Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Afterthought People

alone

Are you the first person on anyone’s list?

Do you have a lover, a significant other, or a spouse?

Do you have a child or two?

Do you have a friend or two who calls you as much as you call them?

Do you have family close by?

Are you included in holidays and weekend activities with others?

Do you have someone to go to the movies with?

If you have *any* one of these things or a few of them,

Then count yourself lucky and loved.

And if you know someone who doesn’t have any of these things – and I bet you do if you think about it for a minute – try to remember them.

They are Afterthought People. The Alone Ones.

They sleep alone. They dine alone. They walk alone.

Probably through no fault of their own, they are standing by the wall while everyone else is dancing.

They hope the phone will ring.

They are weary of always reaching out; their arms are tired from being empty.

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Story time with B.B. King

Friday night, Karen F. and I went to see B.B. KingBBKing

at the Mountain Winery and here’s a little tale… Now, B.B. is 83 years old and still touring, which means the guys from Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones have something to emulate! B.B. is a happy old man from Mississippi, and he sits in his chair onstage and plays Lucille in between telling stories. He told us a story about when he was 18, and learned to drive a tractor on his cotton farm which he was sharecropping… He was a-way down at the end of a row when he saw a man go into the shotgun shack where he lived with his new bride. So he told his boss he stubbed his toe, that he needed to go home and get a bandage, and went to the house to see what man was visiting. His wife said “it was your daddy” and B.B. said, “well where is he? There’s flatland Delta for miles and I don’t see him.” Then B.B. said, “you know there’s all kinds of women…big ones, itty bitty ones, curvy ones, straight ones, but women of all shapes and sizes have hips. And they’ll let you know when you’ve crossed a line by putting their hands on their hips. And at that point, you better start cryin’ while you’re begging for forgiveness.” Then B.B. slapped his right knee, leaned back in his chair, jiggled like a bowl of jello, laughed silently, and as he came forward laughed out loud with whoop hoo hoo and a he-hehe laugh that tickled everyone in the audience pink, because we could tell he just tickled himself pink tellin’ that story. Then he sang a song about not wanting ANYbody to visit his wife, not even her sister. Now my Nana (great-grandma) had the very same laugh… a laugh that seems quintessentially Southern, although I don’t know why. Nana was born in Alabama in 1907. She died when she was 93 years old. She would say things like “that man can park his boots under my bed anytime” or “I can’t carry a tune in a bucket but I’m gonna sing anyway.” And she would proceed to sing, a sound I can only compare to cats squalling (sorry, it’s true and I’m glad I did not get my singing voice from Nana). Then, she’d slap her right knee, lean back in her chair, jiggle a bit, laugh silently, then lean forward with a whoop hoo hoo and a he-hehe. There’s probably a song in that.

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My Easter Meditation

Père Henri: Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no. I don’t want to talk about his divinity. I’d rather talk about his humanity. I mean, you know, how he lived his life, here on Earth. His *kindness,* his *tolerance.* Listen, here’s what I think. I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do; by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude.  I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we *embrace,* what we *create* … and who we *include.* ~ Chocolat

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The Golden Rule – Versions from many religions & philosophies

Recently I’ve encountered several articles, websites and conversations discussing the universality of The Golden Rule, also referred to as the “ethics of reciprocity.”  Whenever I get that kind of synchronicity I feel that it’s a prompt to pay attention and share the wisdom…. so here you go.   Talk amongst yourselves.

Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering. On these lines every religion had more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.” The Dalai Lama

Versions of the Golden Rule from different Wisdom Traditions:

Buddhism – Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.   Udanavarga 5.18.

Christianity – Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.  Matthew 7:12.

Confucianism – Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.  Analects 15.23.

Hinduism – This is the sum of duty: Do nothing to others which if done to you, would cause you pain.  Mahabharata 5.15.17

Islam – No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.  Traditions.

