I Surrender

“Change is the essence of life;
be willing to surrender what you are
for what you could become.”

Reinhold Niebuhr

sweet surrender

(photograph by me)

Trying to always have control of things and situations in this life is exhausting. Yet it’s something we all do. There is comfort in planning, knowing what to expect, knowing what and how to prepare. There is a sense of security and control in trying to keep the past locked up, contained, guarded. During the last few years I have been trying very hard to surrender to “not knowing” in the most conscious and unwavering way possible. I have changed my life course a bit. I’m at a place, a fork in the road that I have only been able to get to by going down various paths, through the previous experiences in my life. My traveling companions were anxiety, worry, fear, self doubt, mistrust, anger, resentment. I refueled myself as often as I could with love, support, trust, patience and hope. Road signs along the way began to indicate there was a new destination ahead. I took that little curve at the fork.

Along the way, a type of leaning in to the present moment began to develop. The sweet surrender of allowing the past to be the past, the future to have bits be unknown, and the present to be lived in the here and now, began to ripen into something that could thrive and flourish without me having to be in control of everything. I began to travel this road with a gentle belief there was a destination ahead, yet at the same time I was OK with not knowing exactly what the destination was or when it would be reached. I began to enjoy the moment, enjoy the scenery. Enjoy the journey.

I am an evolving piece of creation. As that, I am also a tiny speck in the universe that is of little significance. As I come to see myself as such, the peace of mind that comes with that realization is liberating. I do not need an overly inflated ego to tell me I am anything different. I do not need to be in control of everything. It is not even possible. And with this acceptance and understanding comes a quiet peace.

So, I wave the white flag with courage and spirit knowing that change is the essence of life. I surrender to let go of what I am in order to become what I might be.

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Becoming

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse.
‘You become.
It takes a long time.
That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily,
or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all,
because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”

― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

vrabbit

(from Wikipedia)

 

Being real. What does that mean as a person?

Most of us have incredibly fond memories of Margery Williams’ tender story The Velveteen Rabbit. It captured our childhood imagination and still tugs at our adult heart strings. The power of love is transformative. I have read comments from others, including David Foster Wallace, who found this to be a very sad story, but I disagree. I think it is a story full of great lessons, inspiring things to ponder, and not to mention, magical.

The Skin Horse knew the secret, the magic to becoming real. Time is one part of it.  Real happens when your fluff and finery, your costume and mask have been removed, worn away…like the Skin Horse. Your hair has been loved off, your “eye drops out” and you get all loose and shabby. The glitz and novelty is gone and what is left is what is real.  Those who become real don’t break easily, or have sharp edges or require a lot of upkeep.

When this “real” becomes, all those things no longer matter because once you are real, you cannot be ugly.

Of course there is a difference in the story of a well loved stuffed animal and a spattering of nursery magic and the process of a human being “becoming real”.

Becoming real in a world and life that is full of challenges, heartache, effort, work, disillusionment, as well as love, joy, fulfillment and tenderness, is a painstakingly slow process. In this country we are bombarded with ideas of beauty, power, desire, want, need, entitlement, dreaming. Being real may have gotten lost in the endless rattling off of a list of things that will make us beautiful, happy, worth something, important, successful, memorable, loved.

Perhaps this is the lesson elders in past societies and in some current cultures understood. Perhaps this is where the idea of respect of elders and the unselfish care of elders originated. As human beings they had become “real” people. They had attained wisdom.

How do we become real? Well, the Velveteen Rabbit became real by giving unconditional love. By being patient and tolerant. By being forgotten and left behind. By facing fears and feeling threatened. By enduring ridicule and judgment. By caring for the little boy more than he cared for himself. He became real because he loved, completely, the little boy. He became real because of the complete love of a little boy.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”  The Velveteen Rabbit became real because he loved and was loved.

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

As a person it may not be healthy for us to be forgotten, left behind, offer unconditional love in an unhealthy relationship. No one should feel threatened or be subjected to ridicule and judgement. And, as a person, we have to have respect for and take care of ourselves on many levels. Overcoming deep hurt is difficult.

Perhaps we can begin the transformation towards becoming real when we let go of the ideas of “good enough”, “beautiful”, “new”, “current”, all the “stuff” that got loved off the Skin Horse and the Velveteen Rabbit. All that was left was what was real. There was no ugly.

Becoming real can hurt because it means you become vulnerable.  But while you may be vulnerable to opinion, judgment, comparison, ridicule, expectation, rejection, the strength of being real allows you to have those things come at you, and then they disappear. Being hurt doesn’t matter because it is fleeting. Being real HAPPENS to you when your life fills with patience, empathy, compassion, courage, presence, and acceptance.

As the Skin Horse reminds us, when you become real you cannot be “ugly”, except to those who do not understand. You may get “hurt”, but you don’t mind.

Being “real” happens after a long time. When it happened for the Velveteen Rabbit, he kicked up his legs, wiggled his tale and became free. Love was a catalyst. “Real” became.

 

Getting the Heart Right

 

“Sometimes things happen that makes no sense at all,
you ask yourself how can another person willfully hurt another.
It is more of a statement of disbelief than a question.
All we could hope for is that our collective voice
against the inhumanity of the few
and that our universal desire to live in a compassionate filled world
extinguishes the fire of hatred they have spawned.
Let us not forsake our humanity.”
Dodinsky

blog compassion

 

The fears, frustrations and uncertainties we feel are universal. We, you are not alone. This is something basic that can actually help us all connect to each other. It is a bond. If we can retrain our thought process to step into someone else’s shoes, no matter how poor the fit, instead of making a judgment or an assumption, we have a chance to extinguish the “fire of hatred”. Hatred, and I think fear too.

