This is the first step toward understanding the process of real, lasting change: simply knowing with certainty that you can do whatever you need to do. This understanding has a dual edge: On the one hand it increases your confidence and dignity. On the other hand, it places full responsibility on you if you fail to make the change you set out to make. But this is a good thing, not a guilt trip.
Like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight, there's no need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds, and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we already are - as soon as we stop pretending we're small or unholy.
You may study with the highest teachers, but you will find no one but yourself teaching you. You may travel the world over, yet find nothing but yourself, reflected the world over. So if you now find yourself in a cell, take heart that of all the teachers in the world, out of all the places in the world, you still have with you the only ultimate ingredient of your journey: yourself.
I could characterize nearly any spiritual practice as simply this: identify and quit, identify and quit, identify and quit. Identify the myriad forms of limitation and delusion we place upon ourselves, and muster the courage to quit each one. Little by little, deep inside us, the diamond shines, the eyes open, the dawn rises, we become what we already are.
We're all doing time. As soon as we get born, we find ourselves assigned to one little body, one set of desires and fears, one family, city, state, country, and planet. Who can ever understand exactly why or how it comes down as it does? The bottom line is, here we are. Whatever, wherever we are, this is what we've got. It's up to us whether we do it as easy time or hard time.
In the midst of global crises such as pollution, wars and famine, kindness may be too easily dismissed as a 'soft' issue, or a luxury to be addressed after the urgent problems are solved. But kindness is the greatest need in all those areas - kindness toward the environment, toward other nations, toward the needs of people who are suffering. Until we reflect basic kindness in everything we do, our political gestures will be fleeting and fragile.
If I am practicing spiritual poverty, which says that I own nothing, then the problems aren't mine and neither are the energy and compassion pouring through my heart to try to solve them. I am just a link in the process. If I don't take anything personally, then I can do great work without flagging. The Dalai Lama once said, 'Try with all your might - to work very, very hard - to make the world a better place, and if all your efforts are to no avail . . . no hard feelings!'