courage and it’s companion – pain

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

 – Socrates

I watched and listened to and Demi Lovato’s performance on the Grammy Awards the day following the performance. Listening to the lyrics, the simple music accompanying her voice, and feeling the depth of the emotions as she sang, transported me back to a time in my life when I felt the isolation, desperation, and separation that she so courageously expressed in her performance. Her very survival of an overdose and the subsequent bare honesty with which she expresses her feelings in that song, written prior to that event, are worth our compassion and reflection.

I was recently talking with someone about addiction. Although I believe, as Richard Rohr has asserted and discussed in a recent series in his Daily Meditations, all are addicted to something (habits of minds, ways of doing things, substances, a job, etc.*), the conversation was about nicotine. At one point in the conversation it was asserted by the person with whom I was speaking that I couldn’t possibly understand addiction and that reading a certain book might help me better understand it. As I continued to reflect on this conversation, I recalled Ms. Lovato’s poignant performance, and my experience that many people don’t understand depression, either.

It’s easy to look at someone like her and think that perhaps she “has it all” and wonder how could she possibly find herself in such a dark place. I’m quite certain there are many who knew me during the period in my life and might have had similar thoughts, had they known of my condition at the time. Even those closest to me didn’t understand. I was quite adept at being the person I thought I had to be to remain successful in performing my job responsibilities and parenting my children.

I write today to remind everyone that we have no idea what is going on in someone – anyone – else’s life. Even those we may live with or are closest to day-to-day may be struggling within themselves with thoughts, feelings and forces unknown to those of us who are “on the outside”.  Can’t we begin to extend that kind of awareness to everyone we see, pass on the street when we are walking, or observe doing something seemingly unconscious behind the wheel of a vehicle?  A practice of compassion and acceptance can go a very long way in our very divided world. In fact it can, quite literally, change it!

We tend to judge, often harshly, those who are different or behave in ways that we don’t understand or necessarily appreciate. And yet, if we were watching ourselves in those moments of judging others, I wonder how we might feel about the person we are watching.  I feel it is so very important to remember that we are all walking the same ground on this planet at this time.

The complexities of living in this world – different places and societies  – cannot be understated. Addiction and depression have their roots in our attempts to “fit in” to what we have been shown or taught is the “way to be” if we are to survive or get ahead. Living up to what becomes our individual expectations of ourselves can be, and often are, impossible. This, by itself, is a sad commentary on who we are collectively, isn’t it?

The courage to be the beautiful individual that each of us is, is something that some of us seem to have more of than others. And then again…do they really? Or are they trying to make it appear that they do…as I did and so many of us try to do. Often it takes a crisis for us to wake up to our true and authentic selves and begin living fully into who we are, without fear.

May we practice a deeper approach to offering kindness to every single person we encounter in our journey of each day. May we also remember that each of us has impact – with every word, and in our behavior – on the whole of our experience. Choose to be negative, judgmental – that is a contribution. Choose to be positive, kind – that is a contribution.

If you didn’t see Demi Lovato’s performance at the Grammy Awards Sunday evening or online since, see if you can sit quietly and listen deeply and then check in with yourself to see how you feel. You can also see the video embedded in a well written piece on the performance in an article published at The Atlantic.

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

 – Chief Seattle

*these represent my interpretations of what Fr. Rohr intimated in his series on addictions.

blind loyalty

Blind loyalty is just that….BLIND.

Open. Your. Eyes.

Question EVERYTHING.

Taking NOTHING at face value.

Be still.

Dig DEEP.

Ask your heart.

Listen to your intuition.

Trust yourself first, then your trust of others will not be misplaced.

(written in Spring, 2016)

*If seeking for answers outside of yourself is more more of a habit than deep listening, observing, and researching, be diligent. Do your own research. Do not rely on shortcuts and the beliefs at the core of others’ projections in various media for your answers, or what you might consider to be the “right” answer. Ask yourself, are these shallow perspectives? Go deeper. Look beyond. Your answers will eventually resonate through your awareness and the alignment with who you are. Your feelings will tell you.

