Immediately I thought of a time I asked for a ride from Nashville, Tennessee to Atlanta, when I had been stranded. The two, young black men (one also stranded who had called a friend to drive him) looked at this older white woman, as if I was crazy, but consented. After an hour of silence, the passenger in front of me turned and asked, " you're not from here, are you? Upon hearing "no," he said, " I didn't think so. I couldn't imagine one white woman in all of Tennessee asking two black men for a ride." We began laughing a most exuberant, healing laugh. So much pain fueled that laugh but the joy and celebration of success gave more energy than the pain of racism. We knew only three people changed the world that day.
I smiled. I nodded. I said, "yes." Smiles and kindnesses save lives, daily. I want to remember to look people in the eye when I say "good morning" and to smile, and make someone laugh when I wear my silly octopus hat.
People who ridicule the idea of love as a solution or a way of life usually have not been given love, and are my incentive and lesson to love more. The greater the ridicule and disbelief, the more I need to and want to love.
I just moved into a community of twenty people, and thinking how practicing love, sustainability - sharing - and unity with people I can see and eat with - comm- une - "One- with" everyday is training and growing that I cannot do facing the whole world, racing from one stranger to another, one country to another, one institution to another. CommUnity slows me into seeing truth, love, peace and gratitude with each person, each meal, and each day. Slowing down is a spiritual practice, making love, one pointed attention,
and selfless service possible.
I studied and practiced tai chi, which also includes something called "push hands." The focus is listening - with your body, your all, to feel them and their energy. The obvious and immediate insight is that one cannot do that without listening to the same thing within. We cannot know ourselves without others. Opponents are mirrors.
Such an apt description of the depression I used to fall into all my youth. Reminds me of a verse in the Tau te Ching about fear and hope being hollow, attached to ego/self: Whether we climb up the ladder or down, we are unsteady. We need both feet on the ground for stability.
Yes, I am only one thread among more threads than I can see or count. We each add our special design, our little twist. The irony is we cannot be unique without attaching to all the threads around us. Each of us contributes to the tapestry wrapping around others, none of us knowing the full design. My job is to simply be the best thread I can be, connecting to all around, before and after to fill what holes and gaps I can.
I and my life transformed when Death, total darkness, and the accompanying pain, physical and the grief for my soon to be motherless twins, turned me to choosing life. Suicidally depressed since 5, I fantasized about death, but only when the dark of actual death hovered all around me did I see the reality of the choice we have, hourly, to reach out to life or die. My world is no longer about black and white, but the dark revealing stars, and the light more beautiful when dancing with shadows.
This is exactly the medicine I need. I am facing a huge writing project that is not a huge project. It is my opportunity today to write from my heart and be prepared for an adventure, an inner journey, not any one outcome. I started writing about bells, and ended up with Herodotus. Thank you, Mary Oliver, for reminding me the future is none of my business, including the next sentence!
I began a journey to Germany on March second, but the journey, as almost always, was not the one I planned. After a beyond-imagination week, I have finally arrived home to my woods in N. Idaho. The glimpse of the unknown, unknowable was given me over and over the last few days. I was able to breathe, smile and keep moving. And everyone seemed beautiful. Almost everyone smiled and gave of themselves. The CDC screener in Dulles airport, with mask, gloves gave me my instructions and said, "I am giving you a gift. Everything is a gift." I am now quarantined in a room, but the universe is all here. I will breathe, smile and keep moving in love, the glimpse of the glue that holds us all.
The ink of interrelationship, the magical river called language, connecting us to each other, to things and to those who have been dead for centuries. Yet words are not as full as we can be and are. As both St. Augustine and the Buddha said, "They are just fingers pointing to the moon." Only I can experience the moon, but I am so grateful others and their words pointed me toward the light and away from the dark.
YES. Kudos to Kazu! Reminds me of Gandhi's simple formula. One is never alone fighting injustice. Truth is always a companion, and truth always wins (even if we don't see it in our life time). Truth and reality is that we are united.We, humans, cannot be fully human alone. We have to be in community or we die, spiritually and/or physically. Violence always separates, against the ruling law of nature. Non-violence or love unites. Union is the ultimate Great Reality.
