Sadness – The Wound of Love

tear 1

Perhaps as we grow in sensitivity to our actual feeling/experience within this dream-like Saha world, a realm where all sentient beings are enduring some form of suffering, stress, and dissatisfaction, our own heart may begin to shed its accumulated armor and awaken to a humble vulnerability and tenderness. In its manifestation, this open tenderness might also be characterized by a certain quality of sadness. The late Buddhist author and teacher Trungpa Rinpoche described it this way:

“If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except for tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness. This kind of sadness doesn’t come from being mistreated. You don’t feel sad because someone has insulted you or because you feel impoverished. Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned. It occurs because your heart is completely exposed. There is no skin or tissue covering it; it is pure raw meat. Even if a tiny mosquito lands on it, you feel so touched. Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.”

There are some salient elements we can notice as we investigate this wound at the heart. For one thing, we can observe that the poignancy of evanescence, of impermanence, accompanies every experience. We soberly recognize that there is nothing which we can really claim as ours, nothing that we can grasp for long, nothing that we can cling to and possess, despite our most passionate ambitions and efforts.

The body itself comes with an expiration code, and even getting plenty of exercise and taking organic supplements, eating a vegan diet and thinking calm thoughts, is not going prevent old age, sickness, and death. Even the most beautiful day will eventually include a sunset.

Indeed, for a majority of humans currently on this planet, suffering in the gross forms of physical pain, hunger and thirst, injustice, warfare, and so forth are only infrequently interrupted by all-too-fleeting moments of pleasure and respite. The living standards for many in the burgeoning developing world are little improved from centuries ago, and in some respects, perhaps even worse due to environmental degradations and over-population.

For those whom we might consider relatively free of those traditional scourges, sorrow still takes its toll, often in the form of thwarted desires and expectations. The industrialized countries have witnessed an alarming increase in a wide variety of mental afflictions — the disturbing legacy of societies which have seemingly lost their moorings and drifted into pervasive anxiety, confusion, and hopelessness about existence itself.

Fear of the future and contagious discontent, antagonism and division among economic, religious, and political sectors, and distrust of corrupt and uninspiring leadership (among other factors) has led to more and more jaded attempts at escape via drugs and the media-fueled exploitation of every manner of distraction. One glaring consequence of such a breakdown is found in the suicide rates which continue to climb dramatically, especially among the young and disaffected.

Beyond all of that, however, and as dismaying as it all may be, there is something else to be recognized as we delve into the heart of this existential sadness. That is, even if our life and relations might appear to be functioning relatively smoothly, and even if our survival needs are well met and no longer a concern, and even if all the standard markers for a “happy life” are in place, there is still a core contraction that subtly dominates our consciousness and experience, remaining stubbornly untouched by all our efforts to eliminate it.

Indeed, as long as we are swept up in the kinds of challenges that most humans must face in their struggle to just get by, or alternately are just complacently going along to get along, we may not even be aware of (much less be willing to inspect) this more fundamental knot in the being. Nevertheless, it is actually the very source of all of our suffering itself — the clench or fixation generated by the sense of separate and limited identity which we typically imagine constitutes who and what we really are.

Truly, until the emptiness of our personal constructs is directly recognized, we will remain in a drowsy trance of mistaken identity, at the mercy of conditioning programs that keep us bound to the wheel. In such a state, we are little able to actually appreciate the rare and remarkable gift that sadness of the order being spoken of here represents. We are too bound up by self-interest, and cannot see beyond our fabricated concerns to the bigger picture. Our own complaining makes it impossible for us to hear and respond to the cries of the whole world.

Moreover, contrary to the glib happy talk bantered about by the preachers on the spiritual circuit, even seeing through and releasing all such fixated identities, me-stories, and contracting self-images does not “cure” the sadness inherent in our born condition. There is no such remedy, nor would we want one, if we were to genuinely become intimate with the kind of empathetic sadness being pointed to in this consideration – the living wound at the heart which ushers the Unconditional into the conflicted realm of human life and relationship.

Indeed, it is that very sadness which we have come here to deeply and thoroughly experience, all the way down into the cells of our feeling being. We want that because it represents our blossoming into a vividly compassionate relationship with existence that accompanies awakening at the heart. One might even say that such an awakening is the true purpose of all authentic spiritual systems, because only then is love able to reveal itself in its full potency, even transcending at last the provisional distinctions of self and other that ego-mind projects out of hope and fear.

Furthermore, this all-embracing tenderness arises simultaneously with both humility and gratitude. For example, the more gratitude which emerges as a vibrant quality or attribute of this unity consciousness, the greater is the circuitry of vital energy connectivity which allows the vibration of love to flow abundantly throughout the whole being, reinforcing pathways of pure grace.

Love is the most efficient conduit for energy exchange and transference there is. The greater our capacity to give and receive love, the deeper will be our immersion in the luminous essence of life itself. In this way, sadness is not so much transmuted into joy, but rather is revealed to be not other than joy in its infinite radiant fullness.

