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
September, 2011

Big Problems Require Big Hope

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

It’s pretty easy these days to feel like the sky is falling.  Actually, the news is filled with stories about space debris falling to earth today.  The global stock markets are falling.  The state of Georgia just executed a man who’s guilt was in doubt, turning a deaf ear to the Pope and to former President Jimmy Carter.  Our summer weather events have smashed records since before we started taking record.  Our elected leaders seem less capable of holding a conversation than any time in previous history.  Our church leaders seem more committed to holding silence to this turmoil.  And here we are, facing the next moment, directed to find our solid grounding.  Economic turmoil, war, health care crisis, and on and on it goes, change works its way and deepens us to find our spiritual strength.  These are all very big problems, but I’ve always liked the hope found in the statement, “When the problems seem big, you’ve got to get bigger than the problems.”  So how do we accomplish this?

I’ve found great relief in discovering the fact that there never is any such thing as complete resolution.  Tempted as we may be to ‘do’ what we think is ‘fixing things’, the risk of mucking it up further through our efforts is great.  As soon as we think ‘our map’ is the correct one, we’re tempted to persuade others to agree with us.  We can adopt a notion of being ‘right’.  Yet, the actual territory is far too complex to ever lock into our notion of understanding.  It’s why I like education and religion that always speaks to deeper questions rather than to fixed answers.  It’s why I like moving from the heart rather than from the head.  In the midst of big problems, we’re humbled to the mystery of life.  In the throws of trouble, oftentimes the best thing we can do is simply ask the question, “What can we do?”, and then deeply listen to one another.

After studying interpersonal communication for forty years I’ve seen how our refusal to listen to another is often in reality a violent act.  Our attempts to fix, change, and persuade another to our view of the world most certainly have an underlying dimension of violence.  In times of big problems, it seems best to deepen to faith.  This is a deeper faith that gives us grounding to support that’s far beyond our limited scope of perceptions, thoughts, emotions and consciousness.  It’s a deeper knowing that goes from small hope to Big Hope.  When the surface of the ocean is thrown about by wind and wave, can we hold our grounding to the floor of the ocean?  Can we find our strength and solidity in knowing we’re all interdependent on one another?  Some amazing things happen when we can shift from our perceived cleverness of mind to the humble confidence of the heart and deep spiritual confidence, knowing we are each other.  Suddenly we get bigger than our differences.  We get bigger than our nationalism, political party, social class, religion, race, gender, etc.  I’ve heard several friends recommend silence when tempted to conversations about religion or politics.  This often is a best course of action in the presence of someone addicted to their particular map of the territory.  Yet, in the throws of big problems and deep fear of a falling sky, we must start the conversation.  We must move from the nonproductive format of debate to honest dialogue.

Last night I watched a TV show I hadn’t seen before.  ‘Modern Family’ had received five Emmy’s last week and my curiosity got the best of me.  The dominant theme was showing the tragedy/comedy found in our attachments to a sense of being ‘right’.  I hope more artists can help us cultivate humility to our false sense of knowing.  A deeper sense of wonder and awe will help us move more mindfully, dedicated to minimize the harm we may cause from holding to our beliefs.

I admire people whose love and compassion are palpable.  There are great spiritual beings walking amongst us who seem to do better at smashing the illusion of duality.  They raise my vibration.  I’ve briefly touched the deep heart, finding a peace that dissolves the pain from a restless mind.  And then, I get frustrated because I want more of this and the pain grows.  Fortunately, I’ve learned that you can’t stay in this space.  Katagiri Roshi says we can just bounce.  Touch it and bounce.  He says we grow our faith through the return to the dualistic mind from that deep peace.  The very knowing that we are One gives us the faith to handle big problems.  The very knowing that we are One gives us strength to face imminent change.  It gives us the power to let go, to make space to find the gift in the given.

This work of holding stability in the face of a falling sky is courageous work.  It commands the strength of vow.  The more we practice the more we extend the experience of the bounce.  It’s beyond words, thought, emotion and perception.  It’s re-membraning back to the Divine within all.  It’s what drives us to find our common sense.  From here the questions change.

