How We Look Is Not Separate from What We See: Giving Form to What’s Most Intimately Ourselves

Sometimes, we surprise ourselves with what we can do, with what we know and don’t know.

 

I retired from teaching secondary school ten years ago. But last night, in my dreams I was once again teaching. In many classes, ten, twenty, thirty students or more showed up. In others, only one or two.  Maybe students had begun to assume that I would always be there and took me for granted. Or maybe they were too distracted by their personal lives, or I was getting too tired. Whatever it was, my dream-self decided it was time to retire.

 

In one room, a large group of students came to hear and join me in saying goodbye. It was surprising how full of feeling the situation was. We accepted each other so deeply. And I had nothing planned. It was all spontaneous. What I said emerged extemporaneously, as if from all of us together, and included nothing about goodbyes.

 

The way a moment forms has so much to teach us and is teaching us so much as it forms. There is so much there if we can see it and feel it. It’s the ultimate teacher. In fact, we are this forming of a moment. But will we look? Feel?

 

And I woke up. Sort of. The light outside was a gray mist emerging from the dark night, a dawn just beginning to gray. Outside the window, almost no discernible objects emerged from the mist, no trees, or bushes. But in the mostly dark inside, I could discern the placement but not the details of the bed, dresser, and other furniture. And as I wrote down the dream on a pad of paper by my bed, I wondered if anyone in the dream, any student had understood what I was saying.

 

Then I realized the answer in the dream was also a question. Do I understand my own answer?

 

Research and theories by psychologists and neuroscientists speculate one purpose of dreaming is to integrate emotional, and other material from our daily lives. Was the dream an example of that integration process? Was it telling me what my conscious mind couldn’t figure out or was it merely putting into words what I had already concluded? We often underestimate the role the unconscious and the resting mind plays in conscious and critical thinking. Our conscious understanding never gets it all. But if we humbly accept that, sometimes what we find surprises us with its depth and value…..

 

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

The Dream that Heals and the River that Flows Through Us

Recently, just before having a scary medical test, I had a dream that I not only remembered afterwards in detail, but which greatly affected me. Actually, remembered might not be the most accurate way to describe what happened, because I was partly awake even while I was dreaming.

 

In the dream, I was visiting the city of my birth and wanted to call my parents. They were back in the home where I grew up, even though they had moved out of that house several years before either my mom’s or my dad’s death. And in the dream, I knew all this, knew they had died years ago. Yet, I still wanted to call them on the phone, but I had forgotten their phone number.

 

Suddenly, I was with a group of friends entering a restaurant not far from my parent’s old home, not far from my old home. The friends and I had reservations for dinner. But I decided to quickly walk to my parent’s house, tell them I would come by after dinner and stay the night, and I’d get their phone number.

 

When I got to the house, I looked in the front window. Both my parents were there. They were entertaining other couples. But they had a security guard at the door, a tall, strong man standing in a darkened area of the front porch. The guard knew about me, had heard stories from my parents. He even told me about his own son who was training in the martial arts. But he wouldn’t let me in without checking my ID. I showed him my driver’s license and he said I could enter.

 

As soon as I did, I was swept up in the feel, the atmosphere of the past. I was there, in my old home, with my parents very fully there, right there, and yet I also knew they were no longer alive.

 

Then I woke up. Somehow, dreaming this dream changed my whole emotional situation. I felt good, no longer afraid of the medical test, or maybe anything. It was not that I felt my parents could, now, speak to me. But seeing them made my past come alive ⎼ and was possibly telling me something about my future. About not fearing death, maybe? Or about fear itself? About reality?

 

We wander to so many places in our dreams, and we can dream and wander both while asleep and awake. Daydreams, and all manner of thoughts and images can run around our minds all through the day, accessing the same river of imagery as night dreams.

