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. ☼

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Innocent Truth

What a beautiful kid. <3

Just Do It!

Just Breathe

Conquer the angry man by love. 
Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness. 
Conquer the miser with generosity. 
Conquer the liar with truth. 

The Dhammapada

As I take this journey to self, I find the most difficult demon I face is my tendency to react to things from emotion, rather than taking the time to just breathe. Instead of "going within" and looking  at situations objectively before leaping to a reaction, I let the emotions of a given moment overtake me. This results in my succumbing to my emotions rather than  always seeing the issue clearly. 
 Particularly when another person has done something to hurt me or someone I love, I react with defensiveness and anger, rather than compassion and patience.  It does not happen all the time; but certain people tend to have the ability to bring out the worst in me. It's at those times when I  should take the words of the Dalai Lama, "In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the biggest teacher. " to heart. 

                           There is a great Buddhist story entitled Bag of Nails, that presents a great example of the repercussions of our anger: 


Once upon a time there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. But gradually, the number of daily nails dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the first day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He proudly told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.
"You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, it won't matter how many times you say 'I'm sorry', the wound is still there."

 There are always going to be people in our lives who are having difficulty finding their own peace. They may be struggling with their own feelings of anger, guilt, and jealousy, and their reaction to these emotions is to blame others around them for their difficulties.  Sometimes this results in choices and behaviors that defy reason and cause great pain and suffering to others. Even the most enlightened person reacts to injustice with feelings of anger and hurt;  what we must be mindful of is how we manifest that anger.  

"If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding." 

Part of cultivating the right attitude means knowing how to use the negative energy created by anger in a positive way. There are times when our reactions to a given situation are justified; this is when it is most important to "go within" and find a spiritual calm amidst the storm so a solution may present itself. 

I cannot change the people around me who choose to live life from a place of anger and hatred.  Only they can come to a place of peace within.  But I can change my own reactions and use my own wisdom and experience to understand why they are reacting the way they are. I must also be mindful of their suffering and pain, and have compassion for same, even if they do not extend to me the same courtesy.  Choosing to combat anger with anger only creates more of the same, and that will never create the harmony we all seek.

The next time you are face to face with an "enemy"; that person who pushes all of your buttons, "go within". Count to ten, and breathe. Know that we are all one, all carrying our own scars and suffering. Dig deep in compassion's garden and cultivate peace. ☼

"Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek." 



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Naming the Demons

"To undertake a genuine spiritual path is not to avoid difficulties but to learn the art of making mistakes wakefully, to bring them to the transformational power of our heart."~ Jack Kornfield "A Path with Heart"

In the Buddhism practice of being mindful,Jack Kornfield, a renowned Buddhist teacher and psychologist who incorporates the tenets of Buddhism into his psychology practice, mentions "naming the demons"  as a way to become aware of the issues we struggle with in our quest for spiritual and inner peace.  

We all have demons hanging around; whether they be personal difficulties with addictions; including substances and food, (I can eat an entire pint of Ciao Bello gelato and not even think twice about it ) road rage,( I have a friend who climbed out of her car yesterday to berate a driver who cut her and her precious cargo off yesterday)  depression, anger, guilt,doubt, and fear, to name some of the big ones. We also come into contact with other people who seem intent on expressing their demons at every turn, and making the world for people around them as unpleasant as possible so as to share their misery.  Everyone knows a person who is in a perpetual bad mood; the reality is we cannot always avoid these situations and people who make our life miserable. The trick is to not let their demons become YOUR demons.  This is where being mindful and meditation are of great service.

Yesterday we spent two hours and hundreds of dollars again attempting to mediate a situation with an individual who is suffering from many demons and is more than happy to share them with us.  You can see them, sitting on her shoulders, waving howdy, froth coming off their fangs in big gooey droplets. 

The night before, we had prepared by playing some kirtan music, chanting, meditating, and trying to stay focused on our goal; to find a peaceful place for all involved to exist, and put an end to all of the anger and sadness.

We woke up in the morning, as positive as we could be, and listened to uplifting music on the way. We were intent on bringing in as much of the love and compassion we could in hopes it would spread.

Unfortunately we did not have any success spreading our positivity, and in fact left the situation with several of our own demons clamoring and clawing at us. Our peace train was derailed, and we went through part of the day shell shocked and angry, as well as disappointed.

To add insult to injury, we ran errands all day, finishing up at the grocery store. We came out of the store to find not only pouring rain but a dead Jeep. 

Instead of screaming profanities at the sky, we looked at one another and smiled, then held each other close. What else can you do? We laughed at the day's circumstance, realizing that all the negative energy has power and it was surrounding us like the dark clouds in the sky around us. 

