Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Thanksgiving is about reverence for all things with an altruistic spirit. We live in a critical time where individual generosity greatly matters. By giving, we both awaken and liberate ourselves. When we hold on to things too long this causes a painful form of separation. By becoming more mindful of how we take things, we can better return things and thus benefit from a achieving a higher level of freedom. Such responsible action comes from being humble and observing our ultimate interconnection with our mysterious world.
It's incredible that 67 million years ago trees, flowers, birds, bees and other things came into being. In the last 50 years our human population has double and our economy has expanded seven fold. Our consumption has double in the last two decades. What happens regarding future prosperity depends our developing bold hearts and collectively act together.
Just 6 million years ago the first American migrated here. When whites came here at Jamestown, Virginia, Arthur Barlow remarked of the Poona's: "A more kind and loving people cannot be found in the world."
My ancestry dates back to the first born off the Mayflower. And this is doubtless why I believe thanksgiving is everyday. We all ought to constantly count our blessings. The Iroquois celebrate their appreciation of this earth for days at a time, showing gratitude for all aspects of nature. Today we can all be Native Americans if we pay our respects to what we are so fortunate to have.
Many, including George Carlin, believe that you do not have to save the world since it will take care of itself. However, each one of us has to nurture our soul. Now we have an opportunity to magnify our thanks by showing our boundless possibilities of compassion. If only we make this intention and take the time to show our gratitude.
Let us foster pure hearts, and act to make wise choices. Let's celebrate our Thanksgiving with plentiful kind and generous acts. There is divine radiance when we salvage things instead of destroying them. Giving back is the ultimate way of blessing ourselves, thanking our surroundings and feeling good about our life.
I have come to terms with the future.
From this day onward I will walk easy on the Earth. Plant trees.
Kill no living things. Live in Harmony with all creatures. I will restore
the earth where I am. Use no more of its resources than I need. And listen, listen to what it is telling me. – MJ Slim Hooey
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
My life aligns when I truly see the world as it is, allowing myself to see that everything in the world is one giant pendulum. Also this outlook provides me with an invaluable perspective: I never know what is good or bad.
When I see the positive with the negative and the negative with the positive, then I profoundly find out what things are about. Everything in our life is both a blessing and a curse. If we observe all things as being on a cosmic seesaw then we are provided some insights into how all things and events balance out. However, to be able to observe in this manner requires becoming wakeful and present. By cultivating equanimity, I can free my heart. This creates freedom and opens new doors of seeing.
It is tough to look at what is unattractive, brutal and uncomfortable. Yet if we do not show up to what life is truly about then a form of cowardice spiritually kills me.
We live in a conditioned fear-based culture. We are sold products by promoting consumerism for the separate-self. And we become further deluded by emotions of fear, judgment, anger and other forms of self-protective defense mechanisms, which in turn cause us to buy more things. Finally, our heart-numbing mind becomes even more disconnected driven by incessant wants and aversions. This toothpaste will brighten your smile and this cream will cure your baldness.
Yes, it is easy to become lost in thoughts. Such thinking is driven by desires that cause both anxiety and restlessness. I find myself always in route, traveling somewhere yet never arriving. Whether working, walking, eating I am constantly physically shifting to find pleasure and comfort. I find staying busy lessens my angst. In essence I am driven at some unconscious level to satisfy my craving.
If I am to evolve mentally, I need to become more vulnerable. I need to open myself to new ways of thinking and experiencing. Having a totally desire-driven mind-set makes me feel blind and hollow. Sure, a certain form of defensive thinking is natural and helps me survive. However, I want to find healthier and wiser boundaries in the manner my mind works. I want to expand myself and be more open to new possibilities, and cultivate spiritual intimacy.
Realizing what is happening both in my inner as well as my outer world, and not plagued by a desire-driven mind-set, results in moments of non-reactive presence. By exploring and staying aware of my reactivity and obsessing, I can free myself from what enslaves me. Yes, I can enjoy feelings of safety, of physical and emotional nourishment; however, when doing so leads to attachment and clinging, I become lost.
When I am awake, I can see my attachment and remain in balance. But when I am disconnected from awareness, and I desire a certain experience, I become lost in my wanting to control the situation. Only when, through mindful presence I see my “wants” and “fears” as they truly are, and am not so identified with them, do I find inner freedom.
