Monday, October 29, 2012

The Greatest of These ~ Reflections on an Election

Photo by Lorna Dennis-Corso
A verse from the bible has been echoing in my heart during this election season - one that seems so fraught with anger.  Anger is not something to be ignored, but it seems inappropriate when it comes to who we are as a country and a community especially given the fact that when all is laid bare, we all want the same thing.  We all want to be happy.  We want to be safe.  We don't want anyone to suffer, especially the elderly, the infirm and the children.  And we want those children to have the chance to learn more and travel farther and be even safer and happier than we have been.

That verse comes from Corinthians 13 and is most commonly associated with weddings, not elections.  No matter, here it is: 

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Within a few days decisions will be made about who will be administering the laws of our land. Whoever 'wins' or 'loses' there are going to be a lot of angry people, if the papers and the social media are any reflection.

And it seems that we all have a decision to make.  Do we choose to be angry with the results if they aren't what we wanted?  Or do we choose another way?

 Angry isn't the way I want to go through life.  It isn't the way I want to be with my neighbors and friends and family based on what they believe in and why.  And it certainly isn't the way I want to react to the people elected to represent us and make the decisions about our city or state or nation.

For my part, I am praying to choose respect and a sense of wonder over anger.  I pray to remember that people I love and admire voted for the people that are elected.  I am praying to choose love over 'being right', whatever that is.  And I am praying to remember the last part of that bible verse.....

"Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Nothing Ever Goes Away

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
~ Pema Chodron ~


Hard words to hear unless we are in the midst of something wonderful or new and exciting.  

Most of the time, though, this idea comes to us when we are in the middle of a world of what seems to be hurt or sorrow or pain.  And at these times, the last thing anyone wants to hear is that it won't 'go away' until something is learned.  

But maybe that's why happiness and joy and laughter can seem so fleeting.  We learn quickly that this joy and this laughter are the ways we want to be - are meant to be - in the world.  We learn quickly and so it leaves us in order for the next lesson. 

It is the sorrow and suffering part that seems to be the hardest to figure out and seemingly the most enduring or constant parts of our life.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  How can a loving, omnipresent and omnipotent Presence or Spirit or God or Divine, if there is one, allow the kinds of suffering that seem so prevalent?  People are starving.  Children die of diseases that are non-existent in more 'advanced' nations.  Tsunamis and hurricanes wash away towns and lives and livelihoods.  Sons are killed in battle and daughters are used cruelly. 

If God truly cared, wouldn't all this suffering be unnecessary? Why does it seem some are born to a lifetime of sorrow and others seem to be uncommonly blessed?  How can we escape it?  How can we be safe and happy?  What will guarantee that we will never hurt again?

From these questions all religions have been born.  From this wondering,  answers have been devised to keep generations of people tied to varying belief systems.  (Superstitions, some would say.)  And big business has been made from the promise of an easier life in the hereafter. 

Is it possible, though, that we have to endure this life to get to the next?  Maybe 'endure' is even too harsh.  What if living this life with all its pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and disgrace, gain and loss experienced to the fullest is the key to true peace and happiness?

Jesus said the poor would always be among us.  The Buddha said that life is suffering, and made that tenet the first of four 'noble truths'.

Maybe it is as simple as knowing that all things pass, good and bad, and that the more we cling to anything, the more unsatisfied we are.  Is it only by accepting and letting go of anything and everything that things will flow more easily into and away from our experience?

Maybe a better question to ask is 'What am I contributing?'  If what I contribute is anger and fear and aversion of any kind, then maybe what I am contributing allows that which I want to push away from me to be fed by those emotions.  And hungry animals have a tendency to stay close to the master that feeds them.  

What I want to contribute is love and kindness toward a situation or person for whatever 'is'.  That doesn't mean I approve or condone, it just means that I see and understand that it is there partly for my benefit - for my chance to learn something about me that I didn't know before. 

If my contribution is equanimity, then hungry animals either decide to feed elsewhere, or they decide to change their diet.  

Either way, everyone wins.



 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Good Choices

Nate is spending a couple of days with me.  Every morning his mom has whispered to him to make 'good choices' before she heads off for her day.  He smiles and looks off in his six-year-old 'oh, mom' kind of way and says 'ok'.  And my heart is touched again and again as I think of this very tender moment and all its inherent possibilities.

Good choices.

Oh, what simple advice!  How completely life-changing if those were all that we made.  And why is it that we don't?  After all, most of the time, deep down we know what those good choices are. 

And yet.  We don't make them again and again, over and over.   Ad infinitum.  Ad nauseum. 

I think back over the years and can remember times when the good choice was in front of me, clear as the sky can be blue or the path is straight in front of me, and I made the less-than-good one.  The choice to say unkind words instead of 'I'm sorry' when my pride was hurt.  The choice to run away from a school rather than stay and work it out with a professor who gave me a less-than-stellar grade on a first assignment.  The choice to stay quiet when caught alone, late at night, instead of raising my voice and yelling for help.  The choice to marry the boy from college instead of admitting to myself I wasn't - at all - ready for that commitment.  And then the choice to run away when it seemed too hard.

