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Archive for the ‘Dedicating Merit’ Category

“May all beings be free from suffering, may all beings quietly between breaths follow the path across the horizon.  The out-breath brings dreams that has no beginning and no end drifts through the song that precedes our birth and dispels the illusion that we are or are not who we think we are”.

Ondrea Levine, “The Healing I Took Birth Ford:  Practicing the Art of Compassion.

Stephen and Andrea Levine are two of my favorite meditation teachers and writers.  Their work is so profound and intimate.

Suffering takes different forms for different people but it always the same; that which takes us out of the moment and into our heads. . . obsessing, grasping, hurting, hating, clinging, perseverating, wanting, etc.  It is the stories we tell ourselves. . . you know them….

“I’ll be happy when. . . ”

“I start a yoga class while. . . ”

It’s also ego-clinging and not being able to let go of our beliefs and ways.

Do you know what causes your suffering?  Do you know that there is a way to end suffering?

Come back for my articles on the Eight-fold Noble Path.

May we share the merit of all of our good intentions and actions with those whose suffering is never-ending.

In health and compassion,

Jennifer

 

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It is hard to let go of things, harder to let go of ideas, and even harder to let go of spiritual pretensions. Over time, as we familiarize ourselves with the many subtle twists and turns of letting go, we begin to be more savvy about how ego steps in to appropriate the entire process. In the millions of mini-decisions we make day by day and moment by moment, we are challenged each time either to let go or to re-solidify.  ~~~  Judy Lief, “Letting Go”

This has been a huge topic in my life this year and I finally came to grips with the face that I needed to sit with this topic or go mad.  Well, not really.  More like be mad, frustrated, hurt, angry, disappointed, betrayed, etc.  And I think I could write 100 blogs articles on this topic and never feel satisfied.  But from now until my next birthday, March, I plan to look at this topic, again and again, to see what truth it holds for me.

The hardest thing to let go of this year was a long time friendship. . . no the long, long ones, but someone who I’ve known about 10 years and had immense faith in up until recently.

It’s so painful to feel betrayed and lose the fidelity of someone you consider to be family, to be a sister, and someone whom you’ve shared the intimate stories of your life.

I’ve long known that friendships did not last forever.  I’ve lived in many places and have lost touch with people mostly because we were out of proximity.  I few people I’ve even turned away from when my grief was too much and I could not take the energy expenditure it took to keep up with the friendship.

And what I have found with time is that letting go of idea, belief, quest, dream, person, etc. is that there are layers and layers to let go of.  For example, when Mike died, I lost a brother.  I lost my big brother.  I lost the person whom I looked up to, especially on things of culture as he loved music, fashion, the arts, cooking, etc.  I miss that influence in my life.  Genetically, he was the person closest to me in the world.  And for those of you who haven’t lost a sibling, that might not make sense and I hope you never have occasion to “get it”.

But just as this was true for Mike or Harris & Barb, or anyone else I have loved, it is true of our dreams, our fears, and our desires.

I ask you to join me, in the months ahead, to look at your life and see what no longer fits, what hurts, what you never use, what you can’t have because there is no space in your life, or who you need to let go, by choice or my circumstance.

Ask yourself:  How does this benefit my life today?  Does it bring me closer to my dreams?  Does it connect to the deepest part of me?  Can I trust this person?  Do I trust them enough to bring up the subject and work through the problem?  What about your health, your mental health, your body, etc?    Are there things you need to let go of, release out into the cosmos?  Do you need to say goodbye to stress, anxiety, mindless eating, anger, a stale job, or habits that do nothing or perhaps harm you?  Ask yourself what are you willing to look at?  Do you have support as you look at these things?  Maybe even start of with that question first — if you are going to let go and allow healing to occur, who is there to support you in your process?

Feel free to share via post or email.  If you use the Ask Here tab, you can email and if you tell me not to share it in a post, I will happily respect that request.

May your heart know great love and gentleness.

Jennifer

 

 

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This morning, I was reading a Facebook post by Robert Reich.  I had seen his commentaries on Facebook and in the last week, what I have seen has appeared normal, sane, and much more positive than a lot of other things out there.  So, I decided to “like” him on Facebook so I could read more things from him.

Just after this morning’s post, I know he is a man with a lot to say, both from his intellect and from his heart.  He described being with his 102 year old dad and feeling the need to hide our current state of affairs from him and I totally get that.  And I have a lot of respect for him wanting to shelter his dad from the enormity of just how crazy and scary our world is right now.

