightly different based on our own set of beliefs about the best way to get there. We also like to seek out people who share similar paths. We enjoy being in their company and sharing stories about our common path. But, no matter what paths we share with others, ours is still a little different. This makes it difficult to identify fully with another person and often leads to misunderstandings and even conflict.

However, we are all in fact on the same overall path. We're all divinely complex beings getting through life the best we know how, whether we realize it or not. Therein lies the heart of learning unconditional compassion. I think that acknowledging the commonalties that link us all is the best way to make us better people.

The conflict and suffering that arise as a result of our lack of understanding that we are all on a common path can be a vital teaching tool. If there were no suffering or conflict in the world around us and in our personal lives, we wouldn't be challenged to strive for something. It would also make it more difficult to learn gratitude for all we have to be thankful for since we would lack a frame of reference.

An example of this has to do with the way the Buddha started his journey toward enlightenment. He was brought up in a luxurious environment insulated from the harsh world outside the palace walls. When he was in his 20s he was allowed to venture out into the world where he came face to face with suffering people for the first time. He was so overwhelmed with it that he left his family and kingdom behind in search of a reason why there was so much suffering in the world. I suspect if he had never been confronted with suffering, he never would have found enlightenment.

So, suffering is never meaningless. It's a constant reminder that we are all human and prone to making mistakes. On a greater scale though, suffering can serve as a wake up call to the core love in us all that's just waiting to be let out. We have to love ourselves for doing the best we know how, and spread that love to everyone else doing the same thing, no matter how far off base they seem to be in our eyes.

Peace and love to you and yours during this holiday season, and may everything go exactly as it needs to for you to reach your ultimate potential. That's what's happening anyway, isn't it?
Take care,

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