About 4 years ago I saw the above music video made for Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, also a spoken word artist, poet and marathon runner. The video and poem blew me away and I knew I would never be able to get it out of my head. Which is funny, because it is all about being in your head. I love this video because it incorporates something very relatable to me. Some of my attachment in this life has to do with electronic music, and combining music with imagery and profound words really gets my heart going. I feel joy, joy, joy! What can I say?
I love this poem by Rinpoche because it expresses the passion I have in my heart to explore perception also in a relatable way. In the end of the video he says:
When you’re happy, I’m happy.
That’s the formula.
First you, then me.
That’s all happiness is…
It’s just the heart being free.
The ignorant mind’s primary sense of being comes from the idea that it’s just “me”. It strives to prove every day that we are separate from one another through habitual thinking. But when you decide to train your mind to think outside of itself, and see that everyone’s experience around us is our experience then happiness becomes abundant. When we see happiness in others, it grows within us. Envision a garden that thrives in the joy of others- that is our heart.
I remember coming home one night from a dinner stopping at an intersection with a homeless man holding a sign in need of assistance. It was probably 30 degrees outside and 8:30 pm. I had nothing but a $20 bill, so I decided to just give it to him. All I could do was cry with joy on my way home because he felt so happy. Doing things for others changes our self-perception from being all about me, to being all about us. This is the development of purposeful perception, and another opportunity to love from the heart.
Please share this video with others if you feel inspired by it too.
This is a poem and photo story displaying my heart’s connection with the perception expressed in the poem- connecting the words with pictures I have taken on my journey to a more purposeful perception daily in my life. The journey is important, as it is part of reflecting where our perceptions have come from. I urge you to reflect in your heart where your most limiting self perceptions play out in your life regularly and share in this blog. Remember to scroll down and click through each page!
Remembering feelings sparked by a note
A sound, so sweet and subtle
Only your heart knows it is there
Giving rise to feelings light
You forget what is weighing you down
The ignorant mind trailing behind you like a predator
Wondering why you are not paying attention
In its small, small world
A perspective limited and stuck without motion
Yet my heart- tugging me forward like a child
I shall follow, carry me into this knowing
Remind me of what it is to be
So light and airy- remind me of love’s truth
A truth so full it explodes in the sky before me
Yet it continues to be, forever full.
When I noticed the Weekly Writing Challenge this morning, I was grateful, because when I thought of all the people I would like to write about at this time, it was my Grandmother. Gertrude Grzybowski, daughter of Dziadek and Babcia Perkowski- I don’t really know their first names- just grandma and grandpa in Polish. They were potato farmers from Poland with a farm on Long Island, New York. They had a legendary flower pot on their front lawn made from an old toilet- a piece of cultural history.
My Grandmother has been very sick, in her late 80s living at a nursing home and trying to find ways to enjoy the last moments of her life, as she felt sad and lost trying to adjust to a strange place she was forced to call home due to her ailing health. One of her last enjoyable activities was buying necklaces made by other ladies in the nursing home and wearing them all at one time. It wasn’t NY high-fashion and it drove my aunt crazy, but it made her happy. As I pondered about how I would write about her quirky character that she played in this life, I received a phone call this afternoon that I had been waiting for without any knowledge of when it would come exactly.
In my heart, I wanted her to be free of this body that was weighing her spirit down, and causing her the inability to live as independently as she has enjoyed for so many years. My only living grandparent, Gertie, died this afternoon peacefully after suffering a stroke almost a week ago. As people’s bodies start to break down, you find yourself as an outsider trusting the natural process of passing from one reality to another, but it is hard to stay in the present moment with them at times because you are constantly wondering- will this be the day? I feel in her own mind, she was wondering the same thing.
You never knew what was about to come out of Gertie’s mouth. She might shout the funniest thing, like her phrase that came to be her own, “That guy’s a bumb!” Or she might just talk about how tired she was, and how she felt really alone, as all of her friends passed away with each year. Life seemed more and more like a foreign country to her with each passing moment. She was not always the nicest person, but I always thought of her as this funny character in a film, navigating through this life as if it were one thing after another. She loved Poland, and as a kid we always gathered our outgrown clothes for my Grandmother to send to our family there that had nothing because of the “communists.” We were told, “They didn’t even have real ice cream.” “Their” ice cream was more like half frozen sweet milk, barely recognizable by us spoiled Americans.
She prayed her rosaries every morning over her stacks of prayer cards, and every Friday she cleaned the altar and pews at St. Hedwigs Catholic Church. I remember going to the masses growing up when visiting New York where the legendary priest would talk so quickly that it was like listening to someone pretend they were saying a mass and forgot the words. Even though I didn’t understand anything because he was saying it so quickly, and with a New York accent, I was more than happy to spend 15 minutes less in a mass on a Saturday night. Her collection of ceramic nuns in her living room and plates of the Polish Pope John Paul hanging on her walls would dance to the sound of her attempt to whistle while she swept the floors every morning in her house coat.