Ivan Illich, an exiled Russian in Mexico, would know what he is talking about. He had to redefine "family" and "neighbor" in order to have a life in community instead of an exile of alienation. Thank you for reminding me of one of my heros from my youth. Indeed, Illich provoked new definitions, thinking and behvior in me, precisely, because he forced me to realize how connected I was to all of society and humanity, not just those who looked like me or lived/thought/assumed the same way. Like Illich, my life and thinking expanded the more I met and befriended 'the other.'
The master doesn't seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and welcomes all things. - The Tau te Ching. Practice, practice, practice - today I practice being in this day, again. When I do, I live in the fullness of this eternal now,.... for one millisecond, but what joy!
Slowly, in life I learned and am learning that everyone - every person - is a mirror. The person who seems most different from me I learn the most from, about me. An enemy is someone whose story you haven't heard. Whenever I take time to listen and look past the differences, I always find more similarities. Stories connect us human to human in order to see "WE" instead of "us" and "them." Embrace diversity to achieve unity.
Yesterday, I was telling someone of a great gift given me. Many years ago, a "pause button" popped in my head. When someone says or does something ridiculous, abusive, crazy and self serving, instead of reacting, the phrase "Humans, don't ya just love 'em." rises. It immediately gives me distance to allow tolerance and compassion to take the place of a knee-jerk, selfish reaction. This phrase originally surfaced without any conscious effort, and has served as a tremendous gift of the pause I need to see how much more we are alike than different.
So grateful for this. Daily I question what I am doing in what looks like the middle of nowhere in rural, cold N. Idaho where I want to grow food. I am overwhelmed by the amount of wildlife, cold weather and dark days combating efforts to grow more than weeds. This article underlined the reminder that the future is none of my business. My only job is to prepare and show up, whether to build a deer fence, weed or assist a neighbor.
Tolkien had such a succinct summary of this article, via Gandalf to overwhelmed Frodo (which I can only paraphrase): We cannot decide what time we are born into. We can only decide what to do with the time given us. The operative word is "do." Action, as in sailing or steaming ahead against the waves, like a great ship, is life, not staying inactive, thinking about life. And, the great news is the fleet I join, in action, on the majestic sea.
I am practicing (and failing) to listen deeply, especially with angry or disturbed people. I want to learn to hear the fear, anguish or pain behind the violent words or threat. Then I can respond to the need, the yearning and not the immediate insults, anger or threat. I would love to be able to "offer lunch" to someone hurting, instead of reacting, as I usually do, like a deer in headlights. Practice, practice, practice, and practice, again, this day and every day.
Yes, yes, and yes. When I let go of any fear (insecurity, worry - all the many forms of fear), life, people, circumstances, health improve. I experimented with practicing living in a more present way by leaving home and a physical address, giving myself, my time, my resources, and practicing acceptance of whatever happened. I left home in April, 2014 and traveled without a destination, going where I was invited, sharing or serving as I was asked. I have never been on the streets for one night, and have never gone hungry. Life and I expanded, and I saw how much more powerful transformation - inner growth - is than any material advantage or gain. Enjoy this full life, today.
"Be still simply to recognize what is..., who you are" triggered a memory of moving and living in England when I had to simply be me, including having an American accent. Accepting myself and being the best I could be included not reacting to others' reactions. In that daily exercise, there was some disengagement, a realization of simply being regardless of the immediate environment and stimuli. Being still is related to letting go of the illusion of control. I need to remind myself that what is in others' heads is none of my business and what is in the future is none of my business. My job is to simply be, let go of the past and the future, and just be still. I'm grateful for this reminder.
I was confused when my father said he was grateful for his pain. He couldn't sleep from the pain caused by cancer in all of his bones, from his skull to his toes. He said the pain reminded him of time, reminded him to be the person he had always wanted to be, now. It took me many years, after his death, to understand his gratitude and the message that he received from his pain: NOW; love now, live now. I knew he gave me a gift, but it took me years to understand how valuable it is. I now try to see the message in each fleeting feeling, including pain, then reach out to love and life, letting go of the feeling or pain, after it has served its purpose. I fail everyday, but keep practicing. That exercise is what will make me ready for anything in life and for death.
