The Power of Words


It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it…

This will take less than 2 minutes of your time, I promise you’ll be glad you watched!  🙂

Have a great day!

Advertisements

Spiritual Fruits or Just Nuts?


Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Let the beauty we love be what we do.   ~~Rumi

I love this picture, taken when the Christ the Redeemer statue was under construction.   One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it was built in Rio di Janiero in the 1920’s and is huge, overlooking the whole city.  It captures how I so often feel on the path and I look at it from time to time to remind me of what it symbolizes to me in my own life….I often think of the words of Jesus telling me that the kingdom of heaven is within, that all is One, that we are safe and all is well.  We are not abandoned here, we are not alone here, all we have to do is plug into that larger place within us that is unobstructed, open, free, full of peace and love.  Pretty easy to say,  much harder to really practice.

A lot of times I feel like that picture…there might be a Christ within, but it is under construction most of the time.  My Buddha Nature is always available to me, say the teachers of the dharma, but I have to practice skillfulness in cultivating those seeds in order to really taste the fruit they bear.   Anyone who has ever really tried to work with this knows there is a reason they call it a practice 😉

I have had enough training from teachers of many paths to have a certain perspective on things, a certain approach, my own beliefs and so on.  I work with a lot of people on a lot of issues; there are a variety of reasons people seek out a coach or healer.  But underneath the presenting reason, I  believe we are all seeking healing which leads to union with God, with our true nature, with our essence.  I wrote about some of this in a few posts on the Blessings Blog, about distance healing and how that works, spiritually and physically.   True healing has evidence of the spiritual fruits and I believe taking daily bites  of our intended fruit just scatters those seeds out into the collective to benefit all.  But we have to be intentional about it in order to fully experience it.

It is my belief that how I feel or remember an experience has little to do with the qualities of the experience itself.  Some people leave our sessions feelings relaxed or energized, feeling happy or crying as grief releases.  I don’t see any of those as good or bad or right or wrong.  It’s just how you feel in the moment.  Healing and growth aren’t always comfortable, but they are always optional and not everyone chooses it.  So how an experience feels in the moment doesn’t tell me a lot about the experience itself–not everything that feels good is good.  Cocaine feels good in the moment and crying often doesn’t.  But that doesn’t mean snorting coke is good and crying is bad.  So we have to look for the fruits of an experience over time.

Buddhism and Christianity approach this in different ways, but work with the same qualities of discernment and fruition over time.  You really can tell a tree by its fruits and pear seeds  won’t grow into apple trees.  Both traditions tell us that if we practice prayer and meditation, working with our own process around seeking that Light, that heaven within, your Buddha Nature, or whatever else you may choose to call it, then you can predict certain fruits.

The Fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control…

~~ Galatians 5: 22-23

The limitless qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are your deep-down, ultimate reality,  and those are qualities that can’t be improved upon. If you’re not feeling particularly kind, compassionate, joyful, or equanimous at the moment, take heart: the Four Limitless Ones are there like seeds, waiting to be cultivated through practice—and, being limitless, they’re rich enough to be worked with for a lifetime.

~~Pema Chodron, Dharma Teacher

I find this incredibly encouraging.  I love that in every tradition, the teachers or prophets tell us we are good.  People or bad theology  may try to tell you something different, but that’s their own stuff–take it all with a grain of salt and look for the fruits.   This is why having community and teachers or spiritual directors is so important, why we are meant to grow together in community, rather than just try to figure this all out alone–sometimes our own stuff gets in the way and we either don’t hear valuable feedback to help us grow, we have our own blinds spots,  we can misunderstand something and turn it into a shame spiral.  Other people can provide valuable feedback,  but  it is important to be discerning about those fruits as well.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what someone else says or does, what matters is how I respond to that and what I choose to believe about myself as a result.

