Politics of the Brokenhearted

May 14, 2011

I am looking forward to Parker J. Palmer’s forthcoming book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. I have just read the essay from which this book springs, “The Politics of the Brokenhearted: On Holding the Tensions of Democracy.” You can read it here.

Palmer speaks of breaking the heart open, not “into a thousand shards,” but into “largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy.” He speaks of the essential violence in majority-rule decision making, and urges us to consider the Taoist concept of wu-wei–“literally purposeless wandering, or creative nonaction, making space within and around ourselves so that conflict and confusion can settle and a deeper wisdom emerge.”

We are an impatient culture, desiring quick action to settle differences. Palmer offers that “only in contemplative states are we able to touch the truth.” He makes the case in this essay for holding the tension between reality and possibility in ways that open our hearts, that honor the soul rather than succumbing to cynicism or dreamy idealism.

Palmer asserts, “When the heart dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power, it can become a source of countervailing power, keeping our best hopes alive in the hardest of places and times.”


Let Others Be Who They Are

July 30, 2010

This “Daily OM” speaks for itself. In our enthusiasm of discovery for ourselves, may we always remember that we cannot know what others need!


Engagement

June 10, 2010

Living in a vacuum sucks. ~Adrienne E. Gusoff

Today this quote on my Google home page made me laugh. But it also made me think about the seduction of withdrawal. It is a great luxury this month to have no particular place I have to go, no particular people I have to see, and no particular work I have to do. I can wander around the yard, take time to sit in the sun and pet the cat, read novels, take naps, write, draw, and generally do what I please. Dangerous stuff for an introvert who lives in the country!

So I want to fully enjoy this retreat from society, but also plan for my reentry, because I believe that engagement is a responsibility we have to the world. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us about the interdependence of all things, which he calls interbeing. “I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am,” he says.

So during this time of rest and reflection, I will consider how to best be of use. What is it that I have to offer the world? And where and how can it be shared wholeheartedly?


Aging and Community

May 23, 2010

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver

Today, my mother-in-law Edna is in the hospital having tests to confirm a suspected stroke. End-of-life issues are so difficult. How do we determine when to intervene medically and when to let the aged die peacefully? Just because we can prolong life, should we always, despite the suffering it may bring?

What about more community-oriented solutions? As do so many in her generation, Edna tried to stay in her own home and had to move to an institution when she could no longer do so. Moran and Rollins predict that the baby boomers will “transform traditional models of independent living” in this article. And the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging and Community has this as a philosophy: “The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community is guided by the belief that it must move beyond the medical model in its approach to aging issues, viewing older adults holistically and acknowledging that they are community assets.” Amen.


Why and Where is War?

January 19, 2010

Every war is against the world, and every war against the world is lost. ~Alice Walker

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the root of all war is fear. ~Thomas Merton

In a battle, the winners and the losers both lose. ~The Buddha

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. ~Albert Einstein

There is no way to peace; peace is the way.~A. J. Muste

If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Don’t throw anyone out of your heart. ~Neem Karoli Baba

We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves. ~Albert Camus

I have ordered a subscription to The Friend, the magazine of the Quakers. I am not a Quaker, but I deeply admire many of their beliefs and practices, not the least of which is their pacifism. I know that human conflict is complex, and that many have fought and even died for good causes. But I also know that it is important to speak out against war, to teach children how to be in community in spite of differences, to raise our voices against militarism. So today I offer the wisdom of those who have spoken much more eloquently than I ever could on this subject. Peace be with you.


More Love, Less Fear

December 6, 2009


On the deepest level, problems such as war and starvation are not solved by economics and politics alone. Their source is the prejudice and fear in the human heart—and their solution also lies in the human heart. What the world needs most is people who are less bound by prejudice. It needs more love, more generosity, more mercy, more openness. The root of human problems is not a lack of resources but comes from the misunderstanding, fear, and separateness that can be found in the hearts of people. ~Jack Kornfield, from Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation

My friend Carol gets the credit for the title of today’s post. She once shared her aspiration for this succinctly-expressed way of relating to the world. While it may sound naive to some, I believe that this practice of loving will create a better world, as Kornfield suggests. I am only one, but still I am one! (This idea from Edward Everett Hale: “because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”)

I want to relentlessly love more and fear less in everything I do, trusting that it will make a difference in my own heart and soul and ultimately in the world, but knowing also that some will misunderstand, suspect, discount, or reject that love. Won’t you join me in this intention?


Competition

September 19, 2009

When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. ~William A. Ward

Why then, are we so inclined to compete with one another? I believe competition with ourselves can spur us on to be our best, but competition with others I find fairly baffling. I’m sure I’m in the minority in this country, but I have actually struggled against feeling too competitive throughout my life. I see so much better results when people are cooperative and collaborative that I can’t imagine anyone choosing to be otherwise.

I think competition is related to a scarcity mentality, to fear. We seem to think that if someone else gets a share of the pie, it means less for us. We somehow believe that if we’re not on top, in front, most loved, we lose. I believe this attitude itself makes us lose–our human connections, our empathy, our ability to love ourselves and others unconditionally. Competition is at the root of envy.

In what situations do you feel most competitive with others? In traffic? With siblings? In your work life? How do you express it? Often, it’s not what we say and do but what we don’t say or do that indicates we are envious. What would happen if you focused on our shared abundance, on love rather than fear, on looking for and acknowledging the best in others?


Writers Group

April 4, 2009

Writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like in anything else. ~Katherine Anne Porter

Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see. ~William Newton Clark

This week I stepped out in faith to read my work and be critiqued in a writers group. I am thrilled to be part of a creative community, and I hope it will result in greater inspiration and courage to confront the blank page, as well as a honing of my craft.

This encounter suggested to me that my confidence often lags behind my skill, and I have to wonder if I sometimes come across as having false humility. It is not approval that I want so much as to embrace a realistic view of my writing, to see more clearly what I want to say and how well I am communicating it. (For more reflections on approval, see Judgment.) I believe participating in this group will lead to greater clarity.

