Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lighting the Way Together

I'm spending time with my family right now so I'm editing/recycling some old posts of mine.

Right now it's Christmas and Hanukkah, which I love. In times like these, I think we need to be reminded of what unites us instead of divides us.

Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but to me, Jesus seems like a mythical figure on the order of Zeus or Apollo. He lived so long ago that sometimes I take for granted he actually existed. He was born, he bled, he defecated. Jesus was a human being. Yes, an amazing human being, but he still existed, was still blood and bones the same as you and I, which astounds me. Fun fact, Sir Isaac Newton was also born on December 25. Newton wasn’t Jesus, but he was still a remarkable guy.

Let's light the way for each other, together.
Why am I mentioning Newton's birth? Primarily because when I hear about incredible human beings like Jesus, Newton, Albert Einstein, or Martin Luther King Jr., I somehow put them above me. I think to myself, “Those were amazing human beings, but I could never do anything like they did. I could never accomplish what they did."  I somehow don’t believe they felt the things I felt or struggled the way I struggled. But that's not true. They were people just like us. They had fears and failures just like us. Nothing separates us.

We’re all made of the same material. We all come from the same source. We are all light, which brings me to Hanukkah. One of the principles of the holiday I like the most is that one candle may kindle the light of many others and yet lose none of its own light. Right now I think it's important to remember great people of the past, to remember we are like them, may accomplish what they've accomplished, and also we can be candles in the dark that kindle the light of many others.

My spiritual path is about using everything as a vehicle for liberation or enlightenment. About not running from feelings and tough times, and yet always remembering there is something more to me. Something outside the drama, the ups and downs, a witnessing part of me that remains unaffected and emits a light that can never be diminished. It’s my job to keep growing that light, to keep remembering its presence, and to kindle that light in others.

We need to keep kindling that light in others so we create a world we wish to see. A world where we live amongst each other in harmony. A world where we celebrate with each other and mourn with each other. A world where we aspire to great heights, accomplishing what we burn to accomplish like people in the past. A world where we remember who we really are -- light beings.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Remaining Unperturbed

The other day, a monk from my yoga and meditation group posted a Facebook live video about remaining unperturbed in the face of external stimuli. His comment struck me primarily because I'm not unperturbed. I'm disturbed by every little thing. When the news is bad, I feel bad. When the news is good, I feel good. My mood of late seems to be tied to what's going on in the world. This is not how I want to live.

Tying my mood to anything external is a dangerous business because things in the external world are so changeable. I think it's important to know what's going on in society, but to plunge from high to low at the drop of a hat is exhausting. My spiritual teacher advocates mental balance and equipoise and said, "We must maintain our mental balance and remain indifferent to both praise and slander, to both joy and sorrow."

I'd like to be as placid as this lake.
I'd like to be as placid as this lake. 

I've heard this concept before, to remain unaffected by what people say because our self-esteem and self-worth comes from within, but I haven't thought about the concept much in terms of the news. Seems wise, especially as the news these days runs from bizarre to baffling. How to accomplish this though?

The short answer is to turn inward. To keep remembering what's really important, to hold tight to our innermost presence. About this process my teacher said, "The charming allurements of the external world no longer keep their minds in thrall. The dazzling splendor of form and color, their glittering attraction, no longer evokes any response in the innermost recesses of their minds. The radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of their inner life become one."

Yes please. I'd love for the "radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of [my] inner life" to become one. That sounds delightful. I'd like to remain unassailed by circumstances, for my mind to remain steady regardless of what's happening externally. I'm pretty sure the only way to do this is to keep aligning my will with my higher power's. To take shelter under the benevolent and loving force that pervades the universe and to keep letting go over and over again.

I dream of a world where we maintain mental balance. A world where external circumstances don't affect us so drastically. A world where we keep turning inward over and over again. A world where we take shelter under the unaffected and unssailed power that's greater than us.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Forgiveness: The Other "F" Word

During the earlier part of this week, my knee hurt. It could be because I tweaked it or slept funny, but I like to cover all my bases so I checked out what Louise Hay said in her book, You Can Heal Your Life. She said knee troubles have to do with inability to bend, fear, inflexibility, and not giving in. The antidote is forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and affirming, “I bend and flow with ease, and all is well.”

Louise Hay, I tell ya, she knows her stuff. This week what have I been dealing with? Why, lack of forgiveness of course! I'm harboring anger and resentment toward a few people. I'm so pissed at them, but at this point my anger is no longer serving me – in fact, it's harming me. Realizing my knee troubles stem from holding onto a grudge shows me I have to let this go. I have to forgive.

I like to think of forgiveness as giving over to something greater.
I like to think of forgiveness and giving over to something greater.

What is forgiveness? My spiritual teacher says, “It means to remain free from vindictive attitudes towards anyone.” I like that. His definition works for me. I don't want to spend my time wishing ill will on anyone. Or myself for that matter. It doesn't serve anyone. In fact, it results in knee pain. At least in my case.

The difficulty for me in forgiving someone is I don't want to sign off on their harmful behavior. I don't want to say, “It's OK for you to treat me this way,” when it's not. However, I think there's a difference between remaining free from vindictive attitudes and condoning someone's behavior. Quite a few steps exist in between.

Forgiveness then is primarily an act of letting go. For me that means holding someone in the light. Giving them over to the powers that be and saying, “Here. You take it.” I can't keep expending my energy stewing in anger and resentment, particularly because the other person is not going to change. And if they do, it won't be because I directed vitriol at them. How other people behave is out of my hands. Lordy how I wish that wasn't so, but it is. The way I maintain my inner peace and serenity then is to let go, to forgive. To realize all I can do is take care of myself by setting good boundaries, enforcing them, and removing myself from harmful situations.

What's funny is after typing that I wanted to swear. Forgiveness really is the other “f” word.

I dream of a world where we're able to forgive. A world where we're able to let go of our desire to punish another. A world where we recognize what we can control and what we cannot. A world where we practice forgiveness not only for others, but for ourselves.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pursue Joy

It has been an incredibly stressful and busy week for me so I don't have the energy to write a new post. However, all this week I've noticed it's easy for me to slip into the doldrums, to notice all the horrible things going on in the world and overlook the good things. This post from a couple of years ago sprang to mind as a good reminder that we have to actively pursue joy.

A few weeks ago I listened to a radio show by Radleigh Valentine and he said on average, people laugh 15 times a day. Fifteen times! And then he asked, “Do you remember if you laughed at all yesterday?” He pointed out it’s easy to remember the unpleasant things – the times we’re sad or scared or anxious – but the joyful times, the laughing times, are easier to forget. He encouraged his listeners to take note of when they laugh, to see if it adds up to 15 times. And then he said something really interesting: Plan for joy.

Radleigh recommends using this card as inspiration for pursuing joy.
Radleigh recommends using this card as inspiration for planning for joy. 

