Grateful

December 26, 2013

From the Daily Good, dailygood.org

Always be…grateful.

 

http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=4460

 

Blessings.

 

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Only For Today

May 24, 2013

I always look for new ideas on how to be more mindful of the present moment. Sometimes it is so very difficult to do that. There are always thoughts jumping ahead to what is scheduled next, what might happen, what will never happen.

Today I ran across a little article that was directed instead on focusing on the day today. As I thought about it, I felt that really that is what I try to do. I keep the day as a whole in my head, and as I wind my way through the hours and events, I then focus on those specific things as they are happening.

The Ten Simple Rules for Daily Living came from the website Greatfulness.org

DSCN0499

(photograph by me: Oregon coast)

Here are the thoughts, in my words:

* Only for today, I will live the day being positive and not try to solve the problems in my life in one day.

* Only for today, I will be mindful of my appearance. I will dress as if my appearance is an expression of my thoughts and values. I will not raise my voice. I will be kind and compassionate to others. I will not criticize others. I will not judge others.  I will only work on improving myself.

* Only for today, I will remind myself that I have within me the capacity to be happy. To be content.

* Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances around me without requiring that all circumstance adapt to my own wishes.

* Only for today, I will commit 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering to feed my thirst for learning, knowledge and understanding.

* Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

* Only for today,  I will make a plan for myself. I might not follow it exactly, but I will do my best. I will be mindful of hastiness and indecision.

* Only for today,  I will remind myself that today is a gift.

* Only for today,  I will have no fears. Within the hours of the day I will focus on each moment.  In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness and compassion.

 

I read this article a little while ago:

http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/170

It made me sad and then it made me think: how many people do I make invisible by not “seeing” them? Why?

Have you ever walked along on the sidewalk and noticed someone just ahead of you walking towards you….and you look to the side or down when they pass? I have.

Have you ever thought about “what part of town” your walking through? Have you ever felt embarrassed looking at someone and kind of wishing they really weren’t there? I have.

Has your heart rate ever increased as someone approaches you? Have you ever crossed the street to avoid someone? Yes.

Are there people you come across during the day that you try to make “invisible”? Just like a child who covers their eyes so they don’t have to see something? Yes.

invisible_people_

Why do we do this? What do we fear? Where has the fear come from?

If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us, if no young person ever has need to thank a stranger for merely seeing them, then we will have done a fine thing.”

A couple of years ago I was walking during lunch and notice two men near the corner where I was headed, engaged in a very animated conversation. It looked like they were laughing, but it was pretty intense. I could feel myself reacting, but I just kept going. With my eyes looking elsewhere. As I got closer I could hear snippets of the conversation  and it was about race. I tired to make them invisible. I was nervous. This is hard to admit even to a bunch of readers I don’t even know!! Then I heard it: “Let’s ask her”. I was her.

I had to look up, to make eye contact, to smile. One man said, “My friend and I here are having a conversation about people. He thinks you won’t hug me if I ask you to because I am black. What do you say? May I have a hug?”

What could I say? “Of course I will give you a hug.” And I did. He laughed and I got a great big bear hug. The other man asked why I had said yes. “Because he is just a person asking for a hug.” Inside I was realizing how hard that had been and was upset at all the reasons of why that were going through my mind. Irrational, stereotyped, fearful…so many negatives.

“Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.”

I got a hug.

Now I am mindful of my eyes, my body language, my thoughts and choices. I walk where I am going without thought of who I pass by. I hold my head up and look at people and smile. I say “Thank You”, and “Hi”, and “Have a good day”.  Yesterday I thanked the eye doctor for being open on Saturday. I take for granted places are open on Saturdays. I thanked the man who was sweeping the sidewalk and his face lit up. I thanked the grocery clerk bagging my groceries. I tell the cranky parking attendant “thank you” and wish her a good evening. I am committed to making the people I make invisible, visible.