Healthy spiritual traditions and practices  tell me that if I am truly on the path, my love and compassion toward myself and others will grow, not diminish.  So how it feels in the moment may be uncomfortable or make me face my deepest fears– and that can be a good thing.  But pay attention to the fruits, because what I’m working with and looking for to discern if choices and experiences are good for me are the spiritual fruits.   I am seeking to cultivate the seeds of spiritual fruits, but honestly sometimes I’m just nuts.  So cocaine may feel good in the moment, but the fruits won’t be sweet over time.  Crying, looking at my own reactions to things or facing some hard truths in life  may be challenging and bring up a lot of grief or old feelings, but over time that can yield a lot of compassion, inner peace and joy.  These things are predictable and proven methods of discernment.

It’s nice to know that on this journey so many have come before me and will come after me.  It’s nice to know there are teachers, books, communities and practices to help me develop skillfulness, cultivate the fruits of the spirit and share that with others.   It’s so nice to know every tradition tells us we are already good and really just expected to be nice, to love, to extend love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness.  The Prophet Micah tells us,

He has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God…

Yogi Bhajan reminds us,

Never compete, never compare and never confuse yourself with everything here. You have come from God. Be with your God and see the glory of God in all, big and small. God shall be with you.

Pema Chodron teaches on the Four Limitless Qualities,  reminding us that our basic goodness, our Buddha Nature, what others might call that Christ within, is always available to us because we already have those seeds planted within, we only have to nourish them.   I have a sign on my desk that reminds me, “Divine Peace and Love surround me and dwell in me.  I am safe and trust the process of  Life.”  I find that when I plug into the Divine Peace which always surrounds me and dwells within me, that I feel safe and can indeed trust the process of life.  But I have to practice it.  I have to decide which fruits I will choose to eat from today, which seeds I will nourish and cultivate over time.

I have a variety of Questions I ask the Blessings Coaching clients.  Here is a set related to these things….

Humans get angry or upset about a variety of things. What is upsetting to me may not be upsetting to you. What’s important to your spouse, boss, friends or family may not be important to you, or you may find a situation presents itself as the other way around.  Hurt feelings and reactions often result from unmet expectations and the fruits can be sweet or bitter.   Getting upset about certain things is human and normal—a full range of emotions is normal and healthy.  It’s when we get triggered and go to extremes in our unmindful reactions that it creates problems for self and others. So as I sit with these Q’s, what comes up in me?

1.  When I’m angry or upset, what do I do? Do I blow up or shut down? Do I just check out and run away—physically or emotionally leave?    Do I make choices or behave in ways I later regret?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

2. When I experience “negative” emotions about something or someone…anger, envy, jealousy, resentment, and so on, what do I do? Do I injure or harm myself or others?  Do I punish them physically, emotionally or spiritually?   Do I make it all about them? Do I spread gossip about them that is untrue? Do I slander them? Do I suddenly begin to speak ill of or blame someone I once praised? Do I ignore them?   Make snide remarks?  Engage in retaliation with destruction of property or something dear to them?  Do I retaliate with destruction of their reputation?  Do I lie to them in order to avoid them or my feelings about it?  If in a committed relationship, do I run up debt or spend money we don’t have to get even?   Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

3. If the uncomfortable feelings or negative emotions come into play and I am around children or animals, do I take it out on them? What about elders, children or people under my care or responsibility—do I abuse my authority and take it out on employees, helpless patients in a nursing home,  students in a classroom or the clerk at the gas station? Do I manage my own energy and emotions well, or does everyone feel my moods change and take cover from the storm?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

4. When I feel positive emotions like joy, for myself or others, can I celebrate that?  Can I celebrate the good fortunes of another, or does it turn into envy or resentment?  Can I celebrate my own good fortunes and my own life, or do I feel like I don’t deserve it and have to work harder than ever now?  Do I have balance between my ups and downs, or am I dependent on external circumstances for my own moods?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

5.  What do I do with myself when these things come up in me?   Do I run away, work more, drink more, eat more or less, hide in retail therapy or other addictions?  Can I just sit with the uncomfortable feelings without lashing out or shutting down?  Are the fruits of my experience bringing me to greater wholeness, or do they disintegrate me and create bitter fruit?  Do my reactions and behaviors when I am stressed create problems in my relationships, at work, and result in self-hatred, guilt or  shame for me later?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

6.  Am I willing to work on this, to take responsibility for myself and my life force?  Am I willing to grow and change?  If so, how?  When?  If not now, when?

