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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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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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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Things to be Thankful for

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

I’ve just watched the Paul Newman production of Our Town, and it reminded me of the many precious essentials in life. Coming up on Thanksgiving, it’s a good time to reflect on them…from the commonplace to the magnificent, with a nod to Thornton ~

  • Cleanliness & Beauty – I don’t know about you, but I am really thankful that I can get up in the morning and have a shower with French lavender soap, and moisturize with Origins, put on my face, and dress in beautiful clothing… I know – this is somewhat mundane – but what if everyday was like camping? And, so many people don’t have these little luxuries, which are true gifts. Being surrounded by beauty, being aware of it all around us, appreciating it, lifts the spirit. “It is very necessary to have markers of beauty left in a world seemingly bent on making the most evil ugliness.” ~ T.W.
  • Working and resting – I am especially thankful to be gainfully employed, working in my chosen field for a wonderful and kind boss, and having a fairly strong sense of security in these troubled times.  Work provides us not only with the means to live but with a sense of dignity, and it is my hope that all those looking for work now will find it.  Work is also frequently fulfilling, and rest well deserved. Both are something to be grateful for, for when we’re without work what do we do but search for it? And when we are without rest, we must have it before we can do anything well. “There are the stars doing their old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven’t settled on it yet but they seem to think there’s no living beings up there – just chalk or fire. Only this one straining away – straining away all the time to make something of itself. And the strain is so bad that every 16 hours, everyone lies down and gets a rest.” ~ T.W.
  • Nature – I’m very grateful for clear nights of star-watching, the sound of running water, and the splendor around us. We have more opportunities than ever to share in the preservation of the environment, and our voices are making a difference. “The planting of trees is the least self-centered of all that we can do. It is a purer act of faith than the procreation of children.” ~ T.W.

Autumn Mandala

  • Books – You can just never have enough books. Remember that Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last” where Burgess Meredith was the last man on Earth and all he wanted to do was read? I can relate.  Books are a joy every day, and every one seems to have something good to tell us about ourselves. “The Cartwright interests have just begun building a new bank…and they’ve asked a friend of mine what they should put in the cornerstone for people to dig up a thousand years from now. Of course we’re putting in a copy of the New York Times…..a Bible, and the Constitution of the United States, and a copy of William Shakespeare’s plays. What do you say folks – what do you think?” ~ T.W.
  • Music – I never go through a day without music, even if it’s singing in the bathtub. My iPod is technology I am super happy to have. “Music came into the world to give pleasure. Get it out of your heads that music’s only good when its loud – you leave loudness to the Methodists – you couldn’t beat ‘em even if you wanted to.” ~ T.W.
  • Friends – I have *really* good friends who are fun, compassionate, caring, intelligent, open, honest, insightful and who just make my day! A special thank-you to all of you – you know who you are. “I’m celebrating that I’ve got a friend that tells me the things that ought to be told me.” ~ T.W.
  • Art and Culture – “Seek the lofty by reading, hearing and seeing great work at some moment every day.” ~ T.W.
  • Travel – “It seems to me, once in your life, before you die, you ought to see a country where they don’t speak any English and they don’t even want to.” ~ T.W. You said it Mrs. Gibbs – and more than once is just fine too!
  • Humor – “The comic spirit is given to us in order that we may analyze, weigh, and clarify things in us which nettle us, or which we are outgrowing, or trying to reshape.” ~ T.W.
  • Little things we take for granted – as Emily: said in Our Town, “Good-bye to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you! …Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute? Stage Manager: No. Saints and poets, maybe–they do some.” ~ T.W. Every once in a while I like to pay attention to the little thing we take for granted, like stocked shelves at Whole Foods, the smell of something good cooking, the easy hugs of friends and family, 24-hour electricity, etc.
  • Living in the present – “My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate–that’s my philosophy.” ~ T.W. Time goes by pretty fast and if you don’t pay attention, “you’re 21, 22 years old, you make a few decisions and whap! You’re 70.” ~ T.W.
  • Ice Cream
  • Hope – “Hope, like faith, is nothing if it is not courageous; it is nothing if it is not ridiculous.” ~ T.W. “Hope” was my favorite station as a Rainbow Girl. It’s important to have love, faith, nature, immortality, fidelity, patriotism, service, and charity as values and experiences but for me, hope is a the constant and needed resource that I draw on… hope for myself, the people I love, the World. I am especially thankful this year as we look forward to the inauguration of Barack Obama as our President ~ he is bringing a new sense of hope to the nation and the world.
  • Love – “And we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” ~ T.W.
  • Understanding – “When God loves a creature he wants the creature to know the highest happiness and the deepest misery He wants him to know all that being alive can bring. That is his best gift. There is no happiness save in understanding the whole.” ~ T.W. Yes it’s true, as my wise friend Sabrina said, that if you hadn’t made some bad calls and hadn’t suffered, you wouldn’t be who you are today and you wouldn’t be a complete human being. So let us give thanks for all the dead-end jobs, boyfriends and girlfriends we’d like to forget, ex-spouses, orange shag carpet and Dorothy Hamil haircuts – we learned something!
  • The part of us that’s eternal – “Now there are some things that we all know, but we don’t take them out and look at them all that often. We all know something’s eternal and it ain’t houses, it ain’t names, and it ain’t Earth, and it ain’t even the stars. Everybody knows in their bones something’s eternal. And that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.” ~ T.W.
  • Our address – (substitute your own) “Grover’s’ Corners, Sutton County, New Hampshire, The United States of America, continent of North America, Western Hemisphere, the Earth, the solar system, the Universe, the Mind of God.” ~ T.W

