Category Archives: Opening Up

TO MY VALENTINE

A LETTER TO MY SIX-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON

February 7, 2017

Dear Morgan,

I suppose your class is beginning to talk about Valentine’s Day. You’re probably seeing lots of heart decorations and valentine cards and candies in the stores. Some people think the whole idea of having a special day to celebrate love with flowers and cards and candy is ridiculous. Some people think its pretty cool. I always liked Valentine’s Day because my birthday is the day before so my birthday parties were always full of valentines.

But what the heck is this day really about?

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Emperor Claudius II ruled Rome. He was nicknamed Claudius the Cruel because of the cruel ways he abused his people and for the many wars that he started. Because of him, Rome was fighting so many wars that Emperor Claudius couldn’t find enough soldiers to fight for him. He blamed this on the idea that men were refusing to join his army because they did not want to leave their partners or families. So Claudius decided to make it illegal to get married and have a family. The people were afraid of Claudius, so no one stood up to him.

Except for a Christian priest named Valentine. Valentine was a kind man. He felt great compassion for people who were suffering because of the cruel Emperor. He helped them in any way that he could. One of the things that he did was to secretly perform weddings for people who wanted to be married. Eventually the Emperor found out and had Valentine arrested.

There are many legends about the things that happened while Valentine was in prison. One story says that he healed the blind daughter of the Prison Guard. Emperor Claudius had Valentine killed on February the 14th in the year 273. Because of the stories of how Valentine demonstrated love and compassion despite the cruelty of Claudius, the tradition of “Valentine’s Day” got started. It has evolved through the hundreds of years since he died to what we know today.

I like the story of Valentine. I like that this day is about Hearts. Morgan, did you know that every single person in the world has 2 hearts? There is the one we can see which is the heart that pumps the blood through our body. If that heart stops, our body dies.

But deep inside that heart is another heart–one that doctors cannoheart-of-lightt see with X-rays or surgery. It is made of pure Light–and inside this Heart is our True Self–some people call it our Soul, or our Spirit. It is the part of us that lives forever, even when our body can’t live anymore.

The love we feel and the love and kindness we share with others comes from our second heart, our Heart of Light that lives quietly inside the big one that is pumping our blood. When we talk about “opening our heart” to care about someone, or to forgive someone, or to be kind to someone–it is this Heart of Light inside us that we are opening.

This Heart of Light cannot die, but its light can grow dim. Think about when your Daddy builds a fire in the backyard. If he puts a lot of wood on the fire, the fire gets big and bright, right? If he stops putting wood on the fire, gradually the fire gets smaller and smaller until there are just some glowing coals of burnt wood left.  This is what can happen to our loving Heart of Light. When someone is kind to us, it is like putting a log on the fire. We feel loved and we feel warm inside. The light in our special heart burns brighter.

But, when someone isn’t loved very well the light in their heart can get very small. If someone is bullied and hurt, they might close off this special heart. They are trying to protect themselves from feeling the hurt. If they do this, their special heart can grow hard, like a lump of charcoal. They might become mean and angry, or very depressed and lonely. The love in their Heart of Light will become just a faint glow among the coals.

So what does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? I like to think about all the little valentines we give our friends and family and the special people we love as a way to say, “Hey, I know that you are special! I see the Heart of Light inside you. You are important and valuable. You are loved.” And our message is like a little stick placed in the fire to make it burn a little bigger. Our message makes their Heart of Light shine a little brighter.

This day is a reminder to us to keep our Heart of Light open so that kindness and love can come into us. When our Heart of Light is full of love, we can be kind and loving to others. This special day reminds us to keep filling up each other’s hearts with love. Just like putting wood on the fire. Valentine’s Day reminds us of a man who was willing to be compassionate and kind and to help people, even when a cruel Emperor tried to make it illegal to love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweet boy.