 

The dream clearly reminded me how much I missed my parents and that they were still with me, as me. And that includes so much more than their DNA. No one is perfect, but my parents, more than anyone, taught me to love. But was the security guard a gatekeeper to a mythic realm or heaven, or maybe a form of Charon without his ferryboat, taking my dream mind to the other shore? And why had I forgotten their phone number?…

 

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

 

Ancient Lessons About Reducing Anxiety and Embracing the World

Despite feeling tremendous relief just a few nights ago, when Catharine Masto Cortez was declared the winner of the Nevada Senate race and my wife, and I, danced around the living room⎼ today I feel heavy once again. Why is that? I was so happy the Democrats exceeded expectations and maintained control of the Senate. The outpouring of support for the rights of women and to vote has clarified for all that the GOP war for autocracy can be stopped.

 

But sometimes, we get so caught up in a situation, a worry, expectation, and lose any perspective. We might be too frightened, traumatized, or invested and we see things only one way, as if the moment stood isolated in time. And we lose sight of how the situation came to be.

 

We might lose sight, for example, of just how traumatized we all were by past threats and those still looming. We have the GOP barely gaining control of the House and, of course, keeping control of the Supreme Court. And their leaders, DJT and others like him, are still threatening to seize the Presidency, avoid prosecution for their crimes, and impose their will on the rest of us. And the chaos they might yet cause, with their program of hate, lies, and division, and denying the factual results of this and past elections.

 

But not only is no human an island but no moment. The past sets up the present, as this moment educates the next. One moment’s mistake can lead either to another mistake ⎼ or to insight, when we can allow our heart, mind, and senses to be open to it.

 

I was reading a book by Joan Sutherland, a Zen meditation teacher, called Through Forests of Every Color: Awakening with Koans. In chapter two, she talked about how a new form of Zen developed in China in the eighth century in response to catastrophic times. Over just ten years, two-thirds of the population died due to rebellion, invasion, famine, and disease. The Tang dynasty of the time went from a flourishing empire to, afterwards, a barely surviving one, where life was so tenuous.

 

Of course, this mirrored back to me our own time, marked as we know too well, with so much disease, so many climate disasters, and the threats mentioned earlier of violence, and the attempted destruction of our democratic form of government.

 

No moment is the same as any other, but how did people, in awful times in the past, or going through awful times today, cope? Can we today, or those from the past, reveal ways of living that can help us through the pain to something we could welcome, to ways of living that meet our needs and strengthen our humanity?

 

I especially look to people like Zen adepts, those who have spent years studying the mind, body, and heart, and living harmoniously with others and nature. According to Sutherland, the Zen adepts and innovators of the 8th century,  realized that trying to escape their world through a narrow path to personal peace or religious ceremony would not serve them or their culture. They needed a sense of immediacy and, awful as it was, they got it….

 

 

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

The Art of Knowing and Truly Befriending Ourselves

I look outside the window right now and see maple trees with orange and reddish yellow leaves reaching into a tender blue sky. And lower down, green leaves, with burnt red Virginia creeper clinging to maples all cabled together with grape vines. And lower still, deutzia and lilac and honeysuckle.

 

But just five hours ago, none of this. The moon was out, and the night was day. After waking up unexpectedly at 5 am, I looked out a window and didn’t know what year or millennia it was. There before me was something ancient. The trees and bushes were all constituted of shadows, timeless shadows. And the rest was silvered by a unique light, a softened glow.

 

During the day, we see the ten thousand things of the world distinguished by specific details and the spaces between them. But in the moonlight, the edges grew fainter. There was light and shadow, but nothing else sharply divided or defined. Everything was softened and somehow linked. Nothing stood on its own; the whole scene was so engrossing. And the moonlight made mind light, made all my thoughts and feelings, so noticeable.

 

And then this morning I picked up a book I had been reading a week or so ago, Hunger Mountain: A field Guide to Mind and Landscape by David Hinton. It describes walks he had taken on Hunger Mountain in Vermont and includes discussions both of Chinese poetry he had translated and of Taoist cosmology inspiring those walks.