Universe

  • Wisdom that comes with living – “True influence over another comes not from a moment’s eloquence nor from any happily chose word, but from the accumulation of a lifetimes’s thoughts stored up in the eyes.” ~ T.W.
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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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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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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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Hope, Reasons to Live, and Suicide Prevention

A friend of mine that I grew up with recently died by suicide. JC felt he had been in too much emotional pain for too long and he didn’t see it getting any better. This was so crushing that I want to share hope with others. I want you to know there is help, there are people who love you and care for you, there are ways to cope with and lessen emotional pain and grief, and that your life, however painful at the moment, is a gift and you can use it to bring help and joy to others and to yourself. These are some things that have given me hope, and I want them to give you hope, too.

Flight of Hope #1 – My favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” wherein George Bailey realizes at the end just how much of a difference he has made in the lives of others, and how many people love and care for him. That lesson has always had a profound effect on me because I believe that much of the good we do and love we engender is unknown to us. Frederick Buechner said, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” We are all here together. Separateness is an illusion, for we all touch each other in ways we cannot fathom.

Flight of Hope #2 -I also believe that when we are sad and can’t find a good reason to live, we can focus on helping others. Turning compassion outward sometimes helps us have it for ourselves. If you can find the sacred part of yourself and live from there, you’ll touch people in positive ways. One little flicker of light is all it takes to light a dark room – find that light within yourself and share it.

Emily Dickinson wrote,

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Flight of Hope #3 – When I saw Under the Tuscan Sun, I had just gone through a terrible divorce and was reeling emotionally and financially. My life had been overturned and I lost my love and my home. I had thoughts myself that it would be easier not to go on. But after seeing that movie, I realized that many lives are available to us. It is possible, for instance, to sell off everything I own, move to Italy and work as a waitress!! I didn’t do that – what I did was move far away, and in with some friends, and worked in a flower shop. I healed through the support of my friends and the willingness to change my life. It is possible to get a new job, a new home, move to a different part of the town/state/country/world, cut your hair, get a makeover, meet new friends, get a pet, go to social events, learn new skills, read new books, etc. In other words, when your current life is unbearable, death is not the next step. The next step is to reinvent yourself, and reinvent your life. You are not stuck. You are not trapped. Another lesson from that movie is that the future is built by what you do now – Martini tells Francis, “Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.” Believe that your train is coming! Build the tracks…

Flight of Hope #4 – Many people are on anti-depressants, and when properly diagnosed, that’s a good thing. But another part of emotional health is recognizing your feelings and being able to cope with them. Expressing our feelings is what keeps them from exploding. What if, when we feel sad, we could validate and express our feelings in these ways? I think we’d find that the sadness dissipates.

  • Vocalize sad feelings – cry, yell, wail, sob, moan
  • Draw yourself in a sad situation that you remember
  • Find music that reflects your sadness
  • Express your sadness through dance if you feel like it
  • Write about your sadness – keep a sadness diary
  • Watch a movie that you know will allow your tears to flow
  • Think about who you wish you could share your sadness with and picture yourself talking to this person
  • Share your sad feelings with someone

Flight of Hope #5 – Perspective is also important to think about when you are very sad. Everyone experiences suffering and pain. Every single person in the world will experience loss and grief. You are not alone in feeling the way you do. It is our courage in these circumstances – to remain free inside our hearts and not to let suffering smother our spirit – that makes us the hero of our own journey.

Norbert Capek composed this poem in Dresden Prison in 1941, shortly before he was transferred to Dachau concentration camp, where he died in October, 1942 ~

It is worthwhile to live
and fight courageously
for sacred ideals.

O blow ye evil winds
into my body’s fire
my soul you’ll never unravel.