Don’t like the answer? Go deeper. Ask yourself, “Who am I”? And isn’t that the most important question at the core of everything you believe, see, feel and act upon?

Blind loyalty – the ultimate surrender of personal power to another human being.

an invitation in the new year

What a man takes in by contemplation, that he pours out in love.

 – Meister Eckhart

As I watch the first snow of the season fall from the sky, I cannot help reflecting on the beauty of it and what it compels us to do, if we will allow it – to slow down, breathe, observe and reflect/contemplate.

The snow is quiet. It falls ever so softly from the clouds above. And yet, the planet it falls upon is anything but soft and quiet. This juxtaposition gives me pause…as I seek to stay out of despair. Compassion for the worst behaviors among our fellow humans is, at times, extremely tough to dig for and offer. Yet, these are the moments and places that call to me from the wounds within – the places which are still hurting; the places where perhaps traces of grief, unprocessed, still exist.

As I continue to cultivate my inner observer, I’ve begun to notice a few things that I wish to offer here…with an invitation for you to consider their meaning, from your perspective or experience. Comments are always welcome, and I believe that the more we explore together – which this medium allows us to do without being in the same room – the more we learn with the possibility of evolving our perspectives on long held thoughts or beliefs.

These words  – without definitions – have been floating around in my mind as I consider the state of the country I live in at this moment.

Authenticity
Conformity
Projection
Responsibility
Fear
Love

I could write so much more about each of these, to offer my perspectives on and my observations and feelings about them. However, I wish to leave the door between us for conversation to be open without my perspectives to filter them.

I do wish to offer that fear keeps us from engaging with others in a variety of ways. So I hope you will trust yourself and me enough to offer your thoughtful perspectives on any or all of these. I feel that if we hold hands as we cross the deep chasm that seems to divide us from ourselves and us from each other, we will make it to the other side – more fully ourselves – open hearts, open arms and open minds.

Thank you for being here.

Sending my love to each of you, wherever you may be, in this new year.

Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.

 – Paramahansa Yogananda

 

wondering as I wander

These past weeks have seemed to be a void of much of anything for me. Writing, reading…have seemed elusive. I have not slept as well and at times have had some interesting dreams that I reflect upon the meaning of. Even as I have been present in this void, I have had moments in which I felt there was a dark veil between Spirit (God) and me. And even then, I have been aware of that awesome loving presence in my life. I have often felt I was living and experiencing a dichotomous existence, at times. I have grounded myself in my beliefs and in the interactions of those closest to me. Now, the veil feels more like protection than separation. This period has been steeped in reflection and contemplation.

Slowly and intermittently, I have found moments when writing has been soothing. Most recently, I wrote about a few things that I have been wondering about. My wondering represents a bit of wandering around various topics – borne of experiences and observations of self and others. Perhaps the contemplation of these is in part the way through this seemingly and sometimes dark “void”.

These are my recent wonderings…as I wander into contemplating both the complexity and simplicity of each.

  • Masculine and Feminine energy in all of us; how we balance (or not) this energy in our various activities, roles and day-to-day interactions. How we become conscious of these and awaken to love.
  • How to support others in the beginning moment of seeing themselves as valued and valuable – as an important step into the essential healing process that life offers.
  • Patience with our individual processes. Growth, healing and evolution cannot be timed or rushed, pushed or hurried along. Our lives unfold in each moment. Our thoughts influence the quality of those moments.
  • The myriad ways we wear armor to protect our broken hearts, all the while keeping (or unconsciously pushing away) the very intimacy (in-to-me-see) we seek at a distance. This intimacy requires us to open our hearts, to be vulnerable. It takes courage to take off the armor, to risk love – at and from the deepest part of ourselves.
  • The myths of perfection and control. Perfection isn’t attainable and we do not have control. Control has us.
  • The courage of speaking out or up – about abuses – of power, inappropriate actions and behaviors. Supporting those who courageously stand, as they honor their commitments (oaths), even in the face of scrutiny by those who may not know or even wish to understand, while also enduring personal threats and harassment.
  • The inspiration that opens me to write or prevents my desire to pick up my pen or to compose a post for my blog. It seems to wax and wane.

