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
July, 2012

Cultivating a Deeper Sense of Belonging

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Everybody belongs.  You can’t ‘not belong’.  Yet, this is what we do to each other, ‘thinking’ we’re somehow better or worse.  Yet, in the end, when we humble ourselves to see the divine belonging in all, we’re filled.  When we push a sense of superiority on others from our pride, we’re left restless, our sense of belonging ultimately tarnished.  And then we suffer.

Those who usually cause the most harm are those who were somehow damaged in youth by someone telling them they ‘don’t belong’, or they ‘are not good enough’.  They then often perpetuate this cruelty in their later years, pushing for damaging powers over others.

Ultimately, we’re here to wake up to our real belonging.  The illusion of our separateness has cost us dearly as we’ve harmed so many.   Yet, when we wake to a bigger belonging we feel real peace and an abiding which gives us courage to meet the surprise of the next moment.  When we truly recognize how we can’t be separated, we can’t ‘not belong’, our anxiety diminishes.  Our competitive urge to ‘win’ at another’s expense relaxes as we move to simply ‘being’ the best creative expression of ourselves.

This ‘feeling’ of deep belonging is beyond words.  It’s our antidote to the poisons of greed, fear and ignorance.  It’s where we touch the Ground of our Being, what some have called the Holy Spirit.  It’s what others have called Big Hope.

So next time you notice anxiety building, noticing the mind starting to freak you out, find a quiet place and surrender to the loving arms of deep abiding peace found in surrender to a deeper sense of belonging.  Surrender the notion that belonging is in anyway dependent upon the approval of others.  Just cultivate awareness to stillness, breathing in and breathing out, in awareness to a deeper support that goes well beyond our reasoning minds, well beyond our concepts of time and space.  Katagiri Roshi has written:

“To be completely absorbed you have to devote yourself totally, with sincerity, and then you can be absorbed—you can see the unity of your body, your mind, and your object.

In this unity, you give energy to the activity as object, and simultaneously you accept lots of information from your object.  That is called total functioning—cause and effect are one simultaneous action of input and output.

This is communion of heart with heart, going constantly, in and out.  At that time your activity becomes Buddha’s  activity:  time becomes supreme time, beyond any concept of past, present, or future; place becomes supreme place, beyond any dualistic concept; and person becomes supreme person, who is melted in the universe.

That situation is unknowable with our consciousness.  It’s impossible for me to express it in words.  But maybe you can feel that this is true, that Buddha’s activity is something that could appear in your life in the future.  If so, that feeling becomes a kind of prediction, foreknowledge, or hope.  That is called big hope.”   p. 145 from “Each Moment is the Universe”

This is real ‘waking up’.  This is direct contact with the Holy Spirit, in service to the well being of All.  This is the peace found in deeply knowing we can’t be separate, no matter how hard others try to feed that experience.  We’re always supported, beyond notions of birth and death.  With each arising breath, I’m fill with gratitude for this support.  This is the place of wisdom, where we move from self interest to the bigger question of refined action in awareness to ‘help vs. harm’.

Our Closed Mind is Killing Us

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Life is a great mystery.  Our spiritual traditions are all grounded in this surrender to that which is far beyond our understanding.  They all speak to the renewed spirit, to opening in humility to the unknown, in gratitude for our opportunity to participate in this great experience called life.  Our pain and suffering increase to the degree in which we ‘think’ we have the ‘right’ answer.  I recall seeing a billboard advertising a local radio station where the arrow on the dial was pointed to “Always right”.  In nature, we’re continually brought to awareness of the difficulties brought on through rigidity and frozen forms.  It’s why we build some flexibility into our skyscrapers.  It’s why aging people who stay active generally suffer less than those who seize up from inactivity.  Really, flexibility and openness is what our country was founded on and it’s why I love America.  The glue of our Declaration of Independence is found in the last line, advising us to forever surrender and rely in openness to “divine Providence”.  Flexibility of the body/mind is a key component to stewarding health of body, mind, and our country.