Today, I am grateful for the Stonepile Writers, for the creative process, for this blog, for all artists everywhere!


Let Your Life Speak

March 29, 2009

Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent. ~Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Now I become myself.
It’s taken time, many years and places.
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces….

~May Sarton, “Now I Become Myself”

Palmer reminds us that the word vocation is rooted in the Latin for “voice.” He has come to understand vocation as a gift to be received, rather than a goal to be achieved. Watching his granddaughter during the early days of her life, he could see that she had inclinations, preferences, and her own personality from birth. He says, “We are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then–if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss–we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed.”

And he says: As May Sarton reminds us, the pilgrimage toward true self will take ‘time, many years and places.’ The world needs people with the patience and the passion to make that pilgrimage not only for their own sake but also as a social and political act. The world still waits for the truth that will set us free–my truth, your truth, our truth–the truth that was seeded in the earth when each of us arrived here formed in the image of God. Cultivating that truth, I believe, is the authentic vocation of every human being.

And: Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.’

This small volume of essays from Palmer leads us through his choices about vocation, his depression and dark periods, and his ultimate realization that he is a teacher. He believes our shared vocation, leadership in the world of action, is an outgrowth of our inner journeys. We should support one another’s inner work by creating “communities of solitudes,” not abandoning or trying to fix each other.

More ideas from Parker J. Palmer here.


An Undivided Life

March 14, 2009

Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view! ~Parker J. Palmer

I have just finished reading Parker J. Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. How can every sentence from Palmer be exactly the sentence I would write if I could think and write as clearly and beautifully as he?

This book covers virtually all the themes I have explored in this blog–integrity, the open heart, connection, woundedness, respect, attention, letting go, and many others–in the investigation of an undivided life. Bringing inner and outer worlds together is a process Palmer refers to as the joining of soul and role. Rejoining, really, because in his view we were all undivided at birth. But he cautions that this process is much more than “embracing the inner child,” since “we carry burdens and challenges children do not have.”

Solitude Palmer defines as not necessarily living apart from others, but apart from ourselves. And community he says is not necessarily living with others, but rather “never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other…being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.”

We cocreate each other in encounter, Palmer says, and he gives a specific method for establishing “circles of trust,” safe “communities of solitudes” where people can listen to their own hearts, discern their own truth, without being invaded or evaded by others. He likens the soul to a wild animal, shy and self-protective, and says we must not go crashing through the woods (arguing, preaching, proclaiming, advising, trying to be helpful). We must sit in silent attentiveness and hopeful expectancy if we want the soul to appear.

I already knew a little of Palmer, a Quaker, from the many times my minister/friend Marti spoke about him from the UU pulpit. But (as with most books), I have no idea by what route I got to this one. I am just grateful to have discovered it.


Response

January 23, 2009

Nothing unites the people of Earth like a threat from Mars. ~ Alex Castellanos

A sallow sun slinks over my favorite coffee shop.
I am walking in the bitter wind;
I can feel my face reddening.
Long red scarf nods and ducks in a doorway.
Plaid coat catches my eye as she chatters into Blue Tooth.
High heels self-consciously steps around the grates.
Even before I am fully awake,
I can see that today, the capsules they move in
are permeable
as they scurry to their familiar places.
I dive through the cold with my gloved hands
to cozy up to a Café Mocha.

Thanks to Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides for the prompt!


Positivity

January 8, 2009

The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry. ~Maya Angelou

We hear way too much gloom and doom from the media. Yes, it’s true bad things happen in the world. But every day, so many people are doing good work, helping others, showing courage, giving and sharing, speaking truth to power, loving and caring for the world.

While it seems right to be concerned and cry (about the horrors in the Gaza Strip, the shooting in the San Francisco subway, and the other tragedies of the day), we also have to sustain our belief in goodness, laughter, community and sharing. Being human is being all those things, despite the fact that it sometimes feels a bit schizophrenic. Think how healing it can be for people to commune, laugh and remember after a memorial service, to enjoy being together, to remember the loved one who is gone, but also go on living.

I have never cared for the ideas of “positive thinking” or “affirmations” because to me they have always seemed false, a pretense. But if we are genuinely in touch with both the sadness and the joy in life, it is good to remember the things that make us laugh. May we all laugh as much as we cry.


Distractions

January 5, 2009

Motion is not necessarily progress any more than noise is necessarily music. ~Gregg Levoy

I have sworn off computer games. (Well, maybe a game of Scrabble or two now and then, but definitely no more of those arcade-type games!) I swear they were stealing my precious life. I would sit down to be diverted for a few minutes and get up stiff and irritable hours later. What a waste! Already I can tell a big difference in the quality of my days and my ability to sustain mindfulness.

Yesterday, however, I set up a facebook account. What fun! Now I am asking myself whether this is just another mindless distraction. I hope there is social value that redeems this activity, this “motion.” While it may not qualify as progress, it is connection, and I have been hungry for connection. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, join me on facebook and let’s make some music together, or at least some noise!


Success

January 3, 2009

Don’t aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue…as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself. ~Viktor Frankl

I was recently nominated for a national professional award. (Thanks, Kathleen & Wally!) I can’t imagine myself among the list of those who have received this award, so I have had a hard time getting my head around the idea. I’ve always been fairly suspicious of award winners, but maybe they’re as surprised as I by their nominations. Several people wrote eloquent letters of support for the nomination, which I admit will be inspiring to look back at on the “rainy” days of my life!

Whether or not I receive this award, I am heartened by the nominators’ efforts, and it makes me want to pay it forward by nominating someone else for something. Meanwhile, I’m trying to remember Einstein’s words, “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.” (See also an earlier post, Judgment.)

May you all have those in your life who believe you’re worthy of an award! Who would you like to nominate or otherwise honor?

