Are We All Just Trying to Figure It Out? Changing Hurtful Habits

In Mary Oliver’s spectacular poem, The Summer Day, she asks,

 

“…What is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life.”

 

Of course, for some, life is more frightening than precious. But her evocation of such a spectacular day is so visceral and truthful.

 

And maybe we’re all always trying to figure this out, in our own ways. It’s certainly a question as old as humanity, as old as self-reflecting awareness. What can or what must we do with our lives?  Who or what are we? How can we or must we respond to a situation, to just waking up or going to work or school⎼ or to the threats that loom over all of us? Like the threat from those who are trying to impose a white nationalist dictatorship on all of us? The threat of the climate emergency, from wars, and who knows what else? Every moment the question of Who are we arises. We create ourselves through our answers to this question. And for most of us, our answers change.

 

Mary Oliver talks about attention, deep attention, as she rolls in the grass. As she feels herself as the grass or the creatures around her. And maybe this is one thing for all of us to do. We might let ourselves simply be with as much of what’s around us as feels right⎼ grass, trees, streams, and other living beings. This is one way to help save it, or them. To get us to care deeply enough to take action to save it, or us.

 

Did you hear that sound? The air disturbed by a moving car? The cough-talking of a raven? That peeper? That sparrow? That raven is cough talking not only the beauty of the day, but the grief it feels over the depleted air. Do you hear that sparrow? It’s not only calling its mate. It’s calling out in grief over the diminishing food resources it can find to feed its children.

 

I notice that when I regret something I did or didn’t do, maybe I misunderstood something, or treated someone unfairly, and I might call myself names. Wonder how I could ever be so mistaken. And this hurts. I might even imagine that mistake is frozen in time⎼ that I’m frozen in time, merely a memorial to a mistake. And that I can’t change or free myself from it. We might even try to blame someone or something else for what we’ve done so we no longer feel the pain.

 

Why do we do this? It’s such a weird way of thinking about ourselves and our lives, isn’t it? So distorted and inaccurate. If instead we listen deeply to this self-talk and imagining and go beyond it, not get stuck in it, so much might be revealed. Recognizing a mistake is the first step in correcting it. It can be a growth of awareness if we just listen mindfully and take it and our response as a lesson.

 

We might do the same anytime we look at ourselves….

 

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

The Immensity of the Moment: Reaching the Other Side of Fear

All events can create unpredictable responses and results. The bigger the event, maybe the more unpredictable is what follows it⎼ the responses, the takeaways, the lessons learned.

 

This week’s eclipse had predictable effects. If we could see it, along with so many others, the moment was startlingly immense. Unavoidably present. But for others, we couldn’t see it at all.

 

My wife and I drove about 25 miles to a park on a lake near the path of totality. Earlier in the day, clouds shared the sky with the sun. But, as the moment drew closer, the cloud cover deepened. The air grew very cold. Several robins started singing loudly and then grew completely silent. And to the north, a darkness rose through the clouds. Although we knew it was coming it still defied expectations. It was black, darker than a heavy storm cloud, but only for a portion of the sky. And in 2 minutes, it was gone. Even such big events can last but a moment.

 

It reminded me, maybe most of us who made the effort to experience it, that the universe is not under human control. It’s impossibly bigger and beyond us. We felt small, maybe some of us felt humbled by it, frightened as well as awed. I imagined the terror our human ancestors must have felt at moments like this, in times before the development of science and maybe before primal people’s had their own ways of anticipating cosmic events.

 

One thing I didn’t predict was an insight into the hyperobjective nature of climate change that I wrote about in my last blog; the fact that the dangers posed by the climate emergency are beyond our comprehension, beyond what evolution has prepared us to deal with.

 

During the daytime, as we look up to the sky at the infinite blue emptiness, or we witness this eclipse ⎼ or on a clear night, when we see the unfathomable array of stars ⎼ we can feel so small, so powerless to affect the universe on this cosmic scale. And maybe one reason we can’t digest the threat posed by the climate crisis is because it entails truly believing, feeling we humans do affect the universe, or this world at least. We do have some control. We are the universe.