The open mind humbly submits to something greater than one’s small ego.  Our greed and desire to ‘be right’ is set down in curiosity to see what comes up when we honor, respect and listen to one another.  This is contrary to our current political focus on debate and persuasion.  Today, political gridlock is costing us our spiritual heritage, not to mention billions of dollars of waste due to the influence of big money’s role in preventing an open dialogue.  Our two party system has become much like a football game when we fight one another, failing to realize we’re all in the same boat.  Rather than mindful stewardship to what’s best for all, our energies are consumed in argument, brinksmanship, and the never ending pursuit of our small mind’s cleverness.

I recently heard a radio broadcast of a workshop attended by major experts in today’s national political arena.  Some were criticizing the Republican party for their closed minds.  Others were criticizing Pres. Obama for not working harder to cultivate more of an open mind in those who are against him.  In the mean time, as a nation, it seems impossible for us to have serious dialogue about the real issues facing the future of our country and planet.  My personal experience and forty years of experience in studying interpersonal communications currently holds the notion that it ‘takes two to tango’.  There’s not much you can do when one party refuses to openly communicate, to listen openly in ‘reliance to divine Providence’.  Blockage from a closed mind can only end in carnage.  Yet, a humble respect for that which is bigger than us, a willingness to drop our agendas in a sincere desire to hear one another, opens us to discover common sense.  This courage invites something in that’s bigger than us, something beyond our personal, self interest agendas.  Rather than focus on ‘what’s in it for me’ the discussion turns to ‘how can we help’ and ‘who gets hurt’.  In ancient Hawaii, the basic law was ‘Best for all with harm to none’.

So what can we do now?  We can call out the ‘closed minds’ for the tremendous damage caused from their rigidity.  We can turn up the pressure for Obama to repeatedly invite those closed minds to dialog.  The agreement to this dialogue would be to 1. Listen and speak from the heart, 2. Hold a curious open mind, 3. Hold all attempts to persuade, 4. Hold comments to a rule of brevity rather than going on and on, 5. Agree to surrender to the mystery of ‘divine Providence’, in full reliance to seeing a better solution come up from this open minded process.

Those who refuse to submit to the basic law of this land, surrendering to the mystery of that which is bigger than us, could be called out.  Big money aimed at personal interest rather stewardship would be called out.  As a nation, we could once again return to the open mind, from our damaging pride to mindful humility and gratitude for our freedom to be in this great land on this precious planet.  The real dialogue of ‘how does this harm’ vs. ‘how does this help’ could once again be pursued.

So President Obama, keep inviting them to your table.  Commit your open mind to them and present the agreements necessary for honest, open dialogue.  Do this everyday, even to your strongest opponents.  We’re all so tired of the infantile bantering that comes from the closed mind.  It’s time to push for something better.  This nation is far better than what we’ve come to in the political arena.  And when/if they refuse to sit at the table, as a people we should turn them out as traitors to the commands of the Declaration of Independence.  There’s nothing more dangerous than a closed mind, nothing more troublesome than the phrase, “I know that”, nothing more courageous than the open mind in search of ‘common sense’ in reliance to divine Providence.  I have a friend who wrote a book based on the notion of God running for President.  The operative phrase was always, “What would love (God) do?”  Until we’re willing to sit with one another in respect and openness to our divinity, we’ll simply not be able to hear the bigger answer.

The Limits of Language in Our Spiritual Journey

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

The spiritual experience is repeatedly referenced as ‘beyond words’.  Katagiri Roshi has written in Time is the Universe:

“To be completely absorbed you have to devote yourself totally, with sincerity, and then you can be absorbed—you can see the unity of your body, your mind, and your object.

In this unity, you give energy to the activity as object, and simultaneously you accept lots of information from your object.  That is called total functioning—cause and effect are one simultaneous action of input and output.

This is communion of heart with heart, going constantly, in and out.  At that time your activity becomes Buddha’s activity:  time becomes supreme time, beyond any concept of past, present, or future; place becomes supreme place, beyond any dualistic concept; and person becomes supreme person, who is melted in the universe.

