Erasing the Blackboard

I remember being so excited in elementary school when it was my turn to erase the blackboard at the end of the day. Making all the learning and thinking disappear, almost without a trace. It was rhythmic and calming pushing the felted eraser across the board. Or up and down. Or in big circular swirls. Words and numbers, assignments, messages and mistakes blurred into little specks of powdery chalk. Maybe what was there would be remembered. But maybe not. It was important at the time of writing it on the board. If the teacher used colored chalk it was really important. Or maybe even something to be anticipated with excitement! Whatever was written there was erased at the end of the day and the slate was left clean for a new day and new things.

At the end of the day I often find myself sitting quietly going through everything that my brain held onto during the day. Kind of like looking at that school day filled blackboard. There is much I can easily dismiss, erase. Some of what was written there is a little harder to completely erase. I have to go through those things by steps, gradually sifting through the layers till it can be blown away with by a thought. Some things seem to have been written there with non-erasable chalk. These things can almost be completely erased, but not quite. Just enough shadow writing remains that I can always read exactly what is there.

In the process of my daily attempt to sort through things I have been hanging on to, I feel as if I am becoming lighter, less bogged down. I sort, compartmentalize and throw out millions of little things. Like the process of erasing a school blackboard the background becomes mostly clean, uncluttered, receptive, fresh.

As this happens I make room for the thoughts, feelings, ideas, “things” that do seem important for me to write down and look at again free of the clutter of daily hording of unneeded and unwanted information and emotions.

Gratitude. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Courage. Resolve……

In Buddhism the most important of these are referred to as the Four Radiant Abodes. These are human qualities that, upon reflection, are sublimely simple. Universal expressions of a heart that is open to the world and all living things. We know them as:

LOVE    COMPASSION    JOY    PEACE

I see these qualities daily in the faces and expressions of young children. We feel it in the embrace of a loved one. We see it in the eyes of others.  Something lights up when we are in the presence of someone who is filled with these qualities. These qualities shine outward from the heart. We see, experience how these things can transform others. And when we are touched by them we are transformed too.

These are a few of the things that are permanently written on my blackboard. But, sometimes, during the day they get written over. Lost. Hidden. Sometimes maybe even forgotten about. I erase the blackboard each day to bring them back into my consciousness in a more prominent light. Hoping not to write over them so much the following day. Because that does happen when frustration or anger surfaces. When disappointment or tiredness takes hold. When there is stress or worry. When things in life make me feel rushed and I become frayed around the edges. When I feel let down or uncared for. Lots of things get written on my blackboard, pushing other things to the background.

In their shadow purpose, love, compassion, joy and peace can cause me to form a lot of attachments to people and things. So equanimity is there along side them in counterbalance. To let some things go. To let the thoughts and emotions pass over me and not so much through me. Caution ever the reminder, equanimity can lead to excessive detachment, so it is held into balance by love, compassion, joy and peace.

With the blackboard erased and the mind at rest we are peaceful and our hearts are open. In this space of equanimity we meet others in peace and we are filled with love. When this love meets others in pain and suffering it transforms into compassion. When this love meets happiness it becomes joy. Equanimity and love, compassion, joy and peace in balance. We become transformed into our highest state of being.

At the end of the day I try to take the time to erase my blackboard and find renewal. The I feel as if I have come home to the dwelling place where I can rest, residing in the abode of immeasurable love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity.

crazy garden

one garden at my physical home!! 

There is no faith, religion, culture, class or race that owns these qualities. They are in each one of us as human beings. We all carry within us the seeds of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. It is however, up to us to nurture and tend them with understanding, patience, tolerance, acceptance, humility, acceptance, respect…..supporting and caring for their growth.

On my blackboard, the slate of my being, never to be fully erased, are the life driving qualities of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. They are the pillars of the place where I dwell in my heart. Sometimes, the goings on of daily life write over them, obscuring them, dimming their clarity, but they remain the foundation of my human-ness. As I take time to let go of unwanted, unneeded clutter caused by longing, desire, uncertainty, anger, fear, jealousy……so many things, erasing them away, I come face to face with what is the true foundation of who I want to be, who I can be, who I am.

I strive to do this every day. It is a goal. Always a learning process. Always humbling and grounding.

