Listening to Grandmother

This blog is called Songs The Sunrise Sings because I often wake up before or as the sun rises. I find a great comfort and sense of peace in watching the dawn of a new day: of hearing the sleeping world wake up. I spend several minutes in stillness, just listening. Even in winter, with doors and windows closed, the sounds of songs and greetings for the new morning can be heard.

I take the time to center myself for the new day. Some days I feel tired, or perhaps unwell, and it is difficult to find this centering. I am too attached to my body and my worries or fears. Other days it is as if a song flows from my heart and with great ease I send out love and wishes for all beings to be safe, healthy, free from fear and worry, happy and at ease.

“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…..
humans, animals, even birds….
they all need happiness.”
~Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong,
International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers

I have such strong, passionate thoughts and feelings about this. Yesterday a news reporter coined what may be a new word, “othering”. As in when we begin to refer to people we do not agree with, dislike, mistrust, fear and or doubt. We think about them as, or refer to them as, the “others”.

“Othering”

Grandmother Tsering says “NO” to “othering”. She teaches us, perhaps reminds us, that ALL need our love, our prayers, our effort to help ensure their happiness. Not wishing them punishment, incarceration, revenge, harm, to be invisible, to be irrelevant or insignificant, not calling for them to be oppressed or repressed. But, for each one to have and experience happiness. She calls for us, as we wake up in the morning, to send our prayers and wishes for happiness to all. And that is a tall order when we live in a world that is so full of fear and greed, misinformation, arrogance. A world where bombs become a solution, violence a means to an end, incarceration as solution rather than education and rehabilitation, where one religion strives to reign over others. In a world that judges by clothing, gender, sex, race, age, mistakes, status and beliefs. A world where we take and take and take.

…we, they, all deserve, and need, happiness….

prayergreenI have my own routine at night and in the morning. I follow a set of words and change who I am directing the thoughts towards. First to myself, then to someone I love deeply, then to someone who plays a significant role in my life as mentor or such. Next I think of someone who is an “acquaintance”, then to someone who is a challenging presence in my life. At the end, the prayer/ thoughts go out to ALL people and living things. ALL. Known, unknown, feared or revered. It’s just what I do. It grounds me. It reminds me of what I hold dear and value.

I know something like this isn’t for everyone. This isn’t something I have always done. I had to be ready to embrace this, to work at it, to allow it to become part of who I am. It wasn’t always possible for me to do this. But…it has changed me. So I offer it forward in hopes that more thoughts and prayers for the happiness and well being of all sentient beings can be put out there in a world where there is so much suffering and pain.

Readings This Week

“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need hap

Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need happiness.

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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?

About That Box Of Photos Under My Bed

I bet you have one. Maybe it’s not under your bed but perhaps in a closet….a box with dust on top. Filled with faded and curling reminders of moments in your life that were captured through a lens. If you’re like me, there are snapshots that make you laugh until you cry while others leave you pondering, “What the heck is this? I don’t remember this at all!”

I actually have a couple of boxes. The larger box is under my bed and I look through it more often than the other. This box contains a mishmash of memories of childhood friends, college friends. My children. There are photographs of India, Japan and Europe. There are family pictures and pet pictures. There is one of me at 6, floating in a pond in Puerto Rico getting my toes nibbled by little fish…you can see on my face that it tickles. It’s mostly a heart warming box of memories.

The other box is buried deep in the back of the closet. Some of these photographs  are of Belgium. I was there in 1974 to participate in the Second World Conference on Religion and Peace.

“The Second World Conference on Religion and Peace (2nd world assembly) was held at Louvain, Belgium, from August 28 – September 3, 1974. Attended by participants from 50 countries, the general theme of this assembly was “Religion and the Quality of Life.” It was more of a working conference than the 1st assembly, with more time spent in four simultaneous commissions (disarmament and security, economic development and human liberation, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and environment and survival), and in working parties and panel discussions. The Louvain Declaration, adopted overwhelmingly, was widely distributed after the assembly.” ( link Swarthmore Library )

At this conference I met many people I came to love dearly. People of all ages, from countries all over the world and of many religions. This was a breath-taking mosaic of people coming together to build bridges, to foster and work towards understanding and compassion. Young and old, white and Black. Muslim, Christian, Jain, Jewish, Buddhist…and from religions I had never heard of.

