Making Friends with Sadness…

Solidarity Saturday
Saturday, January 26th 2013

PeaceOfferingSmall

 

 

sometimes

it is all i can do
to just sit

here in this naked moment

this uneasy
space

my heart broken open

how else can all this Love pour out?

 

 

Hmmm….“Making Friends with Sadness.”

You may be asking, “Who would want to do that?!”  And this would be a good and understandable question.  Sadness, like pain and quite a few other uncomfortable aspects of this life, is a thing that we are normally trying to avoid, or escape if caught by it.

Now, to be clear, in this blog entry I am not referring to clinical depression, which is a serious condition that needs professional assistance.  I have had some depression in my own life and have had a number of close friends and family who have suffered from this illness.  Many have benefitted from both therapeutic and medicinal assistance.  And if you are suffering in a way that limits your life, affects your ability to work or function normally, or is causing harm to yourself and those close to you, then please care for yourself enough to seek help.  If you had asthma and were constricted in your ability to breathe, would you not seek help?  Why drown when all around you is shore, wanting to feel your tender feet grounded on its warm sand?  This being said, understanding sadness in the way that I am talking about with this blog entry will, I think in addition to therapy, also benefit those suffering from this illness.

There is a social aspect to this.  Society, particularly a culture built on seeking pleasure and attaining, frowns on sadness and melancholy.  As the sayings go, “Stiff upper lip”, “Pull up your bootstraps”, and “Get back up on the horse.”  Perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing to stay on the ground a bit, laying there – taking it all in, before we get back up on the horse.  Perhaps we can allow ourselves a frown now and then, perhaps we should just take off the boots and let our feet breathe.  Perhaps if we gave ourselves permission to have the experience of feeling sadness, we could do just that – feel sadness, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist or secretly identifying as sad.

If we allow sadness to rise and fall, to live and die, to arrive and pass, then it will do just that rather than burying itself deeper within as we ignore it and hush it away.  I think a lot of our non-clinical or chemically induced depression may lessen or go away if we would allow ourselves to feel sad when life presents sadness.  The Franciscan Richard Rohr quite popularly says, “What we don’t transform, we transmit.”  Allow sadness for what it is, and give yourself – your heart, the opportunity to transform.  Transformed people are awesome people, benefitting the world through their own lives.

 

The great Tibetan meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, talks about this practice of opening heart and staying with sadness in the following…

“When you awaken your heart…you find, to your surprise, that your heart is empty.  You find that you are looking into outer space.  What are you, who are you, where is your heart?  If you really look, you won’t find anything tangible and solid.  Of course, you might find something very solid if you have a grudge against someone or you have fallen possessively in love.  But that is not awakened heart.  If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except tenderness.  You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness.  This kind of sadness doesn’t come from being mistreated.  You don’t feel sad because someone has insulted you or because you feel impoverished.  Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned.  It occurs because your heart is completely exposed.  There is no skin or tissue covering it; it is pure raw meat.  Even if a tiny mosquito lands on it, you feel so touched.  Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.  It is this tender heart of a warrior that has the power to heal the world.”

~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
(Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior)

Likewise, one of my favorite teachers and one of Rinpoche’s foremost students, Pema Chödrön, says it like so…

“Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love….Sometimes this broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic, sometimes to anger, resentment, and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all.”

~ Pema Chödrön
(When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

This is, I believe, the heart of Jesus as when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Matthew 23:37)  So often we have been Jerusalem ourselves, so often we have been deaf to such wisdom, closed to such love, blind to a heart capable of holding the entire world and its pain – ours included.

We can sit and “meditate” all we want.  We can wear as many WWJD Bracelets as we can fit on our arm (for those who don’t know, WWJD is short for the phrase – What Would Jesus Do?).  But unless we are willing to open our hearts to sadness, ours and others, to face it and allow space for it, to care for it with gentleness and compassion – unless we are willing to be this brave, then we will continue to suffer.  We cannot avoid sadness, just as we cannot avoid pain.  But like pain, if we continue to work at evading sadness, because it makes us uncomfortable, then we will live a life not whole – a life incomplete.  Surely if we are to know joy and abundance fully, then we must also know sadness and loss.  Life is both.  Love holds both.