How many things his dad has lived through!  My grandfather would be 102 in Feb ’16 if he were still alive.  One of my dad’s cousins just posted that her dad would be 100 years old if he was alive too.  How to even imagine what it means to have lived for 100 years, let alone the last 100 years in the world.   I think back to when Mike died 20 years ago or even Lois dying 15 years ago.  It’s painful to search for people you loved (love) and find no trace of them on the net.  It’s like they didn’t exist.  You can find everything on the net, right?

Even as a child, I was curious about the fight between good and bad, light and dark, saviors and villains.  Maybe it was all the Catholic school teachings?  Maybe it was just from seeing movies, news, tv, etc.  Maybe those “inherent” dichotomies are just born into us?  I’m not sure.  But this is something I think of, time to time, when I let my world get quiet.  We’ve come so far in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.  And yet, where would we be if the US was not so slow to talk about it.  Thank goodness for Rock Hudson and Reagan having HIV sitting in his living room.

On one hand, we have fewer and fewer people acknowledging any religious tradition and many of us do not turn to Judeo-Christian religions for our ethics and morals, or our solace when nothing makes sense.  But we do have people who have made it their spiritual journey to fight for the planet, those less fortunate, those with particular illnesses, and I think that should be commended.

We don’t have to kneel in the pews to praise the glory of the dawn or the expanses of the universe or hold intentions that the hate in the world will one day dissipate.  We have more kids, young kids, trying to solve the problems in the world — the kid who wants to clean the plastic out of the oceans, a 10 year old who sings to the elderly, a 13 year old that sends teddy bears to kids in Haiti after the earthquake, etc, etc.  Maybe listening to our children makes more sense than to listen to the vile hate and evil on the tv and internet today.  You know, the reports of cities make it illegal to feed a homeless person or setting up metal spikes to keep them from holding up outside of buildings.  Or those who spew hate about a particular religion or people. . .

I try to stay away from the news, and try to focus on my world and try to figure out how to break the confines of hate, gossip, treachery, and ill will.  I try to work with those things within my own heart and mind because if I can’t how do I expect anyone else to?  If I can’t what makes me think anyone else will take on that huge task, especially alone like I currently am.

But folks, it’s not a time to give up easily or to flirt with things like spirituality, rightness, goodness, kindness, advocacy, community, etc.  I think we need to take a stand.  Hundreds of people took a stand during WWII.  And I mention WWII because I am a bit of an amateur historian when it comes to the segregation, hostility, brain washing, mass evil that has come to be a part of the history of that time.  And though the world said, let we not forget, I think we have forgotten in the gravest ways.  Where has this rise in antisemitism taken off like a wild fire?  How long have we allowed China to create its own Holocaust within Tibet?  Why do we stand for the mass extinction of our lands, our world that feeds us and can help us to stay whole and healthy?  When does the side of good rise up and do something about all the dangers?

I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were Prof Reich.  I applaud his love and need to protect his dad.  And I bet his father has a world of wisdom to share with us after living for so long.  I hope as a scholar, not a son, the professor has archived his father’s thoughts, ideas, and wisdom.  Heck, I know I want to archive the silly little songs my dad has sung to me while I was growing up or the feel of a hug from him or mom, or to learn every one of mom’s recipes by heart, to have something of her close to me.

I have to admit, I long for the 1980s, yes, beyond just the music (Depeche Mode forever).  I was in my teens, I had two hart working parents and a pain in the neck older brother.  I still had grandparents.  I still lived in the places I had always known.  I had friends, had created friendships, that would still be with me today.  I learned how to be charitable with my time whether it was hanging out on a Friday night to give drunk kids rides or it was going to The Jewish Home for the Elderly of Fairfield and giving love to wise old lonely people when I could get their after school.  Whatever was going on in the world, I think we were sheltered, or at least I was.  I didn’t even realize the person who slept in the bedroom next to mine had HIV.  It was still a time of innocence for me.

And may in our old age, we want to recreate an age of innocence for those older adults that we love.  We want them not to fear the world since aging and dying can be such big fears.  Maybe we want to create a time, like after birth, when the baby is so loved and we are so mindful of their every accomplishment and every beautiful breath?  Wouldn’t it be lovely to have friends make quilts and blankets, and stop by with flowers, or pick up prescriptions, or just to send a not of love?

I am so honored that Prof Reich shared such a deep a meaningful situation from his own life with us.  We are so much stronger, so much more human, when we can be ourselves and share who we are from the heart.  This is the kind of person who I want to know more about. . . his father too.  These are the people who have integrity and want to see good come from this little experiment on this planet that we all signed up for. . .life.

