It Rained This Morning

We are in the middle of a serious drought here in central NYS. This morning I awoke to the soft pattering of rain.

There are the folks who say “Uh oh climate change.” The “others” say “Good thing it’s just weather.”

Lenses. We all look through lenses. Rosey colored ones. Dark colored ones. Clear ones. Lenses that help us make up our mind and decide if it is weather or climate change.

I lay in bed, eyes closed, no lenses in use. Just listening.

rainThen the lenses popped on. “Oh, we need this rain! This great! Rain Rain Rain!” and in the other breath, “Crap. There go the plans for the day.” Both understandable. Both true. After actually opening my eyes the lens that was now focusing was the clear one. “I am glad to have my daughter home. Her friends are so fun! Maybe it will just be a relaxing day playing games and eating good food.” All lenses focused on different, real points of view. I just had to choose which one to look through.

Every morning I make a point of taking a few very deep breaths. Slow and long. Pulling in the fresh, clean air and exhaling the stale, depleted air. I try to take a few minutes to get grounded for the day. My thoughts are not so different from the ones at night. Focusing on gratitude and compassion. I always give time to remember how many people are suffering in this world and as in the Buddhist doctrine, pray for all living beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

And I never, ever forget a wish for peace in the world:rain bells

Prayer For Everyday For All Creation

Let us see one another through eyes
enlightened by understanding and compassion.

Release us from judgment so we can receive the stories
of our sisters and brothers with respect and attention.

Open our hearts to the cries of a suffering world
and the healing melodies of peace and justice for all creation. 

Empower us to be instruments of justice
and equality everywhere.

~Collectively authored by Millionth Circle Initiative,
5th World Conference on Women & Circle Connections.

 

I choose to look through the lens of understanding and compassion. It could easily be anger and fear. Or, longing and desire. Or, day dreams and wishes. Or, judgment and blame.

I want to understand. I want to be compassionate. I strive to be released from judgment and grow understanding instead. I try to hear the real life stories of people who live life similar to mine as well those whose lives are unimaginably and fundamentally different from mine. I strive to grow respect over ridicule. And to hear. Always to listen and hear and never become deaf. I try to use the clear lens, but sometimes I forget and the judgment and comparison begin. Anxiety may arise. I may even begin to turn or look away.

Anyway. I am grateful for the rain. I obviously can’t make it rain or choose where it will fall. I know it is needed, that it is helping to refresh, feed and cleanse the world…..even if it is just this little part of the world right now. And I know I don’t have any kind of power like that, but I do have power and choice. I choose ever day to help the next generation learn what conversation and communication is. I help them understand the power of their words. Words that can hurt, deflate, cause fear or pain. Words that mock and humiliate. And words that can ask to be forgiven, heal, comfort, uplift. And you know what? These very young children learn this and they grow and they become compassionate, forgiving, and uplifting to their peers. One mother told me her 3-year-old talked her through a panic attack by helping her do mindful breathing.

It is a small but effective thing I do. But it matters. Just like this small amount of rain. I can pray my prayers and send my wishes of goodwill out into the world all day long. If I do not take some form of action I feel I am in part responsible if those prayers do not seem to be heard and answered, if the good wishes and kind intent seems to never go very far or anywhere at all.

In this world today with all the contentious and combative words, with all the posturing and flexing, with the all hatred that seems so much more fashionable than forgiveness, with fear that seems to be filling some of our lives rather than hope, all our lenses become covered with dust. When the rain falls near you, and cleans and refreshes your little bit of earth and washes the dust of uncertainty and fear off your heart, and fills you up again, which lens will you choose to dust off and put on, to walk out into the fresh and new day?

 

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Keepers of Hope

“….hope becomes a calling for those of us who can hold it,
for the sake of the world…..
It references reality at every turn and reveres truth.

Krista Tippett

cranescropped

Peace Cranes in the hallway of the Tea House, Botanical Gardens, Montreal

When I was little I played with little green plastic soldiers fighting each other and brown plastic cowboy and Indians killing each other. Internally it was about the good guy winning, defeating the others who were different from me. Externally it was about having something to play with.

I remember in Middle School practicing duck and cover…crawling under a desk in case the drill for a bomb threat became a real threat. Internally there was annoyance because I didn’t fully understand what was happening in the world, and crawling under a table was uncomfortable. Externally there were groans and giggles, even a little smirk of gratitude that class would be cut short by the amount of time the drill took.