That situation is unknowable with our consciousness.  It’s impossible for me to express it in words.  But maybe you can feel that this is true, that Buddha’s activity is something that could appear in your life in the future.  If so, that feeling becomes a kind of prediction, foreknowledge, or hope.  That is called big hope.”   p. 145

This ‘feeling’ of Big Hope is where we find our spiritual security.  And when we try to describe it we fail since language is a system of arbitrary symbols that can only point to this experience.  The linguistic field of General Semantics explores this extensively, showing us how meaning is ‘in the person’ and not ‘in the word’.  And yet, today we still fight with closed minds, holding on to the fixed notion that meaning is black and white.  We argue with one another about who knows best, who’s right and who’s wrong.  We sew the seeds of fear, greed and ignorance as we demand others to take our meaning as theirs.  Yet, in reality, no one can have the same experience.  We can only meet openly in our attempts to understand one another.  This is most rich when done in the exploration of spiritual tradition common ground.  What Dainin Katagiri called Big Hope may be what Jacques Ellul calls the Holy Spirit in The Presence of the Kingdom:

For the Christian intellectual this problem of language is the key-problem to contact with other men.  Other people, too, have felt this need.  Other people have sought for this language, but they have only ended up in a more hopeless solitude, like that of the Surrealists.

It is normal that men should be separate and strangers, but the Holy Spirit creates communication between them, and enables them to break through this separation.  The Holy Spirit alone can do this, the Holy Spirit alone can establish this line with one’s neighbor.  The Holy Spirit alone can open our eyes and ears, not only to revealed truth, but to the humble love of men.  But man must work patiently at that which the Holy Spirit uses.  If man flees into the desert, if he hides himself away, alone, in a hermit life, there will be no neighbors, and then what can the Holy Spirit do?  If man in our civilization, does not recreate a possible language, there is no support for the action of the Holy Spirit, there are no human means which God always demands from men when He wishes to manifest his power.  The Holy Spirit alone can give meaning, truth, and effectiveness to this language, but men must have sought for it.

It is urgent that Christian intellectuals should rediscover the meaning of their vocation along this line.  Everything has to be done, but it the only way of rediscovering a method of comprehension beyond all classes, formulas, and political divisions.  It is the only way of breaking through the sociological trends which separate us, and rediscovering genuine personal relationships in love.  It is today the only way in which we can live in love without the fatal sentimentalism with which liberalism, both intellectual and theological, had infected the idea of ‘neighbor’.  If we do not invent this language all our preaching of love cannot be understood by men.”  pp. 127-8.

There’s something very similar in these statements, something that provides a deep grounding, faith and trust in something bigger than us.  There’s reference to the hard work required to continue smashing the natural human tendency to separate.  There’s recognition of the limits of language, of the wonder and awe, and the need to surrender to the surprise of the divine.  In the early 1700’s, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, described this surrender as ‘pure faith’:

“…it is the mystery of mysteries, where all is hidden, so obscure, so incomprehensible that the more spiritual and enlightened one is , the more faith is required to believe…..Its (pure faith) effect is to enable one to find God at each moment;  it is this that makes it so exalted, so mystical, so blessed.  It is an inexhaustible fund of thought, of discourse, of writing, it is a whole collection, and source of wonders.  To produce so prodigious an effect but one thing is necessary; to let God act, and to do all that He wills according to one’s state.  Nothing in the spiritual life could be easier, nor more within the power of everyone; and yet nothing could be more wonderful, nor any path more obscure.  To walk in it the soul has need of great faith, all the more so as reason is always suspicious, and has always some argument against it.  All its ideas are confused.  There is nothing in it that reason has ever known or read about, or been accustomed to admire; it is something quite new.”  p. 61, Abandonment to Divine Providence.

They seem to be advising us to move beyond language, thought and reason, to discover “something quite new”.  They recognize our deep connection with all things and the illusion of our separateness.  They all pull us to discover the divine unfolding in each present moment, before we remove ourselves in language and thought attempting to capture it.  They proclaim an ‘awareness’ practice that helps us better see what helps and what harms.  They recognize the power of faith in holding us peacefully with a stable, steady mind through turbulent conditions:

“…if only we have the courage to let the thunder, lightning and storm rage, and to walk unfaltering in the path of love and obedience to the duty and demands of the present moment, we are emulating Jesus himself.”  p. 53, The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade.

