Category Archives: Buddhism

IN AN INSTANT- LIFE REMEMBERED

Peace Doves

“Then, in the nightmare of Monday and Tuesday, there was the struggle to keep normal when planes zoomed overhead and guns cracked out at an unseen enemy. There was blackout and suspicion riding the back of wild rumors: Parachutists in the hills! Poison in your food! Starvation and death were all that was left in a tourist bureau paradise.”

Betty McIntosh, Hono­lulu after Pearl Harbor: A report published for the first time, 71 years later, Washington Post 12/7/12

This morning, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I opened up my Washington Post to an amazing experience.  An article written by a now 97 year old woman named Betty McIntosh who was a journalist in Hawaii the day Pearl Harbor took place.  The Washington Post published her article today after 71 years has passed, as the paper she wrote for in Hawaii deemed it too graphic and traumatic for its readers at the time.  The article was written 7 days after Pearl Harbor took place, a piece about the woman’s perspective of a war that began with great uncertainty and fear, during a time that many people view from their heart and safe place in the US- the holidays.

In reading the article, I felt emotional and wanted to relate her experiences to something deep inside of me that continues on its human course to heal.  This journey that we are all on ebbs and flows with our fear and our light’s inner knowing.  We oscillate between feelings of love and safety to feelings of uncertainty and sadness.  The pendulum between the ego-driven mind and our connection to the divine, our inherent truth.

“For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.”

Betty McIntosh points out how on the morning of Pearl Harbor it was a lazy Sunday with people coming out of church still in their reality that a war could not possibly be taking place on their island.  Her narrative takes us on a journey of coming to terms with the reality.  Yes, a war was taking place, and as she walked deeper and deeper into that reality she saw things that shattered the safe place that most knew to be home.  The forest of destruction became thicker with every movement.  There are people still experiencing this in our world, every day, coming to terms with the expansiveness of the human existence and how our reality can so easily be shaken because it is so tightly bound with our expectations and what we are “used” to.

In our experience as fragile human beings, I find it important to remember that each day we could still possibly experience this same thing including our own death.  We don’t know what plane will be ready to take off in our reality and we can’t count on our expectations because they are rooted in our desires rather than possibility.  The only thing we can count on is our ability to choose our reactions and how we will treat people, what we will do that affects other people.  If we can remember the humanness of our bodies that we experience this reality in every day, we can create a motivation to love.  This is our gift.  It is the greatest gift that we can experience within ourselves and in turn, our experiences with others.  Our oneness will not evaporate like emotion or the quenching of an ego-driven desire.  Our oneness will always be here to reflect on.

During this holiday season, I would like to extend my own kindness to all of you out there in the only way I can- in these words.  I want to say thank you with all of my heart for every moment that you choose to reflect and to love.  Every one of those moments is affecting me right now and my potential to also do good things.  You are my olive branch, you are my peace- and I honor you for all that you have experienced as a human.  Whether those experiences are rooted in trauma or joy, I have experienced the same, and I can relate.

As those during any war come to terms with the darkness in the human existence, I can only honor their experiences of suffering in my own and pray peace.  I pray peace during this holiday season and hope that all may experience it in their interaction with others, so we may all remember that we are simply one.  Pearl Harbor, along with all war, has a purpose now to teach us that life is a pendulum of swinging possibility and to embrace it with a motivation to live in our highest potential.  Let us choose our light and shine, illuminating the path for all to experiences of peace.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM POP CULTURE- LOVE ACTUALLY

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.”  Prime Minister, Love Actually

Whenever I feel depressed or downtrodden myself in regards to life, I love to put on a film that will help me gain perspective and turn things around.  It’s like that moment in the movie Reality Bites when Wynona Ryder’s character feels herself sinking as the elevator is going down. She realizes that all the roads she is attempting to take for her employment are going nowhere and she is beginning to fail miserably in her quest to validate her hope in the world she had created in graduating from college.  “Love Actually” is one of those films that always helps me gain perspective, especially when I hear the opening quote by the Prime Minister.  Just watching the scenes from the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport I begin to tear up.

And now, whenever I’m actually at the airport I have the same experience!  I think the most catching part for me was when the quote goes into the planes hitting the Twin Towers.  The writer gives insight into the beauty of our human connection and our purpose as human beings- to express love and learn from it.

“When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love.”