These can be frightening questions, and are not meant to be worked through alone.  Find a teacher, a coach, a spiritual director, good therapist or community as you try to work through these things.  We are not meant to be here all alone, just working on these things for ourselves.  We are born into communities and what impacts one impacts all.  So know that working on these things and cultivating sweet fruit in life benefits not just you, but everyone.   If you have questions or would like more info,  feel free to make a comment or contact me directly.

Peace and blessings, have a great day!

🙂





Forgiveness and Priorities, Life and Death


True forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time—just like it does for you and me.        ~~Sara Paddison

Hello all, blogger slacker returns 🙂

I’m at my parental units home in The Middle Of Nowhere, MO for a bit.  My mom is in hospice and is declining steadily so I’m here with her for the duration.  I’ve been up with her most of the night, just being with this experience, being with her in the last few days of her life.   It’s a deep and rich time,  full of life and death and all the depth times like this hold.  It’s like being a midwife… full of extremes,  full of emotion, a time of holding on and letting go.  It’s  Bodhicitta at it’s finest.

One of many discoveries in this time is that when one’s mother is dying it also creates a sense of oneness with others who have walked this path before me.  It seems to open up a well of deep grief in us that is almost primal in nature.  I’ve heard many stories from people about their own mothers and their own journey down this path, pensive stories full of laughter and tears.   These conversations inevitably involve themes of love, sacrifice, priorities and forgiveness; many have talked about how making forgiveness a priority  is such an integral part of the journey and a good life.   I agree.   Forgiveness comes from words meaning “to allow,” and literally means “for giving.”  Naturally all of this emotion swirling around got me to thinking about feelings, what we do with them and about for-giving.

First and foremost, forgiveness does not mean accepting unacceptable behavior and it does not mean condoning abuse.  There is nothing “spiritual” about putting up with abusive behavior.  Compassion begins with self and good boundaries are compassionate to and for everyone.  But I do think forgiveness means to let go of my anger about someone’s unacceptable behavior.  Forgiveness means that I give up the hope of a better past for the more realistic hope of a better future.  As the saying goes, forgiveness is to set a prisoner free and then realize the prisoner was me.  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 continually punish someone for harming us.

I find a lot of people hold onto past hurts, thinking they will somehow lose a lesson if they forgive too soon.  My experience is that the opposite is actually true.  When we forgive,  we really give the lesson and resulting freedom to ourselves.  If I hold onto old hurts or abuse, 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 can experience a deeper sense of overall freedom in every area of life.  I think the whole of the spiritual life can be summed up as let go, let go, let go.   Granted, some things are easier or harder to let go of or forgive than others.  But let’s get honest:  Sometimes I need to be forgiven too and at times the hardest person to forgive is me.  At the deepest level, I have come to believe that it doesn’t really matter what other people do.  What matters is how I respond to that and what I choose to believe about myself as a result.

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 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 and vengeful people tend to harm other people,  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.  If I can’t experience it, I certainly can’t embody it or give it to you.

So I was thinking about all of that this morning…thinking about priorities,  thinking about the folks I know who make letting go and forgiveness a priority–the truth is that they are the happiest people I know, in spite of a lot of past pain.  I’m feeling a full range of emotions today, experiencing deep awareness… I’m almost too present, if that’s possible.  I’m watching my mother decline and observing how those around her deal with their own pain and fear about her passing.  It’s abundantly clear to me that in many ways their pain is much greater than her own.  She’s actually pretty comfortable and ready to let go and move on, like a weary traveler just wanting to get home.  Those left behind are the ones in the most pain, much of it related to the normal human fears of the unknown.   Sometimes  it’s hard to watch yet I find myself really wanting to stay present to it, looking for the balance between care-giving, clinical knowledge and my own feelings.

