Quiet Miracles

I wish I had the presence of being in the moment more often. To see and hear, to be aware of the little miracles that come softly into my day. The ones that are not flashy or boastful. The ones that are small and gentle.

“Take time to see the quiet miracles that
seek no attention”
~ John O’Donohue

One such miracle is still lingering with me. It happened a few days ago. A wee one, just three, sitting and “reading” a book. On the cover was a rainbow and a dolphin. All he cared about was the rainbow.

Softly he began to sing

“Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”

The whole song. Every word. Every lingering note.

A few minutes before he had not been sitting, looking at a book and singing. The Light that burst forth from this child had been a whirlwind of energy and emotion not unlike the cartoon character Tasmanian Devil.

While he was spinning and twirling with seemingly endless energy and force he was most definitely seeking attention.

While he was singing this child was bathed from within with a Light that was not seeking any attention. He didn’t even know I was there. Watching him. Listening to him. Soaking up every last drop of his peace and happiness.

If I had not paused with him in his space between energy waves, or walked away to get away, I would not have heard his little voice softly singing or seen his Light so in love with the magic of singing a beautiful song about a rainbow.

When he finished he did look up at me smiling. He held up the book. “See, it’s a rainbow.”

That interlude, for him, subdued the commanding, rhythmic pattern of those energy waves and left him in a calmness I could never have helped him find no matter how hard I tried. And in that interlude, he was in the fact, the one who helped me find a calmness I could not have found without him.

“Take time to see the quiet miracles that
seek no attention”

october-aspen

** Check out some of this week’s readingsThis Week

Rituals of Approach

“What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation.

When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.” ~ John O’Donohue

Imagine beginning and traveling through the day by following a ritual of approach that includes careful preparation in order to meet experiences of depth and spirit. Waking and remaining nested for a bit in that fuzzy stillness and (near) silence and making a commitment to meeting the day with a feeling of reverence, allowing “real” life to come to the surface. And, as “real” life is  allowed to float to the surface, sensing that the light of this “realness” “awakens the concealed beauty in things.” All things.

Millions of moments of perfection, beauty, hope, love, gratitude, potential float in and out of our day, all day long. Our “busy-ness” and “focus” can make it hard to see and acknowledge the concealed beauty in things, people, moments, occurrences.

We are all but blind to the beauty that is found even in those things we would not label as beautiful: grief, silence, death……

When I began this post a few days ago, it admittedly had a negative slant. News in and of the world had taken a toll on me, my heart and soul.

Of all things, it was a workshop on how trauma (physical, emotional, environmental, psychological, etc) causes the problem solving part of our brain to shrink, that triggered a shift in perception for me. It came from discussion on our “fight or flight” response. What kind of beauty and hope could be found in this you may ask?

The concealed beauty is that the power of a kind word, a gentle touch, of being present and being concerned, and reaching out do make a difference. These things physically change the brain.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

clematis-sun1

And that is the power each one of us has. The power to make a difference if we choose to.

My personal “work”, and I have to say I am not comfortable calling it that, but do not know what else to call it, is to listen to some  ancient, primordial sense deep inside of me that I believe once understood the idea of a revered preparation for encounters in this world, with beauty…of walking with gentleness, gratitude, awareness and patience on this world and in this world.

There is an assault happening to us, ridding us of this wisdom and respect. We respond with fight or flight. We see this all over the world and in our own homes and communities. How are we approaching life, each other, our world, the universe? Are we preparing for encounters of depth and spirit?

We tend a garden full of rushed hearts and arrogant minds. There is little gentleness and less patience.We are tired because we lack sound sleep. We are overwhelmed, overfed or underfed, unsure.  We stumble over fear and hate. We are either drowning or parched with thirst and withering. We hide in front of the TV and behind other screens. Constant noise, conversation, TV, clatter and chatter over occupy our brains and numb us a bit. Doing, doing, doing. Being important seems to out weigh being gentle and kind. Quantity and appearance seem to matter more that quality and simplicity. We fertilize our lives with all this and grow flowers that are big and bold, but lack perfume and prevent light from reaching anything growing beneath or nearby. These flowers hog the water, the light, the nutrients.

So, lets start paying (more) attention to the quality of our approach to the this planet, each other and the experiences that unfold before us. Approaching them with reverence. Like preparing a garden bed and soil in an empty, deserted lot so it will support and sustain life and beauty, the health and stamina of the small seeds working to grow. If we put some of our time and energy into preparing mindfully for encounters in life maybe we will be able to see that a garden that includes variety is healthier and more beautiful. While each plant has it’s own needs and requirements, the fundamental needs for living and growing are the same for each plant and flower. Like people.

