Art, Cats, Windows, and Doorways: The Opening that We Are

Last weekend, my wife and I went to a local museum, The Johnson Art Museum at Cornell University. After almost two years of COVID, going to a museum was something new and original.  We were fully masked, and socially distant from other people, but not from the art. The art was not infected, although we were cautioned not to touch it, for reasons other than medical. It was so freeing to let ourselves go, and mentally and emotionally step into the painting or the prints or the photos or whatever.

 

A museum is not a collection of static things. Maybe someone could look at the pieces collected there and think, this is just a colorful piece of cloth or paper, an image, or a photo. But most seemed to stop and feel.

 

Each artwork is the result of an intensely lived moment, day, year, or lifetime. Just consider the inspiration, skill, sweat, emotions, memories ⎼ the living that goes into the art. The artist’s joy, insight, pain, and suffering. The intense focus. So, one way to experience the art is as a sharing or opportunity. A question or invitation. “Will you take this from my hands? Will you be here with me? Can you help? Can you leap into this moment?”

 

The possibilities in art are endless. One exhibit at the museum was called Women Making Their Mark. It included an amazing book of papercuts titled Freedom, a Fable, by Kara Walker telling of a black woman’s emancipation from slavery only to realize the oppression continues.

 

In the exhibit on Art and Environmental Struggle there was a painting by Abel Rodriguez called El Arbol de La Vida y Abundancia, a beautiful proclamation of the interwoven and interdependent human, plant and animal world.

 

There was also a piece called We Dreamt Deaf, by Nicholas Galanin. This is a taxidermed standing polar bear transmogrified into a rug, a very disturbing version of a hunter’s trophy. I don’t have accurate enough words to express how I felt. The horrors we humans can inflict on others. The pain. And the grief for our world, the tears and anger the art can invoke.

 

And on the top floor of the museum, there are giant windows facing north, west, and south, revealing the lake, hills, and valleys of the area. And in between those windows, a different exhibit, of Japanese, Tibetan, Chinese, Indian, and Persian art, mostly art of spiritual enlightenment. And out the windows, two hawks were gliding above the trees….

 

**Please go to The Good Men Project to read the whole piece.

The Mirror, and the Story We Tell About What We See in It

I didn’t want to write this blog, not at first. Writing would mean facing once again what is painful to face. But due to COVID and other factors, here I am.

 

Last week, I started reading Joanna Macy’s 30th Anniversary update of her book, World As Lover, World As Self that was published earlier this year. I think her book has been living inside me for years, but it is only now that I open it. I deeply appreciate the wisdom and practices shared in this book.

 

The book talks about the stories we tell ourselves about this moment we’re living. It reveals many aspects of our lives we might have ignored until COVID and a would-be dictator made them abundantly clear.

 

She uses the image of a mirror, the mirror wisdom of a Buddha which shows us everything just as it is, nothing added or subtracted. And this mirror teaches us how to, “…not look away. Do not avert your eyes. Do not turn aside.” By looking in this mirror we realize the anxiety and fear we feel is the surface layer of our grief for how much of the world is dying. By naming we heal. By looking away the world itself turns away.

 

By looking in the mirror, we tell and make real the story of how to survive and transform a great turning point in history. We discern the path to creating a life-sustaining society that understands in its marrow “we are all in this together.” By averting our eyes, we surrender; we tell and help create a story of unraveling and collapse.

 

We have been witnessing lately appalling contradictions. For example, nurses and other health care workers have been at the front lines of the fight against the COVID pandemic. They have been overworked, often under-equipped and under-paid, facing great stress and trauma. They also face an information or media environment filled with purposeful, politically motivated lies.

 

Many work in crowded nursing homes, or in hospitals where they see a disproportionate rate of suffering from the pandemic amongst Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. Many are themselves people of color who have faced all their lives a system of racism.

 

So now many health care workers of whatever race do not want to take what could save their lives and protect their patients, because they believe or have been misled to believe they cannot trust it. So, when the state mandated that all health care workers be vaccinated, they declined, even as that led to them losing their jobs, and we losing their support.

