Kind promise: I will be tender with weakness.

Wednesday I had computer problems. While I could read e-mail, I couldn’t respond to it or use my assistive software to do any typing. Visiting new websites wasn’t working well. I was very frustrated. I spend happy hours at my computer. At my computer (with the right software), I am strong and capable. Helen Reddy sings in the background of my mind. Without my computer, my monster mind leaps into action. “I am unproductive,” it disfirms. “I am useless.”

Clearly, I need practice with weakness. Faced with weakness, my judgmental mind divides everything into good and bad. Checking off an item on a to-do list is good. Leaving it there is bad. Watching TV is bad. Reading a book or magazine is bad because it makes my neck hurt. Going outside is good, except that, when the weather is hot,  it becomes bad. My mind races, searching for actions I can take. There aren’t many in the “good” column.

painting of meditator

(image by: Kate Wolfe-Jenson)

Luckily, both spiritual traditions I practice – Christianity and Buddhism – suggest attitudes to help me with weakness.

Weakness inviting reliance on God.
Not too long ago, I was asked to speak to a Confirmation class. Its leaders asked me to bring my favorite Bible verse. I decided I’d better get one. I vaguely remembered a Scripture-quoting e-mail someone had sent me that annoyed me when I received it but grew on me over time. I found a passage where the apostle Paul describes a “thorn in his side” that, though he has prayed to have it removed, keeps bugging him. God tells him “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) When I can’t be strong and independent, then I realize that my worth comes from the divinity within me, not from human accomplishments.

Weakness is an illusion of the ego-mind.
Buddhism (as translated into English) understands the striving, driven part of me as ego-mind, not my true self. My ego is very interested in putting on a good front and impressing everybody. It’s the ego which is hurt and angry when things don’t go my way.  The idea of “weak” is a comparative judgment by my ego. Buddhist meditation is a practice in disidentifying with the ego and responding to it with loving awareness. By tenderly noticing the grand plans and harsh judgments my ego conjures up and returning to focus on my breath, I realize that those plans and judgments are not the truth.

During the last six months I have attended memorial services for each of my parents. They lived into their 90s. They were busy most of their lives and their obituaries reflected that busyness and spoke of their accomplishments. The speakers and guests at their memorial services did not focus on achievements, but spoke of attitudes. It wasn’t what my parents did that touched people, it was how they did it. Their beliefs and ways of being are what people remember.

I live with limitation and weakness, as do you. We need to understand that neither weakness nor strength are who we are. They are both paths to the divine within.