 

In the first chapter of the book was a poem I had read before; it was by the Chinese poet, Tu Fu, titled “Moonrise”. I read again about the new moon, and the ancient, changeless “Star River” and “White/dew dusts the courtyard.” And I realized that last night it was Tu Fu looking out my window.

 

We normally think of things at a distance. Words can do that. They are abstractions, usually. And we are the distance the words create, or what distances. We think of ourselves in a manner that separates us from whom we speak to or about. We all have thoughts, plans, dreams, sensations, emotions filling our mind and heart. The ego self is what glues us to some of these stimuli and excludes us from the rest.

 

Many people would argue that it wasn’t Tu Fu looking out the window. He’s dead. It was just that my buried memory of the poem influenced how I interpreted the moonlight I perceived and how I saw the earth, trees, and bushes. I was clearly in a dream intoxicated state. But last night, a different vision occurred. The moon met and befriended the poet. For a second or two, the thing seen met the act of seeing and became the seer…

 

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

Seeing With a Diversity of Eyes, Revisited: Imagination Is a Brush We Can Use to Paint Our Way Anywhere, Even Home

It all began one evening when I got totally engrossed in viewing Japanese woodblock prints, especially the night scenes by Kawase Hasui. Hasui was one of Japan’s most prominent and prolific printmakers, who died in 1957. He created landscapes that beautifully merged humans⎼ their homes, boats, shrines, castles, and temples⎼ into the land around them.

 

I was looking through several paintings and when one stood out, I’d imagine myself in the depicted scene or sit with the mood the print and my seeing of it created.

 

One night scene was of the Chuson-ji Temple in Japan. A long series of wide steps led up through trees to the temple. There was moonlight and a bright star, but no moon. I slowed down, stopped rushing, and just lingered on the scene, let my eyes feel the steps so I could walk up them in my imagination and reach the building itself.

 

Then I closed my eyes and let the scene rest inside me, before opening them again to allow new details I had missed earlier to enter the picture. By touching in this mindful way, we are touched; we feel what we see. The artwork is perceived with more dimension. I learned this practice at a retreat organized by psychotherapist Lawrence Leshan.

 

Later that night, I drove into town to buy groceries. Along the way, I noticed the scenery took on a totally new quality. The homes surrounded by trees, the lights amidst the dark, the moon over the hillside⎼ one minute, the scene before me was the physical road, buildings, and trees. The next, a beautiful portrait of the same.

 

In the afternoon a few days later, a similar experience occurred. As I walked up a rural road, I saw as I might normally see⎼ light breaking through the hillside forest roof and bouncing off tree leaves ⎼ and then as Hasui might paint it. By viewing the art, my eyes were tuned to beauty; I now had two sets of eyes, two ways of seeing.

 

Hasui seemed fascinated with not just art as a creation, but vision itself. He painted the same scene in different seasons and times of day. There are at least three renditions of the Chuson-ji Temple, for example⎼ one at night, one on a spring day, another in the snow. But what we see in each painting is one moment, or each instant as a once in a lifetime event.

 

The beautiful temples Hasui painted were not just an external scene he perceived but an element of the artist, his society, history, mood, the time of day, the weather and quality of light. We are not a being locked in a wall of skin, but one movement in a universe dancing itself into being.

 

Sometimes, we get caught up in what we see or hear. Our focus becomes possessive and exclusive. The object we see over there reinforces the sense of a separate me over here. And we lose appreciation for the very act of seeing or hearing, or the fact we can perceive or know anything at all. We lose the mystery of it. Studying how we perceive, being mindful, can remind us to notice, and look beyond what we see in order to enjoy the act of seeing. That we see can be as miraculous as what we see.

 

Exercises looking out a window:

Is it possible to perceive each artwork as a window or a door to a hidden place in ourselves, or the universe, like C. S. Lewis’ wardrobe doorway to Narnia? Just like a painting might be framed, a window frames the world for us to view with care and attention.