 

Joanna Macy makes clear that we as a society have been ignoring or not seeing clearly how other, crowded work environments like meat-packing-plants are dangerous to workers, cruel to animals, and costly to the climate….

 

We have recognized but not faced directly enough the consequences of enormous, and growing, concentrations of wealth, made worse by the pandemic, and leading to the corporate undermining of democracy and the rule of law, undermining of public schooling, and the degradation of our natural world, the extinction of many species, and the warming of the planet

 

**To read the whole article, please go to the Good Men Project.

How We Turn Commitment into Obligation and Put Obligation Before Joy

Two nights ago, just as I was about to fall asleep, I woke up. Did that ever happen to you? A flood of thoughts or insights filled my mind.

 

I had to get up early the next day to get to a class I had originally been looking forward to. But disrupting my normal schedule disrupted my ability to sleep restfully. Add to that concerns about whether people would wear masks, which would be provided but not required for attendees, and the event that should be fun was turned into a source of anxiety.

 

I was turning commitment into obligation and putting obligation before joy, thusly, crazily, resisting my attachment to the teacher and to my own desire to develop the skills and knowledge taught in the class.

 

Then I stopped myself: This was something I had spent many years studying. I was the one who decided to attend the class. No one forced me to do it.

 

And the image of how we can resist the bonds we ourselves create became very clear to me. Of course, we can resist anything that we feel compelled to do. But we easily forget the chain of events and decisions that lead us to forge our chains and compulsions.

 

And as the resistance and discomfort became clear to me, so too did the way to get free of it. I saw how to shift attention from the discomfort of having to wake up early to the opportunity I was giving myself to learn and be present. I shifted to a sense of gratitude, for the teacher, for all I had gained over the years from the course of study. It is not the arising thought by itself that determines the quality of mind and heart but how we respond to it.

 

The next day, one of my former high school students was also in the class. Since his graduation, we had stayed close, in contact. After class, he asked to speak with me for a few minutes. He told me he had been feeling bad lately. Everything that could be fun was becoming an opportunity to attack himself. This felt so familiar to me, like a synchronous evocation of what I had gone through the previous night.

 

When I could honestly face my internal struggle, I was better able to help someone else face theirs. And his honest question gave me the opportunity to question myself more deeply.

 

I realized what my former student was going through was something we all can go through, especially as we get older and wonder who we are and where our lives are going. We begin to realize our expectations and understanding of ourselves has not been accurate. We usually take our thoughts as literally true as we search for a clear definition of who we are. But who we are is never clearly definable; if we’re breathing, alive, we’re never completed and always changing. That is why in Buddhism, for example, the whole idea of what we mean by a self is questioned. Psychiatrist and Buddhist teacher Mark Epstein wrote a book with a title that succinctly states this teaching, how we have Thoughts Without a Thinker….

 

**To read the whole piece, please go to the Good Men Project.

 

Countering the GOP Strategy of Trying to Destroy People’s Faith in Democracy: Instead of Losing Faith, Gain Strength by Staying Engaged

Dan Rather said on 9/10: “It’s almost as if some politicians have decided it’s in their political self-interest for the pandemic to continue to rage.” Almost?

 

On 9/9, Greg Sargent wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled: “How the GOP will exploit Covid to win power and what Democrats can do about it.” I was going to write an article such as this but Sargent saved me the trouble. If you can, please read it. He went on to say, “Here’s a midterm message for you: Judging by the GOP’s continuing slide into extremist and destructive behavior in the face of a surging covid-19, electing more Republicans to positions of responsibility right now would likely mean more economic malaise, sickness, misery and death.” And Democrats are possibly, finally ready to call the GOP strategy what it is.

 

The GOP strategy for “winning” the next election must have become clear to many of us months ago. Going back about 18 months, to shortly after we realized the seriousness of COVID-19 and the nation had shut down, it became clear that DT and the GOP were more invested in saving their political power than saving our lives. They  downplayed or outright lied about the virus, lied about cures, sacrificed workers, children, seniors and people of color to get them back to work and back to schools even when the conditions were unsafe.