In a recent yoga class, we discussed anger and the other negative demons we struggle with in our humanness. The fact is, even the most enlightened individual among us is still human. Being such, he or she is subject to all of the emotions that entails. It's how we handle those emotions that make the difference in a situation.   In hind site,  I wish we could have stayed on the peace train rather than jump off ; our succumbing to the darkness did nothing to help the situation, and made for a miserable few hours.  They say people and circumstances are brought in our life for a reason, and I believe we learned a lesson or two yesterday.

Today the Jeep is back on the road; a few whacks on the starter with a hammer did the to our other situation, it still exists, but we won't be taking a hammer to it, as we have gotten back on the peace train. Instead we are going to keep trying to send love and's all we can do. 

Climb on the peace train, friends. It sure beats the alternative.  Namaste. ☼

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shake the dust on Vimeo

Shake the dust on Vimeo
Shake the Dust

Every single one of us is guilty of getting caught up in the same old cycle of non living...of waking up in the mornings and beginning our days with the negative thought that "Today is going to suck". And because our words and thoughts have power, it usually does.

For some, their reality is constant suffering and struggling, and no amount of positive thought is going to change their predicament; the extreme poor, those struggling and continuously losing their battles with addiction, those experiencing loss and disease, to name a few. Everyone has their albatross to wear, and some of them are heavy indeed.

And yet there are others who think suffering is not getting into the passing lane of life; who cut off others to further themselves, never once thinking about what they are missing out on by rush, rush, rushing through life...they think not of those they leave behind, but how much better off they are ahead. Funny how so many with this mindset end up alone and without.

I remember when my son was very  sick and we were spending yet another week at Children's Hospital, trying to figure out what was wrong with him. It was a scary time for everyone, especially him. I felt lost and helpless, unable to make him feel better as a mommy should. He kept asking me what was wrong with him, and I couldn't give him the answer to that.

 I wandered through the hospital, praying for guidance  and hope.  Then I passed a child with cancer walking with her parents. Some might have noticed her bald head, or the tubes and wires connecting her to the pole she had to walk with.  What I noticed was the amazing smile on her face, and on the faces of her parents. When she laughed, it was music to my heart, and it gave me courage to walk back to my son's room and sit with him. I may not have had the answers he needed yet,  but I could hold his hand and make him smile, which was enough for that moment.

Wherever you are in life..whether you feel stuck, lost, scared, sad, unloved,  or empty....know that someone else has a bigger burden than you. Do as Anis says in his poem; Open the door to life. Let whatever is meant to happen happen, but don't let the dust settle in your veins. Don't settle for empty when you can be full of love and light. Shake the dust.
Peace to you. ☼

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The More That You Read..The More Places You'll Go...

"Let us read and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world." ~ Voltaire

There are few things in life more satisfying to my soul than a good book.  My parents tell me I picked up my first book at the age of one,  and in a language only I understood, began reading it to them.  By 4th grade I was devouring books  at an amazing speed, often hiding them inside my school books, especially my math book, ;)

One of the best parts of motherhood has been  sharing books with my children. I began reading to them before they were even born, hoping my voice and the stories would enter their minds through my womb. I visualized their baby dreams, filled with fairies and fables, myths and magic, taken from the stories I would read.

This is also one of the main reasons why I chose to teach;  I love getting kids excited about literature; I love sharing  my childhood favorites with them, like The Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte's Web, and Misty of Chincoteague to name a few. While I loved taking my own children to see the movie adaptations of these great classics,  to me, there is no comparison to reading the stories themselves.  You can make your own pictures, using your own imagination to be transported to wherever it is you want to go.  I admit to trying to walk through my closet into a different world after finishing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,lol. 

Bookstores and libraries are sanctified, almost holy places to me. I love an old book store; the smells of the covers, the aged paper, the stacks and stacks of adventures piled high and's even better if there is a big comfy chair to curl up in, and the ever present bookstore mascot, usually a cat who winds himself in and out of your legs as you wander the literary labyrinth.

The most difficult part after choosing the latest transport, is deciding which to read first.  Today I came home laden with 10 books; I am savoring them all, trying to decide which will be the first to take me away...the decision is always tough; I want to save the best for last, and yet I am always disappointed when I finish a masterpiece...I want the words to go on and on. So here I sit, observing the pile, and wondering oh where, oh where to begin.  I guess I should just close my eyes and choose..
eenie, meenie, minie..............