Even though disappointed a thousand times
or fallen in the fight
and everything would worthless seem,

I have lived amidst eternity —
Be grateful, my soul —
My life was worth living.

He who was pressed from all sides
but remained victorious in spirit
is welcomed into the choir of heroes.

He who overcame the fetters
giving wings to his mind
is entering into the golden age of
the victorious.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond tells his son, Albert, “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome, ‘Do your worst, for I will do mine!’ Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!” It is the courage you muster, and the courage you have in the worst moments that make you a mature human being. If you look for that courage, you’ll find it. Don’t give up!

Flight of Hope #6 – Start simple. There are many things to open your senses to that may bring you back into an appreciation of life. Go outside and let your senses awaken. Walk on the beach – feel the sand, smell and taste the salt-air, hear the waves and the gulls, watch the sunset. Walk down the street or walk in the woods, drive to the desert or sit on a park bench, and pay attention to each one of your senses. Close your eyes and experience. Anne Frank wote, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”

Flight of Hope #7 – There is someone available right now to listen and help.

The most important step is to talk to someone. People who feel suicidal should not try to cope alone. They should seek help NOW.

  • Talk to family or friends. Just talking to a family member or a friend or a colleague can bring huge relief.
  • Talk to a befriender. Some people cannot talk to family or friends. Some find it easier to talk to a stranger. There are befriending centers all over the world, with volunteers who have been trained to listen. If calling is too difficult, the person can send an email.
  • Talk to a doctor. If someone is going through a longer period of feeling low or suicidal, he or she may be suffering from clinical depression. This is a medical condition caused by a chemical imbalance, and can usually be treated by a doctor through the prescription of drugs and/or a referral to therapy.

Call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-784-2433 (TOLL FREE Nation Wide)
Website: www.timesunion.com/communities/samaritans/
Website: www.suicidepreventioncenter.org

The experts say suicide is rarely a spur of the moment decision and is not so much about wanting to die, but about a powerful need for pain to end. All types of people die by suicide: men and women, rich and poor, old and young, straight and gay, rural and urban. What suicidal people share are feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and isolation, a desire for a solution to their problems, and deep uncertainties about living and dying. The more you know about suicide, the better you will be able to help someone struggling with these issues.

In the days and hours before people take their own lives, there are usually

Warning Signs:

The strongest warning signs are verbal: “I can’t go on,” “Nothing matters any more,” “I’m thinking of ending it all.” Such remarks should always be taken seriously.

Other warning signs include:
Becoming depressed or withdrawn for > 2 weeks
Behaving recklessly
Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions
Showing a marked change in behavior, attitudes or appearance
Abusing drugs or alcohol

What do people who feel suicidal want?

Someone who will take time to really listen.

Someone who won’t judge, or give advice or opinions, but will give their undivided attention.

Someone to trust.

Someone who will respect them.

Someone who will say, “I care.”

Someone who will make him/herself available; put the person at ease and speak calmly.

Someone who will reassure, accept and believe.

What do people who feel suicidal not want?

To be alone. Rejection can make the problem seem ten times worse. Having someone to turn to makes all the difference. Just listen.

To be advised. Lectures don’t help. Nor does a suggestion to “cheer up”, or an easy assurance that “everything will be okay.” Don’t analyze, compare, categorize or criticize.

To be interrogated. Don’t change the subject, don’t pity or patronize. Talking about feelings is difficult. People who feel suicidal don’t want to be rushed or put on the defensive.

Have hope – we are all children of God, we are all made of stars.

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More thoughts on love…love in action

May we love ever more.
May we motivate ourselves to committed love in Action.
May we motivate ourselves to live the life we wish to see in the world.
May we be the transformation we wish to see in the world.
From the inside out . . .
From the roots branching upwards . . .
From the heart
to thought
to word
to action.
Through life’s trials and hardships
we can arise beautiful and free.

for luna – julia butterfly hill – 11/26/2000

tree-of-life.jpg

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“What you feel only matters to you. It’s what you do to the people you say you love. That’s what matters. That’s the only thing that counts.” ~The Last Kiss

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Another way that you love your enemy is this:

When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy,
that is the time which you must not do it.
There will come a time, in many instances,
when the person who hates you most,
the person who has misused you most,
the person who has gossiped about you most,
the person who has spread false rumors about you most,
there will come a time when
you will have an opportunity to defeat that person.
It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job;
it might be in terms of helping that person
to make some move in life.
That’s the time you must do it.
That is the meaning of love.

In the final analysis,
love is not this sentimental something that we talk about.
It’s not merely an emotional something.
Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men.
It is the refusal to defeat any individual.
When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power,
you seek only to defeat evil systems.
Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love,
but you seek to defeat the system.

loving your enemies – martin luther king jr. – 1957


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