Eckhart Tolle

What Would Pema (or Eckhart) Do?

<August 7/14> So, I’m feeling annoyed with someone for … um … doing something really annoying. I even knew ahead of time this person would do this very specific annoying thing, & had told myself to not bother being annoyed when it came to pass as I’d predicted.

But I am annoyed. Or, well, I was.

Until I put myself through a mini-Pema (Chödrön)/Eckhart (Tolle) workshop on this morning’s walk.

I was batting it all around in my head (the being annoyed, the internal argument), & then all of a sudden I heard my mind say, “What would Pema (or Eckhart) do?”

& I figured they’d probably think I was just indulging myself in a little drama (we humans DO love our dramas, that’s for sure), & basically letting my little old ego get the best of me.

That made me step back a little & start looking at the whole thing from a bit of a distance.

I realized that as long as I was walking along & staying stuck in my little drama, I felt angry. The anger was not resolving, or dissolving – if anything it was getting bigger.

I'd walked by some candy wrappers on the sidewalk & given them a vaguely angry look. Normally I’d probably have picked them up to throw them in the next garbage can I spotted (I don’t try to clean up the whole neighborhood or anything, but I do do my helpful little bits here & there), but I was too darn busy feeling annoyed.

& gradually it came over me that we all do annoying things to one another from time to time (just show me someone perfect, hmmm?)

& I recalled Eckhart’s great insight about ducks who’ve had a set-to & how they just “flap their wings” & go on about their business.

& after I’d decided to just flap my own wings, I started really noticing (as I usually do) the neat yards I was walking by

Lots & lots of very pretty flowers

& yards with no grass, just plants & hedges & ground covers & so on.

Nice…

Walking is just such a tonic, I tell you.

It really, really is.

Janet

p.s. with many, many thanks to Pema & Eckhart, for their wonderful insights & wisdom & humanity & inspiration.

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Epictetus says that everything has two handles, one by which it can be borne and one by which it cannot. If your brother sins against you, he says, don’t take hold of it by the wrong he did you but by the fact that he’s your brother. That’s how it can be borne.” – Character in Anne Tyler’s novel Noah’s Compass

Bonus quotes:

“Holding onto a resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” – Anne Lamott in Crooked Little Heart

“It isn’t the big pleasures that count the most, it’s making a big deal out of the little ones.” – Jean Webster

Social Skills 101

<August 2012> Truth? I can’t tell you whether social skills are something one is born with, or whether they can be learned if one wasn’t born with them. I just honestly don’t know. I also don’t know whether people who don’t have good social skills know they don’t have them. And I somehow doubt that one can come right out & say to a person “Um. You seem to have kind of low social skills.” (Maybe if you are a social worker or something…)

I do hope that maybe people who don’t have them (& know or suspect they may not have them) could take a look at this list & see whether any of these suggestions are helpful. Maybe try them out as an experiment, & see whether they seem to help simplify life at all.

(People with good social skills may be taken aback at this list, that such utterly simple & seemingly self-evident things are even being mentioned. I have given all of this quite a bit of thought. If the tips are useful to you, they are useful. If not, just turn the page!)

Okay, here goes:

Ask questions (or ask for help) when there is something puzzling you or something that you need or want to know. I am pretty sure most human beings actually actively enjoy being helpful. Asking a simple, direct question is soooo much more sensible than just jumping to a (frequently) inaccurate conclusion, or making an assumption that turns out to be wrong-wrong-wrong. (Trust me, reader, I am articulating this one as much for myself as for anyone! I sometimes need to hear & listen to my own good advice!? ) Not making assumptions, btw, is one of the 4 “agreements” so well explained in the book The Four Agreements, a book that has proven endlessly helpful to me, that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Be helpful & considerate as much as humanly possible – it feels ever so much better inside than being witchy & grumpy. Good manners are really an awesome thing. People really appreciate them (& their absence is very quickly noted!). Consideration is a lovely circular phenomenon: when you are considerate to others, they are very often considerate in return. How lovely is that, hmmm?

Say please & thank you often! Gratitude is positively magical, & really, so are simple appreciation & good manners. They smooth relations between people – even strangers – & they just make everyone feel good. I always say it’s never too late to say thank you, & of course remembering to say please is always a good idea!

Apologies are utterly magical. Apologize when you have stepped in it, or neglected or insulted or lost your cool with someone or something or … whatever. One of my favourite quotations is “Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” It was Margaret Lee Runbeck who said this, & I couldn’t agree more!  

Apologize. Explain. You know that saying “Never apologize, never explain?” In my opinion, this is absolutely terrible advice. Apologize! Explain! Apologies & explanations clear the air in almost miraculous fashion, they really do. (I think we all know this, really, hmmm??) btw, too, I wrote once about men & apologies; you'll find it here. [Later post called 'Apologize. Explain.']

Be authentic. Most of us can spot phoneyness a mile away (I bet even really phoney people can!), & children sniff it out like bloodhounds. It’s challenging at times, finding the balance between authenticity & consideration/politeness – but that balance is worth striving for!

Introduce people to each other any time you find yourself in a situation where you know the people who are present, & others don’t. Sometimes people with low social skills don’t realize they should do this, so just jump in. For example, just introduce yourself if no one has thought to introduce you. “Hi, I’m Janet, & you are ---??” will do the trick, cut through the awkwardness & jump-start the conversation.

Speaking of which, conversation is really positively magical. I’ve even been known to say it’s the whole darn karmic enchilada! (WDKE for short.) Good conversation cannot be forced, directed, or made to go in a direction you feel determined to have it go (if you force it, it will not be good conversation!). Good conversation is organic; it just happens … it flows. Essential elements: listening well. Not interrupting. Not trying to hog the floor. Being open…patient…generous with your listening. Greatly, greatly rewarding when you learn to do this!!      Another favourite quotation: “It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” (So said Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show.)

Let friendliness be your default position. There is no need to look out at the world with a scowly face or attitude – unless you want the world to reflect this back at you! I once saw a sign on a cottage resort billboard that said “Smile at the world, and the world will smile back,” & I really do believe this is true. Being friendly rather than unfriendly also helps you be in a better mood! This is not to say you need to grin wildly at every person you pass on the street. I am now living in Canada’s largest city & find I am having to adjust my behaviour here somewhat, compared to when I lived out in the country or in a small town – for the sake of simple safety, obviously. But still, I am friendly & polite with sales clerks or bus drivers or coffee shop staff or any fellow humans with whom I do wind up engaging in conversation. It just feels good! (It also comes utterly naturally to me, but I am not so sure it always did. Practice makes perfect!)

Avoiding eye contact with “strangers” is a simple but important way we keep ourselves safe in the big city. On subways & buses it’s best not to look directly at people who, for the most part, we can assume, don’t want to feel as though their privacy or anonymity is being invaded. One thing you can do on a crowded subway (or streetcar) sometimes is to simply sit with your eyes closed. This is very restful, & it makes you feel as though you are not on that crowded subway car at all!

