When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Paul McCartney wrote this famous song about his own mother Mary, who died when he was 14 years old. We know what we need in times of trouble. In our hours of darkness, broken heartedness, and or anxiety we need caring presence, witness. We do not need advice or a pep talk. This presence may talk or not. But what gives it healing power is a quality of attention that lets us be what we are, including our pain and anger and confusion. An attention that sees us without judging, that helps us to not be afraid of our own pain.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have had loving mothers who demonstrate this kind of calm caring. They may have been (let’s face they were) far from perfect. But when the chips were down, they gave us that compassionate attention that is not separate from wisdom. For the many who didn’t know this kind of loving, accepting awareness, the good news is that we can find it in ourselves.
“Darling, I am here for you.” The great Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn composed this “mantra of true presence.” Please consider saying this to yourself. Look in the mirror in the morning and say it. Say it late at night when you can’t sleep. Say it all the time. Offer yourself the gift of kind attention. Have the kind intention to let yourself be.
“Darling, I know you are there and I am so happy.” This is another mantra from the Zen master. What a wonderful thing to hear! Some of the people (ok, men) in my meditation group claim to not like this phrase, preferring, “I’m here for you, bro” or something similar. But truthfully, we all want to be dear to someone and to have our mere presence make someone happy. And it turns out that we don’t have to pine and wait! We can say this mantra anytime, and lots of times. And it may be that tiny moments of letting ourselves be, offering ourselves the reminder that we are wonderful just as we are, literally full of wonder, can change our lives.
Let it be. Let the body be the body, just as you find it today. Let the feelings be the feelings. Let the thoughts be the thoughts. Let the world be the world. If there is to be an answer or an insight, if there is to be healing of the heartbreak and soothing of the pain and trouble, it starts and ends here. We accept reality. And we dare to show ourselves just as we are to a greater, nonjudgmental attention. We know that we are lovable.
Another mantra of true presence from Thich Nhat Hahn is: “Darling, I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.” The last and most challenging is: “Darling, I suffer. I am trying my best to practice. Please help me.” This is the most challenging, because it means admitting to a loved one that they are making you suffer.
Undertaking this practice of offering ourselves a kind, nonjudgmental attention, letting everything be completely acceptable just as it is, we begin to glimpse what awakening might be. It might not be a thunderbolt or not just that, but a slow process of relief, of an absence of fear, of growing roots in the earth and opening, moment by moment, daring to take our place in the sun.