The Place Where Potential Sprouts

the-heart-is-like-a-garden

I set aside 3 hours of my week to take care of me. It’s not a lot of time, but it is what I have promised myself to protect. In a quiet room with teachers, students, moms and dads, business owners and leaders, bankers, techies, various types of administrators, musicians, a scientist, librarian, chef and an artist, the lights are dimmed and we allow silence to embrace the room as we share and hour and a half of yoga and meditation twice a week.

There is a yoga pose called the “Child’s Pose”. Sitting back on your knees, you bend forward, like a seed, placing your head on the floor or stacked fists and you breathe. This is a comfort position. A rest position. A safe position. A healing position.

Our teacher said, “Child’s pose. The place of silence. Where potential sprouts.”

True Silence is the rest of the Mind,
and is to the Spirit,
what Sleep is to the Body,
Nourishment and Refreshment.

~William Penn

I mulled that over for awhile. If you’ve followed me for any time you know I have this thing for silence. For stillness.

With all the noise of fear, hate, uncertainty, greed, oppression, repression, divisiveness…….finding silence is difficult.

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light,
and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.
Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

How do we find a clearer light by which to see the path that leads to Truth? The path may be similar, or very different, from others in our lives. Without the “attitude of silence” we have no way to rest the mind and spirit. No way to nourish and refresh both. No way to see the crystal clearness of Truth.

If we can invite and allow silence into our life, we may in fact allow that seed of potential to sprout and grow. Watered and fed with silence and stillness.

We have to protect Truth, Wisdom.

“Silence is a fence around wisdom.”
~German proverb

“Silence is wisdom’s sentinel.”
~James Lendall Basford

Our potential is a seed. Waiting to been tended and nurtured. Waiting for the light and warmth, for the soft rains and fertile soils.

 We have the choice over some seeds we plant. Some seeds are given to us. Our thoughts, our actions, our attitude, our contemplative silence, as in the Child’s Pose, gives life to those seeds. In the attitude of internal silence we may find a clearly lit path leading us towards our personal, and hopefully, collective potential.

Your heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. With silence as your guide what will you plant? What kind of potential will sprout from your heart?

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Rituals of Approach

“What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation.

When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.” ~ John O’Donohue

Imagine beginning and traveling through the day by following a ritual of approach that includes careful preparation in order to meet experiences of depth and spirit. Waking and remaining nested for a bit in that fuzzy stillness and (near) silence and making a commitment to meeting the day with a feeling of reverence, allowing “real” life to come to the surface. And, as “real” life is  allowed to float to the surface, sensing that the light of this “realness” “awakens the concealed beauty in things.” All things.

Millions of moments of perfection, beauty, hope, love, gratitude, potential float in and out of our day, all day long. Our “busy-ness” and “focus” can make it hard to see and acknowledge the concealed beauty in things, people, moments, occurrences.

We are all but blind to the beauty that is found even in those things we would not label as beautiful: grief, silence, death……

When I began this post a few days ago, it admittedly had a negative slant. News in and of the world had taken a toll on me, my heart and soul.

Of all things, it was a workshop on how trauma (physical, emotional, environmental, psychological, etc) causes the problem solving part of our brain to shrink, that triggered a shift in perception for me. It came from discussion on our “fight or flight” response. What kind of beauty and hope could be found in this you may ask?

The concealed beauty is that the power of a kind word, a gentle touch, of being present and being concerned, and reaching out do make a difference. These things physically change the brain.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

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And that is the power each one of us has. The power to make a difference if we choose to.

My personal “work”, and I have to say I am not comfortable calling it that, but do not know what else to call it, is to listen to some  ancient, primordial sense deep inside of me that I believe once understood the idea of a revered preparation for encounters in this world, with beauty…of walking with gentleness, gratitude, awareness and patience on this world and in this world.

There is an assault happening to us, ridding us of this wisdom and respect. We respond with fight or flight. We see this all over the world and in our own homes and communities. How are we approaching life, each other, our world, the universe? Are we preparing for encounters of depth and spirit?

