Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, April 16, 2021. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
I’ve had the good fortune to acquire a very nice digital camera and some remarkable specialty lenses. As many of you have seen, I’ve taken quite an interest in wildlife photography – primarily focusing on birds. Earlier this week, I had the rare privilege of photographing a leucistic American Robin. Unlike an albino, those that display leucistic characteristics do not have the red eyes and they retain some of their original color.
A day prior, I randomly ran into a couple of friends and they told me that they saw a white bird hanging around other Robins. While I didn’t witness any of this behavior, they said that the “white one” was being chased away by the other “normal” Robins.
I don’t know why, but I suppose that I expected to see the leucistic Robin act differently than the other Robins. Nevertheless, after spending a little over an hour taking pictures and simply enjoying being in its presence – leucism is quite rare – I noticed that, except for its color, it acted just like all the other Robins. Just like the others, it hopped around and listened and looked for worms with its keen senses. Just like the others, it startled easily. Just like the others, it flew skillfully. Despite its outward appearance, in every way, it was a Robin.
This experience has inspired to once again reflect on how all of us are more similar than we are different. Like the leucistic Robin, we are each unique in the way we look (if you spend enough time watching birds of a feather you will see remarkable differences in their outward appearance). Something that is not as obvious in the winged realm, we can easily see contrasting differences in human behavior. Nevertheless, the more I practice Mindfulness and the more I pay attention, the fewer differences I see between us. Despite our differences in looks, beliefs, and behaviors, we are indeed more alike than we are different.
One of the most transformative exercises I have come across in my practice is the “Just Like Me” meditation. This contemplative exercise has helped me to live with more peace in the messy world of crime, racism, and cruelty. I have learned how to forgive and let go of what I once defined as justifiable anger and resentments. This practice has helped me to be more accepting and understanding of people who create suffering for other people and our shared environment.
The meditation asks us to contemplate the following:
“Just like me, all others are trying to find happiness.
Just like me, all others are trying to avoid suffering.
Just like me, all others have known sadness, despair, and loss.
Just like me, all others are trying to get their needs met.
Just like me, all others are learning how to live.
Just like me, all others are deserving of compassion.”
In the presence of unskillful behavior, recite this meditation.
While we have our differences in looks and beliefs, and while there are variations in our actions, each of us has these qualities in common. Each of us wants to be happy. We don’t like to suffer and yet we do – some more than others. In varying degrees, we have all known sadness, despair, and loss. We each use different means to get our needs met – sometimes in unhealthy ways. Though there are useful self-help books and religious texts, not one of us was given a manual on How to Live. And each of us is a precious and valuable life – everyone is worthy of compassion. How we experience these similarities is largely based on where we are at in our life, where, how, and by whom we were raised. Unfortunately, many of us have been deprived and/or treated in such a way that our behavior creates even more suffering for ourselves and others. Essentially, we are all doing the best we can with what we have been given.
I have yet to meet any person who is happy, content and at peace with him/herself and treats others poorly, cheats, lies, or steals. It is only when people are suffering that they cause suffering. Our duty, I believe, is to help reduce the suffering in ourselves and others. When we do this, obviously, there is less suffering in the world. And this too is something that we all have in common – we all want less suffering in our beautiful tiny blue planet we call home.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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