When he said, “Plan for joy,” I wanted to pause his radio show so I could take that in. It hasn’t occurred to me lately I would need to plan for joy – I assumed joy would sort of happen if I bumbled around in my life. But you know? That’s not true – I mean, sure, I stumble across joy every once and a while like an adventurer coming into a clearing – but it wasn’t necessarily something I planned for or actively pursued. I assumed I’d experience joy once my life was peachy keen – when my financial situation improved, the love of my life came along, etc. I think you know this already, but joy is the quiet moments, the small events that we may not remember long after they happen. It’s having a friend call you up spontaneously asking to hang out. It’s laughing along with a television show. It’s finding out the book you put on hold at the library has become available.

Joy can be spontaneous, but it can also be planned and pursued and that’s what struck me the most about Radleigh’s show. In an interesting juxtaposition, I had a powerful therapy session this week. I went from fearful, anxious, and insecure in one moment to laughing, goofy, and joyful in the next. My therapist had me remember a moment I felt joyful, loved, and appreciated, and embody it. She asked me to notice what colors I associated with the experience, and then asked if a movement or sound accompanied it. It did – joy for me looks like strutting with my toes flexed and my heels out singing along to “Let’s go fly a kite” or Life of Brian’s “Always look on the bright side of life.”

What amazes me is no matter how icky I feel, strutting around my cottage and singing, “Always look on the bright side of life,” automatically puts a smile on my face and lifts my mood. I can be melodramatic and get caught up in what’s wrong with my life. Lately, like I wrote on my birthday, I’m noticing what’s right. I’m seeking joy even in the midst of the things I do not like. And I’m remembering joy is not winning the lottery or buying a new car, it’s humming to myself while I walk, it’s remembering all the times I laughed yesterday, it’s making an active effort to improve my mood because I am planning for and pursuing joy.

I dream of a world where we remember we can access joy at any time. A world where we all have that one song that brings a smile to our face. A world where we remember the times we laugh. A world where we not only experience joy, but we pursue it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

We Were Made for These Times

I would say the prevailing sentiment for me right now is disillusionment. I'm seeing things as they are, not how I'd like them to be. I read an article the other day about the presence of white supremacists growing faster on twitter than ISIS. The number of accounts has grown by 600 percent since 2012. What's interesting is instead of feeling scared, I feel relieved. I think a part of me knew this was coming, expected it, and perhaps even prepared for it.

As I've perused news stories about the rise of white supremacy and neo-Nazis, a voice clearly said, “You were made for these times.” I'm not alone in this. We were all made for these times. Every experience we've had to date has prepared us for this precise moment and for all the moments to come. No experience is wasted.

We are each a spark of light.

When I think about my experiences, I see how my outlook, my loving nature, and my empathy are useful for today's world.

I grew up in a household that practiced yoga and meditation and was taught from an early age to find similarities over differences. It wasn't unusual for a person from a far-off land to stay with us. Hearing different accents was normal. I won't say I'm completely free of bias and prejudice, but I will say I make an effort to work on it. I didn't realize how valuable that was until after this election.

My spiritual teacher says, “Those whose preachings encourage discriminatory feelings are the worst enemies of humanity. These are the people who in every age ... have caused blood to flow. And even today these vested interests are still trying to perpetrate discrimination in a thousand and one ways.”

He obviously has some strong words about those who want to encourage division. Instead, he advocates seeing everyone as a expression of the divine, something far easier said than done. A way for me to practice that is empathy. To recognize we are all human beings trying to meet our needs. I may not agree with the strategies to meet those needs, but I can see we all want the same things.

Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being's suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we're going to survive with dignity.”

Surviving with dignity means building bridges, not walls. It's important for us to create a “we” space, not an “us versus them,” space. “Us versus them” means hate, it means discrimination, it means fear, it means cruelty. I do not hate those who hate me. I do not hate those who hate others. Hate only breeds more hate and more division. Instead, in these challenging times I'm choosing to see other people as human beings, worthy of love and respect. I will fight tooth and nail against policies and practices that harm others, but I will not do so with hate in my heart because my experiences do not allow me to do that. I was made for these times. We all were.

I dream of a world where we realize we were made for these times. A world where we realize we all have unique talents and skills that may be put to use in service of others. A world where we understand each experience prepares us for another. A world where we realize we were born for this.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Building Blocks

I am struggling to have hope for the future. To keep the faith things will work out in my favor both personally and in society. It's very easy to feel that way right now I think. When all signs and evidence are pointing toward one direction, how could I possibly believe another? I know that's why it's called faith, but faith has always been a struggle for me.

There's a saying I like: “More will be revealed.” It's popular within the recovery community because more will be revealed. We don't know what the future holds and more will be shown to us. I appreciate that sentiment, and know it to be true, but I also need a little more because, again, issues with faith over here.

Slowly and gradually some things are built.
Slowly and gradually some things are built.

My spiritual teacher says, “[W]ell-directed effort is the first and the last step toward the mundane success, psychic achievement, psycho-spiritual attainment, and spiritual fulfillment of human beings; indeed, aversion to this [well-directed effort] is the greatest impediment to success, great or small, in human life. That is why Shiva said in clear language, 'Without well-directed effort, success in any field of activity is impossible.'”

Reading that I feel a little better because I can't control the future, I can't bend the world according to my whim, but I can keep doing my part. And my part is to keep showing up, to keep doing the footwork, to continue the well-directed effort, and success will be achieved. I think of it in terms of building blocks. I want everything to be finished and complete already, maybe just slap on a coat of paint, but that's not how a new house is built. A house is built starting with the foundation with each piece carefully placed, otherwise the structure isn't sturdy.

Maybe instead of wishing the house was already finished and lamenting that I can't live in it yet, it would be better for me to see I am building something. Slowly but surely I'm building something new, and gradually, with time and continued effort, the house will be complete. The important thing is to keep going, to not give up, even though right now the house looks like a maze instead of a home.

I dream of a world where we keep making strides toward our dreams even when we can't see the fruits of our labors yet. A world where we realize it's our efforts that make change possible. A world where we understand the future is made up of building blocks and it's up to us to place each piece.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Hero Within Us

Last week I wrote about how I don't want to be responsible right now. I want to retreat, to withdraw. I'm tapping into something deeper this week and realizing it's more than that. I want to be taken care of. I want someone else to make the hard decisions, to be a leader, a hero. I want to be like a child feeling joyous and free because someone else is taking care of business.

This week has destroyed all notions I've had that someone else is taking care of business. Regardless of your political affiliation, I think the majority of us are fed up with many of our political leaders. I think the majority of us have lost faith in the people steering this ship. I know I have.

We all have an inner hero.
We all have an inner hero.

It's hard and it's scary for me to say that, because again, I want to be like a child, only concerned with her toys. What I'm realizing is I cannot. None of us have the luxury of becoming disengaged. We are who we've been waiting for.

