what do we think we know?

“What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”

—John W. Gardner

There are days, when I look around at the world we live in and I wonder if and how we will make it through the multiple crises that we seem to be living in. It all seems intractable.

Then, I remember. I can relax, because nothing is under control. To be honest, there was a time in my life when I would have panicked at the very idea that nothing is under control. Today however, I am deeply grateful. If all of what we are seeing and experiencing was happening because everything was “under control”, we would be in a far worse place. The mere fact that nothing is ever “under control” is a powerful gift of living possibility!

I also have seen more clearly how very differently we all see the current milieu. I have been watching the posts of many friends on Facebook, and watching how many people in the various circles in my world appear to be swirling around, or sometimes even flailing about, over some current topics. It is quite apparent that many are seeking to change the minds of others – which in itself is a fruitless effort and only misuses vital energy.

What is also true is that we all have inherent or implicit bias. What makes inherent bias so dangerous is…it is unconscious. When we are not aware of our biases and don’t slow down to consider their origins, we continue to project, attempt to “change minds” and end up creating more distance – which is generally not our intention! It is in being completely unconscious to our most basic biases and instincts that we create gaps in relationships of all kinds. The unintended consequences are that we can find ourselves alone, even in a group of like-minded people.

Leading our lives includes being completely responsible for ourselves – our biases, our behavior, and growing up…as hard as it is. It is the work of our lives!

I’m a believer in the power of asking questions. However, even in asking questions, we are either aware or unconscious when we inquire. For example, consider questions like this:

“Why do you believe….?”

“Don’t you see that…?”

This even feels like an inquisition! I’m being asked WHY about my beliefs, and being shamed a bit about my belief with the second question. Is there a different way to ask questions like these? Well, yes, if you are really interested in learning something that may be very different from your own perspectives on the same topic. For example, different questions might look like this:

“Would you mind telling me a bit more about what you believe and how you came to believe that?”

A follow up question might include a request to expand upon a point or two…and that would certainly indicate that the person asking the question was clearly and intently listening, and was interested!

And the outcome? The other person feels seen and heard. And quite possibly, the relationship begins to expand – to open; and the person asking the question may begin to learn something that he/she had not even considered in the past. Can you imagine what could be different in our world, if communication was intentional, and people really cared enough to listen and learn, rather than talking all of the time? If you are a participant in social media, I invite you to read through your newsfeed or whatever you see in a platform you participate in, and attempt to view it all as an objective observer. I wonder what you would see. Would you recognize your triggers? Would you feel you have to react or correct someone else? Listening or observing from a position of defense is far different than listening or observing from a place of openness, and honest curiosity.

Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.

 – Frank Tyger

 

Intractable =  hard to control. Relax…nothing is under control.

Clearly our inherent biases keep us from hearing or seeing others. This is part of being human. Even when we do our work, we practice observing and asking questions of ourselves, we are still carrying around biases. It is our job…and ours alone…to recognize and question ourselves about our biases as we notice an internal (or even an external) reaction to something/anything. Most questions about beliefs that another appears to have are best asked of ourselves first. If we understand the origins of our beliefs, we are more likely to be curious about another’s beliefs. If we do not examine our own, then we seek, accusingly, to know what the other person’s positions are and why.

My intention here is NOT to minimize the very serious societal issues that we are facing in the world in 2020. In fact we are facing many very serious issues with devastating consequences every single moment of every single day. I wish for us to awaken to the ways we might attempt to make it better. Brow beating those we perceive as being part of the problem will not add anything useful to the process of healing and creating anew what must be addressed. Taking the time to listen and to consider our own inherent biases will allow us to know that others have biases just as we do. They may or many not be different. We will never know if we don’t even care to inquire. We have two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a reason.

 

If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.

 – Robert Baden-Powell

 

looking forward

I recently came across a wonderful set of cards that serve to both highlight and showcase the beauty in our world, as well as to inspire with thoughtful words for reflection and contemplation. Each card has a theme printed on a picture of a natural setting and on the reverse, a thoughtful message.

This morning, as I was enjoying my morning tea, and reading some articles and catching up on messages sent, I came across an inspiring quote (shared below) which lifted me and reminded me that even though the times we are in feel very dark, we will rise to something even better…in time. Following guidance provided in the box of Beauty Cards, I shuffled them and then pulled one from the middle of the stack. The minute I looked at it, the synchronous message in the quote I had seen earlier came into clearer focus.

The Beauty Card, “Looking Forward” had this message: “From your now moment softly turn your inner gaze to what lies ahead. Imagine a future for yourself that is filled with joy, beauty and wonder. Ask yourself: what’s the best thing that can happen?”

