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Difference Between Eah and Oh!

--by Jerry Wennstrom (Sep 06, 2011)


After walking some distance, stopping for a cup of tea, and winding my way back to the apartment, I happened upon an older, homeless man in an alley. He was surrounded by several overstuffed plastic bags, and had apparently spent the night in the alley.
 
When our eyes met, we held the moment for an unusually long time. I held the gaze longer than usual, hoping he might ask for money — but he did not. His sad, sweet eyes unexpectedly brought tears to my own. I continued walking as I spontaneously said a little prayer for him. As I continued on my way, feeling his sadness, I looked up and was startled to see a well-dressed woman staring at me in a most intense and compassionate way. She smiled enthusiastically when our eyes met, perhaps thinking it was my own sadness I held. I walked on.
 
Several blocks down the street, as I neared a storefront, I spotted a young man in his late teens just getting up from his pile of dirty blankets. He, too, had spent the night on the street. He looked so young and vulnerable as he tried to pull his shirtsleeves down over his cold hands. As I passed, he looked at me and smiled. I slowed, but he didn't ask for anything either. I came home unable to shake the feeling of sadness for these men and for the imbalance in our world. Yet, all I felt I could do was hold the sadness I was feeling in a reverent, prayerful way. From past experience I know, and have come to trust, this way of holding others. When no other action is called for, this emotional embrace, in itself, can be a gift.
 
To many, non-action in a situation like this may not make sense. However, sometimes literal "giving" can be a way to avoid the weight of another's burden. The spirit of the moment can ask something different of us, something different from our ideas of what it means to give. Reverently holding the suffering of others can be a moment's greatest offering, and it is a moment many of us often avoid by trying to buy our way out with literal acts of goodness. When one sees the activity of this holding as a formless act of compassion, one goes about it with reverence. Where literal action fails, reverent generosity succeeds by becoming a container able to hold the tears of the world.
 
The delicate refinement of reverent generosity is one of the loftiest disciplines of embodied life. Reverence is the only appropriate response to the mystery by which we are are surrounded. It requires unrelenting attention. Lao Tsu said, " How great the difference between 'eah' and 'oh!'" The "eah" response to life represents an attitude of indifference, while the "oh!" response represents openness and surprise in the face of an awesome and mysterious universe. One's natural impulse to inspire others with that emotion which reverence has awakened in one's own heart creates sublime beauty in the world. With reverence, the difficulties in life become grist for the mill. Chaos, hopelessness, suffering, even death—everything may be placed on the altar for transformation in the eternal. What comes through may be a sweet word, a gift, a joke, wisdom, or even the use of the sword; inspiration finds a way to undo the illusion of limitation. Inspiration enters the heart through the portal of reverence. With inspiration rippling through the collective, the heart of the world grows unalterably stronger.
 
--Jerry Wennstrom, in Reverant Generosity


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17 Previous Reflections:

 
On Oct 30, 2011 Yasmin wrote:

Such a beautiful contemplation on what it means to truly meet another...thank you for this!!

 

 



On Sep 12, 2011 princess wrote:

Wonderful insight.

Im sharing this at work tomorrow, more specifically, reading it on air. [hope thats not a problem...]

Thanks for posting.



On Sep 10, 2011 Emily Torre wrote:

 I understand completely. Thank you for sharing.



On Sep 10, 2011 hemanth wrote:

be positive and it will give u a pleasent life



On Sep 8, 2011 Dinesh wrote:

Joanna Macy, the celebrated peace activist who has spent decades writing a dozen books and inspiring tens of thousands around the globe, joined us this week.  Below is the audio and a few other clips from her inspired talk ...



On Sep 8, 2011 Bela Shah wrote:

 As we have grown from children to adults, when did our reactions begin to express less “Oh!” and more “Eah”?   This past Wednesday, several of us gathered for our weekly meditation in Washington, DC, including 3 new members, 2 of which had heard about our group through the Bloombars website!   In the iJourney reading, “Difference Between ‘Eah and ‘Oh!’,” the “eah” response to life leads to an attitude of indifference, while the “oh!” response creates openness and surprise in the face of an awesome and mysterious universe.  The author poignantly described how this “oh!” response led him to hold the sadness he encountered in the world that day in a reverent and prayerful way.  “…I know, and have come to trust, this way of holding others.  When no other action is called for, this emotional embrace, in itself, can be a gift  See full.

