New Year Resolution

My hope for the new year is that it be filled with healing. That we have the courage and commitment to every each and every one of us on this earth to look around and see we have to do things differently. For each other. We must do something. I know there is much that is good and beautiful in the world. I see both every day. I feel, see, hear the goodness, the kindness, the beauty. Hopefully I also help to contribute the existence of both. And yet….

I watched some old movies over vacation. From the 40’s and 50’s. I feel, in many ways, we are in the same place with some things. I’m talking about the things that haven’t improved, changed. I’m talking about the same social prejudices and oppression. The same racial profiling. The same stereotyping. We still try to fix things through violence and killing, bullying and punishing. We still live in fear. We still discriminate because of many things. It appears we haven’t gotten very far.

i-am-only-one-but-still

I find the different responses to this blog interesting. There is the group who says, “Wow, so serious. Lighten up. It’s all good. Just let it go.” Another suggests I not be political. There is a smaller group that keeps saying “I am so sorry you are hurting so much.” The largest group says, “Thank you for inspiring me and making me think. Thank you for challenging me.” And, there it is….I hear people don’t want to talk politics, or to be serious. I hear lighten up, EVERYTHING is good…just let go, don’t worry. I hear that “hurting” is sad. I hear I may inspire others.

I will be political because that is what governs us as a whole. So many of us are left behind. Invisible. Ignored. I am serious and I will not lighten up or let go of feeling empathy and compassion for those suffering, in pain and being oppressed and held down. I do hurt and I think that is a good thing, not something  I or others should feel sad about. I care. I hope I do inspire people…even a little bit. Someone said something very powerful to me a little ways back, they said “You make me think about things differently.” That’s all I want to do. You don’t have to agree with me. Just think. Learn something new that doesn’t play into your confirmation biases. I work hard every day to try to check in on these for myself…it is very difficult, but so important.

Now here we are at the dawn of a new year. We’ll celebrate in infinite amounts of ways from drunken stupors to running for life as homes are being bombed. Some will watch a loved one die tonight, while somewhere else a new life will burst forth and cry the air into his or her lungs. Many of us will pause and be grateful. Thankful. Many of us will cry out.

Some of us will light bon fires and throw pieces of the past year into the flames to symbolically release them from our lives for ever. Some will sing and dance and honor Nature. Some of us will make a list including the promise to loose weight, eat better, give up something, make time for ourselves, travel, do something new.

Me? I am going to use this poem to guide me through the new year.

Kiss the Earth

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.

~by Thich Nhat Hanh

My resolution is to use this poem to ground me daily. With every step, to kiss the Earth.

For my action, I will use Thay’s poem as my centering prayer, my chant, as I go through my day. To be mindful of each step. As it kisses the Earth.  To walk with awareness and find and touch peace. To walk with awareness and touch happiness. To bring the Earth my love and happiness combined with concern and care. To work towards all of feeling safe in and with ourselves so the Earth will be safe too.

I am also choosing one word to be my lamp lighting the way through the year. I will carry it with me throughout the day, as a reminder of my intentions.

My word is “open”. My intention is to be open. Open to Empathy. To Compassion. To Truth. To Hope. To the stories of all. To not shut myself off to the suffering and sorrow in the world. To be open. To not turn away. To bear witness.

I’d really like to hear from you. Tell me your hopes for the new year.

As always, a link to what I’ve been reading:  This Week

 

 

Unsettled

I am so unsettled by the rain. The sun has not yet risen. It is still very dark outside. Yesterday this tiny part of the world was blanketed in a soft cover of snow. It was quiet. It felt soft even thought it was cold. Softness brought by coldness.

I am unsettled by more than the rain. It feels to me, in the rhythmic beat of my heart and in the flowing water in my body that the world is unsettled. In a painful way. The moon was full the other night. I thought then of the silent power of the moon. The power it has as a rock circling our planet, to tug and pull the waters of the seas and oceans. I felt it too. Like a heating up of my insides. A restlessness that did not feel good. A restlessness that almost made it hurt to be where I was. Neither was it a restlessness that I felt would lead me to someplace I needed to be. How could it?

I thought over and over again of this poem by Warsan Shire. Her words were like the ebb and flow of the tides moved by the dappled moon….everywhere. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.”
~Warsan Shire

Too many people tell me, “Turn it off.” Or, “Don’t listen.”