So we practice and we learn to live with sadness as we live with joy, knowing that both are a part of the whole.  Gaining insight that both serve as teachers as we continue to expand our hearts’ capacity to hold this entire world with compassion, but also the wisdom of mind to let go.  It is not that we should hold onto sadness, grasping.  We should simply allow it and then let it go on its way.  It may seem in the moment that it never will leave, but we simply breathe with it.  Breathing in, we say to ourselves “so this is sadness”.  We sense how it feels in our body, where it rests.  Is our chest heavy?  Is our throat tight?  Do we feel pressure in our eyes or queasy in our stomach?  It is important to recognize the reality of what we are feeling.  However, rather than getting caught up in these feelings, we simply label them.  “This is sadness, this is how sadness feels.”  We are that which is observing.  We are not the sadness, we are not the storyline.  We are watching it as it happens.

And something amazing happens as we make friends and peace with this sadness rather than ignoring it or fighting it…it eventually lessens and loses its overwhelming grip.  And another miraculous thing happens.  As we feel this sadness in our bodies and recognize it, we realize that this is how other people feel.  This is what other people are experiencing…loss, pain, sadness.  And this sadness that has pulled us from life has now given us a great gift – awareness.  We are now aware that we all share in this sadness and knowing how it feels – the heavy chest, the eyes ready to burst, the stomach flipped over, and the throat tight – we wish everyone to be free of such suffering, wishing no one to have to go through this.  That wish for no one to go through such suffering is, as Pema says above, bodhicitta.  And perhaps after feeling this wish to have no one suffer as we have, we begin to work to end this suffering not only for ourselves, but for others.  This is what it is to be a bodhisattva.  This is what it is to be a peacemaker. This is what it is to be a healer.  This is what it is to be truly YOU.

And this isn’t all gloomy.  Transformed people, those who have faced their sadness, often with their wisdom have a great sense of humor and the heartiest of laughs.  The Dalai Lama comes to mind along with two of my favorite comedians – George Carlin and Ellen DeGeneres.

Being you means feeling happiness at times and sadness in others.  This is the joy and fullness of our life – to be whole.  With this appreciation, with this awareness, we are capable of laughing and crying fully and completely with all who have come before and all who will come after.

One laughing, one crying.  One joy and one sadness.

Namasté

 

 

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod.

Compassionate Eating…

Solidarity Thursday
Thursday, January 17th 2013
Compassionate Eating

Compassionate Eating

What we ingest and how we ingest, should be of importance to us….because it is important.

How we eat is one part, a very important part, of how we can live our life in a connected way, in a way that is whole.  How we eat – what we ingest, is not only important to our physical health, but can also be a way of building community and experiencing fulfillment and joy.

This is so foreign to many of us who have, in many ways, been conditioned to experience eating as just one part of our multi-tasking lives.  In the rush to be busy, often a mark of our success and achievement, we have made eating a task…something we do, while doing other tasks.  We eat driving down the highway from one destination to another.  We eat while walking, while watching TV, quickly as we run out the door, or right before bed.  This has been our practice for so long that it has become the pattern we see all around us and one that we participate in.

How can we change this pattern?

Awareness is the key.

What are we eating?  Where did it come from?  From whom has it been taken?  From whom has it been given?  Taking time to ask these questions, to look honestly at our food, will undoubtedly benefit us.  Taking time to ask these questions, to look honestly at our food, will undoubtedly lead us to growth, to change, and perhaps to an alteration in how we look at food and our relationship to it.

This growth will manifest differently for each of us, as we are all unique.  Each of us approaches food and our relationship to it, informed by our family experience and traditions, our culture, and our religious practices.  We all eat for various reasons outside of pure physical nourishment.  Some of us use food for numbing pain, for calming fears, or easing anxiety.  As our awareness grows, so does our clarity of why we eat what we eat…and what it is we are eating.