Don’t pick your nose in public!  EEEEEEEEEEkkkkkkkkk. No one wants to watch you do this, OK? Trust me, you need to trust me on this.

Watch out for other people when walking down a sidewalk (or standing in a crowded subway car, or navigating the aisles of a crowded store). Don’t hog all the available space, as though you’re the only person on the planet who really matters. A little bit less of this self-absorbed “Everything is all about ME” attitude would probably be a pretty helpful thing in this troubled world of ours…don’t you think?

Secrecy & lies breed more secrecy & lies. Being authentic (which is good for your soul; all the wise folks say so!) & a culture of secrecy/lies are mutually exclusive. Look for a good balance between 100% in-your-face truth & lying every time you turn around. (Hint: “little white lies” are sometimes necessary, & telling everyone what we think 100% of the time would clearly be neither helpful, desirable, advisable nor necessary.) I personally do believe quite passionately in telling the truth (that’s what this whole blog is about, really!) – & I also care quite a lot about not hurting people’s feelings. Yes, it’s all a bit of a delicate dance & balancing act – & one worth spending some of one’s energy learning to navigate well!

Learn good cell phone manners. Please! The world is not dying to know the minutiae of your life, I feel quite sure (for sure I am not at all interested. In return, I will refrain from subjecting you to listening to the minutiae of mine!). In many cases, cell phone use is simply rather rude. Please take a moment to learn how to turn your cell phone off. Please also learn to keep your voice down while talking on it. & remember! Our answering machines/services exist for a reason. We need not respond immediately to every call that comes in!

Respond promptly to e-mail & phone messages. People are not able to know what you think or are planning or have on your mind until you tell them! Most of us are not mind-readers!!    Staying in touch with people you care about (heck, sometimes even people you don’t care about  but are obliged to stay in contact with) is meant to be a 2-way street, not 1-way. 

Pay people compliments – authentic ones, mind you, not phoney ones! If someone looks really good, say so! Be specific, e.g., “I love your new haircut” or “That sweater looks great on you!” I am not great at this myself, btw, but am working on it. What comes to me is that it’s a good exercise to always look for the positives in life in general…in our relationships, & in the people we love, in particular. Whatever you do, though, don’t be phoney about this. Phoneyness will cost you your credibility, & that is something you really don’t want to lose. (Think how little we trust politicians & corporate hotshots, for example; these are people who are widely perceived to be very inauthentic indeed.)

When someone offers you something, accept it with grace. I love the Don Henley song ‘Wedding Day’ & the line “To want what we have, to take what we’re given with grace.” Even if you don’t really like or want the item, accept it with grace. Say thank you. (You can always give it away later if you don’t like it. But when someone offers you something, it is churlish not to accept it gracefully. I just went against my own good advice on this today, & feel quite cruddy about it.)

Leave notes for people you are staying with, or living with, or otherwise let them know what you are up to (most of us are not mind-readers; see above!). This is just simple consideration, really, & it helps make life run ever so much more smoothly.

Understand that not everything that happens on Planet Earth is all about you. Sorry about that! In another cool Don Henley song, ‘Nobody else in the world but you’ Henley sings, “There’s lots of other people here too.” Yup. Yup, yup, yup. A very important life lesson to learn is to not take everything personally. (This is another of The Four Agreements, all of which are really very helpful!)

“Can I be the space for this to happen?” is a useful phrase to say inside our head sometimes. I’m pretty sure I picked this up from reading Eckhart Tolle (one of my modern-day heroes, for sure!!). When someone is boring you or ranting or otherwise being maybe just a tad on the annoying side, but you have enough presence of mind at that moment to see that this person needs to have an audience for whatever it is s/he is saying, it can be useful to just basically be present for the person. (Not to put too fine a point on it, Eckhart Tolle, or on Janetsplanet, ET for short, can change your life. No kidding! I’ve posted items about him here, here, here & here. ET is soooooooo helpful….)

** I am pretty convinced that good social skills can help make our lives easier, more enjoyable & just generally run a lot more smoothly. If this little essay’s tips help even one person, I’ll know I haven’t wasted my time thinking (& writing!) about this.

Janet  

p.s. I’d really enjoy getting some feedback on this essay! Please let me know via a comment to the blog if you feel these suggestions are helpful. (If you think they suck, please be gentle with me; use your good social skills. ) 

p.p.s. a few more thoughts on this topic, several days after posting this: whether or not we have "good social skills," it is not always easy to broach awkward topics with people one feels the need to discuss challenging topics with. I have sometimes thought that people who seem to have low social skills are more awkward to have a really rollicking good conversation with on a regular basis -- & for now, I stand by this thought. But I do want anyone who reads this who suspects s/he is somewhat deficient in the SS dept. to understand this: that sometimes we really need to discuss deeply difficult things with people we care about very deeply -- & that sometimes we just can't seem to find our way to doing it. And that can lead to unfortunate consequences. (I have been there, & more than once, I'm afraid.) Humour can sometimes be a good way to deal with sensitive things. But....sometimes there is just no easy way to do really hard things. On occasion, maybe a sensitively-worded letter is a better option. (Sometimes, maybe one attempts the sensitive written communication & receives no feedback.       ) How can I summarize all this? Communicating with people is a challenging, challenging business; there's just no getting around that. Hmmmm. I think I am being driven back to Marshall Rosenberg, a man who really knows a lot about how to have the difficult conversations. Yup. (You can check him out here )

'Quote of the day' with this post: “We bless the life around us far more than we realize. Many simple, ordinary things that we do can affect those around us in profound ways: the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition. We can even bless total strangers and be blessed by them. Big messages come in small packages. All it may take to restore someone’s trust in life may be returning a lost earring or a dropped glove.” – Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., in her book My Grandfather’s Blessings – Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

 

Dog Daze

<July 31/12.> ('Dog days' being a reference to the hot hot hot weather we've been experiencing…)

I have not been blogging faithfully of late. My life has been quite…hmmm…is the word rocky? roller-coaster-y?? lately. For the past few months. There’s been a lot going on. There is a lot going on.

Right now I’m house-sitting for a friend & must admit, feel a little as though I may have died & gone to heaven. Her house is on the river (a river polluted with tritium & other rather nasty radionuclides, being downriver &/or in the neighbourhood of 1 or 2 nuclear facilities, but let’s lay that aside for the moment, shall we?? I’m not aware of the existence of any pristine bodies of water on this still-quite-lovely planet of ours, & I darn well enjoy being beside this one).

So I came here from noisybusysmoggy Toronto yesterday, Toronto being a city I quite enjoy, often or even mostly, actually, but maybe only when I am not contemplating living there, which I am at the moment… I’ve always said it is a great place to visit but…you know…I wouldn’t want to live there.