The battle between good and evil will always be there, as long as humans are there.  I pray with every person who takes up a microphone to speak out against Muslims, or people of color, or the President, that there are just as many people encouraging our brave kids to do better to help the world.  I hope there are more people learning yoga and sitting on their zafu.  I hope there are more people who rise to see the sun return to us as they sit and are thankful for the grace in this world.  And I hope there are just as many in the wee hours of the night, finishing school programs, writing songs, praying for world peace, and looking into their own hearts.  I add enough anger, frustration, lack of caring into the world and I need to recommit myself to being that young girl who saw the beauty and awe leaving early for school just to be closer to the Divine.  I need to remember who I am which is an advocate, an educator, and hopefully a person to planet peace in the darkest places.

Prof Reich, wherever you are, I wish you love and peace as you spend time with your dad.  I hope you feel the strength, power, and wisdom of your community as you enjoy each moment with him.  And, probably most importantly, I hope you feel my gratitude for you being genuine and sharing the bittersweetness in want to protect your dad.

Namaste!

May the merit of all our good flow into the universe a thousand-fold.

May the love we feel for those close to us also reach those people who feel unlovable.

May those we love never doubt that we love them with our whole existence and we would not betray the sacredness of them or our relationship to them.

May the merit of every word, every song, every syllable, every breath keep hope alive that there is a different way and we can find a peaceful existence in this threatening world.

Metta, now and always,

Jennifer

 

 

 

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The world’s gone mad. . . or we’re all mad and the planets suffering. . . Ok, I think, sadly, it’s both.

According to HuffPo, the US has had 352 mass shootings in this past year, meaning in the past 336 days.  What the heck has happened to us?  And will we ever be able to fix it?

I lived in Co when Columbine happened.  Lived in WI and had clients in IL when the shooting at NIU  (Northern IL University) happened.  I went to high school less than 15 minutes away from Sandy Hook (Newtown, CT).  But that’s been the span of 16 years.  According to Global Research, (global research.ca) 90% of mass shootings from 1980-2005 were conducted by US, non-Muslim people.   Can we say it altogether now folks?  Non-Muslim people.

But we kid ourselves if we think the US government can change the mental health system.  It shouldn’t be the job of government per se, but perhaps a joint effort between the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and NASW (National Association of Social Work).  But how do we do that when we give more and more to defense, to helping other countries, to Big Banks, etc and we keep getting more and more of our education AND social services budgets cut?  Whose got the chutzpah to say, 1% of the US budget is NOT ENOUGH for effective education services in this country and we need to take from somewhere else?  Even if someone like Bernie Sanders said, come on, our kids are getting less and less education and are falling further behind the rest of the world, who would agree with him and take a red pen to other budgets?

I was an adjunct for 2 semesters at a community college and I was absolutely floored.  I taught Psych 101 and the majority of the students in my class had middle school reading/writing levels or had so much of their own mental health, health, vocational problems (or someone in their family did) that they couldn’t be in class.  They wouldn’t stay for extra help.  I had a few students that asked me if I could counsel their families, which obviously I couldn’t.  I didn’t realize at the time how sparse the services were in this particular area until I had co-workers and friends tell me about their nightmares of trying to get through the system.  It was deplorable.  And the services they did fine were not interdisciplinary.  Two young people (under 21) given anti-psychotics as the first line of defense for mood problems.  Really?  That’s good help?

After the horrendous nightmare in Paris, I watched my Facebook feed.  I had a lot of people, even in my sangha or associated with that sangha or root teacher, kept asking in so many words, “How do we fix these people in the Middle East?”  And it was exasperating.  There were those of us who said you can’t change others, only yourself. . . and the question came more frequently, “Right, but how do we fix those people?”  It was a bit troubling to me that so many people connected to or influenced by Buddhism kept asking the same question.  Not because Buddhism is so special but because we have the Four Noble Truths and this should maybe be the first place we look.  The Four Noble Truths are:

  • Life has inevitable suffering.
  • There is a cause to our suffering.
  • There is an end to our suffering.
  • The end to suffering is within the Eight-Fold Path.

Okay, so first things first, life has inevitable suffering.  Okay, if we are breathing and have a pulse, we’re going to come in contact with or experience suffering.    There is no way to avoid suffering.  We suffer when our children are hurt or ill, when we feel betrayed, or when when we have physical illness or pain.  But one thing that you learn to do is to separate pain from suffering.  Sounds like a huge task, huh?  Some days it feels like that.  And I think (like they teach people in AA, you fake it until you make it) meaning that you say the words, think the thoughts, whether you believe them or feel them and with practice, you get to the point that you are actually living it.

For more about the Noble Truths and applying them to our current world, check back in a day or so for my next blog post where I continue to look at the Four Noble Truths.  In a few more days, I will also post about the Eight-fold Path as well.