Jainism – In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self, and therefore should refrain from inflicting upon others such injury as would appear undesirable to us if inflicted upon ourselves.  Yogashastra 2.20.

Judaism – What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man.  That is the whole of the Torah and the remainder is but commentary.  Go learn it.  Talmud.

Sikhism – As you deem yourself so deem others.  Then you will become a partner in partner to Heaven.  Kabir.

Taoism – Regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.  T’ai shang kan ying p’ien.

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What you can give for Christmas this year that will REALLY matter!

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New Christmas Wishes

Every year at Christmastime I write a little inspirational piece about love, understanding and such things… and I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to take a peep under the Christmas tree as it were, and have a look at the shadow side of the season ~ so eloquently stated below by Rush, the Band, and personified, funnily enough, by folks like Rush, the Limbaugh:

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand

As we approach 2009, a year of profound hope and change, we will also bump against ignorance, prejudice and fear.  So let us be mindful – when we see these shadow elements in ourselves and in others, let’s shine the light of acknowledgment and compassion upon them.  This, after all, is what Christmas is about ~ light in the darkness, warmth in the winter, and hope’s ability to conquer fear.  I am hopeful that those crippled by ignorance and poisoned by anger and fear will be healed, and that’s my deepest Christmas wish this year.  So now, it’s on to the good stuff!

Christmas is a time of Remembrance and Gratitude for the most important things….

Abiding friendship (Anam Cara) ~ the kindness, fun, fidelity and understanding we share

Beauty ~ and the capacity to see it in all that is in and around us

Caring ~ for those we love and for those in need

Compassion ~ and the many times it is given and received

Generosity ~ of heart and resources

Hope ~ and the vitality it brings us

Joy ~ for all that makes us smile

Laughter ~ and the ways it lifts us

Light ~ in ourselves and in all sentient beings

Miracles ~ did you know you’re made of stars?!

Peace ~ “All we are saying is give peace a chance” ~ and we are!

Love ~ which envelops all these things and more…

Wishing you all these gifts, at Christmastime and all through the year.

Merry Christmas and Namaste!

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The House that Glowed – A Christmas Story

This story is one of my childhood favorites. It was published in Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, 1950. Let it warm your heart.

It was Christmas Eve, and poor little Johann, driven out of his home by an angry and brutal stepfather, was trudging wearily through the snow. His coat was ragged and sodden with melted snow. His shoes were worn and split at the seams, so that his feet were numb with cold. His quaint cap, pulled well down over his ears and forehead, had a gaping tear that let in the biting wind.
winter_in_the_forest

Night was falling, and the gathering darkness found the little boy still plodding on his sad and lonely way. “If only I could find some shelter, some place where I could get warm, and the wind would not chill me so,” he thought to himself. “If only someone would give me some food to eat and something hot to drink!”

Coming to the edge of the forest, he caught sight of a little village nestling in the valley below, with several fine, large houses dotting the hillside all around. Lights were already twinkling in the windows, while the smoke from many chimneys, curling upward, blended with the murky sky.

A great new hope sprang up in little Johann’s heart. Here at last, among so many lovely homes, he would find someone to care for him. He walked more quickly, so sure he was that his troubles were almost over.

Soon he came to the entrance of a fine, big mansion. There were many lights in the windows and a very bright one over the front door. “Surely,” he thought, “people who could live in such a house must have lots of money and would be only too pleased to help a poor, hungry little boy.”

Very bravely he walked up to the front door, and by standing on tiptoe, managed to reach the bell. He pushed it hard, and there was such a noise inside that it frightened him. But he was more frightened still when the great oak door was thrown back and a big man dressed in the finest clothes looked out at him.

“Did you ring that bell:” asked the haughty butler, frowning.
“Y-y-y-yes,” stammered Johann, “I-i-i’m very cold and hungry, and I thought you—–”
“This is Christmas Eve,” snapped the butler, “and the house is full of guests. I’m sorry, but we haven’t time to bother with the likes of you just now. Good night.” And the door was shut.

