Breaking our spell of delusion

A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves , our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein — excerpt from a letter published in the New York Post (1972)

I don’t know about you, but I could use a dose of compassion. For myself, from myself — for others, from others. Looking around, I know I’m not the only one.

The “optical delusion” is that we are separate. We’re not. We are drops in the ocean, yet we act like we’re drops in the bucket.

How does that saying go? “All buckets lead to the ocean.” (Or something like that anyway.)

Here’s a practice I just read, to help me break my delusions that I am separate from others. Give it a try today:

  1. When you get up in the morning, feel your body. Listen to the sounds of birds, fellow humans, or other critters greeting the day. Know that everyone has his or her life and wants to be happy and safe — just like you.
  2. When moving toward work, broaden your awareness to all the people on the road and in their homes and on TV trying to make a living to support themselves and their families. Include those in the animal world, who are busy gathering food and doing whatever they need to live — just like you.
  3. At lunchtime, feel the gratefulness that there is food to eat, and that all sentient life needs food to live on — just like you.
  4. During the day, look around your space — wherever you are — and recognize that we are all in this together. Each of us has feelings; each of us has longings; each of us has trepidations. Take a few moments and open your heart to compassion for all who are around you and all who are in your awareness.
  5. Pause for a few moments during the day or night and feel into the world around and within you. How precious it is to be alive and extend your compassion and love to yourself, to those who are dearest to you, to those you don’t know, and to all creatures great and small.

Adapted from the book MBSR Every Day, by Elisha Goldstein and Bob Stahl.

Today, I rethink that I am separate. From absolutely anyone.

No one is an aisle. There is nothing to reach across. We are already the same.

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