Guerilla Compassion

This morning I was reading comments on articles and my heart sank. I know the internet and social media have allowed for hateful and hurtful voices to speak out. This morning, still dark, one particular comment was just so sad. It was ignorant, bigoted, mean, unkind….it was very difficult to understand. Sad to think that first of all, maybe “we” are raising people who are so full of fear, hate and intolerance and secondly, that even if they function as kind, caring people they still speak their true hearts and minds on social media for all to read.

Last week I couldn’t even muster the energy to try to be a Shambala Warrior. The world at large had knocked me down. The political rhetoric of war, hate, violence, the greed, the anger, the desire for power and control, all of it, deflated me.

Then as usually happens, I read something that filled me up again.

walk4“Sharon Salzberg suggests we practice guerilla compassion — silently blessing people on line at the bank, at the supermarket, in the cars next to us in traffic. Each blessing a tiny Sabbath, a secret sanctuary offered to a hurried and unsuspecting world.”

Okay, I thought, I am going to do this. I am going to be aware of people. In that awareness I will offer a silent blessing to them. No matter who they are, or what they are doing. I will not hide under a veil of fear, of not noticing, not seeing, not caring. I will offer “May you have a peaceful day.” “May you have a happy day.” “May you be safe.” To those I want to shun or turn away from, discard,  I will not. I will offer “May you find healing.” “May you find hope.” “May you find strength.”

Why? Because I think it matters. I don’t know if this energy really goes out into the world and creates a change. I hope it does. I do know when I change my thoughts and actions I change on a profound level. If I begin to offer blessings to all the people I encounter during my day, first of all I see others, secondly I see them in a positive, hopeful light of possibility. Instead of sorting them by worthy or unworthy I see them as being worthy of compassion. If I forgo the judging, the lumping them in categories I see them as individuals not unlike me. We all have shared values, dreams, hopes, suffering and joys. If we do not see ourselves in others, even if it is one teeny tiny thing (sometimes it is so very difficult to find that teeny tiny common thing), we will become boxed in from life and the world by fear, indifference, apathy, judging. As individuals we loose. Collectively we loose. As a country and a nation we loose. As a world we suffer.

The thought that others passing by me during the day may be offering me a blessing is humbling. It is a wonderful thought. To be noticed, seen, respected, even in my failings and weaknesses, is healing. To think that someone who I don’t know understands we share many of the same dreams, hopes and feelings is comforting. Those things wrap me in the security of a shared human experience and reminds me I am not alone or unsupported.

I have a difficult time balancing the affairs of our world. The massive amounts of suffering and pain tugs mightily at my heart. The words of anger and threats and actions of violence makes my soul tense up and my spirit pale . I am one, but I am going to keep trying to do what my heart and soul tell me to do. This week I will focus on offering blessings to others all day long. I believe it matters.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
Rumi

The Drum Major

Tomorrow we will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of us will make time to participate in A Day of Service to honor the man, his life and his death.

Engraved on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Statue is the quote,

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major,
say that I was a drum major for justice,
say that I was a drum major for peace,
I was a drum major for righteousness,
and all the other shallow things will not matter.”

For millions of people around the world, he is The Drum Major. He remains the leader for those who work, struggle and die for peace, righteousness, equality, non-violence, justice.

Probably most of you reading this can recite a quote by him. “I have a dream…..”, “I have decided to stick with love…”

Today I wondered, who inspired Martin Luther King Jr. in the way he inspires us?

In January of 2014, Nathan Raab of Forbes Magazine wrote an article of the 10 people who most influenced Rev. King. They are:

Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish writer and historian during the Victorian era.
William Cullen Bryant, American poet and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post.
James Russell Lowell, one of The Fireside Poets.
John Donne, English poet who wrote around the turn of the 17th century.
Gandhi, led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalist author.
Leo Tolstoy, Russian author.
Washington Irving, storyteller.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of The Fireside Poets.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist.
And, not listed above, because these two are the most significant source of purpose and inspiration for Martin Luther King Jr as a Baptist minister, son, father, husband and human being, Jesus and The Bible.

In his 1968 speech, A New Sense of Direction, Martin Luther King Jr. said, including a quote from Longfellow,

“….we must begin to turn mankind away from the long and desolate night of violence. May it not be that the new man the world needs is the non-violent man? Longfellow said: “In this world a man must either be an anvil or the hammer.” We must be hammers shaping a new society rather than anvils molded by the old. This not only will make us new men but will give us a new kind of power. It will not be Lord Acton’s image of power that tends to corrupt, the absolute power that corrupts absolutely. It will be power infused with love and justice that will change dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.”