May all beings everywhere find and experience peace.

May all beings everywhere accept that what is is what is.

May all beings everywhere feel loved, supported, and at ease in their worlds.

May all beings experience happiness.

May the merit of our words, actions, good deeds, compassion, understanding, and love help us and the world to find peace.

With deep respect and hope,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I know, I know…. if you have been a subscribed reader, you know I’ve been away for a long time.  A very long time.  If it’s your first visit, welcome.  And know that if you are squeamish about the deep stuff (dying, grieving, loss, betrayal, anger, fear, the unknown), you may want to pass on this.

Seems like that happens  when at times, we maybe going through less reflective times where you just can’t hold anything more in your raw aching heart (Think Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche if you will).

For some time now, I have felt lost and I don’t know if I’m still lost or if I am found but I do know that things that you to mean something to me have come back.  It’s like I had a Hummel or a Llardo figurine and I placed it at the back of the china cabinet, to collect dust.  A few person situations and people in my life turned on the little light in the hutch and I’m interested in dusting because it’s so dark and crowded.  I’m interested in allowing what is covered-over to be new again and at the same time, grant me access to my history, my dialogue, and my connections.

It also helps that I have been reading again… no, I mean beyond a blog or a Facebook entry, real reading.  For periods of time, due to migraines, I’ve had to step away from reading and music because it was just too much stimuli.  Right now, I have the energy to get re-involved with these things.

I’m currently reading, Peace Begins Here, by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I consider him my root teacher as his videos and practices were some of the things that led me to Buddhism in the first place.  I wanted to (finally) start, Calming the Fearful Mind by Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh’s affection nickname), but I found that I needed to back up a bit.  There’s too much in the noisy, busy, colorful, fear-based, politician-heavy world right now and I could not just jump right in.  I did; however reach for these books as a result of the Attacks on Paris on 11/13/2015, and Beruit on 11/12/13, and all of the other disasters that week.

I dedicate the merit of my reading and sharing, meditating, and praying, and silence to those who were ripped from this world, the first responders, the families who are now grieving, and the people of Paris & Beruit, Syria, every country, every where…

I dedicate the merit to the killers as well.  I know, I know, you’re grabbing a pencil and piece of paper (I just dated myself), to give me a laundry of the reasons to hate the members of ISIS, terrorists, Muslims, (all of the nameless “thems” that we want to hate so much.  Why do they deserve merit after such cowardly, hateful events?   Well, becomes someone has to.  Because if not, then hatred wins.  If not, than I have lost more of my humanity than I realized.  If not, then we are doomed to destroy ourselves.

Here is an excerpt from Thay’s book Peace Begins Here that began my journey inward:

Like everyone else on this earth, I long to have a home in which I can feel safe.  It is in human kindness, the kindness that is in me and in your, that I find this safety.

Yes!!!!  Yes!!!!! (I can’t find the like button on the page of the book).  There is so much in those two sentences, but I will “unpack” them another day.

Thay goes on to write:

That is my refuge and it is everywhere, even if sometimes it is hidden from my eyes.  I am learning to touch it and cultivate it more and more in myself and others.

It was with those words, I began to cry. . . we have a huge refugee crisis on our hands, right now, in this world, and our leaders (and many voters) have a mountain built on top so as not to see the pain that is global right now.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, they put a wall of barbed electric wire around it to keep them from ever looking and to keep others from trying to penetrate it.

But no, it’s not just theirs; it’s ours too.  We elected the politicians, or worked for these powerful people. . . we didn’t speak up, we didn’t didn’t struggle to find our own light, or let a million other things help us evade one primordial piece of wisdom:  we are all refugees and we all need each other, need a place in this world.

When I lost trust in myself and in others, it is because I forget that this kindness is there.

And that’s when I turned my Kindle off.  And allowed myself to grieve.  Not a single tear down the cheek or the simple cry that comes from a Kleenex commercial, but the kind of grief that hits you where your deepest pain is.  Yeah, that’s where this is. . . in the depths of our existence (my existence), we have lost trust in ourselves and our world.  I have lost trust in myself, others, and this world that feels pretty alien.

So, let’s try to sit with this for a bit and re-read it:

When I lost trust in myself and in others, it is because I forget that this kindness is there.

It is these few words, from one simple paragraph in a book that I am choosing to meditate on, in the days to come, so that we might begin a dialogue.  We may not be able to bring about world peace, but if there is any peace left in any of our hearts, than there is hope.

I hope you join me as I sit with my thoughts, feelings, and sensations.  As I allow these words to weave in and out of my being.

Namaste.  Jenn

 

 

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