It’s this awful off-the-charts summer of 2012 of high temperatures & drought & millions of people in India as we speak being without power (i.e., without electricity, but what a funny phrase, “without power” – we are never really without power, are we??)

& last week I read a blog posting that suggests/predicts we HBs (human beans) may be on our very last legs as a species – not that this ought to be “news” exactly (tho’ I can pretty much guarantee you will not be hearing it on tonight’s TV news or weather, or anywhere in the newspapers)

& what’s in the “news” (if we may call it that) at the moment (good lord but the mainstream news media make me tired) is the Olympic spectacle & people speculating (apparently) as to whether a royal baby is on the way (give me strength).

I, meanwhile, am rassling with my own personal accommodation/moving issues, & now I hear that our demise as a species is liable to occur rather sooner even than I had supposed likely (though I’ve long thought well hooey, how long, realistically, can our species hang in, when all the living systems all around us are dying? I mean...)

& this blog posting or rant or whatever it is that it is is not meant to be about despair, 'though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the occasional little tapdance with despair myself lately

& so in these troubled times (speaking of understatement) both personal & species level I am grateful to have this peaceful interlude at my friend’s house, where the sounds are mostly bird or insect ones (though I am hearing a train whistle as I write this) & it is not at all likely that I will encounter any humans trying to steal my belongings or harm or cheat me (apart from that impersonal poisoning of one of Canada’s most iconic rivers, as I say, with nuclear leftovers: that does not feel really personal, you might say, not the way a thief at my door would be, say)

& you know it also isn’t as if predictions of the end of our run are unheard of. I’ve been re-reading one of my very favourite books, Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser, a gem of a writer & person, clearly, to whom a psychic once said “…human beings were coming into ‘the last days.’ This period of time could extend for a decade, or a century, or more.” Etc.

but for sure I feel a little lately as though I am, & have been, spinning

so I’ve returned to Eckhart Tolle (am listening once again to some of his awesome audiotapes) & now Pema Chödrön (in book form, as it happens, tho’ she too is available in audio form from the same source)

& these two wise-wise-wise modern spiritual teachers are helping me calm down, take a breath, return to the present moment, stop spinning out, & just … breathe.

& I’m really glad I joined the small group of Americans, led by Buddhist nun Jun-San Yasuda, on their walk the other day (they are walking around Lake Ontario, taking a month to do it, to bring attention to the dangers of nuclear power), & I was with them when they passed by the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, a place I kinda love to hate (I know, I know, hate is a very un-spiritual thing to admit to, but then I never ever ever claim to be even remotely spiritual, now, do I???)

& our walk – their walk – will not likely cause the nuclear behemoth to fall, THAT I’m pretty sure about, but I’ve always found in my own wee personal life that action is an almost surefire antidote to feelings of despair 

& despair or near-despair could very well be more frequent companions in the daze ahead, given these oh-so-sobering-well-let’s-face-it-unprecedented times we are living in…

so I’ll have to keep right on reading &/or listening to Pema & ET

& taking action…& walking daily

& knowing that I don’t have to know what’s going to happen next…‘cos none of us can know or control what’s going to happen next

all we can really do is remember to be fully present right here, right now, right here, right now

& that’s the best – the very very best way…the only way, actually…to be fully ALIVE

*****

& so, thus endeth this weird little … whatever it is that it is.

Janet

p.s. not long after I typed this up (no Internet access where I am right now) a humdinger of a storm blew through. Hooey!! It was scary, actually. It was like a mini-hurricane. Lots of debris afterward – some trees down, the screened-in porch area trashed with water & pine needles & twigs. Quite the storm it was, & there sure do seem to be a lot of these happening lately. As in, 3 weeks in a row now I’ve been hanging out in eastern Ontario & have witnessed 3 humdinger storms passing through. Can you say climate change??

p.p.s. last week was an interesting week for me both personally & in terms of what came through my e-mail Inbox.

Couple of interesting links here:

Bill McKibben – 350.org – climate change – his article in Rolling Stone Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math (& his later 350.org messages which I am guessing you can find on the 350.org site)

‘We’re Done’ - Guy McPherson ('Nature Bats Last' blog)

‘2012 – What do you mean the 3rd dimension is going away?’ 

‘World in Serious Trouble on Food Front’ (Earth Policy Release)

Choice

I had a really challenging day the other day. Details not important. At a certain point I had a thought that led to another thought & specifically the word “choice.” I’m not going to go into a great philosophical ramble about the concept of choice (could do so, but don’t feel so inclined & don’t have the time just now).

I thought “Hey, I’ll do a search through that 94-page quotations document of mine & see what comes up, since I find the word & the concept really rather important.” So that’s what I did. & there are some beauties, & here they are, in no particular order:

“On my 70th birthday, I was asked how I felt about mankind’s prospects. This is my reply: We are behaving like yeasts in a brewer’s vat, multiplying mindlessly while greedily consuming the substance of a finite world. If we continue to imitate the yeasts, we will perish as they perish, having exhausted our resources and poisoned ourselves in the lethal brew of our own wastes. Unlike the yeasts, we have a choice. What will it be?” ~ Farley Mowat, 1991

“In the long run, the real choice is not jobs or environment – it’s both...or neither. What kind of jobs will be possible in a world of depleted resources, poisoned water and foul air, a world where ozone depletion and greenhouse warming make it difficult even to survive?” ~ United Steelworkers of America, 1993

“When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What every body echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new...” – Henry David Thoreau, in Walden

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, or say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” – Charles Swindoll

“I think we locate freedom in the wrong place. We say things like, ‘Instead of becoming an engineer, I’m going to become a doctor.’ But freedom is the choice to be aware of the life you’re living and the self that’s living it. And therefore freedom is the act of consciously serving something greater.” – Jacob Needleman

“If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. That’s your choice.” – Noam Chomsky

A Divine Invitation

You have been invited to meet

The Friend

No one can resist a Divine Invitation.