 

DT’s main strategy while he was unfortunately in office was shock doctrine material⎼ create enough fear, confusion, and violence, make conditions so bad that people will accept what the wannabee dictator wants. The GOP traumatized the nation for their own political purposes.

 

And now, they are adapting the same strategy. GOP governors, like Ron DeSantis in Florida, are still lying about masks, trying to outlaw mask mandates in schools and cities in their state. He has pushed false cures and undermined the national effort to get people vaccinated, despite being vaccinated himself, by understating the reality of COVID cases in Florida.

 

For most of the summer, Florida led the nation in COVID cases, especially in children. In fact, during that time Florida had one fifth of all the COVID cases in the U. S. Basically, it seems DeSantis has been creating obstacles to healthy practices. As Dan Rather asked, is he doing this so people get sick? Seems so to me.  And then he attacks President Biden for not living up to his promise to put an end to the ravages of the pandemic.

 

In fact, the GOP fight against almost any attempts by Democrats to make the situation in this country better, including fighting COVID relief, or legislation most Americans want and that all would benefit from ⎼ or especially when those measures are most popular.

 

Their actions are de-stabilizing the nation and creating chaos and fear. If we hadn’t already gone through four years of DT, no one would believe, I wouldn’t have believed, they were doing this to get people to think that not only Democrats can’t help them, but democracy itself can’t work.

 

And since the January 6th attack on our nation and the lies about it, and years of them doing more to take away voting rights than facilitate voting, to undermine the voice of the people instead of promoting it, to not just suppress the vote but control how the vote is counted (or if), ending democracy seems exactly what the GOP are invested in.

 

So, I recommend we all take care of ourselves, yet also read Greg Sargent’s opinion piece, stay engaged, directly name the GOP strategy for what it is, and do whatever we can, no matter how little, to counter the disinformation and attempts to destroy what’s left of democracy in this nation — and get people fired up to vote when the midterm elections come around.

 

There are many historical periods and events that we should never forget. DT’s ineptitude and the way he and his GOP enablers malignantly sacrificed millions to the coronavirus and threatened the very existence of a democratic government, all in a desperate attempt to seize absolute power, is surely right up there on that list.

 

**The Good Men Project syndicated this blog.

 

Love and Compassion Are the Other Faces of Beauty

I look out the window of our den and notice the standing Buddha in the garden has a hat of moss, of both a light and dark green with a lighter tone on the right side of his nose. He also has a shawl of moss over his robes. Does it keep him warm? His smile is so calming and clear it draws me in. Then he seems to dance, or is it breathe, or maybe the whole scene is breathing as my eyes dance over him.

 

My breath and his are after all the same breath.

 

He looks so beautiful to me. Is this what beauty is, a quality of me or a way of relating to something or someone else, a quality of focus, attention, or breathing? A drawing in. And can everything in this scene or anything anywhere that draws us in be touched like this? There is a large stone behind him ⎼ rust, grey, green, and shaped like a mountain. It also looks beautiful. What about the bush, the tree, the flowers, the weeds? In the right light, the Buddha looks bigger than a mountain. But why does he draw us in?

 

We say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Maybe it’s this quality of attention of the beholder in the specific moment. Right now, is beautiful. I had a plan for this morning, but the Buddha took it over. Or maybe beauty did that.

 

Buddhism and other traditions say the separation we often feel between ourselves and others, between us the seer and what we see, is an illusion. But what does that mean? Can we feel as if we were the statue breathing? Is that possible? And who wants to be a statue? Instead, maybe it means that we live each inch of space occupied by mind.

 

We see something and think that statue, that person, that dragonfly or flower or car is over there, and I am here. But what about the air an inch from my face? Or the pavement I am standing on? What about the suffering we see over there or the injustice? The thing or person next to me is next to me all the way to whatever. Why separate the me here from the you there, the eyes from the eyed? Why forget all that is there between us linking us? Don’t we live the world we breathe in?