 As we have grown from children to adults, when did our reactions begin to express less “Oh!” and more “Eah”?  

 

This past Wednesday, several of us gathered for our weekly meditation in Washington, DC, including 3 new members, 2 of which had heard about our group through the Bloombars website!   In the iJourney reading, “Difference Between ‘Eah and ‘Oh!’,” the “eah” response to life leads to an attitude of indifference, while the “oh!” response creates openness and surprise in the face of an awesome and mysterious universe.  The author poignantly described how this “oh!” response led him to hold the sadness he encountered in the world that day in a reverent and prayerful way.  “…I know, and have come to trust, this way of holding others.  When no other action is called for, this emotional embrace, in itself, can be a gift.”

 

Contemplating our reactions to suffering in this world, Cylus shared with us an amazing story about his morning run.  After feeling locked down to his computer, gmail, etc., and enjoying the freedom to take a jogging break through the National Zoo, he noticed a tiger pacing back and forth in a cramped cage.   The stark contrast in freedom captured Cylus’s heart and while holding the tiger’s gaze, he was inspired to send a prayer of positive thoughts to the encaged animal.  In another part of the city, John’s daughter recently learned to walk and went for a stroll with her father in the Logan Circle area.  The abysmal level of homeless in our nation’s capitol is readily apparent in gentrified neighborhoods like Logan Circle.  Unlike the sadness and uncertainty with which many of us grown-ups might confront the homeless, the little girl toddled over to greet her friends, her eyes shining with light and acceptance.  In this “oh!” moment, our shared humanity reflected in everyone’s eyes, regardless of the socialized categories that we grown-ups have boxed ourselves into.

 

Listening to John’s description of his daughter, I wondered at what point in our lives we began reacting with more “eahs” and less “ohs!”.  And I envisioned how sublimely beautiful the world would be if there were “ohs!” floating like musical notes, generously and joyously bouncing into every one of us living souls, connecting us together in our shared oneness... like the interdependent strings of our favorite instruments...

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On Sep 8, 2011 viral wrote:

 @Chris, great share! Thanks for the wonderful story ..



On Sep 7, 2011 Chris wrote:

Loved this passage, thank you for sharing it, and Jerry for writing it. I recently went on a long walk, about 50 miles over a few days. Along the way I came across a diversity of situations, including many opportunities for sadness and reverence at misfortunate circumstances.  One of those stories comes to mind: In the midst of a materially rich neighborhood, an older man stood in the meridian between two busy roads. He held a sign that read something like "anything helps" and had a forlorn yet somehow at-peace look on his face. I was intentionally traveling without money, so that wasn't an option to give, but another obvoius inspiration came to mind, which was to offer some grapefruits that I had earlier gleaned from a tree a few neighborhoods back.From across the street, I made eye contact with the man and shouted across "do you like grapefruit?!" He didn't hear at first so my friend who was traveling with me pulled one out, held it up and pointed at it, smil  See full.

Loved this passage, thank you for sharing it, and Jerry for writing it. I recently went on a long walk, about 50 miles over a few days. Along the way I came across a diversity of situations, including many opportunities for sadness and reverence at misfortunate circumstances.  

One of those stories comes to mind: In the midst of a materially rich neighborhood, an older man stood in the meridian between two busy roads. He held a sign that read something like "anything helps" and had a forlorn yet somehow at-peace look on his face. I was intentionally traveling without money, so that wasn't an option to give, but another obvoius inspiration came to mind, which was to offer some grapefruits that I had earlier gleaned from a tree a few neighborhoods back.

From across the street, I made eye contact with the man and shouted across "do you like grapefruit?!" He didn't hear at first so my friend who was traveling with me pulled one out, held it up and pointed at it, smilingly, as I repeated "Do. You. Like. GRAPEFRUIT?" :)  The man understood in a flash, and smiled and nodded. At the next red light, my friend and I crossed the street and offered a few grapefruits to the grateful man. It was a heartfelt connection, just for a moment. We all knew it wasn't meant to solve any long-term problem there, but I sensed we all valued the human connection for that brief time.