Sometimes, I am told, “It will be okay.”

Look around. Listen.

“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” 
~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

So, when do we begin to listen to the stories? When DO we use the understanding we gain through listening to empower, humanize and repair broken dignity?

maya-angelou

Are you more alike or unlike the children in Aleppo Syria who have forgotten how to cry? Are you more alike or unlike the Islanders of the sinking islands of Micronesia…..soon to vanish under rising waters of Global Warming? Are you more alike or unlike the fear-stricken parent wondering if their child will be kidnapped and forced into a child army, or if their daughter will be kidnapped, raped and/or murdered? Do you know that your child will be like or unlike you in your life of poverty or violence? Do you have the courage to say to these people “In my life I too have felt what you feel. I know…”

If we take our deepest pain, our most piercing pain….and magnify it a hundred fold, then we can do that.

We have to strengthen our personal sense of humanity, compassion and love and bring in up to the surface of our lives and listen, with open hearts, to the stories Maya speaks of in order to understand. And then as one, we must rise up and use our voices, our spirit, our actions to cry “stop”. We must demand the infliction of hurt, pain and suffering on people around the world to STOP.

There are no Others. We ARE more alike than not and with that comes a profound responsibility to listen to the pain and take responsibility to end it for the millions of people around the world.

We must begin to support fellow human beings who are in a deep abyss of pain and suffering.

I work to be mindful and not complacent of the circumstances of my life. I have a childish fear of open closet doors in my bedroom. And I dutifully lock the house doors at night to protect what offers me comfort. I do not take for granted the relief and joy I feel when my children walk through the front door. I am not ignorant that million in the world have things to really be afraid of and not imaginary monsters in closets. I am not blind to the fact that millions of people have no home because it has been destroyed by the bombs of war. They have no door of protection. I am not without emotion in thinking of the millions of parents who will never see their children again.

Neither you or I are better than any other person. Anywhere. Any more deserving of feeling safe, of having food, water. Of giving birth to children who will live. Of going to bed at night and sleeping. Of closing and locking a door.

We are all bound together. And we have forgotten that. Or are ignorning that.

I am unsettled in my heart. I listen to the stories. I hear them, but how can I understand them on any level of reality? All I can do is to witness the pain. Believe the words. Condemn the hate and stand up and speak out. I do not want to be a symbol of apathy. Of shrugging and wondering what I can do.

Tell me, please, do you ever feel this unsettledness? How do you witness the hurt and suffering in the world? Do you believe we must support all of the Others because we are more alike than unalike? What does your religion, you spirituality, demand of you in the care and responsibility of Others? What did your mother and father teach you? What matters to you? What is of importance to you? What do you tell your children? How do you live your life?

We are coming upon the Winter Solstice. The time of year when we witness the beginning of the return of Light to Darkness.

As Ms. Shire asks, “Where does it hurt?”

I ask, “Do you hear the answer of the world? “

“Everywhere.”

A sampling of what I have been reading: This Week

Favorites

I’ve started three different posts and cannot finish any of them.

Recently I was contacted by a woman who told me she read my posts on India to her mother and that her mother had cried. Her mom had not returned to India since leaving as a child. In hearing her daughter read my posts, her mom was transported back to the India she remembered as a child.

There is almost too much going on for me in the world right now. Processing and understanding takes longer.

I know I grew as a compassionate, caring person through my travels and living and sharing with people with different values, religion and upbringing than what I had. I became more thoughtful, less fearful, more open. Embracing and rejoicing in differences was easy. It was about respect, love, interest, faith, hope, understanding.

I feel like we are loosing that idea. That possibility. Of becoming richer, in all senses, and wiser through embracing diversity. Fear and isolation are taking hold and it hurts my heart.

So here are two of my past favorites and most popular:

Every Single Day

Be Soft

we-are-all-visitors

 

Thousands of Words

For many of us there is something supremely healing being in the presence of the ocean. It may be the color, the light. Or the sound of the waves and gulls. Or the briny smell and salty taste of the water. For me, it was never about the sand!!