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grateful Am I

"You pray in your distress and in your need...would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance"~ "The Prophet, Khalil Gibran"

I sit here looking out the window at the beautiful, bright spring sky. The sun's rays are shining across the water, and the windsurfers are out in abundance.  There are three little birds eating out of our kitchen window feeder. Senor Gato is twitching and chattering at them while  our new Sandy Paws doggy dog lies at my feet, sleeping after a long walk. The sounds of Wah! surround me.."Radhe Jaya Jaya", translated.. "You should be glorious"..and I am. Glorious with gratitude at the many blessings that surround me. They include my incredible children, who are becoming beautiful young adults and who amaze me every day with their many gifts of spirit, my love and best friend Billy, who allows me to be me, and loves and supports  me in all my incarnations, along with his sweet children who I  love as my own.  I have a wonderful and zany family who always provides amusement .. I have also  met so many new people, wonderful eclectic souls full of peace and joy, and it flows between all of us like a living water. My old friends remain true and they are cherished for the diamonds they are.  

 I am loving the present, and grateful to the past for all its many lessons..and know that the future will also hold its share of smooth rides and tasty waves, as well as some tricky ones.  I will savor them all and remain grateful for all experiences, as it's a part of it all. 

I hope everyone finds a moment today to be amazed and filled with gratitude, for it's the little blessings that make our life what it is.  Be grateful. Be blessed. ☼

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Surfing Into the Sunset

Funerals are never easy on anyone...but this is most especially true when it is the death of a child, or a young adult with newfound wings to fly with.
Today I paid my respects to a boy who I remember as a young red haired, freckled imp, full of life and love. My own children are a couple years younger, but we lived in a small town where everyone knows everyone, and we all came together on the football field. In that sense, we were one big Crusaders family.
There were no greater cheerleaders than his parents when he or his brothers were on the football field. I can still hear his mother on the sidelines, screaming loudly and with pride every game.
Today I cried while she smiled and comforted me, telling me  to "Ride a wave this summer for Brett, and be happy..don't be sad, he's with the Lord now."  Her strength is amazing.
Seeing the many pictures of Brett reflects a life well loved and lived..and his face shimmered with light; truly he is a special soul sent here to send everyone of us the message to Seize the Moment..and ride every wave as if it were your last one.
If anything else, I was reminded tonight that our time in the hourglass is always slipping away..and with that knowledge, no one should waste one single breath  on the negative or lesser emotions so many let control them. You never know what your last words will be, so choose them carefully.  And by all means, live...laugh,sing, dance, make a joyful noise, and love so hard your heart bursts within you. Because that is really what it is all about my friends..all the rest is just white noise.
Namaste, Brett.. thank you for sharing your light..catch a wave and sit on top of the world. ☼

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Buddhism, Kirtan, and Yoga, Om My!

One thing about life...It is always an adventure. You never know which way the wind is gonna blow you, and often the wind blows you right back where you started.

I went from walking in a  new yoga studio trying to find a way for us to find peace amid the personal chaos we are experiencing in life, to becoming acquainted with a dear friend of Billy’s and our playing and singing kirtan along with her; (for the uninitiated, a kirtan is a mantra sing along; traditional mantras are sung in a call and response manner, bringing an intense healing and feeling of peace. It does just  that and then some,  my friends..I strongly suggest it to all of you. That’s my shameless plug to check out Yoji and friends the next time we play. ;)

This new journey of mine feels like an old journey...Seems I have been traveling this path in some form or another for as long as I can remember.

 I have always been drawn to Hinduism and Buddhism. I have meditated in the past, taken yoga classes,  read as much as I could about Eastern thought, and still continue to avidly read and relish everything I can get my hands on. It feels as if my path is leading toward Buddhism ultimately, but to me, it is all part of the same goal; finding peace within and without, and giving selflessly and compassionately to others, while treating all I meet with lovingkindness. I know, sounds tough, right?

Selflessness is a difficult place to reach, as we are all egocentric to a degree. Becoming selfless means to truly let go of all attachments and accept that we all suffer. We must learn to accept that fact and let go of all of the suffering we have experienced and accept it as part of the lesson we are here to learn.

 To be mindful means to live in the here and now. The past is gone, and the future is unknown. Mindfulness means savoring each and every moment; from waking to a beautiful sunrise, to knowing when you are brushing your teeth, “I am brushing my teeth”.  It doesn’t mean not thinking at all of future plans, it simply means not dwelling on them.  The best path to mindfulness is through meditation, which is something we all should take time to do every single day. It’s amazing what we allow to control our lives, and yet we never take a moment to quietly contemplate who we are and where we are going. Meditation forces this on you; it gives your soul a much needed break.

