Rest In The Grace Of The World

                                                                    The Peace Of Wild Things

heron2When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~Wendell Berry

This is a favorite poem of mine. I come back to often, looking at the written words. Saying them out loud. Bringing them into my heart. It’s all there. All around us. The reminder of what matters. What the foundation is. A path that leads to resting in the grace of the world.

There are some days when I do feel as if I am waiting for the light of the day-blind stars. For me there is comfort in the star light of night. It is in the darkness with what appear as tiny specks reflecting light from an unseen source, that I feel small, not so important….where I experience awe, wonder, amazement in the most profound way. The world becomes quiet. Harshness softens. Reflection and gratitude have their time.

Now, obviously, given the title of the blog, I appreciate the sunrise also….that is when I wake up in awe, and listen to bird song, watch colors that cannot be recreated float across the sky. My mind wakes up and thoughts percolate. I have the feeling of being something very tiny in a world, in universe that is very large. Nature. It is Nature where I experience the sublime. This is what is holy, spiritual for me. Standing outside with the wind giving voice to the leaves, softly brushing my skin, feeling the heat of the sun or the seeing by the light of the moon, I am reminded over and over again


“we all dwell in a house of one room…”

~John Muir

There is grace enough for all of us in this world. Sometimes we have to stop, slow down, stop thinking in order to see it. To feel it. To know it. And sometimes we need to reach out and help others stop, slow down, stop talking to see it. Feel it. Know it.

We have to step out of world of important things. We have to stop the movement, the doing. We have to turn off the noise, the music, the computer, the phone. We have to figure out how to “……..go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”

Here, resting in the beauty we have a chance to find clarity and balance. These two things are so needed in our world today. When your back is flat against the earth and you have to close your eyes to the brilliance of the sun and your skin feels the heat, all that heals you. The music in your ears, the rythym of the rippling water and the singing birds, is the most beautiful music there is.

Go now, go and lie down. Rest in the peace of the wild things.

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The Illusion of The Rising Sun

During late spring and summer, and a wee bit into fall, I am able to wake up and look sleepily out the window to watch the illusion of the sun rising. Sometimes I think it is very telling that we refer to this time of day as “sunrise”. For in fact, the sun does not rise, but rather we are spinning.

jan 2013a

This past week there were two special sunrises. One, as my neighbor described it, was electric pink. A full 360 degree jolt of varying hues and intensity. The other sunrise was just a jumbled, raucous, out of tune, off beat, brouhaha of crow noise. It was deafening.I don’t even remember if there was color!

As I lay safe in bed, safe in my house, safe in my neighborhood, safe in my town, I felt the weight of a terrible suffering that left me feeling deflated and weak as I thought about the shooting in Orlando. I felt for days as if I had been punctured and was slowly being flattened . It was almost as if I could feel the world spinning…..but it felt out of control, not finely choreographed by the Universe.

Recently there was a post on Pema Chodron’s page:

BEYOND OUR COMFORT ZONE
“Compassion is threatening to the ego. We might think of it as something warm and soothing, but actually it’s very raw. When we set out to support other beings, when we go so far as to stand in their shoes, when we aspire to never close down to anyone, we quickly find ourselves in the uncomfortable territory of “life not on my terms.” The second commitment, traditionally known as the Bodhisattva Vow, or warrior vow, challenges us to dive into these noncozy waters and swim out beyond our comfort zone.

Our willingness to make the first commitment is our initial step toward relaxing completely with uncertainty and change. The commitment is to refrain from speech and action that would be harmful to ourselves and others and then to make friends with the underlying feelings that motivate us to do harm in the first place. The second commitment builds on this foundation: we vow to move consciously into the pain of the world in order to help alleviate it. It is, in essence, a vow to take care of one another, even if it sometimes means not liking how that feels.”
(From her book Living Beautifully With Uncertainty and Change)

One of the comments cut through these words like a razor edged sword:

So we are supposed to step into the shoes of the killers, and understand them?
I don’t think I can do that.”

How do we do this when it seems as if violence and hate are blanketing the world? Has there always been what seems to be an unbearable amount, and the internet and 24/7 news loops help us see it as spreading disease? And…..desensitizes us to it through endless replay until we are so overwhelmed that we believe there is nothing that can be changed?

How do we get to the point where love IS a verb not an emotional enigma? How do we disarm hate? How do we end violence? How do we allow peace into the world?

How do we get the place where we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of the shooter AND the shoes of the victims. The shoes of our “brothers and sisters” and the shoes of the “Other”.

For us to alleviate the pain we have to commit to taking care of each other. Caring about each other. Every single each other.

Going beyond my comfort zone has led me to places I never thought about going. Places I never wanted to go. I have stepped over dead bodies. I have walked through the hell of Concentration Camps. I have seen unimaginable beauty in the eyes of a young child whose arm was cut off so his begging would be more lucrative. I have sat with 13-year-old mothers cradling their sleeping child. I have seen the sadhu with their arms frozen in contorted positions. I have smelled burning flesh. I have seen a woman beaten. I have been circled and touched for being female, tall, white, light-haired and blue-eyed.  I have grown so much as my children have navigated adulthood and seen, thought, experienced, been made aware of and expressed things I had not thought about. Coming into older years in life I have more time to think back on what my mother and father instilled in me.

Everything has a tag line now……a label identifying it as something that seems to isolate it from other things. From other people. Movements, Groups and Causes. I don’t know where I fit or where I belong. Or where it is okay for me to be. Where I am supposed to be. Why do I have to be in any of them?

I am a human being on the planet earth. Those two things bind me to every other single person on the planet. There is nothing in those two things that can separate me from anyone else. And that is what I hold on to….finding what does not separate me from the dead in Orlando, the bombed in Syria, the oppressed in Palestine, the young hostages of Boko Haram, the terrorist, the murderer, the mentally ill, the black youth shot dead in streets, the addict, the sex worker, the starving, the dark, sometimes invisible side of humanity.

I can choose to be separate by identifying myself  as American, Christian Buddhist, white, married, heterosexual, a mother, a wife.

Or I can say yes, I fit in those labels, but first I am a Human Being on planet earth and I will not use those categories to separate myself from feeling compassion for all others and to embrace love as a verb and do something to lift others who by reason of chance are in pain, suffering, struggling……

I don’t have answers. I don’t always get it right. But I do try to be aware and not allow the news to desensitize me. I make financial donation where I can. I go to vigils because of respect. I challenge racist and bigoted comments, I get information from all sources not the ones that support my beliefs. I write to my Representatives. I vote. I know there are always 2 or 3 sides to a story. I can and should do more.

But mostly I challenge myself not to dismiss the life of anyone as being insignificant or irrelevant. Or useless. Or evil. At a bare minimum I can choose to recognize the common and shared threads that are spun out of love. So, when I put myself in the shoes of another, they fit. They fit because at a bare bones level they are a Human Being, they live on this planet, they have been loved by someone, they have loved another and they have experienced joy and they have suffered.

I can condemn their actions, their motives. I can work to define solutions to war, poverty, starvation, disease, mental health complexities, fear, isolation, racism, and class to possibly prevent someone from having the anger, fear, hate, suffering, oppression, stigma that leads to horrible, violent actions.

I do not ever want to be blind to or complacent to the fact I am a white American living a middle class comfortable life. Sometimes this brings pain to my heart. It is a privilege and as such it brings responsibility to help, love, care for those who do not have shelter, food, clothing, a job, medical care, education, safety, a voice. It brings the responsibility to end things that divide: religion, race, wealth.

It is time to swim out beyond our comfort zone and “vow to move consciously into the pain of the world in order to help alleviate it. It is, in essence, a vow to take care of one another, even if it sometimes means not liking how that feels.”

The more you swim, the stronger you get. The further you go. There is another shore we can walk on together. If we are not afraid to get in the water and start swimming beyond our comfort zone.

Sign the Charter for Comapssion

 

 

 

So Much More

It was a powerful experience listening to people from all walks of life, all faiths, talk about the man they knew as Muhammad Ali. A boxer who could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and yet he was so much more than that. He was in fact a brilliant reminder of what people can be when their hearts are full of love, respect and compassion.

He spoke the truth. He refused to kill people and go to war. He knew war was wrong on a multitude of levels.

He played patty cake with children and shook the hands of Presidents.

He was a physically powerful, articulate, vocal, Black Muslim man who an entire nation paused to pay its respect to. Flowers rained down as his body traveled miles through a red state, in a nation that seems to be currently wrapped in a scratchy blanket of intolerance, racism, fear and hate.

He believed in a God of compassion and kindness. Of Peace and Community. And he was very, very, very clear about what his God, Allah, expected.

If you love God, you can’t love only some of his children.”

A few days after his death I was listening to Krista Tippet from OnBeing interview Rebecca Solnit. She talked about love like the love Ali spoke of. Ali found his love for all under the banner of his God. Let’s be clear though, God is not the only channel love travels along. Others find, give and share love for the sake of love. Just love. Just love for all. Rebecca pays attention to events we call “disasters” and takes note of the transformation that takes place when ordinary divides and patterns are shattered and people come together and understand we are our brothers keeper. Joy, purposefulness and connectedness arise.

It’s easy to love some groups of people. Usually we love our family. Our parents. Our children. Our partner. We have groups of friends we love, and people in our neighborhood or church.

We know instances where love binds, heals, nurtures, gives life. Rebecca points out there are so many things and people to love besides those in our groups.

So many things and people in the world need love.

“There is so much work love has to do in this world.” Rebecca Solnit

There is so much fear, hate. There is so much persecution, oppression and racism. There is so much violence, injustice, poverty and profound suffering.

How do we step away from those things and walk towards love? Do we want to? Are we able to?

How do we lend a hand to love and get to work in this world? What will it take for our hearts to be as full and giving as the one of a boxer who grew up facing racism every day, won an Olympic medal for his country and then, in his own country was still refused seating in a restaurant because he was Black, who refused to go to war and kill people and went to prison for that, who called all people God’s children.

For all of Ali’s hype, all he wanted was to be remembered in this way:

“I’d like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness. He took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then, he mixed willingness with happiness, he added lots of faith, and he stirred it up well, then he spreads it over his span of a lifetime, and he served it to each and every deserving person he met.”

There is Trump. There is Syria. Today there is Orlando. It was Paris and Brussels. It is the refugees drowning by the hundreds. It will be someone else and someplace else where fear, hate, pain and suffering reign rampant.

And there will be more Ali’s, more Berrigan brothers, more Jimmy Carters, more cities like Salt Lake City working to end homelessness, more European countries with 100% literacy. There will be more countries like Switzerland almost totally eliminating poverty, or the UK with the lowest gun related violent deaths. There will be more Icelands where childhood mortality has almost been eliminated. There will be more countries like Canada who open their doors to refugees…..let’s stop calling them migrants shall we? They are not looking for work, they are trying to stay alive..to not be killed by bombs and guns.

If you’re reading this you’re most likely fairly privileged, and you get to have a choice. You have a voice you can use. You have opportunity and resources you can use. Stand side by side with all your brothers and sisters who have only their often unheard voice and help them be heard. Use your voice to stand up to injustice, hate, fear, poverty, violence. Do not become apathetic or unconcerned because you are not affected. Your sister is affected. Your brother is affected. You are a part of this family that is in pain and suffering.

We champion the reason for, and the protection of, the freedoms we enjoy in this country. There is only one problem. Millions of people in this country do not genuinely share in those freedoms.

 “There is so much work love has to do in this world.”

Like the familiar adage “Many hands make light work”, let’s join our hands together in and with Love and get to work.

 

Where Do You Dwell?

I know it rarely ends well, so I try not to do it often, but sometimes I read the comments about articles on-line. I try to scan for ones that are free of hate and anger. I am not looking, I don’t think, (but probably am because most of us do..it’s in our nature) for confirmation bias. I just don’t want to read words of hate and anger. For goodness sake, I spend all day long teaching preschoolers how to use words that don’t hurt, even if they are angry, mad, sad or frustrated. Anyone can disagree with me, have differing thoughts or spiritual beliefs. Just please don’t label me, or call me names or insinuate I am not caring or intelligent.

But, I do read some of them. Sometimes I am dumbfounded by the frothing anger, the raging arrogance and the blatant racism and bigotry expressed. How can a soul hold so much anger, fear, hatred and not just explode? I cannot image knowing or having these people in my life. And we know there are others who may be just like these outspoken folks, but don’t seem to share their thoughts out in the open very often. What emotional and spiritual turmoil do they live in?

There were some articles circulating recently about studies on how the words we think and speak impact our impressions, interpretations and connections in life. Not really a surprise is it? It isn’t just about saying things out loud, it is also about the words we think but might not say out loud. If we are a closet anything, never admitting it out loud, the words and thoughts we keep to ourselves of course impact the kind of person we are. Our judgments, assumptions, worries, fears, anxieties and even our expectations, spoken or not, reflect in the person we are. The words that make up our thoughts (and emotions) determine our actions.

There is an article on Christopher Chase’s blog called Perpetual Curse of the Warrior Mindset. It begins with this quote from Albert Einstein,

“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

I think it is time to take a look at where we dwell within our own thoughts and heart. Protected and private or blatant and assertive, where do we live when we are being honest with ourselves? Where do we retire to at the end of the day to process? Where do we step forth from in the morning to go out into the world?

Collectively, is it time for a new manner of thinking that is not born of fear, protection, possession, suppression, greed, materialism, war, militarism, distrust, racism, hate…? Not all of us harbor these things in our spirit, but in honesty, we do cling to some of these, or others. You know the words that come with these things: superiority, defend, collateral damage, mine, God-given, God-fearing, wealth, earned, deserve, what’s in it for me, undeserving, entitled, takers, thugs, scum, losers, socialist, not my problem, why should I care, go back where you came from, whore, sicko, psycho, homo, alien, migrant, Muslim, supremacy, foriegner, wetback, anchor baby…..add your own. It was difficult just to write some of these.

Is it time for a collective shift? Could we even do it if we wanted? What are we at risk of loosing, or never knowing, if we don’t try?

“In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me, I walk.
With beauty behind me, I walk.
With beauty below me, I walk.
With beauty above me, I walk.
With beauty all around me, I walk. ”
The Navajo

Most religious and spiritual practices have lessons on love and tolerance, as well as retribution and hate. We can choose whatever we want.

“Peace before me
Peace behind me
Peace at my left
Peace at my right
Peace above me
Peace below me
Peace unto me
Peace in my surroundings
Peace to all
Peace to the Universe”
RootLight

We get lost in our fears. We are swayed by thoughts and fears of hurt and suffering, of things being taken away from us or denied to us. We forget: we do not have to dwell in fear.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31

We each of us have the power to be a light to others. It is an image and belief we all know, “be a light unto others.”

Oh God Make Me A Light
O God illuminate our heart with Light,
our heart with Light,
our ears with Light
and Let there be Light on our right, and on our left.
Let there be Light above us and below us,
let Light be in front of us and Light behind us.
O God, make us a Light.
The Prophet’s Prayer

This Little Light of Mine

The words we say to ourselves or say out loud, the prayers we offer silently or out loud, the thoughts we think and express, create the person we are.

“As we recite the words ‘ose shalom‘ (make peace)
we bow to the right, left and center,
bringing Peace to the entire world.”
Center for Jewish Spirituality.

Bring Peace To The World performed by BB King.

In many places in Asia when greeting another person, hands are place together over the heart, a slight bow is made and the word “Namaste” is spoken. It means “I honor the light in you.”

What if the words we thought and spoke out loud to each person we met or thought about resonated with the meaning of “Namaste”?

Namaste

Where do you dwell? In Light or in Fear? In Love or Hate? In empathy or apathy? In possibility or impossibility? In the status quo or in activism? In friendship or as enemies?

gandhi2

Gandhi