Longfellow also wrote:

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies,
we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering
enough to disarm all hostility.

This is compassion and the awareness of our Common Humanity.

Looking at Tolstoy we all know his colossal novels. He also said,

 “All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.”

“If one loves, one loves the whole person as he or she is,
and not as one might wish them to be.”

We hear the same sentiment in King’s writings,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

In the writings of these people we are given a lens through which to look into the heart and soul of Martin Luther King Jr. We gain a better understanding of how the character of King was formed.

Martin Luther King Jr. ultimately gave his life for what he believed in…that we are not living up to our moral and ethical responsibility until racial equality is no longer an issue, until non-violence replaces violence, until social justice erases oppression, until Light triumphs over Darkness, until Love dispels Hate, until cruelty and indifference is overcome with compassion.

King said “True compassion is more than  flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces a beggar needs restructuring.” 

We, the collective “we” have to find the same kind of courage and strength King found in order to be able to look honestly at ourselves, our country, our weaknesses and failings in both to be able to bring about the restructuring that will have to happen if we will ever have a chance of honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr in a truly meaningful way. We, the individual “we”, have to find something deep inside ourselves and call it forth with determination and courage. We have to become the Drum Majors leading the way for ourselves and others to become the People, the Country, the World King believed we could create and Be.

We can quote King all we want. We can volunteer on his birthday for the Day of Service. Until we are able to open our eyes and hearts and to look around and see the reason for the beggar sitting in front of us and make changes and restructure our societies, we will live perpetually quoting the dreams of a great man and believing our one day of service is good enough.

Is it enough?

It is time to become the hammers that shape the new society.

Link to Forbes article10 People Who Inspired Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

 

 

Enmeshed

In her beautiful article for the magazine LIFE AS A HUMAN, Lakota writer Mary Black Bonnet explains,

“For Lakotas one of our common mantras is “Mitakuye Oyasin” — we are all related.
All of us, no matter who you are (person), or what you are (grass, trees, rocks), are the same.
No one is better than anyone else.
Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.
Some say related — I like to say enmeshed, because it really is.”

water treesmh1

Mary goes on to explain that along with this sense of Mitakuye Oyasin comes the practice of gratitude. Not the kind of gratitude most of us practice, but full on, constant awareness and complete physical, spiritual and mental gratitude from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we close them at the end of the day.

Mary Black Bonnet writes, “By the time I’ve ingested my food and am ready to start my day, I’ve already offered up thanks for so many things.”

This practice of being grateful is something I am consciously working on. It is difficult. It is not about coming to the end of the day and running through a litany of things to be thankful for. It is about having the presence of mind and pausing in that awareness as things happen, and saying “Thank you.”

My hard wiring causes me to begin planning and ordering my day as soon as I open my eyes. The mental lists form. A tightening in my body occurs as I feel overwhelmed some days before I even get out of bed. (And I have a pretty easy day, job and life) Some mornings before I get out of bed I find I am anticipating how many hours until I can get back in it.

I am working on giving up that routine. When I open my eyes I look outside and focus on Nature, the world. These winter mornings it is still dark and quiet. (This past week the moon, along with Saturn and Venus put on quite a show. I could see them from my pillow. There was no way to avoid the brightness, the light, the breath-taking beauty.)  I stay there in bed, for minutes after I “should” be up and I practice gratitude. It changes my physical body, I stay soft and relaxed. It changes my mental state, there is less anxiousness, worry, feeling of being overwhelmed. It changes my emotions. I don’t feel grumpy or cranky. I am instead at ease, grounded, open minded.

That takes 5 minutes.

As Mary writes, we are all a part of everything else….enmeshed, tangled up together, caught up in everything else. Thích Nhất Hạnh calls this “Interbeing”.  Alan Watts reminds us:

If you see yourself in the correct way,
you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees,
clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire,
the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy.
You are all just like that
…”

When we begin to learn to approach our life a little differently from what the TV shows, news, magazine photos, consumer advertising, would have us believe is the life we need to attain and defines a life well lived, we may discover something else. I get it that not everyone is into this. It’s where I am right now.