When I heard that piece of the quote for the first time, it was like someone opening the curtains and letting the sunlight in my heart.  Whenever I hear the quote now- I have the same experience.  My experience never changes no matter how many times the television comes clean with the same statement about messages of love.  If you knew you were about to die and you had a chance to call someone- who would you contact to convey a message of love?  Who would you forgive as well as apologize to?  I know it may sound cliché, but life is short and we could very well die tomorrow.  The person you want to apologize to could die tomorrow as well.  There is a temporal aspect to our experience and we have to embrace every opportunity we have to clean up all the regrets and resentments we carry around in our hearts, our minds.

When I was training as a life coach, we were given a great assignment- to go through all that baggage and clean it up already.  Every person I had wanted to so desperately apologize to for something I thought I had done to them- I had the opportunity now to write it all down in a big list and purify it all with love.  Facebook became the greatest invention on earth for me!  I was able to contact so many people and just say, “I’m sorry.”  It was one of the most liberating experiences in my life.  I felt so light, free- so filled with gratefulness for the opportunity to just simply let it all go.  All of us have that opportunity and it is up to us to do the work, let go of our stubbornness and desire to point the finger in someone’s face.

We have a great opportunity and I recommend that everyone do it at least once in your life!  One of the most interesting insights I learned through the whole process was how much weight I had placed onto my experiences all by my lonesome self with shame and regret- when the other person did not even have a clue nor did they even think I had really hurt them.  We feel shameful and embarrassed for behaving certain ways in our ignorance or incorrect state of mind and don’t realize how much this baggage really affects us.  When you grab your past by the reigns and really plunge into the future with full-on releasement you free yourself from the grasping of the mind that perpetuates karma.  You give to yourself, as well as that other person, a great opportunity of freedom and joy.  And, it is beautiful.

If you feel scared in your attempt to nullify an uncomfortable situation, simply remember, “…love actually is all around.”

COMPASSION FOR OUR DARKEST MOMENTS

From Charter for Compassion, Article by Rita Hibbard, Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around
And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues drawn
But it’s always darkest before the dawn

Florence and the Machine, “Shake It Out”

In my own journey, I have learned a great deal about compassion.  Not only for others, but compassion for myself and all my foibles in this life.  As most of you know, and at the risk of sounding utterly cliché at this moment, without our life’s foibles we would never grow- that is, if we have the wisdom to see our foibles as growing experiences rather than things “happening to us”.  If compassion does not begin within ourselves, then it is very difficult to have compassion for other people.  In fact, those that are very hard on others are most likely even harder on themselves.  Our outer is a reflection of our inner no matter how we deal the cards.

A long time ago at a retreat for my coaching work, my teacher Debbie Ford came on stage holding a baby doll.  She brought to everyone’s attention how cute and sweet this innocent little child was.  Then, she started yelling and criticizing the baby doll and hitting it against the chair.  Afterwards, she noted that this is how most of us treat our own selves emotionally every day through constant criticism and fear.  We usually treat others better than we treat our perceived self because no one can hear how verbally abusive we can truly be when we are talking to our selves.  Sadly, not all stick to just verbal abuse with themselves.  There are many in this world that physically abuse themselves as well.  I am confessing in this moment that I was once one of those people.

What most don’t realize is that there is an aspect within ourselves that really is genuinely receiving this criticism and begging for love.  It is usually the piece of us that made that very mistake when he or she was a little child, and shamed for making that very mistake.  In taking on WordPress’s “daily prompt”, I googled the word “kindness”.  In that “googling” I was presented with the above image as the 11th.  It was a graphic on the article “Relying on the Kindness of Strangers” by Rita Hibbard for the Charter for Compassion website.  I love this graphic!  It was perfect, and brought me to one of my favorite topics- compassion!  All of a sudden the song “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine came on my Pandora station- and the lyrics (listed above) met me at the fork in the road concerning this inspiring graphic and word.  In the song Florence states that it is “always darkest before the dawn” and I could not agree more.

How many of you have been dragging a dead horse around so to speak on your back and you just can’t let it go because it gives you an opportunity to continue to criticize yourself?  What does this opportunity afford you?  Many people believe that attachment has to do with those things we love in this life- but this is not true.  We are also attached to the opportunities that allow for our inner demons to control our life.  Face the inner demon.  It will only get better from there, I promise.  I say that as testimony to my own darkness and how facing it changed me forever.  It gave me new opportunities to love and embrace the joy that I rejected because I didn’t think I deserved it.  The only way I could face it was through compassion.  I was enabled to see that little girl in me suffering and give her the love she needed to move on and own her light.

