"I do let the injustice and suffering of the world touch me," shares Antony Osler in this short film. He offers his story of connecting to the great fullness of life, honoring all of the emotions that arise, finding personal truth, and practices that awaken compassion.
Reflections of Life produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate grateful living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Antony Osler.
Which part or parts of Antony’s story resonated with you the most?
What arises when you spend time in solitude and silence?
Antony mentions some of the practices he uses to connect deeply with — and not turn away from — the world. What practices and tools support you in walking out into the world with compassion?
We invite you to share your reflections below the video transcript that follows.
They say being older is not for sissies. I didn’t find life easier when I was younger at all. As a small boy I loved more than anything being on my own. There was something in me that was self-conscious and anxious when I was around people. Whereas when I was with a tree, or a cat, the world was mine in a slightly different kind of way. It was real to me. But it was much less simple when people were involved. [laughs]
I have something of the same now where I do need quite a lot of solitude. The world that I hear when I’m quiet has a simplicity about it, a straightforwardness about it. It feels real in that way. The more I’m willing to make central to my life a stillness beyond my thinking, I am connected with the world as if it were for the very first time.
Being quiet for a moment is the way that I can quieten that voice that says ‘What’s the point of all this?’ What really breaks my heart is the kind of suffering of people who are motivated by self. The self of ambition, of greed, of intolerance, of fearfulness.
The moment I try and protect myself by saying I don’t want to see the injustice — I turn my head — then I’m already in a brittle space. And I’m always trying to keep something out. So I do let the injustice and suffering of the world touch me. It’s important for me that I feel sad, deeply sad, and sometimes just hugely angry and desperate. I’m not going to become more real by trying to shut off bits of it. My job as a human being is to wake up and find my real connection with this universe and all the people in it, including their suffering.
I take a breath, I hear the cries of this world, and I stand up again and go out.
How do I step into the world? How do I take that injustice that I see and act on that? I tried various meditation techniques, followed gurus and lamas and Zen masters, all of that sort of thing, you know, read all the books. It never worked of course, predictably now, because I was looking outside of myself for something from someone else. That’s in fact one of the Buddha’s earliest teachings. Don’t believe any authority, any scriptures, any wise men. Find out for yourself what’s true, what’s real for you.
People talk of meditation as a kind of way of reducing stress. You see it in a lot of magazines now when you go to the dentist. But I think the more one does it the more it becomes natural to see it as more than just me improving my life. But of finding this life to be deepened and broadened to include everything in the most natural and immediate and lighthearted way.
When I do this meditation practice, even though it appears that I’m going inside, what it does is it actually connects me with the world in a way that my anxious mind, thinking mind, preference mind, judgement mind, wasn’t able to do. And I find that then I can step with more affection, tolerance, enthusiasm, and humor into the world if I step in from taking a deep breath. Then I say, ‘Hello Michael, nice to see you.’
To perhaps just use the words of a Zen kōan, ‘When you meet the Buddha on the road, how do you greet him?’ Each person that you meet is “the Buddha.” So how do you respond? ‘How are you? Nice to meet you.’ Whether you like them or not, whether you find it easy or not, how can I make compassion real? Whoever they are. And to be able to stand in their footsteps, whoever they are, stand in their shoes. Sometimes it may be obviously more charitable stuff — donation here, looking after the elderly. Sometimes it’s just listening to someone else. We’re not talking of fireworks in the sky and angelic choirs. We’re talking of you and me meeting each other so that compassion is not a romantic ideal that one is measuring oneself against, but simply an expression of the fullness of this moment.
I don’t feel afraid of being dead. What frightens me is not living fully before I die. That’s a kind of terror. [laughs] How can I just allow this life to be mine in the deepest way, including the fact that I don’t get it right? I just need to be genuine and sincere in the best way that I can. So that if I don’t wake up tomorrow, that’s fine. I would like to think that the life I lead will help others in theirs, but I have no objection to being scattered in the fields and being forgotten.
Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa. Their project, Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance), works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.
Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.
By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges. We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at reflectionsof.life.