There are 4 pictures from that box that I put in the other box. Of people I came to love during that week. Of myself discovering the miracle of a chocolate filled croissant.

louvain

( Belgium, 1974. Yes, there are chocolate croissants in that basket.)

I moved these photographs from one box to the other because in the hidden box are strikingly grey, cold, sterile, pain filled photographs of a Nazi concentration camp.

Breendonk.
You can take a virtual tour here  Virtual Tour of Breendonk

In 1974 I was a 16-year-old white, Christian girl. I had no insecurities in life. I was loved. I had plenty of food, trendy clothing and a comfortable, safe and secure home with a TV, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, flush toilet and running water. There were lights in every room. In the winter the heat came on. I was healthy. I had a bike, a cat, a dog. I went to school. We had a sail boat, a motor boat and two cars. Family vacations happened several times a year. I was planning to go to college in a few years. I was traveling in Europe. My future would be similar.

Then I met Breendonk.

And a man named Philip Noel-Baker, the 1959 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He was 89 in 1974.

fort-breendonk-7

The Names Room

I have tried before, and it is really not possible for me to clearly express the feelings and emotions I had walking through the halls, into the cells, standing before the execution site of Breendonk. And this wasn’t even the “worst” of the “Camps”.

It was however a testament to the greatest expression of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow-man. The perfect witness to hatred, power, violence, intolerance, fear, greed and ego.

Looking at the photographs I have of Breendonk causes a visceral reaction in my body.

After our tour of Breendonk we were gathered by our bus, collecting ourselves, our emotions and our things. Someone asked where Philip Noel-Baker was. Another person and I offered to go find him. It meant going back into Breendonk.

We found him in The Names Room. Standing before the urns holding the remains of the prisoners executed at Breendonk. Alone and sobbing.

“I do not understand.” That was all he said.

This was one of those life altering experiences some people talk about. An experience so powerful it is etched deeply and permanently into your heart. Never to be forgotten even if the concrete memory of it is delegated to a box tucked into the back corners of a closet.

Friday, two days ago,  was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 1939 the United States closed it’s doors and refused thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the nightmare that was the Nazi regime. Shunned, abandoned, deemed unacceptable, they were forced to return to the remaining countries that had accepted them before, and would accept them back. Unsure of and fearful for their future. Hundreds of these rejected souls were subsequently murdered by the Nazi’s. In total, the Holocaust witnessed 6 million human beings exterminated by the Nazis. 1.5 million of those were children.

The Holocaust.

“destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”

The International Day of Remembrance was created to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. It represented the call to stand in unity with the promise of Never Again. This day of honoring and remembering was Friday.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day 

On Friday President Trump closed the doors to the United States again and has forbidden the entry of thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives. They are fleeing war, torture, genocide, famine. Running from a high probability of death. Things most of you reading this can not with any sense of reality comprehend.

It has happened again. On the day dedicated to remembering and never forgetting.

We have forgotten.

donate

Speak out. Do not be silent.

As of this writing the Federal Court temporarily stayed/froze President Trump’s executive order.

 

New Year Resolution

My hope for the new year is that it be filled with healing. That we have the courage and commitment to every each and every one of us on this earth to look around and see we have to do things differently. For each other. We must do something. I know there is much that is good and beautiful in the world. I see both every day. I feel, see, hear the goodness, the kindness, the beauty. Hopefully I also help to contribute the existence of both. And yet….

