That Which Is Timeless

First of all, salutations to all mothers and mother figures and women with the heart of a mother. Today is the day someone decided we should make sure to appreciate these women in our lives…..but I hope your love and respect for these women shines upon them every day.

mom and me mother's day

My mom holding me.

Today as I look out the window I see Nature is cloaked in chartreuse, the first color of spring. Although I have music on in the background I can hear the bird song. In these observations comes the gentle reminder of being grateful. Sometimes we have to make a conscious effort to remember the many blessings in our lives. Even the blessings that aren’t quite blessings yet because we are struggling with accepting them a little bit. Sometimes the reminder is a full on encounter as in the chartreuse colors. I couldn’t ignore it if I tried.

I have spent many hours and days in the company of gratitude—-recovering/healing seems  with brighter with the light of gratitude shining on it. It is a soft glow, but it is enough to wake up the over active monkey mind that sometimes puts blinders on so that the obvious is not always seen. In coming into these memories we have and apply the filters of  gratitude, prayer and blessings. We may experience a very tender softness in the perhaps quiet moments of an awareness of these. A space of renewal and comfort. We may feel the gentle rhythmic beating of our heart and be reminded that our body blesses us by beating regularly with no reminders from us. We are taken care of by a whisper quiet process with no extra thought on our part. In these moments we take a deep breathe and experience the gratitude we have for these things. In these pauses of gratitude we may also find ourselves coming into awareness of other things which bring joy, blessings, gratitude, mystery to our lives.

Who would think that recovering from and aneurysm would bring so many of these pauses of awareness? But here they are, sitting with me. There are numerous times during the day, and even at night in dreams, where this awareness whispers to me. Just softly enough that I have to pay attention and focus on what message I am receiving. Within this, it comes to me that this awareness is not the end of the message. The rest of the message is to go further. It whispers “Stop and taking a deep breath, open your heart up, see that the whole planet, and everything on it, is holy.”  The message gives voice to the desire that wants to bring the awareness of these beautiful reminders to everyone I  meet. In  making and taking the time to find or return to this soft whispering regularly, I  remember this is life fulfilling its promise to me. The mystery of grace is heard in these quieter moments.

In the quiet of sitting here now and letting the memories bubble up I think of my mom. I can hear her voice and see her beautiful auburn hair and remember how I loved to brush it for her. Like all of us, she had joys and sorrows. Sometimes the sorrows spilled out and her hurt became ours too. Today I reflect on what it has been like for me to be a mother, and as I honor who my children are, I find myself thinking of my mom and believing she knew my love for her as I knew her love for me. Perhaps not always patient or perfect, but full none the less.

So, on this mothers day I will make time and space in my day for the quiet and listen. And perhaps this will give birth to a stronger sense of community and our interconnected-ness to each other and the planet. Blessings are all around us, and if in the pause we can see, feel and acknowledge them, perhaps our own bubble of life will be brighter, softer and lighter. Perhaps we can rejoice in the understanding that we are not alone, that we matter just as other person matters. Maybe we will find a new gentleness that allows us to open our hands up in friendship, care and concern.

In my quiet times of healing I do a lot of thinking. I am here because a “medical village” cared for and about me. (As in “It takes a village to raise a child.”) I was not ignored, not left alone, not cared about. I was cradled in the deep love of family and friends. I was treated, bathed, fed, provided for, by a legion of people I didn’t know.

And yes, there are times I am impatient with the slowness, or what seems to me to be slow recovery. Yet, even on the most frustrating days, in those moments of pause I am reminded that there is so much to be grateful for and to ask for the peace of heart and grace to always have a sense of these blessings and to remember that I too can be open to hearing and sensing the needs of others and in reaching out through my own experiences, I will become one of the builders of community. And like my recovery, I may not always have clear sight of the community that is being created, but if I can remember to pause to hear the softer whispering, I will understand that connecting to others in big or small ways, is community building and it matters.

Gratitude is timeless. It is eternal and everlasting. It’s always there, but sometimes we have to be nudged into opening the door for it and to welcome it in to our lives and make room for it. The more we acknowledge it and make room for it, the more often it will come around. And just like the chartreuse, the first color of spring, we will welcome gratitude with open arms and generously share it with others in the bonds of community.