These wonderings give way to others as I wander.

Feelings. Thoughts. Questions. Curiosities. Reconciliation. Resolution. Contemplation.

What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.

-Meister Eckhart

 

inner peace

What are you not doing that is somehow contributing to discomfort in your being…right now?

We hear…all of the time. Hearing isn’t listening…or not the listening to which I am referring.

I’m not speaking of the day-to-day noises from the myriad sources in the spaces and places we happen to be. I am speaking of the voice in our heart or from God, Universe, Spirit or whatever you use in reference to the energy that is greater than us, of which we are all a part. I am not speaking of the voice in the head – often referred to as the ego – which can feel like a secondary being within. I am speaking of the tender voice which inquires, guides or offers loving, supportive messages which are always there for us – if we slow down enough (deep breathing helps) to hear what is being offered.

“When you recognise that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking.”
 – Eckhart Tolle

These last few weeks have been very challenging on multiple fronts and I am reminded in many moments that inner peace is mine – anytime, anywhere, in any situation if I can simply remember, accept and allow it to be what guides me rather than reacting to the multiple stimuli that feel pervasive lately.

The news headlines are very distracting and upsetting these days. The darkness feels intense and I know it will be a while before we collectively walk out of it by walking through it. The feeling that I must “DO” something is pretty intense at times, and yet I know that returning to my “BE-ing” is my greatest and healthiest contribution to the whole at this moment. Reminding myself of who I am, and all of the good that is everywhere on the planet is a much brighter way through the seemingly overwhelming (at times) darkness. AND…it is my inner peace which can be so intensely challenged.

My old friend, depression, often lurks these days, and I embrace it and tell it that I am fine. I remember who I am…and I am NOT separated from LOVE, God, Spirit, etc. I am a part of it. My old friend then seems to disappear. I was once reminded that embracing that which we most fear will encourage its departure much sooner. I believe it. I know that ignoring it only encourages it to take up residence, again.

Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.

– Pema Chodron

These are challenging times. Many are hurting and many innocents are leaving the planet for reasons not easy to understand. We’ve all chosen to be here at this time, even if we don’t believe that. We each make different contributions at this extremely challenging and very important time. The choices we make, the feelings that we have, the actions that we take, make all of the difference in the collective path forward. Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions.

The recent death of Elijah Cummings was a surprise. I have previously mentioned in this space that I lived in an area which was included in his district for a number of years. A man of integrity and principle, he faced some intense criticism in recent months. His humanity was never lost to the vitriolic exchanges which have become commonplace in the public discourse. Many quotes are attributed to him and there is one that really stood out for me when I read it last week. “Our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see. Will we rob them of their destiny? Will we rob them of their dreams? No – we will not do that.” Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions. For the future of our children and grandchildren, stabilizing the ship is paramount.

“How do I get there,” you may wonder. By first turning away from the distractions and tuning into yourself, you take an important first step. Whether is it busy-ness (also known as overdoing-ness), keeping a constant focus on electronic devices and the multiple apps (especially social media apps) you may have on it; anything that prevents you from being still or quiet – even for a few moments – all conspire to push away the inner spaces which long for your attention. Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions. Your soul is calling….

These can be difficult steps to take, especially if you do not already have a practice which brings you back to yourself. Your practice may be journaling; it may be meditation; reading books which inspire the highest and best in us all; walks in nature – while listening to and observing the beauty of the planet; are examples of what can be steps toward enriching the inner life and cultivating that seeming elusive inner peace. Creating, cultivating and maintaining inner peace is one the of the most important contributions we make to stabilizing the ship which seems to be rocking uncontrollably in the tempest of our divisions. We each have the capacity to begin from within.