I watched some old movies over vacation. From the 40’s and 50’s. I feel, in many ways, we are in the same place with some things. I’m talking about the things that haven’t improved, changed. I’m talking about the same social prejudices and oppression. The same racial profiling. The same stereotyping. We still try to fix things through violence and killing, bullying and punishing. We still live in fear. We still discriminate because of many things. It appears we haven’t gotten very far.

i-am-only-one-but-still

I find the different responses to this blog interesting. There is the group who says, “Wow, so serious. Lighten up. It’s all good. Just let it go.” Another suggests I not be political. There is a smaller group that keeps saying “I am so sorry you are hurting so much.” The largest group says, “Thank you for inspiring me and making me think. Thank you for challenging me.” And, there it is….I hear people don’t want to talk politics, or to be serious. I hear lighten up, EVERYTHING is good…just let go, don’t worry. I hear that “hurting” is sad. I hear I may inspire others.

I will be political because that is what governs us as a whole. So many of us are left behind. Invisible. Ignored. I am serious and I will not lighten up or let go of feeling empathy and compassion for those suffering, in pain and being oppressed and held down. I do hurt and I think that is a good thing, not something  I or others should feel sad about. I care. I hope I do inspire people…even a little bit. Someone said something very powerful to me a little ways back, they said “You make me think about things differently.” That’s all I want to do. You don’t have to agree with me. Just think. Learn something new that doesn’t play into your confirmation biases. I work hard every day to try to check in on these for myself…it is very difficult, but so important.

Now here we are at the dawn of a new year. We’ll celebrate in infinite amounts of ways from drunken stupors to running for life as homes are being bombed. Some will watch a loved one die tonight, while somewhere else a new life will burst forth and cry the air into his or her lungs. Many of us will pause and be grateful. Thankful. Many of us will cry out.

Some of us will light bon fires and throw pieces of the past year into the flames to symbolically release them from our lives for ever. Some will sing and dance and honor Nature. Some of us will make a list including the promise to loose weight, eat better, give up something, make time for ourselves, travel, do something new.

Me? I am going to use this poem to guide me through the new year.

Kiss the Earth

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.

~by Thich Nhat Hanh

My resolution is to use this poem to ground me daily. With every step, to kiss the Earth.

For my action, I will use Thay’s poem as my centering prayer, my chant, as I go through my day. To be mindful of each step. As it kisses the Earth.  To walk with awareness and find and touch peace. To walk with awareness and touch happiness. To bring the Earth my love and happiness combined with concern and care. To work towards all of feeling safe in and with ourselves so the Earth will be safe too.

I am also choosing one word to be my lamp lighting the way through the year. I will carry it with me throughout the day, as a reminder of my intentions.

My word is “open”. My intention is to be open. Open to Empathy. To Compassion. To Truth. To Hope. To the stories of all. To not shut myself off to the suffering and sorrow in the world. To be open. To not turn away. To bear witness.

I’d really like to hear from you. Tell me your hopes for the new year.

As always, a link to what I’ve been reading:  This Week

 

 

5 O’clock in The Morning

“Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars
mirrored in your own being.”
~Rumi

charlevoix moon mh(Moon over Lake Charlevoix, MI)

I woke up at 5 this morning. There are no curtains on our bedroom windows. Our bed faces east, and there are French doors that bring the outside in. When I opened my eyes and looked out, there was the deep, soft blackness of night pierced with millions of stars sparkling. Venus and Jupiter were showing off. I felt very small. I felt awe.

I spent Saturday at a silent retreat. Silence is important to me. The silence created by not speaking. The silence created by being swaddled tightly in silence. In silence I let go of noise. The noise of ego, the noise of fear and worry, the noise of the unknown, the noise of want and desire. Then I hear. I hear the beating of my heart. The gentle whisper of my breath. Thoughts come in all forms like handfuls of confetti tossed from somewhere above. They float and swirl around and cloud the view, then settle and rest.

This morning I woke with my mind settled as in Rumi’s quote and saw the beauty and light of the stars and planets mirrored in my heart, in my quiet, rested being. On retreat I found the same while simply sitting in silence and hearing only life’s murmuring in my body and a quiet mind that was not crowded with volatile emotions and jumbled, confused thoughts.

In this gentleness, this softness is something I cherish.