I am learning that life defined in softness and stillness, in awareness and being present, in interbeing and inter-connectedness, in gratitude, is a life of beauty and wonder, gentleness and hope.

In the morning when I open my eyes and see that crescent moon flirting with Venus and Saturn, I strive to remember to  see myself “in the correct way”. The way that tells us we “are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as…the arrangement of the stars and the form of a galaxy.” I remember we are all related. “Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.”

And in remembering those things I am reminded to bathe in gratitude. To let gratitude flow over me and wash me clean from things that may not be as important as I make them out to be. When I do that I am changed. Compassion, gentleness, patience, less judgement, less worry fill my days. Not always…I am still learning. But, more often.

It’s a miraculous thing, Life. I don’t want the beauty, wonder, magic of it to be lost from me. I want to embrace and understand this state of Interbeing we are enmeshed in. I want gratitude to be the emotion that guides me.

Mary Black Bonnet’s article: We Are All Related

Link for LIFE AS A HUMAN Life As A Human

Link for Clouds In Each Paper by Thích Nhất Hạnh about Interbeing Clouds In Each Paper

*Photo by me. Roy H. Park Nature Preserve

 

 

Fully Present For Life

Equanimity is not a word in my vocabulary that I use often. I imagine that is true for most of us. It is however a word/thought/concept that does live and express itself in my internal dialogue.

noun: mental or emotional stability or composure,
especially under tension or strain;
calmness; equilibrium

Don’t we all experience moments throughout the day when we are desperately trying to find balance? Equanimity?

In Pali equanimity means  “upekkha, translated as ‘to look over.’ It refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught up in what we see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.” It includes the idea of a kind of ease that comes from being able to see the bigger picture. Perhaps “to see with patience” or with understanding. It means we do not have to take any or everything personally.

A slightly different interpretation is “to stand in the middle of all this”. Being centered and finding inner strength and stability. Balancing to keep ourselves upright, grounded.

balance

In Buddhist philosophy the concept of equanimity offers a buffer against or possibly protection from the “ ‘eight worldly winds’:  praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute.” These are the things in life we can easily become preoccupied with, wrapped up in. When we become attached to or caught up in any of these, they often become the cause of our unhappiness, our dis-ease with ourselves and our life.

Equanimity can be fostered through honesty and sincerity, conviction and confidence, mindfulness, well-being (taking care of our body and mind), nurturing understanding/wisdom, insight and letting go of our reactive tendencies.

Finding and nurturing balance is important. It is one of the pillars of mental health. It is found in all religions. It is found in the healing arts and lines spiritual pathways. Equanimity is of value. It helps us to be healthy.

By developing and using the power of observation, and finding an inner balance, mindfulness evolves.  Equanimity becomes stronger and we find that we become more balanced in the middle of stress or turmoil. We begin to experience a kind of freedom and independence as we let go of the things that blind us, hold us down and keep us living in a fog. Unable to see and afraid to go forward. I read an article once that referenced “fog goggles”. Fog goggles are the practices and choices, thoughts and actions that help us see clearly. Fog goggles help us see through this fog in order to see with clarity how to become balanced. Fog goggles show us the way to equanimity.

Through equanimity we understand compassion and become fully present to life. We can look at things and situations in the world and bear witness to those things with an open heart. We can pause, and in balance and stability, without threat, anger or fear, we can look at our individual and collective relationship to those things and acknowledge them as being real. Instead of allowing the reactionary responses of fear, anger and hurt that bind our heart and results in us closing our heart, eyes and mind to hurt and suffering, we find we can be compassionate and be fully present to the suffering of others. And of ourselves. It is balanced engagement with life.  With equanimity we find we can be open to all of life with a kind of poise and serenity. Not only do we accept the beautiful things in life, but also the unpleasant parts of life. In a state of equanimity we cradle tenderly the loved as well as the unloved, pleasure as well as pain, the desirable as well as the undesirable, ourselves and “the other”. There is nothing we need meet with reluctance and hesitation or shun with revulsion, fear or hate, anger or indignation.

In striving towards being fully present for life we can find a peacefulness that seeps deeply into our core and releases us from loneliness, worry, fear, longing….and allows us to find sweet repose in being where we are.

Fully present for Life

*************

~~photo by me. Frabel Glass exhibit at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh. Frabel Glass

 

 

Pearls for the New Year

Sometimes we call inspiring and impactful words “pearls of wisdom.” They may challenge or uplift us. Perhaps they become the impetus for us to challenge or change ourselves. Maybe they kindle or revive some thought, feeling or hope that had become obscured or lost.