P. S. Now at the risk of looking like I am aiming at success (although I hope you’ll agree that aiming at this kind of success makes sense), I’m posting my CED & Power of Less updates for this week: blogged, named my stuffed puppy (Bodhi or Buddy depending on how wise he seems at the moment!), checked out a book on starting a writer’s group, made an “artist’s date” with a friend, committed publicly to 15-30 min. of yoga one day a week at work, did one 10-min. yoga session plus a yoga class! 🙂


The Heart’s Door

January 2, 2009

A basket full of bread sits on your head; yet you go from door to door begging for crusts. Attend to your own head. Knock on your heart’s door. ~Rumi

Today I want to swaddle my heart, protecting it from harm, and feel it beating through my whole body. But I also want to crack open the door and peek inside, get just a glimpse to help me on my way. Fear of opening that door has existed long past its usefulness!

The truth is, things have been leaking out for years…I just wasn’t sure where they were coming from. Perhaps that’s a gift of middle age, the capacity to become reacquainted with your own desires and passions, to claim them as your own.

My often-neglected passions include creative expression (but isn’t this true for everyone?), balance (think yoga, solitude vs. relationship, work-life balance), and learning. What would you find behind your heart’s door?


World Community

December 27, 2008

Today the planet is the only proper “in group.” Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. ~Joseph Campbell*

The election results have had a significant effect on my outlook. I am almost tempted get that bumper sticker that says “Proud to Be An American.” But I won’t, because I don’t believe there’s any virtue in nationalism, as we are world citizens living on the earth interdependently.

Campbell’s words help me reconcile the enormous suffering in the world with our responsibility to live fully and joyfully. Carrying the weight of that suffering doesn’t help anyone. As Dorothy Day said, “No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

May we live more joyfully at the same time we open to the world’s suffering with our compassion. Awake and joyful living will show us the path to our right work for the welfare of all.

*Today’s quote comes from the Word for the Day at gratefulness.org.


You Are the Gift

December 24, 2008

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. ~Kurt Vonnegut

There is no need to capture or hold on to anything because you are everything. ~Sasaki-Rosi

Our most important gift to others this holiday season is our full presence, our aliveness, our unique expression. I am hopeful that the economic downturn is actually helping people understand the value of such intangible gifts. Who really needs another kitchen appliance or another technological gadget?

I agree wholeheartedly with Sarah Susanka’s suggestion to consider recycling something in our vast collections of “stuff” that we no longer need but that might bring joy to someone else. Fewer items for the landfill.

But most importantly, may we remember that we are the gift. Wishing everyone a joyful, simple, mindful holiday season.


Engage

December 19, 2008

How long will you keep pounding on an open door, begging for someone to open it? ~Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya

What a great reminder that (as my friend Shirley used to say) “I have everything I need to be happy here and now.” Don’t we all sometimes just want to be rescued? How tempting it can be to be the damsel in distress, the victim, waiting for the white knight (read: lover, father, boss, president, savior) to come along. It is seductive to feel absolved of responsibility for our own lives. But in the process we are turning our power (and our joy) over to others.

How much more satisfying to engage in our lives, be mindful, celebrate all that is–the universe in its infinite wisdom; our friends, relations, and coworkers who are who they are; our life situation, which is no doubt perfect for the lessons we need to learn. Who are we, after all, to question the design of goddess/nature/god/spirit/life?

Yesterday I had a moment of profound gratitude for life, for breath, for the world just as it is. Today, I bow to the mystery and to you. Namaste.


Not Knowing

December 7, 2008

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. ~Wendell Berry

My mind is certainly employed this morning! How do I break through resistance and protective barriers to be in full and intimate relationship with myself, my husband, my friends? I think this may be the real work in which I need to be engaged at the moment. Can I embrace (or at least shake hands with*) the not knowing how to get there?

Sam Keen says, “Hope is rooted in trust in the unknown. Work, wait, and hope. That is enough.” And from Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

It is so tempting to feel comfort in knowing, though! Rousseau reminds us, “We do not lose our way through what we do not know, but through what we falsely think we know.” May I let go of what I think I know, open to imagination, and at least shake hands with not knowing in order to make space for possibility.

*thanks to Whitney for this notion of compromise!


Shared Prosperity

October 15, 2008

As long as our civilization is essentially one of property, of fences, of exclusiveness, it will be mocked by delusions. Our riches will leave us sick; there will be bitterness in our laughter; and our wine will burn our mouth. Only that good profits, which we can taste with all doors open, and which serves all men. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

In one of the richest countries in the world, it is shameful that so many Americans live in poverty. The Census Bureau reported 37.3 million (7.6 million families) below the poverty level in 2007, and 45.7 million without health insurance, including 8.1 million uninsured children. What can we do? The Economic Policy Institute has A Plan to Revive the American Economy.

The Plan points to a generation of mistaken economic policies, resulting in these statistics: “Since 1973, income for the top one-tenth of 1% of families has grown by 350%. The top 1% of families now takes 23% of the nation’s income, the highest share since just before the Great Depression. Today, top corporate executives earn 275 times as much as the average worker, compared with only 27 times in 1973.”

Take a look at the Plan, the overview of EPI’s Agenda for Shared Prosperity, and/or this video introduction:

Then think about what you can do.


We’re All In It Together

October 12, 2008

Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see? ~Bob Dylan

Tara Brach, in her powerful and important book, Radical Acceptance, says, “Our capacity to look away from the realness and suffering of others has horrendous consequences.” She contends that we look away because we are focused on the differences, holding tightly to our views of right and wrong, of self and other, of “good” and “bad” guys. “Once someone is an unreal other,” she continues, “we lose sight of how they hurt…All the enormous suffering of violence and war [and I would add poverty and hunger] comes from our basic failure to see that others are real.”

And it is not just for the “other” that we should care about economic injustice, but also for ourselves. The division of the world into haves and have-nots creates suffering and fear, not just in the poor, but in the rich. When it is possible for all to have enough, our having too much not only does not make us happy, it corrupts us at the core, creating in us fear of loss, suspicion of others, and greed for more.