To express our light takes great courage, and I invite you to express your light and have compassion for yourself.  Let those foibles go and you will be of greater service to this world through the expression of genuine compassion for others suffering.  I promise.

COLOR ME SKY ANEW

This recurrence of feeling appearing from somewhere
Walking around this labyrinth of moments- singing and laughing
Something is happening as a dancing wisp of light
Lifts me into the sky and I am somewhere, again
Everyone wishing for this light to seep into their denseness
To become something other than the heaviness of the mind
Opening up my arms to the possibility
Where is everyone?
A leaf twists in a dollop of warm air that drops from my mouth
I shall blow my dreams upon you little leaf
And you will carry them for eternity
Even when your color turns in the midst of a changing temperature
You will ride another wind into a soft tuft of grass where I shall lay my head
As you blend into the earth beside my worn face
You will give me compassion and I shall cry
As I water the earth with my heart and tears
We shall become new again.

When I wrote this poem, I was sitting outside on my patio one evening admiring the New Mexico sky and all its amplified color.  Living in New Mexico I am lucky to live as a guest and witness to some of the most extraordinary light.  This light illuminates the world around me in a way that is inspiring.  Witnessing nature and all it reveals to us is a gift and a place of contemplation in simply being.  I am grateful every day for all that nature reveals to us through the movement of the sun and moon each day, and through the changing seasons.  Here we are again, fall…..autumn.

Autumn gives us a cyclical opportunity to remember that at every moment change has occurred.  My body, emotions, and mental state- they are changed and different with every passing second.  There is no permanent “self”.  My body that once was born and small enough to be held by my parents is now 5’7” and again- forever changing.  Nature has taught me that no matter how permanent my ego tells me I am, it is not true.  And I can use this as a subtle opportunity to remember to love and not be so hard on the world around me and my own perceived self.  Every moment of compassion brings about more change and what once “was” between me and another person may be anew with understanding and gratefulness.

I am grateful even for this small opportunity to write and share with you how your beauty that has been reflected in this season we call autumn has changed me, once again.

WHAT WOULD BUDDHA DO?

Interrelationship

You are me, and I am you.
Isn’t it obvious that we “inter-are”?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy

Thich Nhat Hanh

I grew up around DC.  A Northern Virginia suburb that gave me the opportunity to be a part of a lot of protests- whether I was in them or knew about them, they were always there affecting the world around us.  When I worked in the district, we had to close our office on the day of the World Bank protests.  Once, my roommate was on a bus returning to our apartment in Adams Morgan and it was actually attacked by World Bank protesters.  And no, we were not in a third world country, we were in Washington DC.  My office would dread this day- when the world’s “trustafarians” would embark on the nation’s capital and protest policies that most had no concrete reason to protest other than to exercise their right to the expression of aggression over things that usually had nothing to do with what they were actually protesting.  I’m not saying that there are not reasons to protest- because I know there are a lot of policies in this world that don’t make any sense, and affect many people extremely negatively.  There are also people that seem to get away with everything, leaving those deeply affected behind, having to find some way to survive in this delusional desire realm we live in, we trudge along in every day.  If you look at history, the truth reveals itself.  Sit ins created change, peaceful marches on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement created change.

When the Occupy Movement began, I remember feeling somewhat grateful that people were out there making a statement about something they were really concerned about.  There were intelligent people out there really trying to make their voices heard about social problems that they felt could not just be swept under the rug.  There was a community starting where people were aligning with one another, and they did not feel so alone in their frustrations.  As our world is truly rooted in the “mind”, change is constant and with that change comes cycles in our collective consciousness.  Eventually, things cycle out and it is important for us to move with that change.

This blog post is a piece outing myself about protests.  Many people have called me a closet hippie, and I admit that I work hard to cover it up- believe me!  In my heart, I find that most protests are futile in nature and the most effective way to make change is by “being the change we wish to see in the world” as Gandhi once said.  I truly mean this, and although it may seem not concrete enough for most people, if we allow ourselves to be used as tools for a higher consciousness, and not only work on our own issues, but go out there and do things that really help people and create new policies that will affect those ineffective policies, then we can give an opportunity to others to grow and transform, and be provided for when they feel there is nothing left instead of fighting with stubborn egos.

We can utilize every opportunity we have to be kind and in our integrity in this life, and  affect the world to a much larger degree than mass organized protests.  Negotiation is key here- we must look at who we are dealing with in every situation, and analyze the most effective way to strategically work with someone based on their character traits and what they believe in.