In meditation, one has to be mindful. I concentrate on my breathing to try to keep myself intent on the moment;  I want to be mindful, but it doesn’t help that my mind is in constant overdrive, it makes meditation ever so much more interesting. In Buddhism they call it “Training the Puppy”; my mind is definitely the Jack Russell of puppies without a doubt. I feel like I am constantly offering him treats to come back, sit, and stay. Things like, “Did I feed the fish? Oh yea, I did. Hm. Do I hear the cat in the litter box? I have to remember to change his box today”...Your mind will do everything and anything to show you it’s the boss if you let it. The trick is controlling that pesky puppy, gently, and with love.

What I have learned so far?
 I’ve learned that our shared reality is this: we all suffer. No one is immune. It’s been our human condition since the beginning. We as a species have tried to explain it in a million different ways in order to understand it; Suffering, Original Sin, whichever name it goes by, we have tried blaming it on everything from karma to the wrath of the gods. Suffering happens, and yes, it sucks. Some people get a relatively low dose of suffering handed to them, and others lose their loved ones in an earthquake.  Acquaintances of mine just lost their 21 year old son in a dirt bike accident.  And even with my knowledge that everyone suffers, I sat here this morning, crying like a baby, trying to accept it, and secretly thanking the gods that my own children are safe and sound…but I know it could just as easily have happened to me. It does make the letting go of the lesser aspects of suffering easier; broken hearts, job losses, don’t seem so bad in comparison. Yet I know it’s our nature to try to explain why it happens, especially when the loss of a child is involved.

Rather than explain it, I think we are just supposed to accept it and let it go. Accept that suffering exists. We have to have compassion for those who are experiencing the loss, and comfort them in their grieving, while also accepting that this is part of life; the yin and yang of it all.  Yet it’s difficult when we are over our head in it. Think of how the people of Japan are trying to make peace with their suffering right now. Think of the mother crying for her son. But that acceptance is a necessary goal if we are to be free from the pain suffering brings.

Buddhism allows one to come to the gradual understanding that to accept and know we all suffer, that it is an eventuality, sure as death and taxes, means finding ultimate bliss and freedom.  One of my favorite Dalai Lama quotes says it best:
“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot, then there is also no need to worry”
I can’t change my future, and I can’t erase the past and present hurts and sufferings, but I can learn to accept that life is going to bring hardship in some manifestation or another. I can also take the time to celebrate the incredible beauty and joy that makes up a day; every single day holds joy and promise. I am going to do just that.
Embrace joy…love one another…and share your light. Namaste. ☼

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Random Ramble: The Museum of Modern Art On Sunday I received one...

The Random Ramble: The Museum of Modern Art

On Sunday I received one...
: "The Museum of Modern Art On Sunday I received one of my favorite birthday presents of all time, hands down. My incredible, amazing, w..."
The Museum of Modern Art

On Sunday I received one of my favorite birthday presents of all time, hands down.  My incredible, amazing, wonderful man brought me to MoMA.

I really don't know how I have went my entire 45 years without having experienced MoMA. I've always wanted to go, but never had anyone to go with me, which was part of my excuse. To say it was worth the wait would be a huge understatement.

I have always loved art.  I love to sketch and paint, and also love to take pictures, though I am a mere amateur and lack the talent to ever consider doing it for a living.  I'll leave that to others far more talented than me.  Like my other favorite Dutch guy, van Gogh.

As I entered the hall where van Gogh is displayed, I told Billy I didn't want to go in.  I wanted to savor the moment,  like one savors the last bite of something yummy. I could see the swirls and colors out of the corner of my eye, but still I waited.

Once I entered the room, I looked at all the other amazing works surrounding the work I most wanted to see.  Knowing it was so close gave me chills. I am sure that sounds crazy to some people, but it's the truth. I felt the same way when I walked through the Sistine Chapel.. feelings of surreality and  awe overtaking me.

Finally we made our way to Starry Night.  I stood a mere inch from the frame. I could see every detail; every brush stroke, each swirl. The yellows were oh so much more vivid in person; no mere copy could ever do the real thing justice.  I felt the tears start to come, and was embarrassed that I was crying. I mean, it's just a picture, right?

No, not to me.  To me, van Gogh symbolizes true  beauty. His view of life, his ability to empathize through his art, to see the beauty in the simplicity of things, and his appreciation of what others take for granted is what likely caused him such pain;  to be able to paint love, and yet feel emptiness and anger at the world for taking for granted all the gifts we are given, that is what I also feel at times.  So many times I hear people complaining about the silliest things, and I have to wonder what happens when you stop seeing the beauty in the simple? Is that when you give up your life essence? Is that when happiness eludes?