 

Maybe our personal effect on the universe is incalculably small, but collectively, here on earth, it’s noticeable. We can dry up or burn down the surface of the earth; we can darken the cloud cover with pollution or shake the heavens with aircraft. This isn’t quite the moon eclipsing the sun. But we can eclipse the sun in other ways, for example by burning fossil fuels we change climate patterns. And these effects last far longer than the eclipse did.

 

And I wondered why we don’t feel this immensity of sky and universe more often. How can we change this, and change our as yet inadequate response to climate change? A total eclipse doesn’t happen every day. But an incomprehensible sky is with us every day. A desire to fully embrace our lives is here every moment. The climate crisis is here every moment.

 

Sometimes, we feel regret, maybe for not getting to see the eclipse or for something we’ve said or done. But the most fortunate regret, one we might experience most often, is the regret over a half-lived or ignored moment. Or maybe any regret is a mirror of this regret. Regret over a lost past is really a realization of a lost now. A lost future. Regret over a future we might never get to see or a dread over what that future might be like for ourselves or our children. Or maybe what I’m describing is regret transmuting into grief or fear. …

 

 

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

Instead of Shrinking Our Lives, Expand Them: Going As One United Being into a Beautiful Day and Into that Good Night

Why does feeling the sun on our face, or even seeing it out the window, create a sense of happiness?

 

Most of us love it when, after days of rain or cold weather, the sun is visible, and the sky is clear. Especially in the spring, and the blue color just goes on forever, the day is not just physically but emotionally brighter.

 

Of course, if there’s been a drought or we’re allergic to the sun or worried about skin cancer, that spoils the fun. But a sunny day? We use that as an expression of being happy; or a sunny disposition as being positive, uplifting. Or we see the sun and feel that, as we look up, for now at least, we can enjoy a moment. We can allow ourselves a respite before the clouds move in.

 

And sometimes, we can find a sun living in ourselves. Or we might find a sense of quiet presence or get absorbed in something we love. Maybe it’s writing a story or meditating. Or we’re practicing a martial arts kata, dancing, listening to music, or walking next to a waterfall, and we’re gone. There’s nothing left of us but the creating, the kata, the dance, the music, the waterfall. It’s so amazing that we can feel most ourselves when, as the 13th century Japanese Zen teacher Dogen Zenji put it, we forget ourselves in action.

 

Contemporary Zen teacher, environmental activist, and author David Loy put it very clearly for me in a recent talk. When we do something not as a means to something else, or to get somewhere else; when we do an activity for it-self, not for what prize we may get from doing it, we can be transformed. We cease to be self-conscious and become more deeply conscious. We become sun conscious, activity conscious; we become more aware, more mindful of how one action, emotion, sensation, or thought flows into the next and forms our quality-of-life experience, so we can adjust, deepen that experience. In his talk, David Loy illustrated his point with the explanation of Karma yoga, the yoga of action, from the Hindu spiritual classic, the Bhagavad Gita. When we do something without being attached to the results, but aware of the rightness of what we do, we are more likely to be transformed positively by the action.

 

When we work for social justice, for example, we do the best we can, being as strategic as we can. We want to create better conditions in the world and make a difference; but our personal achievement is the action itself that we take. No matter what we do, we are most likely to have good results if we focus on doing the best we can, now, and not on worrying about the future or how far away it is.

One passage in the Gita says:

“You have a right to your actions.

But never to your actions’ fruits.

Act for the action’s sake.”

 

I remember, when I was teaching secondary school and students read this passage in the Gita, they at first disagreed with it, or disliked to it. They asked, “Why not be concerned with the fruits of our actions? When we do something well, don’t we deserve praise? Don’t we want to foster a concern with the fruits, or at least the ethical consequences of our actions on the world?” …

 

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

Giving Oneself a Present: And When Being Present Is the Gift

Haven’t we all had the urge to give ourselves a present after a noteworthy achievement or surviving something difficult? I don’t mean after something as frightening as being attacked or an achievement as deep as graduating college or getting married. Those events warrant something public and memorable. But surviving a medical procedure, maybe, or just living through a tough day at work or writing a great song or article, some celebration is warranted.

 

Some people might bake a sweet or buy a new shirt, or go out to the movies. My favorite thing, especially before the pandemic, is to visit with friends, go out to eat, or to the library, or even better, a bookstore. Finding a good book to read is so refreshing for me. Not just due to the anticipation of entering a new world or going on an adventure, but expanding the world that I perceive and thus live.