One thing is certain; nothing is permanent. Regardless of our circumstance, desirable or undesirable, whether we get sick, die, or whatever the case may be, basically all things sooner or latter end. When I try to control things, I am subject to disappointment, and have feelings of being wounded. It is only when I remember to be aware, can I then tap into my inner freedom, and rest in a sense of having found divine love.
Now I can untie this knot around my neck. When I observe my energy around attachment this allows me to venture into less grasping and clinging. Such exploration opens my heart, and gives me a sense deathless possibility. I no longer fear. Attachment becomes minimal. I then can understand that attachment can result in things owning me instead of me owning things.
Becoming free happens when I find a balance. Equanimity arises when I lessen judgment and resistance. When I get out of my idea of who I am, I enter a gateway that reveals the possibility of spaciousness love.
So when I feel hurt or threatened and begin to shut down, if I do not take it so personally, the dark clouds begin to disappear. If I can allow myself to fully feel my emotions, feel the anger and hurt, the fear and vulnerability—and be able to watch it pass (for nothing lasts), then I can find peace. It is like I am in a river of feelings. I can try to swim against it and battle it, or I can go where it flows and not fight it.
It comes down to how I see things. Do I see them on the surface for a very short term and be swayed by them? Or do I examine my patterns and the long- term consequences of my actions? My ticket to inner peace is about seeing things as unconditional. My life becomes so enslaved by being conditioned. If I have the strength, will and discipline, I can watch my craving, fear, and aversion change, since these are conditional states and will pass. I am not becoming indifferent when I watch, or disengaged about my life. Rather, I am cutting to the bottom-line. When I get real with myself and recognize that my emotions will pass, that essentially they are not me, then I balance my scales.
The real leap to finding genuine freedom is to accept life as it is. As Kipling mindfully wrote in IF, “…to meet triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters as just the same.” To see what is right and wrong with all things, then I notice what is here and now.
Our greatest challenge is our self. For we know little about how our self operates, and how ignorant it is of the world. Equanimity provides insight to remove us from our mental prisons. Such joy will result from this awareness allowing us true freedom from our inner shadows. The more we can rest in equanimity and accept things as they are, the greater we can become liberated. Is not our greatest challenge to lessen our suffering? Happiness comes from awakening and employing skillful actions of virtue and discernment.
Balance is about seeing everything from a positive and negative charge. Life is about electricity and finding energy that best renews itself. If one thing balances the next then the way to we find the middle ground is to offset the extremes. Learning about how to find balance is all about how to skillfully best live. When I do not sweat the small stuff and see the bigger more balanced picture, I know the giant pendulum swings in both directions. Whether I feel joy or sadness, I have the power to treat these two imposters as just the same, instead of going insane trying to resist imbalance. Just imagine the possibilities of finding harmonious relations when we can stand in the middle of this mysterious cosmic seesaw.
I have found one of the greatest gifts I can give myself is to be kind. This includes being gentle with myself. Each day we face many challenges. Mine is that in so many ways I am a walking contradiction. Yet despite my confusion, I attempt to listen to my heart. My greatest concern is to be gentle both with others as well as with myself, since I believe we are all one and the same. I ask myself, can I remember to follow the example of Mother Teresa and Gandhi so to perform similar kind acts? Just the simple act of caring or showing kindness has a tremendous ripple effect. We can further enjoy life by more compassionate relationships with people, plants, animals, bugs, and rocks since we all rely on each other for our survival.
As guests on earth we may chose either respect or disregard for our delicate world. Kindness is about making the intention toward a peaceful journey forth. Can we as a people have the courage to find how we can best go forth with compassion in our daily encounters? The more I am able to open my eyes, the more I can see that we are all lovers wishing to expand our smile upon the world.
For too many years, the human race has been like a child playing with explosives. The kind of wisdom, or rather non-wisdom, we are applying to life is questionable. We worry over whether we can afford a nice place for our retirement while we destroy many forms of life and deplete resources. To where will we retire? We need to remember, humans are a part of the other 30 million diverse species on this planet. Can we face the fact that all things are connected and we humans are interdependent with, not independent of all things?
Can we acknowledge that ultimately we are renters on this land Earth, since eventually we end up being buried in it? Devastation of land, cultures, indigenous people, species, and ecosystems are immoral, and undemocratic. We must invest in non-violent sustainable ways to encourage democratic ideals that support the building, not destroying of communities. Innumerable opportunities will come when we shift our culture based on consumption that depletes to one of conservation that replenishes. We must renew and raise our commitment for a democracy that provides opportunity for all, and not just for the few. Free trade must insure fair trade with a new emergence of human and ecological rights. A new respect for people, places and things must unfold so that commonly accepted standards of environmental integrity are developed. Non-violence must be given equal time in our media coverage. We are losing our spirit when we allow so much negative press to penetrate our souls. Our present style of media coverage may very well reinforce further acts of terrorism. We must set a better stage.
We are now experiencing the terrific extremes of peril and prosperity. While globalization has lifted more out poverty, the scales have been tipped in the direction of unparalleled wealth for the few. The world economy pumped out nearly $41 trillion of goods and services in 1999, 45 percent of the income went to the 12 percent of the world’s people who live in western industrial countries. Half the people of this world live on less than two dollars a day, and one sixth live on less than one dollar a day.
In the last twenty years we have doubled what we consume. This unbalanced consumption has created many forms of disparity. Our affluent minority has a monumental responsibility for the purity of our fragile planet. We must alter our focus from seeing only the monetary worth of commodities to exploring value in terms of quality of life. E.F. Schumacher once noted that high standards of living do not necessarily means high standards of life.
Critical domestic issues facing us—education, energy and the environment, health care—are competing for the same resources we are now diverting to insure our national security. The question is how will America secure its future quality of life? Will we rekindle the values of ingenuity and thrift our founders exemplified?
How we relate to our world is important. Exercising kindness in the process of relating to our environment can stimulate positive outcome. Selfishness and self-interest can no longer be the way we do our lives.
Our prosperity on this tiny planet will only continue when we go forward with kind acts, not mean ones. This is a critical time for us; we must learn to develop an attitude of friendliness and gentleness. Through meditation and prayer we can foster a clearer vision of how we as a people can walk on this dangerous razor edge we have created from having closed our hearts. If we can shift from a society of indifference to one that cares then we as people may develop a new sense of hope to replace our daily ominous despair. We will continue to be tormented until we each can radiate a prayer for compassionate kindness, until we each ask in our hearts how we can benefit all things on this fragile Earth. Such a prayer may be the first step to making this world a better place. We must now act with grace and behold what we have been blessed with. Being kind to others, to the world and to ourselves, is all one and the same.
It really boils down to this: that all of life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Martin Luther King
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Insights come to me from many non-ordinary experiences when I am in nature. I transcend ordinary perceptual boundaries. Being in nature connects me to the spirit of being. Otherwise, I am lost in a culture of affluence and effluence. In nature, I find comfort from sensing how my ancestors lived long ago. Just the simple act of digging into the ground and doing yard work while surrounded by the woods around my home does much to lessen my anxiety.
Another way I find refuge in the mystery of the wild is to listen to the subtle sounds of the woods. Whether it is the wind going through the trees, or the birds chirping—these and many other reminders awaken me to magical moments of being here on the earth. Nature is my ultimate teacher. I am a part of nature; it is truly who I am. I am not separate, but rather a part of this world in which all things are tied together by air, water, soil and flesh.
My pilgrimage is to seek silence and stillness. I know it is hard work to quiet my mind. However, aligning myself to the invisible world does much to allow me some quiet sanity. Civilization can burden my soul, but I can remedy this by forgiving, and purifying.
My mind grows quiet in tranquil woods. I am comforted by its mystery. Yes, I am constantly challenged seeing the earth's destruction and despair. Yet, when I embrace the maladies of the world as being just a part of my own impermanent life, I gain a sense of inner renewal. And how I face the prospect of death allows me a sense of greater life because of how nature teaches me. Balance comes to me when I go beyond my thinking mind, and venture into the universe of my heart. For whatever happens in the future, I can make the best out of the present by appreciating all that this life shares with me now.
Meaning in my life comes from nature. If I wish to have a meaningful life I must observe everything that is connected with nature. Time spent outside is like an electric plug that recharges my spiritual battery. Consciousness arises all around me and within me, allowing me to experience the web of life, and to see how all that I relate to is so closely interconnected. As I breathe in and out, I know that this Universal Life Force, which ties all things together just as a spider weaves its web, interconnects all things.
This expanded awareness awakens in me the question of how I can skillfully respect the sacredness of nature and its "wilderness." Sacred observing provides me with grace, and a feeling of harmony. Simply put, the woods provide me with a portal to boundless healing.
At any moment I am susceptible to inattentiveness—and then at such time, something great is lost from my world. But if I listen deeply, I can hear my soul calling. It invites me to visit a forest, or walk along a sandy shore—find a place of calm in the wild. When I remember that I am not a separate being, that indeed I am part of the interconnectedness of life, then my feverishness subsides.
John Muir once said, "By going outward, I am going in." All beings have a sacred link to our green world. Going outside begins the most sacred ritual. As I become more intimate with my earth, I return to my beloved home.
The power of gratitude leads me to a greater sense of purpose, and a richer life. Invoking appreciation gives me a profound sense of joy, and links me with all things, filling me with a sense of harmony and well being.
This harmonious connection with life awakens in me the understanding that everything in my world is only alive in the present moment. As I empty myself of ego preoccupations with the past, and concerns over the future, I am truly awake to the moment, and in such times, I find in myself a feeling of greater compassion for my fellows. The act of compassionate gratitude is a form of stewardship that allows me to be more sensitive and respectful of people and nature. I become mindful and deal with all things in a sacred way. Cultivating this kind of relationship with life fosters a sense of devotion and divinity.
Appreciation creates for me a more wholesome mindset that reconnects me to the things I value most. Living this way creates a greater sense of possibility and freedom. My feeling of gratitude expands when I reflect on how all things must be respected. And I feel more humble as I observe the mysterious spirit of this world.
Exercising my gratitude is a wake-up call for me to remember what matters most. We live in a critical time, and how we can best deal with it comes into question. Awakening to how we can see each moment with a clear mind, as a new event, is an action I would define as "the attitude of gratitude." This approach not only liberates us from suffering, we become more mindful of the possibility of being truly open to all possibilities.
What do I appreciate right now? Can I hear the birds singing outside? Can I simply enjoy hearing my own heartbeat? How grateful am I to all those things life on this planet has given me? Do I cherish the food, shelter and other gifts? Let's say I have just moments to live, would I count my blessings? What would I wish to do to give my thanks? The very nature of my entire life and my liberation comes down to embracing these questions.
It seems much of my life has been enslaved by my unconscious acts. When I am only partially aware of my actions, I am truly as if asleep, and thus in some way imprisoned. My mind does one thing while my emotions feel conflicted because my decisions come from fear rather than from love. Where can I find the courage to change and allow my soul to become liberated? How can I learn to keep in mind that all things will pass, and to let go of my material world? To remember such a simple thing like coming home to the appreciation of life here and now, is the art I wish to cultivate. Today's world makes it so easy to fall into darkness. Why is that I am unconsciously afraid of allowing the greater light in? Am I paying attention to my senses? Or I am held captive by a self-destructive story of shame and loathing? Can I remember to listen not just to my own body but that greater one that connects all things? Reverence for this earth opens the door to my happiness and freedom.
To be free, I must change my various behaviors and attitudes that imprison me with negative and unwholesome consequences. Sticken thinken and paralysis analysis are the various ways I have recycled my past to curse my future. Only in the present moment I can pause and take a new course down a road toward light instead of journey off a cliff.
Next by relaxing and enjoying this changing process of becoming, seeing it as a labor of love, I can open myself to boundless potentials. Trusting in this PRO (Pause, Relax and Open) process, there is the emerging belief I will give birth to many magical possibilities, and not fall back to the same old I-am-the-victim, or the poor-me mindset. Just becoming enlightened enough to stop "should-ing" myself can be a wonderful first step.