 

Here are exercises we can use to expand our appreciation of art and perception. We can do them for ourselves or share them with students. Before we share them, we first practice them ourselves. We feel and reflect on how they affect us. We imagine each individual child doing it. Many of us are struggling now with painful traumas and loss. We need to develop trauma sensitive eyes and hearts. We need to hold our children and ourselves with hands of empathy and compassion….

 

*To read the whole piece, please click on the link to Education That Inspires.

 

**This blog is an expanded revisiting of one I wrote last year for The Good Men Project.

***Before doing any of the exercises, please consult the links for fuller explanations.

Letting Go of Normal: When Looking Is Itself An Act of Creation and Breathing is A Revelation

Although it’s technically spring, it’s still very much winter. The breeze is distinctly chilly and it’s snowing. Hard. Transitions between seasons, and maybe between anything, can be so unpredictable. Winter, as well as old ways of doing things, does not like to let go.

 

A cardinal, of such a beautiful red color, sits on the branch of an apple tree as the snow filled wind roars around it. How cold it must be out there for it. It waits for the right moment to swoop down and eat the food my wife left for it. And nearby, sits a mourning dove, so much a part of the branch I at first didn’t see him or her or them. Her presence is more beautiful than any work of art, although many artists would love to paint what I now see.

 

So many of us want to return to a different season, a time without at least the inhumanity and destruction of Putin’s war against Ukraine. We want to return to relating to other people without masks, or not worrying about breathing in the air from another person’s mouth or wondering if our trip to the grocery store would result in sickness.

 

We want to return to stable supply lines for food and other necessities and no inflation. We want to return to a time, or maybe create a time, that we see a sustainable, enjoyable future ahead of us. We want to think our financial well-being assured.

 

Or we want to feel the possibility of our rights protected. Our voice not only heard but honored. And justice is, finally, not only possible but a regular occurrence. That the blatant assault on the desire for democracy, real democracy, by the followers of DJT and Putin and white nationalists and others is ended, replaced by a drive toward increasing voting rights and protections. And we want to end the continuing concentration of wealth.

 

Much of this got relatively better with the election of Biden and Harris. At least the possibility of things getting better, of reason, caring, is present. But the concentration of wealth is getting worse, not better, along with the lies, hate, and support of malignant autocrats by much of the GOP. All we need do is listen to the racism implicit in the GOP questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson to understand what their party represents.

 

We want to free our nation of the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ+ etc., of the hate that drives too much of our society.

 

We want to end the anxiety over climate change, of the increasingly destructive weather: tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and drought.

 

But this is our world right now. There is so much and so many to mourn. We can’t crave what we remember as “normal” in the past, because what was normal and good for one was not such for others. We want something fairer and more stable. So many of us care about all these issues but feel that caring hurts too much. Is too painful. We feel facing it means no more joy, no love, no companionship. And yet, we know if we turn away, it will only get worse….

 

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

Life Is Our Question

Right now, we are inundated with so many questions. So much uncertainty, fear, and grief. So much awareness of how tenuous life is without an equal awareness of how to face the tenuous. The fragile. The uncertain.

 

We often want to return to at least a semblance of stability. Security. We want answers. Sometimes, like for many of us, right now life can be too much. And all too often, the answers we search for are delayed or too difficult to uncover. And living in a state of questioning is uncomfortable. It is also uncomfortable to go through our day or at night to sleep with our questions as our bedmate. But often, that is the only answer. To just sit, sleep, ache with our questions. Or be grateful for the fact that we can ask them.

 

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, in answering a letter from a young poet, to “be patient to all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves.” The point is to “live the questions” so at some point we can live our way to an answer.

 

He was mainly concerned with love relationships, creativity, and integrity. But I think this advice applies to all questions that could change the direction of our lives and heart.