When I was in college I was in South Korea when a coupe took place. Corner kiosks selling silk and trinkets were replaced with soldiers with automatic weapons and bayonets. Tanks replaced taxis and buses on the road. We could not leave the country. Internally there was fear. Not a fear of safety but of uncertainty. Externally there was confusion and hesitation. We didn’t know what to do, where to go…even how to get information.

During my first years of teaching I was cleaning out a closet at school and found an old map of the world. Pictured criss-crossing the ocean were intercontinental missiles headed towards the enemy. We were attacking Russia as they were attacking us. Internally there was a deep sadness, almost a sorrow. Externally I took the map and folded it and threw it away.

This past fall in Montreal at the Botanical Garden’s Tea House we saw an exhibit of photographs of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There was art done by survivors—dark, painful, powerful, helpless art of human suffering that is beyond imagining or understanding. Internally I felt a sharp pain and confusion. Externally I shook and cried. All we could do was to stand there and wipe the tears away.

In the past months we as a world have witnessed hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war, violence, death, famine, leaving family members behind to trek hundreds of miles to safe countries to find borders closed. No one wants a refugee. We witnessed aid workers carrying dead babies out of the water, and there were more pictures of abused and homeless dogs on FB than outrage for these innocent children and their shattered parents. What the hell are we doing to each other?

Last week, in the inflamed world of advancing fear, hate, intolerance, threats, violence, it all became a little too real. My daughter was to arrive in Nice, France the day after the attack during Bastille Day. If they had decided to be there for that day; it is sobering to think what might have been.

In talking with her hours after the attack, I found myself groping around for hope….trying to find it before it became buried under the mounting weight of fear.

And now these smart, loving, compassionate women walk with hesitancy and fear.

What is happening? To our world? To the countries of the world? To the people of the world? To us all?

Who are, who will be the Keepers of Hope? The voices that trust in possibility, goodness, beauty, compassion, unity,  peace? The voices that call out for us to stop and think. To get control of our egos. To check our biases, to challenge racism, to make space for truth over fear. To call for compassion and non-violence.

The world around us seems to be spiraling deeper and deeper under the spell of fear, hate, distrust, despair, violence.

“Hope begins in the dark,
the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing,
the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
~Ann Lamott

I watch people all day shrug their shoulders. Filled with apathy—not really concerned or interested in what is happening around the world. Pessimism in their eyes. Others are full of anger. So much anger it is turning towards hate. Hate of people, beliefs, the hopes and dreams of others they don’t understand. We are afraid to ask each others questions. Afraid to listen. Afraid to learn. Afraid to have the conversations that will bring us back towards each other.

In her poem I Believe, Elizabeth Alexander asks, “Are we not of interest to each other?”

It appears we are not, because if we were we would stop the violence, the hurting, the fear, the anger, the hate. We would embrace each other in hope and possibility. If others were of interest to us we would have conversation and ask questions and not just decide someone is worth our thought and time or not, because of some label that has been placed on them: migrant, black, Muslim, Christian, deserving, undeserving, lazy, enemy, immigrant-illegal alien (what a term..)

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.”
Joseph Campbell

Who of us are strong enough to reach out for and hold on to hope? To revere the truth that we are all here on this planet together and all must share the bounty of this earth. Who of us are strong enough to hold our hands out, open and welcoming, ready to offer hope to others? Who of us are the keepers of Hope?

For the sake of the world.

If believing in and empowering hope is a calling you hear, you must use your voice. You must take action. It is not enough to feel sad or bad about things. It is not enough to engage in prayer without action. It has to be about the parts of religion that bind us rather than separate us. It is beyond political parties. It has to be social justice for all those who are oppressed, persecuted, violated, ignored, abused, left unseen and uncared for. It has to be about uplifting the most vulnerable in our world and not protecting our comforts. If you want peace, justice, possibility, opportunity, safety, the possibility of being healthly, clean water, healthy food, safe pregnancies and deliveries, a job with fair pay, to be treated fairly and with respect…..I believe you have to want it for everyone or you won’t really have those things either…because they will come at the exclusion of someone else, at the expense of someone else. How could any of us feel comfortable with that?