How do we stop perpetuating this inequality? What can one person do? Here are some of my ideas:

1. Volunteer at or donate to a social service agency.
2. Get to know someone better who seems different from you in some way (socioeconomic status, disability, age, race, educational level). Learn to see them as real.
3. Live small. Conserve, recycle, and donate what you don’t really need. Expand your definition of what you don’t really need.
4. Educate yourself about economic disparity and its consequences. A good place to start is the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and their Agenda for Shared Prosperity.
5. Practice opening your heart and widening your circle of compassion for others, and developing an abundance (rather than a scarcity) mentality.

We’re all in it together.


Poverty

October 11, 2008

He mocks the people who proposes that the government shall protect the rich that they in turn will care for the laboring poor. ~Grover Cleveland

Our Charitable Contributions Campaign is underway at my workplace. We are approaching the “giving season” that so many nonprofit endeavors depend on for support. Giving to those less fortunate than ourselves is important, but it is a short-term and patchy solution (providing fish vs. teaching people to fish). It’s the systems perpetuating poverty and economic disparity that need to be addressed.

I have recently been neglecting my blog, but this week I am prompted to write by Blog Action Day. It is appalling how wide the economic gap has become just within this country in the past thirty years. I believe it is because we have forgotten that we are all part of the larger whole, interconnected and interdependent. What helps (or hurts) one of us, helps (or hurts) all of us.

I recently overheard someone say, “It doesn’t matter who I vote for in this presidential election, because I don’t make enough money for it to matter.” I found this a profoundly sad statement of disenfranchisement, and significant that it was attributed to economic status.

Take a look at what one person can do. And take action.

See also Economic Equality


From the Archives: September

August 31, 2008

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~William Wordsworth

September begins tomorrow. Now that this blog is a year old (and then some), I have decided to honor the first day of each month (or in this case, the day before the first day of the month) by bringing back a few posts from the previous year. Here are some from last September.

Expanding Time
Time expands when we are present in the moment.

Economic Equality
With our presidential election looming, consider the concept of raising all boats.

Letting Go
I’m convinced this is one of the keys to happiness.

Discourse
How can we heal our fractured society by coming together?

Happy Labor Day Holiday, everyone!


Deeper and Wider

August 19, 2008

You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. ~Shira Tehrani

I have been considering death and dying a lot lately, as death’s shadow falls on members of my family. Of course, mortality and the knowledge of our mortality are conditions with which we all have to contend. As a young person, I remember thinking I had some sort of “edge” on understanding it because of losing a parent at 14. But midlife brings a new level, a new way, of understanding. Life is a spiral, after all.

Given that the length of my life is an unknown, I am cheered to think about having at least some measure of influence over the “width and breadth” of my existence. Learning every day is one of the most important ways I sustain myself and engage with the world. Writing is one way of learning, as I write into understanding, not from it. Today I am profoundly grateful for learning, for writing, and for you, the imagined reader.

Namaste. (All that is best and highest in me greets and honors all that is best and highest in you.)


Denial and Surrender

August 10, 2008

When you deny emotional pain, everything you do or think as well as your relationships become contaminated with it. You broadcast it, so to speak, as the energy you emanate, and others will pick it up subliminally…You attract and manifest whatever corresponds to your inner state.

Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life…It does not mean that on the outer level you cannot take action and change the situation. In fact, it is not the overall situation that you need to accept when you surrender, but just the tiny segment called the Now.

~Eckhart Tolle

The heartbreakthroughs continue, and they are good and cleansing–the opposite of the denial Tolle speaks of. I am somewhat astonished by the body-centeredness of emotion. As someone who has no doubt relied too heavily on intellectual solutions in the past, I am learning that there is no “figuring out” one’s emotional response, there is only being with it, feeling it.

For so long, my difficulty with surrender had to do with thinking of it as “giving up” while wanting to change things for the better. But Tolle reconciles these ideas in his quote above: Acceptance of the moment, presence in the Now, does not require being satisfied with the overall situation. In fact Tolle says, “…to surrender is the most important thing you can do to bring about positive change. Any action you take is secondary. No truly positive action can arise out of an unsurrendered state of consciousness.”

What do you feel or think?


10 Tips for Reading This Blog

August 5, 2008

We read to know we are not alone. ~C. S. Lewis

It seems fitting that as I approach the one-year anniversary of this blog, I am reflecting on what it means to me. Yesterday, I thought about why I write here. Today, I share a few ways of interacting with the blog. Let me know if you have others.

1.  Daily Meditation: Subscribe by e-mail and receive new posts in your inbox as a daily meditation. (OK, sometimes when I’m busy it’s every few days!)

2.  Tiptoe Through the Tag Cloud: Click a term on the tag cloud to find postings on a particular topic.

3.  Rockin’ Blogroll: Explore related blogs (also blogs I just like) by clicking on the links in the blogroll.

4.  Get a Feed: Subscribe in a reader so you are notified of new posts and can read or ignore them as you have interest or time.

5.  A Month in the Life: Pick a month in the last year and dip into the archives for a varied selection of posts.

6.  Express Yourself! Leave a comment, then subscribe to the comments for that post (click on the RSS 2.0 link), so you can see when others respond.

7.  Digg It! Share the blog with others. Forward posts you particularly like or want to share. (I will be adding a badge for Digg as soon as I figure out how to do that.)

8.  A Bundle of Bookmarks: Click to bookmark on your browser or on a social bookmarking site such as Delicious.

9.  The Pop Top: Check out the most recently-viewed posts in the Top Posts box.

10.  Link to Library Stuff: Visit the I Love Libraries site or my LinkedIn profile for professional connections, whether you’re a librarian or just care about libraries.

There you have it–ten ways to enjoy and interact with this blog. See you in the ether!


Awareness

August 3, 2008

Do not look back in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness. ~James Thurber

Travels to coastal Georgia this week reminded me how much I love the slower pace one encounters away from the bustle of Atlanta. And that slower pace is so much more conducive to what Thurber calls looking around in awareness! I had lovely and real conversations with people outside the library as we waited for the doors to open. I felt more balanced, more at ease.

How can I slow down, become an eddy, inside the hectic pace of my commute/work/travel, the rapid swirl of activity that is the city? Remembering to breathe deeply is key, I think. Coming home, I found my chest tightening as I got closer to Atlanta on the freeway, and I noticed my breathing becoming more shallow. I read recently about one technique for “tending your own energy field“: visualizing light in the solar plexus, spreading and expanding to fill your whole body.

