Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

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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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 Oneness of it all…

Today, my fav columnist Mark Morford wrote another fantastic piece about the oneness of it all… and in it he said … [remember that] “all matter, no matter how disgusting, joyful, vile or beautiful, is merely energy, that everything emanates from and returns to the same divine source, that all dualities of good/bad disgusting/delicious love/hate collapse together into the same moment. There is no difference. Grossness is merely a perception. Joy is merely an illusive state. Where they collapse into one, there lies the truth…You get the idea? Somehow, some way, you gotta take it all in, sit right in the center of it, conscious of all but attached to none, and be OK. It’s all just energy. It’s all the same divine breath of god, blowing in your ear, whispering sweet everythings. Collapse it all together. Shake, stir, swallow it down with a bow and a humble smile. Tasty, no?”

The idea here being, can we live in the world but not be of the world? Can we be grounded and awakened amidst our circumstances – the people around us, our jobs, our concerns, the things we think of as good and bad, right or wrong – and realize that none of that is the core of truth? That truth lies behind it all?

You know, good question.

I often feel segmented into the Spiritual me – the mediator, reader, pray-er, seeker – and the person that has to do and experience life. The goal for me is to bring the two aspects together… to wash dishes Mindfully, as it were …. to be spiritually awake during my workday, my commute, my stressful interaction with someone who is difficult to work with. To be grounded in the Oneness while experiencing uncertainty about the future, rethinking of the past, manifesting my desires. To realize my essential nature is the consciousness in which all things – my feelings, thoughts, perceptions, actions and circumstances – arise and subside.

Being in this state is its own reward because it allows you to feel at peace… and its a reward for everyone else too, because in this state we bring peace and lovingkindness into the world, raising the consciousness bar for everyone. It’s a happy place.

” The perfect and the imperfect, the sacred and the profane, beautiful and the ugly, sinner and the saint, evil and good are all manifestations of the one divine consciousness. This is the reality of an awakened being.

The nature of existence is bliss. it is qualified by auspicious qualities of love, compassion, connectedness and silence. Man’s consciousness is fettered by concepts, ideas, conditioning and mental constructs.

“When consciousness is purged of all its contamination, what remains is life – pure consciousness or God.”

Sri Bhagavan


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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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“OK – Yes”

Acceptance

There’s an Italian man who says “OK – Yes” to almost every situation in Under the Tuscan Sun. When the wall he is working on starts to rumble and crumble and begins to fall down, he runs outside with everyone and says, “OK – Yes.” Now, those may not be the first couple of words you hear yourself saying when things are stressful, or crumbling around you. But, if you can manage to say “OK – Yes” to any situation, it enables you to recover and move on more quickly than if you resist, complain, curse, or punish yourself or others. Eckhart Tolle has a metaphor for this too. He says, if you find your self stuck in the mud, you can curse it and complain about it, try to figure out why the mud is there in the first place, and flail around, but you will still be in stuck in the mud – and you’ll just be a bit dirtier. Instead of resisting the mud, say “OK – Yes, I see that I am stuck in the mud, I don’t like it, and now I’m going to do what it takes to get out.” Coming from a place of acceptance allows you to move forward more constructively, and freer of the psychological pain that comes with being opposed to the present moment. Acceptance allows you to deal with it and move on, while resistance keeps you stuck.

“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Alignment

Yesterday a friend described how her rowing team works together. She’ll be competing in a world-wide competition, and her coach has taught them that “rowing like a jackass” will not win the race. In rowing, the forward motion of the boat not only depends upon the exertion of the rowers, but also on the alignment of the rowers with the forward movement of the boat. If you’re “rowing like a jackass,” you are not only wasting energy, you are creating negative momentum by pushing your body toward your feet while the boat is moving in the opposite direction. Teams who win are not the ones rowing hardest, but the ones in which each team mate is rowing in alignment with the boat and with her team mates. This seems like a great analogy for living a peaceful life – stop rowing like a jackass, for one. Also, it helps to have good team mates. And finding your sense of alignment, and staying with it, will move you forward.

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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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Beannacht (“Blessing”) by John O’Donohue

A poem for healing, grace, generosity and strength of spirit for a friend in need….