I’ll be honest here. When I first awoke, I felt a little tug of despair and sadness at all that is happening in our world. So many people are dying, and so many more will, from a virus that we still do not know everything there is to know about it. People are dying from violence, desperation, and so many other reasons. It feels as if fear, anger and hate are so pervasive, that seeing love, light and hope can be difficult.

Yet, I am reminded by what I really know in my heart, validated by the card I pulled this morning and the quote below, that we will move forward to a brighter and better time.

We are living the myth of the Phoenix falling from its perch into the fires of transformation. Much of our familiar world will indeed be reduced to ashes. And yet, the promise of the Phoenix is that it will rise again – it always rises again. And so will we.

– Caroline Myss

Looking forward also means, learning and acknowledging the past. By taking responsibility for ourselves – our words, our choices, the way we regarded others – and acknowledging the ultimate sacrifice of others, we have the opportunity to be more clear eyed and open hearted about our visions and answers to the question posed in the card: “What’s the best thing that can happen?”

Today, I wish to offer gratitude to the many whose bodies have been lost to COVID-19, the senseless violence that pervades our society, and those who have left their bodies at this time for other reasons. I know their souls have returned to the great beyond (or true home) and they are with us –  always with us – as we may wish to call upon them.

As has been said following the death of John R. Lewis following the years of sacrificing his body as he stood for the fundamental rights promised in the founding documents of the United States, “we will take it from here”.

Indeed we will. We will rise again.

circles, ovals and infinity

Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.

– Albert Schweitzer

I remember, as a child, a little game in which we all held hands in a circle, sang a little song as we stepped sideways and around and we then all fell to the ground and laughed! Sometime we would get up and do it again, adding a little bit of speed to the singing and the movement. It was a lot of fun and we always seemed to erupt into lots of laughter and giggles!

Thinking about that the other day, I started to reflect on the meaning of a circle. Then I looked out the window and right in front of me was an oval, encircled with trees and bordered by a sidewalk, with lots of grass in the middle. It is a circle that has been stretched…just a bit. I always enjoy watching dogs and their owners playing there, and I occasionally see a couple of folks sitting on a blanket, enjoying a picnic and playing guitar. It is a lovely little place that feels like a small oasis in the midst of my community.

Then, I remembered the figure eight. It is one circle, stretched into an oval, I thought, and then one side flipped over…never breaking the circle. That is the sign for infinity ♾️. Infinity was described to me, years ago and in a spiritual context, as the symbol for the ongoing existence of a soul; the middle of the symbol – a doorway. One side of the symbol represents our human experience. The doorway is where we shed our human body and our soul continues into the Great Beyond or Universe or home to God, or whatever you prefer. Of course that same doorway is an opening to entering (or re-entering, if you will) as a human. It is a never ending process, beautifully depicted in that symbol – as it was described to me. It is an image that I find to be both powerful and comforting.

 

Life is a full circle, widening until it joins the circle motions of the infinite.

– Anais Nin

All of this is to say, that these  – the circle, the oval and the infinity symbol are much softer than a square or rectangle. And yet as we observe our world, we can clearly see the edges, the divisions, the lines – drawn between.

Circles create an opportunity for us to see. We can see each other – everyone. There are no corners in which one can hide. When I think of the world, of community, I always think of a circle. Today I see so many places where the edginess of fear, anger, hate and other such divisive emotions are acted upon. And I wonder…what might happen if we put a circle where that square is.

The sun is round, the moon is round. What might we learn from the energetic power they have? How might we see how the sun is a life giving force for our human existence? When will we wake up to what is possible, rather than allowing ourselves to remain mired in the despair of a seeming loss of control (as if we had any control to begin with)?

 

All things from eternity are of like forms and come round in circle.

 – Marcus Aurelius

tending our gardens

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row.
 – Mother Goose

The world is changing. Our communities are changing. Our individual lives are changing. How are we tending our gardens in the midst of all of this?

Of course, many have taken up gardening this year, since we have been staying at home. There is something life affirming about planting and growing a garden, whether in the ground or in containers. Flowers, plants, herbs, so many options! If you have ever transplanted a house plant – one which has been growing in the same pot for years, and you notice that it just doesn’t seem as vibrant or perhaps isn’t growing the way it used to – then you may well know what “root bound” means. Most of us recognize weeds when we see them…even if they are beautiful plants or flowers growing in a place where we didn’t intend them to grow.

