just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness
April, 2011

So Why Are We Here?

Monday, April 18th, 2011
To love one another and all things as ourselves.

To love one another and all things as ourselves.

This is a pretty big question that lives with us continuously. Our great spiritual teachers have provided us with some pretty consistent direction. Jesus says we’re here to love one another as ourselves. Buddha instructs us to ‘wake up’ to the interconnection of all things and to the constantly changing nature of things. Islam has charitable giving as one of its five pillars. Indigenous cultures profess the need for stewardship in exchange for our opportunity to be here. At the core of all of these traditions, the message seems to be that we’re here to connect, to never feel alone. Shame comes from the feeling and fear of disconnection. Either I feel ‘enough’ or ‘not enough’, which condensed down gets to the core of our sense of worth.

The root of ‘to heal’ is ‘wholeness’. If we feel worthy of love and belonging our heart is whole. Our capacity to step out with courage, to be active in the world without fear of disconnection, comes from our deeper sense of belonging. Deeper listening is allowed through a willingness to let go of who we thought we ‘should’ be in receipt of waking to who we are. As we come to more fully embrace our vulnerability we courageously step into the unknown. This is the birthing ground for joy and creativity. The famous theologian, Paul Tillich, titled a book Courage to Be. We can live our lives in shame, filled with ‘not enough-ness’ or we can touch the ‘connection’ of all beings and things.

In his book Each Moment is the Universe, Dainin Katagiri writes about this intimacy of connection:

“You act on the surface of the ocean, and your action is stable, walking firmly at the bottom of the ocean. This is called bodhi. When you and your practice are stable in this process, all sentient beings come together and you are one stable being, walking at the bottom of the ocean and swimming on the surface of the ocean.” p. 104

“Even though we understand who we are, we have to see what we are. Are we separate from the grasses, trees, or birds? No, we are grasses and trees, snowstorms and fine days. So we have to learn what the storm is, what winter is, what spring is. We have to understand everything in our whole life. So accept that life is just a continuation of learning. Day after day, life after life, we just have to learn constantly. That’s enough.” p. 104

“Grass is being, so each grass is the entire world, you are the entire world, and the whole world is the entire world. Nothing is left out; nothing is wasted. Then you can live with all sentient beings in peace and harmony.” p. 104

The real challenge is to hold this ‘feeling’ of Oneness in the face of those struggling in the dualistic mind of disconnection. We can repeatedly see the source of our suffering is found in our felt sense of ‘not belonging’. This is a question of examining where our sense of connection stops, where we limit our love, and where we refuse to forgive. The key learning of connection is observing the obstacles that come up each time we act from feelings of separation. Our shame and violence arise from where our sense of belonging stops. We can numb ourselves into a comfort zone within our small world. Yet, eventually the flood, climate change, radiation, immigration issues, etc., comes to reveal a world where all things come together and melt into One.

Holding a position of separateness eventually breaks even the strongest dictator. We can try to escape it from greed, fear and ignorance, but we eventually experience more and more shame and restlessness. Today, in America, we’re the most in debt, obese, medicated and addicted society on the planet. We’ve placed great emphasis on educating to the dualistic mind, stressing consumption and comparative competition. We try to bury the ‘whole’ heart, striving for more and more. We spend trillions trying to keep others from getting ‘our stuff’. Politicians and religious leaders spend billions in propaganda trying to sell us on a false sense of certainty about the Uncertain. We pretend that there’s no collateral damage for these efforts. Yet, we feel one another’s suffering…the politician’s, the terrorist’s, the religious leader’s, the Right Winger, the Left Winger, the conservative, the liberal, and on and on. Yet, our lesson is to commit to intimacy, to ‘feeling’ our connection and showing the courage to have a respectful conversation.

We can ignore one another, numb ourselves to the harm of our actions and inactions, act as ants in a sugar bowel greedily eating more and more until we explode, or we can truly let ourselves be seen as the connected Divine beings we are. We can move from the ‘whole’ heart, letting ourselves be seen, fully embracing our ‘enough-ness’.

The Dali Lama says we’re here to learn to live in joy. Katagiri says life is just a continuation of our learning. We could essentially eliminate all of our belonging boundaries and divide our political/religious parties into ‘open minded’ and ‘close minded’. We’re either grateful and courageously curious or we’re stuck in our small world of judging one another. We’re either living a life or joy or one of continual restlessness, desiring things to be different from what they are. Our real spiritual security seems to rest in our capacity to ‘wake up’ to Love, to the full felt sense of our being Connected. Here’s where our real sense of worth comes from and we’re here to hold it and to support others in their awakening to this truth. While we must walk the surface of the ocean, our peace comes from awareness to one foot always grounded on the bottom in awareness to our interdependent connection.

Minnesota Stand Up Paddle and Sail

Monday, April 18th, 2011

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Stress Reduction

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Years ago I taught progressive relaxation to some of my communications students.  I was always amazed to discover how few had a felt sense of the actual ‘relaxation’ response.  They received training in tensing and then letting go.  Many never could truly reach a state of complete muscle relaxation when tested.  They ‘held on’ with muscle tension, resisting the ‘let go’ response involved in relaxation.

I like the definition that ‘stress’ is the distance from where we’ve been or where we want to be from where we are.  The logical conclusion would mean we reduce stress to the degree we’re able to ‘arrive here, now’.  If I can fully engage the moment, in complete awareness to what’s arising and what it offers, I’ve left the stress zone.  Many spiritual traditions would direct us to this.  For example, Buddhism says we’re either in sukka (peace) or dukka (restlessness).  The Buddha sat in stillness for forty-nine days in search of relief from this restless mind.  The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path were his insights from this opening.  Essentially, the ‘dis-ease’ is our stress/suffering.  The cause is our restless mind.  We can alleviate this by ‘letting go’ and maintaining certain practices that deepen our sense of interconnection and awareness to the constantly changing moment.  In the Christian tradition I’m moved by Philippians 4: 6-9:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen ain me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

In both traditions, the remedy seems to be in finding the ‘no complaint, no complaint’ zone.  Another way to describe it is ‘no struggle’.  This is challenging work, in the face of a constantly changing circumstance.  Holding relaxed presence in the face of the earth quake or conflict is truly the sign of a master.  Our deeper journey seems to be to remove obstacles to Love, to be ‘great full’ for what is, to meet each other’s restless mind in compassion, and at the very least, to not cause harm.

The relaxed, stress free mind seems to be well received by the body.  This mind fully receives the opportunity to participate in the unfolding present moment.  In this full attention the Divine manifests and all is possible.

So try it out.  Just sit, breathing in, breathing out.  No wanting to be back there or in the future somewhere.  Just witness the moment’s opportunity to breath in, deep.  And then to breath out, slow.  Cultivating the desire to really, really, want to be ‘here, now’, seems to be the time tested method for reducing stress and enhancing mindful action.  The evidence can be found in watching the master make the most difficult look effortless, as though completely outside the boundaries of time and space.