At the end of the retreat there is a group discussion…one can come and join in through conversation or through listening. Yesterday I listened. Dialogue came around to the idea of the narratives of our lives…how they are “written”, how they “read”.  Someone brought up the idea that entwined in our storytelling are mirages. Ideas, hopes, images we chase after. Imaginary apparitions. Phantasms. In the narratives of our life we often are looking for something, chasing something only to “get there” are find we haven’t really attained what we hoped we would, and poof, the mirage is gone.

I thought a bit about my narrative. Yes, there is a narrative that has gotten me here to this point. Some of it was written in early life by my parents…they made choices, they filled my days with words, ideas, experiences and I interacted with those things and then they responded and we continued on in this way. They have not been involved in my narrative for quite while now. And the story line has meandered this way and that way without their editing.  And yes, I chased after mirages, watching as they became fainter and fainter and finally vanished right before I got “there”.  Tomorrow, there may be a surprise addition to life, an unseen twist.

As the narrative of my life continues, some mirage or another will float seductively in front of me. Trying to lure me towards something that I believe will make me happier, or free from this or that. So, as I strive to live in the  present moment, I try not gaze towards the mirage. I look up at the pre-dawn sky in awe and see those stars and planets in their momentary beauty and splendor and know as present truth that they are mirrored in my being. I have a light. I am a light. I radiate and reflect light. And I am but one in a million lights that all shine and sparkle in their own way and own time, in their own place. In the silence of light my narrative tells the story that I am not separate but joined together with millions of people who are good and kind, as well as those who are not good and unkind. People who are happy and joyful and people who are hurt and afraid. People who are climbing up and out, as well as people who are weighted down and feeling buried. People who have been found and people who are lost. People who are full of compassion and love. People who feel hatred and anger. People who are the fabric and mosaic of humanity. They call themselves by many labels. White, Black. Male, female, trans-gendered. Christian, Muslim, Jew. Agnostic, Atheist. Hindi, Jain. Untouchable, Brahmin. Doctor, patient. Lawyer, criminal. Adult, child. Teacher, student. Oppressor, oppressed. Rich, poor. Awakened, asleep. Lost, found. Loved, unloved. Hopeful, hopeless. Strong, weak. Blessed, cursed. Leader, follower. Romantic, realist. Educated, uneducated. Healer, injurer. Inventor, copier. Doer, idler.

What I understand in silence and cherish is that humanity is a collective reflection of who we are. Perfect or imperfect. Good or bad. We all open our eyes at birth. We all walk our own path, to the same end.  We all will close our eyes and die. The narrative we write in the middle contains a part that is choice. We are the story tellers of our own lives. When the waters settle in my sometimes turbulent, fearful, worried mind, I catch a glimpse of the reflection of our common humanity sparkling like a million predawn stars.

This year two new stars have been born into our family. One tiny star was born just yesterday. The light we shine will be the light that creates her sparkle and will be the light she reflects out into the world. My hope is that it be light of love, tolerance, understanding, peace, respect, hope and humility.

 

Of Telescopes and Microscopes

I remember the first time I looked through a microscope. It opened a new window not only to curiosity, but to understanding. By studying the smaller picture I understood the bigger picture much better….more accurately. A simple leaf whose primary attribute, in my mind, included being green became a work of living art….a biological imperative. A life sustaining miracle.

Likewise, the telescope. My first experience with binoculars was when I was a child. I remember the weight of those large black binoculars of the 60’s. There was the little dial in the middle you turned with your finger to adjust the focus….to bring distant things into focused view. Later there were back yard telescopes and the rings of Saturn and the craters of the moon. Eventually there was the Fuertes telescope at Cornell University’s Observatory. Celestial wonders could be see by looking through an eye piece and brought into focus in a way the human eye could never see unaided and the human mind could never imagine. Now we can look at the images from the Hubble Telescope and experience the magnificence of the cosmos in a way never possible before. We can see the birth place of stars…and understand they are “born”. We can almost touch the edge of the universe and become infinitesimally small against that backdrop. We know we are made of star dust.

Marcel Proust:
“The real voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes
but in having new eyes.”

Using a microscope and/or a telescope gives us “new eyes”. We can see things we could not see before. By seeing these things in perspective and in focus, perhaps we can better understand the whole picture.