There are other ways to begin this journey inward as well. I also heard from a fellow blogger through a comment on my previous post about another tool for navigating these tumultuous times, “One thing that helps me is to give light to others.” Meeting people where they are; offering an open and listening heart; offering your light; are all wonderful ways to cultivate and maintain inner peace. There are quite a few compassionate listeners “out there” who, by the simple act of listening and witnessing another, facilitate the clearing of the blocked inner pathways. I am grateful for those in my life who provide this important support and assistance. We are not islands; we do not have to “muscle” through alone; and asking for help is always appropriate, is always right and is an important step back to ourselves.

Remember the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you.

 – Rumi

Let the sun shine from within.

 

revisiting integrity

Two years ago, October 17, 2017,  to be exact, I wrote a relatively brief piece on integrity.  In the last few days, many issues and occurrences in the collective, as well as in the lives of those closest to me, point to the cracks in organizational foundations, seemingly built on integrity. I was instantly reminded of a specific quote that is contained in the aforementioned post from 2017. Please take a moment to read it. It is brief and seems apropos of the days we are in at this moment.

I also offer this – a response to one of those close to me, with whom I shared the quote contained in the blog:

“Usually the ones we want to hear or see will not get the message through the sharing of words or quotes. Like all of us, we have to learn from experience. The best outcome is for the experience to not be a devastating one for all concerned. Best to energetically wish them well as you move on to something even better. You had apparently outgrown this experience.”

We are living in times of great change – in the world and individually within ourselves. We are called to become the very best of who we are, so that we can engage when we felt lead to, and to do so from a place of our most authentic self, centered in our heart of love – which is connected to the All That Is (God, Spirit, Universe or whatever name you give to the powerful loving energy that is in and all around us). We are not called to dive into or otherwise create conflict. We ARE called to bring our best selves to anything we experience in each moment.

We are called to speak our authentic and deep truth with our compassionate hearts. We are called to observe ourselves and our experiences in order to know the wisdom that we inherently have – borne of our experiences – those which we call “good” and those which we call “bad”. All are for the evolution of our souls: the awakening of ourselves, our hearts from the mind controlling. sleepwalking unconsciousness to the empowered awareness of our consciousness, of our collective connection to one another.

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

 – Don Miguel Ruiz

 

 

 

healing hatred…begin within

I was perusing a book, looking for a meaningful quote for a card for a wedding. On my way to a specific chapter, I found this:

“The source of violence is in our heads. as it would not be appropriate to ignore “just a little” cancer in the body, so it is not appropriate for us to ignore “just a little” violent thinking. A little cancer, unchecked, turns into a monstrous killer. So do small, insidious, seemingly harmless judgmental thought forms become the pervasive cancers that threaten to destroy a society.”

“As the body’s defenses against cancer center around a healthy immune system, our chief defense against violence in America is our own individual efforts to cleanse our minds of violent thinking. Each and everyone one of us tends to be angrier and less tolerant of others than we know in our hearts that we should be. A healthy, civilized society can absorb some anger and dysfunction, as a healthy immune system can absorb some disease. But a massive buildup of anger and mean-spiritedness bombarding our social system day in and day out in millions and millions of individual doses overwhelms our societal defenses.”

“Violence is routed out of the world by being routed out of our minds. Hatred is diseased thinking. Just as a cancer cell was a healthy cell that then transformed, so is hatred, love gone wrong.”  

“Each of us is a cell in the social body.” Whether we are a malignant or a healing force is up to us on a moment by moments basis. With every thought, we decide whether to be a cancer cell or a healthy immune cell, whether to give in to the tendency to place blame on others or to be a vehicle for God’s love and forgiveness. Either we clean up the anger, or the anger will overwhelm us.”

These are excerpts from a book, published in 1994. The author, Marianne Williamson. The title of the book, Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers and Rites of Passage.

As I continued to read, I couldn’t help but think it had to have been written far more recently. And yet, here we are. The condition addressed here is not limited to the United States.

