Counting to 12

Settling in. Settling down. Close your eyes and count to 12. Take a deep breath. In and out.

easter blog2

For many people around the world this is a season of religious importance. For me it is Spring. Rebirth comes in many forms. Literal. Spiritual. Let us pause for a moment and just be, in stillness and silence.

Keeping Still

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.

Fishermen 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,
victory 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.

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.

~Pablo Neruda

What does happen when our thoughts are slowed? No rush or worry.

It never could happen, but, what if, for a moment, the people of the world could stop. And just be? Be together. In silence and stillness. No spoken language as a barrier. No arm waving flurry of activity. No going or getting. No having or wanting.

What if we could collectively experience unity as human beings as well as unity with Nature, with all other living things?

What if we stopped hurting each other in this moment? What if we just tried, with our hearts, to understand each other? What if people forgot to hold each other down, forgot to hurt or oppress others? What if those struggling and in pain forgot their pain, for just a moment? What if for a moment we became united?

What if we tended to Nature as our own child? What if we protected Earth as if it mattered. As if it was a life or death choice? What if war was obsolete and we walked side by side, doing no harm, causing no violence?

What if we just had a moment of silence to think about what it means to be alive.  Not to worry about death and salvation, but to be alive. To survive. To thrive. To love. To heal.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive

It is spring. What slept as if dead is awakening. Rebirth. Nature can teach us.

Count to 12 and be still.

Readings This Week

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Nourished

Sometimes I forget. I forget I need to be nourished. I forget I am no different from any other living thing. There are things I must have to thrive, to blossom, to succeed.

suna

Sunrise, March 3, 2027

Sometimes I forget. I forget I need a specific kind of nourishment. I put time and tender thought into living with certain intentions: to be loving, to be kind, to be compassionate, to be considerate, to be humble. I put time and tender thought into my job. Yet, it is so easy to forget I need to put the same, if not more, time and tender thought into remembering to be aware of, to feel the cycle of my breathing, the beating of my own heart and the tiny pauses between both. Those pauses, felt only in the fleeting moments of stillness and silence are the source of my nourishment. My source of renewal. Of healing. Of remembering.

“Even the smallest shift in perspective can bring about the greatest healing.”
~
Joshua Kai

Sometimes I forget about restoration. My restoration happens in those quiet, transitory pauses when I am able step out of the busy-ness of life and step away from “important” things and return to that which is timeless. My restoration happens when I am aware of the breath I take, when I feel the wondrous, rhythmic beating of my heart. It happens when I listen to my soft-spoken inner voice that has a connection to that which is in a symbiotic relationship with the world, the universe. Something eternal. Here, in this restorative process I have the chance to be reminded of and reconnect with my heart’s calling.

The nourishment of my “being” is about balance. It is about finding the balance that includes stillness and silence walking in unison with my daily life. It is about acute awareness of those pauses that ensure my heart will be open in order to love and serve others, but also to love and serve myself.

“The warm and radiant yes of the heart is perfect, like the sun,
in bringing all things to life and nourishing all that is truly human.”
~John Welwood

What I’ve been reading:  This Week

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

 

Just Your Heart

“The Full Measure of a man
is not to be found in the man himself,

but in the colors and textures
that come alive in others because of him.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

mapleWhat is my purpose in life?” I asked the void. “What if I told you that you fulfilled it when you took an extra hour to talk to that kid about his life?” said the voice. “Or when you paid for that young couple in that restaurant? Or when you saved that dog in traffic? Or when you tied your father’s shoes for him?”

“Your problem is that you equate purpose with goal-based achievement. God or the Universe or morality isn’t interested in your achievements… just your heart. When you choose to act out of kindness, compassion and love, you are already aligned with your true purpose. No need to look any further.
~ From ~ Note to Self ~ Tao & Zen

This is a really good time to act out in Kindness, Compassion and Love.

Jack Kornfield in his article Dharma and Politics asks, “What can I do as … a member of this society to best contribute to the world in these times? It might be registering people to vote, or working politically, or making our vision heard in organizations of power or in the government, speaking up or writing. It might include working with children, or helping to create a business climate of responsibility and integrity, or working internationally, or tending to poverty, racism and injustice locally. Each person has to find specific steps to offer their vision and energy to society, and to empower those around them. If we don’t do this, change won’t happen. The vision will not be fulfilled.”

And, “the teachings of compassion and wisdom are empowering; they encourage us to act. Do not doubt that your good actions will bear fruit, and that change for the better can be born from your life.”

“I claim to be no more than an average person with less than average ability.
I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have
if he or she would simply make the same effort
and cultivate the same hope and faith.”
~
Gandhi

“What can I do as … a member of this society to best contribute to the world in these times?

Plant your seeds. Sow change. Nurture kindness, compassion and love. Keep the Garden of Hope and Promise healthy and strong.

Please vote.

**Check out a few of this weeks reads:  This 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”