Dainin Katagiri speaks to the precious nature of the present moment and the spiritual security found in cultivating awareness to Big Hope when he writes:

“How do you live in this complicated reality?  How do you face the moment when the earthquake suddenly happens?   How do you handle yourself in a moment that is beyond your control?  When a moment appears, there is only one thing that controls you:  the capability that comes from your spiritual practice, your ability to face impermanence and deal calmly with the conditions of every moment.  So, before the earthquake happens, before your mind starts to work and you want to run away, accept every moment as an opportunity presented to you to practice facing reality as it really is.  When a moment arises, you don’t know the reason why it exists, but you have to accept it and face it, whatever happens.

Life is an emergency case!  Where is the emergency?  Is it a particular situation, one day of you life?  No, every moment of every day is an emergency.  You have to do your best to face every moment, because this moment will never come again.  The moment that you are living right now is a very important opportunity to make your life vividly alive.  If you want to live with spiritual security in the midst of constant change, you have to burn the flame of your life force in everything you do.”  pp. 23-4, Time is the Universe.

When we face the divinity of the arising moment ‘before your mind starts to work’, before reason pulls us from alignment, we’re moving from the heart, from the spirit of divine Providence, from what some have called ‘conditioned origination’.   This demands such complete openness of mind, such curiosity, such faith, such Big Hope.

So in deepening our relations with our neighbor, it will help to surrender our notions of being ‘right’ as fed from our inadequate linguistic system.  It will serve us better to face him/her as ‘us’, to meet in a sense of communion rather than polarization, and ultimately do what we can to help each other hear beyond the words, touching Big Hope…touching the Holy Spirit….touching the indescribable wonder and awe of this very gift of the next arising moment…the gift of Being.

I’d Like to Vote for the Open-minded Party

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Gov. Dayton on Divine Providence and the Open Mind

If you really want a party, you have to have an open mind.  Today’s politics are driven from closed minds.  We’re caught in the trap of ‘thinking we’re right and others are wrong’.  It’s an age old problem and one which flies in the face of our forefathers who’ve pledged their trust in ‘divine providence’  (“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”, from the last line of the Declaration of Independence).

With this statement, they provided the glue for their intentions in manifesting this nation and it’s ‘true north’.  This being noted, it seems we’d all be served best to dialogue on what our pledge is.  To what do we put our faith and trust?  Someone had the integrity to temper our greed and attachment to the security of money with the phrase “In God we trust”.  As we’ve evolved, it seems many have had a semantic trigger reaction to the word ‘God’.  As we’ve evolved in our understanding of thought and language we’ve come to see that words are arbitrary symbols, a map of the territory.  An examination of any spiritual tradition will show that the essence of our connection to the divine is beyond words and thought.  This experience is touched in the gap between concepts, words, and thoughts.  Yet, we fight wars, argue with one another, and get carried away with our notions of the ‘right answer’ all at the expense of our humanitarian evolution.

Life is filled with con men trying to get us to put our trust in them.  Sometimes we feel we’ve been treated well and other times we suffer an unpleasant consequence.  When the con man works to feed the poisons of greed, fear and ignorance, our security is diminished.  Yet, when we embrace uncertainty to that which is bigger than us, surrendered in divine providence, we cultivate real security with an open mind.  We touch the ultimate in wonder and awe for the mystery of each moment.

Today’s politicians struggle to gain our confidence with their solutions.  They lock into their rigid notions of a solution, feeding the toxic nature of our polarized nation.  Big money spends billions to buy our confidence through media and other persuasive efforts.  It seems no one is capable of a conversation anymore since that would command an open mind, a bigger mind that surrenders to the wish of our fore fathers.  When we feel support by God (Universe, Source, Ultimate, Buddha, Allah, Ground of Being, or whatever word that best captures this for you), we find our real confidence to meet the next arising moment in joy, peace, and gratitude for the opportunity to just be.