But what struck me most was what happened just outside of our little interaction: as we scampered back across the street before traffic started to move again I caught a glimpse of the faces in the car windshields, waiting at the red light. This one woman in her car had the sweetest smile on her face that spoke of both sadness for the situation and happiness for whitnessing that moment of joy. I think more than the interaction itself, that whitnessing, that reverence touched me.

And what a beautiful closing line: "With inspiration rippling through the collective, the heart of the world grows unalterably stronger."

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On Sep 7, 2011 MC wrote:

Jerry Wennstrom is the real McCoy...a man, an artist, whose day to day life is much like the story he tells in this passage. I'm delighted to see him on the the CF pages.



On Sep 6, 2011 Mair ALight wrote:

 I (eye) contact with others with acceptance and care is a way to acknowledge our oneness. I'm moved to tears of awareness of  lives living in the world, our world, together with all pain and joy. Thank you for this post.



On Sep 6, 2011 Temmone wrote:

This passage gives me more ideas about life & the true meaning of love, & what it feels like to hold someone's else pain in your heart. Now that am doing a book for myself it gives me more clearer views on what i want to do.



On Sep 6, 2011 Jeroen wrote:

When i read this i get the idea, the three people in the street were the ones who were able to give.

Compassion for the passenger. It makes you feel blessed when you are deeply touched.  Wouldnt it be good when we could show compassion in gesture and words, really from the touched heart? Eyecontact only seems to me asif you keep your feelings of connection to yourself. I think that is the lesson.



On Sep 6, 2011 John Anderson wrote:

 Well, I would like to be irreverent: when I read this article I have a sense of this New Age philosophy that pervades Western Society, where deep spiritual truths are invoked to hide our own truth.  Jerry's pain, loneliness, hopelessness and suffering are his own, reflected in the world he sees around himself.  How does he think that his approach is helping those he passes in the street? What makes him presume that they are suffering and that he is doing them a favour by carrying their suffering?  As he says his feelings are his own - yet he does not seem to be owning their source - himself: compassion begins with ourself; our ability to help others is dependent upon our ability to help ourself; choosing to live in squalor does not help those compelled to live similalry - maybe they are our teachers and we their students?



On Sep 3, 2011 Ricky wrote:

Oh my goodness!  To have the opportunity to read and respond!   These thoughtfully written passages just get better and better!Holding others in a space of reverence to me means being fully aware and alive in this present moment.  The richest experience of life I have found is within the split second of breath and in between two thoughts.  Full presence on my part offers a universal expansiveness of space and time to hold the encounter within the palms of my hands, and within my heart, the seat of compassion, empathy, and serenity.  I may not ‘do’ much at the time, but ‘being’ present and truly seeing into the eyes of another plucks the unstruck strings of the heart, the anahata.  A year ago, a dear teacher of mine, Anand, offered an activity at a workshop I attended.  He had us face a partner, whom we had never met or spoken with, and look deeply within each other’s eyes, unblinkingly, for a long period of time  See full.

Oh my goodness!  To have the opportunity to read and respond!   These thoughtfully written passages just get better and better!

Holding others in a space of reverence to me means being fully aware and alive in this present moment.  The richest experience of life I have found is within the split second of breath and in between two thoughts.  Full presence on my part offers a universal expansiveness of space and time to hold the encounter within the palms of my hands, and within my heart, the seat of compassion, empathy, and serenity.  I may not ‘do’ much at the time, but ‘being’ present and truly seeing into the eyes of another plucks the unstruck strings of the heart, the anahata. 

A year ago, a dear teacher of mine, Anand, offered an activity at a workshop I attended.  He had us face a partner, whom we had never met or spoken with, and look deeply within each other’s eyes, unblinkingly, for a long period of time.  We were arms length away from each other, with our hands on each other’s shoulders.  He guided us, reminded us of breath awareness, and asked us to visualize from our hearts.  For me, this was excruciatingly uncomfortable, scary, and profoundly upsetting.  I am a very guarded person in public, and do not want to be exposed emotionally in any way, ever.  However, this of course is exactly what it takes to hold others reverently.  By allowing another to experience one’s heart, healing begins.  Through this eye contact, by acknowledging Divine presence within each other, we connect with the understanding, the knowing, we are here, right now, together, at this moment, and never separate.

