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

 

 

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Pearls for the New Year

Sometimes we call inspiring and impactful words “pearls of wisdom.” They may challenge or uplift us. Perhaps they become the impetus for us to challenge or change ourselves. Maybe they kindle or revive some thought, feeling or hope that had become obscured or lost.

As the wheel turns and a new year roles into place I thought I would share some pearls of wisdom that reverberate in my thoughts, feelings and heart. Words that make me pause and think. Words that become a map for my life. Words that bring into questions ideas and beliefs. Words that change, inspire, even worry me. Words that uplift me and spark something into life in me. Sometimes they sound like an echo coming back to me….something that floated away and now is finding it’s way back to me. Dreams and thoughts, wishes and hopes I had sent out into the world in good will, but then seemed to have forgotten about, come softly back and nudge me.

Here they are, in no particular order.

love-hafiz

“Fashion your life as a garland of beautiful deeds.” 
— Buddha

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
~The Dalai Lama

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion”.~Simone de Beauvoir

“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

“Only a life lived for others is worth living.”
~ Albert Einstein

“Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.”
~ Rumi

we will walk

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
~Kurt Vonnegaut

“Questioner: How are we to treat others? Ramana Maharshi: There are no others.”

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Talk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – Rabbi Tarfon

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” 
– Eric Hoffer

“Kindness … loving people more than they deserve.” — Joseph Joubert

“The highest wisdom is loving kindness.” ~The Talmud

seneca kindness

 

“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” ~Howard Zinn

mo pnd

“Any persons whom you have ever met, even if you have just exchanged a glance on a bus, have become part of your being and consequently you are, in some sense, responsible for them. You carry them in your heart.” ~Native American saying in Grace In Action by Richard Rohr

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” ~Matthew 5.9

This kinship with the suffering of others, this inability to continue to regard it from afar, is the discovery of our soft spot, the discovery of bodhichitta. Bodhichittais a Sanskrit word that means “noble or awakened heart.” It is said to be present in all beings. Just as butter is inherent in milk and oil is inherent in a sesame seed, this soft spot is inherent in you and me.“~ Pema Chodron

“When we bless others, we offer them refuge from an indifferent world.”
— Rachel Naomi Remen

“In the expectation of wonderful things to happen in the future,
one doesn’t hear the sound of the wind and rain,
the breath and heartbeat this instant.”
~Toni Packer

corinthlove

“As a mother with her own life guards the life of her own child, let all-embracing embracing thoughts for all that lives be thine.” ~ Metta Sutta

“There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.” 
~ Mary Oliver

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

“Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.” Qur’an

rumi quiet

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Men do not mirror themselves in running water–
they mirror themselves in still water.
Only what is still can still the stillness of other things.
” ~Taoism

Dig a big hole in the garden of your thoughts and put into it all your disillusions, disappointments, regrets, worries, troubles, doubts, and fears. Cover well with the earth of fruitfulness. Water it from the well of contentment. Sow on top the seeds of hope, courage, strength, patience, and love. Then when the time for gathering comes, may your harvest be a rich and fruitful one.”~ Anonymous

“An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn’t take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn’t kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share, we call it: cancer.” ~ Tom Shadyac

If people could see that Change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.” – Howard Zinn

And finally, I love this story:

Digging A Hole Big Enough to Sit In, by Twylah Nitsch

“I must have been under five when I spent one whole summer day digging a hole with a large spoon in the side of a bank near our house. I had to dig and dig because the ground was so full of roots and my goal was to make a hole big enough to sit in – like a cave. And that took a lot of hard work. Digging through all those roots was tough.

What I remember most about the experience is something my grandmother said. “When you take the dirt out, make sure you have a place for it,” she cautioned me, “because the dirt is used to being in that particular place, and it is at home there. Don’t take anything that is part of something and just scatter it around. Remember you are disturbing the home of the worms and the insects. You are moving them out of the place where they have been living, and you need to make sure that they are happy about where you are taking them.” So I would scoop the dirt into a little basket I had and take it around to various spots. “Is this where you would like to be?” I’d ask. And if the answer was yes, I would leave it. Otherwise, I’d pick up my basket, go to another spot, and ask again.

