Sitting on a Bench

I went for a walk with my husband earlier this week. It was a glorious blue sky July day.

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Highbanks Park, Cols. Ohio, photo by me

Sometimes my hip bothers me, and it did on this day. So, I sat on a bench in the shade, facing a small stream, eyes closed. It was very quiet. Except for the sound of gurgling water. It was very still. Except for fluttering birds and scurrying chippies.

The setting, the silence and the alone-ness were a recipe for a little meditation.

I felt my feet planted firmly on the ground. Silence and stillness. I was alone.

I opened my eyes after a little while and listened to the quiet sounds of this place. I saw in front of me the pale purple of vetch, the greenness of leaves. I could smell the earthy scent of slightly damp soil.

An emotional wave of humility and gratitude washed over me. I was so aware of the gift of sitting there, on that bench, in that spot, with the trees and flowers and a singing bird there with me. There was nothing that could have been more complete. And as I sat there in the awareness of the moment, feeling small and insignificant in a larger world, I also felt a pang. There was an out-breath that seemed to release from deep inside of me the sorrow and sadness for Others. Those struggling in poverty. Those who struggle with addiction. The incarcerated . The misunderstood. Refugees. The people in Syria and South Sudan. People we make invisible because of fear or misunderstanding. Or simply because we are unaware.

It was a profound moment. It was a bit of a confused feeling. On the one hand I was so grateful to be in this calm, serene, safe place under a blue sky, feeling the warmth of the summer sun. On the other hand I felt guilty, uncomfortable. This is where I often find myself. This weighs on my heart and my soul. Why am I blessed with all of this when so many others struggle and suffer so unimaginably?

Some folks read these blog posts and contact me with comments like, “I’m sorry you’re so sad.” These thoughts often don’t feel good and they do make me feel sad. But the feelings tell me I haven’t shut myself off to or given up on caring, on feeling, of being concerned for others, of wanting others to be lifted out of pain and suffering. I’d rather experience the sadness than have no awareness, thoughts or feelings about these things. Sometimes people say, “Just turn off the news.” Nope. I dial it back sometimes, but not off. I don’t want to be dumb and blind to the realities of the people on this planet. I want to be informed. To understand. I want to know so I know how to help. To learn. To grow. To learn what needs to be done to heal.

Healing and transformation are possible the moment we accept the actuality of things as they are—good, bad, or ugly—and then act on that understanding with imagination, kindness, and intentionality. This is not easy or painless, by any means, but it is both an embodiment of and a path toward wisdom and peace.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

I do not accept that this is as good as we get as a country. There is much to be improved on. As a piece of the global puzzle and as a home land.

“What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals? ” ~Barak Obama

All kinds of people and communities have to make a choice. To decide to do, to be, something different. Or not. To respond, react and act differently. Or not. We have to be unafraid rather than afraid. Or not. We have to ask questions and listen in order to understand instead of assuming we “know”. Or not. We have to figure out how to look outside of the box for new ideas and solutions. Or not.

In among all the struggles what are the common threads? What do we share with the people we fear, disagree with, hate? There has to be engagement, generosity and community building. We have to figure out what inspires us as individuals to act from a place of integrity even when it means going contrary to the status quo. And how can these circles of compassion widen? How do we, you, I, facilitate this?

I know I do not want to be afraid of anything simply because I do not understand or agree with someone or something. I do not ever want to feel I need to distance or separate myself because something or someone is different from me. With that kind of defensive behavior I run the risk of running back to and hiding in what is familiar, what is comfortable, what I identify with. I run the risk of being closed off. Of being constricted. And, in all honesty, I do these things. I am trying so very hard to be stronger than my fears, than my anger. But it is very, very hard.

It’s a tough job reining in all our identifications with the worries, the fears and the narratives our mind creates. Our expectations, judgement and opinions create divides that we give great importance and power to. All those things come from our biases, our lack of trust, our sense of protecting what we perceive is ours.

 Nisargadatta says, “The mind creates the abyss, and the heart crosses it.

