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Archive for the ‘The world at large’ Category

All violence is injustice.  Responding to violence with violence is injustice, not only to the other person but also to oneself.  Responding to violence with violence resolves nothing; it only escalates violence, anger, and hatred.  It is only with compassion that we can embrace and disintegrate violence.  This is true in relationships between individuals as well as in relationships between nations.

~~  Thich Nhat Hanh, “Cutivating Compassion to Respone to Violence”

This quote is a bit of a hard one to chew on right now.  First because it feels like we are enveloped in a violent world.

We’ve ravaged the planet.  Multiple countries are at war in the world and no one except, maybe France, has declared war. . . or so it seems. Our political candidates are inciting mobs to injure people and some are saying hateful things about certain groups that if the candidate laid a hand on the people they hate so much, it would be called a hate crime because of their protected status.

A war on drugs.  On cancer.  On the left.  On the right.  Women.  Abortion.  Christmas.  We seem to have a constant sale on wars and we can’t get enough.  And all of this violence and absolutely nothing feels just.

On a personal note, this quote is a bit tough to meditate on becuase I find myself getting so angry when I read Facebook.  I want to (and admit I sometimes do) post messages that are mean, name-calling, etc.  It is all just TOO much.

But then, I take a minute and reflect which then leads me to reflect on more things for more time.  One of the things I keep trying to bring to my mind’s eye is a picture from a Thich Nhat Hanh talk (I don’t remember if he said this in 2003 when I saw him or if it was an audio Dharma talk).

He said when you are seated on your cushion, sit tall and steady.  And place your hands on your lap, palms up, and imagine a baby Buddha sitting in your palms.  Hold your hands like you are cradling the baby Buddha and allow a half-smile to come to your face as you glance down at the baby.

I find when I can remember to do this, to take the time, it settles me.  I try to think, what if whomever I am angry at was the baby Buddha.  How would my anger, my frustration, my mindlessness affect the baby? Would I want to do that to the baby Buddha?

And lately, I have been asking myself, can you hold the whole planet like it is the baby Buddha?  Some days I can and I feel at peace.  Other days, I don’t think I can hold anything because I have fists, not open palms.

Right now, where are you?  Can you sit and imagine yourself as the baby Buddha?  The planet?  The person who cut you off on the parkway?  Your boss?  The person at the grocery store?  Can you imagine any little bit of love that can start to cool the embers that envelope us all on this planet?

Take gentle care and remember those around you are suffering just like you.

Love and peace, Jennifer

 

 

 

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“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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Driving up to see my parents today, I was thinking about yesterday’s post. I wrote

How many times do we hold on to things we heard growing up?  How many times do we refuse to look at a thought because we can’t imagine who we would be without it?   ~ Let Your Ideas Go

As I was driving, I was thinking of how much hate there is in the world, but in particular, in this country.  Our education system is failing.  We have more and more people being home schooled with very little oversight.  If you never leave your home, how do you ever learn that what’s you have heard your whole life is garage?  Is lies?

What happens when you are taught generation after generation of hate, lies, misinformation, bigotry, etc? When you don’t get to socialize with others?  I think it was when I went to college when I finally found out how different other’s had grown up and what they had learned and believed.  

If we never have the opportunity to un-learn what we’ve learned or never have the chance to learn another side, how can we grow, thrive, trust, and foster compassion?

Has our rustic individualism, cowboy-mentality, racism/sexism, etc in our country created out uneducated, unempathetic, and unkind world?  Is there a way to turn back or is it that with social media and a total lack of privacy that we see that it’s always been this way?  Is this what has allowed people like Trump to exist and thrive and spew his hatred??

Thought?  Ideas?  Suggestions?  Comments?

Take Gentle Care, 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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So in my post the other day, #Enough, I started to discuss the Four Noble Truths.  The first truth is: Life has inevitable suffering.  In Pali, the word for suffering is dukkha.  Dukkha can also mean ill-being, uneasiness, pain, or suffering.  Our experiences are not satisfying.  We cannot avoid pain, illness, trauma, stress, etc.  We age.  We get sick.  We experience the death of a loved one.  We can feel restless, hurt, disappointed, let down, depressed.  All of these experiences are seen or felt as negative and give us some sort of discomfort.  Right now, it’s 85 degrees in my office and I’m flushed and cranky.  That is dukkha.