I was thinking about my mother’s grief about the death of her own mother, about how that is especially poignant in this time of her own decline.   My mother had more time with her mom than I will have, probably about 15 years longer than I will.  Ten years after the death of my grandmother,  we all still laugh about and grieve that powerhouse of a woman and  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 plugging along at it— she made it a priority.

I have been thinking about that a lot.  I’ve been sitting with my own feelings about all of this and thinking about all the relationships in my life.  The truth is that my experience is up to me,  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 got a lot of calls this week from people going through a hard time…broken hearts, broken bones, broke and hungry, broken lives.   I’m observing all of this with keen interest and curiosity.  The veil is very thin today and as hot as it is here, the air feels crisp, like the first bite of green apples in the fall.

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 6:00, I think 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,                                                                                                                                   May all beings be at ease…

Today I am thinking about all of these things and about all 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 experience love and forgiveness, be clear about priorities and maybe give those around you an extra hug today.  May you live in peace,  love and experience giggles, joy and a boundless heart of happiness.

Peace and blessings 🙂

Whole Hearted Courage


Courage is the power to let go of the familiar…

~~Raymond Lundquist

Hello all 🙂  Blogger Slacker returns…

I took this pic a few weeks ago in  a remote place called Cathedral Canyon, in The Middle Of Nowhere, Missouri.  To reach this place, you have to leave all that is familiar, drive 2 hours from a major city, then hike  even further  into the more-middle-of-nowhere.  I must say~~ it was totally worth it.  The pic doesn’t do it justice.  I spent a few days in that part of the world, totally off the grid and reconnecting with myself.  It was lovely in a million different ways.  During that time, I pondered why it is that I often have to leave all that is familiar on the outside to reconnect to what I love that is familiar on the inside.  But that is another blog post for another day.

I was thinking today about all of the horror in Japan, reflecting on the impermanence of everything we think is familiar, all we hold dear.  The funny thing is that as things change or become unfamiliar, the human tendency is to engage in our familiar patterns that often don’t serve us….old patterns of shutting up or down, lashing out or in, running away instead of running toward the change.  Yet there  is so much change happening all the time and that’s what we call life.  When we like the changes we say things are going well, when we don’t like the changes we say they aren’t.  But that’s familiar too.  I think it takes real courage to go with all the flows of life, to swim through what might feel like a tsunami with an open heart.  I’m amazed by how many people are able to do just that and I’m grateful when I can do it myself.

This is a time of Lent for some…fasting, prayer and reflection.  This is a time of loss and horror for others…unprecedented, horrible loss on a scale I can’t even begin to comprehend.  This is a time of joy for others…birth, new jobs, new homes, dreams coming true.  This is a time of death and illness for others  and on and on the list of changes goes.  No matter what the circumstance, it takes courage to face it and walk through it with an open mind and heart. And in the middle of it all, in the middle of all the magic and all the tragic, we all crave connection with others.  I have come to believe with my whole heart that the only way I can have a connection with you is if I have a connection with myself first.  And, at least for myself, I feel most connected in a helpful way to myself if I feel connected to the Divine and all of the ways in which God moves within.

All of this  made me think of Brene Brown and her work.  Brene has done some very interesting research in the fields of courage, compassion, shame and how to live with a whole heart.  She speaks of the original meaning of the word “courage,” meaning to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.  Her research is very interesting and beautiful, I’ll post a clip at the end of one of her TED talks.   It’s well worth the 20 minutes or so it takes to watch.

As you ponder courage and living life with a whole heart…If you are so inclined, please remember those for whom this is a hard or tragic time.  If you are further inclined, perhaps you could hold yourself and others in the gentle and loving space of a whole heart, or at least hold the aspiration that you can do so, for yourself and others.  We are all we’ve got, sweet friends.  And I think it’s important to remember we are all enough.  YOU are enough.   Yes, you. May you go forth with that knowing and the courage of a whole heart of peace and kindness toward yourself and others.