Perchance great things will approach us and the light of what matters and is important in the world may illuminate the concealed beauty in an abundance of things we are or have been blind to. So that

” …beauty will decide to trust us”

and then we understand

“When we approach with reverence, great things decide approach us”

Jumping and Leaping

“Love recognizes no barriers.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences,
penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
~ Maya Angelou
sparklemh3

I was reading a poem by Elizabeth Alexander in which she pondered

“…are we not of interest to each other?”

Ars Poetica#100: I Believe

In all the whole wide world, who is of interest to you? Your family? Neighbor? Best friend? Friend with cancer? Refugees from Syria? Those with ALS? Hungry children? The homeless?

Who do you wonder about with curiosity and interest? Who, on the other hand, is not of interest to you?

I love Humans of New York and StoryCorps because they allow me to get to know the stories of people all around the world. People I would otherwise never know about. In learning about others, I learn about myself. In learning about the lives of others my view of the world and all of her beautiful humans is enriched.

In learning about others, people become less of “the other” and more of a real person…just like me. They become of interest to me. If I have a way of hearing the stories of others, few are not of interest to me.

Through the stories people tell of their life, I begin to feel a connection to them, a concern for and a love for them begins to grow. I don’t have to know them, or to touch their hand or hug them to love them. I can love them through shared hopes and dreams, fears, and failings.

“Love recognizes no barriers.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences,
penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

My destination? For “others” to be of interest to me. For me to reach this destination and jump and leap over barriers to bring forth hope. Hope for respect. Hope for justice. Hope for an end to oppression. Hope for the end of poverty. Hope for acceptance. Hope for there to be no more “others”. Hope for love.

Hope for peace.

“Are we not of interest to each other?”

Who do wonder about? Who is of interest to you? Who is not of interest to you, and why not?

Keeping Quiet, a poem

I am basking in the contentment and deep joy of being with family and friends and offer this poem. Hoping you will stop for a moment and keep still.

“KEEPING QUIET”
Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
and we will keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

cloudmh1

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

—from Extravagaria

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?

 

Along Comes A Teacher

There are few master teachers in life. … But there are many who can listen to life so well that they can hear the vastness in everything and in you. A teacher is someone who has learned to listen to life. Someone who has found a way to listen well. Any real teacher is only a finger pointing. In the end, we may find out more by not following our teachers but by following what our teachers follow for themselves. From a good teacher you may learn the secret of listening. You will never learn the secrets of life. You will have to listen for yourself.” Rachel Naomi Remen

We have all kinds of teachers in our lives. Not just the ones in school or college. Life teachers. Spiritual teachers. Unexpected teachers. You never know when you’ll find a teacher. Seems like one shows up when you least expect it, aren’t even looking for one. On occasion you may not even aware one is in front of you.

I’ve known this particular person for several years now. She’s much like you and I. Her alarm goes off in the morning but she might not have time to eat breakfast. She doesn’t want to be late for morning meeting. Her lunches tend to be pretty balanced and she likes to have conversations while she’s eating. She likes to talk about movies and actually she often points out little nuances in them that I never noticed.

During the day she methodically gets her work done. She has to figure out how to work with a variety of people. She has to speak up to be heard sometimes, to express her ideas. Sometimes she is insistent, sometimes she acquiesces. Like you and me she has to problem solve and every now and then she needs to ask someone for help. She doesn’t ever seem to be hung up on needing and asking for help.

She enjoys her leisure time. Hangs out with friends, runs, relaxes, tries new things. She loves to be outside. She loves books and movies. She has an eye for art. She is very kind. Effortlessly, she is thoughtful, generous, caring, concerned, curious, loving, helpful. She is the first one to reach out to someone.

Two things stand out about my friend when I think about her. Once or twice I’ve watched her just watching birds. She was outside one beautiful day and she whispered for her friends to come over….”Come here.” she softly called, “Look. It’s a bluebird.” Even though she whispers you can always hear her enthusiasm. The kind that makes you get excited too. She loves to share what she knows about birds. It’s just her thing, so to speak. One of her friends started walking closer to the bird. “Stop” she admonished softly…”Just look. Listen. You don’t need to get closer. Just be still.” Of course the bird flew away. “All you had to do was just watch.” she adds a little sadly.