“Oh!” said Johann to himself, “I never thought anyone would do that. But perhaps they are too busy here. I must try somewhere else.” So he walked on down into the village itself, passing by the other big mansions for fear the people inside might also be too busy to care about hungry little boys on Christmas Eve.

From the first house he reached there came sounds of music and laughter, and feeling sure that there must be very friendly people living there, he knocked gently on the door. But there was so much noise inside that he had to knock again and again, each time louder than before.

At last the door swung open, and a young man wearing a funny paper cap looked out. “Excuse me,” said Johann, “but I wondered if you could—–”
“Sorry,” cried the young man, “we’re having a Christmas Ever party in here, and we can’t stop now.” “But please, please!” pleaded Johann. “Sorry; good night!” cried the young man. And Bang! the door was shut.

Terribly disappointed, Johann went next door, but the people there were making so much noise that they didn’t even hear him at all, loud as he knocked. At the next house a crabby old gentleman looked out of an upstairs window and told him to run home and not bother the neighbors. Run home, indeed! At another house he was told to call another day. They would help him then, perhaps, the people said. But he needed help now!

So, going from house to house through the entire village, he sought shelter and food and found none.
Almost hopeless and heartbroken, he trudged out into the night, leaving the twinkling lights behind him. He felt he could lie down and die in the road, he was so tired, so hungry, so discouraged.

Just then he happened to look up and found himself passing a tiny, tumble-down old cottage, so dark and dismal that he probably wouldn’t have seen it at all but for the white carpet of snow on the ground showing it up. A blind covered the one little window, but faint streaks of light gleamed through cracks in the wood.

Johann stood still and wondered what he should do. Should he knock there? What would be the use? Surely if the people who lived in all the big houses – who had money for lovely parties and things – couldn’t afford to help a poor boy, how could the folk in a house like this? No, it was of no use. Better not to bother them. Better to just give up.

Then he thought again. He had knocked at so many houses, there could be no harm in trying one more. So he turned from the road up the snow-covered garden path and tapped gently at the door. A moment later, the door opened cautiously, and an elderly woman peered out. “Bless my soul!” she exclaimed. “Whatever are you doing out there in the cold tonight?”
grandmas-kitchen1

“Please — ” began Johann. But before he could say another word, she had flung the door wide open and dragged him inside. “You poor little child,” she exclaimed. “Deary, deary me! You look so cold and hungry. Half starved, or I’m mistaken. And wet through. Let’s get those things off at once to dry by the fire. Wait a moment while I put the kettle on.”

Johann looked about him and saw that the little one-roomed cottage was as bare as could be, without even a carpet on the floor. The light he had seen through the cracks from one lone candle set on the mantelpiece. But he hadn’t time to see much else, for the kind woman was soon stripping off his wet rags, wrapping him in a blanket, and setting him up at the table before a bowl of steaming soup.

Then she went back to stir the pot on the stove. As she did so she suddenly noticed that something strange was happening. She looked up. Was it a dream, or were her eyes deceiving her? The candlelight had given place to a warm and lovely glow that seemed to be getting brighter every minute, filling every corner of the cottage with a heavenly radiance. Every drab piece of furniture seemed to be shining and glistening like burnished gold, as when God filled the temple with His glory.

And the rich man, looking down from his mansion on the hill, suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a strange light in the valley. Look! Widow Greatheart’s cottage is on fire!” The news spread swiftly from house to house, and soon all the parties were abandoned as the people, wrapping themselves up in their coats and shawls, rushed out to see what was the matter.

They saw the light too, and running toward the widow’s cottage, beheld the poor tumble-down old building glowing like an alabaster bowl. Very excited, they gathered around it. Peering inside, all they could see was the dear old woman caring for the same little boy who had called that night at all their homes. Then, as the light faded, they knocked on the door to ask anxiously what could have happened.