Dhomang Yangthang says, “But now who is the arya sangha [the exalted community]? It is all of us, all of the practitioners of the present time.” That to me means I can't wait for someone else to show up and be the hero. I can't wait for someone else to come in and save me or save humanity. I really don't think it's up to one person anymore. I think it's all of us. My spiritual teacher says all spiritual aspirants must strive to become leaders.

We must all find our inner hero because as I think we've been shown, most of our leaders are primarily concerned with power, not with our welfare. There are exceptions of course, thank God, but it is up to us to keep the pressure up, to have a voice, to be empowered. And it's more than just voting once every four years. It's easy for me to sit back and say, “Well, I voted and that's good enough, that's all I can do.” Voting is great! Voting is important! But voting isn't everything.

To ensure we're being taken care of, we have to take care of ourselves. To ensure our brothers and sisters are being taken care of, we have to take care of them. What I'm saying is we can't rely on someone else. We can't be passive players in our lives because when we are, we become like sheep terrorized by wolves. Wolves will always be wolves, but together, we can drive the wolves away.

I'm going to quote my spiritual teacher again who said leaders will “work for the good of all countries, for the all-around emancipation of all humanity. The downtrodden humanity of this disgraced world is looking up to the eastern horizon, awaiting the leaders advent with earnest zeal and eagerness. Let the cimmerian darkness of the interlunar night disappear. Let the human being of the new day of the new sunrise wake up in the world.” I'm ready for that new day. Are you?

I dream of a world where we realize we have to work together to save ourselves. A world where we realize we have to be our own heroes. A world where we develop the leader within us in order to make the world a better place for all.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Power of Retreat

I don't want to “adult” right now. By that I mean I don't want to be responsible, I don't want to run any errands, I don't want to show up and engage in life. What's interesting is I don't want to go somewhere else, I don't want to swim with dolphins in Maui for instance. I want to withdraw completely. In yoga, the term for withdrawal is pratyáhára.

Pratyáhára is not the same thing as hibernating. In its true form, pratyáhára means the conscious endeavor to withdraw the mind from mundane qualities and attractions and direct it toward something subtler. It's considered a crucial first step in meditation.

Sometimes it's important to retreat from the world.
Sometimes it's important to retreat from the world.

I won't claim that I practice perfect withdrawal, but the space I'm in right now is a melancholy one. I don't want to engage or connect. I want to retreat from the world, which is highly unusual for me because my name literally means to bind. I'm all about connection, presence, and form. I love making things happen, turning an idea into reality. But right now, that doesn't interest me.

I could start to chastise myself because I place so much value on engaging, but when I think about pratyáhára, I remind myself it's possible this, too, is OK. This, too, is a part of the spiritual process. I know my spiritual teacher discusses the term in relation to meditation, but I wonder if for me right now the desire to physically withdraw is also a call to go inward. To turn toward my inner self and practice communion with the loving presence within me that's also within everyone.

All things in moderation of course – the world cannot function if we all retreat all the time, but maybe retreating also has a place. Maybe I don't have to be “on” all of the time or responsible all the time or aware all the time. Maybe it's OK for me to check out. I struck a nerve there because typing that I started to tear up.

I'm learning to become a more balanced human being, but to do so I have to spend time at either end of the spectrum. To paraphrase my spiritual teacher, meditation is an effort to remove one's internal distortions – to extract the gold from the alloy, in order to experience merger with the divine. The distortions should not be cast aside, but should be smelted in the fire of meditation and restored to their pure and original form. And withdrawal is a part of that process.

I dream of a world where we strike a balance between withdrawal and engagement. A world where we give ourselves permission to retreat every once in a while. A world where we understand there is a place for all things.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Dark Night of the Soul

I've heard the concept “the dark night of the soul” bandied about like a tennis ball. People talk about it in New Age circles as being the point where they hit bottom before things turned around and got better. However, I did some research and it's far older and more mystical than I would have thought – it dates to the 16th century and is the title for a poem by poet and Roman Catholic Saint John of the Cross.

The original meaning of “the dark night of the soul” is the experience of a spiritual crisis in the journey toward union with the divine. I felt relief when I read that because my experience of the dark night of the soul hasn't been literal. There hasn't been one night of pain or darkness followed by things turning around, nor has there been one period of it. Reading about the origin, I'm reminded pain is not a one-time experience.

Sometimes we have to go into darkness to see the light.
Sometimes we have to go into the darkness to see the light.

In our capitalistic culture, it seems to me there's a notion happiness is a commodity. Not only can happiness be bought with nice vacations, a fancy car, or a great pair of shoes, but happiness can be achieved with a thin body, the right romantic partner, and a fulfilling career. And once those things come into our lives, we're never supposed to feel pain again, or at least that's been my interpretation of the message.

I call baloney. Life is a series of ups and downs, of pleasure and pain, and instead of working hard to avoid the pain, these days I'm sitting with it.

I'm reading Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior, which is delightful. There is so much I could say about this memoir, but what's relevant to this post is Glennon talks about crisis, how the root word of crisis is to sift, to separate. What happens in a crisis is everything else falls away in order for us to see what's left, what cannot be taken away. That's what the dark night of the soul is – a crisis, a sifting period to discover what is permanent. What's permanent is me and God. It may take years, it may take several dark nights, but there is always something to be found in a crisis if we're willing to dive into the pain.

What I've found going through my own crisis, primarily with my health, is me. I've lived most of my life operating under the assumption everyone else knows more than I do, that everyone else has the answers for my life. I've valued “other” more than me.

What's interesting about this health journey I've been on is learning I already have the answers I seek, I already know what's going on with my body. I see doctor after doctor, healer after healer, hoping they'll tell me something I don't know. They don't. Not a single person has given me information that surprises me, which tells me I already know myself. I don't have the solution yet, but I trust it will come when the timing is right, and I don't need to frantically throw darts to see what sticks.

I am on a journey toward union with the divine, also called self-realization. By valuing others, I'm not honoring myself or my own wisdom. I'm not trusting myself, and trust is essential for union. I can't trust in me if I constantly think inspiration lies outside me, that the solution is “out there.” It's not. It never is. Higher power and I are walking this path together. Higher power communicates with me all the time and it's my job to listen and to trust. The path is not supposed to be pain-free, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

I dream of a world where we recognize the gift in pain. A world where we recognize the dark night of the soul is a crucial part of the process toward union with something greater than ourselves. A world where we understand sometimes it's important to undergo crisis in order to see what's left.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Inevitable Dreams

I have big dreams for myself and the world. I want social and economic justice for all. I want to live in a place where racism is eradicated, poverty is eliminated, and everyone has their basic needs met. Even typing that sentence I want to laugh because it seems ludicrous. I want to pat myself on the head condescendingly and say, “That's great Rebekah. You keep having those dreams. I'll be over here in the real world while you live in fantasy land.”

