Monday, May 16, 2011

The Unexamined Life

"The unexamined life is not worth living"~ Socrates

I got the idea for my blog today from another friend who posted the above quote. He then went on to ask what everyone thought the quote meant, and whether we agreed with it, and if so, how we implemented it in our lives. 
This is my response: 

" This is one of my favorite quotes. I believe it to mean that we are to never stop learning. Each day is another opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and the world. We should never be content to stay as we are, and we should never cease questioning or challenging our own perceptions. There is so much to the world beyond our own often closed minds; it is when we look deep within and out that we really see and become."

I am currently reading "Joyful Wisdom" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.  It is a fantastic explanation on how to integrate the tenets of Buddhism into our every day lives in order to become happier and emotionally healthy people.   We are often in such a hurry, and so overwhelmed by anxiety in our multitasking lives, that we fail to make the time to have an examined life.  Yet it precisely what we should be doing in order to grow and reach our fullest potential.  

Being mindful is challenging.  According to Rinpoche, when contemplating the bigger issues, we must ask ourselves such difficult questions as 'Am I contented, right now, in my own skin? Do I live with regrets, with anger, or with resentment toward myself or others?"   Often when we sit to meditate, our mind rushes on and avoids the answers that come to the surface.  Going within can be scary stuff, and it's why so many choose to remain safely in their cocoons, never hatching into their enlightened selves.  

Our human mind is a wonderfully adaptive gift. Just like our body,  it is always evolving according to what we feed it. If we feed it that which is unhealthy, our  thoughts will likewise be unhealthy.  But if we give it food for thought, food that challenges  us to examine our own perceptions; this food allows it to open and grow.  We have the ability to take the reins and change our opinions and thought processes by being mindful, by taking the time to examine life.  And by examining life I mean not only our own experiences, but that of others in the world.  We need to look beyond our own windows and front yard, and consider other people's lives.  Often by doing so we find our perceptions begin to change, and our own direction adjusts accordingly.  

Go far beyond. Go beyond your front door,out  into the world. Challenge your perceptions, and open your heart and mind. Take the wheel and drive. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

All Roads Lead to Love

In these past days,  I have watched as friends discuss the recent world events.  I have witnessed dissension and miscommunication and experienced it first hand.  Fortunately, I have also witnessed a coming together of like minded souls who believe that the only way to peace is to love one another.  As you know, that is my own sentiment.

I don't believe violence and war is the answer.  I guess that makes me a tree-hugging hippy freak to some.  I have been told that I am delusional; that I must be realistic, and that all my preaching on peace and love isn't going to change the world; that war and violence is a necessary part of our existence.  I've been told that I am a sympathizer of terrorists, and un American, ..that one really hurt; simply because I didn't set off fireworks over the killing of Osama Bin Laden. To actually have to defend my position as someone who believes in peaceful resolution as an alternative to violence seems so silly to me, for regardless of which religion we choose to practice, or even if we choose not to practice any religion but simply live a moral life...isn't one of the basic moral laws not to do harm to one another?  I am pretty sure I read that sentiment in some form in some of the religious texts I have read which have included but are not exclusive to  the Bible, The Qur'an, The Torah, The Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita. 

I, like everyone else, cried on 9/11. I cry whenever an act of violence happens, anywhere, to anyone. I ran over a bird the other day and I cried.  It sucks sometimes to have this kind of compassion, I feel like a weirdo; even though I know I am not the only one who feels this way, sometimes I feel alone.

I know my one voice, and this blog alone isn't likely to change the world.  Others before me with a greater presence and voice have tried, failed, and in some instances  been killed for their message; Jesus, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, and others come to mind.

 I have sympathy and compassion for those who have lost their loved ones in an act of violence.  I am blessedly fortunate that my own loved ones have not been taken from me in that way...and as someone asked me, "What if it were your children killed" that I have no answer, as I cannot predict my feelings. I am sure I will be angry, I am sure I will feel some urge to extract vengeance in some way,  but I am also pretty sure I will think the thoughts and then let them go because I do not want to become that which I hate in another. I don't judge others who don't choose to prescribe to my peace message; I only speak for myself, and everyone has their own path to take.  I simply ask that you respect me, and each other, along the way.  