Recently, at a meditation retreat, it was pointed out that as we moved closer to the unconscious mind, we moved closer to the universal. The surface distinctions of culture and personality are in the conscious mind. We are all the same at the unconscious level where myths are from. Archetypes and myths are the same all over the globe, thus, they point the way to their source where we can all return to find the peace that passes understanding. As the Tau Te Ching describes: " When we realize where we come from, we naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignifid as a king."
Born at the bottom of a big and confused family, I had raised fists from babyhood, defending myself from three older brothers, a bossy older sister, and the accusations of my baby sister. My raised fists and fighting attitude made for a narrow and painful life. As I learned to accept myself and life, and practiced love instead of fighting, I could be, be in the present. Without dragging heavy baggage from the past or obsessing about future fear based fantasies, I could see the trees, the skies, the humming bird, your smiles and me. Life and each day became full and a doorway into possibility. When I am in the present, not only is everything more beautiful and grand, I am bigger, connected to all of life, connected to all of you. Enjoy the fullness of this day.
Thank you for the reminder that trusting life which is so much bigger than I am is a better way to live than trying to impose my ideas on any situation. I planned to be a doctor, but a car hit me. That accident led to another where I met Deaf people and fell in love with their beautiful visual culture and life, changing my entire life. My daughter spent last year in France with our French "family" - a 5 generation friendship. This close friendship of decades would never have happenend if Hitler hadn't taken over France. The more I let go of my attachment to any outcome, the more I enjoy the gifts as Life and Love unfolds around me, in ways far beyond my imagination. I plan my most obvious next step right in front of me, but then practice being open to whatever happens. Enjoy the unfolding.
My housemate told me yesterday that she was talking to a healer about her pain from Lyme disease and Diabetes. She said the pain was so great she has had to learn how to disassociate from it in order to function. The healer said that the practice of being unconcious - disassociation - may numb the pain, but it also disconnects her from her body's power to heal itself.
It struck me when reading that she had a choice - loss of consciousness and less growth or more consciousness with more pain (loss of some relief) and growth.
In my life, my greatest growth spurts were triggered by pain. As long as I was comfortable enough (disassociated - unconscious), I would not look at myself and change. Pain, often, was the needed mirror leading to self reflection, change and the growing of my bigger, connected Self. The more I uncover the resources of my greater Self (as opposed to my squirrel brain ego), the more I tap into security and love, supporting independence from temporary and illusory security blankets.
We, in the industrialized world, are so far from what is natural, it is almost impossible to imagine what would be natural. On one hand, I am thankful to be alive, after unnaturally being cut open and cut up and sewn back together, thus allowing me to continue to be a mother of twins who were only 7. On the other hand, our society refuses to see death as natural. We all will die and cannot prevent death. I am grateful for seeing death so closely, facing the natural mortality of this body I am wearing. I am very happy my twins were not motherless at such a young age. I am much more grateful, however, that experiencing almost dying in such a vivid way(spelled: p a i n), introduced me to my natural Self, my bigger life that is connected to all of life. I woke up after surgery shocked to be alive. I had no idea that was the beginning of a new journey, inward, leading me to meet my natural Self who looks just like you. I see Nature, inside and out, with brand new eyes.
"Plunge into the vast ocean of Consciousness and let the drop of water that is you become a hundred mighty seas,..." Rumi
"Life is short." has become a meaningless cliché for most people. It had for me, until I suddenly crumpled up with more pain than I ever imagined possible. I would have died within 30 hours, but for emergency surgery. On the way to the operating room, I knew I was dying, and saw Death, smelling His breath. I woke up from surgery with a huge, bloated abdomen stapled together, grateful for the pain from the incision which was so much less than the pain before surgery. I remember staring at my hands, saying, "I'm alive. I'm alive." Since then, I began living, noticing, then experiiencing my connections to my greater Self, the Self that is connected to all of you, to all of life. I am not my body. I am not my mind. I am not my feelings. All that dies. I finally met unending Life and Love. Thank you, Death, for the introduction.