Such a seeming paradox may confound the mind of logic and reason, but is utterly obvious to the heart which bears the wound of love, the wound that heals all other wounds, As such, it represents both crucifixion and ascension. It brings down the Divine into this material sphere, and likewise elevates the human into its true Divine nature. As the great Persian poet Rumi once wrote: “The grief you cry out from draws you toward union. Your pure sadness that wants to help is the secret cup. Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. The whining is the connection. There are love dogs no one knows the name of. Give your life to be one of them.”

About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: Verses and ramblings on life as it is: Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: Verses on the Play of Consciousness: Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: Poems of the Mountain Hermit: Love Poems from The Book of Yes: Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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21 Responses to Sadness – The Wound of Love

  1. rahkyt says:

    Perfect. The heart of a true warrior of the spirit. Love you much, bredren.

  2. Beautifully expressed Bob.

    I weep for the vast majority of our species who never have and never will come anywhere near such a spiritual awakening as you have so eloquently described here.

    I would refer here to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs;

    Starting from the bottom:
    Physiological needs
    Love & Belonging
    Self Actualization

    As you point out ; “Indeed, for a majority of humans currently on this planet, suffering in the gross forms of physical pain, hunger and thirst, injustice, warfare, and so forth are only infrequently interrupted by all-too-fleeting moments of pleasure and respite. The living standards for many in the burgeoning developing world are little improved from centuries ago, and in some respects, perhaps even worse due to environmental degradations and over-population.”

    When your most basic physiological needs are not being met, when you are watching those you love dying from thirst, malnutrition or bombs raining down from the sky courtesy of the more “civilized” world, it leaves no chance for even moving up to the next level of the hierarchy, Safety.

    From my observation, the remainder of humanity has only marginally moved beyond having their physiological needs met and most of the “civilized” world lives in a near constant state of fear for their safety and anxiety about their tenuous grasp on meeting their basic needs. Needs both real and imagined.

    Rare indeed are those individuals who have the opportunity and the will to move beyond fear and on to love & belonging, esteem and self actualization.

    Rarer still are those who have moved beyond “Self” actualization, and truly awaken to the crystalline realization that there never was a self to be actualized.

    For most of us, our only true spiritual responsibility is to grow as best we can where we are planted on this garden planet. I myself am but a humble gardener, doing my best to tend the rows, pull as many weeds as I can each day, striving for truth, beauty and authentic creative action in each moment within this waking dreamland.

    When I put my head on the pillow tonight, I will forgive myself for falling short and sleep in the comfort of knowing that there is at last no self to forgive. That this is all but a finite game within the infinite play of the eternal energy of the whole universe. Nothing is lost and nothing is gained, dreams arise, then fade away while the circle remains unbroken.

    Love you my brother. I am grateful that our paths have crossed here in dreamland.

  3. Thank you ((((brother))) Bob!

  4. Sky McCain says:

    Well said, Bob.

    I’m only just beginning to awaken to the deep and penetrating spirit of the Earth, Gaia to many, and higher self to me. There is also the foundational joy of being that penetrates our existence as an Earthling, a child of our great and powerful mother. Then, simultaneously, there is the feeling of suffering, suffering from all beings at the ecocide endemic among our species. Most species die when they eat out their environment until the environment recovers and a few survive. But our species multiplies out of control by colonizing and enslaving so many strictly for our pleasure. The kharma involved here must be horrific – but I am ignorant as to the wherewithal and extent of kharma.

    I am encouraged by this quote: “There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

    One just has to say: There is sadness, ah so. And, as a conclusion. We are not tasked to “fix” the illness around us. Our job is simply to keep our hearts open and anchored in the present moment for our strength is in the moment.

    Thanks for this sharing!!

    • Bob OHearn says:

      So well said, Brother — yes, to keep our hearts open and present. That is it in a nutshell! Thank you for sharing your wise and compassionate view!

      Love & Blessings!

  5. Bob OHearn says:

    “Many students, in their zeal to get to God, reject their incarnations. They reject their identity with themselves as human beings. They try to push away their incarnations in order to get to God. However, what you have to do is extricate yourself from attachment to it, not deny it. You have to honor it without attachment. The lack of caring often comes from the pushing away. It’s an attachment to truth without the bleeding quality, the relation to the horror, sadness, suffering as well as the joy and beauty of all of it.”

    ~Ram Dass

  6. Bob OHearn says:

    “God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
    then walks with us silently out of the night.

    These are the words we dimly hear:

    You, sent out beyond your recall,
    go to the limits of your longing.
    Embody me.

    Flare up like a flame
    and make big shadows I can move in.

    Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
    Just keep going. No feeling is final.
    Don’t let yourself lose me.

    Nearby is the country they call life.
    You will know it by its seriousness.

    Give me your hand.”

    ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours, I 59

  7. Bob OHearn says:

    “My teacher called this world ‘the great heartbreak.’ When we really begin to wake up to our true nature, we become more conscious of the suffering around us. We feel the people and the events of our lives more profoundly, not less profoundly. We become more present here and now. What we see is that, even though our vision may have expanded, even though we may have woken up not just to reality, but as reality, still we can’t control anyone. Everything and everyone has their own life to live, and we can’t just wipe away their suffering because our hearts are open. Although we would love to have everyone wake up and be happy, part of the heartbreak is accepting this moment, this world, just as it is.”