Years ago when I worked downtown there was a young man who participated in the programs of our mental health clinic. He was physically not healthy. He received services for mental illness. He was someone who could easily be made invisible, and many people in fact did not see him. But he was happy. He laughed, he smiled. He tried to engage people in conversation. Generally they did not see or hear him. I began to respond to him. I had short conversations with him about the weather, the trash, whatever he brought up. One day I noticed that wherever I seemed to be in a 2 or 3 block area downtown, every time I came near a door, he was there. To open it for me. One day I said something about it and he said “I like to do this for you. You’re nice to me. You don’t have to be but you are.”

There is another woman named Caroline. She also struggles with mental health issues. Some days she doesn’t do so well: you can see it in the way she dresses, the way she grooms herself. On “better” days she initiates eye contact. I invited her to sit and have coffee with me sometimes. We had nice little conversations. Sometimes  even just the next day she wouldn’t even recognize me. One day in our local bookstore Caroline walked in. The owner greeted her and she handed him a small pile of books and thanked him. He smiled at her and said something and they laughed  The woman I was with asked him who she was and why she had given him books. He told my friend Caroline’s story and said he lent her books to read, commenting that she was a very bright person going through difficult times. He said she loved to read but couldn’t buy books and couldn’t get a library card. My friend said something like, “I would have never guessed.” Caroline was someone who was easy to make invisible.

“If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us, if no young person ever has need to thank a stranger for merely seeing them, then we will have done a fine thing.”

There is so much fear, distrust, apprehension, suspicion about “others” these days…………there are lots of invisible people out there. Do you have any? If you don’t, do you still have a responsibility to help others see these people who are just folks waiting for a hug, a cup of coffee, a short conversation, a kind word, a smile, or a good book to read?

Let’s accept this invitation:

“Here’s my invitation to you: let’s take a month and intentionally notice those we would normally not see. Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.

So let’s say “Hey” to someone new tomorrow. I’ll bet we have conversations that surprise us. I’ll bet we learn something new.”

” Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

 
“Our job is to love others without stopping
to inquire whether or not they are worthy.
That is not our business,
and in fact, it is nobody’s business.
 What we are asked to do is love,
and this love itself will render both ourselves 
and our neighbors worthy, if anything can.”
Thomas Merton

As we gather together in the soft darkness of the Solstice we are reminded there are rhythms and cycles that move without thought to us humans. As we embrace  families and friends singing out greetings of peace and Faith, let us also remember we have a calling to love one another, every single person, without stopping. There is no pausing to regard if they are worthy.

What we are asked to do is love.

There is a lot of talk and thoughts about those who have, and those who have not, those who are  deserving, and those who are not, those who are “good” and those who are “bad”, those who are “right” and those who are “wrong”. In amongst all that, it feels sometimes that we have lost the capacity to love, to accept, to help heal, to forgive and to be tolerant and have decided to walk  instead with fear, mistrust,  isolation, apathy.

What we are asked to do is love.

metta

“We do not exist for ourselves.” Thomas Merton

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” Thomas Merton

I certainly struggle with this. But, I struggle more with the thought of violence, of turning a blind eye, of pretending to know which is the one, right path.

This is the time of year when many of us turn inward. A time of reflection. Also, a time of looking forward. Many customs of the Solstice and New Year include a letting go of the past and a cleansing of the heart and spirit for the future.  While we can never be sure of the future, we can, and this moment, open up our hearts and love. It’s not our business to judge. Everyone struggles and falls. What we are asked to do is love. At this moment.

http://www.merton.org/chrono.aspx

 
 

Are You Ready For This Day?

October 21, 2012

I came across a guide for preparing for the day. It is based on the chakras, but I think that even if you do not have interest in chakra work, the general idea is one worth considering.

It starts by reminding us that each day is a new beginning. The task for  today is to learn the practice of consciously entering your body and your day. Begin by focusing attention on your entire day from morning to evening.

Review your plans for today:

  • Think about where you need to be and with whom you need to be.
  • Do you feel stressful about this day or do you feel comfortable?
  • Do you feel prepared for today’s events?
  • Are you projecting fears and expectations into this day?