I know it's difficult. It's difficult  for me.  Everyone has suffering in their life. Everyone has someone or something in their life that causes them pain.  I am not exempt.  But I do my best to live by a few of these words, spoken by others who would probably be labeled delusional, unrealistic, hippy freaks. With their words and vision along for the ride, I think I am in good company.

"But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."~ Jesus

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." ~Jesus

Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can." ~
 Dalai Lama XI

If you can't see God in all, you can't see God at all~ Yogi Bhajan 

All we are is a result of what we have thought..if a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him"~ Buddha

An eye for an eye just leaves a room full of blind men.~ Ghandi

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat. My shoulder is against yours. You will not find me in the stupas,
not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals: not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck,
nor in eating nothing but vegetables. When you really look for me, you will see me instantly —
you will find me in the tiniest house of time. Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath."~ Kabir

I end with a beautiful song by Tina Malia called "All Roads".  Listen to the words, and know that we are all just seekers, looking for answers. When all along, the answer lies inside of us, and we are all singing the same song, one voice. We just need to listen. Peace. ☼  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When You Know Better You Do Better

"When you know better you do better." 

Please carefully observe the two pictures above.  What do you see?  Do they look the same?  The bottom picture is obviously of  Osama Bin Laden, the figurehead of an extremist sect of Muslim that is not representative of all Muslims, not by a long shot. The top picture, however,  is of a traditional Sikh Cleric..NOT a terrorist or member of any radical fringe of any religions denomination. And yet how many of us cannot tell the two apart? 

After 9/11, the crimes committed against Muslims increased here in the US, even though most of the Muslim community decried and condemned the actions of the Taliban.  I remember in the days after the attacks, one  of  my friends whose children are half Egyptian and being raised in the Muslim faith, experienced the heartbreak of discrimination  because her  eight year old son had been beaten up over his nationality and religion.  I am sure all of us know a similar tale.  My own children came home from school one day to tell me  how "All Muslims are bad", despite being raised in a very liberal and tolerant family.  I quickly reminded them about their friends, Amina and Gabriel,(the child of my friend who had been beaten up in school) ,  who they had played with since birth, and who are Muslim.  

Sikhs in particular experienced a significant amount of discrimination and violence.  The ignorant soul sees  a turban, known as a Dastar in Sikhism,  and makes the  automatic assumptions that Sikhs must be terrorists. Judged and found guilty simply for looking  like Osama Bin Laden.  This is very sad as the Sikhs are one of the most peace loving and God-centered faiths of all.  I have many Sikh friends who I love dearly, and I would hate it if any of them were treated violently because of someone's lack of education and understanding.  

The fact is, we as a collective humanity need to stop judging a book by its cover.   Until we look beyond the outside and look within ourselves and each other, hatred will not cease.  In this age of technology, it is simple to research anything under the sun that you want to know about.  There is simply no excuse for making assumptions anymore about people and their religious or ethnic origins and customs.  To not do so is to do yourself a huge disservice, and a disservice to others around you.  

So here are some links to get you started. Click the links and enter the No Judgment Zone.  The world will be a better place if you do.
Teaching Tolerance.Org
Religious Tolerance.Org
Amnesty International
United Nations

There are many more sites, but you get the idea. Peace. ☼  

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." ~Jimi Hendrix

Monday, May 2, 2011

Peace is the Highest Value

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." 

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Like everyone else last night,  I was glued to every available bit of technology in order to find out what the big announcement from the President was. However, unlike a lot of people, when I heard the news I did not clap my hands with joy, cheer loudly, or take to the streets. Nor did I make statements like "Good for him, he got what was coming to him the rotten piece of shit".  Instead, I felt terribly sad. Sad for all of the lives that have been lost due to ignorance and intolerance.  Sad that history has taught us nothing and we still perpetuate the cycle of hatred, and pass that legacy onto our children. 

