Forgiveness, Metta & Priorities

Good morning, Happy Thursday! ūüôā

I’ve had several conversations today about priorities, forgiveness and how making forgiveness a priority¬† is such an integral part of the journey and a good life.¬† Forgiveness comes from words meaning “allow,” and literally means “for giving.” ¬† Everyone I’ve talked to today is having such a rough time, and there is a lot of emotion swirling around.¬† All of this got me thinking about feelings and what we do with them, and about for-giving.

I think when we forgive we give up the sense of being a victim so we can set ourselves and another person free.¬† Really what we are giving up is the sense that we have a right to punish someone for harming us.¬† But I think at a deeper level, we mostly give the freedom to ourselves.¬† If I hold onto old hurts, the truth is that I’m the one hurting myself over time, not the original person I charge with the harm. ¬† So when forgiveness becomes a priority for me, I find that I feel a deeper sense of freedom in general.

Buddhists speak at length about the roots of suffering and happiness, and in cases of cruelty or harm, aspire for the wrongdoer,

May you experience happiness and the roots of happiness.  May you be free from suffering and the roots of suffering.

There is understanding and acknowledgment that harm has been caused, intentionally or not, but that holding onto it only creates more suffering.¬† There is acknowledgment that pain and betrayal, harm and hurt are not just personal, but also universal.¬†¬† I’ve probably hurt others too, so maybe it’s best that we all experience happiness and the roots of happiness.¬† In cases of extreme cruelty or harm, the kindest thing that can be done for all is to be free of the roots of suffering and instead tend to the roots of happiness.

Christian scriptures tell us, “if you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven.”¬† Theologians and scholars tell us this does not mean God won’t forgive us, but the truth is that unforgiving people tend to be somewhat vengeful people, vengeful people tend to harm other people, and so round and round it goes. ¬† So if I refuse to forgive you, it probably signifies a deeper wound or hurt¬† in me and if I can’t forgive myself for mistakes, I probably will find it hard to forgive others.¬† Holding onto that kind of hurt and resentment often results in depression, rage, or a soul-sucking detachment which separates us from God.¬† Therefore we don’t feel the love and mercy of the Divine because we don’t let it in.¬† It’s always there, but if I don’t let it in then I can’t experience it.

So I was thinking about all of that this morning…thinking about priorities, and thinking about the folks I know who make letting go and forgivness a priority–the truth is that they are the happiest folks I know, in spite of a lot of past pain. I’m feeling very pensive today, very aware, almost too present, if that’s possible. ¬† It’s the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, as I wrote about in the previous post.¬† I have a full day and tonight I will go to my parental units, about 3 hours south of here, and spend a day or two.¬†¬† My own mom is sick and declining¬† steadily.¬† It’s hard to watch, and I find myself sometimes having to stay present to it, finding the balance between knowing what that means clinically, as well as my own feelings about it.

I was thinking about my mother’s grief about the death of her own mother, and how that no doubt is especially poignant in this time of her own decline.¬†¬† Chances are that my mother will have had more time with her mom than I will have, probably about 15 years longer than I will.¬† Nine years after the death of my grandmother, when we all still laugh about and grieve this powerhouse of a woman,¬† I think about all she had to endure and forgive.¬† She seemed to make forgiveness a priority and she had a lot of things she needed to forgive, from what I know about her life story.¬† But rather than use those things as excuses to put up walls or shut down, she instead used them as a means of prayer, of letting go, of moving on.¬† Not in denial, but in a choice of how she wanted to live.¬† God knows that wasn’t perfect or constant.¬† In spite of my memories of her as how Heaven would smell, she was quite human and had her own issues.¬† But she kept pluggin along at it— she made it a priority.

Today I have been thinking about that a lot and all of my own feelings about my mom, our relationship and what I would like for this remaining time we have to be like.¬† The truth is that my experience is up to me, and so I’m working on making this time as peaceful and fluid as it can be– that’s my priority today.¬† I’m borrowing prayers today, and sending out a few of my own…I’ve gotten a lot of calls this morning from people going through a hard time….lost jobs, sick friends, sick moms, hurt feelings on lots of sides in lots of relationships, and I’m observing all of this with keen interest and curiosity.