 

Maybe we separate because there’s hurt here or there, and over and over we re-build a wall to shield us from the pain. We all have hurts. But the wall can be more like a suit of armor we wear wherever we go. And everything we try to touch has the wall, the metal suit, standing in the way. All we ever touch is the inside surface of our armor and so we feel that just on the other side and way too close, a battle is raging.

 

Gently, consciously, we can find a safe way to name what we feel, or find a place of comfort inside as well as outside ourselves. By doing this gently, mindfully, our mind becomes gentler, and we perceive more consciously, and clearly.

 

Constantly, we are switching perspectives back and forth….

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

 

Being Gentle with Ourselves When the World is Being Harsh

 

It was such a relief back in June when the numbers of people sick from COVID were winding down and the promise of a degree of safety, thanks to the vaccine, was rising up. We had (and have) a rational political administration and summer was approaching. But now, due to the Delta and other variants, and due to the fear and ignorance caused by the GOP and others spreading misinformation or disinformation about the vaccine as they earlier did about COVID-19 itself, it is difficult to know how safe we are or what is safe to do.

 

Thanks to the vaccine, I can consider visiting relatives and friends in other states, people I haven’t seen in person since the pandemic began. But in some sense, this adds more confusion. What variants might lie between here and there? Will I infect or be infected? I am vaccinated, but since I could still carry the virus, do I have to be tested first?

 

And I don’t know if what I am feeling is the psychological effect, the trauma of the pandemic combined with the trauma of four years of DT. Or, since what I feel is probably from a mixture of causes, I wonder what degree of what I’m feeling is simply fear. After hunkering down and making safety my primary concern for so long, it is difficult to take risks or step out.

 

But what I do know is the importance of being real to myself, and gentle when the world is being harsh. If I can find the patience and clarity to be gentle with myself, I can be gentler and clearer with others.

 

And I can take this moment as an opportunity to learn new things about myself. When I’m open to it, I discover new things about where and who I am. I feel even more at home with whatever and whomever I am with. So, when I do venture out, I am going from home to home.

 

And we can use our imagination and empathy to see and feel ourselves in the home with whomever we’d like to visit. One purpose of the imagination is to help us think. When I stopped what I was doing and imagined being in the living room of a friend or family member, talking, looking eye to eye, feeling what I felt for this person. I overcame the physical distance with imagination and the emotional distance disappeared. The situation was simplified a bit and I was able to think more directly and clearly.

 

Of course, the imagination can also be detrimental. We can get caught up in images of hurt and disaster, especially when we’re stressed. Another reason we have an imagination is to help protect us from harm….

 

*To read the whole piece, please go to The Good Men Project.

Why Is It So Hard to Develop Intimate Relationships? A Mystery Meeting A Mystery

In a recent blog, I wrote about feeling intimacy with the world around us and was asked about human, loving relationships. And why is intimacy often so difficult? I was at first reluctant to answer. It is such a personal subject, and no one has it all together. There are psychological and ethical guidelines but no mapquest.

 

Yes, we often use the word ‘intimate’ as a synonym for sex, as if “I was intimate with so and so” meant, “I had sex with so and so.” As if the sex was the most important part of the relation. But that often obscures the reality.

 

And I say this not just because I am an older man who thinks of sex very differently than I used to. I didn’t always realize that the desire for sex can mask a desire for something more than pleasure, for a way to get close or stay close, to pull down the separation we often feel and just be there with another person. To let go. To see into another life. Because being totally with another being so we see how they see and feel even a little bit what they feel is better than good sex. Or maybe it is the heart of good sex. Or maybe it’s the heart, period. A type of, or aspect of, love. It is what makes long term relationships not only work but be exciting.

 

In this sense, sex can even be a roadblock. It can be so intensely focused on our physical pleasure that we lose sight of this deeper desire we have, the deeper fulfillment we can experience.

 

If intimacy is “what we truly desire,” is it so difficult to create because it is unusual? Do we have a fear of getting what we truly desire? Or a fear of what being intimate might lead to? Or of how intimacy might change our sense of ourselves? Or has our trust been shattered by some violation in the past so we can’t risk such a moment ever happening again?

