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the goal isn’t dangling above the messiness of life

“People think as a Buddhist you want to transcend the everyday, transcend the past, transcend the pain. But the goal isn’t dangling above the messiness of life, it’s sitting in it; you don’t want to transcend the past but be there fully. When you fully connect with your past… that’s when it begins to lose its ability to harm you—to control you. What you do is go to the events; you don’t judge them as good or bad, and you sit with them even if they scare you.” She added, “Especially if they scare you.” She offered a poignant example: “Let’s say your child is very ill. All you want to do is run away from the bad feelings. It feels as if they will kill you—that’s how afraid you are. You do anything not to feel them. But unless you feel them, they don’t go away. And here’s the thing: if you sit with those feelings, it doesn’t feel good, but it feels honest and true. When you stop running, you can be with your child who’s ill, which is where you want to be for yourself and for him.”

Because of his past

In 2006, my friend Pamela Krasney, an activist devoted to prison reform and other social justice causes, told me about a death row inmate who, she claimed, had been wrongly convicted of murder. He was unlike anyone she’d ever known—more conscious, wise, and empathetic “in spite of his past.” She corrected herself. “Because of his past.”