And it seems that way doesn't it? Like an impossible dream? When I start to think this way, I fall into despair. However, the words of Rabbi Michael Lerner keep ringing in my ears. A few times during the recent Jewish High Holidays he said:
Our plans [for change] are “unrealistic” in exactly the same way that it was “unrealistic” for women in the 1960s to think that sexism and patriarchy could be challenged effectively; the way that challenging segregation in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa seemed “unrealistic” before they were overcome; and the way that gays and lesbians were being “unrealistic” to push for marriage equality. It’s always like this: The fundamental changes that are needed in our world are dismissed by the media, the politicians, and even by many people who want those changes as “unrealistic” before people engage in building movements to achieve them, and then described by the media pundits and sociologists as “inevitable” once they have been achieved.
The question for me becomes: how? How do I engage with my personal and public dreams in such a way they become inevitable? First, I think it's important to have patience. To understand I'll fail many times before I succeed. That change will not happen overnight, as much as I would like it to. Second, I think about something my spiritual teacher has said. To paraphrase, our actions must be in alignment with a power greater than ourselves. He likens it to the numbers one and zero. A higher power is the number one and our actions are like zeros. If you take the one first and to that one perform your actions, it is like adding zeros to the one – it is like multiplying by 10 with each action.

Not sure why, but I love this picture.
Not sure why, but I love this photo.

What does that mean exactly? I think it means first and foremost remembering I'm an instrument, but I also think it means to do the things my heart urges me to do. I'm not talking about the passing whims, the, “Ooooh, let's learn to play the trumpet!” or “Let's quit our job and open a ski chalet in Switzerland even though we don't know how to ski!” I mean the persistent, constant dreams that nag us like woodpeckers knocking against a tree. It's those dreams that carry weight. It's those dreams that leave a mark, and it's those dreams I have to believe have a “one” in front of them, so to speak.

I dream of a world where we keep the faith that certain dreams will inevitably come to fruition. A world where even if it seems unrealistic, we keep plodding along because in our hearts we know we must. A world where we keep our eyes trained on our goals knowing we will reach them.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Future Unfolding

Lately I've been enthralled with the idea the small things we do today can have big consequences later. Sporadically I listen to Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast “Magic Lessons.” In one of the episodes, she speaks with a woman of Irish descent about the importance of stories and how they're not frivolous at all. Liz mentions the book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, describing how during the 6th and 7th centuries Irish monks and scribes copied manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, when most people weren't even reading yet. When the Roman Empire fell, all these works of literature would have been lost, except the Irish had copies and were able to reintroduce the manuscripts to the continent.

This story charmed me because here these monks and scribes were, engaging in the seemingly pointless task of copying manuscripts, and then years later, that task proved useful. I'd like to believe the same is true for all of us – the seemingly trivial things we engage in even though we're not sure why, will some day become important. We may not all save civilization, but we all still matter. We've all seen television shows and movies where people go back in time and because one detail was altered, history changes. What I'm starting to contemplate is how the same is true for the future – that what I'm doing now affects things down the road. Not just my personal life, but for the lives of others.

What will unfold in the future?
What will unfold in the future?

I think I've used this quote before but it's fitting in this context. My spiritual teacher says, “The Milky Way is vast from one end to the other; an ant is a very small creature, but the role of both of them in maintaining the balance of the universe is equal. If one ant meets a premature death, it will disturb the balance of the entire cosmos. Therefore, nothing here is unimportant, not even an ant. Suppose, an ant is sitting on the edge of a rock and it moves even one inch from east to west, and this disturbs the balance of the rock, it may cause a big earthquake – because after all, the ant is also God's original creation.”

I've heard that quote a few times, but when I mull it over, it's incredible. The premature death of an ant can disturb the balance of the entire cosmos! An ant! What does that mean for us and our lives? Particularly when we look beyond the scope of our death? Some of the reactions to our actions won't come to fruition until we are long dead and that's amazing to think about. How even from the grave our actions are rippling out, affecting humanity. It may not be as monumental as preserving classical literature, but then again it might.

I dream of a world where we realize no one is unimportant. A world where we realize our actions have ripple effects that we may never see. A world where we keep doing the things we are guided to do even when our brains ask, “What's the point?”

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Why Boundaries Make Us Vessels

On Thursday, I finally finished my Saturn return, meaning Saturn left the 20 degree orb from where it was when I was born. This led me to reflect on what the past four years have been like since I started this process, and what I've learned from this period. One of the biggest things I've learned is how to make and set healthy boundaries.

Boundaries do not come naturally to me. My natural predilection is for merger and oneness. I grew up in a yoga and meditation group that advocates dissolving the microcosmic self into the macrocosmic Self. My meditation practice focuses on feeling I am one with the loving, creative force that pervades the universe, and to see every expression as that loving, creative force as well. In my mind, boundaries keep me from that transcendent space. No one said that to me, by the way. That's purely my interpretation.

Boundaries are a good thing.
Boundaries are a good thing. There's even a heart in this photo.

I've been blogging for more than eight years so I have a digital record of my life and the issues I've faced. In November 2011, I wrote a post about boundaries as well. In it, I talked about the necessity of boundaries to keep myself safe. I displaced the notion safety meant avoidance and understood assertiveness is required for safety. The past several years has been learning that lesson over and over again until it stuck, but also I'm seeing the benefit of boundaries, not just because that's how I keep myself safe, but also that's how I become a vessel for cosmic consciousness.

In addition to emphasizing merger and oneness, my spiritual practices stress surrendering the mind, the self, letting it all go. I've wanted to surrender my mind and my self before understanding what they are, but that doesn't work. How can you give something away if you don't take ownership of it first? That's like presenting a person with a prewrapped gift – how do you know what's inside if you never took off the wrapping?

I feel so uncomfortable writing this post because again, it flies in the face of my natural inclinations, but what I'm coming to see is boundaries make me a container for the divine and creative force permeating all existence. Boundaries make me a vessel and an instrument that allows me to co-create with a power greater than myself. I liken it to a pen and ink. Cosmic consciousness is the ink and I am the pen. You can write with ink and no pen, using your finger perhaps, but it's blotchy and messy and not very clear. Writing with a pen though is sharper, more distinct, easier to read.

Boundaries make me better able to show up in the world and do the work I am meant to do. Declaring this is me and that is you keeps me from codependence, which is a kind of subservience where I make someone else more important than me. Where I make someone else's needs more important than mine.

We are each divine children of the universe, no better and no worse than anyone else. Taking care of myself by acting assertively, by understanding where I begin and where I end allows me to act accordingly, to treat myself with love, and to become a vessel for something greater than me.

I dream of a world where we understand boundaries are a necessary part of life. A world where we understand boundaries make us better able to do the work we are meant to do. A world where we realize boundaries make us vessels for love.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Grounded Hope

I feel a little strange writing this post on Rosh Hashanah eve, the Jewish New Year, for those of you who don't know. The New Year is a time of hope and celebration, optimism for what's ahead, but this post is about temperance.