 

So, this weekend, after a tough week, I bought a book of essays by theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli called There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important than Kindness: And Other Thoughts on Physics, Philosophy, and the World. This felt like a present filled with sweetness.

 

In the book, Rovelli includes an essay on yet another book, one by the Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna who lived around 150-250 CE. The translation of the book’s title is “The Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way.” It is one of the most important works of the Buddhist and Eastern philosophical traditions. Nagarjuna’s essential point is that nothing exists by itself, but only through dependence on something else or in relation to other things, beings, or perspectives.

 

Of course, we have cultural conventions, languages, ways of perceiving and thinking which create for us the impression that individual things exist on their own. But this is all just the surface layer of things, an illusion, maybe a necessary one but still an illusion.

 

Culture itself, says Rovelli speaking as Nagarjuna, is an endless dialogue feeding on our experiences and exchanges, relationships. We are all, continuously, being enriched, hurt, or fed by others.

 

And the illusion culture creates helps us live in the culture. It provides processes and rules, helps us identify the limits of our body so we can put food in our mouths, or walk through a crowd without crashing into others. But without air and the earth to stand on, without food and water to ingest, without parents to give us birth or teachers to instruct; without friends and family to model how to speak, relate, and hopefully how to love, we don’t exist.

 

And at the center is the ultimate reality, nothing but a vast, interdependent set of relations. To borrow from ancient philosophers like the Greek Empedocles who said, “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere,” each of us, each thing and being, is a center extending everywhere ⎼ that is dependent on the universe we are never separate from ⎼ and whose borders are both here and nowhere. The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh used to say we all inter-are….

 

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

Poetry the Universe Writes to Itself: Aging and the Gifts of Friendship

Friends can bring us back to ourselves. Over Thanksgiving with old friends, we each see ourselves in the others. Three of us have known each other for 57 years and we’ve come together for over 40 of those years to share the holiday together. We were freshman in the same college dorm at the University of Michigan. Our future wives entered our lives not long afterwards, anywhere from one to seven or eight years later. We see in each other how we’ve aged, faced threats and tribulations, pains, and losses, inspirations, and successes. How we are facing life now.

 

And it’s all out there for us to talk about. Right in front of us. Each friend with their own gifts and limitations. We give each other tips, perspectives to help us prepare for the next months, years, moment. We talk about illnesses, present and past work experiences, roof repairs, water pics, other friends, podcasts, music videos, movies, books, philosophy, and sleep. Sleep is so tenuous for half of us who, each night, have no idea how much or where in the house we will sleep. Nothing is assumed. We speak of dreams and family members. Deaths and losses. The threats to our world.

 

And then there’s the joy. So much to be grateful for. For the food, certainly. And sure, it’s an old stereotype, but all the men played football in one form or another when we were young, yet none of us attended a football game after our sophomore year. After a few years of college, it seemed so meaningless and violent. But sometime in our 50s, we began to pay attention once again and listen for scores. Especially Michigan v Ohio State. This year, we watched together, shouting and cheering. Even the women were drawn in by the drama and emotion. And then my wife and I had to leave early to return home. Ohio State was ahead by 3 points.

 

But about 3 hours later, still on the road, my wife checked her phone for the score. Michigan 45, Ohio State 23. We won. We actually won. We called our friends. What a celebration ensued.

 

And when we arrived home ⎼ we have 3 cats, but we couldn’t find any of them. They hide from our cat-sitter even though she feeds and talks to them. Sometimes, they punish us for leaving by not showing up. But this time, in 5 minutes or so, one emerged from the basement, one appeared by the door as we brought in the suitcases. Twenty minutes or so later, the third came up behind us, crying. They all cried for food and contact. And when my wife and I sat down later to eat dinner, they sat with us.

 

This year, something extra sat with us. There was a darkness in the house not attributable to the night. A warning in the air, or in me. How many more of these returns do we have? Aging is not about winning but presence. In the dark was a reminder to take in this moment more deeply. To embrace it as much as possible. To do everything I could to give back. This is all there is ⎼ feel it. Enjoy it. Be thankful for what we can be thankful for. Be kind, caring, even if it hurts. Pet the cats, love my wife. And maybe we will let more of the light in….