My grandfather lived across the street from the ocean in Florida.  Every visit there was a re-acquaintance with something in Nature I couldn’t have anywhere else except by the ocean. The ocean always brought comfort and a kind of healing. The world slowed down along the edge of the beach. Worries seemed to get washed out to sea as the waves came and went. It has been the same for every ocean I have stood next to or swum in. It heals.seaweed

The walks along the beach always gifted treasures. Broken shells. Maybe a whole shell! A small, asymmetrical piece of sea glass…worn smooth from the power of the sea. Maybe a “mermaids purse”. Alien looking pieces of seaweed.  Perhaps a withered Man-O-War. A little crab claw. Sometimes the sand itself was the treasure. A myriad of sparkles and color….minute pieces of minerals, quartz, rock, shell and coral skeletons.

“Breakage”
by Mary Oliver

I go down to the edge of the sea.

How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk, the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels, moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse of little words, thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself, the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

tidal-pool

As Mary Oliver said, each gift, each small–each broken miracle of  treasure from the vast, moving, living ocean, was like discovering a new word. A piece to the puzzle of the language of the ocean. Of Nature. Of Life. Collections of whole and broken parts from the ocean, told a story. You could read in the brokenness, the color, the bleached out parts, the smoothed edges, the Story that only those pieces together could tell.

There is nothing in the whole world that is any different. There are broken pieces everywhere that, when put together, allow us to read the Story….. But brokenness isn’t always comfortable, it isn’t always pretty. It might hurt to know the beauty of the wholeness that was or could have been. There is so much we are blind and deaf to. So much we try not to touch or feel, smell or taste. We turn away.

“That smells fishy.” “Turn a blind eye.”  “Rough around the edges.” “That’s a bitter pill to swallow.” “That just falls on deaf ears.”

Every  broken part. Every completed whole. Everything we happen upon, every person we meet, every rain drop that falls, each sunrise we witness, is a new word in the language of Life. Each conflict, each treaty, the hate and fear, each love story. The woman with acid burns on her face, the crying child bleeding after FGM, the crumbling shell of Aleppo, the flooding streets of Miami, the parched land on fire. The protest chant, the psalm being sung. Parts of the Story….a wondrous Story. A titan of a Story.

Each experience we allow, acknowledge and process, each person we meet the eyes of, each story we listen to, each hand shake or hug we offer, is another word in the language of life on this planet. Our vocabulary is enriched as often as we pay attention to what is before us.

We may want to turn away from all the broken pieces, the bitterness in life, the things we don’t want to hear or think about. But they won’t go away. Each broken part offers us the chance to see the whole. To mend the pieces. To gain the new words to read and understand the whole Story. The bitter pill may heal us. The seeing eye is witness. The sound of crying makes us long for laughter. The feel of roughness and jagged edges helps us know where to smooth things out.

I’ve been working on learning from all the broken pieces I encounter. Looking at them instead of turning away and in so doing I am coming to understand my own biases and prejudices. These are the jagged shards of poverty, the broken shell that is oppression, the piercing thorn of injustice. I am trying to learn the vocabulary…to listen, in order to hear and understand, the painful and heartbreaking stories of those I do not know. Of things I will never experience. When I feel roughed up emotionally and spiritually I know it is part of the process of finding where my work needs to be done.

Are any of us whole and unbroken? Can we be when others are not? Look around the world, in our country. So many of us are fragmented and broken. All of us are missing so much of the vocabulary…all those broken pieces we step over, throw away… that we need in order to read the whole story. To understand. So many of us are afraid of pain and hurt. For ourselves and others. Yet, being afraid of these does not make it so that others do not live in fear and pain. Because the world is full of people living in fear and pain. So many of us are fearful of loss and aloneness. You or I may not be fearful of loss and aloneness, but millions live with these feelings every minute of every day. Many are filled with mistrust and anger. You or I may not feel anger or mistrust, but people all of the world are angry at and mistrustful of others, their government, their circumstances. We are content in our ignorance of many things.

That is not what I hope for. What I believe is possible. What I trust the end of the Story to be.

Now is a good time in our history to become fluent in the language of the Story of Life on this Earth. To understand we do not know most of the Story. To learn how to read all the words. To pick up new vocabulary for the sake of broadening our understanding. You might not want to think about racism or oppression, or fully understand the meaning of the words. But racism and oppression exists everywhere whether you want to think about it and understand it or not. Both of them hurt people. Both of them diminish the possibility of the individual and society. It’s time to piece together the broken and fragmented words, feelings, fears, hopes and people. To understand. To read all the chapters of the Story. To care. To give a damn. To strive towards wholeness.

Please check out what I’ve been reading this week This Week