Love,

Nonna

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Change Isn’t Easy and Healing is Hard Work — Part I

November 24, 2016

INVITATION TO THE JOURNEY OF CHANGE

I have lain here in the dark before dawn morning after morning. I awaken in these early hours with a weight in the trunk of my body–as though someone had opened me up and filled me with stones while I slept. It takes me some time to breathe through the panic, to move through this murky mud of despair. I focus on the threads of light woven through this dark. I bring to mind the goodness spreading through the world–the heroic actions of so many people determined to act with compassion in a world filling up with hate and fear. I bring to mind the beauty of the Earth where I live. I offer gratitude for the many blessings, the privileges and the comfort that I experience everyday: I wake up in a warm and comfortable home; I have healthy food in my fridge and cupboard; I have hot and cold water at the flick of a faucet–water that is safe. There will be no bombs falling on my city, no military marching down my street, no blockades impeding my drive across town. I do not fear for the lives of my children or my sweet grandbabies.

Finally I am able to get up. To sit on my couch and watch the dawn slowly melt away the dark.

Last evening I watched a documentary that briefly summed up what is happening to our Earth around the globe. The massive dead spots in the oceans. The rate of ice melt in the Arctic and how that is effecting the currents in the Atlantic Ocean–the North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) circulation that effects the Gulf Stream–which regulates the temperatures in Europe. Scientists are concerned that the NADW will stall and shut down, an event which  within a matter of a few years would plunge Europe into an ice age. The deforestation happening around the world is screwing up our oxygen levels, as well as causing droughts and deserts and death and suffering to millions of species of life. The plankton being killed in the oceans lowers (and in some cases eliminates) oxygen in parts of the ocean, which suffocates to death all the marine life in those areas. I watched footage of the atomic bombs we set off repeatedly in the not so distant past, both on land and in the oceans, and was reminded of other testing that has gone on more recently deep inside the earth and oceans. How can anyone think that this does no harm to the Earth? The film showed the increase in volcanic activity around the globe; the increase in earthquakes even in places where we have never experienced them in modern times. Some of this is thought to be the result of the explosive weapons experiments and also from the fracking we have been doing; our incessant drilling and mining and exploding of the Earth to get at what we want to “support our way of life”.

The film also showed the natural phenomenon that is contributing to the environmental upset the Earth is experiencing. We are moving into a new region of the galaxy which is exposing us to new levels of energy; the magnetic field around the Earth has been shifting and the Sun is dramatically increasing its solar activity. While it is true that this is disruptive for Earth and contributes to environmental changes, it is made clear in this film, and in other documentaries and relevant articles, it is what we have done, and are continuing to do to the Earth that has weakened her. We have made her vulnerable to destruction in a way she would not be if we hadn’t messed things up. When we are warned of an impending hurricane, those living in the target area prepare. They do not ignore the warnings. Preparing well will hopefully see them through the storm safely. Similarly we have been warned about what our reckless, irresponsible treatment of our planet would do…and we have denied the warnings, lied to ourselves that it couldn’t be true despite the evidence. We’ve continued our abuse of the planet and those that live here–plants, animals, birds, insects, marine life, soil, water and air. And people. All for money and “our way of life”. And that mostly for a very small percentage of the 7 billion people who live here.

I have heard some Christians say that the chaos and the destruction of our planet is  evidence of “the end times” as laid out in Revelations in the New Testament. If this is so, why, when it has always been within our power to choose to be responsible with this planet we have been entrusted with, why would we think it is “okay” to do what we have done despite the warnings and evidence of the destruction it has caused? Why do we think it is okay to continue to do it and then blame the results of what we have all chosen to do on God? Shifting the consequences of our irresponsibility onto those deemed immoral, those who do not honor our idea of the “true God”–saying it is “God’s judgment”? What we and this Earth suffer will be the consequence of our own collective choices to do what we have done to the Earth we were given, our own greed and irresponsibility, our own refusal to fully embrace and live in accordance with the greatest commandments outlined in every religion and spiritual practice on this planet–to Love our Creator, His creation, and to Love one another. If the end of this world as we have known it has come upon us–it has been by our own hand. We always have had a choice. We still do.