Isn’t all of life like that? We are like a little piece of something placed on a slide under a microscope. We can see the magnified parts of our lives. There’s the physical body we take care of through food, exercise, clothing, medicine, etc. There are the organs that keep things moving. Our mind. Blood. Hair. Eyes. All that stuff. We tend to be very concerned with how things, events, circumstances, stories, emotions affect our body. Not only in a physical sense of being safe or nourished, but in the capacity to be happy, fulfilled, challenged, valuable.

When we put our eye to the telescope new worlds comes in to view. We use a new lens to see a different perspective. We see how we are only a very small part of a much bigger picture. The exploration of space has allowed us to view our literal Earth in a new context. There are no boundary lines. There is a sense of shared resources, of a shared life. A sense of belonging to the same family. Our home is a shared home. It not just our home alone, but one we share with billions of others. We have a responsibility of shared stewardship for the next billion people. Our planet is alive and can die.

The Hubble telescope has allowed us to see further into space than ever before. Opening our eyes to the unimaginable vastness of the the known universe. Seemingly unexplainable things seen, even if not understood. There. Real. And when we look back at Earth, we see it is one very, very small dot among billions, trillions…..

When we look through the microscope we can’t see that. We see the small picture. The facts that relate specifically to us as individuals and our smaller family units. Using that lens, having that perspective doesn’t mean that the reality we would see through the the lens of a telescope, the bigger picture that shows the connected-ness of mind boggling amounts of stuff, isn’t equally important.

We don’t think or forget, to change lenses. We don’t think or forget, to turn and rotate to see a different perspective. We don’t think or forget, to learn about things we never thought to learn about or understand. We don’t think of or forget, that our perspective can change. Our understanding can change. The reality and truth we hold on to can change because we can learn and discover new things that are true and factual. New understanding that means we have to adjust to bring things into the best possible, most clear focus.

We forget that because we see something one way and label it as true and unchanging, it does not mean it is ultimately true.  We see this in medicine, in science, in technology, in evolution, in energy, in space, in history, in beliefs, in going from Newton to Einstein to quantum physics, from Mendel’s study of peas to molecular biology, from fear of taking baths to the understanding of hygiene.

Our curiosity and ability to dream and  imagine has brought us great things that were deemed impossible or unrealistic 50 years ago. Who would have thought people would ever fly in something called and airplane? The Hindu epic the Ramayana (written in the 4-5th century BCE) included detailed information about flying in machines. Jules Verne wrote a fantasy stories of submarines and flying to the moon. Aldous Huxley wrote of anti-depressants. In 1911 Hugo Gernsback imagined a “video chat.”

In reading the book Octavia’s Brood, we enter into the writers imagined future.  Activist writers present stories of the future changes in society based on issues of social justice. The narratives hurl us into the “next phase of humanity.”    http://www.thenation.com/article/why-science-fiction-fabulous-tool-fight-social-justice/

Co-author Walidah Imarisha says: “Any time we try to envision a different world—without poverty, prisons, capitalism, war—we are engaging in science fiction. When we can dream those realities together, that’s when we can begin to build them right here and now.”

And isn’t that what dreaming and imagining is about? Isn’t that what looking through a microscope or telescope tells us? Dream, look harder. Discover. Learn.  Rotate and turn. Change lenses and perspective. Maybe the reality we have now in our world is not the final truth. Maybe we are capable of compassion, tolerance, community, shared resources, social justice, equality, peace.

We can ask “What do we want” and not “What is realistic.” If we choose to ask “What do we want?” we can choose to seek answers to the question. If we use the microscope to look at ourselves, what do we see? If we use the telescope to look up and out and broaden our range of seeing, what is there?

If we see in the small parts of our being the capacity for love, compassion, hope, tolerance, shared humanity, determination, how do we get others to see this is what they too possess?

If we look out beyond ourselves and “our world”, and see that there are other “real” things out there, unlike ours, perhaps difficult to understand, but nonetheless there and dancing with us, perhaps we can join hands and dance together in harmony.

dancing people(photo by me, Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh)