A year of Atisha slogans
10. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself.
You may want to develop greater compassion and the ability to take on the suffering of others, but what about yourself? What about your own suffering? According to this slogan, that is where you start. You begin by recognizing your own suffering.
It is not always easy to look into our own discontent. But if we are to work with others we should try to understand our own suffering as deeply as possible. We need to look into our many layers of suffering, including everything from physical pain, emotional confusion, regrets, anxieties, fears, the whole deal. We cannot hide out. We may prefer to think that we are beyond that, and our situation may be very fortunate, but we need to bring out whatever is there.
Whatever suffering we dig up, from our surface to our depths, we take in as fully as possible. We breathe it in wholeheartedly. It is a part of us, it is real. Why does it fester? What keeps it going?
It is our avoidance and our fear. We don’t have to be heroic. We could start by taking just a little bit of our suffering and breathing it in. We could accept it little by little.
Each move we make in this direction, which sounds so difficult, in fact, is a tremendous relief. It is like the story of the return of the prodigal son, where the family is once again whole and there is rejoicing.
The idea of this slogan is to take in your own suffering first, and then expand that to take in the suffering of others. It is to be compassionate to yourself as well as other beings. Seeing clearly the nature of your own suffering is a way to understand more clearly the suffering of others.
In your sending and taking practice, this week place attention on your own situation, breathing in various forms of suffering and breathing out to yourself loving-kindness, openness, and strength. To conclude, reflect on other beings who suffer in similar ways and extend your loving-kindness to them as well.