For the past month, I've been getting in touch with my propensity to hope without any evidence. To hope things will change based on nothing more than a whim. September painfully brought me back down to earth, not because anything happened, but rather because I realized how damaging it is to have unbridled optimism.

For many years, I hoped people in my life would be different, that they would change their behavior, not based on any indication they had a desire to change, but rather because I wanted them to change. Last month in addition to accepting my health is what it is, I also started accepting people as they are. There's a version of the serenity prayer applicable in this instance: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me.”

Hope can still be magnificent if it's grounded.
Hope can still be magnificent if it's grounded.

As an optimistic, idealistic person, learning to temper my hope has been painful. Learning to live in reality and accept that this is the way things are, has been a tough pill to swallow. But on the other hand, I'm not so disappointed anymore. When someone responds the way they normally do, instead of feeling crushed, I feel neutral.

This post focuses on other people, but the case is also true for me. There are some things about myself that are not going to change, no matter how much I pray, say affirmations, or wish they were otherwise. And instead of feeling upset, I feel at peace.

I'm not saying hope is a bad thing because it's not. Hope is a powerful virtue when it's applied properly. There are many people doing great things in the world, and they give me hope for the future. That sort of hope is grounded, right-sized.

My spiritual teacher talks about harmony and equilibrium as most spiritual teachers do. It wasn't until this last month that I realized virtues also apply. I must strike a balance between hope and resignation, optimism and pessimism, faith and doubt. I used to think resignation, pessimism, and doubt should be avoided at all costs, but now I'm realizing they have their place, they serve a purpose. They help me live in reality and that's not such a bad thing.

I dream of a world where we temper our virtues. A world where we base our hope on evidence. A world where we strive for harmony and equilibrium, understanding that's how we know true peace.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Counterintuitive Answer

I am a compulsive doer. It's hard for me to sit still. I jokingly say I developed maladaptive stress syndrome because I burned out my adrenal glands from doing too much. But maybe it's not a joke. It should come as no surprise then that I search far and wide for solutions to my problems. I devour every book, every method, every suggestion with frenetic fervor hoping this, this will be the answer. Thus far, the answer has not presented itself. There is nothing worse than telling a compulsive doer there is nothing to be done.

On Wednesday, I went to the doctor again as a Hail Mary. I haven't had diagnostic tests done for several years so I figured why not? I cried and later laughed as she threw out suggestion after suggestion of things I've already tried. In addition, the bevvy of diagnostic tests all came back normal. It has become clear to me this is the end of the road. There is literally nothing left to do because everything has already been done.

I asked myself, knowing I have tried everything, can I finally accept my reality? Can I finally accept things as they are? After many tears, the answer is yes. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders because I no longer need to do anything. All the solutions have been tried. All that I'm left with is acceptance.

Sometimes the answer is counterintuitive, like an oasis in a desert.
Sometimes the answer is counterintuitive, like an oasis in the desert. 

Not knowing what I've been going through, a friend sent me a podcast from Invisibilia called “The Problem with the Solution.” In it, the show hosts talk about this very concept in the context of mental illness. They traveled to Geel, Belgium, where people with mental ailments live with families and are accepted just as they are. There is no stigma, the families don't even know the diagnoses. Mental illness is accepted just as it is, and wouldn't you know it, counterintuitively, people thrive in Geel. That's not to say the diagnosis vanishes, but it improves.

In the U.S., we are obsessed with solutions. We believe if we look long enough and hard enough, the solution will present itself. But what if it doesn't? What if there is no solution? What if the solution is accepting things as they are, right now? Please don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting people become doormats or tolerate injustice or give up on trying in general, but for the things which we keep trying to fix and are unable to, maybe those things require acceptance.

There's a story in the Mahábhárata that comes to mind. When Duhshásana was pulling the sari of Draopadii, she was tightly holding the cloth to her body with one hand, beseeching lord Krśńa with the other. “Oh! My lord, save me!” But he didn't come forward to save her. When Draopadii found no means of escape, she then released her hold on the cloth and appealed to the lord most piteously with both hands outstretched, saying, “O lord, I surrender my all to you. Do what you think is best.” And then the lord immediately rescued her.

I don't offer that story as a means to get what we want, because surrender and acceptance has to be real, legitimate, and complete without thoughts of what we want, but the story reminds me that when I surrender, release, and let go, that's when the divine has room to enter into my life.

I dream of a world where we accept the things we cannot change. A world where we understand there aren't always solutions. A world where we realize instead of doing something, sometimes we need to do nothing.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


I am very attached to my vision of things. I have an idea of how things “should” look and it's hard for me to let that go. In the nonviolent communication world, we'd call that being attached to a certain strategy for getting a need met.

This week I'm zeroing in on my strategies and also realizing I can still get my needs met without employing a specific one. For instance, I have a need for intimacy and connection (we all do). My perspective has been because I'm single, those needs are not getting met. However, I finally looked up the definition of both those words, to be sure they mean what I think they mean.

I'm refocusing and realizing things are perhaps not what they seem.
I'm refocusing and realizing things are perhaps not what they seem.

The definition of intimacy is "the state of being intimate; close familiarity or association. Nearness in friendship." And intimate means, "Innermost; inward; internal; deep-seated; hearty. Or near; close; direct; thorough; complete." Once I read that definition I said, "What am I complaining about? I have that in spades." Because I do. I have that with myself, I have that with friends. Heck, I have that with strangers.

Similarly, connection means “that which connects or joins together; bond; tie.” Did you know Rebekah means to tie or to bind? Guys, connection is quite literally my name. I already have what I want, it's inherent to who I am. It feels good to refocus and see nothing is missing in my life, although on the surface it may seem that way.

This topic also reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun. The main character moves to Tuscany, by herself, and cries to a friend about wanting a wedding in her house, and a family, and someone to cook for. She imagines that wish will become a reality because she meets someone, but in the end, her wish comes true in a different way: she hosts a wedding for her neighbor, her best friend moves in with her newborn daughter, and she starts cooking for her friends.

I realize Under the Tuscan Sun is a movie, but I love stories like these because they remind me the universe is open and surprising. That there are many ways to meet a need. That I don't have to cling to a certain strategy because the world is a vast and mysterious place. And furthermore, when I refocus, I may find I already have what I want.

I dream of a world where we take a closer look at our needs and find how they're already getting met. A world where we let go of our attachments to how things “should” go and instead let the universe unfold as it will.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Become a Gift

When I was 20, I studied abroad in London. I interned with a publication that encouraged me to plagiarize. As you can imagine, it wasn't a good fit. I was miserable and tried everything I could to get out of it – even going so far as lining up another internship, but the study abroad program said no. I still don't know why. My parents got involved too and that also yielded nothing. It was the first time in my life that I couldn't make my circumstances better. The first time I had to wait out a crappy situation. It was the first time I experienced a taste of authoritarianism and I hated it. The unfairness of it all outraged me.

