Forbearance by Norman Fischer

[ Teacher week begins with a post on an under-appreciated virtue. Enjoy !]

Forbearance by Norman Fischer

Though it is not very popular or exciting, forbearance is the greatest of all spiritual qualities, because without it all other good qualities, intentions, insights, and powers will be wipe away as soon as the first leopard, serpent, or boar appears in the vicinity.

You can be strong, intelligent, kind, say your prayers every day, meditate till your legs fall off. You can have beautiful spiritual experiences, meet God face to face, serve your neighbor with compassion and zeal.

You can be creative and talented in many ways. But if you are not ready and able to hang in there when conditions suddenly and fiercely change, then your spiritual practice, however devoted or brilliant it may be, is in the final analysis pretty useless.

It’s the changes, the constant shifts and sudden reversals, that prove us, so we ought to appreciate them, even look forward to them, unpleasant though they may be at times, for it is thanks to them that we are forced to develop forbearance.

The Chinese ideograph for forbearance is a heart with a sword dangling over it, another instance of language’s brilliant way of showing us something surprising and important fossilized inside the meaning of a word.

Vulnerability is built into our hearts, which can be sliced open at any moment by some sudden shift in the arrangements, some pain, some horror, some hurt.

We know and instinctively fear this, so we protect our hearts by covering them against exposure. But this doesn’t work.

Covering the heart binds and suffocates it until, like a wound that has been kept dressed for too long, the heart starts to fester and becomes fetid. Eventually, without air, the heart is all but killed off, and there’s no feeling, no experiencing at all.

To practice forbearance is to appreciate and celebrate the heart’s vulnerability, and to see that the slicing or piercing of the heart does not require defense; that the heart’s vulnerability is a good thing, because wounds can make us more peaceful and more real – if, that is, we are willing to hang on to the leopard of our fear, the serpent of our grief, the boar of our shame, without running away or being hurled off.

Forbearance is simply holding on steadfastly with whatever it is that unexpectedly arises: not doing anything; not fixing anything (because doing and fixing can be a way to cover up the heart, to leap over the hurt and pain by occupying ourselves with schemes and plans to get rid of it).

Just holding on for dear life. Holding on with what comes is what makes life dear.

Norman Fischer

Reference link:

About this teacher:

Norman Fischer on You Tube:

Edited only for spacing.

About dominic724

A former seeker starts blogging.
This entry was posted in Buddhist Practice, Guest Post, Human Experience, Zen and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Forbearance by Norman Fischer

  1. Wonderful, Dominic. The crux of the matter, isn’t it. And I love the word “forbearance.” I may need to make a beading of that Chinese glif. I’ve beaded “Grace” a couple of times.

    • dominic724 says:

      If you are inclined and do bead the glif, would you please snap a pic and send or post it ?
      Ya, this fellow and another one are new finds for teacher week.
      Without forbearance, it’s just a pile of pretty words. With it, the power of practice can surprise. 😉

  2. Just came to see your blog and really liked what I found here!

  3. This is so perfect. Thank you dominic. ♥

  4. tiramit says:

    This is really it! I’m reminded of the Ajahn Chah teaching: ‘othon’, patient endurance and ‘mai nae non’, nothing is certain. ‘Forbearance’ is somewhere in between these two – a lovely word…

  5. Pingback: forbearance | dhamma footsteps

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