I have the freedom to fully appreciate my life when I practice loving friendliness. This comes about only if I am mindful and exercise right intention to transform an abiding gratitude into action. How I train my mind to greet all beings and events with loving kindness, provides me with the opportunity of changing a curse into a blessing. First by identifying the various ways I create ill will, anger and judgment, and doing something positive about making a change in my attitude—only then do I have the chance to liberate myself. This is a form of action I call radical acceptance, and it can only happen when I constantly observe what is of benefit to all. By awakening to wholesome mind states, I can best go forth. And more, I will require patience to mindfully change some old habits and patterns. Finally, I have to show more tender loving care and forgiveness to my self as I engage in this transformational process.
So I return again to appreciation, and I count my blessings and take note of what I have in my life to be grateful for. When I awaken and show reverence through these actions, I prosper. Gratitude for me is about cultivating four skillful things:
· Showing up in the present moment.
· Paying attention to what has heart and meaning!
· Giving a positive voice to what I see!
· Remaining open to all possibilities while being unattached to outcome!
Appreciation is both a loving and a kind method of being with profound affects and effects. Developing my appreciation purifies me and offers me a sense of greater peace, and freedom. It's amazing how gratitude spreads when you're just grateful.
Such an inner transformation has profound implications for the outer physical work we must constantly be reminded to do. Violence and war in our outer work is so prevalent. Even though we may be in a serene setting such things as the way we drive our cars, talk to one another or even run around conveys bellicose acts.
After much searching and exploring the source of my despair I have realized one thing. All I can do is cultivate my own peace and lead by example. Without some understanding of myself my problems and the world problems will not go away. I write this struggling with my own life and future. My self education is not just about becoming better at what I do but to address my most fundamental challenge, what I fear about most in myself. I cannot find peace if I do not go into me and see or become more intimate with my soul. What is truly is intimacy? In to me I see that I must trust myself and become closer to what is true. Such familiarity takes many forms of spiritual practice.
When more I can embrace both my and the world’s stress and anxiety the more harmonious I live. Without my individual awakening to that separation results in suffering and that our own fears will haunt us until we address them then the possibility of peace begins.
To find my peace outside I must remember to constantly practice inner peace. Developing this mental calm comes through accumulating both understanding and knowledge to keep myself strong in the face of dissatisfaction, stress or anxiety. Being "at peace" not only maintains me in better health and the opposite of being stressed or anxious.
There are many forms of violent that we must learn from. One of the greatest terrors is how we disconnect ourselves from our world. We, humans are part of not separate from the other 30 million diverse species on this planet. Can we acknowledge that ultimately the land owns us we do not own it? The more we all can search our souls to live in harmony the greater we counter the hysteria of terror. We now are at the crossroads to either respect or disregard for our delicate world. Just the simple act of caring or showing kindness has a tremendous ripple effect.
Each of us must cultivate more compassionate relationships because we all share the same future. Can we as a people have the courage to find deeper truths and explore what is calling for attention?
We must invest in non-violence and more sustainable ways so to support the cultivation not the devastation of land, cultures, indigenous people, species, and ecosystems. Can we shift our culture that depletes to one that replenishes? Finally, non-violence must be also promoted in our media since the press must be careful not reinforce further violence.
Our prosperity on this tiny planet will only continue when we develop a renewed respect in what we have here and now. Certainly we must show tough love and protect ourselves from those wishing to harm us. Non-violent action will happen when together we pray, meditate and work towards future life. If we can shift from a society that supports violence to one that fosters peace then we as people may develop a new sense of hope over the despair and alienation many of us feel.
We will continue to be tormented until we come together with kinder acts that benefit all things on this fragile Earth. We are no longer separate individuals but apart of a greater whole. We must now act with grace to behold what we have been blessed with. Our freedom will only flourish when we evolve from our own personal interests to a global effort to insure our survival. We are this earth both one and the same. Suffering is no fun. I must remember to ways to listen, have faith, relax, show grace and celebrate my boundless heart. By accepting what is and changing what I can I liberate myself to a peaceful place.
There are many times when how I feel and what I think are in conflict within me. Sometimes I get far too deeply into my head, and forget to have my feet touching the ground. Bridging the right brain with the left brain is a balancing act.