“I really do not know what happened,” said the Widow Greatheart, with a smile of wondrous joy on her face. “I just seemed to hear a voice saying to me, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My children, ye have done it unto Me.'”

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Making a Difference ~ A list of helpful organizations and their websites

The nice folks at Credo put together this list of organizations that you may be interested in checking out, participating in or giving time and resources to. Pass this list along! More people, more power, more change.

There are so many ways we can all make a difference!!
Peace & International Freedom

Acción International

Provides microloans, business training and other financial services to poor men and women who start their own businesses.

Americans for Peace Now

Campaigns for a nonviolent political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Amnesty International

Takes action to prevent and end abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.

Center for Victims of Torture

Works to heal the wounds of torture on individuals, their families and their communities and to stop torture around the world.

Doctors Without Borders

Delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics or disasters in over 70 countries.

Global Fund for Children

Advances the dignity of vulnerable children and young people worldwide by supporting and strengthening grassroots groups.

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Gives a voice to the many active-duty service people and veterans who are against the war but under pressure to remain silent.

Oxfam America

Creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice.

Pathfinder International

Provides women and men throughout the developing world with access to family-planning information and services.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

Supports women’s rights activists working to create cultures of justice, equality and peace.

Environment

Alliance for Climate Protection

Works under the leadership of Al Gore to persuade people around the world to immediately address global warming.

American Rivers

Protects rivers and raises awareness that they are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Center for Biological Diversity

Advocates to secure a future for animals and plants on the brink of extinction and for the wilderness they need to survive.

Earthjustice

Serves as the law firm for the nation’s environment, litigating critical cases to block environmental destruction.

Environmental Working Group

Uses investigative skills to demonstrate the health risks of damaging environmental practices to consumers.

ForestEthics

Holds accountable those corporations that distribute and manufacture products that destroy forests.

Greenpeace

Employs nonviolent action to expose global environmental problems and encourage solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

NRDC

With the support of members and online activists, NRDC works to solve the most pressing environmental issues we face today: curbing global warming, getting toxic chemicals out of the environment, moving America beyond oil, reviving our oceans, saving wildlife and wild places, and helping China go green.

Ocean Conservancy

Promotes healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems and opposes practices that threaten ocean life and human life.

Organic Farming Research Foundation

Expands availability of organic food by supporting research on best practices in organic farming.

Sierra Club Foundation

Funds projects that promote a safe and healthy environment, clean air, clean water, open space and a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

Economic & Social Justice

America’s Second Harvest

Provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income hungry people, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.

Campaign for America’s Future

Challenges the conservative agenda through campaigns such as fighting against the privatization of Social Security.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Conducts research and analysis to inform public debates on budget and tax policy and to ensure the needs of low-income people are considered.

Corporate Accountability International

Campaigns challenging corporate control of water, tobacco industry interference in health policy, and watch-dogging corporate abuses.

Media Matters for America

Monitors, analyzes and corrects conservative disinformation in the U.S. media.

Mother Jones Investigative Fund

Produces journalism that informs and inspires a more just and democratic world.

Ms. Foundation for Women

Creates opportunities for women and girls and encourages investment in them to help them develop their voices and skills.

Physicians for a National Health Program

Engages doctors in the effort to create a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program.

Project On Government Oversight

Investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct to achieve a more accountable federal government.

United for a Fair Economy

Raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermines the economy, corrupts democracy and deepens the racial divide.

Civil Rights

Alliance for Justice

Leads efforts to block confirmation of right-wing judges.

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Campaigns to create an America free from gun violence, where all people are safe in their homes, schools, jobs and communities.

Center for Constitutional Rights

Defends the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions.

Center for National Security Studies

Works for control of the FBI and CIA and to prevent claims of national security from eroding civil liberties and constitutional procedures.

Equality Now

Documents violence and discrimination against women around the world and mobilizes action to stop these human rights abuses.