“Beware how you take away hope from another human being.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

We have to look at what we feel and think internally and take action externally. We have to make a choice—accept what we have and go with it like I did with the cowboys and Indians killing each other because it’s what history has shown us we always do to people who are different from us. It’s about taking the old map of attacking with the intent to kill and throwing it out and not teaching that scenario in the hopes that there are alternatives to conflict and that war is not the answer.  It is about standing in front of a painting and wiping tears and internally feeling that horror and externally making the stand to always speak out against this choice in the world. To always have hope that there are other choices even if they seem unfamiliar or out of reach.

Others, “the Other’s” are of interest to me. I want them to have the same kind of hope I do. I want us to be Keepers of Hope and not prisoners of Apathy and Fear.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. 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
You don’t give up.
Be a Keeper of Hope.

Wolves,Witches, Vegetarians And A Minister

Quite a title don’t you think? Let’s see if I can do this. It kinda works out in MY mind, so we’ll see.

As my father moved slowly towards retirement he became the minister for two small “sister” parishes in central New York State. It was an interesting assignment for him. Having been involved for many years with Cornell University as minister, educator, facilitator, he and his Conscientious Objector card had felt at home at Cornell in an era of protest, Civil Disobedience, peace rallies….

In these small parishes, before congregations made up of farmers and employees of the Seneca Army Depot, he faced a tough audience as he championed for Peace, Fellowship among World Religions and the struggle for Social Justice.

The sleepy towns of Romulus and Ovid are nestled between the two largest  Finger Lakes: Seneca and Cayuga. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people have a beautiful story of the creation the these lakes. In 1876 this creation story from the oral tradition of the Haudenosaunee was written down. It tells of twin brothers, Enigorio, known as the Good Mind and Enigonhahetgea, the Bad Mind.

“In it’s light, the older brother Enigorio, went forth and made the hills and valleys
and into the valleys he poured out the water of his mouth and it formed
the rivers and creeks, and the waters flowed into the deep valleys and
made lakes. Then he created the stars and the moon and to the moon
he gave the task of marking the months and the years.”
(book, Seneca Myths and Legends, Arthur C. Parker)

Most of us in the area know the localized, slightly different, flowery version of the creation of the Finger Lakes from Arch Merrill. It is now understood that he took many liberties with original stories from the First People, and adapted them for the general, yes, white, population of the area, romanticizing the stories and altering the meaning.

“There is an old Indian legend that the Finger Lakes came
into being when the Great Spirit placed the imprint of his
hand in blessing on the Upstate land.”

This idyllic setting is where my father began subtly at first, more aggressively later, to include in his sermons the little known truth of what the Seneca Army Depot was about. He included the thoughts of others as well as his own, and slowly people began to think differently about the Depot.

Up until about 10 years ago it was impossible to find the Depot listed on maps. This was not unusual then, or now, for military bases and properties.

For many decades the Seneca Army Depot provided jobs and economic stability in the area. What we know now, is that many employees and their families did not fully understand what the purpose of the Depot was.

The Seneca Army Depot was under military operation from 1941 to 1990.

In the 1950s a portion of the  Depot property became a special weapons area. These special weapons areas were designated by the government as “Qs”. Becoming a Q area represented the highest security levels known at that time because their mission was to house “very special” weapons.

Taking two years for construction, this area that was approximately one square mile, and it came to include 64 igloos, some of them atomic bomb blast resistant. This specific area had it’s own security force, specially trained Military Police who patrolled the Q 24 hours a day. There was a triple wall fence surrounding it, with the middle fence being electrified at 4,800 volts. (2,000 volts is enough to stop the heart and cause unconsciousness) No one was allowed inside the Q without a heavily armed MP escort.

Even today the Army does not openly acknowledge exactly what was stored at this site. Documents released under FOIL prove/confirm that the Depot housed the Army’s largest supply of atomic weapons. It is known that during the Cold War the Depot held the largest stockpile of Army nuclear weapons in the country. This stockpile also included atomic bombs and atomic artillery shells for the famous Atomic Annie. Atomic Annie was a military weapon fired only once in the desert of Nevada, but deployed in Europe and South Korea. The Depot was the point of departure for nuclear weapons bound for Europe. The base also stored radio active material for the Manhattan project.