When I had finally made the hold deep enough to sit in, I would crawl in there and listen. I could hear the earth talking.”

There are many more! This is just a sampling!!!

Perhaps you’d care to share you favorite quotes or words of inspiration….

Happy New Year to each of you!!  Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Disarmed Heart

The New Year is around the corner. Some of us do some thinking this time of year. We look back on the passing year. We look ahead to the new year.

Dec 25 sunrise

What I have been thinking about lately is the fact that I am inching up on 60. I have no qualms with that. I do not see growing older as something to feel bad about. It is just what is happening. What intrigues me, are the things that are most important to me now as I move into these later years.

“The life of ‘peace’ is both an inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world. This difficult but beautiful journey gives infinite meaning and fulfillment to life itself because our lives become a gift for the whole human race. With peace as the beginning, middle, and end of life, life makes sense.”John Dear

This is the quote that inspired the title of this blog. It also reflects something I have come to understand about my journey on my path in this world. A journey that has sometimes been interrupted. A path I sometimes had difficulty seeing in darkness.

I grew up in a family that believed, still believes Peace is The Path.

“If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.” – Lao Tzu

I believe strongly in the importance and power of Peace, the real need for Peace. As John Dear says, it is a beautiful journey that gives meaning and fulfillment to life. And, it is a  two part journey: inward and outward. As I grow older, this disarming of my own heart and the working towards a disarmed world is what is giving infinite meaning and fulfillment to my life. “With peace as the beginning, middle, and end of life, life makes sense.”

My public journey is one that is quieter and softer than others. On this path my voice does not often raise up in volume but rather chooses to ask others to think about what they are saying and to challenge them to look intimately at their own thoughts. Professionally, I teach preschoolers and incorporate a Peace Curriculum into their days.

“If we want to reap the harvest of peace and justice in the future,
we will have to sow the seeds of nonviolence, here and now, in the present.”
Mairead Corrigan Maguire

On this public path I stand in solidarity with others to protest violence. I stand united with others because violence against one is violence against all. Violence does not beget Peace. I speak out against war. War does not beget Peace. It breeds violence and hate.

“When people talk about war
I vow with all beings to raise my voice in the chorus
and speak of original peace.”
Robert Aitken

On my inner journey I work very hard to hear the words I plan to say BEFORE they are spoken out loud to be aware of what I am saying. It is difficult. To paraphrase Buddha,

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

My husband and I raised two children with the intention of them being compassionate, respectful and kind adults. Compassionate to all: the are no “Others”. Respectful of differences as well as similarities: there are no “Others”. Kind to all: there are no “Others”. Those three qualities go hand in hand with Peace.

“Questioner: ‘How are we to treat others?’
Ramana Hasharshi: ‘There are no others.'”

I explore religions in order to learn about, and understand them. I study religion because religious myth, doctrine and dogma are things that have a strong influence on what people believe and as such, directly influence their thoughts and actions. I understand most religions teach non-violence and make the call for Peace. Yet most also are the source of much violence in the world. I think Krishnamurti was right when he offered that religion is one of the things that separates us. We separate ourselves by nationality, tradition, religion…. I am of the school of thought that if we feel separate from each other, then we see others as “The Other”. It is somehow easier for us to wage war, oppress, be unjust, or be violent towards the “Other”.

These things are what I care about. These things cause me to work towards disarming my heart so I may hold softly, within it, all people. In compassion, love, kindness and peace.

So, before I end up being “preachy”, let me offer you all a wish for a peaceful New Year. Peace in you own heart, in your life and in the world.

