come together in grace

November 23rd, 2014

knives forks and spoons in cup of dry food dishes“From an early age I knew that I was different.”

Last weekend I went to a place far away that I’d never been before and sat in silence for two days in a small room with people I’d never met. All of us who find ourselves in that kind of predicament — even if we’ve done it a hundred times — are a bit uncomfortable at the outset. First, we don’t know the people we are sitting with, we don’t know what will happen, we don’t know what we are doing, and we aren’t able to talk about what is bothering us.

So when it was over, we went around the room and said our names and gave a parting word or two. What I said was that, no matter what we presumed about the strangers sitting next to us, everyone in the room had been sitting in a world of hurt. It is a guarantee.

No matter what, we hurt. We have trouble in our lives. We have pain. We have pain even when there’s no pain because the things we cherish won’t last. This universal suffering, this eternal ache, is our greatest blessing, in a way, because through it we realize that we are not different, we are not better or worse, we are not special or chosen, we are just alike, and this recognition allows us to get over ourselves and care deeply for one another. Very few realize it, and so we live at war, wars big and small, public and private, and they go on forever. Our world is a world of hurt. It is a guarantee.

There is a kind of standard-issue biography among spiritual entrepreneurs that goes something like this: “From an early age I knew that I was different. Teachers recognized that I was spiritually gifted. I possessed a profound awareness that I was meant to do something special. I decided to go out into the world and share what I was born to do.”

From an early age, know that you are not different.

Being different has not been a transformative experience for me. Neither was it the experience of Buddha, who from an early age knew that he was not different. His spiritual awakening began when he left the phony shelter of his delusions and realized that he would get old, get sick, and die. Like the rest of us, he had no special gift, no deferment, no way out or around reality. This stone-cold clarity is the root of wisdom and the source of compassion.

I offer this up today so that we can be a bit less uncomfortable in the days ahead. So that we can experience things in a new way. We can be tolerant of one another. We can be generous. We can be forgiving. We can be at ease in a crowded airport, house or kitchen. We can clasp hands around the table, giving thanks not only for life’s abundance, but for its scarcity, its brevity, and its painful guarantee of impermanence. Until we realize that we are not different, we can never, even for one moment, come together in grace.


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  1. Thank you…the economy and authority of this writing is stunning…thanks again.

    Comment by Joe Mitchell — November 23, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

  2. A beautifully written, deeply profound piece of wisdom and compassion. We belong.

    Comment by marilee pittman — November 24, 2014 @ 3:35 am

  3. Thank you, Maezen. You distilled it all, right here, and offered me, all of us, the gift of our common humanity again. I read these words and hear your voice, as if we are still in the basement, sitting, the light pouring in.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — November 24, 2014 @ 3:37 am

  4. Reading your lovely wisdom from far away, Maezen. Thanks and blessings to you.


    Comment by Clare — November 27, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

  5. Beautiful words… a kind reminder of how equal we All are. I had just lost my dad and your powerful writing is a reminder than we are indeed in the same boat and only compassion for one another will bridge our perceived differences.

    Comment by Liliana Rvr — December 3, 2014 @ 4:20 am

  6. Well, I was always told I was different, but I could never notice it myself. I still can’t, but I do see myself making different decisions than other people.
    I see myself doing my best and others doing their best. In that we are the same.

    “this eternal ache, is our greatest blessing,”
    I think in realising that, that is what makes life so heartbreakingly beautiful, that there is always movement and change.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Comment by Simone — December 9, 2014 @ 7:09 am

  7. […] Karen Maezen Miller, “Come Together in Grace,” 2014. Photo Credit: “United Support for Victims of Torture,” Vinoth Chandar, […]

    Pingback by Mindful Monday: “You are not different” | Beguine Again — June 21, 2015 @ 11:10 pm

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