Beannacht (“Blessing”) by John O’Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O’Donohue also wrote Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

A Book of Celtic Wisdom  


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Meditation practice from The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower

Breathing out, I feel fresh

Breathing in, I feel myself as a mountain

Breathing out, I feel solid

Breathing in, I see myself as still water

Breathing out, I feel myself reflecting clearly

Breathing in, I feel space inside me and around me

Breathing out, I feel free

*****************************************

To live in forgetfulness means to get lost in the past and in the future, to be possessed by anger, hatred, fear, and therefore you are not ready to enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is available to you in every moment.

To get rid of forgetfulness, you practice breathing in and out and the result is mindfulness. And with mindfulness you get in touch with everything that is wonderful, that is refreshing, that is healing in the present moment.

A brief paraphrased summary of each practice is written below:

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower

Breathing out, I feel fresh

Humans are born as flowers. We are fresh and beautiful. You can offer someone a flower with your eyes, when you smile at them with your eyes. Your smile is another flower you can offer to anyone at anytime. When you look at someone and you smile with your eyes you offer them two flowers. When you smile with your lips you offer another flower. With my hands I can form a flower – a lotus flower, and when I bow to someone, I make a flower with my hands and I say, “a flower for you, the Buddha to be.” So my hands are flowers, capable of making someone happy. We are born as flowers but we must take care of our flowers or we will wilt. When you breathe in deeply you make every cell in your body smile like a flower, and for your sake and for the happiness of others you should be fresh. If you are grouchy and irritated, people around you cannot be happy. So practice refreshing yourself. The Buddha sits on a lotus flower – it means anywhere he sits, he sits with peace, happiness and freshness. If we have too many worries, we cannot sit on a flower – we sit on burning coals. But if we practice taking care of our flower, we can have peace with us anywhere.

Breathing in, I feel myself as a mountain

Breathing out, I feel solid

From time to time a very strong emotion overwhelms us – it can be anger or despair or fear. When this happens we feel very vulnerable, breakable. But we are more than our emotions. We are more solid than we may think. So practice being solid like a mountain. When we look at a tree during a storm, we see the top of the tree swaying – it is not solid. You see the leaves and branches and you have the impression that the tree is vulnerable and fragile. But if you see that the tree is firmly rooted in the ground, the impression that the tree is vulnerable will vanish. You see that the tree is more solid than it looks at the top. We are like these trees. Emotions pass over us at the top but we have the trunk down here…. a little below your navel. Bring your attention down to this level, and breathe in and out. Then your emotion will not be able to destroy you anymore. We should practice this every day so that when emotions overwhelm us we know how to handle it.

Breathing in, I see myself as still waters

Breathing out, I feel myself reflecting clearly

When we are not calm we distort things. We cannot receive the message of other people; we cannot receive the truth from others. Suppose the moon wants to reflect herself in the water of your pond, but the water of your pond is not calm. How can the full moon reflect herself in you? It’s not the fault of the moon, it’s the fault of the water. If the pond of the mind is still, the moon will reflect herself in it. If you are still then your perceptions will be correct. We will understand what people are trying to tell us. The moon, the mountains, the rivers, the trees, everything is trying to tell us the truth. But because the water of our mind is not still, we cannot receive the truth from the cosmos. We must calm ourselves for true understanding to be possible.

Breathing in, I feel space inside me and around me

Breathing out, I feel free

If you don’t have space, how can you be happy? We all need space around us in and inside us. We have to move and have liberty, and we need space to do that. The refreshing moon of the Buddha travels in the sky of the utmost emptiness. The Buddha has a lot of space inside and outside. Those who have more space are happier. Give your loved ones some space. When you arrange flowers, each flower needs some space around for the flower to radiate its beauty and its freshness. Human beings are like flowers; they are flowers, and each one needs space around. Offer freedom and emptiness to yourself and others. Don’t be so busy that you have no space.

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The River by Thich Nhat Hanh from “Peace Is Every Step”

The River by Thich Nhat Hanh from Peace Is Every Step

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Once upon a time there was a beautiful river finding her way among the hills, forests, and meadows. She began by being a joyful stream of water, a spring always dancing and singing as she ran down from the top of the mountain. She was very young at the time, and as she came to the lowland she slowed down. She was thinking about going to the ocean. As she grew up, she learned to look beautiful, winding gracefully among the hills and meadows.