Given all of that, I had a chat with myself this morning about priorities and what is important to me.¬† Today my priority is loving-kindness to myself and others, and as of this writing at 830, I hope I’ve done OK with that so far. But we’ll see. I don’t have enough coffee in me yet to do much damage.

But given all of that, I am making metta my priority today.¬† I’ve been practicing metta meditations for years.¬† There is a reason they call it a practice.¬† Metta basically means loving kindness.¬† If you’d like to learn more about all of this, you can read about it here.

This is part of the instructions from the Buddha to his followers about this practice…

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.

Let none through anger or ill-will

Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life

Her child, her only child,

So with a boundless heart

Should one cherish all living beings:

Radiating kindness over the entire world

Spreading upwards to the skies,

And downwards to the depths;

Outwards and unbounded,

Freed from hatred and ill-will…

Today I am thinking about all of these things, and the relationships in my life.  There are so many, and they are so good, and I am so grateful.  Today I aspire we all experience happiness and the roots of happiness.  May you be free from suffering and the roots of suffering.  May you live in peace,  love and experience giggles, joy and metta as priorities.

Have a great day!

Peace and blessings ūüôā


Showers of Mercy

I’ve gotten a few 911 calls this morning from people in crisis or pain.¬† This is such a deep time for people, it seems like everyone I know and most of my clients are in some kind of relationship shift, some kind of¬† transition or deep grief.¬†¬† Lots of people are sick, lots of things are in a big transition.¬† I am acutely aware of the pains and joys of the people in my inner circle and beyond…aware that like the breath rising and falling, life ebbs and flows, ever moving into something new and different.¬† But the memories linger, the hopes and dreams and hurts and forgiveness become part of the fabric that is the weave of our lives, and¬† I am always amazed by the way the taste of those things remain, lightly sweet yet heavy on the tongue.

As I am witness¬† to the journey of others today, I am also thinking a lot about¬† my grandmother.¬† She’s been gone 9 years, the anniversary of her death is this week.¬† I have never known a woman with more ancient wisdom about people, lumber, the growing of crops, of plants and what to do with them.¬† She was a sharecropper and a child in the Depression, and could make anything out of nothing.¬† She chopped cotton for years, worked in a saw mill for much of her life and somehow raised 9 kids on, as the expression goes down South,¬† “spit and baling wire.” ¬† Everything she cooked seemed to have gravy on it,¬† everything just tasted better at her house. ¬† She could take a cut rose (usually from a funeral arrangement, no less) and 1/2 a potato and — I’m not making this up– dig a hole and put them in the earth together and end up with a rose bush.¬† I have tried this at least a dozen times and end up with a dead rose and a stinky potato.¬† I’ve asked other family members about this–they all remember that she could do it, but no one knows how she did it.

I think wisdom is like that…not just knowledge, although that’s part of it.¬† But a true wisdom of the ages, an understanding of how to do things that is¬†simply long gone.¬† Yet just because something is ancient, it doesn’t mean it’s obsolete.¬† I watch myself and many others of my generation relearn things about gardening and sustainability that she just lived because it was what they did then. She was from a time that has entered the larger flow of history and is a distant memory for those left from her generation.¬† She lived through an abusive husband, through wars and the development of antibiotics, through the advent of television and ballpoint pens, through computers and space travel and life and death and things that would destroy most people.