So I propose we do as the Declaration of Independence commands in the first paragraph.  The take over of big money and paid influence have now made it “necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them”.  They clearly understood that the Laws of Nature command an open mind dedicated to the stewardship of this land, always asking for the assistance of divine providence in our actions.  It now seems the time has come to question the toxicity of a party system that’s become frozen in the abyss of the closed mind.  It’s time to honor the wisdom of our forefathers as we surrender in divine providence to that which is bigger than us.  It’s time to sit with open minds, filled with hope and confidence that the Divine will provide an answer far superior to what an ego filled leader can concoct and sell.  Deepok Chopra, in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, addresses this when he speaks to the illusory nature of our search for security:

“…the search for security and certainty is actually an attachment to the known.  And what’s the known?  The known is our past.   The known is nothing other than the prison of past conditioning.  There’s no evolution in that—absolutely none at all.  And when there is no evolution, there is stagnation, entropy, disorder, and decay.

Uncertainty, on the other hand, is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom.  Uncertainty means stepping into the unknown in every moment of our existence.  The unknown is the field of all possibilities, ever fresh, always open to the creation of new manifestations.  Without uncertainty and the unknown, life is just the stale repetition of outworn memories.  You become the victim of the past, and your tormentor today is the self left over from yesterday”. p 86

The Dali Lama says we’re here to cultivate joy.  Our great spiritual teachers say we’re here to be kind to one another, to do what we can to reduce suffering.  Surrendering to uncertainty in confidence to the Divine, we open to the magic, mystery, celebration, wonder, awe, and exuberance of each unfolding moment.  The open mind makes space to find the gift in the given and the courage to explore new opportunities and possibility.

At this stage, the closed minds of all political parties make the concept of ‘party’ an oxymoron since it takes an open mind to party.  I’ll vote for the first party with the courage to sit down in circle, to communicate from a sincere desire to understand, to let go attachments to fixed notions of security surrendered in faith to divine providence.  I’ll vote for a party that values dialog over persuasion, that values the inquisitive mind over the ‘right’ mind locked into a static answer.  I’ll vote for those who put faith in divine providence over big money and personal greed.  I’ll vote for those who can truly demonstrate their skills in active listening over those who can debate and fight one another.

An open minded party knows it’s supported by divine Providence.  It’s less likely to force solutions on problems, allowing us to find common sense actions as we open in alertness to new opportunities aimed to serve all with harm to none.  This party would move away from self interest to Self (divine) interest.  The first operative question would not be, “What’s in it for me?”, but would move to a thorough examination of, “Who gets hurt and how does this apply to the Laws of Nature and the responsibility we have to embrace a bigger belonging in kindness to one another?”

As you can tell, this July I’ve been taken with Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, and the notion of divine Providence.  An examination of this has substantiated my original feeling that it’s about the open mind, about humility and not pride. It’s about security through trust in the divine rather than trust in money and the material, about the courage to be rather than dying to the poisons of greed, fear and ignorance.

I think few would contest that the world feels smaller.  Borders are breaking down no matter how hard people try to erect fences.  Humanity is being worked by divine Providence with the one basic command, “Love one another in the knowledge that we’re all connected in the mystery of life.”

The open mind knows that time is change and is contained in our awareness and care to the present moment.  Our courage to face this moment in humility, to acknowledge the grace with which it’s been given, and the wisdom to embrace uncertainty in faith and trust to the divine is what the Declaration of Independence is for me.

They didn’t say Christian Providence, Buddha Providence, Islamic Providence, or Abraham Providence.  They recognized the arbitrary nature of words and our need to think bigger, to recognize that words are arbitrary symbols, simply maps to a very mysterious universe to which we get to participate.  I love America for this, much as I’m dismayed over the base, crude level our politics and religions have come to today.

So in the interest of those who follow, I suggest a revolution, a spiritual revolution where we get bigger than our small self interest, where we once again return to the courage to surrender with open minds to the power of divine Providence, to communicate with one another in heartfelt desire to see what comes up.

Those stuck in the mud of the closed mind will find many excuses to stay there.  Yet, when we open to the abundance of what the universe has to pour upon us some amazing opportunities will come.  This is what I have trust in.  Deepok Chopra captures divine Providence for me with the following:

In detachment (openness) lies the wisdom of uncertainty…

in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom

from our past, from the known,

which is the prison of past conditioning.

And in our willingness to step into the

unknown, the field of possibilities,

we surrender ourselves to the creative mind

that orchestrates the dance of the universe.

p. 81 from The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success