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?

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.

 

Love Lights

1128 1 editedWhen the Sun of compassion arises
darkness evaporates
and the singing birds come from nowhere.”
Amit Ray, Nonviolence, The Transforming Power

It’s difficult watching and listening to the news lately. Difficult to sort out fact from fiction. A challenge to balance our personal hopes and dreams with the hopes and dreams of others. A struggle sometimes to balance what we enjoy with the health of the planet.

 In my class of preschoolers we talk about the light that is in each one of us. We call this our “Love Light”. This is the light that illuminates us from within. This same light is in everyone. All of us. The people we love. The people who uplift us and bring us joy. The people we have shared experiences with. The people we do not feel love towards. The people whose experiences we cannot grasp. The people we don’t understand. The people we fear. The people who hurt us.

2015-03-16 one

This is an inner light of love and compassion. It is what illuminates all that is good in us, all that is nurturing in us. All that is humane in us. It is the light that shines in darkness and fear. Our Love Light ignites our love for fellow beings. It lights up tenderness, generosity, empathy and hope. It allows us to wish for the dreams of others come true just as we wish for our own dreams to come true. Like a sun lighting up the dark morning sky, our Love Light is the light of our heart and soul that radiates out with an open hand of love, goodwill, compassion, acceptance, hope and trust.

“See the light in others, 
and treat them as if that is all you see.”
~Wayne Dyer

Somewhere along the way I wonder if we have forgotten how to see that light in each other. If maybe we have come to believe not everyone has a light worth seeing.

The other day in yoga during shavasana, it was very quiet and still. For  a moment I rested in that wonderfully nested place of safety, quiet, stillness, calm, awareness and was what I can only define as being present in the moment. Fears, worries, anxieties, thoughts, hopes, dreams…all those things were shuttered away somewhere and not raising their chattering heads and voicing their distracting opinions.

As my body slowly but surely softened, something in me just stopped. This is important because this is when all the thinking stops. The mind chatter stops. The anxiety ceases. The fears melt. The unknown and the what is not knowable doesn’t matter.

At the end of the class, with my heart, mind and body in this space of stillness, my teacher read:

“There is only one light shining through every person’s eyes.
When you look into that light in others, your mind falls silent.
The two of you share that one light and melt into a profound experience.”

~Swami Nirmalananda

There it was. Light. One, common and shared light. We have to remember to look towards, and at each other, not away from each other. Right in the eyes. To see that Love Light. We have to allow ourselves the trust and space to melt into each other. We have to stop  and look into the eyes of each other. Every “other”. We have to honor the one light that is shining through every person’s eyes. And then maybe we will all hear the same thing; Amit Ray’s singing birds.

 

Keeping Quiet, a poem

I am basking in the contentment and deep joy of being with family and friends and offer this poem. Hoping you will stop for a moment and keep still.

“KEEPING QUIET”
Pablo Neruda

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.

Fisherman 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,
victories 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.

cloudmh1

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.

—from Extravagaria

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

dove2mhblue

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.

Rest In The Grace Of The World

                                                                    The Peace Of Wild Things

heron2When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~Wendell Berry

This is a favorite poem of mine. I come back to often, looking at the written words. Saying them out loud. Bringing them into my heart. It’s all there. All around us. The reminder of what matters. What the foundation is. A path that leads to resting in the grace of the world.

There are some days when I do feel as if I am waiting for the light of the day-blind stars. For me there is comfort in the star light of night. It is in the darkness with what appear as tiny specks reflecting light from an unseen source, that I feel small, not so important….where I experience awe, wonder, amazement in the most profound way. The world becomes quiet. Harshness softens. Reflection and gratitude have their time.

Now, obviously, given the title of the blog, I appreciate the sunrise also….that is when I wake up in awe, and listen to bird song, watch colors that cannot be recreated float across the sky. My mind wakes up and thoughts percolate. I have the feeling of being something very tiny in a world, in universe that is very large. Nature. It is Nature where I experience the sublime. This is what is holy, spiritual for me. Standing outside with the wind giving voice to the leaves, softly brushing my skin, feeling the heat of the sun or the seeing by the light of the moon, I am reminded over and over again


“we all dwell in a house of one room…”

~John Muir

There is grace enough for all of us in this world. Sometimes we have to stop, slow down, stop thinking in order to see it. To feel it. To know it. And sometimes we need to reach out and help others stop, slow down, stop talking to see it. Feel it. Know it.

