Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pema Chödrön: The Endless Opportunities Of a Lifetime

When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.


Pema Chödrön: Transforming the Heart of Suffering


In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.

In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean—you name it—to have compassion and to care for these people, means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves. In fact, one’s whole attitude toward pain can change. Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one’s heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.
The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering—ours and that which is all around us—everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, no matter how cruel or cold we might seem to be.
We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and whom we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy, or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain or our personal stuckness happens to be at that moment.
At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment are feeling the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can’t name what you’re feeling. But you can feel it—a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness, or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in—for all of us and send out relief to all of us.
People often say that this practice goes against the grain of how we usually hold ourselves together. Truthfully, this practice does go against the grain of wanting things on our own terms, of wanting it to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to the others. The practice dissolves the armor of self-protection we’ve tried so hard to create around ourselves. In Buddhist language one would say that it dissolves the fixation and clinging of ego.
Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we begin to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being. At first we experience this as things not being such a big deal or as solid as they seemed before.
Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have just died, or for those who are in pain of any kind. It can be done either as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. For example, if you are out walking and you see someone in pain—right on the spot you can begin to breathe in their pain and send out some relief. Or, more likely, you might see someone in pain and look away because it brings up your fear or anger; it brings up your resistance and confusion. So on the spot you can do tonglen for all the people who are just like you, for everyone who wishes to be compassionate but instead is afraid, for everyone who wishes to be brave but instead is a coward.
Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.

Please go here for the original article: http://www.lionsroar.com/transforming-the-heart-of-suffering/

Monday, December 29, 2014

Vandana Shiva: Rights of Nature On the Global Stage

When nature is a teacher, we ­co-create with her—we recognize her agency and her rights. That is why it is significant that Ecuador has recognized the “rights of nature” in its constitution. In April 2011, the United Nations General Assembly­—inspired by the constitution of Ecuador and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth initiated by Bolivia—organized a conference on harmony with nature as part of Earth Day celebrations. Much of the discussion centered on ways to transform systems based on domination of people over nature, men over women, and rich over poor into new systems based on partnership.
We need to overcome the wider and deeper apartheid—an eco-apartheid based on the illusion of separateness of humans from nature in our minds and lives.
The U.N. secretary general’s report, “Harmony with Nature,” issued in conjunction with the conference, elaborates on the importance of reconnecting with nature: “Ultimately, environmentally destructive behavior is the result of a failure to recognize that human beings are an inseparable part of nature and that we cannot damage it without severely damaging ourselves.”
Separatism is indeed at the root of disharmony with nature and violence against nature and people. As the prominent South African environmentalist Cormac Cullinan points out, apartheid means separateness. The world joined the anti-apartheid movement to end the violent separation of people on the basis of color. Apartheid in South Africa was put behind us. Today, we need to overcome the wider and deeper apartheid—an eco-apartheid based on the illusion of separateness of humans from nature in our minds and lives.
- Vandana Shiva
Please go here for the original article: http://www.dailygood.org/story/391/everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-in-the-forest-vandana-shiva/

Vandana Shiva: The Dead-Earth Worldview

The war against the Earth began with this idea of separateness. Its contemporary seeds were sown when the living Earth was transformed into dead matter to facilitate the industrial revolution. Monocultures replaced diversity. “Raw materials” and “dead matter” replaced a vibrant Earth. Terra Nullius (the empty land, ready for occupation regardless of the presence of indigenous peoples) replaced Terra Madre (Mother Earth).
This philosophy goes back to Francis Bacon, called the father of modern science, who said that science and the inventions that result do not “merely exert a gentle guidance over nature’s course; they have the power to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations.”
Robert Boyle, the famous 17th-century chemist and a governor of the Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the New England Indians, was clear that he wanted to rid native people of their ideas about nature. He attacked their perception of nature “as a kind of goddess” and argued that “the veneration, wherewith men are imbued for what they call nature, has been a discouraging impediment to the empire of man over the inferior creatures of God.”
The death-of-nature idea allows a war to be unleashed against the Earth. After all, if the Earth is merely dead matter, then nothing is being killed.
As philosopher and historian Carolyn Merchant points out, this shift of perspective—from nature as a living, nurturing mother to inert, dead, and manipulable matter—was well suited to the activities that would lead to capitalism. The domination images created by Bacon and other leaders of the scientific revolution replaced those of the nurturing Earth, removing a cultural constraint on the exploitation of nature. “One does not readily slay a mother, dig into her entrails for gold, or mutilate her body,” Merchant wrote.
Today, at a time of multiple crises intensified by globalization, we need to move away from the paradigm of nature as dead matter. We need to move to an ecological paradigm, and for this, the best teacher is nature herself.
- Vandana Shiva
This is excerpted from "Everything I Need To Know I Learned In the Forest." Please go here for the full article: http://www.dailygood.org/story/391/everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-in-the-forest-vandana-shiva/

Mahatma Gandhi: A Mirror Reflection

What we are doing to the forests of the world is but 
a mirror reflection of what we are doing to 
ourselves and to one another. 

- Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, December 28, 2014

John O'Donohue: Befriending the Worlds That Come to Balance Within

If we become addicted to the external, our interiority will haunt us. We will become hungry with a hunger no image, person, or deed can still. To be wholesome, we must remain truthful to our vulnerable complexity. In order to keep our balance, we need to hold the interior and exterior, visible and invisible, known and unknown, temporal and eternal, ancient and new, together. No one else can undertake this task for you. You are the one and only threshold of an inner world. This wholesomeness is holiness. To be holy is to be natural, to befriend the worlds that come to balance in you.