What helps you maintain your calm equilibrium when you are surrounded by frenetic activity? I want to practice looking around in awareness.


Health

July 27, 2008

Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. ~B. K. S. Iyengar

If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself. ~Leon Eldred

When I was very young (no older than 5, I’m sure), I spent one afternoon learning to ride a bicycle–under conditions that were hardly ideal. At that time, I didn’t have a bike of my own, so I learned on a 26″ model that belonged to my older sister. Luckily, I was a long-legged kid, so I could (just barely) reach the pedals. But I had no access to pavement, only a grassy slope on which to practice. Over and over, I fell, I got up, I walked to the top of the gentle hill, got back on, and tried again. I wanted to ride that bicycle more than I wanted anything that day.

An alarming thing happened at Pilates class last Thursday. I began sweating and shaking, turned pale as a ghost, and thought I would either throw up or faint, I wasn’t sure which. I know blood sugar dips, since I have had to pay attention to those for many years, and it wasn’t that. I attributed it to overdoing when I was depleted already, possible mild dehydration, and forgetting I was out of shape and no longer 18 years old. But the more disturbing thing was that it happened again Friday night, when I awoke from sleep in that condition. I am feeling much sturdier today, but am resolved to see my doctor.

There is a rash of health-related problems in my family at the moment. Stroke, dementia, and pancreatic cancer, to name a few. And it makes sense that illness in those close to us (and especially those close to our own age) can make us feel vulnerable and anxious about our own well-being. It feels impossible to separate the effects of the mental state, the worry about health, from those of the physical condition itself.

I have practiced healthy living only sporadically at best, and it is not for lack of information. I know what eating plan works for me, what things I should avoid (sugar, alcohol, the high-fat foods I love so much), what exercise I enjoy and am most likely to stick with (yoga), and what helps in controlling stress (mindfulness, connection to others). Yet I have fallen down on this grassy slope over and over, and I have to think it is because of some inability to fully commit, to want health more than anything. Though what could be more important in this life than what opens the gates of the soul?


No Regrets

July 20, 2008

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it is good only for wallowing in. ~Katherine Mansfield

Amen, Ms. Mansfield! I wish I had a nickel for every time I have wallowed in regret. It is tempting to think one’s sins or shortcomings are somehow more numerous or egregious than others’, that we are special in some way. Some of mine are sins of omission, some commission, but in the end, we all have them. While confession may be good for the soul, there are some I still can’t confess to even my closest friends, and I think the better route is to forgive myself and let go of the past, to stop wasting energy on embarrassment and regret.

After all, it was I who in the spring of 2004 wrote the lines, “I unfold my failures like old clothes/hug them to me, then let go,/watch them sail away on the wind.” I find that writing is so often prophetic, that it gets at truths long before I can understand them fully. Which is one reason this blog is so important to me: Even if I am not living my professions here, they are pointing in the direction I want to go, helping establish and explore my intentions. For example, way back in a January post I wrote, “More and more of being here now, and less and less of dwelling on past mistakes or future possibilities, is liberating and exhilirating.” Life is a spiral.

Have you found freedom from regret? What helps you to forgive yourself for your transgressions?


Conformity

June 2, 2008

We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves, in order to be like other people.  ~Arthur Schopenhauer

My mother used to tell a story she found amusing. It was about coming to fetch me from school in the first grade. I was standing in front of the class when she arrived, pretending not to know my colors. I don’t remember this event, but this is one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard.

For I had been happily reading at least since age 5, had known my colors for far longer, and was academically way ahead of most of my first-grade class when I began school. But I had been admonished so strongly not to “show off,” to be like others so I would be liked, that I had hidden my abilities in the quest for acceptance.

It was many years before I was aware of my conditioning, and many more before I could move beyond it. Even still, I find myself thinking, “How will this look to others?” when I decide on a course of action. This is actually a skill that has served me well in career and political situations, but I have had to come to an understanding about the limits on its value. And I have suffered from applying it in situations where it is not needed.

I think this explains why authenticity is so very important to me now. I cannot bear to pretend any longer that I am something I am not. I actually think age is helpful in this regard, as we who are in public service approach retirement and can be whoever we are. How do you deal with this dilemma, in a political world?


The Case Against Will

June 1, 2008

When you will, make a resolution, set your jaw, you are expressing an imaginative fear that you won’t do the thing. If you knew you would do the thing, you would smile happily and set about it. 

So you see, the imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.  ~Brenda Ueland, from If You Want to Write (Graywolf Press, 2007)

It is easy to see why Ueland’s work is a classic and hard to believe I have not read it until now. I know already that it will be one of those I will want to reread every couple of years, as I do other books of distilled wisdom (Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, for example).

As one who has struggled for years to will self-care, I could not agree more with Ueland’s case against will. The harder I try to force myself to eat right and exercise more, the fiercer the rebellious resistance becomes. (If I knew I would do it, I would just smile happily and set about it!) She shares what I find to be an interesting insight: “People who try to boss themselves always want (however kindly) to boss other people. They always think they know best and are so stern and resolute about it they are not very open to new and better ideas.” (God forbid.) Describing herself as “a fearful self-disciplinarian” who has learned a better way, she promotes “dreamy idleness” as a way of quietly letting in imaginative thoughts. 

The best news is that Ueland’s “moodling” is (for the most part) simply being in the present moment! She says, “…when I walk in a carefree way, without straining to get to my destination, then I am living in the present. And it is only then that the creative power flourishes.” She tells us that “…it is the way you are to feel when you are writing–happy, truthful, and free, with that wonderful contented absorption of a child stringing beads in kindergarten.”