The other day I watched a movie, Desert Dancer, and was reminded again, authoritarian regimes continue to exist. Except other people have it far worse. The movie takes place in Iran in 2009 where dancing is forbidden. I know, that's also the theme of Footloose, but Desert Dancer is no sappy comedy, it's real life. People are literally beaten and killed for expressing themselves artistically. As an artist myself, I'm horrified. Living in the U.S., I forget there are places in the world where legitimate authoritarian regimes exist. Where other people are not nearly as privileged as I am.

Become a gift.

After my experience in London, I was able to come back to my normal life, to one of privilege and relative ease. But the people in Iran? Or Syria? Or some other country that barely registers in my brain? They are not so lucky.

It is easy for someone like me, a college-educated white woman living in the U.S., to do one of two things: feel guilty for my privilege, or forget other people exist. In conversations with other white people, I see so often we wring our hands and say we feel badly about the things other people have to endure, but what can we do? Or we feel guilty our lives are different because of our privilege. We carry around our white guilt like a suitcase at airport security, always ready to show it to someone else for inspection.

I also see that we forget. We forget other people exist except when a horrific tragedy jerks us from our daily lives. We go about our days wondering if that guy will call or the raise will come through. We get caught up in our own worlds. I'm not saying that's entirely a bad thing – we must take care of ourselves – but we must also take care of others.

Friends, I don't want my two options as a person of privilege to be white guilt or amnesia. Neither of those options does anyone any good. I would much rather use my skills to make the world a better place. As a journalist, that means giving a voice to the voiceless. It means telling someone else's story and broadcasting it far and wide. For you, it may mean healing the sick or planting a community garden. We all have gifts and talents. There's a quote by Hans Urs von Balthasar that sums this up nicely I think. He said, “What you are is God's gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.” May we all become gifts not only to God, but to the rest of humanity.

I dream of a world where we use our talents in service of others. A world where we remember other people exist and we do our best to make the world a better place for everyone. A world where we all become gifts.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Moving Together

The other day I had an interesting experience. Coming home from the city, I stepped into Walgreens and noticed a couple in front of me, primarily because the man had a huge, green backpacking backpack. The couple left and I didn't think much of it until about half an hour later when I exited my station and I saw the same man! This is surprising because there are many trains and many stations he could have taken, but we ended up at the same one. Keep in mind, my station is a residential one – it's not a popular destination.

If that wasn't intriguing enough, the same day I sat next to someone at the train station and he too, got on my train and exited my station. When I noticed his presence as well as the man with the green backpack, all I could do was laugh. It reminded me that knowingly or unknowingly we are all moving together.

Even bubbles share space.
Even bubbles share space. 

In Sanskrit there are several words to denote this concept, one of which is samáj, which means “society,” or a group of people who are moving happily and peacefully. In today's world, this concept seems especially important to remember. Some people live in their own little bubble, thinking they are the only ones in existence. Other people are not thinking much about their actions and only looking out for themselves.

In the U.S. in particular we praise independence and rugged individualism. We're in love with the myth of the self-made person, the lone wolf. We romanticize the notion of self-sufficiency, or at least that's my perspective. However, I would challenge that notion. As I said to a friend the other day, it takes a village to raise a child, but I also think it takes a village to be a person. We're not meant to do everything by ourselves, and why would we want to? Like it or not, we're all in this together. Noticing those people on the train the other day reminds me we may think we're our own little universe, but our universes are moving together. We are all on this big blue planet spinning through space.

My spiritual teacher says, “The proper thing is for all members of the society to move in unison; and while moving together, each member should feel a responsibility for every other member of society. Those who are unable to move must be carried so that the rhythm of the collective movement remains unbroken.”

I love this notion because we may pretend otherwise, but we are all dependent on each other and the world would be a better place if we all started acting like it.

I dream of a world where we realize we are all moving together. A world where we feel responsible for other members of our society. A world where we take care of not only ourselves, but each other.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What's the Rush?

I am an impatient person. Almost nothing happens fast enough for me. I want things yesterday. Wait for something? No thanks. This is an attitude supported by our society, in my opinion. There's an underlying belief if something isn't happening on our timeline we need to move on. I notice in myself and others we don't want to wait – we want things to happen instantaneously.

I reflected on this during my meditation the other day and what bubbled up is, “What's the rush?” What's the rush indeed. Why am I in such a hurry to get where I'm going? Can I let things unfold naturally, and slowly?

My spiritual teacher says, “Suppose, immediately after planting some saplings and seeds, someone digs them up to find out if they have taken root or sprouted. That would not be considered wise.” He also says, “Each action has an equal and opposite reaction provided the three relative factors of time, space, and person remain unchanged. Whatever you do is an actional expression determined by your past actions. Your actions will certainly have reactions, but you may have to wait some time for their expression.”

Can we wait for flowers to bloom?
Can we wait for flowers to bloom?

Again with the waiting. We all know patience is a virtue and things get better with time, like wine and cheese, but I don't consume either of those things so I don't connect with that comparison. What helps me is I think of my mother. My mom graduated from medical school when she was 64. That in itself is inspiring, but particularly what I think of is how she opened her own medical practice. In the first year, she barely made anything, she hardly saw any patients. It would have been very easy for her to say, “Oh well, not happening fast enough, time to move on to the next thing.” Instead, she stuck with it. It's been a couple of years, but she reached a point where she needs to hire someone a few hours a week to help out around her office. It didn't happen quickly, but she's finally seeing results.

That also reminds me of a podcast I listened to the other day on fear and creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert. One of her guests was comedian Michael Ian Black who said persistence is the most underrated quality a creative can have and talent is the most overrated. That concept stuck with me like a burr because it says to me if I persist, I can be successful. If I keep putting in the work, eventually it will bear fruit. The timeline is not up to me, but the work sure is.

I'm not saying stick with something if it makes a person miserable. But maybe we're giving up on things too soon? Maybe if we had a little patience we'd see the results we're after? There are no hard and fast rules on this unfortunately, but for me, erring on the patient side often seems more beneficial than the action side. Maybe that's true for others as well.

I dream of a world where we are a little more patient to see results. A world where we're a little more patient with ourselves and each other, understanding not everything can be hurried. A world where we ask ourselves, “What's the rush?” and realize often there isn't one.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Carryovers from the Past

I had an interesting experience this week. A friend posted this article about how family trauma can be inherited. I'd heard of the concept before, especially when epigenetics came to the scene, but I didn't think the issues I'm addressing right now could be related. I thought epigenetics made me more prone to overreact to stress because my ancestors experienced stressful situations. Stuff like that. However, reading that article had me rethink some things.

One of the issues that's plagued me for a long time is a fear I'll be replaced, usurped, or forgotten. I attributed it to being a middle child, but this week I contemplated whether the issue was rooted in my ancestral lineage. Before World War II, both of my grandparents were married to other people and had families, all of whom were killed. By the time my grandparents married each other, in a way, their previous families were replaced, by the living.