As you gather yourself and plan for the day, add these thoughts to the process:

  • Identify your fears for today and pull them into your consciousness.
  • Acknowledge the strength of the energetic circuitry connecting you to all life.
  • Visualize that strength replacing your fears for today.
  • See yourself standing tall.
  • Work: What am I going to do today?
  • Creativity: What am I going to create today?
  • Focus on your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself today:
  • Am I feeling strong? Frightened?
  • Do I need someone’s approval today?
  • Will I need to be courageous?
  • Remind yourself of your boundaries, dignity, inherent honor, and integrity.
  • Make an internal  promise in terms of how you want to live your life today.
  • Reaffirm to yourself  that you want to look at today through your heart and not through your fears; that you want to feel gratitude for events that do or don’t happen as they should.
  • Keep your attention on the right way to walk into this day, with compassion and patience.
  • Define your needs and desires for today and let go of doing the same for others.
  • Envision choices that result in positive attitudes and feelings about yourself.
  • Vow to express yourself honestly.
  • Prepare your mind to enter the day feeling good and not generating fear or doubt.
  • For today, release old grudges, beliefs, attitudes and patterns that no longer serve you.
  • Remember that everything in your life is there for a reason and to teach you something about yourself and others.
  • Pull your attention up and out, and hold the idea ‘live in present time.’
  • Let go of the past and do not anticipate the future.
  • Find moments of gratitude throughout the day.

At the end of the day, pause for a quiet time to reflect on the day, and put it to bed also.

  • Think about how you feel about yourself and your day now that it  is over.
  • Reflect on the million things that happened to you today and be appreciative of them all.
  • Remember that everything has the potential to be a valuable learning experience.
  • Look at the positive things you invested in today and be grateful for them.
  • Were you able to make choices that enhanced your life today? If so, acknowledge those choices, take a deep breath and decide to put your energy into more of them.
  • What choices drained your energy? Commit to changing those choices in the future.
  • Ask yourself “Did I speak with honesty and integrity?”
  •  How have you done with forgiveness today?
  • Were you judgmental or critical of yourself or others today or did you extend kindness and compassion?
  • Release your fears and doubt.
  • Breath and allow yourself to prepare for restful sleep knowing that tomorrow will be a new day.

Namaste.

 

 

Recently we were in Bloomington, Indiana visiting our daughter who is beginning graduate school at Indiana University.

All around town were billboards with the IU logo on a crimson background and simple white letters that offered these six words:

Work hard.

Have fun.

Be kind.

This past week, at work, I was sitting at our morning Circle Time with 15 three to six year olds. We were reviewing important to things to remember as individuals in a classroom community. We covered many of the basics; walking feet, indoor voices, washing hands, etc.  Soon to be kindergartner Leo raised his hand with another thought. When I called his name, he put his hands out in front of him, palms up, raised them slightly and said:

“Just be kind.”

Indiana University and a five year old say kindness is important, so it must be true.  Kindness counts. Practice  kindness today and every day:

http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas

Ethic of Reciprocity

April 15, 2012

Definition of “ethic”:

1:  the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

2a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values
b:  plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group
c : a guiding philosophy
d : a consciousness of moral importance

Definition of “reciprocity”:

1: the quality or state of being reciprocal : mutual dependence, action, or influence

2: a mutual exchange of privileges; specifically : a recognition by one of two countries or institutions of the validity of licenses or privileges granted by the other

You may know the Ethic of Reciprocity as The Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

This concept can be found many disciplines: psychology, philosophy, sociology, religion, and more.  Psychologically it means empathizing with others. Philosophically it requires a person perceiving their neighbor as also “an I” or “self.”  Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and between individuals and groups. And of course, it is an integral part of religion.

http://bahaiforums.com/pictures/2248-golden-rule-poster-golden-rule-quoted-different-religions.html

While the religious connection is important and unavoidable, I really am more concerned with how we can live on a daily basis with the basic concept of the Golden Rule in order to live up to our potential.

The Golden Rule requires us to practice empathy:

Definition of EMPATHY: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

It is a proactive directive: As Dr. Frank Crane put it, “The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatsoever unless you realize that it’s your move!”