This meant this base was a strategic target for any and all of our “enemies” during most of the years the base was functional.

The citizens of the area did not know this. Nor did they know about the radioactive material stored there.

On July 4, 1983 a group of women began what would be known as The Seneca Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice. They began to shed light and inform people what was stored at the base. They drew attention to the fact that the residents had no idea their little hamlet was a viable target circled in red on many maps around the world. They lived and breathed Peace Movement and non-violent protest.

Local newspapers and media sources at first did not understand what this group of women was doing and why they were creating trouble and seemingly threatening a very important economic resource in the area. Headlines often included the words “witches” and “vegetarians”!

For all of my life, and well before my life began, my father always had a movie camera at the ready. Usually he filmed family vacations, complete with little cars being pulled by a a barely visible thread across a map showing the route of us vacationers.

Now, he turned his camera on the Seneca Army Depot and this band of women committed to peace. CO card in his pocket (he carried it all of his life), camera in hand, peace as his motivation, this was perhaps a match made in heaven.

His parishioners may have thought otherwise.

Who was this man of the Cloth siding with the vegetarian witches?

My father was an active participate in various peace movements all of his adult life. It was the thread that, in his mind, wove the fabric of his personal Cloth of the church.

He took his 8 MM movie camera and would drive his little red Honda around the road next to the chain link fence of the Depot. He would film the military personnel, behind barbed wire, shadowing him in armored vehicles, pointing loaded, automatic weapons at him. He would film the women sitting in small groups under criss-crossed lines filled with laundry drying in the sweet, warm breeze, as well as marching hand in hand in non-violent protest calling for an end to war and weapons of mass destruction. And he would report every week to his parishioners on what he had seen and learned.

As facts were slowly released and shared in the media nationwide, many of the townspeople began to understand more fully why these determined citizens were there. These resolute women were there because they cared. Parishioners began to understand why my father chose the Biblical passages and specific teachings of Christ he did when talking about the cause of The Women’s Encampment and the goings on at the Base. Because he cared.

When he left these small churches in Romulus and Ovid, his congregation gathered not to cheer his departure, but to thank him for his convictions.

Fast forward to yesterday, July 16, 2016. My father has been gone for almost 30 years. Seneca Army Depot closed and is now a mix of private sector businesses that continue to provide economic stability in the area.

In my Saturday meditation group we were reminded of another Native American teaching story: The Two Wolves.

 

TwoWolves

Here we are, many years after my father stared down machine guns with his 8 MM camera and wrote sermons calling for global peace. I’m a Montessori preschool teacher who has (maybe) found her voice by way of a blog. I guess I am my father’s daughter in many ways. He understood Truth is not always shared openly and honestly. It’s not always fun, obvious, or easy. It can be tumultuous and painful. It can cause us to flinch and be uncomfortable. We may have to face things about ourselves we would rather not. We may have to face things in others we would rather not. We may have to admit to being ill-informed and change our thinking. It may require us to change in other ways too. But truth is Truth whether we like it or not. There is A LOT going on in the world today. Social media, biased media, arrogant pundits and politicians, corporate capitalists want us to believe their truth, not the Truth.
Do your homework. Everyday, as in the story above, we carry inside of us two battling wolves. The Good Mind and The Bad Mind. The one who will win is the one we feed. Which one are you feeding?

 

 

 

First: Listen

This is attempt number 4. I’m sticking with this one.

There are two challenging things to teach young preschoolers, who have fledgling social experience and skills due to their age. In a time of “conflict” with another friend, these are stop and listen. Stop moving . Make eye contact and listen. Everyone has words they want to use, usually to defend their own position. Usually there is some worry or fear thrown in too. Worry they may have knowingly or unknowingly done something wrong. Fear, perhaps, that part of personal accountability may be one of those things called a “consequence”. Fear and worry are defense mechanisms. We all experience them.

Turn on the news and people use lots and lots of words. But, it seems to me, many of the words come from fear and defensive posturing rather than in response to listening.

When you listen you gain the opportunity for discovery and understanding. Discovery and understanding do not mean agreement and acceptance. They means you have the chance to learn something you did not know.

And then, you can have a conversation.

