The Disarmed Heart

The New Year is around the corner. Some of us do some thinking this time of year. We look back on the passing year. We look ahead to the new year.

Dec 25 sunrise

What I have been thinking about lately is the fact that I am inching up on 60. I have no qualms with that. I do not see growing older as something to feel bad about. It is just what is happening. What intrigues me, are the things that are most important to me now as I move into these later years.

“The life of ‘peace’ is both an inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world. This difficult but beautiful journey gives infinite meaning and fulfillment to life itself because our lives become a gift for the whole human race. With peace as the beginning, middle, and end of life, life makes sense.”John Dear

This is the quote that inspired the title of this blog. It also reflects something I have come to understand about my journey on my path in this world. A journey that has sometimes been interrupted. A path I sometimes had difficulty seeing in darkness.

I grew up in a family that believed, still believes Peace is The Path.

“If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.” – Lao Tzu

I believe strongly in the importance and power of Peace, the real need for Peace. As John Dear says, it is a beautiful journey that gives meaning and fulfillment to life. And, it is a  two part journey: inward and outward. As I grow older, this disarming of my own heart and the working towards a disarmed world is what is giving infinite meaning and fulfillment to my life. “With peace as the beginning, middle, and end of life, life makes sense.”

My public journey is one that is quieter and softer than others. On this path my voice does not often raise up in volume but rather chooses to ask others to think about what they are saying and to challenge them to look intimately at their own thoughts. Professionally, I teach preschoolers and incorporate a Peace Curriculum into their days.

“If we want to reap the harvest of peace and justice in the future,
we will have to sow the seeds of nonviolence, here and now, in the present.”
Mairead Corrigan Maguire

On this public path I stand in solidarity with others to protest violence. I stand united with others because violence against one is violence against all. Violence does not beget Peace. I speak out against war. War does not beget Peace. It breeds violence and hate.

“When people talk about war
I vow with all beings to raise my voice in the chorus
and speak of original peace.”
Robert Aitken

On my inner journey I work very hard to hear the words I plan to say BEFORE they are spoken out loud to be aware of what I am saying. It is difficult. To paraphrase Buddha,

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

My husband and I raised two children with the intention of them being compassionate, respectful and kind adults. Compassionate to all: the are no “Others”. Respectful of differences as well as similarities: there are no “Others”. Kind to all: there are no “Others”. Those three qualities go hand in hand with Peace.

“Questioner: ‘How are we to treat others?’
Ramana Hasharshi: ‘There are no others.'”

I explore religions in order to learn about, and understand them. I study religion because religious myth, doctrine and dogma are things that have a strong influence on what people believe and as such, directly influence their thoughts and actions. I understand most religions teach non-violence and make the call for Peace. Yet most also are the source of much violence in the world. I think Krishnamurti was right when he offered that religion is one of the things that separates us. We separate ourselves by nationality, tradition, religion…. I am of the school of thought that if we feel separate from each other, then we see others as “The Other”. It is somehow easier for us to wage war, oppress, be unjust, or be violent towards the “Other”.

These things are what I care about. These things cause me to work towards disarming my heart so I may hold softly, within it, all people. In compassion, love, kindness and peace.

So, before I end up being “preachy”, let me offer you all a wish for a peaceful New Year. Peace in you own heart, in your life and in the world.

For me, I am going to continue on this “inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world.”  This is in many ways my personal resolution every year…..it is a part of my life. It really never changes.  It brings sense to my life. It’s a slow journey on a long path. As I continue on my journey I will remember the words of John Lennon:

“Peace is not something to wish for.
It’s something you make, something you do,
something you are and something you give away.”

Happy New Year.

Letting The Light In

Tomorrow the Winter Solstice arrives and Earth (in the Northern Hemisphere) will have reached the point of the shortest day. Nature in all its mystery and wonder now prepares for the return of light.

007

The word solstice comes from Latin origins, “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand still). For thousands of years this time has been a call to restore our connection to all other living things. To stand in awe of Nature and be reminded of not only the power of the sun, but the life force that it is. It is time to metaphorically turn from dark to light. A time to reflect inwardly and then because of that, be ready once again to open to light and walk in light with a pure heart that has released the old to make way for the new or renewed.

“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. 
It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. 
It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.”
~Michael Strassfeld

As the sun and heavens “stand still” we have a wonderful opportunity to be still also. To stand in awe of the power of Nature, the sun, Life, Light. Of the possibility of seeing and being open our own Light.