 

One day she noticed the clouds within herself; clouds of all sorts of colors and forms. She did nothing during these days but chase after clouds. She wanted to possess a cloud, to have one for herself. But clouds float and travel in the sky, and they are always changing their form. Sometimes they look like an overcoat, sometimes like a horse. Because of the nature of impermanence within the clouds, the river suffered very much. Her pleasure, her joy had become just chasing after clouds, one after another, but despair, anger, and hatred became her life.

 

Then one day a strong wind came and blew away all the clouds in the sky. The sky became completely empty. Our river thought that life was not worth living, for there were no longer any clouds to chase after. She wanted to die: “If there are no clouds, why should I be alive?” But how can a river take her own life?

 

That night the river had the opportunity to go back to herself for the first time. She had been running for so long after something outside of herself that she had never seen herself. That night was the first opportunity for her to hear her own crying, the sounds of water crashing against the banks of the river. Because she was able to listen to her own voice, she discovered something quite important.

 

She realized that what she had been looking for was already in herself. She found out that clouds are nothing but water. Clouds are born from water and will return to water. And she found out that she herself is also water.

 

The next morning when the sun was in the sky, she discovered something beautiful. She saw the blue sky for the first time. She had never noticed it before. She had only been interested in clouds, and she had missed seeing the sky, which is the home of all the clouds. Clouds are impermanent, but the sky is stable. She realized that the immense sky had been within her heart since the very beginning. This great insight brought her peace and happiness. As she saw the vast wonderful blue sky, she knew that her peace and stability would never be lost again.

 

That afternoon the clouds returned, but this time she did not want to possess any of them. She could see the beauty of each cloud, and she was able to welcome all of them. When a cloud came by, she would greet him or her with loving kindness. When that cloud wanted to go away, she would wave to him or her happily and with loving kindness. She realized that all clouds are her. She didn’t have to choose between the clouds and herself. Peace and harmony existed between her and the clouds.

 

That evening something wonderful happened. When she opened her heart completely to the evening sky she received the image of the full moon–beautiful, round, like a jewel within herself. She had never imagined that she could receive such a beautiful image.

 

There is a very beautiful poem in Chinese: “The fresh and beautiful moon is traveling in the utmost empty sky. When the mind-rivers of living beings are free, that image of the beautiful moon will reflect in each of us.”

 

This was the mind of the river at that moment. She received the image of that beautiful moon within her heart, and water, clouds, and moon took each other’s hands and practiced walking meditation slowly, slowly to the ocean.

 

There is nothing to chase after. We can go back to ourselves, enjoy our breathing, our smiling, ourselves, and our beautiful environment.

 

-picture from http://www.flickr.com/photos/earlette/218358639/

 

 

 

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A newer translation of the Lord’s Prayer

There’s a little book called The Ancient Aramaic Prayer of Jesus which gives a more literal translation of the Lord’s Prayer from Aramaic to English. There are some significant differences between the translation and what is traditionally taught as the Lord’s prayer. You may find this translation (below) inspiring in keeping spritual harmony and balance.

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Our Father and our Mother, who is everywhere and in everything,

Your name is holy.

Let your Kingdom and counsel come into my heart and guide me rightly,

And help me to remember to seek your Kingdom above all other things.

Let your will be done in my life and in the lives of everyone, and let me attune myself to your voice.

Give us what we need each day, in body, spirit, mind and heart.

Forgive me for my offenses, and help me forgive others and be free from anger and resentment.

Do not let me enter into temptation or materialism, and keep me separate from harm and evil.

Yours is the Kingdom, power, guidance and song throughout all the ages.

In faith I believe that you will bless me with these things, and thank you for your love.

Amen.

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Loving your Self on Valentines Day..

“The goal of being alone should not be to prepare us for couplehood. Rather, the goal of being single should be to learn to fulfill ourselves, to meet our needs, and to develop as a human being regardless of whether or not we choose to enter into a relationship. By learning to love and care for ourselves, we diminish the risk of starving for someone else to fill the void within our souls; a void that only we can truly fill.” from Single & Satisfied. Wow – that really says it all doesn’t it? Having been unhappily married and then single for the last 5 years, this is the work I’ve been doing. Thinking back over the last hew years, it was hard at first to live alone, but now I acutally enjoy it. And I am much better at filling that void myself instead of relying on someon else to fill it. I’m not cynical about relationships – oo the contrary, I know they can be wonderful. But how great it’s been to develop the relationship with myself!!

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If there is to be peace…

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

chinese philospher – lao-tse – 6th century bce

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