P. S. Did Ueland coin the word “moodling?” Merriam-Webster does not know it.


The Soul at Work

May 26, 2008

Tell a wise person or else keep silent.  ~Goethe

Our deeper struggles are in effect our greatest spiritual and creative assets and the doors to whatever creativity we might possess. It seems to be a learned wisdom to share them with others only when they have the possibility of meeting them with some maturity.  ~David Whyte, inThe Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

This post began as a follow-up to the previous post, a balancing admonition about trusting others to understand our truths. It was prompted by my rereading one of my favorite books, from which these quotes are taken. I originally read The Heart Aroused in its first edition (published in 1994), and when I decided to buy a copy, I was delighted to find that it was revised in 2002. Exploration and revelation of our most authentic selves is certainly risky in the traditional workplace. But in the end, this post is less about the risks of disclosure and more about the broader subject of the soul at work.

Whyte helps us reconcile the world of work, or doing, with the soul, or being. He characterizes this divide as “a veritable San Andreas Fault in the American psyche: the personality’s wish to have power over experience, to control all events and consequences, and the soul’s wish to have power through experience, no matter what that may be.” Whyte cautions that “with little understanding of the essential link between the soul life and the creative gifts of their employees, hardheaded businesses listening so carefully to their hardheaded consultants may go the way of the incredibly hardheaded dinosaurs.” I believe this book should be required reading for all managers and students of business management.

Thankfully, there are environments that encourage the messy soul work that employees long to do. I came from (and helped create) one of those places, imperfect as it was, and I have since grieved for the belonging I experienced there. Whyte holds that when we do not feel belonging, “no attempt to coerce enthusiasm or imagination from us can be sustained for long.”

Whyte takes his title from the famous William Carlos Williams poem “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” which poignantly reminds us that “It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there.” Using poetry, psychology and myth, Whyte encourages us to face our fears and claim our authentic soul power in the world of work.


Faults-Image

May 18, 2008

Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more. ~Mark Twain

While most believe it is desirable to present one’s best self to the world, I have always held that authenticity is more important than image. This has resulted in increasing discomfort for me over the years, working as I do (as most of us do) in a political environment. It seems that we have become a nation of image-makers, and that we have learned to value image above truth.

What has happened to the climate in which one could acknowledge (indeed, would be encouraged to acknowledge) faults, be forgiven for being human, and be allowed to model self-respecting honesty? Now we want to throw her (or him) off the island. This is hardly developmental progress!

Do you experience this tension between vulnerability and truth-telling? How do you handle it?


Community

April 19, 2008

Once we become relatively independent, our challenge is to become effectively interdependent with others. ~Stephen Covey

Woke to gentle rain
Mist obscures the distant hills
Funeral today

We have lost something in our movement away from communal living. A lone city dweller might argue that the extended family brings too much closeness, calls for too much conformity, but (paradoxically), through it we may actually learn to be more tolerant of differences. Take the “crazy aunt” or that “funny cousin”–yes, they were labeled and talked about, but were still accepted as part of the family, and could count on the support of the group in times of crisis. Robert Frost said it well: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

I have had a love-hate relationship with community and family all my life. Because I felt like the “different one” in my immediate family, and because we had no extended family in our town, I have always had a certain craving to live anonymously, to be left alone, or at least not discouraged in becoming who I was to be. It is probably a big reason I didn’t have children of my own.

I am grateful, though, for my socialization, my ability to “look like” part of a group, to fit in where I can without self-betrayal. And I am so very thankful for my husband and close friends, who serve as my chosen community/family. May I continue to nurture my close relationships, and also be more open to the larger community around me.


Power & Love

April 14, 2008

Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of my personal hot buttons is feeling powerless, ineffectual. This is one of those things I have known for some time intellectually, but I know now on a deeper level. It is time to claim my own personal power, regardless of any external conditions in which I find myself. I have been operating with the old (and now useless) behavior patterns of self-protection from my childhood, afraid of my own power.

I don’t believe that I’m alone in my ambivalence about claiming my own power, especially among women. Power is considered a dirty word by so many! What does it mean to claim my own power? I think it means equanimity in the winds of change, with the willingness to yield and bend when that is called for. I think it means standing up for justice (actively loving) when that is needed. Its foundation is a feeling that I have a right to take up space, that I belong in the universe–fundamentally, a love and sense of justice that include (even) me!

What is your relationship with power?


Clarity

April 10, 2008

If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.  ~Rollo May

Note that May talks about expressing and also listening. How do I know my own original ideas without listening to my own being? My new word is clarity. Years ago it was acceptance, but now I need to know what my original ideas are. I need to sit and listen to the voice inside. There are things/ideas/yearnings that I return to again and again. I want to notice those things, but with stillness and openness, and without feeling an urgency to act.

I spent the first few decades of my life betraying myself; I don’t want to do it ever again. To live authentically requires clarity. I am on an edge, a cusp, the dawn of a new period of life, so grateful to have survived until now. Silvia says we won’t die until we have finished our work here. What is my work? What is this next phase supposed to be about?


Living in Process

April 1, 2008

Living in process is being open to insight and encounter. Creativity is becoming intensely absorbed in the process and giving it form.  ~Susan Smith

In creative endeavors, I have tried to remember that process is important, usually (always?) more important than product. But I don’t know that I’ve applied this principal consciously to living itself. At least this seems to me a new way of thinking about familiar ideas. What does it look like to live in process? Smith gives us some definition: being open to insight and encounter.

Cultivating openness seems a worthy goal. And I love the fact that the quote addresses openness both to intuition (self) and in relationship (other). If we think beyond subject-object dualism, this is one and the same, I suppose. An open heart is an open heart. And I long for a truly open heart.

It is fear that prevents the heart from opening fully to experience. Creative moments are so ecstatic because we flow, for a moment, in the stream of process, without fear. Because we open our hearts to the experience, surrendering the illusion of control. In that place, fear has no substance, no power.

When are you most open to insight and encounter? How can we expand those opportunities for living in process?


Trust

March 22, 2008

The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be, and when they’re not, we cry.  ~from Thinkexist.com (unattributed)

Because I learned not to trust at an early age, perhaps I have been too eager to trust people in my adulthood, because I have often made the mistake of trusting people before I really know them. Really getting to know someone requires time, shared experience, patience, full awareness in their presence. In some cases, my instincts were dead on, and I developed a satisfying relationship in spite of my tendency to trust too soon. At other times, when someone turned out to be other than who I wanted them to be, I cried.