More.  So many more.

The Buddha said:  "Why do what you will regret?  Why bring tears upon yourself?"

I wish I knew that answer.  Maybe poor choices feel like an easier path.  Maybe staying quiet feels like the 'nicer' thing to do.  Or lashing out means that we can score a point on the one that hurt us.

Maybe the 'bad' choices seem like they are more fun and we deserve to be happy once in a while.   Don't we?  Or, contrarily, the less-wise choice seems to be what we deserve because we aren't really worthy of that much happiness.  Are we?

What would this world be like if that loving mother's words to her small son could be the words we all engraved upon our hearts then - or now!?  Bullying would not occur.  Self-loathing, which is really the premise of all cruelty, would be diminished if not dismantled entirely.

If all our sons were raised to make good choices, there would be no woman anywhere who suffered violence at the hands of any man.  If all our daughters were successfully instilled with the message of 'good choices', there would be so much less suffering for the sake of acceptance.  


Buddha finishes his wisdom by saying "Do only what you do not regret,  And fill yourself with joy."

This is a good prayer for ourselves.

This is a great prayer for our world.





Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The People Who Knew Us When

I'm just home from another high school reunion.  My husband refuses to go to his.  So does my brother.  So do many friends I know. 

I understand why, I guess. High school to many was the epitome of painful memories and the wish that things could have been done differently if we 'only knew then what we know now'.

But to me, that's kind of the point of being with these people from my past.  They did know me 'when' in that once upon a time of my awkwardness and insecurity - tugging on my skirt and wondering if everybody saw me trip up the stairs or hear me when I snorted when I laughed. 

They remember the same teachers with their pants pulled up to their chest or tugging to release their knotted knickers;  the same smells from the donut shop across the street;  the same songs that still light my fire and make me think it's a little bit funny.

They remember the pale yellow corduroy skirts and trousers that were proudly painted and worn during our senior year - a tradition from years gone by that seems to be sadly lost.

They remember the old school with the fabulous basketball arena and the smell of the popcorn on Fridays and the cockroaches in the lockers.

They remember the downtown that was vibrant and crowded with shoppers and toy stores and actual places to buy clothes and shoes and vanilla-cream-cokes.

They remember the tragic accident on a cool fall night that left some of our friends dead, others badly hurt, all of us forever changed.  We held on to each other a little closer that night and will always remember where we were when we heard the news and the names.  We were not - were never - invincible, and now we understood that a little more absolutely.  

They remember a me that no one else in my family or my immediate circle of friends where I live now - who I love dearly! - will ever know.

There is something timeless in being with friends who share those same memories.

We kid ourselves that the dramas are long forgotten and that growing up has meant all of it is behind us now.  We are still feeling insecurities and disappointments and as long as we are breathing, probably always will.  There are still words to be said, tears to be shed and closures to be experienced.  And that's all part of the remembering that is also so sweet.

How lovely to actually be able to say 'I'm sorry' to someone about something that has haunted a place in memory for decades. To actually be friends with the people that were only a dream then.  Or to make friends with people that for some reason weren't walking the same hallways at the same time or were taking different classes, going different directions but now we found we pretty much all of us ended up in the same place.

How precious to laugh until we cry about things that can never be explained to anyone unless they lived then and there and knew us 'when'.

We grew up.  But we didn't outgrow who we were then and how it shaped who we were to become.   It is said that every experience - good and bad - makes us the people we are today and that it is important to embrace them all and be thankful for how all of it did shape us. 

And I am.  And I do.  And I love these friends - newly found and forever held in my heart - for the way being with them helps me feel more like me.

And, after all, that is and has always been my prayer, even though I may not have known it as such at the time.

To just be me.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

She Let Go - Ernest Holmes / Rev. Safire Rose*

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.



She let go of the fear.  She let go of the judgments.  She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.  She let go of the committee of indecision within her.  She let go of all the 'right' reasons.  Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.



She didn't ask anyone for advice.  She didn't read a book on how to let go...  She didn't search the scriptures.  She just let go.  She let go of all of the memories that held her back.  She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.  She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn't promise to let go.  She didn't journal about it.  She didn't write the projected date in her Day-Timer.  She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.  She didn't check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.  She just let go.



She didn't analyze whether she should let go.  She didn't call her friends to discuss the matter.  She didn't do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.  She didn't call the prayer line.  She didn't utter one word.  She just let go.



No one was around when it happened.  There was no applause or congratulations.  No one thanked her or praised her.  No one noticed a thing.  Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.



There was no effort.  There was no struggle.  It wasn't good and it wasn't bad.  It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.  A small smile came over her face.  A light breeze blew through her.  And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.
                                                                                                             
~ Ernest Holmes/Rev. Safire Rose
*I have seen credits of authorship to both