Lately I have been struggling with overwhelming feelings of being hurt by and resentful towards someone and I feel like it poisons not only my relationship with that person but, to a small, insidious degree, the rest of my life as well.
I tried the trick of opening a book randomly (this time I chose The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is sort of cheating because every page is brimming with wisdom) and hoping to find just the answer to my question. Which I did:
If you take a handful of salt and pour it into a small bowl of water, the water in the bowl will be too salty to drink. But if you pour the same amount of salt into a large river, people will still be able to drink the river’s water… Because of its immensity, the river has the capacity to receive and transform. The river doesn’t suffer at all because of a handful of salt. If your heart is small, one unjust word or act will make you suffer. But if your heart is large, if you have the understanding and compassion, that word or deed will not have the power to make you suffer. You will be able to receive, embrace and transform it in an instant. What counts here is your capacity. To transform your suffering, your heart has to be as big as the ocean.
This resonated as exactly the perspective I need. When I feel hurt, it does feel like my heart, like the Grinch’s, is three sizes too small. I feel very closed off and vulnerable, like a little critter hiding wounded under a log.
How to cultivate a heart as big as the ocean? How to encompass the power, capacity, endurance, the inexhaustible ability to receive and transform without being poisoned in the exchange? I accept that suffering will return again and again; my focus is not to avoid the hurt. It is to avoid the carrying around of the hurt in my tiny jar of a heart, where the momentary conflict displaces all the fluid of my emotional self and results in my heart becoming a little cesspool of negativity that I pull from in my interactions with others.
I have no strategies yet, other than my new awareness of my feelings, and how I imagine I might someday, ideally, handle them better. I visualize mentally and emotionally what an oceanic heart would feel like, and it feels wonderful.
How big is your heart? Do you find that the smallest drop of hurt fills your cup? Do you receive the hurt, embrace it and transform it into something loving? Do you have any advice to share from your experiences in expanding your capacity to love?