We tend a garden full of rushed hearts and arrogant minds. There is little gentleness and less patience.We are tired because we lack sound sleep. We are overwhelmed, overfed or underfed, unsure.  We stumble over fear and hate. We are either drowning or parched with thirst and withering. We hide in front of the TV and behind other screens. Constant noise, conversation, TV, clatter and chatter over occupy our brains and numb us a bit. Doing, doing, doing. Being important seems to out weigh being gentle and kind. Quantity and appearance seem to matter more that quality and simplicity. We fertilize our lives with all this and grow flowers that are big and bold, but lack perfume and prevent light from reaching anything growing beneath or nearby. These flowers hog the water, the light, the nutrients.

So, lets start paying (more) attention to the quality of our approach to the this planet, each other and the experiences that unfold before us. Approaching them with reverence. Like preparing a garden bed and soil in an empty, deserted lot so it will support and sustain life and beauty, the health and stamina of the small seeds working to grow. If we put some of our time and energy into preparing mindfully for encounters in life maybe we will be able to see that a garden that includes variety is healthier and more beautiful. While each plant has it’s own needs and requirements, the fundamental needs for living and growing are the same for each plant and flower. Like people.

Perchance great things will approach us and the light of what matters and is important in the world may illuminate the concealed beauty in an abundance of things we are or have been blind to. So that

” …beauty will decide to trust us”

and then we understand

“When we approach with reverence, great things decide approach us”

It Rained This Morning

We are in the middle of a serious drought here in central NYS. This morning I awoke to the soft pattering of rain.

There are the folks who say “Uh oh climate change.” The “others” say “Good thing it’s just weather.”

Lenses. We all look through lenses. Rosey colored ones. Dark colored ones. Clear ones. Lenses that help us make up our mind and decide if it is weather or climate change.

I lay in bed, eyes closed, no lenses in use. Just listening.

rainThen the lenses popped on. “Oh, we need this rain! This great! Rain Rain Rain!” and in the other breath, “Crap. There go the plans for the day.” Both understandable. Both true. After actually opening my eyes the lens that was now focusing was the clear one. “I am glad to have my daughter home. Her friends are so fun! Maybe it will just be a relaxing day playing games and eating good food.” All lenses focused on different, real points of view. I just had to choose which one to look through.

Every morning I make a point of taking a few very deep breaths. Slow and long. Pulling in the fresh, clean air and exhaling the stale, depleted air. I try to take a few minutes to get grounded for the day. My thoughts are not so different from the ones at night. Focusing on gratitude and compassion. I always give time to remember how many people are suffering in this world and as in the Buddhist doctrine, pray for all living beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

And I never, ever forget a wish for peace in the world:rain bells

Prayer For Everyday For All Creation

Let us see one another through eyes
enlightened by understanding and compassion.

Release us from judgment so we can receive the stories
of our sisters and brothers with respect and attention.

Open our hearts to the cries of a suffering world
and the healing melodies of peace and justice for all creation. 

Empower us to be instruments of justice
and equality everywhere.

~Collectively authored by Millionth Circle Initiative,
5th World Conference on Women & Circle Connections.

 

I choose to look through the lens of understanding and compassion. It could easily be anger and fear. Or, longing and desire. Or, day dreams and wishes. Or, judgment and blame.

I want to understand. I want to be compassionate. I strive to be released from judgment and grow understanding instead. I try to hear the real life stories of people who live life similar to mine as well those whose lives are unimaginably and fundamentally different from mine. I strive to grow respect over ridicule. And to hear. Always to listen and hear and never become deaf. I try to use the clear lens, but sometimes I forget and the judgment and comparison begin. Anxiety may arise. I may even begin to turn or look away.

Anyway. I am grateful for the rain. I obviously can’t make it rain or choose where it will fall. I know it is needed, that it is helping to refresh, feed and cleanse the world…..even if it is just this little part of the world right now. And I know I don’t have any kind of power like that, but I do have power and choice. I choose ever day to help the next generation learn what conversation and communication is. I help them understand the power of their words. Words that can hurt, deflate, cause fear or pain. Words that mock and humiliate. And words that can ask to be forgiven, heal, comfort, uplift. And you know what? These very young children learn this and they grow and they become compassionate, forgiving, and uplifting to their peers. One mother told me her 3-year-old talked her through a panic attack by helping her do mindful breathing.