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Drifting

Saturday morning the sunrise was soft. It made me think of cotton candy.two2a

Later in the morning we went to yoga. It was not as calming and grounding as it usually is. The room was too hot. The sequence felt disjointed. I kept feeling like I was drifting away. Like a cloud. Untethered. Might seem like a nice feeling, but it was disconcerting.

When I got home I re-read something that had caught my attention earlier in the morning:

“We are participants in a vast communion of being,
and if we open ourselves to its guidance,
we can learn anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth.”
~Parker J. Palmer

I believe this very deeply. No matter who we are, where we live, what we believe, what our name is, the color of our skin, our gender or sexual orientation, our “good-ness” or our “bad-ness”, the religion we follow, the job we have, the amount of wealth we have, the level of poverty we live with, we are, all of us, in a

vast communion of being.

Rather than being open to the vulnerability, intimacy and trust achievable within this communion with one another, it seems some of us doubt the possibility and hope offered by the sharing and exchanging of intellectual and spiritual ideas. Instead, the doors are closed. Some of us turn away from possibility, clinging to old, familiar, comforting thoughts and beliefs. Instead of walking together in fellowship, there are those who find themselves wincing at the unfamiliarity of that which is different and turn away.

No matter our level of openness or hesitancy, we will have to learn how to live in this great and gracious community of Truth. The Truth is there is only one human species. There is only one Earth. There is only so much food and water. There is only so much…..of so many things.

Without the trust to live in communion with one another and all that is on this pale blue dot twirling through space, we will perish. If not physically, most certainly spiritually and intellectually. All of us.

So, I still feel as if I am drifting today. Soft as this drifting may be, it is an unsettled feeling. I reach out my hand, and offer my heart in fellowship and communion. I see a hand reaching towards mine and it is instinct to reach out to grab hold.  But as I watch others in places of suffering and hurt begin to extend their hand, it often seems instead as if they have to hold their hand up as a shield of protection against hate and fear. I watch and worry that hearts are closing due of lack of understanding and knowledge, because of  anger and mistrust….and hearts and souls are drifting. I see people all over the world looking for a place of community and communion in which to stop drifting, and settle.

I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom-ish, but the tone of the leadership of this country and the voices of ignorance, intolerance, hate and racism that it is sanctioning, does weigh heavily on me…my heart and soul.

There is so much work to be done. There are so many divides and barriers. Only with open hands, open hearts, the spirit of trust and fellowship can we become the gracious community of Truth.

My life is fine. There is much I am deeply grateful for. That is not what this about. It is not about me. It is about the voices we don’t want to hear. Voices we don’t listen to because our lives are okay. Don’t listen to because we don’t want to…we don’t want to risk creating a ripple in the security we depend on and believe in. We don’t want to because the “Others” are not one of “us”. They are different. Can we shoulder all the hurt and suffering alone? No. Together? Hopefully. To tend to and heal one another we have to come together because

“We are participants in a vast communion of being,
…..learning anew how to live in this great and gracious community of truth.”

Be tender. Be compassionate.

Take a hand. Offer a hand.

Listen. Learn.

The Heat of Compassion

“Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.” ~Gandhi

There is a heavy, heavy weight bearing down on me. I know I am not alone. Many are speaking out, taking action. Some of you are feeling paralyzed and lost.

Choices, relationships, thoughts and the words we use have great power. When we come up against one of these and experience uncertainty, fear, hesitation, we have to pause and take a moment. We have responsibilities. We are the protectors of each other and of the world…of Earth.

“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.” ~Parker J. Palmer

For many of us these last two weeks have been difficult to understand. It looks and feels so much like hate and ignorance “won”. Many of us are experiencing doubt on many levels. Despair fills us. And many of us feel a deep pain for so many in our communities and around the world who are under various threats. Threats many of us will never feel or know.

We must learn to hold our doubt, despair, and pain—until we can reclaim our belief, our hope, our love.” ~Parker Palmer

We have to choose to hold on to each other with more hope, more faith and more love. We cannot let hate and fear take root any deeper than it has already. As the Southern Poverty Law Center says in it’s Ten Steps to Fighting Hate, “It is time to move from prayer to action.” And millions of people are doing this.

A new kind of warrior is being born. Compassion and insight their only weapons. The concept of the Shambala Warrior teaches us that compassion “provides the fuel, it moves us to act on the behalf of other beings.” We need insight “into the dependent co-arising of all things.” It is about what is in our hearts. We are interconnected. All life is a web.

