I do hope to let myself care

I walked past “my” tree today, placed my hands on her wet trunk and looked up. As I did, her branches dripped with wet rain. The drips fell onto my face and for a moment it seemed as if her tearful drips became my own.

Yes, I know trees don’t cry when they get wet, it was simply rain water dripping down (although a tree can “weep” when its roots get injured by bacteria) and yet in that moment of me- and-tree-oneness I experienced a shared suffering.

As I continued my walk I pondered this brief experience. My thoughts turned towards the situation in the Ukraine and the huge suffering that is happening with people there… Intense, deep, searing suffering, suffering that is beyond words to describe it. 

How could I possible respond to that depth of suffering? A question that had been brought to me already during the week by those I accompany. What can I do? How do I not feel overwhelmed by their plight?  What do I do with the guilt I feel in knowing this is happening whilst continuing on in my comfortable life?

Big, real, raw questions. 

We can end up feeling paralysed by the enormity of it, struck down by our guilt, drawn into comparison.

Maybe that ancient tree offered some wisdom . 

We all suffer. To be human is to suffer. 

Is it possible to join with those precious Ukranian people in their suffering? Can I extend myself towards them in love and be willing to suffer with them even if it’s in a small way? In doing so am I saying that if you suffer we all suffer because we are all humanity? It may feel incredibly small and insignificant and yet… could there be something mysterious and real in this willingness. 

I won’t turn away from your plight, I won’t harden my heart. I will open it and allow the pain of your situation to move me. I will then reach towards you knowing that you and I are one. 

I’m reminded of the spiritual practice of lovingkindness which goes like this…

I bring to mind a situation where suffering is present, in this case the people of the Ukraine and Russia.

I breathe in their suffering, deeply, intentionally.

I breathe out love. 

I repeat.

Simple, powerful and, I believe real. I actually do believe that there is a transmutation that happens within The Divine nature of my being (or to word it another way, the Spirit within me) that literally transforms breathed in suffering and turns it into love that I then breathe out. 

I know it’s simple, I know it seems really inadequate in light of the enormity of the situation. I feel that tension, I feel the complexity, the guilt, the longing to do more, the wordless groan… but perhaps this can be something we can offer, when words aren’t enough, when we don’t know what words to use when we pray, when we are limited in what else we can offer.

I connect my suffering to yours, I say I am one with you, we are in this together, you are not alone.

I end by offering a beautiful poem written by a friend that captures my faltering words in deeply poetical and invitational language.

This morning a candle
seems too tenuous a thing
to carry my prayers for you.

But your fragile flame, too,
(and mine, and all of ours)
could falter at any moment.
Knowing this,
denying this,
I pray.

The truth is I have no certainty
and no proof
that one pillar of beeswax
and my flickering presence with it
can or will make any difference at all.
I am here.

I don’t pretend to believe
I can control anything.
But I do hope
to let myself care.
And I do hope
to offer myself,
soft pillar and frail wick that I am,
in the service of Light

Rachael Barham

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