From the time I was very young, I felt a strong connection to the longing in Judy Garland's voice, when, as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, she begged for "a place where there isn't any trouble." And as we know, there was just as much trouble, if not more, in the land over the rainbow.
In case 43 from the Blue Cliff Record, I hear something similar in the monk's question, "Where is the place where there is no heat and cold?" Dongshan's challenge to the monk is to ask, "Why not go to the place where there is no heat or cold?" When the monk asks where that place is, Dongshan says, "When its cold, cold finishes the monk. When it is hot, heat demolishes the monk." In other words, when we meet the heat and cold, meet the trouble, just as it is, the separate self is seen through. When we and the extreme states we are trying to avoid are recognized as completely intimate, suffering changes its nature. The resistance to reality disappears, and we can be surprised at how much we can bear.
It's already been a week since the shootings at Pulse in Orlando, and we may find our hearts turning away, trying to avoid the pain of the reality of how humans can so easily be destroyed by other humans. It's happening every day -- the destroying and the avoiding. Our task is to notice when we turn away, and then practice the intimate art of meeting whatever is here. We learn how to stay with pain when pain arises. We may find ourselves sobbing or shouting out in protest. And then we can find a way to use our sorrow and our anger to actually do something, using our particular talents to help heal the burning world. And we can also learn, by meeting the reality of our tears and rage, how to meet the arising of joy when it appears.
Here is an opportunity to experience joy and sorrow mixed, in the lovely version of "Over the Rainbow" by the late Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.