Bridges

Are you a fan of bridges or do they scare you a bit?

I’ve driven and walked over lots of bridges and most are okay. But then there are a few that are truly nerve-wracking because they are so high or seem to sway with the wind or the end seems to disappear before it reaches the other side, leaving you wondering if you’ll ever set foot on firm ground again.

I know a few people who will drive out of their way to avoid going over certain bridges. I recently discovered that there is a recognized phobia for this condition, referred to as gephyrophobia, and that it often produces panic attacks. I feel badly for those afflicted with this condition and know of many bridges that would produce these effects.

This morning I was thinking about bridges of a different sort. The ones it would be wonderful to build between people.

We have such strong opinions and reactions regarding how we view the world, and they can create large chasms between us. I wondered to myself, what causes all of these and easily came up with an extensive list. No doubt you could add to it with ideas of your own.

Political ideologies, religious dogmas, social mores, economic stratification, injustices, wars, philosophical differences. And, branching off each of these are even more opinions and hardened ideas that make it very challenging.

So, how are we to bridge the gaps?

I suppose it is up to each of us to decide what approach might work for us. I’m wondering, do you have a proven method, or would you like a suggestion?

If you have something that works for you, I hope you share it with others, because it often feels that our human race could benefit from a lot of bridging.

If you’re open to an idea, I have one to share.

The idea begins by visualizing a bridge in your mind. There are two ends, and each has a firm foundation, which suggests something to me. It feels as though both ends are necessary and important. But there is a feeling of them standing alone and apart, so that without the lanes that crossed between them, they cannot support each other, and they are less because of this.

The visualization shifts.

One side of the bridge is now connected to my head, where all thoughts about the world reside. It is powerful and capable of great things, but it falls short of being complete.

On the other side is my heart where feelings exist. It is a loving, caring place, but it too is incomplete.

The two sides need each other to be wholly effective. And they also need a way to communicate. They need the lanes in between them, and they need to partner together, otherwise nothing significant can be accomplished.

And they need to find common ground and a reason to work toward mutually beneficial outcomes.

I often find that I learn best through examples, so here’s one that came to my mind.

While driving in a city, I’ll often notice a person standing by the side of the road holding a sign, asking for money. My head recognizes that there are many opinions regarding those who do this. Some folks feel they should get a job like everyone else. Others resist offering them money because they feel they’ll use it for liquor or drugs or something else objectionable. And while folks may be sensitive to their plight, they don’t want to encourage them to continue and feel there must be a better way.

On the other side of my bridge, my heart fills with love, sympathy, and empathy for them. It hopes that they will receive whatever they truly need, whether it’s money, a smile, or a word of encouragement.

But without a bridge between my head and my heart no action will ever occur. For me, that’s where compassion comes in. It’s when the love in my heart finds direction through an outpouring of compassion. It overflows into my mind and creates a desire to offer aid, support, and kindness.

Compassion builds bridges. Simple acts of encouragement, caring and sharing from the abundance we each have within us. Compassion builds lanes between the two foundations, making the entire bridge come to life.

Forgiveness

I’ve spoken with a lot of people over my sixty-eight years. One of the most common themes I’ve heard is the sense folks have of being out of balance. Things are going along nicely and then, poof, something happens to change them.

Often, as the stories unfold, a disagreement has occurred. Sometimes it’s small or seemingly insignificant. But, at times, the issue creates a major flare up. And when a resolution to the issue doesn’t happen quickly, everything can unravel.

When each side feels that their opinion is worth more and that they should not have to give in, a distance occurs. Closing this gap and restoring harmony requires a degree of openness, a willingness to listen and a belief that common ground can be found.

Forgiveness can become the key, allowing each person to release the thought that there is only one right path. Hearts can be opened to see other directions so that new possibilities can become visible.

I want to offer two consecutive posts about forgiveness because I feel it is so important.

Many years ago, a friend of mine was having an extraordinarily difficult time forgiving an important person in their life. They asked me if I had any suggestions. My response to them came by way of a story. And, this story became the first chapter in my Little Buddha book series.

A man, Sam, asks Claire, a young six-year-old girl he’s met on the beach if she can help him understand how to forgive others. She’s shown her wisdom to him, enough so that he feels he can risk asking her this.

This is her response to him.

 “Imagine (pointing to the pail beside her) that my bucket is you. It’s everything you think and feel and experience during your life. Imagine that everything that is within you- YOU chose to put there. Nothing got in without your choosing. Nothing. Whether conscious or not, every thought, feeling, idea, reaction and prejudice. Every cruel word, every kind gesture, every act of faith, every indifference, everything. Imagine that each of these things takes up space, just like the grains of sand in my bucket. Once it’s full it’s very hard to find any space for anything, no matter how valuable or important. There are ways you can empty part of your bucket if you choose. One way is forgiveness. But first you have to imagine one more thing. Can you imagine that everyone else here is just like you? They’ve lived their lives filling their buckets and sometimes they don’t have any space left either. They’re doing the best they can with what weighs them down. In their hearts, they too wish to be free and to have open space to experience more of the beautiful things in life. But they too don’t know how. They probably sense it, dream about it and desperately want it just like you do. This is very important to know. To forgive anyone anything, requires YOU make a conscious choice. No one else can do it for you.” She eyed (Sam) carefully, “now bring to mind something which begs forgiveness. Feel the space it holds within you. The weight of it, the size, color and dimension. Imagine knowing it needn’t exist and that you can fill its space with something beautiful. Now, close your eyes. Welcome it in. Let it rest in front of you. Believe that it has served its full purpose for you, but does so no longer. Look inside your heart and allow love and compassion to open within. Breathe easily. Smile for a moment. Know that no matter what, this decision is up to you and no one else. Picture your love and compassion surrounding you and the focus of your forgiveness. Now, allow it to fade and fade and fade until it disappears. Breathe and feel the space inside you open. Feel the sunshine enter you and the air move around you. Listen for the sound of your own being. Sense the room created inside of you, now open for that which does serve you. For beauty. For wholeness.”

More to come.

Information about Little Buddha Book One, Two and Three is available by clicking on BOOKS and scrolling down.

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