Have you ever watched children playing? It is the most amazing thing. You see, they are color blind. They know nothing of different races and religions. They are immune to the prejudices and intolerance that the adults surrounding them fill their minds and hearts with. Children see only with their heart's eyes.    They will sit and play for hours with their friend, and the only time they fight is if someone throws sand in their eyes, or takes a toy. With some gentle guidance from the parents nearby, they get over their fight and are soon running hand in hand through the playground.  

In the Tower of Babel story from the Bible, at one time we were all of one mind, one language.  We attempted to build a tower to the heavens in order to see God. That was the beginning of our confusion; the day we lost our sight. For God dwells not beyond us, but within us. We are now jumbled and unable to listen to one another, nor are we able to share a God, a parcel of land, or space in the sandbox of life.  We continue to throw sand at one another, never once seeing one another as fellow human beings, all of whom birth, live, shit, puke, cry, laugh, and die. Why did this happen? When did we stop valuing one another; stop seeing the God that lives within us all?  When did it become acceptable to laugh at another human being's death?  

I agree that justice needs to be dealt when someone commits the crimes Bin Laden is guilty of. But to celebrate it just gives more energy to hatred in the world; it grows bigger, and our distance between one another grows infinitely larger.  Instead of cheering and celebrating the death of a misguided fool, take a moment to think about all of the lives lost because of our inability to accept one another for who we are, and embrace our differences. Think of the innocent children who are somewhere in the Middle East, or in Manhattan, or in your own backyard playing in a playground that gets blown to bits because of someone else's hatred.  Is war really the answer?   

 Hatred is taught. If you do anything else for your children, please stop the cycle of ignorance and intolerance. Let them play in the sandbox and keep those blinders on; let them see people from the inside out, and learn about different cultures and people around them. And please, oh please, do not teach them that killing is something to be celebrated, not in the name of God, nor the name of Justice.  Killing may be necessary, but it is never anything but sad. 

Peace is the highest value. If the peace has been shattered how can he be content? His enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself. He doesn't wish them personal harm. Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion. ~Tao Te Ching

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery...none but ourselves can free our minds!~ Bob Marley

Spring is universally seen as a time of rebirth and renewal. After a long winter's rest, the flower and fauna begin to burst with life. All around one hears the sound of courtship between birds; the spring chorus is one of my favorite sounds. People, too, start shaking the slumber from their bones, and begin taking long walks as the days extend. I woke this morning to the birdsong, and realized I am finally awake and alive in this happiest of the seasons.

With  every birth, there also comes a purging; a shedding of what no longer serves purpose. In spring, we refer to it as "spring cleaning". All around, yard sale signs are popping up as people cast away their belongings after spring cleaning. But we shouldn't stop there. Every new day should be a rebirth; a day to shed what no longer fits in our world, whether it be people who drag us down, objects we no longer need, or memories that haunt us.  Each day is a chance to let go, to be reborn into our truest selves. This can be difficult, as sometimes living with our memories, even the darkest ones, serve as a security blanket.  Letting go often means facing fears long buried, but it is in facing these fears that we become all that we are meant to be.  

This weekend we are cleaning out the  garage in preparation for a move. Inside are boxes and bins full of memories, some beautiful, and some sad.  I am going to go through and collect all that no longer serves purpose, all that is painful, and toss them onto our fire pit as I no longer need them. I am also going to make a list of all that I fear, all of the losses, all that keeps me from realizing complete bliss, and toss that list on the flames too. Only I can free myself from mental slavery...and the same goes for anyone reading this blog.  

We all have a memory box, be it literal or metaphorical; we all carry way more than we need through this life. Take time in this season of rebirth and renewal, to spring clean your mental garage..have a ceremonial bonfire, and let it go.  Go forth clean and new.  Happy Spring.    Namaste. ☼  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Morning Has Broken

~Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day~

Happy Easter Everyone. ☼