"Love is a centrifugal force," my father used to say, meaning one can never hold on to it or it stops. Love has to move through us, outward. I love to meditate on how we can be brave, protect, advocate and take care of others by being: "Just as a mother, with her live, protects her child, her only child, from harm, so within you, let grow a boundless love for all creatures. Let your love flow outward, throughout the universe......." Happy Interdependence Day.
A single thought about it obscures its essence. ... There is nothing you can do to perceive it and yet you must do something.
This morning while meditation, the above insight flashed through my mind as a picture while yearning to "see" the Self. I sensed the above - that single thought - that yearning would "produce" nothing. Instead, if I just would be with all in all, then I would not be staring at the heavens seeking stars, I would perceive them all around and catch an unexpected glimpse out of my peripheral vision. And, there was peace and rest as I floated, instead of working so hard to swim in the right direction.
"The Master does nothing, yet nothing is undone." Lao Tsu
"Why can't Mama kiss and hug me as you do, Daddy?," I asked when I was four. That is my first memory of asking my father many, many questions about love, life, and how to love and live. My mother thought I was "weird" and "too sensitive, " and I believed that something was wrong with me, spending many decades depressed. Decades later, the questions have led me on such an unimaginable, inner journey, including back to my first teacher, my father, who would not follow the doctors' predictions of his death. He had more questions to ask, even as his body wasted away and he was bed-ridden with pain. The most precious answer he shared with me is what keeps bringing me back to him: "Susan, I don't know what will happen. All I know is that love and life continue. My job is not to decide to die. My job is to reach out to love and life, everyday." He lived many, many months, beyond all predictions, because he had to practice answering the question: How can I best reach out to love and live, today. That takes courage to ask questions and be in the "I don't know" place, and courage to shed as much of the little self, before shedding one's skin.
Meditating in action, in daily life, seems impossible. Then again, so does performing Shostakovich or juggling. If I practice every day all day, eventually, I begin to learn how to disengage from my squirrel brain which feeds on fear and drama, and respond from the bigger Self, the connected Self more often, instead of react. At first, I could only notice my habitual, solidified reactions and could not change them, then I was able to stop them in midstream, then I began to be able to prevent the outburst or reaction. Of course, the next day, I needed to practice again. I know it is no longer impossible to draw upon deeper resources. Eknath Easwaran has certainly helped with his tools of repeating the mantram, slowing down, putting others first, being one-pointed, training the senses and feeding mind and psyche with good reading and fellowship. Each practice connects to each other and weaves meditation into each day. Thank you all for sharing, helping me to continue my practice, practice, practice.
This needed story reminded me of when I first moved to Berkeley many years ago. I wondered how I was going to relate to all the panhndlers. I couldn't give everyone all my money, but I hated the idea of looking away and rushing by as so many people do. At that time, I often stopped for a cup of coffee after I dropped my kids off at school. I decided to befriend two women who were outside of my coffee stop. I chatted with them, got to know them, and considered money for them as part of the price of my luxury coffee break. Then for the rest of the day, I could look others in the eye and say, I support C_____ and C______ at Shattuck and _____. I discovered the truth of this story: everyone thrives when authentic attention is given. I got more smiles and lit up faces than any monetary donation ever got. Since then, I practice looking people in the eye and greeting them as I pass. I've noticed how much nicer people have become over the years!
As I look back on the last ten years, I see my little self (ego) shrinking and the Self growing. As a result, my life gets bigger and bigger, because I become more connected to all of life. My first exercises to help me become more integrated - whole - and to heal relate to this reading. I practiced not showing I was hurt, just for today. When feeling insulted or a victim and hurt, I pretended not to notice and not to talk about it or react to the perceived wound. That was the beginning of an amazing journey: I began to travel the road from "I" to " WE." And Life and Love continue to grow.