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

Mind Like A Buddha Board

January 5, 2013

Do you know what a Buddha Board is? Or a Zen Board? It’s a  magical board where you use a soft calligraphy brush dipped in water to create a picture, a design, or to write a word. Then as you sit back and watch, it slowly disappears, dissolves and is gone. It is brief, fleeting. Impermanent.

zenboard

What if we could make our crazy, busy, over thinking minds like a Buddha Board……noticing what we have created in our mind, or are experiencing with our emotions, and then watch it fade away and be gone? Anxiety, worry, fear, doubt, apprehension  anger, sorrow, anticipation, even joy and happiness. What if all these things were there, and then not there?

For me the idea of not holding on to the experience of happiness, joy, satisfaction, contentment, etc., is hard to “want”. At the same time, I understand these are a type of false happiness because they do not last….they fade even if I try to  hold on to them. They are fleeting. They cause me to have desires for more of the same, or feel sad when they are replaced by another emotion, or to long for the past, or be anxious about whether the future will hold more of the same good feelings or not, to wish or hope for something more or different……what a circle.

Another analogy is your mind being like the sky with clouds drifting by…changing and disappearing.  Thoughts and emotions are like that. When we watch clouds for real in the sky we do it with awe and humor and then, when the cloud has changed into something else or floated away, we do not mourn the “loss” but think: “That was fun.”, or “That was beautiful.” Often we do not give it another thought. No longing for that cloud to return. It was, and now it is gone. Yet we experienced it, appreciated it. It brought some fun into our lives….made us smile and feel good.

clouds

Our minds are so jam packed full of stuff: thoughts, ideas, emotions, self doubt…..Sometimes it is hard to just be settled and present with where we are now. To be grateful for life and health. To smile and make eye contact with someone.  To say “thank-you”. To be present for ourselves and someone else.

Everywhere we go there is artificial noise, and visual overload. All around us are images and suggestions of what will make us feel happy, or powerful, or important, or satisfied, or beautiful, or even scared or worried.

But will they really? In a lasting, meaningful way?

I’ve come to a time in my life where I WANT my mind to be like a Buddha Board. I want to be able to watch the clouds in my mind drift by, change shape and disappear. I want to be able to be in THIS moment, free from longing for the past or being anxious for the future. One is gone forever, and the other may not even come.

persent moment

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.

 

 

The Delights of Life

September 23, 2012

I was going to call this entry “joy is in the journey”, but the word “delight” got the better of me!

Every day we get up. Sometimes refreshed, sometimes not so much. Maybe we tossed and turned with restless thoughts or are clinging to the dream of chocolate waterfalls and trying really hard not to open our eyes. Perhaps the sun shining through the window in the morning warms our body and makes the world seem soft and perfect. Maybe the pitter patter of rain makes us frown. That nagging worry from the day before may have already taken over every thought even before we can get a cup of coffee…..our mental list of everything that has to be done today gets longer with every waking moment…….we know all these scenarios.

I suggest that these could be labeled the ‘delights of life”. Why? Because they mean we are alive.

I have no magical ability to weather with grace or patience, the ups and downs that create my days. I get frustrated. I cry. I laugh. I feel dread and anxiety. I experience giddiness and anticipation. And as I age, ( like a fine wine, versus “grow older” like rotting. Could have said ‘mature’ but wasn’t in the mood.), I notice that when I try to embrace everything, I am surprised to discover that I can begin to see them as delights in my life. Even if they make me grumble or bitter. I find my mind chatter chortling “it will be OK”, “there is a reason for this, just let things play out”, “This seems really unpleasant, but you will get through it”, etc. And after the fact there is usually an internal or external smile or smirk: a sense of ” I got through that”.  And it is a delight because I always see things differently afterwards.

We are who we are because of the experiences we have gone through, because of the road we have traveled. There have been times I did not like who I was at some specific moment. There were roads I did not want to be on, and experiences that brought great pain and sorrow. I have a co-worker or two who tosses me a curve ball every day. They are delights in my life. (although I often do need to be reminded of this)

All those uncomfortable, unpleasant, people and things. Along with the love of my family, the gift and beauty of my children, the ache in my hip, the bad meal at a restaurant……the sun shining, the snow fall, the frustration with world news…..delights. Because I am here. Because I have emotions and choices, the ability to do things for others, the opportunity to advance positive change, to learn and to grow.

I asked my facebook friends to share some of their delights. There was a lot of family, friends, sunshine, time to oneself, things in nature. One said a clean house, someone said scarves, and one said when her child is well fed. It’s different for all of us. The delights of life are all around us, don’t you agree?

http://www.quotesea.com/quotes/with/delight

The In-Between Spaces

August 4, 2012

ECOTONES: the in-between spaces in an ecological setting.

It is a  transition area between two biomes

or different patches of the landscape,

like the space where the ocean meets the shore.