That narrows down all our choices

To just two:

We can come to God

Dressed for Dancing,

Or

Be carried on a stretcher

To God’s Ward. ~ Hafiz, translation by Daniel Ladinsky, *I Heard God Laughing*

“There is a powerful distinction that becomes crystal clear when we think about fate and destiny. While fate may be thought of as passively dealing with the challenges that face us by doing nothing, destiny, on the other hand, is the child of action. Our destiny must be put into motion to be realized. In the case of the crises facing us, that action comes in the form of our choices. Destiny is what awaits us, as individuals and together, as we make the choices that lead to the fulfillment of our greatest potential.” – Gregg Braden in Deep Truth – Igniting the Memory of Our Origin, History, Destiny, and Fate

“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan quoted in Deep Truth – Igniting the Memory of Our Origin, History, Destiny, and Fate, by Gregg Braden

Choice is so important because it actually constitutes what it means to be a person.” Joanna Macy in World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal

“Do-er and deed co-arise. Hence our continuity of character, bearing the stamp of repeated choice and habit. Hence also our freedom, for new options arise with each present act of will.” Joanna Macy in World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal

Janet

P.S. What I chose to do after my challenging day was sit & watch an Eckhart Tolle DVD borrowed from a friend the one called ‘Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn Retreat – Stillness Amidst the World.’ I watched the first half of it, & my, what a tonic it was!! I’ve mentioned Eckhart Tolle a great many times on this blog, most recently here (good links at this other post). Anyone anyone anyone can benefit greatly indeed from Tolle wisdom, whether in book or CD or DVD form. Such wisdom & sanity he speaks, & emanates…

P.P. S. if you have a great quotation about choice you’d like to see shared around, please feel free to send it via a comment to this blog!!

‘Quote of the daywith this post: “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.” Raymond Williams

 

 

 

Hope

I should probably have called this post 'Hope: a definition I can live with. Or by.' But I have an obsession currently with 1-word titles...so I'm leaving it at 'Hope.' If I were feeling more energetic, I would include a variety of quotations or definitions on hope. And/or some links to my own postings on the subject of hope vs. action. (easy enough to find them here, under H, in the Index.)

But I'm a bit pooped today, so I'll just mention this definition that is new to me.

G.K. Chesterton said “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.”

Well, hooey! I like it!!

I feel as though the circumstances of Life on Planet Earth (especially with respect to various nuclear situations which again, I don't even have the energy to list off, & they are numerous...) seem a little on the desperate side. 

Fortunately (perhaps even inexplicably), I am able to retain my mostly cheerful nature.

There - that gives me a big thing to be grateful for on this less-than-energetic day!!

Janet

p.s. here are 2 more things I am grateful for: having run across some Eckhart Tolle wisdom on the weekend, thanks to the book Oneness With All Life - Inspirational Selections from A New Earth, & Tolle's wise words therein about acceptance, enjoyment & enthusiasm. Thanks, ET!!   The 2nd thing is another book, this one Anne Lamott's funny, wise, wonderful Bird by Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life - a treasure I have dipped into again & again over the past 10 years or so, & find inspiring & helpful & cheering (& fun!!) every time. It was there I found the reference to the Chesterton quotation about hope. So, thanks to these wise writers who have helped cheer me up today!!

Pema for President! / Pema's … Pause

<May 21/11> So, it’s Victoria Day weekend in Canada, as I write this. I have a bit of a history of feeling a wee bit lonely & hard done by on long weekends – imagining, as I am wont to do, everyone else on the planet having an uproariously, raucously wonderful time with dearly beloved friends & family. (Yes, quite the imagination, hmmm? )

For sure, I’ve been here before! My unusual & occasionally muddled-seeming life hasn’t turned out quite the way I’d ever had in mind. Mostly I enjoy my considerable freedom, love my life & think of it as a grand, unpredictable adventure...but “long weekends” generally bring out the maudlin in me...if only ever so briefly.

But hey! I can also be pretty smart! I picked up my new copy of Pema Chödrön’s Taking the Leap Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits & Fears, & started re-reading it. I bought it a few weeks ago, read it in one big gulp (the way I read most things) & laid it aside on my bedside table.

In Chapter 1 of the book, Pema introduces the idea of taking a 3-breath pause several times a day. She suggests that this can get us in touch with our “natural openness, the spaciousness of our skylike minds,” & she also says doing this can help us to stop “strengthening the aggression habit...”

Mmmmmmm. Now that sounds like a pretty fine idea.

For sure, I needed reminding about the pause. I have a pretty busy mind, & pausing to take 3 breaths once in a while really helps bring me back down to Earth.

I’m a big Pema fan. Her words are always gentle, wise, & above all, immensely practical.

**********

Ahhhhhhhhhhh how the moods come & go, hmmmm?

It is very seldom that I feel lonely or hard done by – very seldom indeed.

When one of these feelings does pay a visit, I know enough now to know that they never stick around for very long.

Thanks, Pema, for the pause idea. It really helps!

And thanks too, to Eckhart Tolle, for his simple reminder “This too will pass.”

Hurray for this soooooooooo helpful pair!!

Janet

P.S. I wrote about both of these two quite recently – Pema here & Tolle here

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “Sanity is permanent; neurosis is temporary.” – Chögyam Trungpa (from Pema Chödrön’s Taking the Leap Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits & Fears)

 

Tolle Tutorial: Thanks, Eckhart!!

<March 5/11>

When I first started up this blog, I mentioned Eckhart Tolle pretty routinely. I’m a very big fan of his books & his ideas.

It’s almost as though I’d forgotten about him!

Just recently – this past week – I sort of stumbled across some of his audiotapes, & am I ever glad I did!

I’ve just listened to the 3 tapes in the set called “Living the Liberated Life & Dealing with the Pain Body.” Soooooooooo helpful to get this little “Tolle tutorial.”

I needed to be reminded of how the pain body works, since my own has made an unexpected appearance or two of late.

(Tolle talks about the pain body in his two books, The Power of Now & A New Earth. You can also watch him talk about it on YouTube, & watch the very cool series of Webcasts he did with Oprah.)

I personally needed to be reminded not to resist the feelings that come up in me – but to allow them. Surrender to them. (I think we all resist some feelings that come up in us at times. Yet they do seem to pass through us a lot more quickly if we just admit to them, perhaps articulate them (right out loud, even!) if we are able. I find this helpful, anyway, but maybe that’s just me. For example, “Hmmmm. I’m feeling very sad/lonely/resentful/angry/bitter.” Before I know it, the uncomfortable feelings are usually gone!)

Tolle reminds us that saying to ourselves “This too will pass” can be very helpful. And he’s right. It is! I’ve definitely been wrestling lately with some…shall we say, challenging or uncomfortable feelings. When I stand back from them a bit – sort of try to “witness” what I am feeling from a slight distance (rather than getting completely…overtaken by them), it all becomes a bit less …. intense.

Tolle is an awfully helpful dude, I gotta say (& that’s a pretty major understatement).

If you haven’t yet read him, or seen the Webcasts, or listened to some of his audiotapes, you have a rare treat awaiting you!

(Me, I’m feeling a bit less overwhelmed by the feelings of resentment & sadness that were sort of plaguing me for a few days there.)

Thanks a bunch for the tutorial, Eckhart!!

Janet

p.s. Other blog postings here about Tolle are:

I DO recommend his books very highly (& also his audiotapes, available through Sounds True).