So this morning, I’m thinking of her and all those who knew and loved her, and all of us who love and have lost someone we love.¬† Certain people leave a lingering taste on the lives of others, a smell and a sound that is always present, ripples in the waters of our souls that just keep echoing out into all we become.¬†¬† If I believed in Heaven, I would believe it smelled like her house and tasted like her cooking.¬† It would smell like beans and cornbread, biscuits and bacon,¬† fresh air and cookies, it would smell like wood stoves and sweet tea and a scent that was hers alone.¬† It would have that same quality of light, that ringing laughter that made anyone with her laugh even more, a full-on delightful laughter that made babies grin and giggle.¬†¬† Even at the end when she was in hospice, she had the same quality of light…that mystical quality twilight has about this time in the summer when the fireflies are dancing in the fields,¬† bestowing upon us a shower of grace and wonder as time rolls by; the quality Light has as a life becomes a memory but the love remains, ever-present, ever accessible, ever with us.

As is the nature of my stream of consciousness, this led me to thinking about other things, which led me to thinking about George Washington Carver (I realize this is quite a leap, but just try to follow the bouncing ball).¬†¬† Someone once asked him how he figured out so many things about peanuts and what to do with them.¬† His response, ‚ÄúAnything will share its secrets with you if you love it enough,‚ÄĚ is so beautiful, so instructive.¬† I think this is why my grandmother ended up with rose bushes and I ended up with a pile of compost.¬† She lived with and in her life, not at it.¬† She went through a lot in her life, saw a lot, learned a lot, finished her GED when one of her daughters graduated from high school, made do and thrived on it.¬† She is remembered fondly by all, and we still laugh about her laugh and how much we miss it.¬† Stories about people don‚Äôt get a great deal better than that.

So that led me to thinking about a quote by Rabindranath Tagore, “If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.” ¬†¬†She saw the sun and stars in everything and I just love that about her.

So today, when so many are having such a hard time, and I remember one of the beloved people in my life with sweet sadness but a big smile, I think of another Tagore poem, a beautiful prayer…

“My God, when the heart is hard and parched up, come upon me with a shower of mercy.¬† When grace is lost from life, come with a burst of song.

When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides shutting me out from beyond, come to me, sweet God of silence, with your peace and rest.

When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner, break open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.

When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O holy one, ever wakeful, come with your light and your thunder…”

To those experiencing grief today, we hold you in the tenderness of hope and joy, of compassion and sweet silence, of peace and rest.¬† May you experience ever present showers of mercy and find the comfort of the ages in it.¬† Above all,¬† may you love something enough for it to tell you all its secrets, and bloom in that love.¬† Years from now, may you remember those you loved, and they remember you, and may enduring loving relationships brighten your life.¬† Showers of Mercy, indeed.¬† Stories just don’t get a great deal better than that.

Peace and blessings,


Morning Prayers & Ponderings…

I’m catching up on some reading and prayer this morning. Prayer literally means “to beg.”¬† There is a lot of begging going on these days around me, a lot of people are having a hard time.¬† So, as is my daily practice, I am settling in soon to pray, to meditate and to be more in touch with the Divine presence I believe is always whispering sweetly around me.¬† But, as the Maharishi said, “the winds of God’s grace are always blowing, but it is up to us to raise our sails.”

This morning I was catching up on 4011 emails and came across this nifty prayer from another blog and would like to borrow it.  But, like most things I read or am inspired by, it wandered me down a path of thinking my own convoluted, not-quite-fully-caffeinated-yet thoughts.  I mean, can you really borrow a prayer??  Can you borrow the earnest entreaties of another, can you take the intentions and hopes of another and mix them in your own internal soup and make it your own?

I would like to think so….I’d like to think on those days when it is hard or scary or sad, on the days when I am so tired or overwhelmed, on the days when it’s too much to do anything but just trust it’s all gonna be ok…those are the days we probably need to borrow a prayer the most.¬† Today I’m feeling good, great in fact, so I’m simply being the conduit for the prayers of others and trusting that like all good things, they move into the collective to water the fertile soil of our souls.