“But insight alone can seem too cool to keep us going. So we need as well the heat of compassion, our openness to the world’s pain.

The Bhagavad Gita (5th-2nd century BCE) is the story of Arjuna facing this exact situation. Counseled by Krishna, Arjuna comes to face his “warrior” duties to protect and uphold “cosmic law.” He struggles with his own fears and doubts, but in the end finds the courage and strength to embark on selfless action for the welfare of others.

This was the guiding principle Gandhi followed.

Insight is growing. A fire has been set. The heat of compassion is alight.

We see it everywhere. Take action. Speak up.

**Check out this week’s reading: This week

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 Illusion of The Rising Sun

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

jan 2013a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign the Charter for Comapssion

 

 

 

Stories Told

Storytelling is an ancient art. Long before there were books, there were bards who sang songs and told stories. A living, mobile entertainment and news source. These bards would travel great distances, sharing stories of what was happening in other places. On special dates people would travel many miles to come together for festivals and gatherings where the bard was often a key participant. This was a means of keeping people informed. Much of it was about entertaining, but it also provided warning when necessary. Some stories were based on myths and legends and helped people understand the mystical, mysteries and the “unknown”. It was about sharing and educating. It was about bringing people together. Sometimes music and dance were included in the storytelling. Sometimes puppets. It was an important resource for individuals and the community.

As books were printed and reading became more widespread the traveling bard faded away. News could be posted in the center of town, read as one had time. Some of the storytelling moved away from the center square in town, the dining halls and courtyards of castles and became bedtime stories for children. Books became illustrated and children had visual props to bring home the imagery of the story. The Brothers Grimm were famous storytellers who created vivid, imaginative stories to help children learn of hidden dangers in the world at that time in history. Current interpretations of many of these famous stories have been modified to keep them current as perceived dangers changed over the years, or make them more appealing—less frightening, resulting in the original intent often being lost or even changed completely. In reading an original today you might not even recognize the story.

Mother Goose favorites hinted of political commentary of the time. Mother Goose

There are two teaching stories that remain very much untouched. Their story lines transcend time, cultures and religions. Names, settings, words change to help people identify with the stories, but the lessons do not change.

Estátua_de_frade_em_Almeirim

Statue of a monk and a pot of soup in Portugal

One is Stone Soup. You remember: a single person or a small group of wandering people come to an unwelcoming village. There are no people walking in the streets, no bustling businesses providing services and goods. Doors are closed tight. Lights in windows turned off. Knocks on doors go unanswered. Not only are the the doors and windows closed to the strangers, but also to each other. The villagers kept everything “closed” to protect what was theirs. Usually it is a child who inquisitively, fearlessly ventures forth to find out what is going on. “We are hungry and would like to make some Stone Soup” comes the traveler’s response, “We would love to share with you, but we need a pot.” Curious at how soup could be made from a stone, the delighted child scampers to get a pot and in so doing the word spreads among the fearful adults. Slowly they emerge from behind their locked doors. Through gentle encouragement and support, the travelers are able to coax small quantities of tightly guarded food from the villagers…a potato here, a few carrots, some onions, a dash of salt… all thrown into a pot of boiling water simmering with a roadside stone. Before long, the savory scent of soup trickles through the village. More doors open. More people emerge. Tables and chairs appear, perhaps even a table cloth and flowers. It isn’t long before the entire village of fearful, isolated people gather together to share a communal meal. The travelers depart and the people in the village are forever changed. Working together as a functional community. A new understanding develops: that every individual has something to contribute that results in the health of themselves and of the whole village.

Long Spoons is another famous story. Much like Stone Soup it is found across the world in diverse cultures and is inherent in most religious teaching stories. Often it is a student, man, woman or spiritual/religious person wishing to understand the difference between heaven and hell. The props and language change to reflect the culture and religion in which it is to be received. (In that alone there is a lesson….the lesson is the same for all people all over the world.) In many versions it begins with a request to God.

Usually the story begins with the person being shown two doors. They open the first door and see a group of thin, sickly people. Each person has a long spoon tied to their arms. They are all sitting together around a pot of soup/rice/noodles. With such long spoons tied to their arms they are unable to get the spoon full of food to their mouth to feed themselves. It is a heartbreaking vision.

spoons in hand

The person closes that door and opens the second door. Here are the same people sitting around the same pot of food! Long spoons are still tied to their arms. These people, however, are healthy and robust! Thriving and joyful! With their spoons they reach into the pot of life sustaining food and then reach across the pot and feed a person on the other side. Everyone is fed. No one goes hungry. There is no “mine” or “yours”. The Other is needed.