Family Violence Prevention Fund

Takes action to prevent violence in homes and communities and to help those whose lives are devastated by violence.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Promotes accurate media reporting to help eliminate discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

National Center for Lesbian Rights

Advances the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Works to end the death penalty.

Planned Parenthood

Improves women’s health, prevents unintended pregnancies and advances the right of individuals to make choices about reproductive health.

Voting Rights & Civic Participation

AlterNet

Creates original journalism and amplifies the best of independent media sources to inspire citizen action and advocacy.

Center for Independent Media

Creates independent online investigative journalism in key states where the mainstream media is failing to cover political corruption and progressive issues.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Promotes ethics and accountability in government by exposing political malfeasance and cover-ups of official corruption.

Democracia U.S.A.

Increases the participation of Hispanics in the democratic process through large scale voter registration campaigns and leadership training around progressive issues.

League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Strengthens the environmental movement’s ability to mobilize voters and advocates for sound environmental policies.

New Organizing Institute

Trains young, technology-enabled political organizers to work for progressive organizations.

Project Vote

Registers millions of Americans in low-income and minority communities to vote each year.

Rock the Vote

Engages youth in the political process by incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its voter registration and advocacy activities.

USAction Education Fund

Works to take our democracy back from the corporate elite and special interests that dominate the political process today.

Wellstone Action

Honors the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work to educate and mobilize a vast network of progressive people and organizations.

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The Important Moments in Life

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings,  not the great goals achieved.  The real milestones are less prepossessing.  They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave.  Our lives are measured by these.” ~ Susan B. Anthony

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to start a new journal with a catalogue of your most important life moments.  Describe each of the moments.  Include drawings, pictures, cuttings, clippings, a list of people who were there, a reference to the song that was playing, what scent was on the breeze, how you felt, how it makes you feel to remember the moment now.  There is no limit to the number of moments you catalog.  They can be moments that were happy, sad, life-changing, or quiet moments of appreciation or epiphany.  Update your journal as memories come back to you. Update your journal as your life goes on.  Include in your journal a list of important moments that haven’t happened yet but that you wish for.  Turn back to the list some years from now and see if those wishes came true.  Make copies of your journal or parts of it and share it with your loved ones.  Leave your journal to your children or your friends when you pass on.  This is one of the true records of *you*.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

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Put it in the “Things I have learned” box and stop beating yourself up

So this morning I was getting ready for work and my thoughts turned to this decision I made a few years ago, and it turned out (in hindsight) to be a huge career mistake which has delayed my progress, postponed my goals and dreams, and generally has taken me down a road I didn’t want to travel… and I felt (once again) really bad about myself, and stupid for making this mistake. Even when I ran through the reasons why, and the rationale I had at the time, it still causes me tension and angst that I did this. And there were other mistakes… I married that guy. I trusted that person whom I knew to be untrustworthy. You know, the usual. So then later today I was talking to a friend about a guy she had dated (dating is really not the right word, but it’s more ladylike) and he’s calling her again, and my advice to her was to put that guy and that situation in the “Things I have learned and don’t need to learn again, thank you very much” part of her journal, or heart or mind. And then I realized “oh – this applies to me too.” Epiphany. Doh!

So yeah, I figure that you, and I, and all our friends who are intelligent and humane and have good intentions, as well as compassion and a healthy sense of wanting to do the right thing for ourselves and others, we can look at those mistakes from the past, take the nugget of learning out, and then put the experience in the “things I have learned” box.” So you get to look at it, roll it around, squeeze the wisdom out, then throw out the empty peel. Go ahead – do it now.