    ~ Adyashanti

  8. Bob OHearn says:

    “Heartsick, heartbroken ..
    To know love is to know pain.
    What could be more common?
    Even so, each broken heart is so singular
    That with it we probe the divine.”

    ~ Jalaluddin Rumi

  9. Bob OHearn says:

    “Sometimes this broken heart gives rise to anxiety and panic, sometimes to anger, resentment and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. And under the sadness is the vastness of the limitless love that we are.”

    ~ Pema Chodron

  10. Bob OHearn says:

    You don’t have to say anything.
    You don’t have to teach anything.
    You just have to be who you are:
    a bright flame shining in the darkness of despair,
    a shining example of a person able to cross bridges
    by opening your heart and mind.

    ~ Tsoknyi Rinpoche

  11. Bob OHearn says:

    We can always begin with — as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said: develop the genuine heart of sadness; I think that’s good. The genuine heart of sadness, like — doing all the things that we need to do, and really know that this is just a game, this is a game that I have to play, because I’m conditioned to play it… I think that will bring you very close — I think the genuine heart of sadness is good. It has very much to do with awareness, the awareness that things we consider so useful are actually useless. We don’t know this enough. We may know it intellectually, but we don’t know it enough. Really, you will experience this if you travel in a third class train in India, especially when you are running out of sanitising hand wipes… You know, you touch something and then you immediately disinfect your hands… But if you survive that, then after a while you have to give up these things — you have to surrender. Goal, aim, plans, schedules, friends…. Unfortunately we do still have a lot of challenges, though —there are things like telephone bills, grocery bills, police, tax office… Yeah, those things. But once you reach a certain level, you’ll get to a level where these things will not bother you. Then people will begin to think that you have gone off [laughs], but then — if you have seen the value of uselessness, you will not be bothered. “They think I’ve gone off, so what?”… You will be completely free. (…)

    ~ Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

  12. Bob OHearn says:

    Not escaping from sorrow.

    When there is sorrow it is a great shock to the nervous system, like a blow to the whole physiological as well as psychological being. We generally try to escape from it by taking drugs or drinks or through every form of religion. Or we become cynical or accept things as inevitable.
    Can we go into this question very deeply, seriously? Is it possible not to escape from sorrow at all? Perhaps my son dies, and there is immense sorrow, shock, and I discover that I am really a very lonely human being. I cannot face it, I cannot tolerate it. So I escape from it. And there are many escapes, religious, or philosophical. This escape is a waste of energy. Not to escape in any form from the ache, the pain of loneliness, the grief, the shock, but to remain completely with the event, with this thing called suffering is that possible? Can we hold any problem hold it and not try to solve it try to look at it as we would hold a precious, exquisite jewel? The very beauty of the jewel is so attractive, so pleasurable that we keep looking at it. In the same way if we could hold our sorrow completely, without a movement of thought or escape, then that very action of not moving away from the fact brings about a total release from that which has caused pain.

    ~J. Krishnamurti
    That Benediction is Where You Are

  13. Bob OHearn says:

    Living with someone we love, with all the joys and challenges, is one of the best ways to grow spiritually. But real awakening only happens, says renowned psychologist John Welwood, in the charnel ground where we acknowledge and work with our wounds, fears, and illusions.

  14. Bob OHearn says:

    “As an empathic being you are going to want to immerse yourself in this sacred gift of sensitivity and connection. What you are going to want to do is train yourself to remain open and sensitive yet to relinquish your focus and necessity for personal ego and persona. This is to say, you are going to learn to become a silent witness to events as they take place without adding your personal ego, your personal perspective and your own memory infrastructure. Basically you are going to let go of that which you perceive is ‘you’ and become one with that which you are being empathic to. But, the most important part, you are going to need to let go of it once you have experienced one-ness with it in order to relinquish ownership of it and its influence when returning to your human persona. That is the difficult part, but it is possible by learning to let go of thought altogether.

    You will arrive at the dawn of realization to this when you have learnt to let go of all thought. For when there is no thought, there is no judgement or clouded interpretation; there is no re-enacted learnt behaviour; there is no past and no future; there becomes only one-ness with the present. This seems alien to you because you have not stepped into such a place. Such a place you are trying to place in your mind, but your mind is already too full of contradicting thoughts to accept it. Such a place cannot and will not exist in mind, not as an accurate idea or concept, but must be a condition beyond mind.”

  15. I have the feeling that all this is too complicated. There must be a simpler way, a way where nothing needs doing. No traing or learning. A way where words like “sacred” are superfluous, where anything that smells of spirituality or psychology is unnecessary. Where any effort must be relaxed, let go. There is already too much being attempted.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Yes, there is a simpler way, becoming like a little child, but unfortunately it is too simple for the complex conditions of boredom, doubt, and discomfort which pervade the current collective consciousness, so one step at a time — simplicity , as it turns out, is not so simple.

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