The Universal Story

Nacho, who writes Woodmoor Village Zendo, posted a quote by Cheri Huber.

One thing I like about practicing with a group is that we begin to see how impersonal it all is — all our melodramas that can seem so terribly personal. If we spent six months together, we all would know each other’s life stories, and it would be the same story. One person lives in Toledo, another one lives in Shanghai, but it is the same story. Being a human being is pretty much the same for all of us; the differences are far, far less than the similarities. What we think, what we fear, how our emotions arise – fundamentally, we are very much alike. We get caught up in differences in content because that is how we experience ourselves as separate.

Working in a group enables us to see not only how we are all attached to the same things, but how, when we are attached, we suffer, and how, when we come back to the present moment, we cease to suffer. It’s that straightforward.

As we see the sameness of our experience, our suffering becomes less charged: our story is one more story among countless stories. It becomes easier to find the courage to bring our attention back to the present, to allow whatever happens simply to happen.

–Cheri Huber

How relevant this is to me right now! Last night I volunteered at an adult education program with English language learners. My task was to be a conversation partner (actually, a listener) to give them a chance to practice speaking. I conversed with four people and was amazed at some of the similarities among them, and between me and them. Two women came to the U.S. for their husbands’ jobs. They are not permitted to work here, regardless of their professional training (and both had careers in their home countries). I, too, have been displaced from my profession since moving here, and I miss it. I was fascinated as I listened to them describe their daily lives, their comparisons of culture, and what they enjoy and dislike about being here, in the states, now.

Another student illustrated the universality of the heart’s anguish that arises when we move far from home. She is 19 and has lived here three months. Her aunt worked hard for five years and invested no small sum to arrange the paperwork that permitted entrance. She started training in her home country as a nurse, but she came to finish it here. There are better opportunities here for her, if she chooses to stay, and an American education will also open doors back in her home country. She is providing day care and earning a larger salary than she ever did in her home country, and will use her earnings to pay for college here. Yet she struggles with the decision whether to stay. We talked about the advantages of each choice, and when I asked her what pulled at her to return home, she said: “I miss my mother and father.” Oh, yes. Our stories are the same. I shared a little about my recent trip and how hard it is to say good-bye to some things and hello to others. So perhaps she will feel less alone, as I do, knowing that people encounter this everywhere, every day. Whatever her decision, I hope talking about it helped her.

This morning I received an email from a friend arranging a coffee date and learned that a job opportunity she was excited about fell through. We’re in the same position of trying to find our way, following our talent and dreams, and coping with inconstancy. Later I talked with a city library employee to learn more about how I might get a job there. She provided information on this and much more, as well as encouragement. My burden is eased a bit. I am participating in a the same dance as every other human.

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One Comment on “The Universal Story”

  1. Fran Says:

    Yes, it is all of our journeys–but don’t minimize your own. The mindful ones among us always feel guilty, I think, because we have good lives–and yet we are restless, wondering where we go next. Peaks and valleys. I’ll write you privately tomorrow. Doesn’t Craig’s List have local jobs? Not sure of the sites for this.