Also, you can now stop thinking of yourself as: stupid, lame, ridiculous, evil, bad-tempered, lacking the sense that God gave watermelon, unable to control your impulses, etc. This bad decision – the Jagermeister, the wedding, the decision to move to the Valley, whatever – this decision happened in the past. You only knew what you knew then. Even if you vaguely felt at the time that this decision had a red flag, (ok, me too) you still went ahead with it, and here you are – older, wiser. You could still be living with the consequences, or not. You could suffer moments of regret and subsequent self-torture while driving, or trying to sleep, or whenever. My advice to myself (and to anyone who wants to take it) is to remember that ~

  • it’s now in the past
  • you can’t change it
  • you can accept it and go forward
  • you learned something
  • if you really learned it you will probably make better decisions in the future
  • you’re human, it’s ok to make mistakes (ok, this one may take me awhile to believe)
  • put it in the “things I’ve learned” box and stop hitting yourself with it

It’s pretty refreshing, isn’t it? Maybe it will help you to write them down, in a column to the left entitled “Mistakes” and a column to the right entitled “What I learned.” Maybe just the realization that you have the power and the permission to put these things in the past will help. The cool part is, you get to stop feeling bad about this. You are now free to make new decisions. Whoo hoo!


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Babette’s Feast – Mercy and Truth meet together

Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us.
And everything we rejected has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected,
For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

~ From Babette’s Feast

Babette’s Feast operates on many levels;

It’s about food, and it’s about how meals can bring people together.

It’s about the tension and the reconciliation between earthly pleasures and divine transcendence,

simplicity and sensuality.

It’s about creativity and the nature of the artist.

It’s about poverty and wealth.

It’s about forgiveness and finding your way.

It’s about loss and regret, and is also about being a receiver of everything, and losing nothing.

It’s about mourning and the healing that it brings, and also about true love and joy.

It’s about being able to finally say the words you need to say, and to finally be able to give the gift you want to give.

It’s about knowing who you *really* are.

It’s about giving that comes right from the heart.

It’s about grace coming to live in a modest and remote place, both in the physical and the spiritual sense.

It’s about Christ-consciousness.

It’s about time you watched this movie or read this story!

(thank you Jo Owen!)

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Easter Messages

My Easter meditation ~

Père Henri: Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no. I don’t want to talk about his divinity. I’d rather talk about his humanity. I mean, you know, how he lived his life, here on Earth. His *kindness,* his *tolerance.* Listen, here’s what I think. I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do; by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we *embrace,* what we *create* … and who we *include.* ~ Chocolat

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Thoughts on the Heart

What is the nature of the Heart? Rob Brezsny asks, “Are we being sentimentally unscientific when we refer to the heart as the seat of the soul? Or does that idea contain a truth that surpasses reductive rationalism? In A Dictionary of Symbols, J.E. Cirlot reports that in the Jewish tradition, meditation involves “speaking to one’s heart.” According to Christian tradition, the Kingdom of God resides in the heart. Hindus say the supreme god Brahma lives there, and in Islam, the heart is referred to as the throne of God. ……. Have a sustained, intimate, heart-to-heart communion with your heart. Learn more about its secret thoughts. Converse with it as if it were the literal source of your emotional intelligence. Proceed on the hypothesis, as French philosopher Pascal did, that “great thoughts come from the heart.”

Our heart is viewed then, as the “place” where we experience the Divine, the facet of ourselves where we receive love, grace, wisdom and peace. It is the seat and the source of our compassion, for ourselves and others. How then, do we connect with our heart to listen to it, or to perceive what is there? Meditation is one way. Quieting the mind so the heart can come through, we are able to touch the heart, and as Pema Chodron writes: “When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”

Paul Beattie looks at meditation, (when the “mind is still”) and examines the connection between the Heart and the Mind in this poem –

When My Mind is Still

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I remember things too easily forgotten:
The purity of early love,
The maturity of unselfish love that asks –
desires – nothing but another’s good,
The idealism that has persisted through all the tempest of life.

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I can find a quiet assurance, an inner peace, in the core of my being.
It can face the doubt, the loneliness, the anxiety,
Can accept these harsh realities and can even grow
Because of these challenges to my essential being.