The usual reason for stop and listen, for a preschooler, is that they hurt someone’s feelings, took something without asking, or hit someone. When they stop and listen, they hear “You said I couldn’t play with you, it makes me sad.”, “You took the shovel I was using may I have it back?”, “You hit me and hurt my body. That’s not OK. Don’t do it again.” Most of the time the child listening really doesn’t grasp the cause and effect of what they did, and now they do. Usually the hurt person just wants a hug, a show of care and compassion from the other person, and confirmation that next time will be better.

Things most certainly become more complicated as we grow up.

I went to a Black Lives Matter protest because I am concerned and care deeply that a part of our American population, the Black community, is suffering so deeply. I go to meetings on Autism  becasue I care about the struggles and pain people who are Autistic experience as they work so hard to find a meaningful place in society. A place of acceptance and where they can feel valued. I go to meetings on Child Abuse becasue I care that there are children who suffer deeply from abusive situations. I go, and I listen to learn. I cannot offer much, because Autism and Child Abuse are not areas I have much training in or experience with. But both affect part of the community I work with, preschoolers.

I went to a Black Lives Matter protest to listen. I do not know what it is like to be Black in America. I don’t. Just like I don’t know what it is like to be Autistic or a survivor of abuse. I do not know. They are a part of my community and the quality of their lives and the degree of their suffering affect the community I live in.

I can only become a more educated person through listening. Going to a protest is not saying I don’t care about something else. Caring about the oppression of one group of people does not mean I don’t care about a group that faces different forms of challenges, risk, oppression or suffering.

So, I heard stories of pain and fear. Pain and fear affect people. These are traumatic emotions that scar and are difficult to overcome.The consequences of fear and pain change the way people respond in life. The way they interact with and live life.

I have never, in 58 years of life experienced the level of pain and fear that was shared. Yes, I have felt pain and I have experienced fear, but not on the same level of magnitude where I fear for my life and safety and for the life and safety of my loved ones. I have never experienced that.

Bruce and I were stopped for a significant traffic violation a while back. We did not pull over into the opposite lane when a police officer was stopped with their lights on and out of the car. When we were pulled over we were asked for the registration it was taking time to  find it in the mess of the glove compartment. Finally he said,”It’s okay. Go ahead. Be careful next time.” We both understood, for real, “This is white privilege.” Personally, we both felt ashamed and embarrassed.

I  have no right to assume I know what someone’s life is like. Whether their struggles are real or not. I have no right to judge someone’s pain and suffering, anger and fear without listening first. I have no right to make a suggestion or offer advice until I listen first. I do have the choice of asking someone to tell me what they are experiencing, feeling. What life is like for them on a daily basis. I do have a choice of asking what do they need, what will make things better, healthier, safer for them.

As an educated adult, I have a responsibility that I take seriously, to never assume I know the answers or that I know all I need to know. I have a responsibility to keep listening, learning, developing, becoming more knowledgeable, informed, aware. Not less. Not even the same. More.

I have a personal responsibility to understand I may have to admit that I have been wrong. Uninformed.  That I may learn things about myself and my society that I would rather not know, let alone accept as fact.

So, I listened. And I listened and heard that I do not understand the struggle of the Black Community in Ithaca and in the US. It does not cause harm to me or diminish me to say this. It is just the truth. I do not understand. “Do all Blacks share in this struggle?” Is that the correct question? No. “Why is anyone suffering in this way?” is the question. That anyone struggles and suffers is the issue.

When I listen, it becomes difficult to lay the blame on the victim. It becomes difficult to say “She deserved it”, “They asked for it”, “They are just ‘takers'”, “They’ve got to work harder”, “How bad could it be? They have a cell phone”, “If she didn’t sleep with so many people she wouldn’t have so many kids”, “They need to just buck up and try harder”, “That’s the choice they made. They have to live with it”, “My Black friends say this isn’t true”, “I made it. They could too, if they wanted to”, “They are lazy”, “If they wanted to stop drugs, they would”, “There are lots of jobs out there they could do”, “If they are so poor how can they go on vacation?”.

Do not blame victims. Listen to them. Talk with them.

I don’t know the answers. I feel conflicted. I am confused. I have the ability to work to find out what the answers are, or might be and how to make them happen. I have the strength to look at why I feel conflicted and change it to being informed. I can embrace confusion without embarrassment and ask for conversations so I can be clear on what is the truth. Not my truth. The truth for the person I am listening to and engaging in a conversation with. I must have many conversations and listen to many, many stories because each one will be different. This is not one person’s story or one person’s interpretation.