His words are both inspiring & a great source of comfort. I wouldn’t lie to you!

p.p.s. Some interesting words about the ego, from a book review in the Winter 2011 issue of Tikkun Magazine. On the back page of the magazine, in a review of the book I’m God, You’re Not, by Lawrence Kushner, the reviewer says “Kushner teaches us that ‘the goal of all spiritual life is to get your ego out of the way – outwit the sucker; dissolve it; shoot it; kill it. Silence the incessant planning, organizing, running, manipulating, possessing, and processing’ because these activities ‘preclude the awareness of the Divine.’” Sounds true, doesn’t it??

If I Had a Million Dollars…

This tune from the Barenaked Ladies song started going through my head a few minutes ago as I was finishing reading the introduction to the book Healing the Planet – One Patient at a Time, by Dr. Jozef J. Krop (published in 2002, in Canada, & with a Foreword by Dr. Rosalie Bertell of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health).

I have a bunch of books I need to read in the next while.

Disconnect, by Devra Davis (“the truth about cell phone radiation, what the industry has done to hide it, and how to protect your family”), published in 2010 (this book was a National Book Award Finalist).

Dodging the Toxic Bullet – How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards, by David R. Boyd, published in 2010….

Eaarth – Making A Life on a Tough New Planet, by Bill McKibben, published in 2010(how the earth has already changed drastically due to human-induced climate change, & what we must do about it).

Healing the Planet – One Patient at a Time, by Dr. Jozef J. Krop (as mentioned).

There’s Lead in Your Lipstick – Toxins in Our Everyday Body Care and How to Avoid Them, by Gillian Deacon, newly published (2011).

And other titles.

So far, Healing the Planet by Dr. Krop has me mesmerized & wishing I had a million dollars – so I could buy enough copies of his book for my two children, at least 5 or maybe 10 or 15 friends I can think of – my ex-husband, even! (He’s a former educator, & Dr. Krop has soooooo much to say about our children & how they are reeling not just from individual family problems & social conditions but also the utterly ubiquitous environmental contaminants.) Plus at least one sibling, maybe 2 or heck, all 3.

And then, of course, enough copies of the other books on the list for various friends, acquaintances, family members & libraries.

There are other books I’d like to buy & distribute around by the caseload too, of course.

Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser.

A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle.

& others too numerous to name…

I guess what all these books have in common is that they make clear, brilliant, heartfelt diagnoses of what is “wrong” with our culture – along with kick-ass, practical suggestions for all of us to get off our butts & fix our lives (& health) & that of the entire planet.

No excuses, no lollygagging, no victim nonsense, no “why is this happening to ME” – just clear communications about the nature of our illusions, & our excuses & our apathy & our reliance on broken systems of all kinds – whether these are political, medical, educational, corporate, monetary, or even mostly our own personal mind system! (And, in the case of Broken Open, greatly compassionate & so poignant about how we are all of us in the same darn leaky boat – all of us, every one of us, just another “bozo on the bus.”)

So much of what is wrong is mind-made, as Joanna Macy reminds us.

And we CAN choose to change our minds!

It takes energy, it takes courage – it takes a village, readers!! A great big global village – that’s us; all of us!!

We might have to turn off the TV (& the cell phone, & the computer, & the I-pod, & the I-phone).

We might need to go for a walk every day to clear our heads of all the invasive noise & nonsense & distraction our culture fills them up with.

We might need to read some challenging & provocative articles & books.

And we might need to get off our butts & commit to changing this crazy old hurting world.

Don’t we owe this to our children & grandchildren???

Of COURSE we do! We definitely, definitely do!!

Janet

P.S. Thanks to Dorothy & Mary for lending me the Boyd, Deacon & Krop books!!

P.P.S.The Barenaked Ladies song ends, “If I had a million dollars, I’d be rich!” Well, I’m already wealthy (if not rich) – but I sure could use some cash to buy a whole whack of great books for people!!!!

P.P.S. Can’t resist adding a link to the very fun & clever YouTube from last summer – “If I had a billion dollars” – celebrating our wonderful (not) Canadian Prime Minister & his cronies’ decision to build a fake lake in Toronto for the G20 summit attendees. Apparently having lost sight of the fact that our own lovely (if very polluted) Lake Ontario is within easy seeing & walking distance of the summit activities. Ah, politicians, eh? I guess no one expects them to actually make any sense….

‘Quote of the day’with this post: “Lies are infinite in number, and the truth so small and singular.” – from The Lacuna, a wonderful novel by Barbara Kingsolver (pg. 247).

Runner-up quotes: “A book should serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us.” – Franz Kafka & “A politician is required to listen to humbug, talk humbug, condone humbug. The most we can hope for is that we don’t actually believe it.” – Character in P.D. James’ A Taste for Death

Loneliness. The Last Taboo?

I’ve written several times about what I’ve now long believed to be the truth about our species. That we evolved to be tribal creatures – not to live in “nuclear families,” each in our own little box (I mean home), with our own car & TV & barbecue & set of china & a chicken in every pot. As it were.

In a recent blog post entitled “Most Important Book I’ve Ever Read,” I explained that it was Jerry Mander’s book In the Absence of the Sacred – The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations that set me on the course quite a few years ago now of musing about our species & puzzling over the way things have turned out for us. “Going to hell in a hand basket,” more or less, I guess you could say.

I wasn’t exaggerating at all when I said it’s the most important book I’ve ever read. It’s helped me understand everything. Everything about human history & all the messes we’ve created that now threaten to bring us down as a species.

The whole darn karmic enchilada, you might say.

So, I mention the whole loss-of-tribe phenomenon pretty often in postings on this blog. It comes up a lot. E.g. ‘Everything’s all about ME, right?’ ‘A-B-C’s: Re-learning Time’; ‘Why We Are Control Freaks.’

We’re a lost bunch, in my view. We (in the dominant culture, anyway) cut ourselves off from tribal life & our fellow creatures 10,000 years ago now. We’ve been lonely & lost & adrift ever since – if not on the conscious level, unconsciously for sure.

Unfortunately for me, perhaps, I am stuck with these darn uncomfortable insights, & this blasted persistent longing to … “help.” Been trying to “save the world” ever since I was about 14 years old. Such foolishness, hmmm??

It’s a fact that I’ve enjoyed very considerable grace & privilege in this life. A challenging but not horrendous childhood. Enjoyable university years. A 20-year marriage that was mostly a very fine one (17 good years out of 20: not bad at all!). Motherhood. Challenging work. In my view, I’ve “had it all.” I can think of nothing I’ve missed out on. It’s a good life!

One thing the marriage break-up introduced into my life was … loneliness. After 20 years of marriage & 14 of full-time motherhood, divorce (& the subsequent half-time joint custody arrangement) threw me into unfamiliar territory. I wrestled plenty with loneliness – & this in spite of the fact that I have always done a ton of community work & had a pretty extraordinary number of friends.