All of this has created an opportunity to reflect on the gardens in our lives. Now, I’m referring to the space in our hearts, the space in our minds – our interior spaces – and our social media spaces, our families, our friends and our communities – our exterior spaces. All of these are either well tended with love, grace, acceptance and an awareness of what to let go of, over the passage of time; OR they are allowed to grow weeds, become root bound, holding fast to those thoughts, ideas or ideologies which we think are comfortable and yet we are not really experiencing any growth or expansion.

Holding on to the old beliefs, the habits of mind and alignments with outer things and people which may not align with our interior spaces can create great suffering. Living in fear of changes over which we have no control can create great separation, perpetuate great division and leave loved ones behind. Often, those in the midst of this don’t even realize what is happening.

As we consider our interior and exterior spaces, perhaps taking a few moments to contemplate, to question ourselves about what we are “growing” (or not), in our spaces might help us take steps toward a more peaceful, love filled life and way of being. Facing our deepest fear is an important step to cultivating a rich “soil” where love, peace, compassion and acceptance can grow.

Love and peace to all in these times of great change.

💟☮️

stand for or stand against?

Standing against creates resistance.

Resistance creates heat.

Heat creates inflammation.

Inflammation is an early step in the healing process…or,

untreated, unseen, unsupported, can lead to infection.

Infection, if left untreated, can lead to death.

I recently put my toes back in the pool of social media, specifically Facebook. A two and a half year hiatus was necessary for some essential healing of wounds that stunned me, and reminded me of many lessons I had forgotten about the realities of life in these times. That time provided the necessary space to hone my observation skills and to deepen my listening to myself and to others.

I have been watching myself and others as we have navigated the pandemic and all of its multiple challenges. Layer on top of that, the racial injustices in my country, and it appears that all of the fissures which have been in place in our societal foundation are now cracked wide open. I, for one am grateful that so many have awakened to the inequities that are pervasive in this country, and from what I can see are also present in others as well.

I am not in the streets protesting. I AM supportive of all who are. I am finding ways to provide support from where I am. We are at a necessary tipping point. Evolution is an imperative and we will either go with it or our resistance will create harm for ourselves and others. I am listening, I am reaching out to my friends who are black or brown and even though I thought I knew a lot, my eyes have been opened to so many aspects of their experiences that I couldn’t have possibly known…had I not inquired.

If we are not listening, and only talking as we attempt to defend our positions or beliefs, we cannot learn anything. Listening is scary. Why? We may see and learn something about ourselves. Our old assumptions and beliefs are challenged. We fear that deep dive into who we think we are.

There is no better time than RIGHT NOW, to listen. Listen to yourself – your fears, your assumptions. Listen to your friends. Listen without defending. Just listen. Reach out. Reach out to those in your life who do not look like you. Ask them how they feel. Ask them to tell you their stories. Listen without judgment. Do no interrupt them to try and defend a belief that you have. Remember…you are listening to THEIR story. Defending yours or your positions is disrespectful, at least.

Having gone back to social media, I see very clearly, the emotions on many sides of the issues before us as a human family. The fear is pretty intense…and sadly those who are showing it aren’t aware of it. When folks have chosen to post memes and old articles that appear to defend their positions, I used to get upset, wondering how anyone could be so separated from the realties of our collective humanity. Now I feel compassion for them and sadness at the same time.

As leaders of our lives, we choose. We choose what we believe. We choose how we listen, what we listen to and what we think or say in reaction. React is what many are doing.

As leaders of our lives, we choose. Standing up with those who are standing for their lives, is a gift of love and respect. Responding is what many are doing.

We will either work together and take the necessary steps to right the inequalities and injustices across the world which have served the few rather than the many, or we will all go down together.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

 – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I pray that light will get in; more eyes will be opened, more hearts and minds will open and we will find a way forward to honor all members of the family of beings which inhabit this planet, including Mother Earth herself.

May the fissures which are now BIG cracks, open us all to a new way of being – together, in true community. May the light begin to shine in the darkest places within ourselves – our perspectives and beliefs, so that we see old things with new eyes and can bring our best to the challenges of our times.

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

 – Leonard Cohen

Stand for love.

Stand for light.

Stand for healing.

Stand for ALL.

poetry – reuniting

We move away, apart,

separate from…

our hearts, each other.

 

We move on, believing

we can walk alone,

do it alone, needing no one else.

 

We reach out,

wishing to build

upon the common ground

we stand on.

 

Wiser for the journey,

the space we co-create is loving,

mutually respectful

and supportive.

 

Stronger together.

 

We step into a new way of being.

 

June 2020

poetry – family

 

We are all family;

all of the colors,

all of the textures,

all of the expressions.