My Grandmother didn’t make it easy for anyone as they grew up in her house. I was fortunate to be a granddaughter in her life that was told on her 16th birthday, “sweet sixteen, and never been kissed” with a giggle following her attempt to tease me. She grew up in a time that lacked emotional education, a time where there was war and great financial uncertainty, and even though there were dark times in the house where she brought up 6 kids, there was a certain light around her that I enjoyed, and I will be grateful for every day. During her last lucid days in the hospital my mother said she overheard a conversation with a male orderly who struck up a conversation with her. He asked her about being a nurse, as she was, and how many kids she had in this life. She said 8, which was correct- 6 living and 2 stillborns. You never know what experiences people have had in this life. Underneath the surface, there is always something lingering in someone that may be causing them pain and cause their personality to become distorted. But the one thing we can always be sure of, as I was with my grandmother, our Gertie, is that inside their heart there is a place that just wants to be loved.
And so, as I come together with those that knew Gertie in many different ways- from sister, to aunt, to mother and grandmother- I shall remember that all you wanted was to be loved, and I shall send you that love with the hope that you are joyful in your freedom from the human body and in a place of peace in your heart. Thank you for saying “I love you, Jess,” and reminding me that life does go fast, and every now and then we just need to remember that we are all human and subject to the foibles of our mind- but it is not our true nature. I am grateful for all I have in my life, including you, and will remember to try and see beyond personalities into the human desire to be loved when we do not know how to love ourselves.
In one of our last conversations you said to me, “We used to have fun, right Jess?” Yes Grandma, we did have fun.
Loving February’s Bloggers for Peace writing challenge so much, I am am starting in January (I know, it’s the last day of the month anyhoo!). Thich Nhat Hanh states, Peace in oneself, Peace in the world.
What inspires peace for people?
What gives people the desire to work for peace?
I have seen so many people downtrodden by the daunting task of even thinking about peace in our world. Their sadness from seeing the suffering on our planet instills compassion, and then to me- a natural desire inherently occurs- the desire to create peace within our own heart. As a teacher of how perception affects our reality and the world around us, I truly believe that peace begins within ourselves and it illuminates each person we touch with kindness and a greater compassion for others.
Peace is not a futile effort.
Seeing the joy and love within the images placed in my “Peace, Why Not?” billboard inspires me to sit with my own heart space and reflect on my motivation and how I connect with the world around me. This contemplation, if instilled within all of us each day, would continue to grow and light a flame within each person we interact with like candles on a birthday cake. Our personal work does have an effect on the world, and we must continue to do this work if we wish to change the world.
Mantra: I am a holy vessel of light being used for the greater good of all sentient beings.
This is a sacred mantra for me, and my motivation every day. See how it works for you, modify it to work for you, encourage yourself to engage in self love and acceptance so your inner peace will light the way for others.
Living the light of my heart
On again, off again
My light switch, my ego’s fear
Light’s alliteration playing a game of hop-scotch
With each syllable sounding out
A glimmer of hope bounces from my outer to my inner
A sanctuary of joy ready to open widely
If only for a moment
Let there be light, let there be love.
When I took this picture it was my second adventure in New Mexico, only this one was one of those experiences where your heart is hunting kismet. Stopping in Madrid, a small artist community an hour from Santa Fe where they’ve filmed such regal cinema as “Wild Hogs” (just joking on the regal), me and my friend met this local shop owner that had a very open heart. She invited us to go check out a ceremonial place where locals would meet and have drum circles, and walk a labyrinth. When we got there it was like stumbling upon the love of their land in a balanced ritual of Goddess magic. I took this picture as I pondered the imagination that had been infused into the land of New Mexico from its magical past.
The light illuminated these colorful twists of prayer next to some Tibetan prayer flags. Believe it or not, Santa Fe, NM, has a large Tibetan population. The Tibetan scholar and consultant for Scorsese’s film Kundun, Lobsang Lhalungpa, lived in Santa Fe until he passed away due to a drunk driver accident. At his funeral, it was said that when he came to New Mexico and meditated, it was the closest thing to Tibet he had ever experienced in his life, which is why he moved there.
At the funeral ceremony someone said that before he died, he told his wife not to feel anger toward the drunk driver. That we must feel compassion for him. It was an illuminating experience, just as this light in my picture. A room of 400 people were able to create so much compassion in that instant that would again be infused into our land for generations of healing. Even on his death bed he forgave and created a wave of love. I hope that when I pass, my life will end in such a peaceful state as well, cultivated by the compassion and kindness of so many others.
“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.”
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.