 

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers, Jacob Needleman, developed this further and wrote: “Our culture has generally tended to [try to] solve its problems without experiencing its questions.” We want a solution quickly, even before we feel the full dimension of what we face. We too often want what’s easy and immediate.

 

But rushing for an answer forces us to leave out what could be most important, and to favor what’s “practical” over what’s compassionate, our bias over reality. It weakens us just when life is trying to teach us how to be strong.

 

I noticed when I was teaching secondary school that the students loved to grapple, in the classroom, with real, tough, open-ended questions. But with adult friends and relatives, not so much. Finding solutions was preferred over asking questions that might have no verbalizable answer. Needleman said that when we open any newspaper, or today, look at our phones, and we see every news item breathes philosophy. Breathes deep questions. Ethical. Existential. Metaphysical. Epistemological.

 

We read about Putin’s war against Ukraine and ask about the nature of evil, or human nature, or⎼ how do we stop a war? We read about the climate crisis and ask about reliable evidence, truth, or ⎼ how do we get people to realize this crisis is so real we must stop and change what we’re doing?

 

We read about racism, attacks on LGBTQ+ children, and so many other forms of hate, and ask⎼ How do we talk to a neighbor who hates so deeply they create violent walls around everyone they know? Or we read about the pandemic or attacks on women’s health and ask⎼ How do we turn the richest society in the world to one that actively cares for the health of its members?…

 

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

Are We the Masked Species? What Can Wearing a Mask Teach Us About Ourselves?

What can wearing a COVID-mask teach us about ourselves and how we look at others? After almost two years of living in a pandemic, we could benefit by thinking not only about how wearing a mask can protect others from us, or us from a deadly disease, but about what mask wearing can teach us about ourselves, and relating to others.

 

We use the word person to refer to what we are and say we have a personality. The root word here is Latin, persona, meaning a social role, image, or a theatrical mask or appearance we wear in public. Psychologist Carl Jung used the term to mean the social face we present to others, a mask or image we create, or way to hide elements of ourselves. So, in a way we were the masked species even before the pandemic.

 

From antiquity, masks have been an important element of possibly all cultures. Most staged dramas began with performers wearing masks. In Ancient Greece, for example, the legendary poet, Thespis, was supposedly the first to put an actor on a stage and turn choral recitation into drama. He created larger than life masks that also acted like a megaphone. The first written stories were myths with existential and religious themes, about creation, life and death, heroes, and heroines. The first dramas were enacted myths, so drama emerged from religious ceremonies. But what happens when we wear an actual medical mask in public while doing everyday tasks?

 

Of course, politics also enters the picture, as the right-wing in the US and elsewhere have turned a medical necessity into a political statement, thus undermining the effectiveness of masks as simply a practical way to prevent the spread of a deadly disease. This influences how we respond to masks and perceive those who wear them, as well as undermines the value of rational, factual based decision-making. It purposefully turns the social sphere, the public commons into a stage for enacting a political and possibly even a religious drama.

 

Other people are no longer perceived as persons very much like us, but as characters in a drama. And when political leaders of one party threaten and call for violence against another party or against anyone who disagrees with them, that drama can too easily become deadly.

 

According to a research article by Frontiers in Psychology, COVID masks cover about 60-70% of the area of the face responsible for emotional expression. This makes identification of others or any social interaction more difficult. It limits the ability of other people to read our emotions and hear what we say, as the sound of our words is usually augmented by the sight of our lips moving and changes in facing expression. Consciously reading subtle emotional cues as well as the trustworthiness or honesty of others can be difficult enough for many of us without a mask. A mask obviously diminishes this ability.

 

How much does a mask become a blank slate for us to project our own personal dramas? We all know how deeply important how our face looks is to most of us. Especially today, with so many suffering from anxiety and trauma, we can feel extremely sensitive, self-judgmental about how we look, afraid of the tiniest “imperfections.” …

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link 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.