We have to step out of world of important things. We have to stop the movement, the doing. We have to turn off the noise, the music, the computer, the phone. We have to figure out how to “……..go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”

Here, resting in the beauty we have a chance to find clarity and balance. These two things are so needed in our world today. When your back is flat against the earth and you have to close your eyes to the brilliance of the sun and your skin feels the heat, all that heals you. The music in your ears, the rythym of the rippling water and the singing birds, is the most beautiful music there is.

Go now, go and lie down. Rest in the peace of the wild things.

“We All Dwell In A House of One Room”

If you have ever read anything by John Muir, it is difficult to imagine what the world would be like had he not come along and fallen in love with Nature and the Earth. Through his legacy we have come to value, honor and respect the miracle of Nature. We cannot fail to delight in the beauty the Earth offers us at every turn. We cannot shirk the responsibility to tend and care for her, always remembering we are the ones who have the power to possibly destroy her.

Picture Rock2

Picture Rock Lakeshore National Park by Kathryn Howlett

I am an IMAX junkie! I love the big screen. I mean the REALLY big screen. Yesterday we saw a beautiful movie on the National Parks of the U.S. Some beauty was so stunning it made me catch my breath. There were moments that brought a tear to my eye and caused me to whisper “wow”.

Afterwards my husband, son and I agreed there is so much Natural, physical, planetary beauty here in this country one could spend years exploring, enjoying and communing with it. I was a little taken aback when the woman holding the door open for us laughed and commented, “That’s not for me!” I hoped she was talking about the ice climbing, rock climbing, biking…..but  found it sad to think perhaps that also meant she might never go to one of these places just to experience the beauty. We don’t have to “do” anything. Just open your eyes to the beauty of Nature.

I find such sorrow in all the hurt mankind has inflicted on Earth. And I find hope in knowing the Earth has great healing power to mend the wounds we have inflicted upon her…if we give her the chance.

“If you know wilderness in the way that you know love,
you would be unwilling to let it go. …
This is the story of our past and it will be the story of our future.”
Terry Tempest Williams

redwoods2

Redwood National Park by Kathryn Howlett

John Muir was a man who was at home in the wilderness and saw and understood the power, beauty and fragility of our Earth. Thanks in part to his efforts and to Teddy Roosevelt who found great personal healing in the wilderness, we have these tremendous National Parks.

“Wilderness is a necessity…They will see what I meant in time.
There must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.
Food and drink is not all. There is the spiritual.
In some it is only a germ, of course, but the germ will grow.”

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul.”

“How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious,
starry firmament for a roof.
In such places, standing alone on the mountain top,
it is easy to realize whatever special nests we make-leaves and moss
like the marmots and the birds,
or tents or piled stone-we all dwell in a house of one room-
the world with the firmament for its roof-
and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving track.”

“The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers,
of glaciers, of fertile soil.
The great poets, philosophers, prophets,
able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world,
have come down from the mountains-
mountain-dwellers who have grown strong there with the forests trees
in Nature’s workshops.”

~~Above quotes by John Muir

crater lake2

Crater Lake National Park by Kathryn Howlett

I love the part about all of us sharing the same night sky. We are all, together, under the same sky. This is a previous post: Nestled Under A Blanket of Stars There is so much we can learn from Nature. There so much healing we can receive from Nature. All we have to do is go outside, see the beauty. Find the stillness. Close your eyes. Listen.  Feel. Breathe. This is where we gain understanding. This is where healing happens. This is where love and life are honored.

This is where we see, understand and accept that “we all dwell in a house of one room.”

Please read. Don’t let this happen: House and Senate Republicans and the National Park System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flow of Blessings

“… the blessing that flows into us
through everything we touch…”

My dad knew many interesting people. Here and there throughout my life, quite a variety of people would come into our lives and home. Many of them became colorful threads that helped to sew together the person I am. They were blessings in my life. Their smiles and hugs, their values and hopes flowed into me and became a part of me. A few of them found a special little niche in my memory. It is the spot I visit often and work to keep the memories there dusted and cherished so they have a chance of staying sharp and crisp. My memories of them are small, and sometimes of silly things. Yet, remembering them and following their lives and stories as I grew up continued to shape and form me.