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I can sense my basic humanity,
And then I know that all men and women are my brothers and sisters.
Nothing but my own fear and distrust can separate me from the love of friends.
If I can trust others, accept them, enjoy them,
Then my life shall surely be richer and more full.
If I can accept others, this will help them to be more truly themselves,
And they will be more able to accept me.

When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart,
I know how much life has given me:
The history of the race, friends and family,
The opportunity to work, the chance to build myself.
Then wells within me the urge to live more abundantly,
With greater trust and joy,
With more profound seriousness and earnest service,
And yet more calmly at the heart of life.

***

So, saying the treasures of the heart are great seems like an understatement. The profound importance of your heart to your self-awareness, your humanity, and your ability to “see” what is real can’t be overemphasized. Many of our greatest thinkers (even scientists!) and artists have given us thoughts on the heart ~

Carl Jung Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

William Shakespeare: Go to your bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Albert Einstein: A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Benjamin Disraeli: Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.

Blaise Pascal: We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.

Confucius: To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.

M. Scott Peck: The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual – for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.

Pearl S. Buck: The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.

The Dalai Lama: This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. …….. I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success in life.

***

I wish you the time, the space and the grace to listen to your heart.

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Forgiveness

What does forgiveness really mean? I’ve been thinking about this for several years and struggling with the implications of what forgiveness includes and what it doesn’t include. After much reading and discussion, here’s what I’ve come up with:

What forgiveness means:

  • Forgiveness means you don’t act in retribution or vengeance to the person who has wronged you. You don’t punish or retaliate.
  • Forgiveness means you do (or can) wish for the person who has wronged you, “May the Lord give you Peace” – this is the stance you take toward the person in your heart.
  • You realize that forgiveness is a gift you are giving yourself in the sense that you are only responsible for *your* own behavior – you are not responsible for how someone else acts or responds. Letting go of your own anger and hatred sets you free.
  • You may open the door to the person to restore the relationship.

What forgiveness does not mean:

  • Forgiveness does not mean you are saying what the person did is OK.
  • Forgiveness does not mean you have any obligation to continue in the relationship with the person. You can forgive and also protect yourself from toxic people and toxic relationships by no longer engaging in those relationships. Really, its ok. Even if it’s your mother or your brother or your son, you can say to them – or just in your own mind – that “I understand your behavior and I wish no ill to come to you, and (as Bishop Tutu said) I am not going to let you victimize me and hold me in a position where I have an anger against you, a resentment, and [in which] I’m looking for the opportunity to pay back.”
  • You may decide to continue in the relationship, and “turn the other cheek”- but I recommend being watchful for patterns of behavior that continue. Destructive behavior is not acceptable, even if it is forgivable.
  • Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean that the pain of the situation will go away – this usually takes time and is not usually an act of the will.

What does the person being forgiven need to do?

  • If you offer someone who has wronged you the gift of forgiveness, the person being forgiven must open herself to it in order to receive it. They can do do this by confessing, apologizing or by seeking atonement. (see Bishop Tutu’s remarks on this below)

What is the spiritual element of forgiveness?

  • Rob Brezsny says “The 17th-century surgeon Wilhelm Hilden had an interesting theory about healing. He developed a medicinal salve that he applied not to the wound itself but rather to the weapon that inflicted it. Though today we may sneer at such foolishness, the fact is that Hilden’s approach has great potential if used for psychic wounds. Jesus understood this when he articulated the revolutionary formula, “Love your enemy.” More than any other action, this strategy has the power to cure you of the distortions your enemy has unleashed in you. Try it out.”
  • In Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen describes love and forgiveness as unconditional. “Though this is not a novel idea, Nouwen’s approach is arguably unique as he approached this theme from the angles of the younger son, the elder son, and the father. Each captures the unconditional quality of love and forgiveness in their own way. The younger son’s life shows how the beloved lives a life of misery by thinking he can be loved only by meeting certain qualifications of the lover (which he fails to meet). The elder son’s actions shows how the beloved can be depressed because he thinks he should receive greater love because he has done all the right things (i.e., that he has met these qualifications). The father alone understands how to love and forgive and is able to do so and be happy. Nouwen explains that we are the younger son at times (when we think we don’t deserve love or the forgiveness) and the elder son at times (when we think we deserve love or that another doesn’t deserve it more than us), but that we are all called to be like the father (and that only by being like the father can we come closer to being loved as we should be loved).”