We are each responsible for our thoughts. We may be outwardly kind, and inwardly angry – judging other and self – and that is where it begins. The metaphor of hatred and cancer is one that makes sense. Cancer is a disease that we are generally familiar with. If you or someone you know and love has or has had cancer, what Marianne says here is relatable and compelling.

Let us all search deeply – our hearts and minds – to find those places of anger, or hurt, so we can begin to find the light within that can indeed transform the hatred into love; can add healing light to the cancer to transform the love gone wrong. The pace at which we seem to move each day, leaves many feeling there is no time for such things. I submit that to not make time to look within – to realize (real-eyes) where we harbor pain, anger, unacknowledged grief –  is to continue to add to the hatred that is boiling over in our country and on the planet. We can participate in our healing – individually and contribute to the collective – or continue live in an unsettled space within while projecting that discomfort and pain onto others. I’m reminded, yet again, of a question posed by an author I was in retreat with years ago (paraphrased); “What hurts you so much that you feel you have to hurt me in order to heal it?”

Make time…to listen; to plumb the depths; to be still, reflect, and feel. This is a journey that must begin in solitude and can continue with assistance from a compassionate listener or health professional. The most important step is the first one.

“Every step taken in mindfulness brings us one step closer to healing ourselves and the planet.”

 – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

To circle back to where I started this post, I did find a quote for the card. I returned to the place I had begun – to love.

Marianne Williamson’s book, Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers and Rites of Passage is as beautiful a text today as it was when it was published. I refer to it often, and even found a passage I was honored to read at my son’s wedding last year.

the power of words to soothe

I recently re-read one of David Whyte’s books of poetry. I feel a deep resonance to his words and deeply appreciate his use of them. “The House of Belonging” includes a poem of the same nam, and  reading it always feels like a welcome home…to me, to my inner being as reflected in the outer world of the home I inhabit.

Toward the end of the book, I happened upon a poem I had forgotten about (on page 88). I offer it here for reading and thoughtful reflection.

 

Loaves and Fishes

 

This is not

the age of information.

 

This is not

the age of information.

 

Forget the news,

and the radio,

and the blurred screen.

 

This is the time

of loaves

and fishes.

 

People are hungry,

and one good word is bread

for a thousand.

 

I share this as a reminder of the power of words…kind words…to make a difference in the lives of many. When we speak words of fear (expressed as anger, judgement, etc.) the negative energy reverberates even as the words of love (expressed as kindness, support, etc.) do.

I share this as a reminder of just how hungry we all are for one good word among the many we hear each day.

May we make a conscious effort each day to speak words of love – kindness, peace, openness to possibility, safety.

Just imagine the difference we can make if we all choose to do this every day!

Love and peace to all.

 

 

*The House of Belonging; Poems by David Whyte; Copyright 1997; Many Rivers Press, Langley, Washington; 2019.

the power of the spoken word

“Spoken words have power beyond measure.”

 – Debasish Mridha

I have written here, in the past, about the power of words. What returns me to this truth today is the theme which continues to dominate the collective psyche related to the words used by those who hold extremely visible positions of responsibility.

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

I believe that Niestzsche (1844-1900) was definitely on to something when these words were spoken or written by him many years ago. The process of writing is necessarily slow, provided it is literally pen or pencil to paper. However, today we have all manner of media and methods to express our latest joys or our latest frustrations; and these are the least of what generally occurs on the various platforms referred to as social media, oxymoronic as the term for that phenomenon is. Being engaged in that arena keeps many people off balance, constantly triggered and more often reacting – either outwardly or inwardly stuffing responses lest they get drawn into the fray. In either case, it is simply not healthy. The impact of these feelings, reactions and responses on our physical bodies is not positive and cannot be minimized.

Nietstzsche’s “paper and something to write with” of yesterday is the social media phenomenon of today. The fingers race across the keyboards of smartphones, notebooks, and computers without passing through any other part of our being.  Our hearts are completely left out of this fast-paced, reactive process when words have been published which diminish or otherwise denigrate another individual or group.