This awareness and then the growth from it, begin with mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice that brings us to the present moment.  Mindfulness is a practice that can help us to clearly see what we are eating and how we relate to it.  Mindfulness is a practice that can help us to slow down, to appreciate, and to benefit not only us, but all life around us.

AppleWorld

“With mindfulness we can see that many elements – the rain, sunshine, earth, the labor of farmers, drivers, food sellers, and the cook – have all come together to form each wonderful meal. When we eat in mindfulness, we can see that the entire universe is supporting our existence.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Born out of this mindful-awareness, comes great gratitude.  We are grateful, because we realize that this isn’t just a piece of bread in front of us.  It has within it, the merchant who sold it to us, the farmer who harvested the wheat, the soil rich with nutrients, the rain and sun that brought nourishment.  When we look at an orange we see the tree, its blossoms, its roots and the seed from which it began.  They are all there, present within the orange.  The orange, just like us, is a combination of a multitude of phenomena co-arising – coming together to form what we recognize as an orange, or as us.  We have within us, a multitude of organisms that form us.  We have our ancestral DNA passed down from generations.  We have within us, the very same need for nutrients, for water, for sun.  How humbling!  How miraculous!  What a gift!

What a responsibility…

Not very many of us have thought of it this way or even like to entertain thinking of ourselves in this way, but if we begin to see that we are not just us…but a community of organisms, we may feel a responsibility to feed these organisms the very best of what we can gather for their survival.  After all, the survival of the cells that make up our organisms that make up us, is our survival as well.  And as we begin to see that life supports life in such a way as this, then we begin to see how precious it is and how sacred it is that we are careful in how we consume such life.

This is mindfulness, this is awareness.

This doesn’t necessarily manifest for everyone the same way, as I said before.  Not everyone will become a vegetarian or vegan.  Not everyone will immediately seek to eat only locally grown or locally raised food sources.  But once we are aware, we should think about all of this.  Once we are aware, it is hard to forget.

For me it was a clear conviction of heart.  I had always loved animals in a way that saw them more as equals under heaven than as objects of service or consumption.  Even as a kid, I saw myself as a bit of a St. Francis –

St Francis (2)                  JaysenAndJiselle

– talking to and relating to animals as kindred.  Who wants to eat friends and family?  But it was watching some videos of how horrific the food industry is in their treatment of animals that turned me for good.  It was an immediate and lasting decision, made some nine years ago, this spring.  For me it has been beneficial not only in my physical health, but more importantly for me, in my sense of communion with all of Life.  It has been an inevitable outgrowth and inextricable companion to a life devoted to peace.  If I am offering my life as an instrument of peace, as service to compassion and love, then in my heart I know I am no longer able to eat animals if given the choice.

Although this cuts to the core of my spirituality, I am not very political about it, other than trying to live by example and giving money to organizations that share this view.  It would seem contradictory – even hypocritical – for me to espouse a path of compassion, yet withhold compassion from those I disagree with.  Compassion is compassion.  So I exercise and practice a view that is long in its vision, seeing societal transformation as something to nurture and grow rather than force.  This is just me, though.  Many moved by the horror and tragedy of how animals are treated (for which I am no less grieved) exercise their passion more politically.  I am thankful for them, and know that they are needed.  I also feel that those with a contemplative approach, living their truth persistently – if quietly – are also needed.  This is balance.  And at this point, even if the industry were to be completely transformed into an industry that exercised humane living conditions and lives of dignity for animals before their lives were ended for consumption, I will still remain vegetarian.  Part of this is my spiritual belief, from the Buddhist approach of non-harming.  Practicing to live a life that does not harm, knowing full well that life consumes life – even if it is plant life, and that it is impossible to not harm on some level.  This is part of life.  This teaches and opens us to grace.  I also know that I am fortunate enough to live in a place where I can access alternative food choices; I have an income (even if modest) that allows me to afford to make alternative food choices.  This is not the case for everyone.  To practice one’s beliefs while having understanding of this and working towards a resolution, while respecting differences of belief and tradition.  This is compassion.