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way.
It is our privilege and our adventure
to discover our own special light.” 
~Evelyn Dunbar

A time to understand the brilliant potential in each one of us. Our own Light. Our own gifts. We see them daily in a smile, a kind action. There, in a loving embrace or in the wiping of the tear. We see others glitter and shine in lightness of heart. This does not mean that times of darkness cannot also magnify sight through different light. Sometimes we need the muting darkness to let our eyes adjust to this other Light…

People are like stained-glass windows. 
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within. 
~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

When we allow this inner Light to shine, and adjust our eyes to see it, there too we may find what is called the ‘boundless heart’ that is in each one of us. Infinite. Vast. Unlimited. Inexhaustible. No strings attached. And in this standing still, in this waiting for Light to return, and preparing to let it in, we can also allow an opening in our heart as it too is warmed and lit from the Light that is within us all.

“Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.”
-Sutta Nipata

This boundless heart. The one I am just beginning to let myself be open to. The only one that will change the world. This is what I believe will let Light shine unfiltered. This is what I believe will happen when Light is allowed in. This is what I believe can happen beginning with the Winter Solstice.  If we stand still, and then turn to face the returning Light with an open heart. Our open heart will become a boundless heart.

Nestled Under a Blanket of Stars

In the early hours of this morning I peeked out the window. A sliver of alabaster moon hung, tilted, like the one in a child’s book, cradling a drowsy child, draped and peaceful. The stars filled the cold steel sky. Orion, on his side was still slumbering. Shadows of trees fell across the ground. It was still. And quiet. And frosty.

This week I stumbled across this quote on the Center for Courage and Renewal’s site:

“There’s something magical about a night sky in December.
The stars seem somehow closer and crisper, as if they’re noticing me.
And if I pause long enough to notice them back, they’ll tell me their story.

It’s the story of how, in spite of the oceans and borders that seem to divide us,
all 7 billion humans sleep beneath the same night sky.
And we always have.
That’s a beautiful truth, don’t you think?”
–Terry Chadsey

I love this. We all, each one of us, with all our similarities and differences, sleep under the same night sky. We are all tucked in under the same primordial blanket. As we gaze upwards, billions of us search for the star formations that tell the stories we remember from childhood. There is the Greek tale of Orion boasting of his hunting skills, ready to kill all the animals when Gaia stopped him and raised his defeated body to the heavens. Hindus look up and recall the Mahabharata’s story of The Seven Rishis…. what we call The Big Dipper. In this Hindu tale it is not about our familiar bear, it is about the seven sages who make the sun rise and shine. In Africa the Nyae Nyae !Kung Bushmen see the sky and stars as the dwelling place of all the divine beings and spirits of the dead. Also from Africa  is the watching of Canopus, “one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is widely known in southern Africa as Naka, “The Horn Star”. In Sotho tradition, a careful watch was kept for Naka about the end of May. Sotho chiefs awarded a cow for Naka’s earliest sighting. The day of the sighting the chief would call his medicine-men together. Throwing their bone dice, the doctors would judge whether the new season would be good or bad. The appearance of Naka also heralds coming of winter and browning of the veld. When Naka appeared before sunrise, the Tswana knew it was time to start breeding their sheep. In Venda tradition, the first person to see Nanga in the morning sky (in May, heralding winter) would climb a hill and blow the phalaphala (black sable antelope horn) and he would receive a cow as a prize. The Zulu knew Canopus as is Andulela, a messenger appearing at the end of Autumn, the harvest time, and also as in Khwenkwezi, “The Brilliant Star”. The Xam Bushmen believed that Canopus could influence the availability of ants’ eggs, a rich source of nourishment, and they called it “The Ant Egg Star”.” (Psychohistorian.com)

night sky

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Rfkphoto

From the stars we did come.  We are not only, each one of us, called to sleep as the stars shine, but are made from them.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth,
the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies
were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

The world is in such turmoil now. All the making of our advanced brains. The actual physical being of our planet is in pain. On fire. Drowning. Melting. Humans around the world are in pain from wars, famine, drought, flooding, persecution, violence, fear.

Yet, we are all made from the same star stuff that began longer ago than we can fathom. We all breathe the same air and rest under the same sky. We dream the same dreams under night fall and star shine. In our dreams we face our fears, find our true love, become champions and sometimes catch a glimpse of the future. We share with our children the constellation myths using whispered and strong voices, invoking the wonder and magic of the star animals and gods. With our sleep we offer a bit of time for our bodies, hearts and minds to be still, heal and recharge.

“When it  is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

It has to be dark enough to see the stars at night. Perhaps we can hope it also means that as this man made darkness falls around the world we may see individuals here and there who shine like guiding stars to help us remember while there is seemingly much that separates us, there is the also something greater that binds and bonds us together. This is a shared reverence we must find again and hold on to. Look up to the stars and know we are all made from them. We all share them and experience awe and wonder in their sparkle. How do we heal oursleves? How do we bridge the gaps created by ideaology, religion, power, dogma, fear, want, need? How do we learn again to care about “Others”? How does each one of us find the courage to let our own light shine, our voices rise up, our actions find conviction, so that we can find ways to embrace one another and find comfort and beauty nestled together under the blanket of stars?