For me, I am going to continue on this “inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world.”  This is in many ways my personal resolution every year…..it is a part of my life. It really never changes.  It brings sense to my life. It’s a slow journey on a long path. As I continue on my journey I will remember the words of John Lennon:

“Peace is not something to wish for.
It’s something you make, something you do,
something you are and something you give away.”

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

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“I think over again my small adventures
My fears, those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things I had to get and reach
And yet there is only one great thing
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.”

– Unknown Inuit

Another year on the calendar has cycled through. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions….a commitment to starting the New Year fresh and with purpose. Sometimes we say these hopes out loud, sometimes not. Many of us joke, wondering how long before we break the promises we have made to ourselves.

I’ll make mine again…..

This year my resolution is to be present in the moment. As in the poem above, I want to be aware of and attentive to the blessing of life, the wonder of the rising sun, of light filling the world and of each and every moment. I want these things to be the stepping stones for each day. The path that guides me.

I will remind myself when I become worried and anxious, that the fears that may seem so huge and painful now, may not still feel that way after some time has passed.

I will put into perspective the things I hope to attain and achieve and put effort into remembering what is important at the end of the day.

Somewhere along the way, over the years, it’s been easy to fall into the habit of thinking right now is not enough. I’m not saying it is not important to work towards some things, but rather to put thought into what is important. Each of us measure success and happiness in different ways. On occasion, we may find ourselves wondering, after having reached the thing or event that we thought would make us happy, why that sense of happiness seemed so fleeting, so short lived. We find ourselves planning to attain some other milestone we believe will be the key to true, long lasting happiness.

At the end of the day I want to be able to look back on the day and to see that I was truthful, kind, compassionate, of service to someone, contributed something to a larger group/society. I hope to be able to say I was patient, gentle, a good listener. Add to that gratitude that my body was nourished with food and water. I will remember I have shelter and clothing to protect me. I will be thankful that my mind was engaged and active, and hopefully I learned something new. At the end of the day as I take inventory I know my family will be first on the list of people to rejoice having in my life.

Someone asked the other day if I was happy. I was a little taken aback. Not because I wasn’t happy, but because what I was experiencing was contentment, peacefulness. I was fulfilled in the heart, grateful, healthy. Maybe those are the ingredients to happiness…. What does happiness mean to you? What is “happiness”? How do you define it? Attain it? Measure it?

I’ve shed a lot of anger and resentment over the years. I just became tired of the burden of carrying them around. I owned up to my feelings, expressing them all. Then I said good bye to them and pushed them out the door and shut it. I feel lighter. I don’t miss the weight, the emotions, the hurt. It was a lot of work. I had to give up falling into the trap of dwelling in the darkness of old memories, emotions, hurt and anger. I had to work at knowing it was ok, for me, to let them go. Those things would no longer define me. They would no longer hold me captive. I still work on this…

Now I really try to be in this moment. To be attentive to what is happening. Trying not to place labels on those experiences…just letting them be. Good or bad, happy or sad, relaxed or anxious. It just is what it is. When it passes, which it will, it will be over and gone. Done. Anything that remains or lingers is of my own doing. Anticipation and effort towards something is often exhilarating and I embrace that. Memories are what they are, but for me I find they tend to morph one way or the other. They either become more significant than the real event, or more distorted and painful as my ego creates an ever expanding fictional interpretation of the story it is currently reliving. What is real at the moment is THIS moment. Not the moment before, or the moment coming next. Only this one moment.

I know this isn’t for everyone. We all have our own paths to walk on. We all struggle to make past, present and future have meaning and purpose. Some of us have hurt, pain and anger that are very strong. Others don’t even think like this.

I’m on a journey towards awareness, an adventure to being attentive to the present moment. This year my morning meditation will be based on this quote from John O’Donohue’s “Connemara Blues”:

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

To awaken and unfold afresh each day and to live in moments filled with surprise and wonder sounds pretty extraordinary to me.

Peace to you all. And Happy New Year.