This picture! How perfect.
This picture! How perfect.

My mother has shown me a family portrait taken before the war – a whole gaggle of people – and then she points to a few people and says, “These are the only ones who survived.” I have no idea who the rest of my relations are, I don't know their names, or their stories. They have been forgotten. Even typing this right now I'm tearing up because I feel the grief around that, these lost family members.

I started meditating after reading the article about inherited family trauma, and I said to all of my ancestors, “I'm inviting you back into the family. I'm acknowledging you. You have a place. You are not forgotten and your role will not be usurped.” Afterward, I became frenzied and manic. Energy buzzed through me and hours later after I calmed down, I felt relief in way that I haven't before. Instead of feeling insecure, worrying that I'll be replaced by someone else, I felt an assurance that I am irreplaceable.

I am fascinated by the whole thing because so often I think of myself living in a vacuum – my issues started with me and that's the end of it – but this experience has me thinking perhaps that's not true. My spiritual teacher says we are affected by our environments and by external sources. Not just in the sense of, “It's cold outside and that makes me cold,” but “I live with drug dealers so I'm more likely to deal drugs myself.” We all know this, don't we? It makes complete sense, but it didn't occur to me until the other day that the effects of someone else's actions who I've never met, who I don't know anything about, could be impacting me today. Not in terms of government policies, but personal traumas like being locked up in a mental institution or losing a child.

The good news is this stuff can be healed. Mark Wolynn, who wrote a book called It Didn't Start With You, says:
“On a higher level, I believe these traumas are important, because they lead us on a hero’s journey. We enter the path through introspection, through looking at what’s uncomfortable, by being able to tolerate what’s uncomfortable, and then by journeying in to what’s uncomfortable and emerging on the other side in a more expansive place, using what was contracting us as the source of our expansion. Many of us don’t realize that the trauma we are born to heal is also the seed of our expansion.”
I dream of a world where we delve into what's uncomfortable. A world where we understand our issues are not ours alone and may have a root in what happened to our ancestors. A world where we understand we all have carryovers from the past and we finally put the baggage down.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


I've come to believe that to be alive means to experience trauma; and I don't mean things like war, or car accidents (although those things too) -- I mean things like death, divorce, and anything else that shakes us up and makes us feel unsafe physically or emotionally. Trauma can also be secondary, by the way. It can be hearing or seeing someone else's traumatic experiences. When you take into account the majority of news stories, I'm pretty sure we're all walking around a little traumatized.

We all deal with trauma in our own ways, but I've noticed I deal with trauma by minimizing it, dismissing it, or doing whatever I can to distract myself from the depths of my feelings. Who wants to feel sad or angry or insecure when there are movies to watch, people to call? Who wants to feel sad or angry or insecure when there are places to visit and dreams to chase? I certainly don't. But the reality is, we can't outrun our trauma; it clings to us like a shadow. Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you'll call it fate.”

Go with emotions like flowing down a river.
Go with emotions like flowing down a river.

Carl, why you gotta be so spot on? I don't want to make the unconscious conscious, but I've reached a point in my life where I can't ignore it anymore. As someone said to me once, “What you resist, persists.” I wanted to punch them in the face when they said that to me, but I found, yes, it's true. I kept working so hard to resist, but my resistance didn't banish the problem, it only served to keep it alive. The question then becomes, how is a professional emotional runner, so to speak, supposed to all of a sudden stop running? How can a person face their demons instead?

When I brought this up to my therapist, he said to me, “Just lie down. Instead of actively trying to skirt the perimeter, yield, and let the flood wash over you.” And wash over me it did. When I stopped actively trying to do anything, all of the emotions overtook me. I didn't enjoy it, it wasn't “fun,” but I feel relieved. It takes a lot of energy to run away from feelings. A LOT. By stopping, by turning around to face my feelings instead, I feel drained, but in a good way. Like after a full day swimming.

To tie all of this to a spiritual concept, people talk a lot about being in the flow of life – me too – but I think it's important to remember, getting into the flow is not always an active process. Sometimes being in the flow is allowing ourselves to be carried by whatever is here. Just like flowing down a river, it's a lot easier if we don't resist, and also, we have no idea where it will take us.

I dream of a world where we yield to what we're resisting. A world where we feel our feelings instead of pushing them away. A world where we put ourselves into the flow by understanding sometimes that's a passive process.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Showing up for Destiny

I am deeply insecure. I want to know what's mine is mine, that it can never be taken away from me. I want to believe what belongs to me or with me has been earmarked with my name on it in indelible ink. I want to believe things are fated, that they are going to happen no matter what.

I turned to my spiritual philosophy for answers and instead of feeling reassured, I feel even more insecure, so that's awesome.

My spiritual teacher said, “The stars do not control you; your original actions control you. And where the original action is not known to you, but the result is known to you, the result is experienced by you, you say it is fate.”

This building didn't just appear, it had to be built, like our fate.
This building didn't just appear, it had to be built, like our fate.

In other words, for every action there is a reaction, and that reaction is often called fate. And the reaction may not be expressed in this lifetime so in that instance we're even more likely to call it fate. He also said we think things are predestined but “destiny cannot be the absolute factor, for if you do not exist, if you do not act, destiny cannot exist either.”

Arg. This does not make me happy because again, insecure and anxious over here, but at the same time, I appreciate the stance because it means I have to show up for my life. It means I have to be an active participant in my life to manifest the things I wish to see. Furthermore, the reactions will come about, we do reap what we sow. We are not puppets with strings, dancing about according to the whims of a capricious entity. What we do, what we say, how we act matters – not only for the here and now, but for the future. Our destiny is our own creation.

Here is what I know, which also ties into my post from last week. I have to stay focused on the here and now. I have to keep putting in effort to achieve what I want – it's not going to be handed to me on a silver platter, but other things will. And instead of thinking of those things as happy coincidences, it's important for me to understand it's perhaps as a result of past actions I took, actions I may not even be aware of. Furthermore, something else I know to be true, is the universe is working for our benefit. There are forces at work that want to see me succeed, that guide me, that steer me in the right direction, and it's important to keep coming back to that. To keep coming back to center.

I guess what I'm saying here is I am not powerless. I am not off the hook for my life. At the moment, that terrifies me, but maybe tomorrow I'll wake up feeling empowered because ultimately that's what this philosophy about fate is seeking to do: to let me know my actions matter and to behave accordingly.

I dream of a world where we have a sense of our own agency. A world where we realize fate is the reaction to a previous action. A world where we keep showing up for our lives because we understand we mold our own fates so the present should be properly utilized for the future.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Don't Peer Too Far

Do not set your eyes on things far off.” - Pythian Odes

I've had at least four people mention to me some iteration of, “What are the gifts where you are?” so it seemed like a good post to write today.

I am deeply unhappy about a few things in my life. There are a few things I want to change and they aren't changing fast enough, darnit. It's easy for me to peer ahead, to fantasize about the future, and then get frustrated when the future is not my present reality. I've had so much resentment this week about that and accordingly, people keep asking me to practice gratitude for where I am.

