Each Friday, we share three topical longreads in our Weekend Reader newsletter. This week, Lion’s Roar‘s Lindsay Kyte shares the meaningful moments that made her feel like family. Sign up here to receive the Weekend Reader in your inbox.
Jean is standing there, in her fabulous magenta silk flowered dress, with her arms wide open for a hug. I step forward and hug her with all my might, trying not to well up. This fierce, joyous 92 years young woman has no idea how much I need this hug. Just yesterday, feeling very alone, I stopped into a Catholic church, which was the religion of my grandmothers, so I could feel closer to them, even though they’re gone. I talked to them in my head, wishing they were still here to offer advice, believe in me, and distract me with their “foolish stories.” But something Rosanne Cash said in the September issue of Lion’s Roar magazine keeps echoing in my ears. Cash says in the absence of love you would get from your family, you find it wherever you can: “I somehow knew how to do that,” she says. “If somebody — an older woman — was nice to me in a store, I would take it in. I was smart about that. I still am.”
Jean was interested in every detail of your life and she listened while looking at you as if everything you said was remarkable. She told stories with a mastery of detail, sass, and humor — like the time she was dressed as an elf for a Christmas play, had a heart attack, and went to the hospital in an ambulance. While she was being wheeled through the waiting room on a stretcher, she says, “I saw all the people in there with their sad faces, and I wanted to cheer them up. I was still dressed as an elf, so I threw back the covers so they could see my outfit and started waving at them and yelling, ‘Merry Christmas!! Merry Christmas!!’ like I was wheeling by on a float in a parade. And they did start to laugh!” Jean advised us that it’s okay to be scared or sad or lonely sometimes, but don’t forget there is also always something you can laugh at, as well.
Jean’s laugh reminded me of Sylvia Boorstein’s. Now in her 80s, not only does Sylvia offer the brilliance of her training as both a Buddhist teacher and a psychotherapist, Sylvia also has a delight in life punctuated by an infectious giggle. During a Lion’s Roar retreat in 2015, I was walking in front of Sylvia, who was, in my mind, a renowned Buddhist teacher and I had better not mess anything up. Then I heard her giggle, and say in her warm voice, “Lindsay, dear, that sundress you are wearing is too long. It’s dragging the mud behind you. You need to get it hemmed. You are not very tall, just like me!” I laughed, my heart melted, and I relaxed. I felt like part of her family, someone she cared about, right down to the hem of my dress (she was right about that dress, by the way!) Like Rosanne Cash advises, I took it in, that offering of love. You can read Sylvia’s advice for being kind to yourself in times of confusion in the link below.
Another teacher I met who treated me like family was Thupten Jinpa. For two afternoons, he hosted me at his home, telling me his life story, while his dog laid at my feet. Again, I was nervous, thinking of how important this brilliant, kind man was. However, when the interview ended, Thupten Jinpa was concerned about my getting back to my hotel while navigating streets and subways I wasn’t familiar with. He hand-drew me a little map, explained it all in great detail, and then packed me a little snack pack for the journey with a bottle of water, a beautiful ripe peach, and some cookies. Like Rosanne Cash advises, I also took that in. It was so touching to be cared for like that. You can read Thupten Jinpa’s wonderful teaching on setting intention below.
And lastly, though we’ve not met in person, I am an avid follower of the teachings of Tara Brach. When I’m particularly in need of guidance, I put on playlists of her dharma talks, and her wisdom is a huge comfort to me. I sometimes fall asleep to one of her talks at night. To me, she feels like family—there with a new perspective when I am lost in confusion. And like Rosanne Cash advises, I take it in. You can read more about Tara Brach in the article below.
So when we’re feeling alone in the world, we can remember that maybe if the love you seek isn’t coming from the sources you would hope, it’s possible to shift your perspective. Maybe it’s coming from the older lady in the grocery store, or the renowned Buddhist teacher carefully folding a napkin for your subway snack pack.
—Lindsay Kyte, associate editor, Lion’s Roar
PS: Rosanne Cash’s conversation with Sharon Salzberg is in the September 2019 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine. If you subscribe to the magazine by August 8th (and live in the USA) you’ll start your subscription with this issue in your mailbox. Subscribe with digital access and you can start reading it right now.
When Sylvia Boorstein is in distress, she says to herself, “Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax.” Here, she explains why those words work so well.
I know that my suffering begins whenever my mind, for whatever reason — the enormity or the suddenness of the challenge, its own exhausted state — becomes confused. In its confusion, it seems to forget everything it ever knew. It tells itself stories, alternatively angry (“This isn’t fair!”) or pitiful (“Poor me!”) or frightening (“I can’t stand it if things aren’t different!”). No inner voice of wisdom (“This is what is happening, it’s part of the whole spectrum of painful things that happen to human beings, and you can manage”) can make itself heard to soothe the distress. I continue to suffer, stumbling around in stories of discontent, until I catch myself, and stop, and allow myself to know, and deeply feel, that I am frightened or confused or disappointed or angry or tired or ashamed or sad — that “I’m in pain!” Then my own good heart, out of compassion, takes care of me. It all happens when I am able to say to myself (I honestly do use these very words), “Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax. Take a breath. Let’s pay attention to what is happening. Then we’ll figure out what to do.”
Thupten Jinpa teaches us two great practices to start and end every day.
If our intention is to run a marathon, there will be times when we’ll ask ourselves, quite reasonably, “Why am I doing this?” We need good, inspired answers to get us over such humps. Conscious or unconscious, motivation is the “why,” and the spark, behind intention.
Western psychology and Buddhism — together they offer us a complete diagnosis of the human condition. Andrea Miller talks to psychotherapist Tara Brach, who works to combine these two disciplines into a powerful path to love and fulfillment.
To help us connect more deeply to our own inner life, with each other, and with the world around us, Brach teaches a technique called RAIN. This acronym, originally coined by Vipassana teacher Michele McDonald, stands for:
Recognize what is happening;
Allow life to be just as it is
Investigate inner experience with kindness; and rest in the
Natural state of awareness or nonidentification.