When I read the posts on Facebook this week, I felt sadness, anger, frustration, helplessness, fear, etc.  All of this is suffering.  All over the world.  It’s unavoidable if you are sentient.  Think about childbirth; wonderful thing, right?  But with it comes morning sickness, nausea, stretch marks, pain, contractions, bloating, and swollen ankles and feet.  Yes, our end result is the beautiful life we bring into this world, but that beauty and love, and natural impulse toward bringing life into this world comes with difficult experiences.

And just as our suffering is part of our experience, from the very first breath we take, so is our innate desire to move away from pain.  I’m a baby and I’m hungry.  I want to move away from the hunger and I cry to let you know I need something.  Suffering.  I can’t leave a job I have, despite hating it, because I need the money, insurance, whatever it is that we get from being employed.  Suffering.  Payday comes and I feel happy to have money.  Almost all of my money goes towards paying bills and I’m left with enough to just get by. . .   Suffering.

No matter how happy we are, how loved we feel, how grounded, we still experience this kind of suffering.  It’s December and I’m too cold and wish it was 85.  It’s July and humid and I want it to be cold.  All this suffering that we try to escape.  And escaping isn’t necessarily bad but it can also cause more suffering.  But do I even realize I am suffering or am I just constantly ill-tempered and don’t know that I am constantly complaining.  This is suffering because I don’t even know what is contributing to my pain, and sometimes, I do not realize that I am in pain.

Stephen Levine has a wonderful cd mediation about grief.  Not just the loss of a person but all of the losses in our lives, such as pain.  So, he’s really talking about our dukkha.  And as he asks us to acknowledge it, feel it in our bodies, through the meditation he asks us to connect with all being, all over the world and in all times, that are having or have had the same experience of pain.  We connect with them and we see we are not alone.  We realize that if others feel pain, that pain is universal.  This realization can helps us to move from my pain into the pain.  Even though we are acknowledging all the pain in the world, when we look at the pain, it becomes easier to handle.  It’s not my pain or even our pain; it is the pain.

I had moved when I was in college, not really by my choice or so I thought at the time.  I had just spent two years studying existentialism and had read The Plague by one of my favorite authors, Albert Camus.  I felt alone, lonely, angry, frustrated, out of place. . .  I felt like I had been exiled from my own land, the place I knew and had lived for 20 years.  When I remembered Camus’ book and how some of the people felt out of place, I felt better.  I could relate and I felt less alone.  Someone, even it was Camus, as depicted by the characters in his book, knew the experience I was in.  I knew I wasn’t as alone, despite the fact that Camus had died in 1960 (11 yrs before my birth).

Two years later, I found out my brother had HIV and again, I turned my attention to Camus.  As Mike was dying and I was finishing college, I went to work for an AIDS social service agency.  I felt the plague all around me; not the HIV, but the suffering and dying.  Everyone I knew, save my parents and friends back home, was dying.  I felt like I was suffocating at times.  But when I thought of the residents of Oran, Algeria, and how they watched the suffering of others, sometimes to the point of doing not much more than talk about the weather to avoid the suffering that was everywhere.

As I worked with this fear, pain, sadness, and overwhelming experience, I realized, we are all dying.  All over this planet, as long as people had been alive, they were dying.  We might experience it differently, but in the end, dying.  So when I could settle myself and breathe, I could see that whether we knew we had an illness or not, whether we could predict when or not, we were all dying but it wasn’t my death or the death of my clients, it was THE DYING of all impermanent things/beings.

So I ask you, what suffering do you have in your present life?  Have you sat and just experienced it, with the tv off, without the sounds of the dog, the kids, the co-workers down the hall?  Have you allowed your awareness to scan your body and see where your suffering lives?  Have you breathed it into your heart and sat with the fact that there is suffering of all kinds in your life, all kinds of pain and losses.

Can you or will you just sit with what that is and feel it in your body, in your cells.  They tell people in AA that the first step is acknowledging that you are powerless.  In the case of Buddhism, the first truth is acknowledging your suffering.

Do you have a friend, a dog, a lover, a sibling, anyone who can sit with you in silence and allow you to sit with your suffering and be there to hold a safe space for you?  If not, what is that like?  If yes, are you willing to sit with it?

The First Noble Truth is there is suffering in our existence.  The Second Noble Truth is: There is a cause to our suffering.  This will be the next truth we explore.  Please share your experiences, if you feel comfortable and please come back and learn more about the Four Noble Truths.  Also, come back as I will have a post about Tongle Meditation that will post soon, giving you a way to sit with and work with your suffering

Until then, Metta.  Jennifer

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FedEx NRA

Money talks. Who we choose to do business with matters. You choose.  I don’t think anything more needs to be said.  Boycott FedEx.  Please.

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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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