  1. How do we work as a community, nation, planet to foster deep care and stewardship for one another?
  2. How do we create programs that meet one another in our suffering?
  3. What can we do to foster a deeper appreciation for our opportunity to walk the earth?
  4. What can we do to not harm others’ opportunity to walk the earth?

The questions change dramatically when driven through love, compassion, generosity, faith and forgiveness.  They change when we move from the dualistic mind stuck in ‘win/lose’ maps.

So what’s the gift in big problems?  It helps us see the need for an open, creative mind.  It humbles us to the need for a deeper faith.  It’s what gives us confidence to face all our problems with the stability needed to move through them.  It helps us deal with the nature of uncertainty from grace and compassion.  Perhaps we need to change the names of our political parties to Open vs. Closed.  Then, perhaps we could call a spade a spade on those who refuse to dialogue.

Thoughts on the Notion of ‘Evil’

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
We Didn't Call Certain Plants 'Weeds' Until the 16th Century

How Do You Define 'Weed'?

It seems we’ve gotten ourselves into quite a mess through our American tendency to objectify ‘evil’.  Can we move to a more helpful definition of this word?  When we try to describe it as something bad which exists outside of us we naturally set ourselves up for increased war.  Our great spiritual teachers have implored us to see ourselves in each other, no exception.  Yet, we continue to compare ourselves to others, judging others as better or worse than us.  How would things change if we recognized we all have the potential to harm?  Actually, isn’t this a better way to define evil…looking at the action of harm as opposed to some idea of ‘evil doer’?  Such a definition would have us rename our current War on Terror and Terrorists to a War Against Harming Each Other.  Rather than pitting us against one another based on difference, we’d recognize our common capacity to feed the seeds of greed, fear and ignorance.  This is what feeds the internal pain we all carry.  This is what causes us to accept collateral damage without question.  This is what wants us to avoid the earthquake of human morality that’s shaking the ground beneath us.

Something radical happens when we smash through the notion of our separateness.  When we move from the felt experience of inner vs. outer, one vs. two, freedom vs. bondage, peace vs. suffering, the heart leads us to the very seeds we need to water, even in the most difficult of times.  We’re basically examining where we find our solidity, our foundation, our spiritual security.  It won’t be through unlimited expenditure on militarism.  It won’t be through grasping to our material wealth.  It won’t be through any of our grasping to stop change.  It will come through the cultivation of our felt sense of being connected with everything and our consequent vow to not harm.  It will drive not from our complaint and restlessness, but from our sense of gratitude and desire to steward a better life for those here and those who follow.  It will come from recognizing the Divine within the present moment, taking great care that our thoughts, emotions and actions at the minimum cause no harm.

In this definition of evil, we all recognize the potential for evil that lies within each of us.  We recognize the harm that comes from judging ourselves better or worse than others, in demonizing others, in failing to meet each other’s suffering mind in compassion.  This view looks at the actions fed from greed, fear and ignorance as seeds to our continued fighting and failure to touch God in felt sense of inter-Being.  It steps from the reasoning mind to the feeling heart.  It moves from love, gratitude and forgiveness in humble confidence.  It moves with solidity in the midst of the earthquake.  It’s where we integrate with All, where integrity lives.  It’s beyond need to persuade.  It’s just showing up, full attention to this moment, accepting this as this and that as that.  It’s not mind hope, but Big Hope, in full gratitude to the support of the Universe.  It’s beyond despair, feelings of overwhelm, and dissatisfaction.  It’s real peace.  It’s the cultivated feeling of arrival, of Home.  Rather than judging us vs. other, of focusing on difference and separation, it’s the embrace of all as One, even the two.

Happy New Womb Day

Friday, September 16th, 2011
Supported in a New Womb

Supported in a New Womb

Today I celebrate the day I left my mother’s womb.  I know we call it our birth day, but really, this wasn’t the day I began.  I doubt I had thoughts of ‘not enough’, fears about losing what I had or not getting what I want when in the warmth of my mother’s body.  I suspect I met each moment as it came and I probably did this to a certain extent until I developed language.  In fact, before that moment of language’s separation, I probably had no sense of being a separate self.  Can I say I was ‘nobody’?