With that, I leave you with Dr. Brene Brown, her bio and video.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

What Love Is


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres….And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

~~1 Corinthians 13

 

Today’s post is a direct cut and paste from What Love Is, by Ayya Khema, a Dharma Teacher.  Born in Berlin of Jewish parents in 1923, Ayya Khema escaped Nazi Germany in 1938  to Glasgow. She joined her parents two years later in Shanghai, where the family was put into a Japanese POW camp  in which her father died.  Four years after her camp was liberated, Ayya Khema emigrated to the United States where she married and had two children. While traveling in Asia from 1960 to 1964, she learned meditation and in 1975, began to teach. Three years later she established Wat Buddha Dhamma, a forest monastery in the Theravada tradition near Sydney, Australia. In 1979 she was ordained as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka. She is currently the spiritual director of BuddhaHaus in Oy-Mittleberg, Germany, which she established. She has written numerous books in English and German, including Being Nobody, Going Nowhere and When the Iron Eagle Flies.

I’ve thought a lot about “love” lately and what it means to really love and love well.  I wrote some thoughts on this a few months ago in a post entitled Love is Kind.  You can find that here if you are interested.  More and more I realize it is only middle and upper class people who demand to pray or meditate in clean, “spiritual” places.  People have prayed and felt love in concentration camps, mine shafts, wide open prairies, ghettos and slums since the beginning of time.  Love has always been with us and can always be if we choose it.  I find a great deal of inspiration from Jesus, Buddha, Mother Theresa and many other teachers, but honestly at times they seem very removed from my daily life, perhaps “not understanding” what I might be up against.   Reading teachings by Ayya Khema and others who have come through experiences like hers somehow makes distant teachings seem more present, accessible and real.  There is no real new information here…all of the great teachers and sages tell us the same things again and again.  But today, when our country spends millions of dollars on cheap chocolate and Hallmark, I thought I might pass along a wonderful reading on What Love Is.  Enjoy!

~~~~~

MOST PEOPLE are under the impression that they can think out their lives. But that’s a misconception. We are subject to our emotions and think in ways based on our emotions. So it’s extremely important to do something about our emotions. In the same way as the Buddha gave us the Four Supreme Efforts for the mind, he also outlined the Four Emotions for the heart.  The Four Emotions–lovingkindness (metta), compassion (karuna), joy with others (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha)–are called the “divine abodes.” When we have perfected these four, we have heaven on earth, paradise in our own heart.

I think everybody knows that above us is the sky and not heaven. We have heaven and hell within us and can experience this quite easily. So even without having complete concentration in meditation and profound insights, the Four Divine Abodes enable us to live on a level of truth and lovingness, security, and certainty, which gives life a totally different quality. When we are able to arouse love in our hearts without any cause, just because love is the heart’s quality, we feel secure. It is impossible to buy security, even though many people would like to do so. Insurance companies have the largest buildings because people try to buy security. But when we create certainty within, through a loving heart, we feel assured that our reactions and feelings are not going to be detrimental to our own or other people’s happiness. Many fears will vanish.

Metta–the first of the Supreme Emotions–is usually translated as “loving kindness.” But loving-kindness doesn’t have the same impact in English that the word love has, which carries a lot of meaning for us. We have many ideas about love. The most profound thought we have about love, which is propagated in novels, movies, and billboards, is the idea that love exists between two people who are utterly compatible, usually young and pretty, and who for some odd reason have a chemical attraction toward each other-none of which can last. Most people find out during the course of their lifetime that this is a myth, that it doesn’t work that way. Most people then think it’s their own fault or the other person’s fault or the fault of both, and they try a new relationship. After the third, fourth, or fifth try, they might know better; but a lot of people are still trying. That’s usually what’s called love in our society.