I will always find the joy in the simple around me;  right now I look out and see the bay, the waves are foamy and tumbling over one another like puppies as the wind carries them to shore.  I'm thankful I still see the beauty in simple gifts, and that I am happy within and without.

Take time to find the exquisite in the simplistic. I promise you it will bring you peace, even if only for a moment.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Helplessness of the Unknown

This is reposted by permission from the Amnesty International. If this doesn't help you understand what the people in Egypt are fighting for, and at what cost, I don't know what will. After reading it, I suggest other articles on the AI website.  Because caring about one another is what it should be all about, people.

The Helplessness of the Unknown

The Julie Project ~ Darcy Padilla

The Julie Project

"Once in a while, you get shown the the strangest of places if you look at it right"...thus sayeth the Grateful Dead. Today I was given the light of empathy through a random Tweet, and it has been one of the most grace-full gifts I could ever have received for my birthday.

Darcy Padilla, through her photo documentary "The Julie Project", has brought a face to what so many experience as a humiliating, heartbreaking reality.  It is one of the most bittersweet portraits of human suffering, and yet poignantly beautiful, as seen through  Darcy's lens and words.   Darcy's dedication to finding Julie's children to reassure them that until their mother's last breath, she never forgot them, and  Julie's son Zach's last words to his mother, a mother  who he had only met one time through the incredibly gracious heart of his adoptive mother, Karen,  "I love you Mom, no matter what. Thank you for having me.", brought me to tears.

So many times we judge people too harshly. We think conquering poverty and addiction should be an easy feat with the right motivation; yet each one of us carries our crosses in life differently. I have unfortunately been acquainted with a Julie and Jason along my path in life,  but never could I have imagined how difficult it was for my friends who lost their own struggles with addiction, leaving behind angry, confused, and sad family members and friends.

My own father's mother gave her children up for adoption, leaving them on the steps of a New York City orphanage. I don't know why for sure, but I have always judged her harshly for that. I never will again..for at least she had the common sense to give them a better chance at life, a chance my father took, and excelled at...he became the best daddy anyone could ever ask for, and touched so many lives along his too short journey. If I could see her now, I would thank her for having him, and for making the painful choice to give him up.

Take a moment and view the documentary. I warn you, it is very painful, but if it teaches you anything, it's that we should always be grateful for the gifts we do receive in this world, and never judge another until you really have walked in their shoes.

Thank you, Darcy, and Julie, wherever you are.  Namaste.            

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crisis in Egypt

Maybe it's having too much time on my hands to fill,  but I have been glued both to Twitter and Facebook since the beginning of the Egyptian Crisis.  I have posted on #Egypt through Twitter, to give my support to the people. I have added journalists who are covering the protests from within the action itself, and have listened to heartbreaking tweets through #speak2tweet.

What's amazed me the most is the apathy that I see throughout Facebook.  Today, the groundhog got more attention than a country's people  who are experiencing an increasingly violent suppression of their human rights.

Maybe it is a case of out of sight, out of mind.  Maybe the apathy is due to a lack of understanding as to why it's happening in the first place.  Maybe we are just tired; tired of being exposed to all of the not so pleasant aspects of the world around's easier to ignore it and concentrate on our own worries because hey, it's not us.

But..could it be?  Imagine if you didn't have the freedoms you hold dear.  Imagine if the simple act of walking down a street was threatening. And yet we enjoy these freedoms because at some point in our earliest incarnation, there was revolution. There was a mass exodus of people who decided that they wanted to rule their own way, to have a choice. Hence our Constitution was born.

It's not perfect, and it's subject to scrutiny and misinterpretation every single day, but at least it exists. For that I am thankful. As everyone should be. Because the alternative is not something I want to think about. I can't imagine not being able to say as I feel, even if it goes against the grain.

If you do anything else today, take a moment and listen to someone's #speak2tweet's words. Read a news article from CNN or the New York Times, or the news program/blog/twitter feed of your choice and educate yourself as to what is going on around you. Because if you think it couldn't happen here, think again.

And while you're reading, give thanks that you can.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Foods that Promote Happiness

We can all use some more happiness!!!

Happy Foods

Atlantic Bar and Grill, Seaside Park

As we live right up the street from this culinary masterpiece, I am anxiously awaiting their reopening slated for February 4th.  There's a new chef in town, and from what's been shared on Atlantic Bar and Grill's Facebook page,  he will not disappoint!