To be completely forthcoming, I offer this. I lived in the district of the representative currently targeted by the President of the US. I spent a lot of time in the City of Baltimore, which I came to love and appreciate for its diversity, culture and location. To see the negative words, which have been spewed numbers of times and directed primarily to minorities, continue unabated, is deeply sad and disturbing. I now live in a city where those divisions spilled into the streets two years ago and were deemed by this President to have “…had some very fine people on both sides.”

I am not going to use this space as a place to jump into the war of words currently ongoing in our national political discourse.

I AM encouraging us all to become mindful of what we say, to whom we say it and how we offer our perspectives or beliefs. We are human. We have feelings. Some of us feel more anger than love. We get to feel our feelings. It is how we express those feelings – especially the painful, angry, fearful ones – that can make a difference in the quality of our lives and most certainly in the lives of those who may be the recipients of our projections. Whether we project our anger (fear) onto those closest to us or to many who are nameless and faceless to us, we are having an impact that will be lasting. Is this how we wish to be remembered – individually or collectively?  Or do we wish to be remembered for loving; offering healing, and supporting those who are most in need?

Although my children are grown and have families of their own, I am mindful of the eyes and hearts of the children watching all of the behavior of the adults who are behaving as they do. Our anger teaches them how to be and what is acceptable behavior. Our loving approach to extremely difficult events and experiences also teaches them what is acceptable…and what feels better.

I am reminded of a post that I read recently that amplifies the point: Sacred Flower . What if we all regarded our relationships this way?

Today, tomorrow and into the week, we will have opportunities to speak. Whether we speak kindly or we choose to use harsh words, we will feel the effects. If not right away, we will feel them.

Pause before you speak. If what is arising within is anger, pause to ask what is hurting within before you hurl those angry words. As we learn to slow down and listen, and to write with pen or pencil rather than surfing the wave of keys with our fingers, we allow ourselves the necessary time to pause and reflect, and most importantly to discern whether speaking is necessary and if so, how might we speak with less vitriol. Remember, what we do to others (that includes angry words) we also do to ourselves.

I leave you with this quote from Henri Nouwen, as a gentle reminder to carry with you as you begin this new week.

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.

Love and peace to you all.

a note of gratitude to you

Today, I am reflecting on the ongoing tumult which has become the norm in the country I live in. It’s been a tough week. As much as I seek to remain centered, so that I may be more of an observer and avoid the emotional charges or hooks that this week’s activities have caused in me, I have found it even more challenging to maintain that centered “heading” in the midst of extremely turbulent seas. I am once again reminded of the challenges that come with openly and honestly facing the days. Rumi’s beautiful poem returns to me again and again. I am also reminded of something Brene Brown wrote in one of her recent books, Braving the Wilderness:

True belonging doesn’t require that you change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.

Many days, I feel as if I am living in the wilderness…an unruly, no holds barred, desert which lacks the life sustaining dignity and respect each human deserves. So, as I reflect on what I observe in the visible collective, I wonder…is this who we are? Are we really being who we really are when we participate in the multiple activities stoking fear…anger? I will add here, that observing this behavior tells me so much about those whose words and actions are hurtful or demeaning to others. I send them compassion…for they are most in need of it for themselves before they can offer it to others.

I am grateful for the peace that I find here as I read the blogs I follow. You all offer the beauty of nature, poetry, story, photographs and even more of what I consider to be the personal expressions rooted in the creative center of love, in our hearts. Thank you for so openly offering your gifts and bringing the very best of what being human on this planet really is. This is a safe place, in a group of my choosing, to find that which inspires and returns me to the best of what we all have the potential to be.

To those who follow me, I am also deeply grateful that you take the time to read these posts and wherever possible to offer a comment or question. Your energy and engagement is most appreciated and continues to fuel the creative process for me that is the offering of my words and experience in this space. Thank you.

A final quote from Brene Brown, that I offer as hopeful inspiration for ALL of us.

People are hard to hate close-up. Move in.

May the long time sun shine upon you…ALL of you.