On other occasions I have observed her during the busy hum of the day just sit and close her eyes. She just sits like that for a bit. Kind of like collecting herself. Sometimes it is noticeable the way her body begins to relax. Often I notice she is different afterwards…a little calmer, perhaps a little more focused. One time I asked her what she thought about when she sat quietly like that. She kinda smiles and laughs. “Nothing.” she says. “I don’t think about anything! It’s just quiet.”

When you might not expect it, along comes a teacher. She’s one of those people who I realize is teaching me. Her bird watching caught my attention becasue I love birds too. When I see her sitting quietly I can’t help but smile as I watch her body so still and serene, eyes closed, no thoughts twirling in her mind. She can seemingly find a moment, just a moment, any time during the day to be still and quiet.

She teaches me to just be still. To look, watch. And to listen. To find moments to close my eyes and let thoughts go.

In the end, we may find out more by not following our teachers but by following what our teachers follow for themselves.”

Best part is, my friend is five!!!

Sitting In Stillness. Listening To Silence.

“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.” Eckhart Tolle

I have come to the practice of stillness and silence after many decades. I obviously had to come to it on my own terms. And it is fairly obvious that as much as I may have needed it decades ago, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t understand it…..was pretty sure there was no time or place to practice it.

Luckily for me, some things come and knock really loudly and all you can say is “OKAY! Okay, I’ll come.” And you’re never the same.

I will be at Springwater for five days, including Easter. There will be not blog next week because there will be no internet.

For five days I will sit in stillness and listen to silence. Oh yes, there will be walking the trails of 200 acres of hills and forests in the Genesee Valley. There will be the sound of streams and creeks, trees creaking, the wind, the hum of lights and the sound of footsteps, the daily chores of cleaning, cooking, maintaining the center. But not much else. No computer, internet, cells phones, music, TV.  Certainly there is movement and action, but it is gentle and caresses life. It does not bulldoze through it.

“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Springwater is a center for meditative inquiry. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but one of my favorites.

There is a healing that happens to me during the hours and days I spend there. While it may seem like a kind of running away and letting life and the world fall away and seemingly not really matter anymore, it is not that. It is sitting with one’s self and becoming reacquainted with what matters.

path spwater

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks – images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody.” Toni Packer

“Things” happen in this kind of space, in this kind of stillness and quiet. Something that is often held behind the closed doors of “too much” of all most everything, finds an opening to tentatively step out into the light to be seen, heard and felt.

“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

Through the practice of quiet and stillness I have learned it is not the losing of anything, like the routine of our daily life filled with important “things”, but the gaining of an understanding that gets so lost in the life we lead. There is something to found that exists without the busy, frenetic, kinetic, noisy life.

“There is something that matters more than any of those things and that is finding the essence of who you are beyond that short-lived entity, that short-lived personalized sense of self. You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”  Eckhart Tolle

I see and experience life and the world differently as I get older.

“In truth we are not separate from each other or from the world, from the whole earth, the sun or moon or billions of stars, not separate from the entire universe. Listening silently in quiet wonderment, without knowing anything, there is just one mysteriously palpitating aliveness.” Toni Packer

When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”

Have a peaceful day. I’ll be back in two weeks.

* Toni Packer was the founder of Springwater.
*Eckhart Tolle is himself
* photo by me of a Springwater trail in the fall

 

 

The Flow of Blessings

“… the blessing that flows into us
through everything we touch…”

My dad knew many interesting people. Here and there throughout my life, quite a variety of people would come into our lives and home. Many of them became colorful threads that helped to sew together the person I am. They were blessings in my life. Their smiles and hugs, their values and hopes flowed into me and became a part of me. A few of them found a special little niche in my memory. It is the spot I visit often and work to keep the memories there dusted and cherished so they have a chance of staying sharp and crisp. My memories of them are small, and sometimes of silly things. Yet, remembering them and following their lives and stories as I grew up continued to shape and form me.

One such person was Hans Kloppenburg from Germany. I think he was from Bremen. He came to the US  with his family to visit a doctor for his son. This was in the 60’s, and I seem to recall his son had a medical condition and they were looking for guidance that might not have been available in Germany at the time. I don’t really know what the connection was with my dad. Hans was a round and jovial man with a white beard that connected to lamb-chop sideburns. He had a great laugh that sort of echoed around no matter where he was. He brought me two little dolls that I still have. The girl has red pom poms on her hat! He smoked cigars. He smoked cigars sticking straight up out of the bowl of a pipe. I think this was the first time I discovered the creative aspects of pipe cleaners. Years later we visited his family in Germany. His wife taught me how to properly fluff a feather bed each morning.