The law of cause and effect is extremely important here and our actions are rooted in this principle.  If we push forward in anger and self righteousness, then that anger and self righteousness will push back because there is no separate self.  In this pushing and pulling nothing becomes settled and people walk away with more issues than they walked into the room with.  I remember being in high school and watching a documentary on LBJ and the protests outside of the White House during the Vietnam War.  There was a camera shot of him standing in the window looking out while mass protests shouted at him, “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”  And what did LBJ do?  He raised a flag of stubbornness rather than surrender,  and he continued on with his policies.  That picture sits in my mind so clearly and I only feel compassion for everyone involved.

Whenever you feel angry about someone’s policies or behaviors that cause more suffering in this world for others, remember what it would be like to be that person.  Be conscious of how they are creating more suffering for themselves, and in the end, their ignorance is winning in this life.  We have the greatest gift of free will to choose behavior that is not rooted in ignorance.  In the poem above by Thich Nhat Hanh, he says:

You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

To embrace the love within you is enough to change the world, and there is no protest that would ever change my connection to you, and vice versa.  Every seed we plant within ourselves is also planted in others around us.  I am grateful every day for the opportunity and choice that I have to live in a compassionate way and connect with others the way I would like to be treated.  When I think about my own ignorant behavior in this life, the one thing that helped me more than anything else was compassion and the willingness of another person to teach me by example rather than confrontation.

What did Siddhartha do when he saw the poverty and suffering in his city after sneaking out from his shielded reality?  He did everything he could to find enlightenment within himself so he could help ameliorate the suffering of everyone, including the poor people- and he was a prince.  His teachings are still relevant today, thousands of years later.

LAYERS OF RAINBOWS

There is neither here-
     nor there.
There is only that which is written in the soul.
  And,
      That is what you must share.

When I think about a “regular” day, it is easy for me to get caught up in the mundane activity that the ego-driven mind has created.  Life as a formulaic, step-by-step process- it could be written down like a recipe, and if someone performed the steps they would be me.  Or, would they?

Within every moment there is more happening between me and the other side of the planet, my simple mind could not conceive it all, yet it is all happening in the instant, within the instant.  Life- constantly unfolding…changing…never stopping.  I had this snap shot in my mind after reading this statement by Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Awakening of the Heart on emptiness recently-

“Each of the 5 rivers has to be made by the other 4.  It has to coexist; it has to inter-be with all others.”

The five rivers being the five aggregates: form, sensation, perception, mental formation, and consciousness.  This being said, each aggregate or river flowing within us has to contain elements of the other aggregates or rivers flowing within us.  Nothing is independent of itself. And, we are “empty of a separate, independent existence.”

This being said, I felt like I was looking from above into a tall skyscraper with the top off.  And as I looked in, I could see a system like a corporation working.  Within the corporation are layers of departments each based on an idea, a subject.  Then, there are people working in each department supporting the idea, dependent on one another as they operate.  Each person has its own universe within them including the people they know and love.  Then, they have their own mind chattering away, all day- day after day.  Within their mind is their body.  Their body is made up of organs, tissue, cells, living organisms while the mind is dictating life, while the nature, the essence of this being is slowly, deliberately becoming more apparent in a form of awareness.  Thought becomes another thought- and then what?  Life.

As I stepped out of the gym yesterday, there was a large shift in the wind.  The sky was becoming darker, and as I turned the corner to get to my car, a rainbow was standing before me, filling the sky with its abundant beauty and hope.  This rainbow reminded me of so many other rainbows- and thus began a continuation of thought and life, ever changing and all encompassing, again.

One of my most memorable moments with a rainbow came when I felt completely lost and hopeless in my existence as a human, being.  I sat in my car at the grocery store on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA, crying and asking my angels to please help me get out of my head and the funk of hopelessness.  I cried, and cried some more.  I finally felt a little relief and stepped out of my car, to again witness a large, brightly lit rainbow illuminating the sky in full color.  At that moment, I felt the hope of transformation and gratefulness chasing out my self-inflicted demons.

How often do we forget that we are not alone, that we are not independent of one another?  This is a reminder that no matter where you look, there is a rainbow somewhere giving hope to someone, who is deeply connected to you.  Just look around you, and listen to your heart.  You will see and hear whatever it is you need, to remember your essence, your divine nature.  It just helps to be open.  To be conscious of it, but it is always there.