Sylvia Boorstein on “I’m Not O.K., You’re Not O.K. — and That’s O.K.”

Sylvia Boorstein on “I’m Not O.K., You’re Not O.K. — and That’s O.K.”

A reflection on practice by Other Teachers & Folks We Value

The clue is, Are you O.K.?

None of us is. The Buddha explained that as the truth of suffering. Having been born, we are all subject to the pain of loss, of grief, of sadness or even plain disappointment. Life is difficult. Even our joys, in their temporality, remind us of impermanence. Like the French poet Villon, we lament, wistfully, “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” We know that all the yesteryears are gone.

Psychologists would also reassure us of the appropriateness of our “non-O.K.-ness.” Each of us carries the gifts of our heritage, our family and our culture, as well as its wounds. It can’t be otherwise. A psychologist friend of mind once said, “If you wanted it perfect, you came to the wrong planet.” I am imagining this understanding, tacit or spoken, as the cornerstone of all healing relationships.

Are you O.K.?

No. Not really. How about you?

Not me, either. But I’m O.K. to talk about it. It makes the journey less lonely. Let’s talk.”

And, we can talk to ourselves kindly. I tell mindfulness practitioners to listen to the tone their inner voice uses to comment on their experience. I ask them to consider whether, if they had a friend who spoke that way, they would keep that friend. The moment in which people discover they are not holding themselves in compassion, not speaking kindly, is often startling and always sad. That awareness is sometimes enough to cause the critic’s voice to soften, and the soother’s voice to be heard.

Excerpted from article in July 2012 issue Lion’s Roar.
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Sylvia Boorstein, PhD, has been teaching Dharma & mindfulness meditation since 1985. She is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, a psychotherapist, wife, mother & grandmother. She is particularly interested in emphasizing daily life as mindfulness practice & including informed citizenship & social activism as integral to spiritual maturation.

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