And for me, that goes hand in hand with Gandhi’s famous quote:

The Golden Rule is beautifully simple. By following the Golden Rule I find there is a tendency to make the people I have interactions with, happier. There is a noticeable side effect in that I feel happier too: treat others as you want to be treated. So simple.

You may find more satisfaction in yourself, a greater belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person and a new trust in yourself. These are huge benefits! And the results are felt immediately!

Start today, even if it is one step at a time.

My father used to always say:”Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” We call it empathy. Try it with any person: someone you love, someone you are angry at, the person on the street corner, the tired waitress. Really try to understand what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.
Practice compassion. Feel what they’re going through, learn to want to end their suffering. And when you can, take even a small action to somehow ease their suffering in some way.  So when you put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself how you think they want to be treated. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.
Be friendly. We are so conditioned these days to be wary of strangers; “Stranger Danger”. It’s usually safe to say “hello”, or “Thank you”, or add “Have a nice day.”  Who doesn’t like to feel welcome and wanted?
Be helpful. Is this currently a weaknesses in our society? Seems like it sometimes. In general there is a tendency to keep ourselves. It is easy to turn a blind eye when we are deep in concentration on our cell phone, or have our eyes closed listening to our ipod. ” Don’t be blind to the needs and troubles of others. Look to help even before you’re asked.”
Listen to people. We all want to talk, but very few of us want to listen. And yet, we all want to be listened to. So take the time to actually listen to another person, rather than just wait your turn to talk.
Overcome prejudice. We all have our prejudices. But try to see each person as an individual human being, with different backgrounds and needs and dreams. Discover what is the same between “you” and “them”.
Stop criticizing. We all do it. We do it to people we know, people we don’t know…. learn to interact with others in a positive way, without using criticism as a thread for discussion or gossip.

Rise above retaliation. Often our instinct is to strike back when we’re treated badly. This is natural. Resist that urge.  We are trying to remember to treat others well, despite how they treat you. You do not have to suffer in doing this. You can take action in ways that are not retaliatory.

Let the change Gandhi spoke about begin with you. Practice the Ethic of Reciprocity and see first hand how those changes come to life. Live up to your potential of being a kind, compassionate, empathetic person, and see how others begin to see you differently and treat you with a new respect.

Metta: Loving Kindness

April 12, 2012

I  practice this meditation every night before going to bed. Lately I am thinking about trying to do it every morning too. I love that it begins with acknowledging our self, and requires us to put those who cause us sorrow, pain, frustration in a different light: remembering they deserve blessings too….

The meditation is done 4 times with only the name of the person changing each time. It can be very powerful.

The order of the meditation is:

• a respected, beloved person – such as a spiritual teacher;
• a dearly beloved – which could be a close family member or friend;
• a neutral person – somebody you know, but have no special feelings towards, e.g.: a person who serves you in a shop;
• a difficult/hostile person – someone you are currently having difficulty with.

(you could even end by saying the Metta meditation “For all sentient beings”….)

A simple version would be to start with yourself and say:

” May I be happy, may I be joyful, may I be at peace.”

Then replace “I ” with the name of someone you respect….

Continue on with the name of  a person you love, a “neutral person, and the name of someone you struggle with.

There are several variations of this meditation:

May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.

May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy.

May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
May I be healthy and strong.

May I be able to live in this world happily,
peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

Or another still, the one on the prayer flag shown at the beginning of the post .

What is Metta meditation and why do it? from Steven Smith:

“Loving-kindness, or metta, as it in called in the Pali language, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return. This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential. We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving kindness.

This is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship — a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love. Loving kindness is without any desire to possess another. It is not a sentimental feeling of goodwill, not an obligation, but comes from a selfless place. It does not depend on relationships, on how the other person feels about us. The process is first one of softening, breaking down barriers that we feel inwardly toward ourselves, and then those that we feel toward others”    http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/subnav/kindness.htm

As Steven says, it is all about the “ideal, pure love”, which everyone has in potential. If we are working to live a life to the fullest of our potential, we have to include the practice of  Metta. For ourselves and all sentient beings.