Pema Chodron describes being overwhelmed as “horrified anxiety.”¬† That’s probably the best definition I have ever heard.¬† There is a lot of that going around lately…just about everyone walking in my door is in a state of flux, transition, overwhelm or grief.¬† There seems to be something powerful moving in the collective as the old washes away and the new rolls in…like all tides, it brings things with it and this is no different.¬† Whatever is happening in the collective these days is deep and it’s hard on folks.¬†¬† If you are having a rough time, know you are not alone…

We are all having interesting ups and downs with the change.¬† The water element is still pretty out of whack and there is a lot of transition for people. ¬† For those who aren’t into the elements, the bottom line is that water is the element of emotions, and so when it is out of balance then the emotional state of humans also tends to be out of balance. ¬† In these times, I find it helpful to remember that Divine Peace and Love dwell in and around all of us, and that we can trust the process of life… that we can move through life knowing we are safe, Divinely inspired, protected and guided, that we are safe and all is well.¬† In the words of St. Julian of Norwich, “and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well…”

So in this time when there is a lot of prayer borrowing going on, I’m going to pass on some of my own favorites, as well as borrow from others who are in the habit of sending out prayers.

The wonderful folks¬† at The Virtual Abbey listed this prayer on July 25, evidently taken from A New Zealand Prayerbook, and I love it.¬† So I’m taking it directly from her blog…

God, come to my assistance.

Lord, make haste to help me.

Lord, it is night.

The night is for stillness.

Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.

What has been done has been done

what has not been done has not been done;

let it be.

The night is dark.

Let our fears of the darkness

of the world and of our own lives

rest in you.

The night is quiet.

Let the quietness of your peace

enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.

Let us look expectantly to a new day,

new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray.

Thanks be to God.

I can’t say it any better than that.¬† So today, let us look expectantly to this new day, to new joys and to new possibilities.¬† If you need a prayer, feel free to borrow one.¬† If you have a prayer, feel free to share it…no prayer is ever held for long and certainly never goes to waste.

I’m off to raise my sails.¬† Have a great day.

Peace and blessings,

T ūüôā

Object Impermanence

Today I am thinking of Jean Piaget and his theory about object permanence.

As you may remember from your college psych 101 class,¬† Jean Piaget¬† theorized that the role of maturation was instrumental in a child’s increasing capacity to understand their world.¬† Put another way,¬† we cannot undertake certain tasks until we are psychologically mature enough to do so.¬† ¬† For those of you who didn’t make it to class that day, or had more sense than to major in psych and minor in Eastern philosophy,¬† here’s the bottom line:¬† Jean Piaget had a bazillion theories about the cognitive development of children.¬† Some of his research has been questioned, but it is still taught and used, especially in early childhood education.

One of¬† the many terms Piaget coined was object permanence, which is the basic understanding that an object exists even when it cannot be seen or touched.¬† Until this stage of development is reached, it’s basically “out of sight, out of mind” for the child.¬† This is illustrated by the utter joy adults and babies get playing peek-a-boo.¬† The child squeals in utter delight each time the adult’s face suddenly reappears again, and of course the adults (all being well)¬† love to hear the giggles of happy children.

This is all very lovely and (all being well) part of normal childhood development.¬† It obviously creates stability– you know the ball doesn’t really disappear from existence when your crazy Uncle Joe hides it behind his back,¬† you know mom is coming back (again, all being well), you know your bed really exists even when you leave the room, and so on.¬† The fun part of the developmental stages, and in my mind the most fascinating, is at about age 3, when children believe that if they can’t see you, then you can’t see them.¬† So a 3-year-old will stand in the middle of everyone and cover his eyes, believing this makes him invisible.¬† And wouldn’t that be a lovely trick during high stress meetings?

In case you are beginning to wonder if all those psych and philosophy classes fried my brain and if we will ever get to the point, the answer to both of those questions is yes.  So, here we go:

I’m fascinated that we need to know things are predictable and stable, that there is object permanence, but also that this very same need and belief creates enormous stress for people.¬† It is the belief that things are permanent and will never change that creates a lot of fear and grief in humans.¬† It is my clinical experience that people who are depressed are stuck in the past, and people who are anxious are stuck in the future.¬† People who are in present time and mindful of their present life tend to be pretty relaxed.¬† But most anxiety and depression comes from the experience of loss, or at least the projection of the fear of loss or change.¬† The anxiety comes from being afraid of losing something you think you have, or of not getting something you think you want.¬† We know that things are not permanent, yet we tend to fear change.