It is a small but effective thing I do. But it matters. Just like this small amount of rain. I can pray my prayers and send my wishes of goodwill out into the world all day long. If I do not take some form of action I feel I am in part responsible if those prayers do not seem to be heard and answered, if the good wishes and kind intent seems to never go very far or anywhere at all.

In this world today with all the contentious and combative words, with all the posturing and flexing, with the all hatred that seems so much more fashionable than forgiveness, with fear that seems to be filling some of our lives rather than hope, all our lenses become covered with dust. When the rain falls near you, and cleans and refreshes your little bit of earth and washes the dust of uncertainty and fear off your heart, and fills you up again, which lens will you choose to dust off and put on, to walk out into the fresh and new day?

 

Keepers of Hope

“….hope becomes a calling for those of us who can hold it,
for the sake of the world…..
It references reality at every turn and reveres truth.

Krista Tippett

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Peace Cranes in the hallway of the Tea House, Botanical Gardens, Montreal

When I was little I played with little green plastic soldiers fighting each other and brown plastic cowboy and Indians killing each other. Internally it was about the good guy winning, defeating the others who were different from me. Externally it was about having something to play with.

I remember in Middle School practicing duck and cover…crawling under a desk in case the drill for a bomb threat became a real threat. Internally there was annoyance because I didn’t fully understand what was happening in the world, and crawling under a table was uncomfortable. Externally there were groans and giggles, even a little smirk of gratitude that class would be cut short by the amount of time the drill took.

When I was in college I was in South Korea when a coupe took place. Corner kiosks selling silk and trinkets were replaced with soldiers with automatic weapons and bayonets. Tanks replaced taxis and buses on the road. We could not leave the country. Internally there was fear. Not a fear of safety but of uncertainty. Externally there was confusion and hesitation. We didn’t know what to do, where to go…even how to get information.

During my first years of teaching I was cleaning out a closet at school and found an old map of the world. Pictured criss-crossing the ocean were intercontinental missiles headed towards the enemy. We were attacking Russia as they were attacking us. Internally there was a deep sadness, almost a sorrow. Externally I took the map and folded it and threw it away.

This past fall in Montreal at the Botanical Garden’s Tea House we saw an exhibit of photographs of the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There was art done by survivors—dark, painful, powerful, helpless art of human suffering that is beyond imagining or understanding. Internally I felt a sharp pain and confusion. Externally I shook and cried. All we could do was to stand there and wipe the tears away.

In the past months we as a world have witnessed hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war, violence, death, famine, leaving family members behind to trek hundreds of miles to safe countries to find borders closed. No one wants a refugee. We witnessed aid workers carrying dead babies out of the water, and there were more pictures of abused and homeless dogs on FB than outrage for these innocent children and their shattered parents. What the hell are we doing to each other?

Last week, in the inflamed world of advancing fear, hate, intolerance, threats, violence, it all became a little too real. My daughter was to arrive in Nice, France the day after the attack during Bastille Day. If they had decided to be there for that day; it is sobering to think what might have been.

In talking with her hours after the attack, I found myself groping around for hope….trying to find it before it became buried under the mounting weight of fear.

And now these smart, loving, compassionate women walk with hesitancy and fear.

What is happening? To our world? To the countries of the world? To the people of the world? To us all?

Who are, who will be the Keepers of Hope? The voices that trust in possibility, goodness, beauty, compassion, unity,  peace? The voices that call out for us to stop and think. To get control of our egos. To check our biases, to challenge racism, to make space for truth over fear. To call for compassion and non-violence.

The world around us seems to be spiraling deeper and deeper under the spell of fear, hate, distrust, despair, violence.

“Hope begins in the dark,
the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing,
the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
~Ann Lamott

I watch people all day shrug their shoulders. Filled with apathy—not really concerned or interested in what is happening around the world. Pessimism in their eyes. Others are full of anger. So much anger it is turning towards hate. Hate of people, beliefs, the hopes and dreams of others they don’t understand. We are afraid to ask each others questions. Afraid to listen. Afraid to learn. Afraid to have the conversations that will bring us back towards each other.

In her poem I Believe, Elizabeth Alexander asks, “Are we not of interest to each other?”