 

**If you live in Georgia, please vote on Tuesday, Dec. 6, to help protect your right to vote, the right for women to make their own health care choices, to protect the environment, Medicare, and Social Security ⎼ to help stop the politics of hate. Bring water, a photo ID, and friends. No matter where you live, you can help get out accurate voting information.

 

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

The Language of Moods: Tuning Our Ears to Hear the Heart of the World in Our Heart

When I was 19 and deeply involved in trying to figure out who I was, I heard a lecture by the philosopher of eastern religions, Alan Watts and read several of his books. He helped change how I felt about life.

 

When I thought ahead to the future, it seemed so big. A vast number of days, and a huge weight to carry. So many questions: how do I decide on a career? What should I do with all this time I have? How can I do some good? Thanks to Watts and others, especially to a few inspiring teachers, instead of a life of tasks and burdens mixed with occasional pleasures, I began to see depth and beauty; began to realize how my own response, attitude, and openness shaped the reality I experienced.

 

Three books by Watts stand out for me. The first: The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. The second: The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for An Age of Anxiety. The subtitle of the latter book, published in 1951, is certainly an appropriate label for today.

 

In another book, The Way of Zen, Watts not only explains his view of Zen history and practice but introduces the reader to four different moods often found in and characteristic of Zen and Japanese arts. It was a new thought for me that a philosophy could be expressed in a few distinct moods. These moods are, in Japanese, sabi, wabi, aware (a-wa-re), and yugen.

 

Understanding these moods can reveal unexpected ways to live life more directly and skillfully. The Way of Zen describes how the arts can be a way of practice and gives examples of poetry brewed in the four moods. Especially in these troubling times, when I read these poems, my mind and heart settles and comes alive. I discern better how to respond with strength even to the toughest situations and feel appreciation and gratitude for so much I have been given. These moods also reveal different ways and stages of meditation practice.

 

When we look at the breadth of the future, we can get lost. To make a decision, it helps to feel the truth of what is in and around us. There isn’t an infinity of moments ahead of us, only one.

 

As much as I understand it, Sabi, according to Watts, is when we get quiet and feel detached from our usual concerns⎼ worries, social media, plans, and expectations. Silence is not the absence of sound or thought, but being present, not judgmental or grasping, to sound and thought. We focus, for example, on one breath at a time, one place, one thing. We can see anything or “all things as happening ‘by themselves’ in marvelous spontaneity.” The poet, translator, Lucien Stryck called sabi, “…the feeling of isolation at the midpoint of an emotion when it is both welcome and unwelcome, the source of ease and unease…” It is the recognition of beauty in asymmetry, imperfection, and the yearning to go beyond a superficial understanding.

 

Wabi, I think, is similar to sabi. It is a sense of simplicity and purity. Watts said the mood can arise when we feel sad or depressed and we notice the uselessness of much of our concerns. We catch a glimpse of the ordinary in its “incredible suchness.” The sincerity. Stryck said it is the feeling of something previously ignored now seen as precious. This very moment is all we have. The ordinary is no longer ordinary. The philosopher and environmentalist Henry David Thoreau spoke of being “self-sufficient with an insufficiency of things.”

 

It’s the simple that will save us. It has been said that we can’t take our money or possessions with us into death. We can’t take anything, except what’s in us at that moment. How can we accept this moment is gone before we even recognize it’s here? …

 

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

We Are One Voice the Universe Uses to Speak

My father died four years ago at the age of 96. By that time, he moved slowly, his head bent over, and he used a walker most of the time. Luckily, his brain and his ability to think remained sharp; slowed, yes, more easily frustrated, but deep until the last two weeks of his life.

 

And as I get into my mid-seventies, I sometimes feel him inside me. I get tired and sense him leaning over inside me or my head coming forward like his did. I slow down and feel old. Then I recognize what I’m doing and straighten up. In my mind and body, I go from 96 to 30. My posture improves. I feel more limber and energetic.

 

Most of us know Shakespeare’s famous lines from his play As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…” We enter a scene, and we form ourselves accordingly; depending on where we are or who we see, we put on a character, fabricate a history, try out gestures as we’d put on clothing. When meeting parents, or teachers, we think, feel, and act differently than meeting a close friend or an enemy.