In the book of Micah in the Old Testament, chapter 6 verses 7 and 8 it is written: …“Does the LORD take delight in [the sacrifice of] thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? No, He has told you, O man, what is good…And what does the LORD require of you? To practice justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.” Which brings to mind a well-known passage in the New Testament: 1st Corinthians chapter 13 verses 1 – 13. Here we are admonished that if we do all the “right things” that are considered by us to be righteous–from speaking in tongues, to studying all the holy texts, to having faith to perform miracles, to helping the poor and doing many good deeds, even sacrificing our comfort or our very life for what we believe–but yet, do not embody love, do not know love, do not open the flow of love to others and all that God has created…we are nothing. The passage goes on to describe to us what exactly this love looks like in action: patient, kind, not envious or self-seeking. It does not dishonor others in how we treat or speak of or to them, or even think of them. This love does not anger easily or hold grudges. It does not delight in evil, or the pain of even our enemies. This love always protects–everyone and all things created. This love always trusts, hopes and perseveres. The passage ends by saying that faith, hope and love yet remain–but the greatest of these is love.

A long time ago I began to wake up to how arrogant my “righteousness” was–how bereft of real love I was. My heart was closed. I wasn’t able to allow love to flow…like a garden hose turned on full strength, but twisted and kinked so that the flow was cut off, the water unable to make it through to give itself to the thirsty ground. Love was something I had a mental construct of and worked to behave in accordance with–but it wasn’t something that filled me, or flowed from me freely. I was the “noisy gong, the clanging symbol” of 1st Corinthians. I made a commitment at that time that I would take myself on a journey to learn this love. To open the flow and heal my heart .

I thought it would be easy. Just a series of decisions and choices.

The journey has been rigorous. Like climbing a mountain. Like deciding to walk across America for a cause with only a few necessities in your backpack, trusting that your needs will be met along the way. It brings to mind Jesus’ description in Matthew 7 of such a journey: “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate [path] is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. For the gate [path] is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Or as I wrote recently to some friends, “Change isn’t easy, and healing is hard work.”

At one time I arrogantly thought that verse referred to the “few” who chose to be Christians–“born again”. But then I finally had to reckon with something else Jesus described in this same chapter: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ In a later chapter he describes judging the nations and he welcomes into his kingdom many who are surprised and amazed because they had not even known his name (in other words, were not Christian nations?) But he says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” But those who are being sent away cannot believe it–they consider themselves the ‘righteous’. But he says, “you did not help those who were hungry and thirsty, you did not care for the stranger in need, or ill, or in prison–and thus you did not do this for me.”

The tricky part is reconciling the good deed with a true flow of love from the heart. It’s all about motivation, I guess.

If the will of the Father–the Creator–by some referred to simply as “Source” is to Love, is to care for one another and for all things that have been created–why do we spend our energy and money and time fighting about whose dogma, whose vocabulary, whose story of creation is “right”? Part of my awakening those many years ago was noticing how truly loving and kind, merciful and humble were many people I knew or knew of who were not of the same religion that I believed at the time was the only one that was “correct”. There were so many who were far more “godly” than I was. I began to see how foreign really living the tenets of even my own religion was to me, and to many who I knew within my church.

And so I left the familiar shores of my life, and set out on my journey–to become this Love that I saw written into the very fabric of the world. This Love to which every spiritual practice calls their followers.

I have watched this call to Love going out from all corners of the world. I have read of children and young adolescents starting programs and movements to practice Kindness and Compassion. I have watched a group of people from many nations and from different religions craft The Charter For Compassion and gift it to the world, beginning a movement within the Faith community to create unity and peace. I have watched as hundreds of blogs and other internet sites have sprung up to post quotes and articles ranging from the esoteric to the scientific about the effects of kindness, of positive thinking, of compassion, of joy–all things that we’re admonished to practice within the texts of all the major religions. I have watched the movements to protect the planet and all its creatures grow in strength and numbers. I am watching the increasing awareness of how interconnected everyone and everything in this world and throughout the universe truly is. I have watched what used to be obscure information about the science behind this interconnection and the power of our thoughts and words to create become mainstream information. I have read with hope and relief of the inventions and experiments going on that can not only replace our unhealthy sources of energy, fuel and food with those that are healthy, but also ways to heal the damage we have done.