For others, and I have many friends who feel this way, who don’t see animals as equals, there is still room for transformation and beneficial action.  I have friends who from a more traditionally-western-religious view see humans as set apart from animals.  In this view, animals can certainly be seen as a source for service and consumption.  However, these same friends also see humans as having a responsibility towards animals.  They see themselves set apart as stewards of the animals’ care.  This can also be mindful and compassionate.  This can go a long way, perhaps in an even more effective way, toward changing the norm for the animals in the food industry as we know it.  People who eat meat, mindfully, who choose to buy from local farms where they can meet the farmer, see that the animals are treated with dignity and affection in their lives leading up to death – these people also can make a significant difference.  People who eat meat, but choose to eat less for the benefit of health and environment, are also exercising compassion.  People who eat meat with a sense of gratitude, with a sense that this is a sacrifice and sacred act – perhaps offering prayers of thanks and prayers for the benefit of the animal’s life that has been sacrificed, this is also a way of eating with compassion.

Ultimately compassionate eating is eating in a way that looks at consumption and what we consume honestly.  It is about practicing consumption in a way that sits well with one’s heart.  It is about practicing consumption in way that not only appreciates life, but benefits life – not only ours, but that of our animal friends, our families, our community, and the environment.

Wishing all of you, dear friends, much happiness and peace as you travel your journey into compassionate eating.

Namasté

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod.

Cynicism ~ a wake up call…

Solidarity Thursdays

Thursday, December 13th 2012

The long awaited film adaptation of The Hobbit, GandalfEpicopens this weekend. I have been excited about this film coming into being since I first heard it may happen. I love The Lord of The Rings trilogy and I have watched the extended cuts multiple times. So, I have been revisiting these films, some of the text from the books, and my emotional connection to these, this past week. What do I love about these stories about an old wizard and a little guy with fury feet?

Hope.

Despite all odds, incredible darkness and tremendous burden, one person because of another, sees reason to hope. One person sees in another an innocence, a pureness of heart, and an openness to life. Imagine if it were different. Imagine if Gandalf were cynical instead of hopeful. There would be no unexpected journey…because we would expect the journey to end in doom, darkness and destruction.

Doom, Darkness and Destruction.

This could be the mantra of a cynic. I mean it will never work out. He always acts that way. Nothing is ever going to change. I’m not surprised. She’ll never understand. Nothing can be done, the banks have all the power. The poor will always be with us. What does it matter? The world is going to end anyway….apparently on 12/21/12.

We love drama.

12/21/12 is a great example. Do people want the world to end? Do they want catastrophe to strike?  One might think so with all the energy we have put into focusing on what horrible thing may happen on this date and how there is nothing we can do about it. Meanwhile, quietly in another room that very few are paying attention to there are others discussing ideas of transition and transformation, the ending of one era and the beginning of another. Why isn’t this as compelling or exciting – the idea of an opportunity to grow, to evolve, to mature, to transform? Then again, perhaps we will all wake up that day (of course at different times in different time zones) and nothing extraordinary will happen…I mean, besides waking up, still having a heartbeat, and breath going in and out of our lungs. Perhaps we will just be grateful to be alive, with life, in that moment. But why wait until then?

Cynicism is death.

I mean it. Cynicism is death.

It is death to hope. It is death to growth. It is death to love. It is death to living. Close all the doors, board up the windows and lock the gate, because I am not leaving any room for possibility. I am going to bury myself and keep myself company with the words “never” and “always”.

Cynicism is a lie.

If you live life long enough, if you look at life honestly, if you practice keeping your heart open…you begin to see that in an existence so full of change, so filled with impermanence, that there is no truth to “never” and “always”.  Life is full of “it could be” and “not always so”. Life by its very nature of being impermanent and changing, IS possibility.

Cynicism is a signpost (Cynicism – the lie that points to a truth…)

The heart of the matter is this: cynicism is what happens when we leave our hurt unattended, when we do not take care to heal, when we allow our wounds to fester. Like an infection – our hurt, our woundedness – doesn’t just sit there, it isn’t sedentary. Like an infection, it moves, spreading and growing. Our pain, left unattended, evolves into bitterness. Soon, if left too long, this bitterness graduates into an overall negativity. We become jaded and our language is marked with “nevers” and “always”, we leave little to no room for possibility and life is slowly strangled. Sometimes, this is disguised as humor or indifference, but no matter how you change the costume…the actor underneath is the same. Cynicism is a wake up call that we have turned off the lights and are closed for business…that we have given up and don’t care…cynicism is a wake up call that we are not fully Living.