 

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The Open Heart of Gratitude

“To love in the face of fear is bold.
To love in the face of hatred is courageous.
To make the choice to love even more deeply
and widely in the face of moments of anguish
is a heroism of the heart that may be our only hope to heal this world.”
Kristi Nelson

So much going on in the world. So much pain and violence, Hatred and fear. I am struggling with a deep sense of sadness. I am reaching and stretching towards what I know is bold and powerful: love.

Ultimately I know deep in my soul that I will always make the choice to be vulnerable, broken and heart broken, lost, afraid, humbled by the profound power of love rather than allowing myself to be closed off to love…I will not shut it out and allow hate and fear to take over.

I am one. It may not sound like much in a world of billions. Still, I will always stand up to fear and hate. I will always speak out in love, with compassion and always search inwardly for empathy towards others. I am one. But I am ONE MORE.

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once,
but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

~ Clarrisa Pinkola Estes

I do not live in bubble or vacuum. There are many things I can do that will have a positive impact on the part of the world within my reach. And I believe, further. Many of them require me to look honestly at myself and to re-educate myself to correct the inaccuracies I was taught. I challenge the thoughts and beliefs I was exposed to. It is okay to have to re-visit, re-think, process and revise.

“What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts,
adding, adding to, adding more, continuing.
We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace,
but only a small, determined group
who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
~Clarrisa Pinkola Estes

Accumulation of acts by a determined group. People who will not give up.

“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do
to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit
and willing to show it.”
~Clarrisa Pinkola Estes

I feel humbled by my list of things in my life to be grateful for. Mostly the same list I take for granted.  Not intentionally, but out of privilege. Yes, there it is. Privilege.

It doesn’t feel good. Yet, I am so grateful for this feeling. It is bringing me to an open door where I can turn around and see things from the perspective of others. Through the door I can begin the re-education of my heart. I can walk towards the opportunity to gain understanding. An opportunity to grow,  to evolve. I will accept the challenge to open my eyes.

I say this with full humility. I say this with determination. I am humbled and sometimes deflated by the struggles in the world. By the pain inflicted on one person by another. By the realization that there is a cloak of invisibility we throw over those we do not understand, are afraid of, don’t care about, who are different from us. Over people we judge.

This is the season of Thanksgiving. A holiday that needs to shed the untruths of the glamoured up version of history. All you have to do is look at what is happening at Standing Rock to understand what was set into motion in 1621.

How about in honor of being able to feel gratitude for things in our life we work for change, for understanding, for tolerance, for love. How about we learn something new? About abortion, or poverty, or racism (internalized, interpersonal,institutional and structural), or implicit bias, or conformation bias, or Islam, or food stamps, or why consent matters, or about sexuality and what it really means, the facts about incarceration and how it affects the poorest and most vulnerable. How about we learn the truth of the effort to dehumanize Native Americans from the first Thanksgiving. How about we learn about Others?

You know, I can’t live up to these goals all the time. I get lost in my own ego and personal struggles. I get mad, feel anger, get hurt. Underneath all that I know there are so many millions of people who suffer so deeply from so many different things….and that puts so much into perspective.

cbe-hiSo this Thanksgiving season I will gratefully spend time with my husband and children, eat a nice meal we all work on together. And for things I particularly feel grateful for I will commit to learning about how I can help others have those same things. And I will learn why I have to help them…what is standing in their way to healthy food, a job, health care, a home, protected rights, education, a safe neighborhood,………..it’s a long list.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful that I have made a decision to care. To open my eyes. To open my heart. To become educated. To understand I have a personal responsibility to bring a little bit of good into the parts of the world that are within my reach.

in-this-house

Check out this week’s readings: This Week

You Be The One

The Pleasure of Serving
by Gabriela Mistral

All of nature is a yearning for service:
The cloud serves, and the wind, and the furrow.

Where there is a tree to plant, you be the one.
Where there is a mistake to undo, let it be you.

You be the one to remove the rock from the field,
The hate from human hearts,
And the difficulties from the problem.

There is joy in being wise and just,
But above all there is the beautiful,
The immense happiness of serving.

How sad the world would be if all was already done.
If there was no rosebush to plant,
No enterprise to undertake.

Do not limit yourself to easy tasks.
It’s so beautiful to do what others dodge.