In reality, love is a quality of our heart. The heart has no other function. If we were aware that we all contain love within us, and that we can foster and develop it, we would certainly give that far more attention than we do. In all developed societies there are institutions to foster the expansion of the mind, from the age of three until death. But we don’t have any institutions to develop the heart, so we have to do it ourselves. Most people are either waiting for or relating to the one person who makes it possible for them to feel love at last. But that kind of love is beset with fear, and fear is part of hate. What we hate is the idea that this special person may die, walk away, have other feelings and thoughts-in other words, the fear that love may end, because we believe that love is situated strictly in that one person. Since there are six billion people on this planet, this is rather absurd. Yet most people think that our love-ability is dependent upon one person and having that one person near us. That creates the fear of loss, and love beset by fear cannot be pure. We create a dependency upon that person, and on his or her ideas and emotions. There is no freedom in that, no freedom to love.

If we see quite clearly that love is a quality that we all have, then we can start developing that ability. Any skill that we have, we have developed through practice. If we’ve learned to type, we’ve had to practice. We can practice love and eventually we’ll have that skill. Love has nothing to do with finding somebody who is worth loving, or checking out people to see whether they are truly lovable. If we investigate ourselves honestly enough, we find that we’re not all that lovable either, so why do we expect somebody else to be totally lovable? It has nothing to do with the qualities of the other person, or whether he or she wants to be loved, is going to love us back, or needs love. Everyone needs love. Because we know our own faults, when somebody loves us we think, Oh, that’s great, this person loves me and doesn’t even know I have all these problems. We’re looking for somebody to love us to support a certain image of ourselves. If we can’t find anybody, we feel bereft. People even get depressed or search for escape routes. These are wrong ways of going at it.

IN THE spiritual path, there’s nothing to get, and everything to get rid of. The  first thing to let go of is trying to “get” love, and instead to give it. That’s the secret of the spiritual path. One has to give oneself wholeheartedly. Whatever we do half heartedly, brings halfhearted results. How can we give ourselves? By not holding back.  By not wanting for ourselves. If we want to be loved, we are looking for a support system. If we want to love, we are looking for spiritual growth.  Disliking others is far too easy. Anybody can do it and justify it because, of course, people are often not very bright and don’t act the way we’d like them to act. Disliking makes grooves in the heart, and it becomes easier and easier to fall into these grooves. We not only dislike others, but also ourselves. If one likes or loves oneself, it’s easier to love others, which is why we always start loving-kindness meditations with the focus on ourselves. That’s not egocentricity. If we don’t like ourselves because we have faults, or have made mistakes, we will transfer that dislike to others and judge them accordingly. We are not here to be judge and jury. First of all, we don’t even have the qualifications. It’s also a very unsatisfactory job, doesn’t pay, and just makes people unhappy.

PEOPLE OFTEN feel that it’s necessary to be that way to protect themselves. But what do we need to protect ourselves from? We have to protect our bodies from injury. Do we have to protect ourselves from love? We are all in this together, living on this planet at the same time, breathing the same air. We all have the same limbs, thoughts, and emotions. The idea that we are separate beings is an illusion. If we practice meditation diligently with perseverance, then one day we’ll get over this illusion of separation. Meditation makes it possible to see the totality of all manifestation. There is one creation and we are all part of it. What can we be afraid of? We are afraid to love ourselves, afraid to love creation, afraid to love others because we know negative things about ourselves. Knowing that we do things wrong, that we have unhappy or unwholesome thoughts, is no reason not to love. A mother who loves her children doesn’t stop loving them when they act silly or unpleasant. Small children have hundreds of unwholesome thoughts a day and give voice to them quite loudly. We have them too, but we do not express them all.

So, if a mother can love a child who is making difficulties for her, why can’t we love ourselves? Loving oneself and knowing oneself are not the same thing. Love is the warmth of the heart, the connectedness, the protection, the caring, the concern, the embrace that comes from acceptance and understanding for oneself. Having practiced that, we are in a much better position to practice love toward others. They are just as unlovable as we are, and they have just as many unwholesome thoughts. But that doesn’t matter. We are not judge and jury. When we realize that we can actually love ourselves, there is a feeling of being at ease. We don’t constantly have to become or pretend, or strive to be somebody. We can just be. It’s nice to just be, and not be “somebody.” Love makes that possible. By the same token, when we relate to other people, we can let them just be and love them. We all have daily opportunities to practice this. It’s a skill, like any other.

….I hope this finds everyone resting in Big Love today!!!! 🙂

 

Smile at Fear


Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future…