It appears we are not, because if we were we would stop the violence, the hurting, the fear, the anger, the hate. We would embrace each other in hope and possibility. If others were of interest to us we would have conversation and ask questions and not just decide someone is worth our thought and time or not, because of some label that has been placed on them: migrant, black, Muslim, Christian, deserving, undeserving, lazy, enemy, immigrant-illegal alien (what a term..)

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.”
Joseph Campbell

Who of us are strong enough to reach out for and hold on to hope? To revere the truth that we are all here on this planet together and all must share the bounty of this earth. Who of us are strong enough to hold our hands out, open and welcoming, ready to offer hope to others? Who of us are the keepers of Hope?

For the sake of the world.

If believing in and empowering hope is a calling you hear, you must use your voice. You must take action. It is not enough to feel sad or bad about things. It is not enough to engage in prayer without action. It has to be about the parts of religion that bind us rather than separate us. It is beyond political parties. It has to be social justice for all those who are oppressed, persecuted, violated, ignored, abused, left unseen and uncared for. It has to be about uplifting the most vulnerable in our world and not protecting our comforts. If you want peace, justice, possibility, opportunity, safety, the possibility of being healthly, clean water, healthy food, safe pregnancies and deliveries, a job with fair pay, to be treated fairly and with respect…..I believe you have to want it for everyone or you won’t really have those things either…because they will come at the exclusion of someone else, at the expense of someone else. How could any of us feel comfortable with that?

“Beware how you take away hope from another human being.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

We have to look at what we feel and think internally and take action externally. We have to make a choice—accept what we have and go with it like I did with the cowboys and Indians killing each other because it’s what history has shown us we always do to people who are different from us. It’s about taking the old map of attacking with the intent to kill and throwing it out and not teaching that scenario in the hopes that there are alternatives to conflict and that war is not the answer.  It is about standing in front of a painting and wiping tears and internally feeling that horror and externally making the stand to always speak out against this choice in the world. To always have hope that there are other choices even if they seem unfamiliar or out of reach.

Others, “the Other’s” are of interest to me. I want them to have the same kind of hope I do. I want us to be Keepers of Hope and not prisoners of Apathy and Fear.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. 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
You don’t give up.
Be a Keeper of Hope.

The Best I Am Capable Of Being

“I will soothe you and heal you,
I will bring you roses.
I too have been covered with thorns.”
~ Rumi

I first read the poems of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī in college. Poems of love. Just authentic, unadulterated love. The kind of love the Greeks spoke of. All six kinds…..eros (sexual passion), philia (deep friendhsip), ludus (playful love), agape (love for everyone), pragma (longstanding love) and  philautia (love of self, two kinds)

I have come to drag you out of yourself, and take you in my heart.
I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had
and lift you like a prayer to the sky.”
~
Rumi

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Baby Mourning Dove. This is one of the babies from a pair that nested in the sandbox rafter. S/he is unafraid of the children who sing and coo to him/her. Mourning Doves mate for life.

love, love, love

It also seems I have always loved Rainer Maria Rilke. I do not even know when I first discovered him. There are very few of his words that do not penetrate my heart and cause it, and my thoughts, to soar.

“Everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it. It is also good to love — love being difficult. Love is perhaps the most difficult task given us, the most extreme, the final proof and text, for which all other work is only preparation.~Rilke

The classic existential conundrum: why are we here?

“But because life here compels us, and because everything here
seems to need us, all this fleetingness
that strangely entreats us. Us, the most fleeting…
Once for each thing, only once. Once and no more. And we, too,
only once. Never again. But to have been
once, even though only once:
this having been earthly seems lasting, beyond repeal.
~Rilke, The Ninth Elegy

True? Because everything needs us? What needs us? The trees, the air, the Earth, the universe? Someone? Or, is it not so much about things needing us, being needed, but rather about having been here at all?

Knowing that our time, and the time of everything, is fleeting, what compels you to be the “best” you can be? For me, I am not sure I really know what the “best” me would be. I’d like to believe it would include being compassionate. I do know what, albeit in a certain context, I want to be here for. Living in and with and sharing the love the Greeks referred to as agape: selfless love. A love that is shared with all things on Earth and extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. To all. Even the “Other”, those I may dislike, fear, misunderstand, judge, condemn, turn from, ignore.