I care and I am grateful I care. Because not caring is apathy and apathy allows for things to remain the same. And now, for me, the same is not something that is ok with me if it means we are stereotyping, marginalizing, oppressing, killing people out of fear and ignorance.

We are going to have to look inward and then open our hearts and work together to make things better. To make things right.

 

The Best I Am Capable Of Being

“I will soothe you and heal you,
I will bring you roses.
I too have been covered with thorns.”
~ Rumi

I first read the poems of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī in college. Poems of love. Just authentic, unadulterated love. The kind of love the Greeks spoke of. All six kinds…..eros (sexual passion), philia (deep friendhsip), ludus (playful love), agape (love for everyone), pragma (longstanding love) and  philautia (love of self, two kinds)

I have come to drag you out of yourself, and take you in my heart.
I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had
and lift you like a prayer to the sky.”
~
Rumi

dove2mhblue

Baby Mourning Dove. This is one of the babies from a pair that nested in the sandbox rafter. S/he is unafraid of the children who sing and coo to him/her. Mourning Doves mate for life.

love, love, love

It also seems I have always loved Rainer Maria Rilke. I do not even know when I first discovered him. There are very few of his words that do not penetrate my heart and cause it, and my thoughts, to soar.

“Everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it. It is also good to love — love being difficult. Love is perhaps the most difficult task given us, the most extreme, the final proof and text, for which all other work is only preparation.~Rilke

The classic existential conundrum: why are we here?

“But because life here compels us, and because everything here
seems to need us, all this fleetingness
that strangely entreats us. Us, the most fleeting…
Once for each thing, only once. Once and no more. And we, too,
only once. Never again. But to have been
once, even though only once:
this having been earthly seems lasting, beyond repeal.
~Rilke, The Ninth Elegy

True? Because everything needs us? What needs us? The trees, the air, the Earth, the universe? Someone? Or, is it not so much about things needing us, being needed, but rather about having been here at all?

Knowing that our time, and the time of everything, is fleeting, what compels you to be the “best” you can be? For me, I am not sure I really know what the “best” me would be. I’d like to believe it would include being compassionate. I do know what, albeit in a certain context, I want to be here for. Living in and with and sharing the love the Greeks referred to as agape: selfless love. A love that is shared with all things on Earth and extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. To all. Even the “Other”, those I may dislike, fear, misunderstand, judge, condemn, turn from, ignore.

And it is not easy. As Rilke says, love is the most difficult task given us. I cannot do it without effort. I fail often. I feel whatever the opposite of love is…hate? I think hate is probably not the right word because truly it more of an anger/fear or an unknowing.

Discovering the best I am capable of includes making the time to look, to go within.

“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”
~ Rumi

Many folk consider this kind of “love for all” to be a cornerstone of human behavior. Lately however, I wonder. It is a difficult time we live in. And while there is certainly the case to be made that this is not the first time this may have been believed, we are so aware of all the suffering and violence that permeates our world, it does seem to indeed be a dark time.

When I have the presence of mind to “seek and find all the barriers within” that I have built against love, I find they are in fact there. There is Fear. Of many things. Especially fear of the unknown. There is Hurt. Anger. Mistrust. Clinging. Comparison. Disappointment. Sense of Entitlement. Lack of Knowledge. Misunderstanding. Assumption. Protection and Defensiveness. Confusion. Doubt. Separation.

And when I allow myself to see those things in myself, then I am able to work towards becoming the best I am capable of being. I cannot do it without the self-realization of what the barriers I have built are.

My parents, with their sense of service and care for others and the people they brought into my life built a certain foundation. All the traveling I did and living in other countries, my friends, my husband, my children and my career choice, my own faith and melded spirituality, have helped me open the door and look in and face these barriers of mine. Each day I own up to them and chip away at them, with the hope that one day they will be gone. Because that is the best I am capable of….

….breaking down all my barriers against the love called agape.

Agape, the evolving love that I know is inside of me for the sole purpose of being extended to all people the world over. The best I am capable of is allowing and sustaining the agape inside of me at all costs and against all opposition.