~~~Fulton Oursler

Because we are afraid, we develop all kinds of habits which over time lead to addictions.  Human beings are funny like that–We look for strength in the things that weaken us…

~~Pema Chodron,  Dharma Teacher

I took this picture over Labor Day weekend while hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in New Mexico.  For those of you with eyes over 40, that is a cow patty with flowers growing out of it. Lovely, isn’t it? 🙂

You have to understand the enormity of the canyon and the area in which we were hiking to fully appreciate this image–ginormous doesn’t begin to capture it.  The CDT runs from Mexico to Canada, it’s hundreds of miles long.  We were in the Rio Chamas Wilderness section, just a few miles from the CDT trail head in New Mexico.  There are countless acres and square miles in which this flower could have planted itself, but it chose to land in cow poo and stay there, to use the inherent qualities of the excrement for fertilizer and grow just a bit taller and stronger than the surrounding flowers.  Let us take some instruction from this brave little wildflower– it was not afraid to get down in the muck and take root in order to grow and thrive in an otherwise harsh desert environment.

This is the area in which we were hiking…gorgeous, yes.  But fully sunny, hot and dry during the day, chilly at night.  Deep in canyons surrounded by mountains in the Chamas River Wilderness Area, about an hour outside of Santa Fe, 13 miles back on a red dirt road then walking toward Ojitos Canyon on the CDT…Desolate but full of Life, a blank slate on which nature and Life can assert itself to grow and thrive.

So that little flower could have inserted herself anywhere.  But Life doesn’t necessarily choose what is easy, Life chooses what is Life-Giving.  And let’s face it: sometimes Life acknowledges that shit makes great fertilizer.  But the truth is that as humans, we fear the pain, the stink, the stickiness, appearances of “how this will look,”  so we go for what seems easy in the moment, rather than what might actually feed us and give us more life.  But choosing the easier, softer way may not always be life-affirming; if we are not discerning, it can also lead to addictions and much more pain.  Fear can make us choose things  which in the moment seem easier–it seems easier in the moment to avoid tears and pain.  But in doing so, we often strengthen habits which just lead to more pain and fear and so on and on the cycle goes.  The biggest obstacle to true healing is our fear, because what usually happens in the middle of big healing experiences is that our fear arises and we shut down or check out.  Yet we can also use that same fear to move us forward or feed us, to strengthen us and lead us to seeking out a new way of being.  Discernment is the key here.   (I  wrote a more in-depth post on this concept called Spiritual Fruits or Just Nuts? You can read that here if you are interested. )

There is something really powerful and encouraging about knowing that since the beginning of time, humans have felt fear and elation, grief and joy, happiness and sadness, compassion and rage, resentment and forgiveness, hope and despair.  The list of feelings and their opposites could go on and on, but the truth is we are not so different than our ancestors.  All of the Religions of the Book and all of the sacred scriptures of each religion address this…each time the Angel of God comes to a prophet or recipient of Divine Love or Intervention, the first thing the Angel says is, “Be not afraid.”  Not, “Hey Joe, it’s your lucky day!”  But, “Fear not!”  Fear is natural and human, but so is love.  So is compassion.  So is forgiveness and grace.  It’s all true at once, and so we have to choose.  We have to choose to heal.  We have to choose to love.  We have to choose to move forward in our fear, which of course  is the hardest time to choose something.  But it can be done and you don’t have to do it alone.