 

To pull down the walls and end the sense of separation we often feel means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and to notice and feel even the smallest emotional movements in another person. Clearly, vulnerability can be scary. We can be hurt. To truly know another, to feel our way into another person’s sense of life is best accomplished when we allow ourselves to also be known.

 

It is to let go of our images of who we are. This is the most complicated part. We often need a meditative practice or a guide to help with this. We often think of a self as having permanent characteristics that distinguish us from others; and think of what distinguishes us as what separates us. We are here, they are there. Never the two shall meet. So, if the two never shall meet, intimacy is impossible. Trust is difficult. So is real joy. Life becomes a continual pretense or acting a part. We act the part of whatever we imagine the self is or someone else wants or needs. And we feel fake or ungrounded….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

The View of Oppression is “Nothing Will Work.” The View of Friendship is “Everything Matters”

There are crucial links between what is needed to stimulate political action to fight tyranny and what is needed to limit or reverse global warming.

 

The first lesson discussed by Timothy Snyder about fighting tyranny in his best-selling book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century is “don’t obey in advance.” Don’t give up, don’t just give would-be tyrants the power they crave. The fourth lesson is “take responsibility for the world.” “In the politics of the everyday, our words and gestures, or their absence, count very much.” Everything counts, even our smallest actions, even what we imagine. But the tyrant tries to make us feel that nothing we can do matters.

 

In the beginning of a tyrant’s power, people can successfully resist without paying a big price. Our right to protest, vote, speak our feelings to friends and neighbors, write blogs, start local organizations are protected.

 

The same is true, now, with the environment. “If you’re doing nothing, you’re actually doing something”⎼ you’re helping the autocrat, or you’re assisting global warming. “Never consent to an authoritarian.” Never consent to simply allow the destruction of our world.

 

It is just over a week since The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its report, saying the situation of our planet is dire, “code red,” but we can still do something to slow, minimize, or change it.

 

It is so easy to feel our actions won’t matter. We can worry that the problem is too big, now, or that we’re not sure what the most effective thing is we can do. We want to see a measurable response to our actions, to see an effect. This can be a sort of egotism. Sometimes, we must just do the right thing without knowing how much effect we’ll have, or without seeing ourselves acknowledged for what we’ve done. Sometimes, we must do little things just to know we can do anything. If we don’t act while we wait to find the most effective action to take, there’s a good chance nothing will get done. If we don’t act, why should anyone else? Fear spreads easily. So can hope.

 

Hopelessness is so easy to feel. It includes not only a sense of powerlessness but isolation. When hopeless, we don’t feel the rest of the 72% of the population that shares with us the understanding of the role we humans are playing in causing climate change. We feel the fate of the world is our fate, and at the same time we feel separate from others, unable to reach them or to convince them to act. Every breath we take is the world breathing.

 

It is like when we’re sick, and it’s difficult to imagine what it is like when we’re well. We suffer from a failure of imagination. Or when we’re depressed, we can’t hear or absorb information that speaks against depression.

 

In 2019, the Zen teacher, Norman Fischer, came out with a book called The World Could Be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path. A Bodhisattva is someone who focuses on relieving the suffering of all people, not just oneself. And the imagination has a power larger than what we often realize. It shapes what we think is possible. “It leaps from the known to the unknown… It lightens up the heavy circumscribed world we think we live in.” Fischer says the world not only can be, but is more than the tangible, the knowable, the negotiable; more than the data which gives us the illusion we can know all there is to know….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Book of Heart: The Spark We Need to Save Ourselves

On Sunday, a friend uncomfortably joked, and a neighbor seriously wondered if the weather augured the Apocalypse. On Monday, the U. N. Panel on Climate Change said unless humanity takes immediate, sustained, large-scale actions including reducing the use of  fossil fuels, global warming will create an earth too hot for agriculture and will threaten human survival.

 

The Western U. S. has had devastating droughts for years, but this year is one of the worst, accompanied by record breaking temperatures and creating conditions for forest fires. Parts of Canada and elsewhere are suffering the same fate. 10 of the worst years for fires have occurred since 2004 and 2021 could be even worse than any previous year. Right now, the Dixie Fire has burned more than 783 square miles and is now the largest in California history.  Clouds from the fires have recently blanketed sections of the western and even northeastern US. Meanwhile, Germany and China have recently experienced historic floods.

 

In my own neighborhood, our summer weather over the last few years jumped from drought to floods and back again. It rained nearly every day for weeks. Even though it happens periodically, earlier this summer we experienced a devastating infestation of gypsy caterpillars that stripped bare many species of trees. Whole sections of forests and hillsides look as they do in winter (or during a severe drought).

 

Last night was the fourth power outage we’ve had in about a month. Everything went from light to dark so quickly⎼ and it was a very dark night, covered with clouds and noisy with rain, thunder and lightning. When the power goes out, it is easy to wonder not only when, but if it will be restored.

 

And all this after 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic⎼ and four plus years of a moral and political pandemic led by DT and the GOP who threaten to strip us bare of rights and constitutional protections and enshrine a perpetual political winter.

 

After so much bad weather and destruction, fear speaks readily in our minds and hearts, in the places where religion often resides. There is nothing like a tornado or a big storm, with lightning, and thunder over our heads, heat that melts sidewalks or a pandemic to make us feel how vulnerable we are. The Delta variant could wreak havoc with our future. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute back in 2012 found that 63% of Americans thought the weather has gotten more extreme and 36% think the reason is the Biblical end times. (I was glad to notice that, according to an Ipsos poll, in 2021 the number of Americans who are aware of the human role in climate change is now 72%.) What changes in attitude will the U. N. report create?

 

According to the Pew Research Center in 2017, 35% of Americans say they read scripture at least once a week, and this is up 3% from 2014. Buddhist teacher and scholar Kurt Spellmeyer, in his book published in 2010, Buddha at the Apocalypse: Awakening from A Culture of Destruction, says “unlike other holy books, the Bible presents itself as a work of history⎼ a history that claims to map the whole of time.”

 

History begins, in the Old Testament, with Genesis, and ends particularly in the New Testament, with Revelations. Many of us look for God in time itself. And for 2,000 years people in the West looked for signs of the End of Time, or for transformation⎼ of souls or society, for heaven or utopia⎼ or for retribution and punishment.  As the millennium of the year 2000 approached, there was great dread amongst many about what would occur.

 

But if anything is biblical about the situation today it is the danger posed by the lies of DT, who called human-caused climate change a hoax, and by other GOP. These lies have caused us to lose time, accelerate the danger, and diminish political commitment to actually facing this existential ecological threat.

 

Spellmeyer argues our culture prides itself on getting things done and being down to earth but is actually escapist. On the surface is our love of all sorts of tech marvels that can both be so helpful, especially during a lockdown, but also isolate us. But also consider how often we have postponed serious consideration of the consequences of our actions, like the long-range effects of nuclear waste, or nuclear weapons, or the effects of fossil fuels on Global Warming.

 

In U. S. history, instead of dealing with our problems, we often looked to “go West” to escape them. Or on a more personal level, we find a readiness to hurry and move on. We often hear something once or practice a skill a few times and think we understand it like an expert.

 

And there is FOMO, the “uneasy and all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out,” “not in the know”. We might fear friends are better than us or in possession of more of something than we have⎼ or that we are inadequate. A study back in 2013, obviously before the pandemics of COVID-19 and DT, found that about three quarters of young adults experienced this.

 

The problem, whether its FOMO, escapism, even hurrying, is a culture of fear now augmented and manipulated by the GOP to serve their political purposes. And instead of using fear to spur considered action, we fear the emotion itself. Fear, of being hurt, of the world changing on us, or whatever, can make us hold onto our viewpoints rigidly and close our minds to rational thought. And it spreads easily.

 

So, understanding and skillfully facing fear not only lessens our own suffering but gives us tools to help others. Fear is normal but we are often led to treat it as abnormal. It is not just a feeling but is composed of different elements including sensations, thoughts, and possible responses. If we don’t understand it, we might think we are incapable of meeting whatever we face and run to escape it.

 

Fear warns us, wakes us up, but usually turns our thoughts to what might be in the future or to a hurt or trauma in the past. We might run to create ideas of a New Jerusalem, or of a devil or a great punishment to come and lose sight of the reality we face. But the thought that provides an escape from fear often keeps it alive. If our identity is based on fighting an enemy, what happens if there is no longer an enemy to fight?

 

So, one way to get clarity is to develop a mindfulness practice; instead of getting lost in a thought of the future or past, we can focus on a sensation or perception now. We can stop what we’re doing, sit upright but not rigid, hands resting in our lap, turn within and test what feels right. Do we feel more at ease with our eyes open, closed, or partly open? Is it more comfortable to focus on the beginning of an inhalation, the middle, the end, or the pause between inhalation and exhalation? Or the exhalation itself? And where do we feel natural putting attention? The tip of the nose? The hands? Belly? Feet? Just notice, acknowledge with kindness, and move on.

 

In this way we change our response to fear. We study it, study ourselves. The quality of our mind and body changes. We learn from our sensations and thoughts without getting caught by them.

 

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now that the fires and floods we are experiencing have more to do with human actions contributing to climate change, to not facing the reality, to the book of our heart instead of the Book of Revelations. Attributing global warming to “natural causes” is dangerous propaganda. But by acting in a considered and informed manner, we know we are capable of action. If we all speak out, maybe this U. N. report can provide the spark we need to save ourselves.

 

Religion can be one of the most important parts of a person’s life, yet there are so many ways people think about God⎼ or whatever we think is ultimate in our lives. One way people have conceptualized the universe is to think all of us and everything is Divine; our eyes, hands, nose, ears, tastes, even our thoughts are God’s. And one way we pray is by acting for the greater good. We don’t wait for God to do it for us because we are a tiny part of the Divine. And by doing what we can, God hears our prayers.

 

*This article has been syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

We All Need A Break Sometimes: A Place of Ease and Beauty

Unbelievably, it’s almost mid-August, and I can feel the end of warm weather approaching, the nearness of fall and winter. Considering how tough the last two, or five winters have been, we might have an added dread of the season. So, the end of summer can be a good opportunity to reflect on what we want or need from this time of year, and this time in our lives. And to try to make it reality before it’s gone.

 

Last night, I woke up at 5:15 and got out of bed. The moment was delicate, and not only because I was barely awake. Outside, light fell on the grass and trees like mist, like a mist of color, lighter than moonlight but not as deep as midday sun.

 

It was delicate, fragile because it felt so new, like a newborn. And I seemed to have the moment all to myself. I could hear no other person in the house or on the street. No cars on the road. If we don’t have to get up early for work, or don’t do it naturally, we don’t see the earth like this, just emerging from darkness, as if it were trying to figure out “how do I do this?”

 

There were birds awake outside singing loudly. One could not contain itself. I don’t know if it was berating the sun for having previously left the world to the dark, or if it just couldn’t find its mate. Or maybe it was telling the universe the story of morning; and every song it sang, every note or exclamation sprang single-mindedly from its mouth.

 

We often fear the fragile, fear it could too easily become hurt, especially after this last year and a half, or four years and a half. We all carry hurt. It is the nature of being human, or the nature of being alive. We have the scars and memory of pain, and some have way too much. Being delicate is vulnerable. But it can also be the strongest part of us. It can teach us not only what to avoid or fight, but how. It can shield us or release us.

 

When the world feels delicate, we notice the tiniest of changes in our surroundings and ourselves. If we don’t retreat into thoughts or get lost in memories, our awareness is heightened. We feel the tiniest tug on our heart. We notice changes in the posture of people we speak with, the quick inhalation, the deceptive movement in the eyes or incipient smile of joy in the lips. And we have the opportunity, if we can allow ourselves to feel it, to move with it. Move in-between the cries of pain, the calls to pleasure, the enticements, or dangers of memory and let all of these teach us the steps in a healing dance….

 

*To read the whole piece, please go to The Good Men Project.