Bodhichitta – Awakened Heart, Open Mind

 

My oldest child, Alanna,  is leaving for college this month.  She is ready and I am beyond happy and excited for her.   However, I cannot deny that mixed with joy is a  quality of sadness threaded throughout this process of letting go.   Alanna is leaving the nest,our nest.  Her world will expand immensely as she meets new people and explores amazing opportunities.  I sit at times breathless with the realization that everything will feel different and look different at home.    Comfort comes with the knowledge  that I am not alone.    There is a kindred spirit  throughout our community of all those who have sent their children, nieces, nephews off to preschool, camp, college etc..     The essential teaching of Bodhichitta is available in this situation as well as in all others.   At any time we have a choice to soften our heart and move with grace and openness  or to  harden our heart and shut down in fear.

My teacher, Parvathi Nanda Nath, taught me that  if your heart is broken enough times, it will crack wide open revealing the rawness of genuine sorrow…a feeling of connection  to all who have ever loved, all who have ever lost.   This teaching of compassion truly resonated with me and from here my interest in understanding how to awakenbodhichitta bodhichitta began.    Parvathi  often referenced  Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, author, and Tibetan meditation master and encouraged me to study Pema’s teachings.

Bodhichitta, the awakened heart, is accessible to all of us.  It is often experienced as an expansive feeling of deep  connection to something much greater than our individual self.  Bodhichitta is also known as the “soft spot ” of the heart.  This tender and vulnerable “soft spot”  of the heart  exists in all of us, but is often shielded by walls we have put up due to  past painful experiences.  These walls protect us from getting hurt.   Openings or cracks  in the walls begin to appear because of our inherit desire to love and care about others.   Opening the heart and awakening compassion is possible if we can find these cracks in the walls, and come into contact with our “soft spot”  and move from tenderness and love rather than from fear.    The knowledge that we are not alone  whether in suffering or joy and this feeling of shared humanity can be experienced more fully as our capacity for love, compassion and joy expand without boundaries.

“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”
Pema Chodron

 

There are several practices available to help cultivate bodhichitta including the Loving Kindness meditation ( see Dec 21012 blog), Tonglen and Compassion practice.   Pema Chodron  book ” The Places that Scare You” offers several practices that support awakening Bodhichitta.   To learn more about Pema Chodron  please visit www.pemachodronfoundation.org

Namaste – Laura

 

 

 

 

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