Humans have always divided off into groups or tribes and have always liked to talk about how civilized we are and how that group over there is so wrong or bad…you can see it now between Christians and Muslims, Muslims and Jews, Republicans and Democrats and on and on.  But the real enemy, if there is an enemy at all, is our fear.  Our fear of change, our fear of loss, our fear of success, our fear of failure, our fear of abandonment, our fear of getting what we want or not getting what we want, fear of really living, fear of what “they” will think, fear of how it will look if we ask for help or tell the truth of our lives, and on and on it goes.  But if we get down to the basics of life, a Muslim parent in Afghanistan wants the same health and safety for his children that an American Baptist parent wants for his kids.  We all want to be loved, to be nourished and to have happiness and freedom from want or suffering.  We all want to be free of the things that bind us, we all want to feel safe and happy and know those whom we love are  safe and happy as well.

There is always something in the press about 9/11 and our fear based reactions to that date, to that event.  What people fail to remember is that Iran was the first country to send condolences to the United States after the Twin Towers fell.  Yes, Iran.  Not Great Britain or Israel, but Iran.  They were the first country to hold a prayer gathering and other Muslim countries quickly followed suit, because in that moment we were not enemies without official relations, we were all just human beings, all feeling the horror of the enormity of that loss.  Human compassion was able to override fear and mistrust and bring forth compassion and prayer.  Mistrust reigns again, but in the deepest moments of need, compassion can always take root.  Like that flower, Life can always find a way to grow through the pain, through the fear, through what looks like shit, and come out smelling like a rose on the other side.  Life just does that, because Life is rooted in Love, in our Oneness, in our connection.

The danger comes when we decide to root into our fears and just create more fertilizer in our life without ever really planting good seeds of compassion, growth, love or humility.  The seeds we plant will always grow–of this there is no doubt.  And poo makes great fertilizer regardless of the seeds, but as any gardener knows, too much fertilizer can also kill the plant.  So when in fear, I have some choices…Will I ask for help?  Will I be discerning about which seeds I am sowing?  Resentment seeds seem to germinate faster than seeds of compassion, but both need fertilizer to grow.  So which seeds am I planting today, which seeds am I feeding? What do I want this garden of my life to look like in a few months?  Because have no doubt–the seeds you plant today will be harvested tomorrow. You can call it karma or what comes around goes around, you can call it fair or unfair, you can call it what you want and what you call it won’t change what it is:  your responsibility.  It us up to each of us to choose which seeds we will nurture and feed, because we all carry the seeds of hate and love, fear and faith, hope and despair within us.  We can choose.  I can choose.  You can choose.  It is not always easy, but it is always possible.  This does not mean shutting off feelings, but really honoring them, inviting them in like a wise guest and accepting the gifts they offer us.  It means we can choose which seeds we will cultivate over time, what we will feed, what we will harvest in the future.  If you plant apple seeds you are not going to get pear trees, that’s just a fact.

The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron speaks of smiling at our fear and of embracing it, and speaks of the Buddhist saying,

Place your fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness…

It is a beautiful image of holding our own pain and fear with the same gentle loving-kindness we would extend to a beloved child.  Fear is not the enemy.  The “other” is not the enemy.  What we truly wrestle with is our own inner demons, our own fears, our own sense of inadequacy.  Our fear of not having enough makes us cheat or lie, steal or withhold, go too far or not far enough, hold back or shut down, hurt ourselves and others.  Interestingly, the definition of a fully enlightened being is one who is fearless because they are intimate with their fear.  Not that they don’t have fear, but that they have smiled at it, befriended it, invited it in like a wise teacher and discussed its gifts over a cup of tea.  The enlightened ones are fearless because they know the nature of fear and no longer fear their fear, not because they have managed to shut it down or off permanently.  This I like very much, this I find tremendously encouraging.

So today, like that little flower, we can choose to plant seeds of growth and abundance, of rooting down into the people, places and things which help us grow, regardless of how it might look from the outside.  Today we can choose to plant seeds of compassion and love, of forgiveness and loving-kindness and just stay with it, even if it feels or smells like shit in the moment.  Today we can smile at fear.

If you would like to watch Ani Pema Chodron talk about Smiling at Fear, you can see a snippet of that video below.

Wishing everyone peace and blessings and the peace and joy that comes from knowing we are all One, even in our fears.  Have a great day.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: