“It’s morning, swan, wake up, climb in the air, follow me!” Kabir


“Will the highs ever be as high as the lows are low?” asked a woman who had been dragged under the waves once too often.  

There are many reasons to feel down and out lately. The lows can feel very low indeed. Yet, is it our goal to always be riding a wave? When I reframe the question from ease and pleasure to one of learning, I see value in whatever I experience, because I can learn from just about anything. For instance, I like sweets, but I don’t eat pie and pudding all day long. It may be pleasant for a while, but sometimes I need garlic, broccoli, and wild rice. It’s a matter of nutrition. I choose what nourishes me in the long run and allows me to grow.

In a similar way, suffering can help me grow, as it carves out space in my heart for more compassion. I’m not always in a place of light and peace. My friend sent me a beautiful essay she’d written about her aunt. Then she sent me a note, regretting it. She worried I’d be troubled by the account of her aunt’s brutal cancer treatments. Yes, the story evoked emotions and yes, it did remind me of how weak and ill chemotherapy made me feel when I had treatment. But I assured my friend that she need not hold back in sharing such things. These stories are about my people; they are where I find fellowship with those who know what I’ve been through. It is not a morbid interest; it is a kinship. And it’s not just cancer. We’re all struggling with something.

I’ve read that the densest clumps of matter in the Eagle Nebula become stars. The cloudy bits become bright, shedding light that will reach the Earth in a millennium or so. I’m learning through all the highs and lows, days and nights. They can all be useful to me. The black pumice stone of sorrow polishes my rough spots until I glow once again – softer this time, with ears to listen and tears for your pain.

When I’m feeling cloudy, I know it’s time to call on my Better Self. Her resources are fresh air, loved ones, and prayers. Sunshine, when available. Naps help, too. I recharge both my super and subtle powers. How do I reactivate my hope muscle? Sometimes with quiet breath and sometimes with noisy dancing. And by visiting the trees. You come, too. The morning star is up.

Eagle Nebula, a star nursery

4 thoughts on “STAR BIRTH

  1. Susan Habel

    Dear Barbara,

    Your writing conveys in such an absorbable way, the broad compassion of your humanity. Truly, a star is born! Your star shines ever brighter because your light ignites hope and illuminates the way of possibility for others who wonder how to live with the inherent and sometimes very specific sufferings found in life.

    I think this is what the philosophy we share in common means when it says, (paraphrasing) this saha world IS the land of tranquil light. We can make it so by seeking how to frame the fact of human suffering in terms of what we can learn from it. To share your thoughts about your experiences and all you have learned through the journey of your own life, you incite hope.
    I find your writing both inspiring and reassuring.

    To me, you are a beautiful example of a person who is living the sutra. Someone who has turned their suffering into mission; into something useful. You are a beacon; your approach to life is something to aspire to.

    Thank you for sending this out.

    Susan H

  2. Mickey Silverstein


    In order to get through my morning, I opened Faith Into Action and turned to the section entitled Challenge. When I read your amazingly beautiful and penetrating piece just now, I was reminded of what I’d read this morning for direction. You story gave me both direction and comfort; not just comforting thoughts but actually physically, a subtle unwinding in my body.

    And then the utter surprise of you writing about me and my story. You reassured me then but reading this further shows how you live the sutra, as Susan wisely put it. I’m sure I would like her if we ever met!

    I’m going to print this out and keep it on my nightstand to read before going to sleep. Not the part about my story but rather everything else you have to say about your journey and how to cherish the road, pumice stones included, as we traverse it. Thank you, Barb.

    I’m so fortunate to have you call me ‘friend’.

  3. Betsy Fuchs

    Quiet times, dancing, breathing, trees!!!! taking in what is difficult coming from friends and family. Accepting the down times. And getting comfort from what you dear friend write and post. Like Mick, I too will print this out and keep it on my nightstand and for me, I will read it in the morning when I wake to face another day, for me the hardest time to face reality and the time when I forget how to do it. Thank you Barbara.


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