And yet, despite all this Light, we still are bowing and acquiescing to the Darkness–to war and separation and greed and “the way it’s always been done”. We are still renting rooms in our hearts and minds to Fear–and submitting to his bidding.

Each of us have experienced situations where we have had to struggle through a personal challenge to choose the way of Love and Compassion. Of real, true forgiveness. [And, by the way, by forgiveness I do not mean ‘acceptance’ or letting the one who has done harm think it is ‘no big deal’, or that ‘it’s okay’; it’s about letting go of the hurt that we’ve nursed, releasing the debt we harbor.] But now we are being confronted collectively as well as personally with choosing the way of Love and Compassion and Kindness and yes, Forgiveness, on a local, national and global scale.

How do we do this? This is what I wrestle with in the dark before dawn.

To Be Continued…

THE THUMPER RULE

December 2, 2015

MY GUIDING BUNNY

Some people have Spiritual Guides in human form–counselors, priests, pastors, teachers. Some people have Spiritual Guides in the form of Spirit Beings, like Angels or other Beings of Light.

I have Animals. Sometimes real ones. A dragonfly brought me a message one spring day when I was trying to resolve a problem. She flew right up to me and hovered about a foot from my face…she just stayed there until finally the “aha!” broke through to my consciousness; then she flew off.  Another day  when I was particularly edgy and cantankerous I went for a walk and inadvertently walked into the middle of an entire herd of deer. Deer Medicine is all about Gentleness and Grace. I stood stock-still, with silent tears rolling down my face. Two young ones actually walked towards me, stopping about eight or ten yards away. After about 15 minutes, they all slowly wandered off and I went home, gentled, graced and peace-filled.

But my Animal Guides aren’t always real.  I have a Tiger and a Bear and a Wolf in my Mind’s menagerie. The Tiger’s name is Jack and he’s the one teaching me that there aren’t any parts of my Self that I need to kill off…it’s more about integrating. He’s taught me that Ego’s aren’t monsters that we need to keep caged somewhere deep in the dungeons of our psyche. They just need to learn when to move over and let the more Enlightened One of Us drive the bus.

But this isn’t about Wolves and Tigers and Bears. No. This is about a Bunny. Yesterday, Thumper got loose from the Bambi set and came wandering into my bathroom. I had just scrubbed the floor an hour previously, but there I was wiping up a pile of whiskers. Evidently my husband had dumped the whisker bin from his electric razor mostly on the floor, with some on the toilet seat and in the sink, just to keep it interesting. I think he meant to put it in the wastebasket, but he was probably looking at something else, his brain three steps ahead of his body. Sometimes his brain is actually out the door and three blocks down the street before his body leaves the house. You can imagine what he doesn’t notice then! Frowning, I could feel my body tense as my mind furiously wrote up the negative incident report that I would surely deliver as soon as he came upstairs.

Suddenly, there was Thumper, shyly peeking out from behind the wastebasket.

I eyed him suspiciously.

“Hello,” said Thumper.

Wow, I thought. I haven’t seen Bambi in maybe, oh, 25 years?

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Well, ummm, I just came to remind you what my father taught me. It’s pretty good advice, ” said Thumper.

He ducked his head shyly. His foot started nervously thumping. And I remembered.

“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all,” said Thumper and I. Together.

“You know this one?” asked Thumper.

“Yeah. I guess I do,” I said.

“Cool!” said Thumper. He loped out of the bathroom. Then he quick stuck his head back around the door-frame. “Don’t forget, now!” he said.

And he was gone.

I finished cleaning up the bathroom and joined my husband in the kitchen where he was making smoothies. I opened my mouth…

“Remember!” whispered an invisible Thumper.

I shut my mouth.

I never mentioned the whisker mess.

Not once.

I have been thinking a lot about my new Thumper Rule. My life will be so much more amazing because my focus will be on all the good stuff. I’ll bet I’ll smile more. I might even discover humor in the nooks and crannies of my life.