But don’t fall prey to the error that only
Great tasks done can be counted as accomplishments.
There are small acts of service that are good ones:
Decoratively setting a table,
Putting some books in order,
Combing a little girl’s hair.
That one over there is the one that criticizes,
This other one is the one that destroys.
You be the one that serves.

Serving is not a labor just for inferior beings.
God, who gives fruit and light, serves.
His name could be rendered thus: He Who Serves.

And he has his eyes on our hands,
And he asks us at the close of day:
“Did you render service today? To whom?
To a tree, to your friend, to your mother?”

– Gabriela Mistral: was a Chilean poet-diplomat, educator and feminist

light housemh(Lighthouse, UP, Michigan, by me)

Powerful question: “Who did you render service to today?” Was there someone you held the door open for? Helped with a heavy package? Made eye contact with? Who did you serve today?

Were there others you crossed the street to avoid? Was there someone you chose not to look at? Did you find yourself thinking “That person should have made a different choice.”?

As we hold in our thoughts and minds to be of service to others, could we also realize:

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way,
and in that I learn from him.” 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is there anyone we cannot learn from? Is there anyone unworthy of our “service” to them? The homeless, the mentally ill, the refugee or “migrant?” The “scary Black man who might have a gun” or the “Unnatural transgendered person”? Perhaps the “American hating Muslim”. or the “White trash mother on meth”? Maybe it’s the “She asked for it” rape victim?

What stereotypes are you pretty sure you could learn nothing from? If you thought about “being of service to them”, what would that look like?

I know that when I am of service to someone I tend to care about who they are. And in caring about who they are, I learn. Not only do I learn about them, I learn about me. I change. I grow.

That one over there is the one that criticizes,
This other one is the one that destroys.
You be the one that serves.

I want to be the one who learns from ALL others. I want to be the one who serves. How about you?

Be Crumbled

“Very little grows on jagged rock.

Be ground. Be crumbled.

So wild flowers will come up

Where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.

Try something different. Surrender.”

Rumi

blue flower

(photograph by me)

Our solid, rock-like defense system, whether jagged or smooth, helps us be “strong”, “protected”. If we are strong enough, protected enough, we can keep things from getting to us, or breaking us apart. Familiarity is a part of this rock-like defense too. Even when we feel we are hurt, suffering, unhappy, lonely, the pattern of hanging on and just surviving the current emotion/drama is “safer”, for some of us, than trying something different.

Rumi reminds us to try something different. To surrender. To take a risk and allow ourselves to be ground up ( just a little is ok, it only takes a small crack in the surface), to crumble apart just a little. Something new, and beautiful and full of possibilty might begin to grow—a wild flower, or….?

Sure, growing “flowers” might be unfamiliar to us. We might have to learn something new. Face new disappointments. Solve different problems and crises. Different doesn’t mean “bad”, “wrong”, “impossible”, “not worth it”. Different means, or can mean, “possibility”. We might end up with a beautiful “garden”.

I’ve come to a time in my life where I am not only allowing some crumbling to happen, but I am also looking for ways to facilitate it.

Little pieces of me are cracking and crumbling in a good way. Sometimes it is very hard and even scary because now I am also asking other people to look at me and respond to me differently, because I am looking at them and responding to them differently. By making changes in myself, I am making changes in relationships….and that’s a pretty big risk…..what if the other person doesn’t want to change? What if they don’t “like” the way I have changed?

I am finding strength in being fragile, vulnerable. The little pieces of me that were so jagged, barren and unwelcoming, are crumbling and softening. New thoughts, ideas, observations, interpretations, solutions, are growing. Patience, stillness, and listening are the rain and sunlight that allow and support this growth. I’m not always successful but I am working really hard at letting fear, doubt and worry go….trying even to prevent them from getting a footing. I’m working really hard on being aware of the fertile, fictional stories my brain floods me with and insisting those story lines of drama, worry, or unrealistic fantasies fade away so I can instead marvel at the blessings, beauty and wonder of the moment at hand.

I suppose there is a purpose and place for being jagged in life, but right now it is of no interest to me. I’d rather surrender, crumble a bit, and grow a wildflower.

bee and blue flower

(photograph by me)

(This offering is an updated version of a post on my previous blog, Potentiality, called ‘Rumi and Crumbling’)