I have friends who patiently challenge me on this idea of compassion towards all. Every chance they get. And I love it! It makes me think longer and harder. I read more, listen more. I speak less, respond less. And I come away, each and every time more steadfast in my thinking and belief. I believe we can use our “collective voice against the inhumanity of a few” and not have to “forsake our humanity.”

“Compassion is not foolish.
It doesn’t just go along with what others want so they don’t feel bad.
There is a yes in compassion, and there is also a no,
said with the some courage of heart.
No to abuse, no to racism, no to violence, both personal and worldwide.
This is said not out of hate but out of an unwavering care.”
Jack Kornfield

 I believe these words with all my heart.

Unwavering Care.
Getting the heart right.

I don’t know how this came into my being, but getting my heart “right” is very important to me. I really work on it. When I fail, through judgment, gossip, anger, or fear, I agonize over it. I feel terrible.

In order to get the heart right we have to start with ourselves. Whatever it is, whatever it takes. We have to be honest with ourselves, face truth, let go of fear and anger, heal, allow ourselves to be healed, we have to forgive others and forgive ourselves. We have to be our own best friend…the one who loves us no matter what and says, ”I’ve got you. Go ahead and fall. I’ll pick you up and dust you off.” Unwavering care for ourselves.  It’s tough work. I’m not a trained anything, I am just a person who has fought my own demons and battles. Admittedly they are not nearly as painful and intimidating as some people’s, but they are mine, and they hurt, and sometimes still hurt. And we’ve come to truce. They will forever live under the unmbrella of unwavering care.

For me that means I put great effort into preventing hate and anger from gaining a foothold in my being, my life. At times it is very difficult. Even while writing this I am processing some emotions about a couple of people, and it is exhausting work to keep them in the light of compassion….and there have been moments where I have not been able to do this.

Even though I struggle with the same things you do, and often stumble and search for answers, I still believe I can put myself in your shoes to come closer to your experiences to let you know I care, that I extend compassion towards you.

You: the person reading this, the homeless man, the woman with mental illness, the murderer, the angry, mean person, the abuser the abused, the victim, the perpetrator, the addict, the trans-gendered, the gay, the widow, the handicapped, the deaf, the blind…….I can extend compassion towards all of you without judgment, based on our common humanity, IF I can get over the fear. And I believe I can get over the fear if I go back to the second quote,

 “There is a yes in compassion, and there is also a no,
said with the some courage of heart.
No to abuse, no to racism, no to violence, both personal and worldwide.
This is said not out of hate but out of an unwavering care.”

With unwavering care I abolish hate and just see people as people. I can see them this way and still understand what they may have done was wrong, what they are doing is hurtful. Compassion and unwavering care do not mean being apathetic, hopeless, blind, all forgiving or naive. But, I can see their pain, hurt, their dreams, fears, weaknesses, their humanness.

I understand that I wish for all people to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. Will this ever happen? Probably not. But, I choose for myself to send out love and compassion rather than hatred and fear.  I can choose tenderness, softness, grace, humanness over ridicule, judgment, assumption, superiority, privilege.

Extending compassion only to people we think deserve compassion shuts out a whole lot of people. Every single person on this earth is worthy of my compassion because of the shared, common bond of humanity.

 “Full-fledged compassion involves feelings of tenderness for the struggles
and hopes of all people,
even those who are different from us or with whom we disagree.
We might think it would be easier to feel compassion
towards those we are close to.
But as the saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt”—
and that familiarity can lead us to label and stereotype them.
We develop a set of perceptions, and then we create labels.
For example, we start seeing someone as immature, irresponsible, or self-centered. Then we start to see all their behavior through that lens.”
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Research and Extension

To get the heart right not only do we need to develop compassion, but along side of it we have to allow humility to thrive. Humility requires us to recognize that, while our needs matter, so do the needs of other people. Humility is the willingness to admit that we do not have a complete understanding of truth. It requires us to be open to other people’s opinions. Humility is a willingness to admit that we make mistakes. It allows us to continue learning and growing.

 Unwavering care.
Getting the heart right.

 Giant goals. I’ve got a long way to go and a lot of work to do on a personal level, but I’m staying the course towards getting my heart right. Worth every ounce of effort.

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain,
to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.
Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery,
to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears.
Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable,
and powerless with the powerless.
Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
~Henri J.M. Nouwen

Empathy

Waiting for a snow storm. A light snow has begun. It is soft and light. The world seems softer.

2snow curtainedited

It takes me about a week to write a post for this blog. The one I was working on for today will be a beautiful one when it is done, but that is not going to happen this week. I’ve gotten caught up in all the things I write about—-worry, self doubt, sadness, anger, resentment. Work was hard this week, and I feel a bit worn down. These thoughts and emotions have interfered with the blog post I intended for this week, and I can’t seem to finish it.

BUT!!! I saw this short video on Facebook, and thought it was charming and important. It is on the Power of Empathy. I needed the reminder. I may not get the empathy from some that would be most welcomed, but I can still extend empathy forward to them. I’m trying.

How do you feel about empathy?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw