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

IMG_1703

Friday’s Focus—Examining Humility

Autumn is my favorite time of the year and I think a part of that is because I’ve always felt September and October were more like a new year than the actual January 1 New Year’s Day. To me, September is the month of beginnings. Even though I’ve been out of school for many years, I still think of September as the beginning of a new school year and with it new opportunities and adventures. Then there’s the changing of the seasons and temperatures and of course, moving into October, the gorgeous transformation and front row seat to nature’s fashion show.

For the first time though, this year feels different to me. I’ve noticed a deeper awareness of events and an acuteness to the days’ wanderings that feel more heightened than ever before. Maybe it has something to do with how much faster time seems to be going.  So many people I know have said the same thing and how, especially this year, time feels as though it’s speeding up and almost out of control.

No one can avoid growing older and the growing pains and warts that come along with it, but how we view this parade of changes is what can make a world of difference in our experiences of them. One way to do that is through our humility, which can lead to a deeper and richer level of wisdom and acceptance. Humility has its own quiet power in its ability to provide strength in the awareness that each one of us is a part of something else. Contrary to what many believe, the universe doesn’t revolve around us or is holding its breath waiting to make its next move based on our decision. It doesn’t work that way no matter who you are, who you know, how much money you have, or businesses you own. The Earth will still turn and the sun will rise and set in accordance to its own laws, without any help from us.

Practicing humility is not about lowering yourself and having feelings of inadequacy. On the contrary, humility is a quiet power that lies in the sublime modesty of one’s own potential and view of oneself. Some people see humility as a weakness, with feelings of unworthiness and lack of pride, but I prefer to think of it is a strength of being able to see ourselves in context and in right perspective with others, and finding that we are not lesser or better than anyone else.

By embracing humility we can we move into life’s moments with wisdom and grace by giving up the need for vanity and self-righteousness. This Autumn has become a season of deeper reds, more vibrant oranges, and fiery yellows of a changing landscape that is within me as well as around me reflected in nature, and I hope that today’s Focus will deepen your own personal Autumn and be a season of change within and without as we learn more about and practice humility.

#takingitdeeper

IMG_1302

Friday’s Focus—Our Teachers, Ourselves

Whether we recognize it or not, we have teachers all around us. They are our friends, our enemies, strangers, and our families. Every person we meet is a mirror to something inside of us and how we react to the person is an indicator of something that has a teaching moment. If there’s someone who particularly raises your hackles, that’s a hint that it’s a relationship you need to take a closer look at. Until you do, you will always come across someone with that same personality and issues. I promise.

So what do you do when it’s your own family member? What do you do when it’s your own parent? The relationship between mothers and daughters alone, is the subject of countless social studies and psychology books, and even being in it first-hand, sometimes can lead to more questions than answers on how to best navigate in that relationship!

This past week has been a flurry of phone calls and scheduling appointments looking for alternative care and living arrangements for my mother, who has been suffering from increasing confusion and cognitive impairment. The situation has escalated to a new level of alert and awareness for me and my family and we are beginning our travels down the next road. Just as sometimes it is challenging to see the changes in our own children as they grow up into their individual personalities, I think it is just as difficult for a child to watch their parent become a different person due to disease and illness. It’s the established personality of the elder being broken down into the child again, and which oftentimes is a new personality peppered with confusion, sensitivity, vulnerability, and a lot of frustration.

I think, for most people, regardless of how estranged a relationship may be, there is still some level of a bond they feel with their parents. And as families grow older and the roles shift from parent and child to parenting the parent, there are new experiences that come from parenting parents that are completely different from being a parent to your own children.

As scary as it can be, I have been consciously working at using this opportunity of seeing this new personality, this person who almost seems like a stranger from the person I once knew, as being brought face to face with yet another teacher.

Aside from patience, I’ve asked myself, what could I possibly learn from this situation, except how much I want to change the clock back so that they are their familiar selves again? The focus I’m learning is that the question should not be why is this happening but rather what can I learn from this turn in the relationship? A new teacher has shown herself to me as a different personality disguised as my elderly parent. This may be the toughest mirror yet! My husband keeps telling me to be sure to learn my lessons from this because if I don’t, it will just show up again as someone else in my life and I believe it. I’ve seen it!

This week’s Friday’s Focus is about teachers and how they can come into your life in all shapes and sizes and sometimes from the most unlikeliest places. Take a look at the people around you who are loving and friendly. They are just as much teachers as those who aggravate you, annoy you, and bring up friction. Remember that as much as one person is a teacher to you, you are as much of a teacher to someone else.

#takingitdeeper

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

U

 

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.