What I’ve come to think along the way is that loneliness is the last taboo. Admitting to anyone that we are lonely is … almost shameful for some reason.

There were times post-marriage break-up when I would feel terribly lonely. I’d look at the phone & think about the fact that I had, at any given time, probably 10 good friends I could call – & I wouldn’t call any of them. Why? Because I felt embarrassed about my loneliness. I felt humiliated by it. Why?

Well, shoot. I don’t quite know why. That’s why I think it’s something like the last taboo. It’s the thing we can’t admit to.

Why should loneliness be a shameful secret? Is it because, to repeat myself, we humans evolved to be tribal creatures, not solitary ones??

I suspect even the most independent among us suffer at times from loneliness. Heck, even the most securely married probably do! There are almost certainly married folks whose loneliness equals or exceeds my own.

It’s a tough nut, loneliness.

I have no great insights to offer about it.

It came around for another kick at the can recently. Once again, there were quite a few friends I could call – but I didn’t pick up the phone. It seems I still can’t admit to being lonely. Mostly, I’m not! Mostly I am wonderfully content, busy with worthwhile activities & schemes & walks & plans & books to read & things to write.

When the loneliness monster hits, I … well, I deal with it. It’s an old acquaintance by now…if not a friend, exactly… I do know this – the feeling passes.

Good old Eckhart Tolle – one of my favourite gurus-who-says-he-doesn’t-want-to-be-a-guru. He reminds us to remind ourselves (any time we feel as though we’re being overwhelmed by any overpowering experience or emotion), “This too will pass.”

And it will! It does. It has!

And loneliness may well remain the final taboo, I don’t know. Maybe if we talk about it, it won’t. I really don’t know. We’ll see, I guess, eh?

Janet

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Nothing so reminds you like the sea that the enemy of life is not death but loneliness.” – character in the novel The Navigator of New York, by Wayne Johnston

 

Cases of Mistaken Identity

<Nov. 26/10>

Been meaning to write about this phenomenon for a while.

A dream I had last night made these thoughts come to the surface as soon as I woke up & recalled it. I’ll spare you the details, although it’s a rather oft-repeated theme in my personal dream life.

Everyone has heard about “cases of mistaken identity.” I think an awful lot of us are victims of the phenomenon, yet with little or no conscious awareness of it.

What I’m referring to, to cut to the chase, is that I think large numbers of us relate to our spouses/partners as though they are the mother or father with whom we had such vastly emotionally complex dealings as children. If you are one of the lucky few on the planet who had a “perfect” childhood, with “perfect” parents, in some lovely Waltonesque or ‘Leave it to Beaver’ family, well – hey, 2 things:

  1. Lucky you! You’re about as common, I suspect, as the long-extinct dodo bird!
  2. You probably won’t understand what the heck I’m talking about here.

I don’t really need to say a whole lot about this. I think we all have to wrestle with this in our own way, on our own time.

I personally seem to have a pretty intimate acquaintance with the phenomenon – from inside out & outside in & 6 ways to Sunday, as they say. I’m not going to share any particulars, because making this “personal” is not my point. I’m talking about it because of its seeming-universality. It seems to be something an awful lot of us are wrestling with, one way & another…

Most of us come from dysfunctional families. It seems a lot of us have lives in which there are a fair number of “elephants in the room.” I’ve had my own gutwrenching experiences with elephants – & I’ve lived with some… & I think there are plenty of them around.

I occasionally see folks whose elephants are so gigantic, they look to be squeezing the life out of the human beings who are trying really, really hard to skirt around them without winding up on a psychiatric ward (& I’ve seen enough of psychiatric wards, what with one job & another I’ve had over the years, to know that there isn’t liable to be much help found there).

It’s painful to watch this stuff from the sidelines (even more painful to be right in the midst of it, of course!!) – & I’m a much bigger fan of joy & possibility & singing & changing the world than I am of numbing pain & misery & scarcely being able to breathe for all the neurotic nonsense one is having to dance around on a daily basis.

So…good luck, everyone. All of us! Wouldn’t it be cool if we’d all work on creating a personal life (& world) in which, if there must be some “elephants in the room,” at least they are small ones? Here’s to baby elephants!

Janet

p.s. I guess you could say that one of the purposes of our lives is healing. Seeking (& working on) our own healing & all the while, as we work to heal ourselves, helping to heal everything & everyone around us. The planet itself too, of course – since we humans are maybe something like the planet’s eyes & ears & hands & legs (& consciousness, but…oh dear me, if I get going down that road, I’ll never get stopped!)

p.p.s. I was about to suggest some books I think can help couples who think they might want to understand & wrestle a little with the mistaken identity “elephant.” Two I can recommend are Harville Hendrix’s Getting the Love You Want & Martin Rovers’ Healing the Wounds in Couple Relationships. (John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is a pretty helpful read as well. & Byron Katie’s Loving What IsFour questions that can change your life is indeed potentially life-changing!)

p.p.p.s. Some fascinating authors on the subject of consciousness & perhaps the uniqueness of human beans – I mean beings – are:

  • Thomas Berry
  • Matthew Fox
  • Sister Miriam MacGillis
  • Tom Harpur
  • Eckhart Tolle

& oh yes, I could go on… (Check here for lots of great book recommendations.)

Since the personal is indeed political, there is lots of useful spillover from one to the other with all of these books, of course.

'Quote of the day' with this post: “It is not a sign of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.” – J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Divorce: The gift that goes on giving

Funny. I just went to “save” this document, & the words “divorce sucks” came into my mind…

I myself have been divorced for 11 years now (the marriage broke up 15 years ago). It’s not the thing I focus on so much these days in my thoughts, although I have to admit, for the first 3+ years of my new life as a single woman & half-time Mom (after 20 years of marriage & 14 of full-time motherhood), it was almost all I thought about. Thank goodness for time…& healing!!

And I’m not gonna lie to you. Years ago I drafted an essay called ‘Divorce: the fun never quits!’ – because when you have children & wind up divorced, it is sadly all too true that the far-reaching impacts of a divorce will never be entirely absent from your life. Divorce, you might say, the gift that keeps on giving…

Well. I don’t have all that much to say about it now. When I was going through it, I was often miserable – lonely, embarrassed & ashamed. It was distinctly un-fun, & absolutely without question, the most gutwrenching time, & experience, of my life.(1)

Fortunately, as mentioned above, time & healing do come. As Eckhart Tolle so wisely reminds us (it is such a useful phrase), “This too will pass.”

(I should also add that it was a number of so-called “simple” things that helped me get through. Walking, music, time with friends, the love of my daughters – &, eventually, once I came up for air – useful work/volunteer work. My friendships definitely grew both in number & in depth, & without those, I’d have just plain … faded away! Plato said “Your wealth is where your friends are,” & that’s the period of my life when I really “got” that, right down to my very bones…).