I don’t think we ever outgrow the need for knowing there is object permanence, what as an adult I call predictability, stability or security.¬† We rely on it, need it, thrive under it.¬† And, just like a child giggling playing peek-a-boo and crying, “do it again!”¬† I find myself trying to be that present, joyful and mindful of my own little corner of the world. ¬†¬† C.S. Lewis said he thinks sometimes God delights in creation in this same way, making the sun rise each day, like a giggling child each morning, saying “do it again!”¬† I love that image of the Divine, as a happy, giggling child, full of trust and goodness, and that the Divine sees us in that same¬† giggly, happy way.¬†¬† It’s a great way to view my world…thinking of daisies blooming all summer and giggling while saying do it again, the moon cycling through and saying do it again, the joy I get from watching my tomatoes grow or the cicadas sing their¬† bluesy summer songs, the redness of cardinals and the flow of rivers.¬†¬† And when I pay attention to the natural world, I find stability and a deep spiritual connection there.¬† And, just like a child with object permanence, I have to have a certain level of maturity to trust it in this way.¬† And I find that ability also seems to ebb and flow, just like everything else in the universe.

It is when I confuse¬† predictability¬† with permanence¬† that things can get sticky.¬† So the sun comes up each day, yet we are in a different place.¬† The river is always there, but as Heraclitus said, you can’t ever step twice into the same river.¬† So things remain constant because they are always changing.¬† But it is the belief that things will always be the same and never change, or at least the desire for this, which creates much stress and grief in life.¬†¬† Buddhism teaches that understanding the concept of impermanence is central to our liberation from suffering.

The Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hahn said of impermanence,

Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight. We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering.

But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible. How can we transform our suffering if things are not impermanent? How can our daughter grow up into a beautiful young lady? How can the situation in the world improve? We need impermanence for social justice and for hope.

If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don’t suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away.¬†¬†¬† If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.

So today I am pondering our need for stability with our need for understanding the ever-changing, impermanent nature of things.¬† Today I recognize that my parents are sick and one day will die.¬† Today I recognize that while there is war and some folks are experiencing a tough time economically, this too shall pass.¬† Today I recognize that it’s about 100 degrees in my little corner of the world and the tomatoes are coming in, but in a very short time I’ll be donning sweaters and jeans again because that will have changed too.¬† Predictability can be a wonderful and grounding thing, and it is necessary to create a sense of safety in children and in adults.¬† But taken to an extreme it can create a false sense of control and result in terrible anxiety when we lose that false sense of power regarding people, places and things.

Einstein said the most important question to ask is, “Is the Universe a safe place?”¬† He said we formulate all of our understanding of the universe and beyond based on the answer to that question.¬† I think he was right.¬† I believe the Universe is a safe place, full of predictable change.¬† And the truth is that when I like the changes, like the seasons always flowing into one another, knowing it will flow back around again, I like it.¬† It’s when I try to hold on, or grasp or cling to how things are in this moment, or how I think I want myself or someone else to be without ever changing, dying or leaving that things get cumbersome and stressful.¬† I think it’s human nature to want things we label as bad or hard to change quickly, but want to hold onto the things we enjoy or love.

So today I am thinking about object impermanence and trusting that just like the sun coming up today and tomorrow and probably the day after that, the Divine delights in me and all of us, in our changes and growth, in our ponderings and questions, in our holding on and and letting go.  And each time I hold on or let go, make a mistake or learn something new, I trust the Divine is there, unchanging and permanent in that giggling joy.  And that we can all just keep doing it again and again and again, ever mindful, ever giggling, ever present to predictable change.