We have spaces like this too. In-between spaces, where the boundaries are blurred. It is not always clear where one emotion or thought begins and another ends. There is a symbiotic relationship. Each “part” needs the other to be balanced, but sometimes the boundaries change or are blurred making it difficult to feel we have completely moved on from one to another.

Emotions, thoughts, feelings that we might consider separate, actually coexist. There is no finite  boundary, no solid line where one begins and another ends.

For many of us this lack of clearness can be difficult. We want to know that one thing is ending, finished, and another is beginning. But it isn’t always so easy, so clearly defined.

We have pain and sorrow right along side joy and happiness. Anxiety can be cradled next to assurance. Perhaps trust is holding hands with doubt.

How do we live with dynamic boundaries where variables blur the edges? The in-between places where we are just not sure of what is going on, of how we are feeling, of where are going, or where we have been? What we may have lost? What we might have gained?

In nature these areas are sometimes turbulent, sometimes peaceful.  Waves on the shore may carry sand and plants away, eroding the shore. Other times the waves bring new sand, plants or animals to the beach. Sometimes these are “good” changes, sometimes not. There is a give and take. Sometimes the balance is quick and easy.  Other times, the compromises cause the two sides to give something up.  But in the end it is Nature’s way. Nature is life. And death. And violence. And supreme gentleness. In the ebb and flow there is all that represents life: change, uncertainty, risk, balance, loss, pain, joy, gain, happiness, sorrow, life, death, beauty, “ugliness”, fear, calm, love……without any one part, the other pieces are diminished.

Think about the synonyms for “transition”:   changeover, conversion, development, evolution, flux, growth, metamorphosis, passage,  progress, progression, realignment, shift, transformation,  turning point, upheaval.

What are the whispers from your in-between places telling you? Take some time in this space and listen to the possibilities.

Tending Your Garden

June 22, 2012

We all plant and tend to a garden every day: the garden in which we grow. Just like a real garden with soil, seeds, plants, sun and water, our personal garden needs the same things.

When planning a garden, the first thing you do is look at the spot, the landscape. If it isn’t “good enough”, not enough light, poor soil, change it. Both gardens need to THRIVE. You may need to start thinking in new ways….what are your needs? What will bring the qualities you seek into your life, into your garden? Do you need more light? More water? More variety?

Growing a garden takes time. There are empty spaces, and they are ok. You don’t have to fill up every moment. Leave time to decide what to plant.

Opening your mind to new possibilities is like letting the light in. It is ok to create new paths, to explore. Try a different path that is a challenge for you.

Just like a real garden we need to tend to our growth: do something every single day that results in you making “progress”. Longing for quiet? Turn off the ipod. Have a book to finish reading? Turn off the computer.

Cultivate your dreams. Let your mind run free…visualize.

What are your priorities? Your own personal roots? Water them to keep them healthy. Your life must support your values.

Don’t forget the fertilizer! Learn new things, expand your knowledge.

Trial and error is natural in gardening. You won’t know what will flourish until you try. And you can make adjustments to your garden to help the things you care about grow.

Talk to other gardeners. What insight and experiences do they have to share? Friends, family, co-workers, even the mailman, are all growing gardens.

Remember to weed. Get rid of things that just fill up your day but have little meaning or purpose. Make room for the things that matter to be able to grow unimpeded. Weeding has to be a discipline…..do it regularly.

Then, sit back and enjoy and take pride in your garden. See how you grow and flourish.

based on an article at http://www.beliefnet.com/

The Welcoming Prayer

May 25, 2012

 

The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

(by Father Thomas Keating)

What would our days be like, if when we opened our eyes every morning, we took a deep cleansing breath and said:

“Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything

that comes to me today

because I know it is for my healing.”

Those are life altering words: to see every thing that comes to us every day as a means of our own “healing”. Okay, sure: the good things, the joyful happy things….but, what about the pain, the sorrow, the disappointment, loss, failure…..healing?

 “I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.” 

If we can let go of our desire for power and control, let go of our desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.  Let go of our desire for survival and security…..what are we left with? 

We are left with the moment. The here and now. The experience.  As Bodhidarma (coming soon in a new blog post) taught:  keep a steady mind, one that is not swayed by circumstances. A mind open to God, or Spirit or Buddha-Mind, whatever name you give it, whatever belief you have.  

By greeting each and every new day with “welcome, welcome, welcome…”, we are telling our own Potential to open every door today and welcome everything that comes to us through those doors because those things are for our healing, our strengthening.  Without opening the doors we miss possibilities. And possibilities strengthen our potential. Open the morning door wide and shout, “WELCOME , WELCOME, WELCOME!”

A little background information on Father Thomas Keating:

Father Keating is aTrappist monk (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) and priest, known as one of architects of the Centering Prayer, a contemporary method of contemplative prayer, that emerged from St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1975. He was born in New York City, and attended Deerfield Academy, Yale University, and Fordham University, graduating in December 1943. He is a founder of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. (Wikipedia)

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.