I have been forever changed by this activity in the workshop.  I am filled with gratitude for this new day, and look for the opportunities to hold others in reverence.  As we move through our lives, these encounters truly become blessed events.  We send out calming energetic vibrations from our heart center…this is the change we can be a part of…this is how each of us can affect the world.

 

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On Sep 2, 2011 PK wrote:

 I am deeply touched by Jerry's words. It is reverence that shows up this passage and I could enter his world and experience the Ohs that he did.it got me thinking. generosity is a state of consciousness. Samething with reverence. It is an attitude and I have a choice to be reverant. I cannot be on autopilot and reverant.When am I reverant and what contexts bring reverance in my attitude? Mystery definitely makes me curious and when I stop trying to figure it out and honor the mystery, reverence shows up.Recently, I was with a professor Fred Luthans on the plane. He is a legend in the management field. His demeanor was very simple, down to earth and curious. We had a great conversation and I learned so much in that two hour flight and am everyday practicing and reflection on that learning. When we left each other, I was deeply touched by his generocity of spirit and presence. Even when I think of him, I experience reverance.It is easy for us to experience guilt, pride and shame (G  See full.

 I am deeply touched by Jerry's words. It is reverence that shows up this passage and I could enter his world and experience the Ohs that he did.

it got me thinking. generosity is a state of consciousness. Samething with reverence. It is an attitude and I have a choice to be reverant. I cannot be on autopilot and reverant.

When am I reverant and what contexts bring reverance in my attitude? Mystery definitely makes me curious and when I stop trying to figure it out and honor the mystery, reverence shows up.

Recently, I was with a professor Fred Luthans on the plane. He is a legend in the management field. His demeanor was very simple, down to earth and curious. We had a great conversation and I learned so much in that two hour flight and am everyday practicing and reflection on that learning. When we left each other, I was deeply touched by his generocity of spirit and presence. Even when I think of him, I experience reverance.

It is easy for us to experience guilt, pride and shame (GPS given by societal norms) but it is worthwhile to consciously develop Generocity (instead of guilt), passion (instead of pride) and attitude of Service (instead of shame). It looks to me that Jerry Winstorm succeeded in transforming his own GPS meeting three souls who are rich in their genorocity and through his writing, inspiring us and strengthening our hearts. Thank you Jerry!

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On Sep 2, 2011 Conrad wrote:

Thanks much for the opportunity to respond. My first impression after reading: "what does holding others in the space of reverence bring up for you," is admiration for the person I revere. Admiration often leads me to want to follow the modeling of the person I revere. My second impression is that one could not only share that moment or moments of reverence with the person one meets, but one could also  provide food if the person were hungry. My third impression is to model those who are an instrument of peace. As Francis of Assisi said ,so where there is hatred, I may bring  love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. I believe it is best if I not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. With Francis  I agree that it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are  See full.

Thanks much for the opportunity to respond. My first impression after reading: "what does holding others in the space of reverence bring up for you," is admiration for the person I revere. Admiration often leads me to want to follow the modeling of the person I revere. My second impression is that one could not only share that moment or moments of reverence with the person one meets, but one could also  provide food if the person were hungry. My third impression is to model those who are an instrument of peace. As Francis of Assisi said ,so where there is hatred, I may bring  love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. I believe it is best if I not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. With Francis  I agree that it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is and are dying that we are born (grow). Connecting with reverence is important, but for a hungry person, giving them food may be more important. Perhaps I don't understand the passage above as the writer does.   At times, thinking and feeling without action, when action seems to be needed, may be as bad as some action without thought or feeling. If I were hungry I would rather have food than reverence. Warm and kind regards to everyone.

 

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On Sep 2, 2011 Travis wrote:

Beautiful piece!  I think there was a lot of giving to the two men in difficulty.  The giving of attention, acknowledgement and space.  These are gift we never lack and can always give.

Cheers!

~ Travis

http://thetruthisyou.com/