And it is not easy. As Rilke says, love is the most difficult task given us. I cannot do it without effort. I fail often. I feel whatever the opposite of love is…hate? I think hate is probably not the right word because truly it more of an anger/fear or an unknowing.

Discovering the best I am capable of includes making the time to look, to go within.

“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”
~ Rumi

Many folk consider this kind of “love for all” to be a cornerstone of human behavior. Lately however, I wonder. It is a difficult time we live in. And while there is certainly the case to be made that this is not the first time this may have been believed, we are so aware of all the suffering and violence that permeates our world, it does seem to indeed be a dark time.

When I have the presence of mind to “seek and find all the barriers within” that I have built against love, I find they are in fact there. There is Fear. Of many things. Especially fear of the unknown. There is Hurt. Anger. Mistrust. Clinging. Comparison. Disappointment. Sense of Entitlement. Lack of Knowledge. Misunderstanding. Assumption. Protection and Defensiveness. Confusion. Doubt. Separation.

And when I allow myself to see those things in myself, then I am able to work towards becoming the best I am capable of being. I cannot do it without the self-realization of what the barriers I have built are.

My parents, with their sense of service and care for others and the people they brought into my life built a certain foundation. All the traveling I did and living in other countries, my friends, my husband, my children and my career choice, my own faith and melded spirituality, have helped me open the door and look in and face these barriers of mine. Each day I own up to them and chip away at them, with the hope that one day they will be gone. Because that is the best I am capable of….

….breaking down all my barriers against the love called agape.

Agape, the evolving love that I know is inside of me for the sole purpose of being extended to all people the world over. The best I am capable of is allowing and sustaining the agape inside of me at all costs and against all opposition.

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

 

 

 

Sitting In Stillness. Listening To Silence.

“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.” Eckhart Tolle

I have come to the practice of stillness and silence after many decades. I obviously had to come to it on my own terms. And it is fairly obvious that as much as I may have needed it decades ago, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t understand it…..was pretty sure there was no time or place to practice it.

Luckily for me, some things come and knock really loudly and all you can say is “OKAY! Okay, I’ll come.” And you’re never the same.

I will be at Springwater for five days, including Easter. There will be not blog next week because there will be no internet.

For five days I will sit in stillness and listen to silence. Oh yes, there will be walking the trails of 200 acres of hills and forests in the Genesee Valley. There will be the sound of streams and creeks, trees creaking, the wind, the hum of lights and the sound of footsteps, the daily chores of cleaning, cooking, maintaining the center. But not much else. No computer, internet, cells phones, music, TV.  Certainly there is movement and action, but it is gentle and caresses life. It does not bulldoze through it.

“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Springwater is a center for meditative inquiry. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but one of my favorites.

There is a healing that happens to me during the hours and days I spend there. While it may seem like a kind of running away and letting life and the world fall away and seemingly not really matter anymore, it is not that. It is sitting with one’s self and becoming reacquainted with what matters.

path spwater

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks – images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody.” Toni Packer

“Things” happen in this kind of space, in this kind of stillness and quiet. Something that is often held behind the closed doors of “too much” of all most everything, finds an opening to tentatively step out into the light to be seen, heard and felt.

“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

Through the practice of quiet and stillness I have learned it is not the losing of anything, like the routine of our daily life filled with important “things”, but the gaining of an understanding that gets so lost in the life we lead. There is something to found that exists without the busy, frenetic, kinetic, noisy life.

“There is something that matters more than any of those things and that is finding the essence of who you are beyond that short-lived entity, that short-lived personalized sense of self. You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”  Eckhart Tolle

I see and experience life and the world differently as I get older.

“In truth we are not separate from each other or from the world, from the whole earth, the sun or moon or billions of stars, not separate from the entire universe. Listening silently in quiet wonderment, without knowing anything, there is just one mysteriously palpitating aliveness.” Toni Packer

When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”

Have a peaceful day. I’ll be back in two weeks.

* Toni Packer was the founder of Springwater.
*Eckhart Tolle is himself
* photo by me of a Springwater trail in the fall