As the wheel turns and a new year roles into place I thought I would share some pearls of wisdom that reverberate in my thoughts, feelings and heart. Words that make me pause and think. Words that become a map for my life. Words that bring into questions ideas and beliefs. Words that change, inspire, even worry me. Words that uplift me and spark something into life in me. Sometimes they sound like an echo coming back to me….something that floated away and now is finding it’s way back to me. Dreams and thoughts, wishes and hopes I had sent out into the world in good will, but then seemed to have forgotten about, come softly back and nudge me.

Here they are, in no particular order.

love-hafiz

“Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds.” 
— Buddha

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
~The Dalai Lama

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion”.~Simone de Beauvoir

“The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive–it has nothing to do with time. It happens on its own when a human being questions, wonders, inquires, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure, and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”~ Toni Packer

“Only a life lived for others is worth living.”
~ Albert Einstein

“Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.”
~ Rumi

we will walk

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
~Kurt Vonnegaut

“Questioner: How are we to treat others? Ramana Maharshi: There are no others.”

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Talk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – Rabbi Tarfon

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” 
– Eric Hoffer

“Kindness … loving people more than they deserve.” — Joseph Joubert

“The highest wisdom is loving kindness.” ~The Talmud

seneca kindness

 

“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” ~Howard Zinn

mo pnd

“Any persons whom you have ever met, even if you have just exchanged a glance on a bus, have become part of your being and consequently you are, in some sense, responsible for them. You carry them in your heart.” ~Native American saying in Grace In Action by Richard Rohr

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” ~Matthew 5.9

This kinship with the suffering of others, this inability to continue to regard it from afar, is the discovery of our soft spot, the discovery of bodhichitta. Bodhichittais a Sanskrit word that means “noble or awakened heart.” It is said to be present in all beings. Just as butter is inherent in milk and oil is inherent in a sesame seed, this soft spot is inherent in you and me.“~ Pema Chodron

“When we bless others, we offer them refuge from an indifferent world.”
— Rachel Naomi Remen

“In the expectation of wonderful things to happen in the future,
one doesn’t hear the sound of the wind and rain,
the breath and heartbeat this instant.”
~Toni Packer

corinthlove

“As a mother with her own life guards the life of her own child, let all-embracing embracing thoughts for all that lives be thine.” ~ Metta Sutta

“There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.” 
~ Mary Oliver

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

“Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.” Qur’an

rumi quiet

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Men do not mirror themselves in running water–
they mirror themselves in still water.
Only what is still can still the stillness of other things.
” ~Taoism

Dig a big hole in the garden of your thoughts and put into it all your disillusions, disappointments, regrets, worries, troubles, doubts, and fears. Cover well with the earth of fruitfulness. Water it from the well of contentment. Sow on top the seeds of hope, courage, strength, patience, and love. Then when the time for gathering comes, may your harvest be a rich and fruitful one.”~ Anonymous

“An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn’t take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn’t kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share, we call it: cancer.” ~ Tom Shadyac

If people could see that Change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” – Howard Zinn

And finally, I love this story:

Digging A Hole Big Enough to Sit In, by Twylah Nitsch

“I must have been under five when I spent one whole summer day digging a hole with a large spoon in the side of a bank near our house. I had to dig and dig because the ground was so full of roots and my goal was to make a hole big enough to sit in – like a cave. And that took a lot of hard work. Digging through all those roots was tough.

What I remember most about the experience is something my grandmother said. “When you take the dirt out, make sure you have a place for it,” she cautioned me, “because the dirt is used to being in that particular place, and it is at home there. Don’t take anything that is part of something and just scatter it around. Remember you are disturbing the home of the worms and the insects. You are moving them out of the place where they have been living, and you need to make sure that they are happy about where you are taking them.” So I would scoop the dirt into a little basket I had and take it around to various spots. “Is this where you would like to be?” I’d ask. And if the answer was yes, I would leave it. Otherwise, I’d pick up my basket, go to another spot, and ask again.

When I had finally made the hold deep enough to sit in, I would crawl in there and listen. I could hear the earth talking.”

There are many more! This is just a sampling!!!

Perhaps you’d care to share you favorite quotes or words of inspiration….

Happy New Year to each of you!!  Thanks for stopping by!