Recently a friend posed a challenging question to me: "How do you market clean water to the public in some tangible way?" This inquiry raised many insights for me. How do you take something that appears to be no more than an idea and reframe it into a physical act? People may not be inclined to save water until they run out of it. Waiting to the last second to do something, is being reactive. To be proactive we must constantly reexamine our relationship to our world. The mysterious puzzle we call life, is about seeing all the intricate connections and the ways we all can re-connect.
It is remarkable to observe the emotional issues of what water means to different people. How do we reconcile our feelings about clean water with our rational side? For example, the situation of four consistent years of fish-kills here on the Shenandoah River where I live, upsets me at deep level.
At such times, simply for the sake of self-protection, I am apt to divorce my emotions from affecting my rational mind. But when I bury my feelings, it hurts later. Our minds are tricky. Think about how we rationalize and intellectualize out of a very complicated defense system. We have spent years protecting and fortifying our egos.
Making our dreams become reality is difficult when our heart is in one place and our mind is in another. In Eastern cultures, heart and mind are one. The very root definition of courage comes from this union. A true awakening into the nature of our mind is the only way for us to become liberated from our manipulating ego-response mechanism. This is a huge challenge, which sooner or later, before we die, we must confront. The thought of death, with its matching emotions, can do much to get us to the bottom-line of what is truly important. Facing the issue of death is such a humbling and purifying experience. Attempting a deeper examination in regard to our mortality, helps to transform personal attitudes.
We are a society filled with information; but this does not necessarily translate into much of a vision. Yes, we have also sorts of knowledge; but this does not mean we are wiser, just better educated. For me, nothing substitutes life experience. At the present I believe the people of this country are awakening to how they feel, and are attempting to integrate their feelings with their minds.
Venturing into our psyche requires an extraordinary effort. It takes courage to explore below the surface of things and go deeper into areas were the average person might not feel comfortable. A shift in this journey comes when we can awaken from our fears and allow a sense of compassion to come forward that will lead us to greater self-actualization. Once we feel whole instead of feeling separate, we know then that our brain and our heart have aligned.
Today, it seems our society is moving faster and faster. Increased population and more technological development; has caused overwhelming pressures. Many things from economic pressures to simple daily challenges are overwhelming people. Also, we have become a heady society, spending most of our time in our minds and less time feeling what is going on in our bodies. This shift is a source of much of our suffering and self-destructive tendencies. When we lose sight of out true self, not only do we become blind but we delude our very soul. Such delusion can cause serious mental breakdown and disease.
Where or when does the surf meet the turf when it comes to balancing our intuition with our rational mind? We have become a society addicted to facts and science in one sense, but in another how we feel truly rules us. If we begin to foster great insight we will find a treasure chest of new ways to view our world and how we can relate to it. Such exploration—better observing what is going on—can lead us to a harmonious understanding of how everything is interconnected, not disconnected.
We are at the threshold of new possibilities when we can find new approaches to merging our hearts with our minds. This holistic process brings us unity allowing us more balance and greater peace of mind/body. Keeping our creative and rational selves separated from each other causes much suffering. See for yourself whether this is true. Check within and sense if things are disconnected and have no relationship with each other. This is the ultimate inquiry.
Why unite our hearts with our minds? All of us want to belong and we long for ways to become more intimate. Does not everyone want to feel alive? Merging together our creative and our rational sides makes us whole, not fragmented or compartmented. Everything in life is interdependent and connected in some way, shape or form. Simply, this venture comes down to loving oneself and knowing that all things are one and the same. Finding the One in all things instead of the sum of the parts takes practice. We live in a culture that promotes individuality, independence, and many concepts that divide instead of join.
It takes boundless heart to make this journey of integration. And it requires one to be vulnerable, allowing one to tamper with one's defense shield. However, if we can find the inspiration and intention of our passion, we can shed light on the darkness that haunts us. As Shakespeare said, "Cowards die many times." I say, "It is time to remove ourselves from fear of death. It is time to fully live life!" Some would say two brains are better then one. This notion brings to mind a phrase from E.E. Cummings, which I choose to paraphrase – "benighted states of hysteria."
May you become more intimate discovering your integrated self and celebrate the joy of this journey. Courage becomes evident only when we quiet our mind and listen to our heart. Let us connect the "h" from the end of the word earth with the "h" in front of the word heart—"eartheart"—since they are one and the same!