 

We are sad, we are happy.

We ache and we rejoice.

We cry and we scream.

 

We are family,

and we are all hurting.

 

Hold hands.

 

We walk together,

as a human family.

 

Souls together, as one.

 

June 2020

leading ourselves

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.

– Helen Keller

Each of us is responsible – individually – for ourselves. We lead ourselves, whether or not we are fully aware of this awesome responsibility.

Each of us can choose to lead from a place of love and compassion for self and other – or we choose only for ourselves, without regard for other(s).

As I watch and reflect on what is happening in my country, I cannot help but wonder if it is happening elsewhere in the world. My guess is, that it is – at least to some degree. As much as I had hoped that we might all begin to find a different way forward in the midst of a sweeping pandemic, quarantining at home with some opportunity to reflect and observe; I wonder today, how much this time will have made a difference in the myriad ways we see ourselves and others.

No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly. When we know this, we become free.  – Buddha

On this Memorial Day weekend in the US, even the opportunities to pause and reflect upon lives lost in wars past and present, seem to get lost in the fray of those who feel their rights have been violated, by the necessary quarantine. It is curious to me that at a time when a nation seeks to honor those who have died in past wars, ostensibly for the purpose of maintaining freedom for our country, we seem to be more locked down, internally, than ever.

What could I possibly mean by that? Well… I have another question.

Why do people protest about their freedoms, guns in hand? Do they believe that are not free? I wonder why they perceive their rights have been violated. Do they still have breath in their lungs? Do their hearts still beat? I wonder if they stop to consider those who have been lost in this pandemic – those whose lungs filled with disease, and were ultimately robbed of a beating heart – for just a moment?

~ ~ ~ ~

*I am not ignorant of the economic impact of the quarantine in the lives of so many people. In fact, I could write quite extensively about the many cracks and gaping holes in our fragile societal fabric, which have been laid bare in this time. The condition of our planet – the place we live – has improved and risks returning to its very sick condition – a pandemic of a different kind. We cannot look away any longer. To do so makes us complicit in perpetuating the ongoing suffering of all, from sentient beings to the living and still trying to breathe planet Earth, our home. The authentic leaders in all of us are needed…to begin to right these wrongs, to make different choices. I acknowledge this reality and am comforted by the work of communities to care for those, living at the margins, who are often forgotten and left without. Those who tirelessly stand for our planet and those who open their hearts as they reach to those who need the simplest of things to survive deserve our gratitude and support.

~ ~ ~ ~

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. – Nelson Mandela

Until and unless we realize that our freedom is truly an inside job, and that no one can grant us freedom – not another person, not another organization, not another government – many will continue to suffer in their fear, wrapped in the tight embrace of their beliefs that something as important as freedom, is being withheld.

The chest-beating, gun-wielding, deserve our compassion. For they have not yet found their freedom within – inherent in the precious Life they are given to live on this planet.

I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.  – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If we are leading our lives with authenticity (from the best of ourselves within), we take responsibility for the choices we make. We may consider the impact of our decisions if we can foresee them before we step forward. Or, if we couldn’t comprehend an outcome, we take responsibility for not knowing and we make a different choice. We apologize for the unintended consequences, if others are affected, and we move on, enriched by the experience, so that we add to our growing wisdom.

The outer world doesn’t always make it easy for us to lead our lives. There is so much noise – distracting, challenging, shaming, blaming, etc. – which pulls us away from ourselves. Why? Because we all yearn to fit in. The siren’s song of fitting in – by itself – takes from us. It is the definition of allowing ourselves to be lead by the noise of the outer conditions and files narratives about what is valued.

We abandon our true essence for the shiny objects of money, power, the biggest and best anything, all for the purpose of fitting in and rising to the top (of what? I’m not sure.)  Are we leading ourselves? Sure. Some would argue that they made the choice to go for it all…all of the marbles, the brass ring as it were. At what cost, the marbles, the brass ring, the fitting in or rising above?

True love, freedom and peace are found deep with us. The shiny objects hold no sway when we know who we are and what is most important. Our service to others comes from a place within of love and acceptance. We offer our best, not our worst. What we offer is us – our trues selves – not a dressed up version that is driven by thoughts and shoulds.

My hope is that as the days, weeks and months unfold, we will see and honor our own fragility. This is the doorway into the most vulnerable places within. This is the place where our courage to be ourselves lives. It awaits our arrival. If and when we find our way home to ourselves, any outer acts of service – including non-violent activities on behalf of those who are not seen and whose voices are not heard – have the greatest chances to make a difference. The love in our hearts is the home for our growth, healing and evolution. The evolution of inclusion, acceptance and peace is within our grasp, I just feel it.