The foundation for those satisfying relationships is, of course, knowing and trusting one’s self. Getting to know ourselves (which also requires time, patience and full awareness) and trusting our lives to unfold as they should is a lifelong process, in my view. My friend Gloria once said, “Life can be quite radically trusted.” At the time, I had no idea what she meant. Now I want to rest in the lap of the universe, trust that it will hold me, and experience myself and others with crystal clarity. Although I’ve resisted it for years, the time has come for a mindfulness meditation practice.

May I learn the discipline of practice, the mindfulness to be fully present with myself and others, and the discernment to know when and whom to trust.


Riding the Currents

March 9, 2008

Victories won in an adversarial fashion come at a very high cost. These have led to the spiral of mutual hostility that we see acted out in Congress every day, where the last vestiges of partisanship and civility have virtually disappeared. ~Charles Halpern

Halpern, one of the country’s first public interest lawyers in the 1960s, has written a book, Making Waves and Riding the Currents: Activism and the Practice of Wisdom. I have just read about it in an interview with the author in the March issue of Shambhala Sun, and was reminded of my earlier post on Activism, as well as the one on New Ideas.

As to what’s wrong with the way activism has been practiced, Halpern says, “To go back to the early days of the environmental movement, there were ways we could have proceeded that were less polarizing. We could have been less self-righteous. I think of my own self-righteousness in my early days as a public interest lawyer, and it makes me cringe.”

He says, “Reagan became a symbol of a self-indulgent individualism, which is still a powerful force in this country. The idea that selfishness is a virtue, and generosity a kind of foolishness, received wide acceptance. That’s still a widely held point of view, reflected in the fact that we have enormous and growing inequality between the rich and the poor, that we’ve created a new Gilded Age.

We’re starting to see the prices of that attitude in environmental destruction, indifference to the plight of the poor, and idea that government is the enemy and taxes should only be cut, never raised. These are attitudes that activists have to work against, but they shouldn’t just be working to change corporate policy, or to get a new law adopted that will put, for example, stronger limitations on products sold to small children…they’ve also got to understand that these shifts in public policy are only possible, and ultimately, only effective, if they are attached to a shift in wisdom, and toward the values of community, mutuality, and interconnection.”

Good for Halpern! I look forward to reading the book.


Balance

March 2, 2008

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. ~Stephen Covey

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth and the soul requires inward restfulness to attain its full height. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Without great solitude no serious work is possible. ~Pablo Picasso 

I have recently submitted requests for vacation days several months in advance. In May I will travel with friends to a state park for a few days R&R; in June, I plan to see Iris DeMent in concert; and I have scheduled several Mondays off to extend my weekends. The Mondays in particular will allow me space and time for silence, solitude and creativity.

For too long, my paid work has been a priority that crowded out others. While I love my work, I have to consciously attend to relationships, home, solitude and rest in order to maintain balance. How do you achieve balance in your life among the many demands you face and roles you play?


How Others Feel

February 27, 2008

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  ~Maya Angelou

A part of my mind rejects this idea because I don’t like the discounting of what we say and do, but I know it is true. To a large degree, it is the emotional content of what we say and do that people connect with (or are repelled by), regardless of the intellectual content or even the actions themselves.

It’s usually easy to tell how people feel when we’re in close relationship: spouse, family, friends. But how can we better understand our impact on those who are less transparent to us or less forthcoming with their feedback? Do we need to concern ourselves with that?

I know that at work I am often intensely focused on a task at hand, and when I am interrupted, it takes a while for me to shift my attention to the person who needs it. I’m sure this has sometimes sent a message I didn’t intend. As an introvert, I am slow to warm up to people and need time to process interaction. But I would like to practice being more fully present for others and to smile more! 🙂


Sweet Forgiveness

January 20, 2008

When you get down to it, Lily, that’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life–not just to love, but to persist in love.  ~August, in The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

Sweet forgiveness, dear God above
I say we all deserve
A taste of this kind of love
Someone who’ll hold our hand
And whisper: ‘I understand,
And I still love you.’
~Iris DeMent

Write the wrongs that are done to you in sand,  but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble. Let go of all emotions, such as resentment and retaliation, which diminish you, and hold onto the emotions, such as joy and gratitude, which increase you.  ~Arabic proverb

I finally read The Secret Life of Bees, which has been on my reading list for some time now. It’s a good story, and I enjoyed the singular voice of the protagonist and narrator, Lily. I found the themes echoing around my head and heart afterwards–love, empathy, parenting, faith, acceptance, forgiveness.

Forgiveness is sweet on the receiving end, as Iris DeMent poignantly sings, but it is also one of those things that benefits the giver as much as (often more than) the receiver. There is nothing more stunting to our growth than holding a grudge, nursing a hurt, or keeping account of times we’ve been wronged. But so many are unable to “persist in love” in that way. And so we have war, and conflict, and separation from one another.

I think our ability to forgive others, as in Lily’s case, is in part dependent upon our ability to forgive ourselves. Setting high standards for ourselves gives us something to strive toward, but can be a trap for self-denial as well. I am getting better at forgiving myself for all the stupid, thoughtless, unkind, and self-destructive things I’ve done. I want to be completely free to forgive and feel compassion for all.

Do you give yourself the benefit of the doubt as often as you give it to others? Can you think about failures or mistakes you’ve made in the past without a trace of angst?


Thankfulness

January 9, 2008

If we meet someone who owes us thanks, we right away remember that. But how often do we meet someone to whom we owe thanks without remembering that?  ~Goethe

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.  ~Gerald Good

I have written three thank-you notes today on some lovely handmade note cards I got for 50% off after the holidays. I often wonder how many paper-and-pen thank you notes are written anymore. I’m sure it is far fewer than ever before in my lifetime; the advent of e-mail made it much easier to say thank you without a lot of bother. But even though I don’t always do it when I have the urge to, I love sending thank-you notes for thoughtful gifts, support during a hard time, special favors, or other expressions of generosity.