My main aim for this post is simply to pass along a recommendation for a book about divorce that I just read & can’t praise highly enough!

The book is called Falling Apart in One Piece – One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce, by Stacy Morrison.

I can’t say enough about this book! It’s well-written, searingly honest, & soooooo potentially helpful to anyone who is currently going down the dark road of divorce. I am truly inspired by how brutally honest Ms. Morrison is (about her own faults & failings, as well as those of her ex) & by how she & her (now ex) husband have managed to put aside their own neuroses, pain & unhappiness enough that they are doing an admirable job of co-parenting their son. I’ve always thought this to be the true test of a person’s mettle during a divorce: how classy & generous can you be – can you keep striving to be – for the sake of your children, the innocent & un-witting civilian "casualties" of your own personal little (not so little, of course) war?

Ahhhhhhhh.

So many of us going through this. So much pain, so much loss…

Heartbreaking, to say the very, very least…

I do strongly recommend that any & every reader get thee to a bookstore or library & buy or borrow this book, then share it around. I’d also hazard a guess that one does not have to have gone through a marriage break-up to be helped & inspired by this book.

Nietzsche said, “Sin is that which separates.”

Alienation & loneliness are pretty big players here on Planet Earth, hmmm? Books that make us feel less alone – that help us see how very, very not-alone we really are when we’re down in one of those Very Deep Pits(2) any & all of us can fall into… well…I can’t recommend such books highly enough!!

Janet

P.S. Several years ago I read a couple of novels by Tony Parsons. One of them was called Man and Boy. I recall feeling at the time that these books of his could be a great comfort to anyone going through a divorce…

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show


(1) Also, of course, a marvellous “growth opportunity”…

(2) The “Very Deep Pit” is a phrase borrowed from Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie-the-Pooh & Piglet…well – read the book! It’s in Chapter V, ‘In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump.’ It was during the immediately-post-marriage-break-up phase of my life that I began borrowing the Very Deep Pit phrase. I used to joke that I was living in a Very Deep Pit – VDP for short. I still get a big kick out of the phrase…

 

Attitude is EVERYTHING….

<written April 2009>

Once upon a time (almost no-one who knows me now will even be able to believe this), I was a pessimist (& cynic). I was inclined to hang out in sloughs of despond & suppose it was my “fate” to be an unhappy person. Even when I stopped being so down all the time, I was still very, very cynical for a few years there (the job I was doing at the time didn’t help at all…).

Life is complex – I would never pretend otherwise, & we all have life histories that are rather stubborn & sticky with, in lots of cases, plenty of unpleasant experiences and/or even outright nastiness.

I’m not stupid. I do choose to be a “Pollyanna” & do my best to focus on positive things, because one of my key life lessons in the past five years or so has been that “What we focus on expands.”

Life is too short & too precious to focus on doom & gloom, violence & chaos &…well, you get my drift.

I came across this wonderful saying on attitude some years ago now: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, or say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it." (Charles Swindoll)

And I think it’s pretty darn bang on.

I know I’ve changed my attitude plenty over the years, & if I can do it, I’m sure others can too.

We can turn our head around on our own, or we can read wise writers like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie & get our spirits all tuned up (both these writers/teachers have suffered from horrendous depressions & challenging times, btw; they have been there…).

I’m a passionate environmental activist, & have been for 20 years. Even if we all turn overnight into passionate activists, & start treating our Earth with much greater care & respect (& I certainly hope we do, of course!), the fact is, challenging times are heading our way.

We’re going to need to be tough, resilient, resourceful, independent & smart.

We’re going to need to be people with a “can do” spirit – who can be much more cooperative than we’re used to having to be. (1)

We can choose to do this.

Attitude really is everything, hmmm?

Janet

'Quote of the day' w. this post: “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Victor Frankl


(1) At least, that’s what I think! No crystal ball, of course…

My Religion

<June 18/10>

On my very lovely walk this morning (beautiful day!) along the boardwalk (in the Beaches area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada), I articulated the key tenets of what I guess you might call my “religion.”

They are:

  • Gratitude
  • Walking
  • Community
  • Service
  • Solitude / silence
  • Music [added later; see P.S.]

I could elaborate on each of these, of course. Walking also takes in Nature, love of the Earth, & maybe canoeing, kayaking, swimming & snowshoeing… Community takes in love, family, conversation, smiling, friendliness & friendship. Gratitude takes in joy & leads to a happy spirit. Service takes in activism & caring & doing (which also lead to a happy spirit!). Solitude & silence are things I cannot exist without & sometimes wonder whether others might benefit from a wee bit more of…

& music!! Well – music sometimes catapults me straight from practically comatose, down at the bottom of a Very Deep Pit (or even a not-all-that-deep-but-still-definitely-in-a-pit-pit) into outright exhilaration!!

Janet

p.s. couple weeks later, on July 1st: I’ve been doing this odd nomadic gig lately. Some of the time I’m living out in the boonies, sometimes I’m in the small city of Pembroke, Ontario (up river from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, & down river from leaking “legacy” pollution at the Chalk River nuclear facility; Gee – sure makes me feel better to know the pollution there is “legacy” as opposed to new…or, hmm…..does it??, & home to (notice I am not saying proud home: many of us here are not merely not proud but frankly appalled about) SRB Technologies, a tritium-emitting local business that has just outrageously been issued a 5-year license by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (boy are they un-aptly named!?!?!? Ought to be more like the Canadian Nuclear Danger Commission); check out the Tritium Awareness Project Web site to learn “the truth about tritium”…)

And some of the time I hang out in Toronto, Canada’s largest city & kind of an all-around pretty fun place...

Well.

On my long walk in Pembroke this morning, I observed, as I have on other occasions, how church-y this town is. It has a quite extraordinary number of churches. Off the charts, really!

Not sure what that’s all about, but the limitations of “organized” religion seem more & more apparent to me as the years go by.

I’ve written elsewhere about what I see as the problem with religion.

What sprang to mind this morning as I noticed Pembroke’s considerable churchy-ness is the sort of somewhere-else-ness of most religious teachings. “Heaven” is somewhere else. “Divinity” is somewhere/someone else. “Salvation” is some other time. “Holy” is other places or people.

Me, I’m convinced all these things are right here, right now, always.

Hmmm. In ‘Pulling Down the Pedestals’ & ‘I’m not OK – YOU’re OK’ I’ve written about our tendency as individuals to see others as…better ... more whole…than one is oneself. I don’t think this attitude & the dominance of religion & its “God/holiness/sacredness is somewhere else” message is a coincidence, exactly…

Certainly Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts about presence, & about the pain body (& everything else he talks about!) resonate hugely for me. (I’ve written about ET in a few blog postings Ducks Unlimited’, ‘Pain Bodies on Parade or Oh, To be a duck’ & ‘Flap your wings’, among others…)

Dear friend Lynn has just given me a copy of the book This is It – The Nature of Oneness – Interviews with Teachers of Non-Duality, including Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, by Jan Kersschot.