There was Udar Pinto from Pondicherry India. A not very tall man, bald on top, who emanated love and calm. He was involved in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and tread lightly on this earth. Clearly he not only loved life but rejoiced in all the experiences and experiencing of it no matter how difficult, mundane or manic. His presence added a brightness to everything. When I remember Udar I can smell the jasmine that twisted and twined throughout Pondicherry. If I close my eyes I can see him leaning against a pillar covered with red and orange exotic flowers that were everywhere. A smile on his face. He lived well into his 100’s.

There were the Berrigan brothers…mostly Daniel. Daniel would often come over for dinner. Or donuts. Father Berrigan traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi during the Tet Offensive to “receive” three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombing of that nation had begun. Daniel was director of Cornell United Religious Works. He was a member of the Catonsville Nine and was sentenced to Federal Prison for his protests. My dad would visit him often at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury Connecticut. One year I painted a peace dove and sent it Daniel at Danbury for Christmas. He never received it. Many years later the envelop found its way back to us, tattered and disintegrating, marked, “Undeliverable”.

Sometimes I brought people home too! One was the an Orthodox priest I introduced myself to in the Cleveland airport while waiting for my brother. Father Anthony occasionally visited an Orthodox church in Lansing and would come over to our house to visit. For many, many years I would receive small packages from around the world as he traveled. Olive-wood beads from Jerusalem. An ivory necklace from what was then the Belgian Congo, now the DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo. We maintained contact for almost 20 years…..

Juliet Hollister was a dynamic, tall woman. When she walked, she flowed. She founded the Temple of Understanding. She was always brimming with energy and love. She believed respect and understanding of cultural and religious diversity was the only way for people to survive together on this planet. She believed social change would bring about the possibility of global citizenship.

Perhaps one of the most significant friends of my father’s was Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. They maintained a long and nurturing relationship over many decades. They traveled together in Europe and spent hours sitting in our home talking. Almost  two decades after my father’s death, Brother David sent me a picture of the two of them in Europe. (Brother David is the inspiration for the website Gratefulness.org)

Each one of these people ignited something  inside of me. Through the process of knowing them and having them touch my life I received the blessing of each one of them. Hans and his pipe brought me the element of silliness and thinking outside the box. Even though I was very young, I remember feeling bad that Hans could not find what his son needed in their own country…perhaps the first inkling of the developmental disparity among countries. There seemed to be an inequality or differing national priorities. Udar gave me the possibility of calmness, appreciation for the moment and the understanding that we are all a very small part of something much larger. I wonder if people know who Dan Berrigan is any more…..poet, anti war activist, pacifist. He instilled in me that peace is the way we must learn to travel. Father Anthony gave me the world in little gifts. A lesson that no one is too small or insignificant to care about….he had no reason to stay in touch with me for 20 some years as he traveled the world. Juliet made me believe we could become one world, all citizens of the same global community that could honor and respect vibrant, diverse, living cultures and religious freedoms. Brother David gave the blessing of the smile, of being totally present for a person. He brought the power of gratitude and simplicity into my life.

I found this quote the other day and it caused a ray of light to saturate that dusted and honored place in my memory, shining a light on the kindhearted smile of Brother David.

brother david (2)“The more alert we become to the blessing
that flows into us through everything we touch,
the more our own touch will bring blessing.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

My heart, soul, mind, all of me, needed this reminder. Sometimes we all need to pause and allow ourselves to be alert to things we have forgotten about. Like our blessings. The ones we receive and the ones we give.

Today, please find a moment to pause, to be still and quiet and tune in to the blessings of life and love that flow into you infinite amounts of times each day. Pause to be aware of and honor the blessings you bestow on others all through the day with your concern, your laughter, your interest, your patience, your love, your time, your support, your respect….your taking notice of them.

Our own touch, thoughts, awareness, interactions can bring a blessing to others. How wonderful is that? By being aware of what we receive, we increase the awareness and ease of what we give so freely to others. Compassion. Love. Recognition. Hope. Companionship. Strength. Wonderful, nurturing things! Let’s make time to feel the back and forth flow of human kindness.

*photograph my dad and Brother David around 1959.

