Friday’s Focus—Morning Lotus

Throughout history, the question has dogged beggars and philosophers alike—why are we here? What are we here to learn? What is the greatest thing that we can learn while we are on this Earth? In this body?

The answers depend upon what corner of the church we face and what God we ask them of. I am no philosopher nor do I propose to know the answer to one of Life’s greatest questions, and I don’t propose to know more than I’ve learned. Even then, I really know nothing. Not truly.

But then there came this.

One morning, sitting in stillness, the questions, the thoughts, the “what if”’s fell away and for the first time were replaced by a knowing and a feeling of undeniable truth. Surreal and yet sacred in its delivery, the questions and answers came without hesitation. The moment had been waiting and I was ready to finally listen.

What is the most important thing we can learn in our lifetime?

Compassion.

Without compassion, the love we feel for another will still have attachments and conditions.

Without compassion, the forgiveness our lips speak does not match the anger, hurt, and resentment still in our heart.

Without compassion, the understanding we have for the other person will still depend on their skin color and faith.

Without compassion, the peace that we fight for is nothing but murder and an excuse.

So how do we find compassion? Through suffering. Without personal suffering, there is no compassion. Suffering is more than having “bad” things happen to you. Suffering is going through a situation that is negative or unpleasant but it’s also the opportunity to take the situation from cries of “Why me?” to something that will forever deepen our understanding of others and our own reactions.

No one can know how they’ll feel or react in a situation unless they’ve been in it. Anything outside of that is just an opinion. To have compassion for anyone else means walking through your own fires first.

The importance of compassion is one of the key teachings in Buddhism. It is also one of the key teachings in learning to be fully human. No one is above suffering but we don’t need to perpetuate the feelings of suffering from what we are suffering from.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Knowing Nothing

They say, in life, you never stop learning. I remember my father even telling me that as a kid. I can’t imagine going through my days in a stagnant haze of knowledge that doesn’t change, and sometimes (it seems) life gives you a crash course on learning where it’s sink or swim, kiddo; let’s see what ya got kind of thing. When that happens, you can run but you can’t hide. There is no amount of distraction/destruction of your choice and, there is no sandbox deep enough to keep your head buried in, to keep up a denial for very long. Lately it seems as if there are problems and glitches everywhere, and it’s not just me feeling this way. So many people I talk to have been having their share of issues, trials, and personal crises.

For many people, dealing with now daily stresses has become one hour at a time instead of one day at a time. My husband and I have a running quip: “What do you know?” “I know nothing.” No one has all the answers though many think they do. When I say, “I know nothing,” I mean it as an open, palms-up approach to things that keeps me spiritually honest and humanly humble. In the grand scheme of things, the things that really matter, I really don’t know anything, but I’ve learned and what I see is a lot:

Flowers will still grow through cracks in a sidewalk.

Nothing lasts forever but plastic bags and roaches.

Reactions and anger are really fueled by fear.

There are good people still around and sometimes in the most unlikeliest places and guises.

Standing up for yourself and what you believe in takes a certain amount of courage that we must each learn to cultivate in ourselves. No one else can do it for you–nor should they.

It still matters to be nice.

Every star in the sky and every drop of water in the oceans yields in own mysteries that will take lifetimes to discover but is fascinating to behold in the meantime.

We have have become dehumanized in taking care of each other.

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay to be angry.

We can’t forget that there are actually flesh and blood people with names and personalities behind each set of paperwork on a desk and every screen name.

Sometimes all it takes is one good cup of coffee to hit that re-set button.

Sometimes strangers are kinder than the people we know.

It’s always on the days you’re running late that either (a) you spill your coffee [on you]; (b) your kids tell you (of course mentioning it for the first time) that their school project is due that day; (c) your pet had an “accident” in the house (and you stepped in it); (d) you forgot your password to your computer and now it’s locked you out; (e) all of the above.

What have you learned today?

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Everything Has a Heart

Hand on the doorknob, looking out the glass door, I was ready to step outside when I stopped. My eyes locked on a bug hanging onto the door frame with his (her?) 6 fuzzy legs. Its wings were folded back, and its head cocked in a way it seemed it was looking right back at me; curious or perhaps just as equally shocked, I didn’t know. There was no stinger or biting pinchers but I was afraid of what else it could do—you know, get inside the house and attack my hair or just crawl on my skin.

My gut reaction in seeing anything that flies or crawls is to kill it or flick it as far away from me as possible. I was ready to fling the door open to “send it to the light” (light-speak for killing it), when I decided to get one last look at this thing that was big enough to have its own shadow. Of course, having the glass window between us helped facilitate my newfound feelings of bravery.

So there we stood (or rather, he/she/it hung to the door and I stood), nose to wing. Its eyes were so big and round it seemed that’s all there was to its head. Its torso was narrow with an upturn at the end. The legs were long and crinked at sharp angles, ending in what looked like split feet.

I was intrigued and disgusted at the same time. After a few minutes of this science experiment, I was ready to end it and go outside once and for all. I reached for the door handle one more time, and as I took a last look at the bug, a slight movement caught my eye. Peering a bit more closely, I was shocked to realize that I could actually see this thing breathing.

Inoutinoutinoutinoutinout. Its torso pulsing with a rapid in and out movement at a rate that reminded me of a rabbit’s heartbeat.

Heartbeat? Bugs have hearts? Bugs breathe? Bugs have lungs? This was a first, I thought. I’ve dealt with my fair share of bugs in my life but I’ve never seen one breathe. Now mind you, of course, this only added to the ick factor of there being a bug large enough to see it take a breath. My mind immediately began to draw parallels to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and Vincent Price in the classic 1958 movie, “The Fly.” Maybe it’s even one of those drones I’ve been hearing about. …?

I stepped closer to the glass again and we took each other in. I looked into his huge eyes and wondered what I looked like to him. I looked at the details of his body from the sucker-type feet that clung to the door frame to the tiny, white, hairy protrusions that sprouted in puffs all over his body.  The veining in its wings was a marvel of patterns.

To me, it was a still a bug and it was still gross and scary and big, but seeing it breathe changed the way I looked at it. I suppose, in a sense it made it more “real”. It was no longer a thing—a threat (albeit a perceived one from my end). It was a living, breathing, entity. It was a-l-i-v-e. It was created and I couldn’t bring myself to kill it. That day I understood for the first time that even bugs have hearts, and I felt a shift in my compassion with life. It became so clear that just because I was creeped out by something I didn’t understand or feared, my instinct was to destroy it before it (maybe) destroyed me.

That lesson can easily be magnified into how we are with each other. People seek out to destroy those they fear or don’t understand. So, maybe if we can remember we are all sentient beings just trying to survive in the best way we can, we can deepen our compassion and tolerance with each other and remember, that even bugs have hearts.

Now, spiders—they’re a different story!

Blogging From A to Z: Uncomfortable

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Come sit for a minute. Go ahead, sit back, settle in, take a sip of water and let’s begin. I saw you yawn (I know, I’m tired too). Bless you. Take another sip, I’ll wait while you cross your legs and relax. Comfortable? Good. Now let’s get ready to get a little uncomfortable. Well, okay, more than a little. You’re in the control seat and the level of comfort you want to feel will all depend on how you sit with what I am about to share with you.

The role of spirituality and mysticism has come roaring into our culture fueled to a previously unforeseen level thanks to mainstream media. Individually and collectively, many of us are realizing that things aren’t working so well anymore in our lives and there is still something deep inside the deepest part of our hearts that niggles at us, incessantly knocking from the inside trying to get our attention. We are saturated with seeking ways to satisfy our feelings of lost spirituality, but perhaps it’s not spirituality we seek but the connection to our soul. There. I just saw you blink and shift in your seat. Now you’re uncomfortable, at least a little bit, aren’t you? It’s okay. You can admit it. It’s just you and me here.

I’m not writing to answer the questions of why are we here and what is our life’s purpose. I’m writing to say that we can search all we want, read and meditate all day and all night, eat only organic foods and wear only natural fibers so that we can say we live in perfect accordance with the Earth but that does not mean we are living in accordance with our true selves.

It’s not the road that will get you to Nirvana but the potholes and fallen trees and the cold rain that soaks you to your bones when you have no umbrella that will make you uncomfortable and make you wonder why you are doing this. Let us be acupuncture needles with each other and learn from those people and situations that make us uncomfortable and look into why. Are you being mirrored and don’t like what you see? Are you being reminded of something you’d rather not be? Those things that make us shy away and fearful and uncomfortable are exactly the things we need to be with and not turn away from.

It is our human nature not to want pain, but it is our ego’s nature to create comfort and distraction regardless of what is at stake to keep our soul path in the shadow. How do we avoid this? By remaining present when we notice our discomfort. Let the pebbles in our shoes be reminders of moving forward out of our comfort zone. Change can only happen when we go through the muddy, thick, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful metamorphosis that will birth ego and shadows into the light.

You have to get off the mountain and get off the mat. Get angry. Get dirty and then shake the mud off like a dog that got wet to move forward into our true selves and get closer to our bone. Life is messy. Buddha taught that life is pain, and so pain equals being uncomfortable. Personally, I would rather be kicked out of my comfort zone on an hourly basis if that were what it would take me to make me shed my ego habits.

Taking it deeper.