Here’s what Desmond Tutu has to say about forgiveness, from Bill Moyers Journal, 12/28/07

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: I would hope that the world would realize that there is no situation that is not transfigurable, that there is no situation of which we can say, ‘This is absolutely, totally devoid of hope,’ because that is what people thought about South Africa. And that the star turns of this report are those we wrongly call just ordinary people. There are no ordinary people in my theology, but it is the small people, the ones who used to be nonentities, they are the stars and for the world to know that those called-so-called ordinary people are incredible.

BILL MOYERS: What do you actually do when you forgive someone?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Well, basically, you are saying ‘I am abandoning my right to revenge, to payback. I mean, I have… By the fact that you have abused me, you have hurt me, or -whatever it is that you have done, you have wronged me. By that you have given me a certain right as – over you that I could refuse to forgive you. I could say that I have the right to retribution.’ When I forgive, I say, ‘I jettison that right, and I open the door of opportunity to you, to make a new beginning.’ That is what I do when I forgive you.

BILL MOYERS: But the Buddhists talk of letting go of the past, dying to the past, when you forgive, of letting loose of the sorrow that you have brought with you from the past. Is that what you’re talking about?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes. The thing is, of course that I don’t know that you yourself are able, by an act of will, as it were, to let go of the pain. The will part of it, where your will is, deliberately to say, ‘I am not going to let you victimize me and hold me in a position where I have an anger against you, a resentment, and I’m looking for the opportunity to pay back.’ I am saying. ‘I want to let go of that-that right, and begin to work for the possibility of restoring the relationship.

BILL MOYERS: Do I have to do anything – the person being forgiven?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: For your own sake, the only way you can appropriate forgiveness is by confessing. That opens you to the possibility of being able to receive it. It’s like, it’s like opening up a window. You see forgiveness can be likened to the fresh air that is outside or the sunlight that is outside and you have a room and the windows are closed and the curtains are drawn. The wind is still out there, my forgiveness is still available to you, but it won’t find access until you open the window and the light streams in. You draw the curtains apart and the fresh air comes in. You by your contrition and confession, say I am sorry, forgive me, open and my forgiveness enters your being.

BILL MOYERS: We’re talking here about genocide, torture. Are genocide and torture forgivable?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: As a Christian, you have to say, ‘Are there things that are unforgivable?’ I’m afraid we follow a lord and master who at the point when they are crucifying him in the most painful way can say, ‘Pray for their forgiveness.’ And we follow the one who says, ‘Forgive one another as God and Christ forgave you.’ That is for us the paradigm. We may not always reach to that ideal, but that is the standard.

For further inspiration, see No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu

No Future Without Forgiveness

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Christmas is a time of remembrance and gratitude for the most important things….

 

Christmas is a time of remembrance and gratitude for the most important things….

Abiding friendship ~ the kindness, fun, fidelity and understanding we share

Beauty ~ and the capacity to see it in all that is around and in us

Caring ~ for those we love and for those in need

Compassion ~ and the many times it has been given and received

Generosity ~ of heart and resources

Hope ~ and the vitality it brings us

Joy ~ for all that makes us smile

Laughter ~ and the ways it lifts us

Light ~ in ourselves and others

Peace ~ and the ways we give it a chance

Love ~ which envelops all these things and more…

Wishing you all these gifts, at Christmastime and all through the year.

Merry Christmas!

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