Yet I know there are many to whom I owe thanks that have never received such a note from me! It is easy to forget how many people help us along our way without our knowledge–or those who assist in ways that seem inconsequential, expected, or even suspect.  Who are the many people you have never thanked who probably deserve your thanks? I think I’ll make a list.

Namaste.


Love

January 7, 2008

In love, we disappear. We stop the world, we stop being two selves, and become an activity, an open field of sensitivity…The experience of love is as close as most of us get, after childhood’s end, to feeling that we are not bound by our skin, that the circumference of self can be moved or penetrated or dissolved in union with another…The word “desire” comes from de-sidere, “away from your star.” It means elongation from the source and the concomitant, powerful magnetic pull to get back to the source.  ~Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play (pp. 168, 167, 165)

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; while loving someone deeply gives you courage.  ~Lao Tzu

What an interesting Lao Tzu quote! I think of courage as coming before (being required for) loving, though I don’t doubt that loving strengthens our courage muscles. Those of us who know what it means to be deeply loved are (I believe) immensely fortunate and stronger from it.

What grace love is. It’s not about you, or me, or even us, but about something beyond, what Nachmanovitch calls an activity, what some call creativity or encounter.

I like the image of the magnetic pull to return to one’s star, but I suppose the Buddhists would say we have never been separate from it, that we have only thought ourselves separate.

What is love to you?


Judgment

January 1, 2008

Positive judgment hurts less acutely than criticism, but it is judgment all the same and we are harmed by it in far more subtle ways. To seek approval is to have no resting place, no sanctuary.  ~Rachel Naomi Remen, from Kitchen Table Wisdom 

The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.  ~Einstein

Remen begins her essay on this topic by asserting that “the life in us is diminished by judgment far more frequently than disease. Our own self-judgment or the judgment of other people can stifle our life force, its spontaneity and natural expression.” Amen! But she goes on to remind us that approval can make us just as uncertain of our true worth as criticism. How have I “performed” for approval, either from others or from myself? From the time I was barely reading and was prompted to recite selections from Cautionary Verses* for company, to my career accomplishments, I have to admit there have been many such times.

As Remen also points out, one of the joys of aging is the recognition that we are whole people, with the full range of human characteristics: “fear and courage, generosity and selfishness, vulnerability and strength.” What we consider our shortcomings sometimes turn out to be strengths, and vice versa. And I love these concluding lines of her chapter: “Things that I have hidden from others for years turn out to be the anchor and enrichment of my middle age. What a blessing it is to outlive your self-judgments and harvest  your failures.”

It seems to me there is little else to be said about the absolutely perfect antidote Einstein supplies. How has judgment affected your life? What have you learned from your pursuit of approval?

*Cautionary Verses, by Hilaire Belloc, is a collection of droll, satirical moralisms with titles such as “Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death” and “Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion.” These are two I can still recite, along with “Henry King, who chewed bits of string and was early cut off in dreadful agonies.” One of my favorite stories about Belloc is his chosen epitaph: “When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”


What Others Think

December 28, 2007

Enslavement to the opinions of others is the source of a great deal of duplicity in modern society. How often we discover our action to be prompted, not by the divine Center, but by what others may say or think. Sadly, we must confess that our experience is all too frequently characterized by endless attempts to justify what we do or fail to do.  ~Richard J. Foster

You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.  ~Olin Miller

How many of us were taught to consider first the appearance to others of our actions, rather than the rightness to ourselves? I have spent half a lifetime and a lot of therapy dollars unlearning that lesson, and still I catch myself sometimes justifying to others what I do or fail to do. Just look at my “About” page if you doubt me.

How liberating, though, to realize that I am my best counsel! Remaining open to the opinions and ideas of others, I strive to ultimately listen to my own voice, “divine Center” or conscience. There is a dearth of real courage in our society (as opposed to machismo/violence/aggression passed off for courage). I believe real courage requires us to be still, silent, reflective, and receptive–and these states are increasingly discouraged by modern lifestyles.

How do the opinions of others (real or imagined) shape your behavior, your thought, your deeds? What would change if you listened to your own wisdom?


Power

October 7, 2007

When one does not know how to convince, one oppresses; in all power relations among governors and governed, as ability declines, usurpation increases.  ~Madame de Stael

The question is, on a national/world and on a personal/workplace level: How do we assist those in power in gaining ability–or failing that, how do we make sure that those who gain power are skillful? My observation is that most of the powerful people who lack skill also lack humility, have little self-awareness of the need to develop.

So it seems our most important task must be advancing those who do have ability, somehow renewing the respect for learning and wisdom, supporting those who lead and reach, even if they should fail. We need leaders with vision and courage, not just a will to power. And we need to give them room to be human beings, tolerating the imperfections we all have. Which is worse: Clinton and a little sexual misconduct, or Bush and the slaughtering of thousands of innocents?


Discourse

September 3, 2007

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.  ~Rumi

How polarized the human family seems to me. Where are the places we can come together to talk as living, loving beings, transcending the IDEAS of wrong and right? Public libraries could be one of those places; liberal religious communities could be another. Privately, meditation helps us connect with all that is, to sense our place in the interdependent web of all existence. And I am convinced it is only this awareness that will save the world. If  we know the world is us, we are less likely to participate in harmful practices.

Is it enough to radiate peace as individuals, or must we work toward peace with others? How do we best create or discover fields in which to meet?


Bumper Sticker Wisdom

August 26, 2007

Live simply. Give generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.  ~from a bumper sticker (thanks to nonprofit consultant Illene Roggensack)

I particularly like the “give generously” part. I find that generosity serves me well. (Is that a contradiction?) Here’s how: approaching life from a mindset of abundance, rather than scarcity, not only makes me feel richer, but helps me see the goodness in others. So many of us on this earth are wounded, act out of woundedness, see the world as hostile–or at best, something to be struggled against and overcome. Acting generously, I can give first to the other, and often reciprocity follows. Giving first is giving up nothing.