A child has to have a certain level of maturity to understand objects are permanent.¬† And I have to have a certain level of maturity to understand that they are not.¬† Things are ever flowing, ever changing, flowing back into the One, into cycles of beginning and end, knowing I can always start where I am and pick up the flow.¬† And then do it again… how cool is that?

Have a great weekend.

peace ūüôā

Merton & the Path

This morning I am thinking about Thomas Merton.

For the uninitiated,¬† Thomas Merton was one of the great mystics of our time.¬† A Trappist monk and¬† a prolific writer, in his later years he connected with Buddhist teachers and declared them brothers in contemplation.¬†¬† His autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain,¬† is a road map, his own experience with starting off as an atheist and becoming a monk.¬†¬† Merton spent 13 years of silent meditation at the Abbey of Gethsemani, praying for God’s will.¬† He came out and wrote this:

My God, I have no idea where I am going.¬† I do not see the road ahead of me.¬†¬† I cannot know for certain where it will end.¬† Nor do i really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.¬† But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please You.¬† And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.¬† I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.¬† And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it at the time.¬† Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.¬† I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone….

That prayer is found in his book Thoughts in Solitude.

Today I am contemplating Merton.¬† I have been thinking a lot about him and this path of late…watching myself and others on it, sometimes feeling my own sense of inadequacy, elation, giggles or frustration, my own attachment to outcomes, my own humanness coming in many disguises.

It’s funny– I don’t think most of us have an emotion that has a shelf life of more than about 20 minutes.¬† Even in the depths of grief or loss, of joy or elation, you cannot hold onto that for more than a few hours…things are always changing.¬† You can choose to stay angry or as a victim, and that can become habitual as well.¬† But mostly emotions¬† ebb and flow, like waves coming and going, rising and falling on the shores of our souls.

Our thoughts and emotional states come and go like clouds in the sky.¬† And when we recognize this and let them float on by, without getting caught in the stickiness of trying to hold onto a cloud, it all seems to flow pretty well…¬† Yet when we are experiencing one we label as “negative, ” aka “uncomfortable,” we want that one to end.¬† I have had long periods of meditation where there is a sense of One, of elation, of the bliss of knowing there is no separation.¬†¬† It is a practice not to cling to any of it, to let them all come and go, like clouds moving across the blue sky.

This morning I felt my frustration rise over what now seems fairly trivial, at least my part of it.¬† But it rose nonetheless.¬† I felt my chest tighten, my breath grow more shallow,¬† felt myself try to get back to my practice of openness…to breathe it away…ventilate it, give it some space and air, let it pass gently.¬† If that same person had called to tell me we just won the lotto, those same places in me would have expanded instead of contracted.¬†¬† Most spiritual traditions teach that the more we hold onto anything, the more it holds onto us.¬†¬† So this morning, I am letting go, letting my heart space expand and fill with the Light and air that is always available to me.

Separation is illusion.¬† Divine peace dwell in and around all of us, and we can all trust the process of life.¬† But isn’t it funny that we only want to trust the things we label as “good?”¬† So much of our experience is based in the stories we tell ourselves about life and our experiences.¬†¬† Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, and I think a lot of the suffering in the world is the result of the stories we tell ourselves about the pain, about clinging, grasping and being afraid to let go.

So this morning, I think of Merton.¬† Because if Thomas Merton– mystic, teacher, writer and fellow traveler on the path– doesn’t know God’s will after 13 years of silent meditation in a monastery, then I probably won’t figure it out today either.¬† But I’ll keep on the path, and keep asking, keep showing up, keep contemplating.¬†¬† On that note, I’m going to meditate, letting myself become one of the clouds in this ever moving sky.

I’m curious– what do you do to stay on the path and let it all pass through?

Have a great day.¬† ūüôā

Bits of Wisdom Sign  What to say?

File this under the heading¬† “A Positive You is a Powerful You,” ¬†¬† lol¬†¬† ūüėČ

Check out this sign from Bits of Wisdom.

have a great night!


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