 

But who are we acting for? Who is the audience? Is it for just for others or ourselves? There is often a performance aspect to our feelings and behavior even when no one else is around. We try out being different selves to help us decide what we feel comfortable doing or being, or try out different beliefs, attitudes to see how they feel. We might stand up straight not only to look brave to others but to convince ourselves.

 

I just started reading an interesting new book, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, by Annie Murphy Paul. She clearly explains how we could increase our strength, resilience, level of success, and decrease how much we suffer. It is the same point that Buddhism and other meditation traditions have made for hundreds of years but now we have modern science to back it up. It’s less what we perceive or the events of our lives that shape us than how we respond to them.

 

Over a hundred years ago, psychologist William James said we often think we have an emotion and then act. We see a bear in the woods, or maybe a domestic terrorist on the street, and we feel fear, our heart pounds, palms sweat. We feel an impulse to run, and we run. We think the fear makes us run. But James said it’s the other way around. We feel fear because our body has begun to sweat, our heartbeat has sped up, our legs twitch. Likewise, we know we’re happy because we’re smiling. The body leads heart and mind.

 

Our emotions are not formed whole but are constructed of different elements. Murphy talks about building blocks of emotion. First, there’s interoception, or the awareness of internal sensations, as well as awareness of external sensations. These are added to a cognitive appraisal or interpretation of these sensations based on our beliefs, past experiences, our society, etc….

 

**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.

 

No More Hate: We Have A Choice About What Kind of Person We Will Be

Do you know the term ‘grok’? It was invented by author Robert Heinlein, and made its first appearance in 1961 in his science fiction novel, A Stranger In A Strange Land. If you don’t know the word, maybe add it to your vocabulary. It means to really understand something or someone, to empathize, merge with another person, idea, place, or thing so deeply you know them or it from the inside. It would be wonderful to grok something or someone, don’t you think? Or maybe certain somethings or someone, anyway?

 

I’m a straight white male. I don’t grok what it might mean to be Black in America today. I don’t grok what it might mean to be a female, either, or any gender other than mine. Or maybe what it would mean to be anyone other than me, now. Grokking ‘me’ is difficult enough.

 

But I was thinking about racism, especially since today, June 1st, is one hundred years after the Tulsa race massacre of June 1, 1921. When racist hate exploded into mobs of white people burning homes and buildings, killing black people, men, women, children, maybe as many as 300 people, shooting them, setting them aflame, bombing them, Americans bombing Americans just 3 years after World War I. And those in the mob were never held responsible. The people who had the institutional power to do so took part in or supported and turned their heads and hearts away. This is too disturbing to grok, but maybe I need to.

 

I wrote a blog recently about how hate, greed, and ignorance, what Buddhism calls the 3 poisons, cause suffering. Suffering is not the same as pain, but your response to it. For example, interpreting stomach pain as indigestion hurts so much less than thinking you have COVID-19, or cancer.

 

The poisons create a vacuum inside us, a vacuum that can be so encompassing you lose understanding for what you yearn or lust for. You focus on what you want from or how you can use other people. They become dehumanized to you, and you to yourself.

 

Racism may be hard to define but most likely includes hate and misinformation institutionalized⎼ taught, enforced, inflicted on people by legal proceedings, media, education, economics, politics, etc. According to Dismantling Racism (dRworks), it includes many factors, like race prejudice and systemic discrimination to preserve white power, depriving BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities of an equal and just place in society.

 

Hating is not only anger or aggression but a compulsion to hurt. We’ve seen this too often over the last five years, or forever. It shoves people and reality, especially the reality of who people are as individuals, away from you. And it is addictive. You blame who or what you hate for your hate. And for your pain. Pain you might not have initially created but certainly augmented by projecting onto this other person or group the power to cause your suffering. You feel diminished. And you imagine by hating you regain power; you harm them or try to diminish them back. But you carry the hate. So, you hate yourself. The more you hate others, the more you hurt, the more you hate. A spiral of addiction.

 

And this can spread easily and harm everyone you meet. Hate is the denial of compassion, of love, of humanity⎼ of grokking. When you see hate in someone’s face, it is hard not to fear the ill-will is directed at you. So, there’s fear, too. And ignorance. The only community it fosters is a communion of fear, hate, and ignorance. It undermines all other community.