Thumper never said ‘If you can’t say something nice to someone…’. He simply said, ‘If you can’t say something nice…’ Period. About anything or anyone or to yourself.

Does that include the weather do you think? And stupid drivers? And insurance regulations? OMG–does it include politicians?!

I just finished writing a letter to someone because they had written one to me and it required a response. It took me 4 days. I had to keep applying my new Thumper Rule so I had to keep deleting shit–stuff– and re-framing, ah–stuff, and…Whew! What an exercise! It was like running a fucking–um–an exhausting–marathon. But different.

IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, DON’T SAY NOTHING AT ALL…

 

SAYING “YES”! TO LIFE

April 20, 2015

ON SAYING “YES”!

My fifteen month old grandson despises the word “No”. Even when the word is not directed at him he feels in his baby soul the obstruction, the obstacle, the closing off of the flow of his baby curiosity and busyness and quite reasonably, he rebels with every cell of his little Self. When we say, “yes” we are opening ourselves up to experience more of something. Maybe that is more work, more love, more honesty, or an adventure. “Yes” is a positive word that opens up possibilities. Saying “yes” often elicits gratitude from the one standing in front of us hoping we will open up.

Having long struggled with clinical depression, as I began to learn about the power of our thoughts, attitudes and words, I developed the habit of throwing my arms wide and (when possible) shouting, “I say “YES”! to Life!” If I couldn’t shout outloud, I’d shout in my mind and whisper with my voice. Usually, no matter how I felt about Life in that moment, one good shout would lead to another. I’d begin to at least think, and often verbalize what indeed I was saying “YES!” to in my life; what I wanted to invite into my experience. Yes to joy filling up my heart. Yes to love and kindness and forgiveness. Yes to healing. Yes to the work of the day. Yes to Grace. Yes to the lesson that perhaps I was embroiled in. Yes to being present in both the bitter and the sweet in my life.

This often led to thinking about the blessings and gifts in my life. Sometimes, saying “Yes!” would break me open, and the sorrow, the grief, the anger and confusion would pour out. Sometimes it would take me to the floor, to my knees, weeping; trying to make sense of the pain.

But I knew that if I could say “YES!” and mean it, somehow, it would open a way out of the dark places and into the light.

The other day, with the sun slipping up over the horizon and the birds having a breakfast party next door, I opened the window to a surprisingly warm Spring breeze and I couldn’t help a little shout out, “I say YES! to Life!” And I was suddenly struck by the strangest little Aha!

Conditioned as I’ve been to resignedly accept that Life will serve up the bitter with the sweet, I settled however uncomfortably into the belief that I must accept both if I’m to live fully, living out both the blessings and the hardships with awareness, presence and grace.

But the other morning, I mused: Saying “YES!” to Life, means saying yes to the LIFE that is in everything; every person and creature, every situation. It doesn’t mean glumly accepting an experience I’d rather not be having; it means looking for the Life that is in that experience. It doesn’t mean heroically saying Yes! to kindness and compassion while putting up with a really difficult person; it means looking for the Life in that person, however weak and spindly it might be. It doesn’t mean humbly accepting disappointment and situations that I suspect are either of my own creation, or beyond my control…it means seeking for the Life in those situations as though looking for lost treasure. The Life I find might be a precious lesson that increases my wisdom factor, or leads me away from an old, skanky rut in my brain, or out of a vicious cycle I’ve been recreating for years. It may be a breakthrough in a tangled up relationship or it might open the way to a new friendship. It might be a new perspective on an old situation. It might be the arrival of good news. It might be a new opportunity that my fears had previously blocked. It might be presents. It might be the manifestation of my wildest dreams.

Suddenly, Life looks very different to me. And saying YES! to Life, is suddenly not about “doing the right thing”, or about holding the yawning “black hole” at bay.  Life is suddenly become a grand adventure!  A treasure hunt that cannot be rivaled, not by the grandest pirate king of all. And with it has come a flood of light and peace and little streams of joy, watering the dormant seeds long buried in my heart.