One such person was Hans Kloppenburg from Germany. I think he was from Bremen. He came to the US  with his family to visit a doctor for his son. This was in the 60’s, and I seem to recall his son had a medical condition and they were looking for guidance that might not have been available in Germany at the time. I don’t really know what the connection was with my dad. Hans was a round and jovial man with a white beard that connected to lamb-chop sideburns. He had a great laugh that sort of echoed around no matter where he was. He brought me two little dolls that I still have. The girl has red pom poms on her hat! He smoked cigars. He smoked cigars sticking straight up out of the bowl of a pipe. I think this was the first time I discovered the creative aspects of pipe cleaners. Years later we visited his family in Germany. His wife taught me how to properly fluff a feather bed each morning.

There was Udar Pinto from Pondicherry India. A not very tall man, bald on top, who emanated love and calm. He was involved in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and tread lightly on this earth. Clearly he not only loved life but rejoiced in all the experiences and experiencing of it no matter how difficult, mundane or manic. His presence added a brightness to everything. When I remember Udar I can smell the jasmine that twisted and twined throughout Pondicherry. If I close my eyes I can see him leaning against a pillar covered with red and orange exotic flowers that were everywhere. A smile on his face. He lived well into his 100’s.

There were the Berrigan brothers…mostly Daniel. Daniel would often come over for dinner. Or donuts. Father Berrigan traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi during the Tet Offensive to “receive” three American airmen, the first American POWs released by the North Vietnamese since the US bombing of that nation had begun. Daniel was director of Cornell United Religious Works. He was a member of the Catonsville Nine and was sentenced to Federal Prison for his protests. My dad would visit him often at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury Connecticut. One year I painted a peace dove and sent it Daniel at Danbury for Christmas. He never received it. Many years later the envelop found its way back to us, tattered and disintegrating, marked, “Undeliverable”.

Sometimes I brought people home too! One was the an Orthodox priest I introduced myself to in the Cleveland airport while waiting for my brother. Father Anthony occasionally visited an Orthodox church in Lansing and would come over to our house to visit. For many, many years I would receive small packages from around the world as he traveled. Olive-wood beads from Jerusalem. An ivory necklace from what was then the Belgian Congo, now the DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo. We maintained contact for almost 20 years…..

Juliet Hollister was a dynamic, tall woman. When she walked, she flowed. She founded the Temple of Understanding. She was always brimming with energy and love. She believed respect and understanding of cultural and religious diversity was the only way for people to survive together on this planet. She believed social change would bring about the possibility of global citizenship.

Perhaps one of the most significant friends of my father’s was Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. They maintained a long and nurturing relationship over many decades. They traveled together in Europe and spent hours sitting in our home talking. Almost  two decades after my father’s death, Brother David sent me a picture of the two of them in Europe. (Brother David is the inspiration for the website Gratefulness.org)

Each one of these people ignited something  inside of me. Through the process of knowing them and having them touch my life I received the blessing of each one of them. Hans and his pipe brought me the element of silliness and thinking outside the box. Even though I was very young, I remember feeling bad that Hans could not find what his son needed in their own country…perhaps the first inkling of the developmental disparity among countries. There seemed to be an inequality or differing national priorities. Udar gave me the possibility of calmness, appreciation for the moment and the understanding that we are all a very small part of something much larger. I wonder if people know who Dan Berrigan is any more…..poet, anti war activist, pacifist. He instilled in me that peace is the way we must learn to travel. Father Anthony gave me the world in little gifts. A lesson that no one is too small or insignificant to care about….he had no reason to stay in touch with me for 20 some years as he traveled the world. Juliet made me believe we could become one world, all citizens of the same global community that could honor and respect vibrant, diverse, living cultures and religious freedoms. Brother David gave the blessing of the smile, of being totally present for a person. He brought the power of gratitude and simplicity into my life.

I found this quote the other day and it caused a ray of light to saturate that dusted and honored place in my memory, shining a light on the kindhearted smile of Brother David.

brother david (2)“The more alert we become to the blessing
that flows into us through everything we touch,
the more our own touch will bring blessing.”
Brother David Steindl-Rast

My heart, soul, mind, all of me, needed this reminder. Sometimes we all need to pause and allow ourselves to be alert to things we have forgotten about. Like our blessings. The ones we receive and the ones we give.