 

When I was a teenager, my family lived in a suburb of New York City. One Sunday afternoon, I was walking my dog up the block and saw a friend. We stopped outside his house to talk. A car full of white teens also stopped, in the street near us. We were Jewish. They were Catholic. I don’t remember how I knew this or if I just presumed it⎼ or if they yelled something at us. There had been several incidents at the time of harassment of Jewish people by Catholics. But my dog suddenly barked. A gun was raised and pointed out the window at us and fired.

 

I don’t know if they meant to kill us. My friend and I jumped more than ducked. It happened too fast for us; we were not used to hate coming from guns. And it was hate. Neither of us was hit, although one bullet did break through a window of the house, just missing my friend’s younger brother. We were lucky. So many others before and since, of so many communities of people, were not. Just consider all the violence over the last five years (or forever) against people who are Black, or Asian, Indigenous, other People of Color, and LGBTQIA, etc.⎼ for example, of Black Americans shot by police for being Black while simply walking (Michael Brown), driving (Duante Wright), asleep at home (Breonna Taylor), or being a child playing (Tamir Rice).

 

Hate can destroy society. We must take action to stop it, neither let ourselves be infected nor forget. We stop it by studying and teaching history. And by learning to better grok ourselves and others, better grok both what supports racism and other forms of hate and what counters it⎼ or what turns us to the better angels of our nature. To compassion. We are capable of both hate and compassion. We have choices about what kind of people we will be. And we can’t allow anyone or anything to convince us otherwise.

 

 

*Here are additional resources to learn about and teach history and stop hate:

Facing History and Ourselves,

The 1619 Project,

Native Knowledge 360,

Asian Americans K-12 Education Curriculum,

The Zinn Education Project.

Others:

USvshate.org,

Anti-Defamation League

Confronting White Nationalism in Schools

SPLC: Hate in Schools

Learning For Justice

Science for the Greater Good: Science Based Practices for Kinder Happier Schools

 

**This blog was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Finding Comfort Within: Flying Like A Bird or Setting Like the Sun

What brings you comfort?

 

It’s a wonderful sunny day. Despite the cold temperature, I open a bedroom window and take a breath. The air feels remarkable, clean and tasty. It’s been weeks since we’ve had a day like this.

 

Close your eyes partly or fully, or as much as you feel comfortable doing, take a nice breath in, and out, and taste the air. Just enjoy being nowhere but here for a moment. Then let come to mind a time you felt a deep sense of comfort. What was the situation? Where were you? Were you by yourself or with others? What were you doing? Notice what comfort means to you.

 

When I think about this question, I realize the answer has changed throughout my life. As a child, I remember walking my dog in the wooded area in our neighborhood. Sometimes, we’d take off on a run and all else would be forgotten. All that existed was us, running, together.

 

When I returned home during my college years, to visit my parents in New York City, I remember late nights, after everyone else was asleep and the city had quieted, my mother and I would sit and talk, openly, like at no other time.

 

When I first moved to Ithaca, my future wife and I lived with a group of people near a gorge and waterfall. When I’d go out and stare into that waterfall, I’d see first the flow of water. Then my perspective would shift to focus on one drop, one amongst the multitude, racing down, crashing, disappearing into the current of the creek. Any tension I had previously felt, any thoughts, would be washed away. I’d be left emotionally calm and mentally clear.

 

Now, after getting up and doing basic exercises and stretching, I love to sit with a book that inspires or challenges me. It is a grave mistake to think of reading as an automatic or passive activity that involves simply repeating in your mind someone else’s words. When you give reading your full attention you get to see the world with someone else’s eyes. And this new perspective illuminates depths missed in yourself.  Without a quality reading, the quality of the writing is never perceived. This is why holding a book can feel like holding a mystery or a treasure chest. Reading online or with a kindle doesn’t do that for me no matter the content. In fact, it turns me off.

 

Or writing⎼ I love to write stories, blogs, poems, etc. in the morning, when my mind is fresh. The words enable me to transform into other people, or to fly like a bird, to rain and snow and set like the sun or cuddle with a cat. Creativity can be so satisfying….

 

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