When we received this gift a few years ago at the inauguration of the South American Hall, its simplicity and profundity surprised me. I liked it so much that for almost a whole year I tried to do it every day as an internal and external centering exercise.
It is still a meaningful practice, and it begins like this: “At some moment of the day or night, take a breath of air and imagine that you are breathing that air into your heart.”
First of all, there’s no schedule given, no special posture, no appropriate setting, not even any suggestions; it simply says to do it whenever and however seems best to you. When I breathe into my heart, I can feel almost automatically that I am lifted up internally. It’s a sensation, and it’s not important to explain it because I’ve always felt it and thought of it as “appropriate.”
And then I have to ask: “Then ask with strength for yourself and those you care most for.”
Ask with strength. That means I’m doing something with great interest, with dedication and at the same time humbly. First I ask for myself, and this is important because in the beginning I had no idea how to ask for myself. I had never asked for myself before, I only knew how to ask for others. I had to learn how to ask myself what I really need. That’s not as simple as it seems, but neither is it so complicated. I had to “look at myself” in a different way. I had to look inside me and see my weaknesses, my desires, my needs, my longings, my reveries, my failures, and everything else that constitutes our internal world, but above all, my needs.
And then I ask for the loved ones I care most for. That seemed a lot easier, and then I began to understand that there are levels of profundity to what others need as well. Perhaps the most meaningful thing about this phrase is the word “most.” Those loved ones I care the most for. In other words those for whom I have great affection. Not long ago I wrote about affection and how important it is. In this simple asking, the word “most” implies great affection, and when I ask for my loved ones, that affection strengthens my asking.
I discovered that asking with affection for others and for myself is something very special, because it connects me with my heart in a way that’s easy and profound at the same time.
The rest of the asking brings me back to myself: “Ask with strength to move away from everything that brings you contradiction; ask for your life to have unity.”
And for good measure there’s a brief but precise explanation of the meaning of “to move away from contradiction”: “Moving away from contradiction is the same thing as overcoming hatred, resentment, the desire for vengeance. Moving away from contradiction means cultivating the desire for reconciliation with others and with yourself. Moving away from contradiction means forgiving and making amends twice over for any hurt you have inflicted on others.”
“Moving away from” means taking distance, separating myself from a conflictive situation, and to be able to do all that I need to do in order to recognize, and not just superficially, that I have hatred, resentment, and the desire for revenge inside me.
I feel “unitive” when I’m not divided internally, when I feel like being kind to myself, like I’m “centered.” Then I feel a gentle joy, and am truly interested in everything around me, especially in the human beings. I identify all this “feeling” as cultivating the desire to reconcile with others and myself. I know what reconciliation with others means, but I have to admit that I don’t always know what it’s like to reconcile with myself. I have clear experiences of reconciling with others, but not so clear when it comes to reconciling with myself. This is where I can see my contradictions. This intolerance for myself, this internal arguing, this eagerness to protect and defend “who I am,” shows me that in my case, the most important work of reconciliation is with myself.
I’ve discovered that reconciling with myself is not an act, but a process that is more or less long. It’s not like I can just tell myself to reconcile, or just recognize my need to, and then reconcile and be done with it forever. That’s not my case, and I can see that reconciliation has levels of depth, and that over time I can notice some progress.
And of course there are also “the others,” and even if it’s easier to recognize my reconciliation with them, it’s also important to reflect on the importance of making amends twice over for the harm I’ve done them.
I’m not exactly sure how to make amends twice over, but I know I have to make an effort that goes beyond just asking for forgiveness and recognizing my mistake. I believe that each person has to decide according to their situation and the severity of the wrongdoing.
In any case, reconciliation is the important aspect of this simple asking to move away from contradiction, and it is in the effort to “cultivate the desire” for reconciliation with others and with myself that I keep moving forward in this process.
November 30, 2020