It can be sneaky too. Something happens to us and all of the sudden we have connected it to a past hurt that we haven’t visited for a while.

Here’s an example from my own life. We had our holiday party for work, earlier this week. I am single and have basically been so in all the years I have worked there. So…the holiday party can be a reminder of this. I step up to the table, “Just one?”  I say, “Yes.”  *Reminder #1.  I walk around searching for friends and run into couples – couples mingling with couples. Couples taking pictures of other couples in front of the Christmas Tree. Couples lined up behind couples to take pictures in front of the Christmas Tree. *Reminder #2.  I sit at a table with friends, who for the most part, are coupled. *Reminder #3.  In general, I am used to these reminders and the love I have for my friends and the love they have for me is more than enough to fill my heart with happiness on such an evening. So, I blend myself into The Group and all is good. This year, however, I got separated from The Group. Miscommunication on seat-saving, left me out of the group. I was fortunate to sit next to another friend and his significant other. But as lovely and gracious as they were, I felt like a third wheel. It was somewhat downhill from there, mainly due to my attitude I have to admit. As I stepped out of the room and into my own pity party, I heard myself saying, “I’m not going to attend next year, because nothing is ever going to change. Nothing has changed in the years past. I’m 37 years old and if I haven’t found someone, if they haven’t found me, it isn’t going to happen.”

Wow.  Hold the phone…or better yet, call for help.

Signpost.

Someone (me) hasn’t been dealing with what is quite obviously a hurt, a disappointment, that has been living just deep enough for me to conveniently avoid. It isn’t that my hurt is unjustified. It hurts to want to connect in such a way, to desire sharing your life with someone, and not have it happen. The problem, as I see it, is that it had grown to a point that I was saying things like, “Nothing is ever going to change…it isn’t going to happen.”  I had allowed myself to get to a place where possibility is buried six feet under and hope is a candle extinguished.

Cynicism as gift.

Insofar that cynicism calls attention to our hurt, and connecting with our hurt – opening us to connecting to others who are hurting, it can be a gift. Insofar that cynicism wakes our attention and calls us to action, it can – as like all of what Life offers – be a gift. Like a siren calling, it showed me that I have some work to do, on a heart-level. To unravel some hurt and salve some wounds. To connect with what is the opposite of cynicism – with Hope.

Why hope? Because I have seen the Sun rise and Winter give birth to Spring…

photo (2)

So I meditate for myself and for all who are wounded (all of us), all who have hurt and disappointment (all of us), and all who have danced with cynicism (all of us)…

May we be happy

May we be peaceful

May we be free from hurt and anger

May we be free from negativity and despair

May we be free from all forms of suffering

May we be open to life

May we be open to love

May we be free to let go…

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod

Sustenance…what gives Life to your life?

Solidarity Thursdays
Thursday, December 6th 2012

Question Enso

Sustenance…what gives Life to your life?

There are more than a few ways to look at sustenance and what it means in our lives, I suppose.

Fuel for life…

The most basic way to look at sustenance, and yet no less important than any other way – in fact most important when in relation to our biology – is food. We have all heard the numbers. Unless you’re Gandhi (who quite famously survived a near starvation fasting of 21 days without food at the age of 77) most people can only make it two weeks without food. And we diminish even more quickly without water. Although there are always exceptions based on one’s general health and outside factors like climate, etc. – in general, most people cannot make it any longer than a week without water. It is interesting isn’t it? We are mostly made of water, yet we are unable to retain or store it. We are in a somewhat constant state of needing to replenish it. We are built to be in a constant state of want, of need, of assistance. We are not able to survive, biologically, independent of other life. We need water and food to survive; we need water and food to sustain biological life.

