Keep Calmly Knowing Change

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have in front of me words from the Dalai Lama. It was given to me several years ago by a friend and sangha member. The quote was given to her by a friend. Here it is:

“Never give up. No matter what is going on. Never give up. Develop the heart. Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart.
“Be compassionate: not just to your friends, but to everyone.

“Be compassionate. Work for peace – in your heart and in the world. Work for peace.

“And I say again; never give up. No matter what is happening. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up.”

The other night I saw part of the Golden Globe Awards on TV. When Meryl Streep accepted the prize for best actress in a comedy (Julia and Julie), she gave an unpolished speech about how hard it was for her, in light of the devastation in Haiti, to “put on her Hollywood clothes and her Hollywood smile” to show up at this glitzy event. She heard her deceased mother’s voice saying essentially to act: to get on the internet and send off money to Partners in Health to help the people in Haiti and then to gussy herself up and get on the plane to California. Unlike her mother, Meryl said she was given to thoughts of “gloom and doom,” but she was inspired nevertheless to continue.

I used to have a quote on my refrigerator from a version of the Dhammapada: “Live in joy even among the afflicted.” Tonight I saw on the news the miracle of a team of San Francisco firefighters rescuing a woman in Haiti who had been trapped under the rubble of her home for days. She was singing. There was much rejoicing.
The Buddha purportedly did not answer questions about origin. He claimed that questions such as Why did this earthquake have to happen to a country so impoverished already? Why are these people suffering so greatly? will lead only to misunderstanding and more suffering. We are, instead, encouraged to step towards the situation – whether it be one of devastation or opulence – to see what we see, to feel what we feel, and to do what we can authentically and wisely do to work for peace – in our hearts and in the world. “Mindfulness leads to life; while heedless avoidance leads to death,” says the Buddha in the Dhammapada.

This truth applies on both a global and a local/personal level. Last weekend approximately 20 Valley Insight members gathered at AVA Gallery in Lebanon for our monthly sit. In sub-zero temperatures we shared what one person there referred to as the “warmth of the Dhamma.” In our silent practice, as well as in our discussion and our consideration of the teachings on the Five Aggregates of Clinging, we supported one another in the personal effort to move towards what is actually happening in our lives with curiosity and interest. We increasingly know and trust this as a way to cultivate freedom as well as wise, compassionate action towards ourselves and others. I shared how the momentum of my own life had been challenged recently after a minor surgery. The fears and doubts which arose were transformed, when acknowledged, from blocks to the body’s healing into insights, which could begin to wisely shape recovery.

A friend, who had been involved in relief work in Haiti this past summer, wrote that he was one who believes that small actions matter in light of the large sufferings of this world. Yes. It doesn’t mean that things will work out as we might wish or expect; it means that we can be in relationship with what is – be it despair or enthusiasm – with a growing resiliency and joy.

“Keep calmly knowing change.”

“Never give up.”

Peace and best wishes,



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