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.

sitting in darkness

 

The world feels very dark to me these days. My concerns are many and my feelings…raw. I look at the trees, slowly changing color, and realize that nature in the northern hemisphere is moving through shorter days and longer nights…more darkness. Enjoying the colors makes the transition easier to walk softly through. However, the conditions in many countries, including mine feel dark, deeply divided and deadly. In times like this we often wish to distract ourselves in any way possible or to simply “check out” to avoid the reality of the feelings these times can evoke.

I believe – even though it is challenging for me, too – that as individuals we have an opportunity to dive in. To dive into the darker aspects of our being…to plumb the depths of our psyche, our experiences. This is where we find the opportunity to heal ourselves so that our lights shine brighter. When I find my self in these dark times, I read, write and spend time just being quiet. Some of what I’ve read today has brought some solace and offered a crack into the lighter parts of my psyche by reminding me of my humanness.

One quote from John Lennon and Yoko Ono really resonated as I watch the great divides in my own country seem to widen. “Don’t hate what you don’t understand.” If only we might all slow down to consider that there is so much that we do not understand, and either do some research on our own or pause and allow processes to unfold without our taking sides or otherwise contributing to the hateful slinging of words swirling around us. Indeed, so many feel they are right and others are wrong. And Wayne Dyer’s words ring in my heart…paraphrased here: When you have a choice between being right or to be kind, choose to be kind. This seems out of reach for us when we are so angry or in despair from our own experiences and all we seem to see around us is more of the same.

Healing the hatred that may be simmering is an inside job. It is ours alone – no one else’s – to do. Until and unless we do our work on ourselves, we will find it extremely challenging to offer love, compassion and peace to those whose words and actions are harsh, disparaging and ugly toward others. This IS the work of our lives.

Some us, by nature feel these feelings perhaps a bit more deeply than others – and neither is right or wrong. We are simply different. Honoring our differences is foundational to being able to offer love, compassion and peace to those with whom we differ on perspectives, feelings and beliefs.

With gratitude to Anne Whitaker at Writing From the Twelfth House, I offer the following poem that she shared in her blog post this afternoon.

The Place Where We Are Right

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

– Yehuda Amichai

May we use the changing of seasons –  the natural seasons in whatever part of the world we live in or the storms of the political seasons – to create quiet time to reflect. As we contemplate our own dark feelings and experiences as a path or journey to finding our way back to the brighter light within…of love, we will find peace within. We need this for ourselves. Our fellow humans need this. Our planet needs this. NOW.

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.