The lesson is clear, is it not?

Do not doubt the power of kind and compassionate actions.

“Through practice, we can learn to make our own hearts
a place of peace and integrity.
With a quiet mind and an open heart
we can sense the reality of interdependence.”
Jack Kornfield

 

 

The Shelter of Each Other

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”

-Irish Proverb

golden trees

(photo by me….and, shhhh..it’s a sunset, not a sunrise!!)

I love this proverb. We live in the shelter of each other. It is difficult some days to be aware of this and believe it to be true.

My mind has a million lines of thought about this…how it is uplifting and hopeful. How it is false and impossible. How our shared world requires us to be bound to one another, connected, interdependent. How it sometimes feels as if we are none of those things.

I DO live in the shelter of others. I live in the shelter of others on many levels. I live in the security of a strong community, nurturing friends, neighbors, co-workers, loving family. I live in the shelter of a community that shares a common bond of respect, tolerance, patience, understanding, conversation, dialogue, valuing education and personal growth. I live in the shelter of the dreams of my ancestors. I live in the shelter of the possibility of change and growth, of opportunity.

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”

I also live in the shelter of circumstance and privilege and as such I feel I bear a responsibility to provide shelter for others. They don’t have to be like me, the same as me, hold the same beliefs, eat the same food, wear the same clothes or pray, or not pray, to the same God.

When we are sheltered we are taken care of, protected. When we are sheltered, we feel safe, or at least safer. When fear is diminished hope and possibility come out of hiding. We can plan, take action, dream, explore. Fear can be a great catalyst too, but it comes at a price: anger, reaction, separation, isolation,  intolerance. Often it is a reaction to a threat or to violence. We are more vulnerable.

When we are sheltered, physically, spiritually or emotionally, we are supported and uplifted. Mistakes become learning tools not a punitive sentence. Faltering becomes a point of concern and we begin to listen to discover what happened. We listen to the stories of others and hear what it is that is spoken from the heart. The stories don’t have to be the same as mine, or familiar to be true. Stumbling and floundering become stepping stones to a smoother path. The journey is as valuable as the destination.

When we are sheltered we feel we belong and are able to care for one another without thought of gain. Compassion flourishes and our effort is one of easing suffering, pain, want.

“To be human is to belong.
Belonging is a circle that embraces everything;
if we reject it, we damage our nature.
The word ‘belonging’ holds together the two fundamental aspects of life:
Being and Longing, the longing of our Being
and the being of our Longing.”
John O’Donohue

So often our tribal instincts, once so important for survival, click in and we want to isolate, protect, be fearful and cautious. Yet so much in our world now tells us we are all bound together by our humaness and even the boundaries of our living earth, rather than the arbitrary boundaries of our countries. As a global community we also find shelter in the firm grounding of the earth and gravity as we are hurling through space. We find shelter in sustainable and limited resources that are present. We find shelter through understanding, sympathy, shared experiences, universal stories, tolerance and acceptance. We find shelter as nurturers and builders of communities and family.

“The earth community, the Life Community is not the property
of any one religion or group or part of the world,
it is the Commons that embraces us all, our planetary home.
And it needs us as never before.
It calls us to become, not heroes, but community builders, builders of home,
gatherers and embracers, bearers of hospitality,
keepers of the shared space that cultures us all.
It calls us not to go forth and come back laden with honors
but to honor where we are, who we are,
and from that place to reach out
and connect to and honor each other in the community of life.”

David Spangler

Spangler also wrote:

“To embody a new paradigm of civilization-
to learn to think like a planet in order to nurture a planet-
it is not a hero’s task…it is more the task of a gardener.
The planet does not offer us the challenges
to be overcome to prove the worth of our individuality,
it presents us with a community to understand,
a community with disparate needs and identities
that are nonetheless intertwined in mutual dependencies.”

We live in the shelter of each other on this planet. Our culturally distinct and sometimes contrary needs and beliefs, dreams and desires do not mean we are not bound to one another with universal similarities by way of love, compassion, fundamental needs, respect, spiritual longing, familial bonding and community fellowship and support.

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”

If it is true that we do live in the shelter of each other, and we do not offer shelter to one another, where does that leave us?