And although it will not be the focus of my blog today, I would be remiss to not mention the impact this need has on the geo-political landscape – what it means for this world to have resources unevenly distributed – what it means to the world to have so much poverty and famine, for some to have so much and for others to have so little. It is important that we ask ourselves, “What do I need to biologically, to chemically, sustain this life?”

We should reflect on our consumption. Perhaps, to dump the two terms – sustenance and consumption – into our melting pot minds and swirl them around a bit. The very few of us (by world population standards), consume much much more than we need to sustain our lives biologically. And even though it is uncomfortable to recognize this, it is important to be aware that our over consumption has a cost – loss of life elsewhere. Life consumes life. This isn’t a guilt trip. We should feel gratitude that we live where we live, to have been born in a region of such privilege. This should also produce some humility, knowing we didn’t cause ourselves to be born into a country of such privilege. But I think it is healthy and beneficial to recognize, while some others are just barely sustaining their life with a few spoonfuls of rice and grain a day, we tell ourselves that we need a Venti at Starbucks, because a Grande or Tall just doesn’t cut it. (confessional: I’m guilty of this) It is also important to become aware of what this need of others, and imbalance of resources does to our heart. Are our hearts called to compassion as we see so many suffer under famine caused by drought or oppression? If we are lovers of peace, are we able to recognize that this imbalance, these conditions of starvation and famine, often lead to unrest and violence? This isn’t just for followers of Jesus (who, perhaps, was most clear on this proclamation); it is true for anyone with or without a spiritual practice: if we want to be authentically and fully human, we must align ourselves with the poor.

After all, we don’t live on bread (or water) alone…

So your belly is fat and you are happy, now what? You don’t have to look far to see statistics that even in this fast-paced land of plenty we suffer from multiple health issues and have had a rise in anxiety and depression. Something is missing. To paraphrase the well known and celebrated Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh – A tree is simply content with being a tree. A tree doesn’t try to be anything else, it just is. LightColorTree2 (2)We aren’t trees and don’t seem to be content with just being (perhaps, we’ll get there some day). There seems to be a deep yearning and desire within us for meaning. The great wrestling with God, the existential questioning that we humans seem to be a unique in experiencing here on this tiny blue planet. We are often and consistently asking ourselves what it means to be human, why are we here, where did we come from, etc. etc. We are always asking each other upon meeting, what it is that we do. We set off to colleges and universities to find what it is we want to do with our lives….and it better be successful (whatever that means). One might say that we should change our name to human-doers rather than human-beings.

And we often find ourselves and find great value, meaning, and insight from what we do and what we experience. We find what keeps us going, what inspires and motivates us in life, we become aware of what sustains us. Perhaps it is our art. I think the majority of artists would indeed feel like they have died, if they were unable to create. Perhaps it is our romance. Having a broken heart, always feels like death. You should try it, it is good practice.

For what it is worth, we seem programmed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and leave the Garden. We have to leave, to return. We have to Fall, to Rise again. There is no fault here, no mistake. It is a journey into God, into Life, into Love, into one’s Self. It is written upon the heart…so it is good to wrestle with these questions, to set off on the quest. It is good to listen for that calling and to search out meaning. For many of us, this is what sustains us – this is our sustenance – our art, our love, our passion. It is what keeps us going.

monkmoon

The fingers are not the Moon…

There is a Zen story of the Sixth Patriach Huineng who in talking to a nun about the meaning of things, said, “Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?”

So what does sustain us? What is our sustenance? It can be said that all of the things above are such. Food and water sustain our bodies, keeping our mechanics in motion. Our passion, our desire, our searching fuels our spirit and keeps us living, and gives meaning to our life…but these are simply fingers and not the Moon.

You have to find the Moon for yourself. Each of us does. However, I will share what I believe the Moon is for me.

I do believe that the underlying sustenance, that which sustains us, is in fact the quest to be like the tree, to be. To be known, to be understood, to be loved as we are without having to achieve, having to impress, having to earn. While doing may fuel the spirit, it is in being that the soul finds its rest and peace.

So would it help if I simply said to you
that you are okay,
that you are already complete
and Whole?

Would it give you comfort and rest,
to know that you have
nothing to earn or achieve –
that you are beautiful as you are,
that you are understood and loved?