Today, please find a moment to pause, to be still and quiet and tune in to the blessings of life and love that flow into you infinite amounts of times each day. Pause to be aware of and honor the blessings you bestow on others all through the day with your concern, your laughter, your interest, your patience, your love, your time, your support, your respect….your taking notice of them.

Our own touch, thoughts, awareness, interactions can bring a blessing to others. How wonderful is that? By being aware of what we receive, we increase the awareness and ease of what we give so freely to others. Compassion. Love. Recognition. Hope. Companionship. Strength. Wonderful, nurturing things! Let’s make time to feel the back and forth flow of human kindness.

*photograph my dad and Brother David around 1959.

Enmeshed

In her beautiful article for the magazine LIFE AS A HUMAN, Lakota writer Mary Black Bonnet explains,

“For Lakotas one of our common mantras is “Mitakuye Oyasin” — we are all related.
All of us, no matter who you are (person), or what you are (grass, trees, rocks), are the same.
No one is better than anyone else.
Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.
Some say related — I like to say enmeshed, because it really is.”

water treesmh1

Mary goes on to explain that along with this sense of Mitakuye Oyasin comes the practice of gratitude. Not the kind of gratitude most of us practice, but full on, constant awareness and complete physical, spiritual and mental gratitude from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we close them at the end of the day.

Mary Black Bonnet writes, “By the time I’ve ingested my food and am ready to start my day, I’ve already offered up thanks for so many things.”

This practice of being grateful is something I am consciously working on. It is difficult. It is not about coming to the end of the day and running through a litany of things to be thankful for. It is about having the presence of mind and pausing in that awareness as things happen, and saying “Thank you.”

My hard wiring causes me to begin planning and ordering my day as soon as I open my eyes. The mental lists form. A tightening in my body occurs as I feel overwhelmed some days before I even get out of bed. (And I have a pretty easy day, job and life) Some mornings before I get out of bed I find I am anticipating how many hours until I can get back in it.

I am working on giving up that routine. When I open my eyes I look outside and focus on Nature, the world. These winter mornings it is still dark and quiet. (This past week the moon, along with Saturn and Venus put on quite a show. I could see them from my pillow. There was no way to avoid the brightness, the light, the breath-taking beauty.)  I stay there in bed, for minutes after I “should” be up and I practice gratitude. It changes my physical body, I stay soft and relaxed. It changes my mental state, there is less anxiousness, worry, feeling of being overwhelmed. It changes my emotions. I don’t feel grumpy or cranky. I am instead at ease, grounded, open minded.

That takes 5 minutes.

As Mary writes, we are all a part of everything else….enmeshed, tangled up together, caught up in everything else. Thích Nhất Hạnh calls this “Interbeing”.  Alan Watts reminds us:

If you see yourself in the correct way,
you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees,
clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire,
the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy.
You are all just like that
…”

When we begin to learn to approach our life a little differently from what the TV shows, news, magazine photos, consumer advertising, would have us believe is the life we need to attain and defines a life well lived, we may discover something else. I get it that not everyone is into this. It’s where I am right now.

I am learning that life defined in softness and stillness, in awareness and being present, in interbeing and inter-connectedness, in gratitude, is a life of beauty and wonder, gentleness and hope.

In the morning when I open my eyes and see that crescent moon flirting with Venus and Saturn, I strive to remember to  see myself “in the correct way”. The way that tells us we “are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as…the arrangement of the stars and the form of a galaxy.” I remember we are all related. “Our lives really are circular, and yes, everything REALLY is related to everything else.”

And in remembering those things I am reminded to bathe in gratitude. To let gratitude flow over me and wash me clean from things that may not be as important as I make them out to be. When I do that I am changed. Compassion, gentleness, patience, less judgement, less worry fill my days. Not always…I am still learning. But, more often.

It’s a miraculous thing, Life. I don’t want the beauty, wonder, magic of it to be lost from me. I want to embrace and understand this state of Interbeing we are enmeshed in. I want gratitude to be the emotion that guides me.

Mary Black Bonnet’s article: We Are All Related

Link for LIFE AS A HUMAN Life As A Human

Link for Clouds In Each Paper by Thích Nhất Hạnh about Interbeing Clouds In Each Paper

*Photo by me. Roy H. Park Nature Preserve

 

 

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