 

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

– John F. Kennedy

how are you?

How are you? I really mean it. I would really like to know how you are.

Most times, we are asked how we are, and most of those who ask, don’t really want to hear a full answer. I do. When I ask, I really wish to know how someone is.

So…how are you? These are extremely unusual times we are living in. The opportunities before us are endless…even if we feel they are extremely limiting. Is that where you are?

Are you writing, reading, playing music, dancing? Are you alone or staying in with others?

I’ve been listening to podcasts, reading books, listening to music, getting out for a walk when the weather is nice. All of this creates space for me to contemplate, to meditate, pray and to listen, deeply.

How about you? What are you learning – about yourself, others, your community, our country, our planet?

What do you feel you need? What have you determined is no longer necessary in your life?

~ ~ ~ ~

If you have read a book, listened to a podcast or found some good music, You are welcome to share it here in the comments below.

I am considering posting a list of resources for all of you. You are welcome to make suggestions!

Everyone…please take good care of yourself and others. Know that your choices affect many.

 

upside down

Dear Readers…

I feel sure that many of you are watching the news…and are keeping a safe distance from it. A steady diet of it is not what any of us need.

This is a time when our ability to observe the world, our communities, and how the results of past decisions are affecting our collective ability to respond.

In the US, as we looked forward to some of the promised financial relief, it is abundantly clear today that it hasn’t even come close to addressing the ongoing and growing needs. We continue to fail those who need this assistance the most, while the big and wealthy continue to benefit. Indeed the upside down nature of our society continues to be exposed.

I will not list all of the systems which have failed us all, world-wide for many, many years. Wherever you live in the world, you likely see it. If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to, as objectively as possible, consider what is happening, even as reported numbers of cases and deaths increase.

There are the unseen, the uncounted, and unsupported which will likely not make it into these numbers. The marginalization of so many for so long is right in front of us. How did we arrive at this point in our history? I will leave the answers for you to discern from where you are geographically and from within yourselves.

What many of us know is that activism can only be useful if it is born from a place of love deep within. Until and unless we have embraced the wholeness of who we are at our very core, our actions may be imbued with anger…which will not be useful in the long term. What I see as I look around is a lot of love. People are reaching out and helping others with love in their hearts.

I also see a lot of anger. What we resist persists. What we look at (or embrace as our reality) disappears.

Have I mentioned that words have power? Social distancing is a term that has an energy of separation. Yet, many are finding ways to be in touch  – or connected – to loved one, friends and colleagues. Physical distancing is what we are really doing. Social distancing is NOT.  Do you see this as a war? When we are at war, the energy of resistance is what we create and perpetuate.

Scientists are working with all of this as they test, analyze and seek ways to help us move forward safely. Working with any situation is how we move through and beyond it.

See the upside down nature of our societies?

Take a moment, if you will, in your mind’s eye, envision the following:

A tightly packed container, filled with marbles of many colors and sizes, with a lid holding the marbles in place.

The container is clear so you believe that it is fully transparent and you can see completely through it.

You believe that you see all there is to see. You therefore believe what you see and you quickly move on to whatever else it is you have to do.

And then the lid comes off and the marbles spill out. They roll everywhere – for that is the nature of beautiful, colorful and small, round spheres.

You see the marbles rolling around everywhere and suddenly you begin to see the many different marbles from within the center of the container that were not visible to you when you looked quickly before and thought you saw every one of them.

Some of the marbles are clear. Some have a small bit of color and are otherwise clear. Some are solid colored – you cannot see through them. And you begin to realize…they are all different. Many were not seen until the container was open and turned upside down.

What can we possibly take from this?

Here are a few observations. I encourage you to consider your own individual observations.

  • None of us is the same. All of us have different stories, experiences and needs.
  • What we thought was true, was not true.
  • What we thought we saw was not what was really there.
  • When they all fall out, do we discard some and not others in order to try to fit them all back into the container?

How can we address what is now spilled before our eyes? How can we put it all back together? Maybe we don’t spend any of our precious creative energy trying to force everything back to where it was before.

Maybe we see this as the breakdown…for a breakthrough.

I am additionally reminded of the Japanese art of, Kintsugi. What is broken is repaired in ways that make what is broken even more beautiful.

That is the opportunity we have now…in our upside down world. We can see what we did not see – or chose not to see – before. We may not know exactly how or what we will create going forward. We do know that what we create will not resemble what we had before. Don’t we?