Would it fulfill your purpose and life
to know that you are,
like the tree,
in your own way,
uniquely rooted in the rich soil of this earth?

and yet so exquisitely,
like the tree,
stretched toward the warmth
of the Sun?

I did not think so.

So, journey on, beloved friends
And may those fingers,
perfect as they are,
point you to the Moon…

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod.

support networks…

Solidarity Thursday
Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today’s Solidarity Thursday blogging topic is “support networks”…which like most things for me, I see through a particularly spiritual lens. This is not to say that this lens is sans practicality. From my perspective spirituality is best when it is practical. It is not just sitting on a cushion or attending Sunday services. Spirituality IS feeding the poor, visiting the prisoner, working for peace, opening our door to our neighbor, and greeting the person working behind the counter with a smile and an open heart. It doesn’t seem to matter much if we can answer the big questions like – Why am I here? Is there life after death? Is there a God?” – if we are unable to feed the hungry next door, or properly take care of the earth, or even find peace in this moment. Perhaps they all go hand in hand. Perhaps as we practice at being kind and compassionate, mindful and awake, patient and open, we discover who we are and why we are here. Perhaps we find God within all of it – the joy and suffering. Perhaps if we are living life so fully in this moment, in love with one another, in love with life, then it doesn’t matter much if there is life after this.

Perhaps it does.

Whatever the case, walking this journey together is a gift. No matter how much we want to believe that we are completely self-reliant, that we can conquer and attain anything we set our minds to if we work hard enough…Life, fully and honestly lived, will humble us. We will face illness and loss, we will face death. And in those moments we will realize that having loved ones, family, friends – people who support us and hold us up, who care what we do and how we do it, people who feel our pain and seek our happiness – is a great part of what defines what this life is about.

Why is The Buddha so emphatic about this? Why does he correct Ananda with such clarity? Would you argue with Ananda on this point? It seems fair to say that good friendship is a “part” of life. The Buddha in his teachings seems to be pointing toward something greater though – to wholeness, to unity. It is, after all, our perceived separation and deep desire to avoid change that causes us to suffer so greatly. If we see ourselves as separate, then we grasp – we cling – we are unable to let go.

Life is letting go…and becoming aware that the nature of life is change, that the nature of life is us. There is no separation. Life is One, expressing Itself in all the beautiful diversity that you see in you, around you. All is gift.

For some reason, though, we need to learn this or perhaps re-remember this through first experiencing separation. Life is so often paradoxical. It seems we first need to learn duality and eat from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, before we can see through to the deeper unifying Reality, Wholeness that contains light and shadow. It seems we must first leave the Garden before returning to Paradise. We must fall, before we can rise above. We begin life within the body of our mothers. Living as one – eating as one, breathing as one. Doctors say we continue to feel as one with our mothers even after birth. Soon after though, we begin that very difficult journey of becoming aware of being other from our mothers, becoming aware of being separate. The best of religion, the truest of spirituality points us back to our Wholeness with all of Life…not just our mothers. And what is most fascinating and inspiring, is now science is showing us how this is true biologically, chemically, and atomically. All is gift.

It is like the Zen proverb says – first we notice the mirror clouded as it is, then we wipe the mirror and wipe the mirror, only to one day realize that there was never a mirror at all.

How do we learn this? Where do we learn life?

In our relationships. In community. In Sangha. Sangha is the Buddhist term for spiritual community. Isn’t all of this spiritual community? Aren’t we all one Body of Christ? Aren’t we all one expression of Life? I challenge you to find this out for yourself. In this One Body, this One Community, this One Life – we learn patience, we learn humility, we learn grace. In this Sangha, we are broken and our hearts are grown wide and spacious in their capacity to hold and let go in love. In this Body, we are wounded and healed, we die and are reborn. In this Life we don’t become Whole, we become aware that we are already Whole. All is gift.

Is there a better “support network” than that?

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: The Horizontalist and Church in the Canyon. And this week, joining us for the first time with a truly unique take on all things Solidarity Thursday is Triskaidekapod. Welcome!