That phrase “This is it!” resonated for me right away.

All is here right here, right now, in this moment & it is plenty!

The heck, I say, with the fear & poverty mentality we’ve been so immersed & drenched in for so long.

This is It!

p.p.s. weeks later, on July 24th: It became necessary to add that 6th item – music – to the list the other evening when, under the great spirits & energy-enhancing influence of some lovely, sing-y, dance-y, cheerful tunes, I got hours & hours of useful work done, instead of succumbing to the temptation to veg out in front of a movie. Music sure can be magical!! (Pat Conroy said, “Without music, life is a journey through a desert,” and isn't it true??)

p.p.p.s. 'My Religion, take 2' (from a couple years later).

Bloom Where You’re Planted!

I’m not sure what else to say, really.

“Bloom where you’re planted” is such simple, yet profound advice, I’m not sure I need to say another word.

*******

Well, I’ll just say this. I came across this little saying at a friend’s place years & years ago now. A little needlepoint thing hanging up on the kitchen wall. [on Aug. 11th - just learned the person who said this was Mary Engelbreit. Thank you, Mary!!]

And remembered it the other day & was struck again at what awesome, if simple, advice it contains.

Wherever we are, wherever we go, whatever is happening to us at any moment, we can strive to “bloom where we’re planted.” It’s brilliant!

Janet

p.s. Another thing that can be very helpful at times: rather than resisting or resenting what’s happening, we can say to ourself, “Can I be the space for this to happen?” Then breathe… & be the space. (I think I must have got this from Eckhart Tolle, whom I’ve blogged about in ‘Pain Bodies on Parade or Oh, To be a Duck! 'Flap Your Wings!' & 'Ducks, Unlimited: People?? Also Unlimited')

Quote of the day’ with this post: “The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.” ~ Leo Rosten

Making Waves (even soldiers are doing it!)

<May 5/10>

I suppose it would be accurate to say I’m a bit of a “shit-disturber.” I say things out loud that others seem more inclined to “keep quiet” about. Ironically, I would actually prefer to lead a quieter life – more time for walking, appreciating Nature, reading (in 5 lifetimes I probably couldn’t read all the books I’d like to!) & writing.

It’s also true that I grew up in a family in which keeping quiet & not making waves – not standing out, shall we say – was…well, let’s just say it was a good idea to be a little on the quiet & obedient side when I was a kid.

Now, I make waves. And noise. Why?

Because we live in a world that is teetering on the edge of collapse. Did I just say teetering?? It’s more than teetering. Cancer has become epidemic. The ice sheets are melting & the ocean rising. The weather has gone plain cuckoo. Among many other things…

All our human-made “systems” are broken & breaking more & more by the day (find me one that isn’t & I’ll give you a kewpie doll!). Only people with duct tape over their eyes & ears can fail to see this. Now, I like duct tape as much as the next person, but I’m not interested in wearing it, thanks!

I wrote a blog post a while ago called Telling the Truth: American soldier & Iraq about Shannon P. Meehan, a former U.S. Army lieutenant who fought in Iraq & has published a book called Beyond Duty: Life on the Front Line in Iraq. This is a soldier whose book is almost certainly making waves.

Soldiers are expressly expected to keep their lips zipped. Doesn’t matter what they’ve seen or done or how many atrocities they have witnessed, the script they are given says, “Keep it zipped & move on!”

Of course the problem is, when we do keep quiet about atrocities, & about pain & violence & our own personal horrors (& our own personal histories of abuse of whatever kind we underwent as children), it makes us sick &/or crazy, from the in-side out.

In some cases, it makes us violent. Or maybe we just have occasional outbursts of anger/rage so over the top & so out of proportion to what is actually taking place in the present moment that one finally has a sudden Aha! moment & thinks “Hmmm, I wonder what the heck THAT was really about???”(1)

Well. There was an interview on the CBC Radio (on ‘The Current’) on Wednesday, April 28th with another American who’d been a soldier in Iraq & whose life was also changed (much the way Shannon Meehan’s was) as the result of a particular offensive on a particular day. He couldn’t get the images out of his mind, & when he went to his superiors, got no help beyond basic advice to keep quiet & suck it up.

Eventually, this fellow left the military &, with another soldier (or ex-soldier; sorry; not 100% clear on the details…) wrote a letter of apology to the people in the village where the offensive had taken place.

The two (former) soldiers’ names are Ethan McCord & Josh Steeger. 3000 people have signed their letter of apology.

McCord commented in ‘The Current’ interview that an integral part of being part of ‘the system’ is taking responsibility. You can’t always “go with the flow,” he said. Sometimes, you gotta make waves.

This made me recall another CBC interview with men who work on skyscrapers in New York City. One of the men interviewed commented that “you can really go places, provided you keep your mouth shut.”

It’s pretty easy to see that folks who believe in making waves are people who are not just thinking about themselves, & about “going places.” These are people who feel a sense of responsibility to their fellow human beings – while people who are determined to “keep their mouths shut” & “go far” see themselves as more…well…isolated, perhaps?

Personally, I really enjoy feeling I’m part of a tribe.

Devra Davis once said, quoting an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I think a lot of us have had about enough of the “me, myself & I” routine by now.

& I’m here to tell you 2 things:

  1. When soldiers & former soldiers start speaking out, that not only takes a lot of guts, it really sends a powerful message about the way the world is going.
  2. We really can go far when we go together! I’ve been “going far” with fellow activists for 20 years now. I’ve had tons of grand adventures & fun – even an occasional triumph! – & personally have my doubts that life really gets any better than that.

A Filipino proverb says, “A clear conscience is more valuable than wealth.”(2)

I say, a clear conscience iswealth.

For sure, the only way I can live with my own is to keep right on making waves.

It’s wonderful to know that I’m in marvellous & ever-expanding (& even more & more unexpected) company!!

Janet

P.S. You can listen to the Ethan McCord interview here

Quote of the day’ w. this post: “Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.” – Joseph Campbell, quoted in the biography “A Fire in the Mind – The Life of Joseph Campbell” by Stephen & Robin Larsen


(1) I wrote about Eckhart Tolle & his concept of the pain body in Pain Bodies on Parade or Oh, To be a duck! & highly recommend that any & everyone else read Tolle too!! Understanding the pain body concept is enormously freeing & given the state of the world, potentially world-saving, even! You can also Google Tolle & find a short YouTube in which he explains his pain body concept.

(2) Funny. When I went to my quotations document to locate that one, these 3 other very relevant quotations popped right out at me: “Revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst” (Walter Weckler); “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain” (James Baldwin) & “Anger is often more harmful than the injury that caused it” (English proverb).