” Darling”

It’s all about love.  After all, it is Valentine’s Day…the day of love. People seem to have a lot of questions about love.

So, why not let the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh help us sort it all out!

Sometimes I hear people talking about falling in love, being in love, falling out of love, looking for a soulmate, finding “the one”. There is a good amount of energy spent wondering about and looking for love. People often look surprised when I tell them I’ve been married for almost 37 years….They whisper, “That’s a long time.”

When we find love, some of us are surprised to find “being in love”, and “loving” someone can be hard work. Maybe challenging. It’s not always like the fairy tale romance of living “happily ever after.”

In Buddhism “mantras” are used somewhat like “prayers” found in other doctrines and religions. Words that help us stay focused on something. We repeat them because we deem them to be important. Perhaps they help us work through tough times or bring us a sense of calm in rough waters. Maybe they provide strength and courage as we let go of situations, things or people.

blog vdayThích Nhất Hạnh talks about what he calls the four “Darling” mantras. While “Darling” is not an often used word anymore, it is a sweet word with tender denotation and connotative power. I first heard about these four mantras while listening to a talk by Tara Brach. I settled into listening, smiling over the word “Darling.” Afterwards, I listened to the talk again. And then, again. It isn’t about sexual or romantic love. It is about a deep, unlabeled, perhaps undefinable love. The kind of love where we leave our self unguarded and vulnerable. It’s about the relationship where trust (in ourselves and in the person we love) and unquestionable love are born and thrive.

The “first mantra” is when we truly and deeply care for someone and offer them the greatest gift we can: to be there for them. To be present for them. Not necessarily being present by going out to lunch, or tending to them only in times of crisis or joy, but in those moments of silence when there are no words. In those moments, eye contact or holding hands in silence, speak volumes. When we sit with someone, when we are present for them.

When we look someone in the eye and in perfect concentration and presence say to them, “Darling, I am here for you”. At that moment three things happen. “You become real, the other person becomes real, and life is real in that moment. You bring happiness to yourself and to the other person.” Who on earth does not want to know and feel in the fiber of their being that someone is there for them?

The “second mantra” is holding that moment and saying, “Darling, I know you are there and I am very happy.” This kind of being so completely present is something to be fostered and honored. “Whenever you are really there, you are able to recognize and appreciate the presence of the other – …..the person you love the most.” You tell them in no uncertain terms that in their pain, their imperfections, their doubts, their whatever, you know they are there and you are grateful for just that. To have them in your life. To be sitting there with you, by your side.

With the third mantra we verbalize their suffering and pain, “Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I am here for you.” It is not about you or your discomfort. It is about witnessing another person’s pain and suffering and simply telling them you are there for them. That is why you are there with them, to sit with them in their pain and hurt.

The last of the ” Darling” mantras is when it is necessary to approach the person you love and who has hurt you, and say to them, “Darling, I suffer. Please help.” With an open heart, letting pride, fear or hurt fall away, we ask for what we need because we know there is no other way. We have to be open and honest. We have to ask for what we need. We now need the person we love to understand that we need them, their full presence, love and care. In love, when the other person hears your words, they may come “back to themselves“and be able to practice looking deeply at you, the person they love. And the mantras begin again with your “love” offering to you “I am here for you, I know you are there and I know you are suffering.”

What exists if we do not start by saying “Darling” to those we love and those who love us?

I have found this to be a fragile, sometimes challenging path. I have stumbled, tripped, fallen flat. I have not always been able to hold to these four mantras, but in full awareness of my own imperfections I keep trying. I am learning. My darling is learning. Together we are nurturing, growing love. And we are over 37 years into a relationship. Love is not always easily defined. Sometimes it is not easily given or expressed. And, although it may seem odd, sometimes love is not easily received. It is not only about feeling good, or happy. It is about something not definable. It is about growth, change, learning, trust. It is about being hurt and sad, confused and lost. It is about sharing happiness and joy. It is about crying and wiping each other’s tears. It is about holding the other through all of life. There is so much focus on “protecting” ourselves….and I understand that. I maintain, that these four mantras can eliminate the need to protect ourselves. These four mantras give us permission to take a different route. To allow our heart to be unguarded. For many this is too much of a risk. I do not mean that we allow ourselves to be abused or walked all over. I mean we work towards a relationship with someone where each one looks at the other in happy times and in painful times, in anger and in joy, in fear and in excitement,and says, “Hello darling.” And both know without doubt that the response will be, “Hello my darling.”

*The Four Darling Mantras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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