Don't peer too far ahead.
Don't peer too far ahead.

It didn't go well because I don't want to practice gratitude for where I am. I don't want to see the gifts from my current situation. I'd much rather live in the imagined future where my dreams have come true, thank you very much. But here's the icky thing: I'm not there. As much as I want to be, do, or have something else, that's not this present moment. And because I don't enjoy this present moment, it means my compulsions have kicked up. I keep checking facebook, email, and instagram to pull me from the here and now because I'm not enjoying the here and now.

As you can imagine, my compulsions haven't solved anything either.

I experienced a shift when I asked myself, “What if I viewed this situation as temporary? What if I knew it would end?” Somehow that made all the difference. For me, whatever I'm experiencing now, I think I'll experience forever. It's hard for me to keep in mind this too shall pass, and it's the notion there isn't an endpoint that causes me so much distress. When I know there's an endpoint though, everything becomes more bearable. And when I know there's an endpoint, I can start to see the gifts of my current situation. I view things differently and understand this is a period where I'm being given the opportunity to cultivate whatever, fill in the blank, and I get myself back to a place of gratitude.

I know this is a vague post but that's because I'm not ready to discuss the specifics in a public forum, but I think the lesson is a good one. How often do we view our present situation as interminable? How often do we think the way things are will be the way things continue? It's helpful for me not to say to myself, “This too shall pass,” because, great, glad to know maybe when I'm 95 this will pass, but instead to affirm this has an endpoint because it does. When I know there's an endpoint, I can quit asking, “When will this be over?” Staying present can be difficult sometimes, but maybe if we knew there will be an end, staying present would be easier.

I dream of a world where we're able to focus on the here and now, even if we don't like it. A world where we understand all things are temporary. A world where we do our best to stay present because we understand each experience or period has something for us to mine.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why Discernment is Crucial

There's a lot of talk recently about how Americans are uninformed, uneducated, etc. I've seen quote after quote about how we need to fix our education system so that tyrants are not believed and do not come into power. However, as someone who has a college degree, I do not consider myself to be uneducated, yet I'm still taken in by high-minded speeches. I am easily swept away by rhetoric, especially if the person is addressing a pain point.

I read an article recently about why poor whites chant “Trump, Trump,” and the author said it's for so many reasons, but one of them is Trump speaks to the frustration of poor whites. Of people who feel like the government doesn't care about them. The author said, “Trump supporters believe he’s different. They believe that he cares about us [poor white people], that he tells it like it is, that he gives us a voice, that he can’t be bought because he’s already rich, that he’s railing against politics as usual.”

Discernment is so critical right now.
Discernment is so critical right now.

Related, I read another article about the historical perspective of what will happen next with Brexit and Trump. Tobias Stone said, “Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, [and] people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.”

The part that stands out to me is “rhetoric that has no detail.” I think it's crucial not that we become more educated, but that we become more discerning. To ask ourselves, “OK, you promise to make America great again, but how and at what cost?” It is so easy to get swept away by something because it sounds good. It's much harder to use our brains to dig in and figure out the details. I say this as someone who struggles with discernment herself. I can't tell you how many books I've purchased because the author proclaimed they had all the answers and could help me live the life of my dreams.

My spiritual teacher is a big advocate of discernment or discrimination. He says it is only through discrimination the mind can determine the goodness or evil in a thing or in its uses. And also that proper questioning is vital. Proper questioning is “asking questions to the right people who will provide appropriate answers to help one solve any problem one may encounter.”

I appreciate that he says the right people. That means I need to ask questions of people who know more than me, someone more experienced. An expert if you will, not someone who sounds like they know what they're talking about but is actually full of crap.

What I'm advocating here is not that we become more educated, more informed, but rather that we approach things with a healthy degree of skepticism. That we ask ourselves, “How do I know this is true?” instead of assuming automatically it is. Does this post sound preachy? If so, it's because I'm gunning for our future. When we stop discerning, that's when despots rise to power and very few people benefit in that instance.

I dream of a world where we practice discernment. A world where we ask how we know something is true instead of automatically buying it hook, line, and sinker. A world where we understand using our brains not only benefits us, but the entire society. A world where we realize discernment is crucial.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

One Race: The Human Race

Fyi, this is also a podcast.

The other day I entered into a discussion with a facebook friend about “Black Lives Matter” and “All lives matter.” His point was that all lives matter and that we should focus on unity, not division. He then proceeded to quote our spiritual teacher who said, “There is only one race in the entire world, and the name of that race is the human race. We are bound together with the same breast milk of mother Earth, and the same sun and moon are our common companions.”

I get where he and others are coming from. We all have the same needs. We all want respect, we all want to be valued. I think most of us are saying in one form or another, “What about me?” so when one group is highlighted or given more attention, the reaction of others is to say, “Yeah, but what about me?” I understand. But my question for the people who are chanting, “Unity, unity,” is how exactly do you propose we become unified? How exactly would you like us to become one human race?

There is only one race.
There is only one race.

I think of unity like a marriage. When both people are committed to working on themselves, to treating each other well, the marriage is great. However, when one person is abusing the other, it's not so great. It seems to me the people advocating for unity are requesting minorities stay in a loveless, abusive marriage. I understand vows were made, but how is staying married helping anybody? Just because you're committed to each other doesn't mean the abuse will stop. The abuse only stops when one person says, “Enough. No more.” That to me is what's happening with “Black Lives Matter.” Black people in this country are finally saying, “Enough. No more.”

A recent article in the Washington Post by Stacey Patton sums this up nicely. Patton said:
"Talk of unity, reconciliation, and restoring trust is a diversion from the raw, ugly, excruciatingly painful work of addressing the systemic racism that is tearing our nation apart. In their rush to avoid the real work in favor of a kumbaya fantasy comfort zone, they refuse to confront history and the truth about the present moment.

[W]hat the message of unity winds up doing is blaming communities of color for failing to assimilate, rather than acknowledging that the very fabric of this nation is built upon a diabolical, calculated, and constantly evolving system of racism."
Far from leading to a divisive, destructive place, I see rooting out racism as the first step toward real unity. Toward identifying with only one race: the human race. I thought about citing statistics of how black people are unfairly targeted as evidence of the abuse taking place, but from my perspective it's unnecessary because what the Black Lives Matter people are advocating will help us all, no matter what color we are. Asking for more accountability and transparency from the police can only benefit all of us. Yeah, it may be seemingly divisive right now to focus on black people but I think it's more important to look at the big picture. Where are we heading? What is this leading toward? From my perspective, it's leading toward one human society where we can say, “All lives matter,” and it rings true not only in rhetoric but in practice.

I dream of a world where we ferret out problems so that we may solve them. A world where we understand sometimes we have to focus on one group at a time in order to benefit us all. A world where we act as if there is only one race: the human race.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.