I’m not really sure when I became aware of this body, but I do know that in my first ten years of life there was great support for coming into this body.  You could say I was becoming ‘somebody’.  I had left the support of my mother’s womb to enter another womb, filled with support from those around me, the atmosphere, and other forms of nourishment that caused me to blossom into a certain sense of identity.  Now, here’s this body some sixty-one years later, recognizing that I’m not ‘some body’.  That was illusion.  There’s awareness and history.  Yet, as I traverse this decade of life within this body there’s a deeper cultivation of ‘let go’.

I’m still in the same womb, the womb I found when leaving my mother’s womb.  It just takes much more effort to nurture a sense of equanimity in the face of this ‘let go’ experience.  I can feel truth in attaching to something bigger than my body.  It seems absurd to get lost in thoughts of beginning and ending when it’s been such a mystery so far.  When I really stop to listen, to touch the stillness of the ultimate, there’s a deep sense of re-membraning.  I’ve never left the membrane, yet my thoughts would have me believe I’m separate.  When I quiet the active mind there’s a deepening of this felt sense.  It can’t really be touched by words since they’re the separating subject/object tool that makes this so difficult.  Yet, when I empty the thoughts, the words, the naming of feelings, emotions and perceptions, there’s a deeper remembering.  It says you are supported.  It says you’ve always been supported and you always will be supported, no matter what.  It’s that felt sense that gives one the courage to let go, even in the midst of apparent crisis, knowing we’re never alone, never separate.  Paul Tillich writes, “Love is stronger than death.”  I think this is what he means.  Love, the everlasting feeling of embrace and support, will always win over the ego’s pull to separate.  Mother Theresa said we lose our peace when we forget we belong to each other.

I know we live in very uncertain times.  Some respond from greed, fear and ignorance to our interdependence.  They do what they can to scare us and would control us by pushing for laws that fight tooth and nail against nurturing our interdependence to one another and nature.  Their thoughts, emotions and actions fail to nourish compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude, the key drivers to touching the ultimate.  I don’t know where I came from, I try to deepen my awareness to this next arising moment, and I sure don’t know where I’m going when this body wears out.  Yet, I do know I’ll find peace in reflecting on those moments where I did not cause harm.  I know I’ll find joy in reflecting on those moments where I expressed kindness and gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this life.  I know I’ll feel happy for those moments I held my silence in honor to the awe and mystery of the Divine.

This celebration day I hope you’ll find a way to make space to cultivate the gift in the given.  It’s been said our real present is deepening our awareness to the present (moment).  I’m learning to live with less expectation.  My notion of hope has changed dramatically.  I used to attach to my sense of being ‘somebody’, thinking I was responsible for fixing things.  I’m deepening my awareness that nothing is ever fully resolved.  Everything is continually changing, moment to moment.  This is this, that is that, and then, the next breath.  The peace that comes from that is found in a bigger hope.  Holding this hope deep in the heart is finding the courage to let this body go when it wears out in preparation for the next womb.  For me, it’s knowing God intimately.  As we travel the latter years in these bodies, may we forever meet our newfound ‘differences’ with confidence and surprise.  This seems to be the essence of graceful aging.

For sure, we don’t want to leave these bodies.  Yet we will.  Part of our journey is to cultivate our intimacy with the Divine so we may have a courageous letting go into the next womb, fully embracing the uncertainty of what’s to come.  Real peace comes from a deep sense of knowing the Ultimate, knowing we’ve always been connected and supported, knowing we can never be separated, and our work is to wake up to this truth we’ve fallen asleep to.  Whether it’s called waking to Love, God, Ultimate, Divine, or Oneness, it’s the source of our compassion, forgiveness and gratitude.  May we all cultivate this stability in the face of unstable circumstance.  May we all grow our compassion and support for one another.  May we never take for granted the gift of these body/mind’s and the opportunity we’ve had to participate.  May we forever grow our appreciation for the gifts of ‘this womb’ found within this arising moment, breath by breath.  No birth, no death…just a new womb.