What could we be without all the crazy, worry filled, fear based ideas that come into our minds and our lives? What would it be like if we stopped separating ourselves from others and Nature? What would happened if we nurtured our fundamental awareness and being that realizes the connected-ness in life rather than the isolating, separated-ness that sometimes happens in life?

Wisdom is knowing we are all one.
Love is what it feels like.
Compassion is what it looks like.”
Ethan Walker III

We really need to get to the point of healing, bridging the abyss, regaining the power and force of being connected to others and other living things. Of cradling Earth in gentleness and respect.

This force of separateness grows fear. We claw at and grab in attachment, to things, ideas, places, power. We become constricted, grow defensive, ambitious, and territorial. We protect things that cause us to feel separated from, better than, more deserving of, entitled to. We work to bolster and protect these things, forgetting to look up and around. It is seen in religion, in politics, in National pride…..it manifests as jingoism, racism, intolerance, aggression, repression, oppression….

If we stop. Just stop. What whispers to us? What calls out to us? Who are we? Who do we want to be? What is our true nature…?

Do we find ourselves standing at the place that is common ground for each one of us? All of us? The shared Earth? The need for the fundamentals required for a healthy life: food, water, shelter, medicine, clothing. The human need for love, both in the giving and receiving of. Companionship. A sense of belonging. A sense of purpose.

So, how do we inspire ourselves and others to work towards this? To walk away from apathy, isolation, separateness, our sense of correctness/ superiority?

“…we must also inspire, because inspiration is how we motivate action.”  Ian Reifowitz

Please share, please tell me: What inspires you? What calls you to action? What bridges do you want to build?

**Readings from This Week
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Counting to 12

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

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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

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 Inauguration of My Heart

Love is the most durable power in the world.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Together We Rise.

we-rise

I rise.

I held my own personal inauguration the night of the January 20th.

First I joined a group of about 20 gentle souls for a candle light ceremony of chanting, singing and sitting in quiet meditation.

Later that night I took action, contemplating the events of the evening, and the events of the day.  I placed my hand on my chest and

inaugurated my heart

I made a promise with myself to remember the power of love, because right now I have a lot of anger, hurt, fear, uncertainty that has wrapped up my heart and muffled it.

“Inauguration: a ceremony to mark the beginning of something”

I am unwrapping my heart with determination, giving it space and breathing room. Remembering the power, the goodness, the healing, the possibilities that can come from love.

Right now I harbor all kinds of thoughts and feelings I never thought I would…or could. So, as I Rise with millions of people around the world, I will begin to remember the great power of love. I will focus on the power of love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr

I commit to kindness. To compassion. To the uplifting of others.

To TRUTH.

To Love.

“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others,
and the delight in the recognition.”
~Alexander Smith

I’ve got my work set out for me. I will rise up and succeed. I do it for myself and the people I love. I will do it for people I do not know. I will do it for people I honestly do not feel love for…… and, I will do it for you. And you. And you.

I am a bit in awe of how much I have learned the past couple of years as we prepared to elect a new President. I have learned so much as my daughter pursues a PhD in education with a focus on gender studies and sex education. I learn so much from my son who researches Parkinson’s. I learn so much from my Muslim friends. My Jewish friends. My atheist friends. My gay friends. The small children I work with every day. I learn from others.

Last night I learned from a comedian about what racism feels like to grow up with, to come into adulthood with, to marry and begin a family with. Hasan Minhaj was brilliant. I do not know what blatant racism feels like. I have to listen to and learn from others. Last night I learned a lot about the racism Muslims in this country are subjected to.

SO. I inaugurated my heart. To mark the beginning of my commitment to listening. To learning. To seeking out truthful, factual information about things I do not know about…..things I may never personally experience. Things I may not want to learn about…or care whether I learn about. To seek out ways to better love people.

I do believe we can discover new parts of ourselves in others. And sometimes we may be surprised by what we learn. In a good way…or in a not so good way. But, sometimes we are delighted at the recognition of what we see….the common threads of our humanity.

This is my fierce and joyous work for the new year.

Together we rise.

This Week  just a few this week….I may add more later. We’ll see. I think we all need to just process.