Satish Kumar: Be Your Own Light

Whatever lessens suffering in yourself and others, that is right. Whatever increases suffering, that is wrong. The answer is within you. When you are free of pride and prejudice, when you are calm and attentive, a light will shine within you. Through meditation and through being mindful you will find your own knowledge of rightness. You will be your own light. 

John O'Donohue: When Our Eyes Are Graced With Wonder

When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.

For An Addict: A Blessing

I share this beautiful and profound blessing by John O'Donohue for all those who actively struggle with addiction. Most of us know, and are even close with, someone who is being pulled under by the force of their attachment to something outside themselves. On some level, and to one degree or another, this can also be true for most of us. Years ago I read a book called When Society Becomes An Addict and was deeply struck with how our culture subtly but actively supports addiction in all its forms. It became clear that most of us fall somewhere on the continuum of being more or less addicted and more or less awake. Addiction wears many faces and can be defined as any consistent pattern of behavior and thinking that obstructs our healing, wholeness, presence, and being more fully who we truly are. These many faces can take the form of addiction to countless distractions, some more obvious and harmful than others: alcohol and drugs, shopping and accumulating stuff, starving or overeating, caretaking and codependency, religion and rigidity, racism and bigotry, projection and blame, exercise and work, sex and affairs, anger and abuse, judging and thinking, greed and all forms of violence, etc., etc. Today, not only am I 30 years into my recovery from substance addiction, I am also rooted into a lifelong journey of increasingly awakening to all that which distracts and disconnects me from myself, from you, from all beings, from this precious moment and this precious life I have been gifted. My continued prayer for us all is for deepening mindfulness, presence, compassion, connection. While addiction separates, the intention and commitment to awaken brings remembrance of what we have forgotten. May we all remember the beauty of our true nature, may we be healed, may our hearts remain open, may we know peace. 

Many blessings ~ Molly


For An Addict
A Blessing

On its way through the innocent night,
The moth is ambushed by the light,
Becomes glued to a window
Where a candle buns; its whole self,
Its dreams of flight and all desire
Trapped in one glazed gaze;
Now nothing else ca satisfy
But the deadly beauty of flame.

When you lose the feel
For all other belonging
And what is truly near
Becomes distant and ghostly,
And you are visited
And claimed by a simplicity
Sinister in its singularity,

No longer yourself, your mind
And will owned and steered
From elsewhere now,
You would sacrifice anything
To dance once more to the haunted
Music with your fatal beloved
Who owns the eyes of your heart.

These words of blessing cannot
Reach, even as echoes,
To the shore of where you are,

Yet may they work without you
To soften some slight line through
To the white cave where
Your soul is captive.

May some glimmer
Of outside light reach your eyes
To help you recognize how
You have fallen for a vampire.

May you crash hard and soon
Onto real ground again
Where this fundamentalist
Shell might start to crack
For you to hear
Again your own echo.

That your lost lonesome heart
Might learn to cry out
For the true intimacy
Of love that waits
To take you home

To where you are known
And seen and where
Your life is treasured
Beyond every frontier
Of despair you have crossed.

- John O’Donohue
To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Satish Kumar: The Work of Eliminating Violence

We must realize that violence is not confined to physical violence. Fear is violence, caste discrimination is violence, exploitation of others, however subtle, is violence, segregation is violence, thinking ill of others and condemning others are violence. In order to reduce individual acts of physical violence, we must work to eliminate violence at all levels, mental, verbal, personal, and social, including violence to animals, plants, and all other forms of life.

Chris Jordan: When You Bring Beauty and Grief Together

One powerful elixir is beauty. There is nothing quite like beauty. When you bring beauty and grief together, you can't look at it, because it's so sad -- and you can't look away, because it's so beautiful. It's a moment of being transfixed, and the key is turned in the lock. 
- Chris Jordan

The Above by Chris Jordan is from  Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait:
As my team and I prepare to travel back to Midway Atoll, I cannot help but note the macabre juxtaposition of the environmental disaster that is happening in the Pacific Ocean, with the one that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. The two phenomena are oddly parallel, involving (among other grotesque features) the deaths of untold numbers of sea birds, caused by millions of tons of our petroleum products that have poured into the ocean via our collective negligence. And in each case the birds can be viewed as messengers, serving as one small warming signal of a much larger calamity, with global consequences, in which our individual consumer lifestyles are unavoidably complicit.
My friend the artist Richard Lang says the opposite of beauty is not ugliness, but indifference. 

For more, please go here: http://coastalcare.org/2010/08/midway-atoll-northwestern-end-of-the-hawaiian-archipelago/ 

Chris Jordan - Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption

Chris Jordan: Crushed cars #2, Tacoma 2004     44x62"
Exploring around our country's shipping ports and industrial yards, where the accumulated detritus of our consumption is exposed to view like eroded layers in the Grand Canyon, I find evidence of a slow-motion apocalypse in progress. I am appalled by these scenes, and yet also drawn into them with awe and fascination. The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me its consistent feature is a staggering complexity.
The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.
As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake.
- Chris Jordan

Recycling Yard #6, Seattle 2004     44x59"
Pole Yard, Tacoma 2004     44x60"
Cell phones, Orlando 2004     44 x 82"

Don't Become Who Hurt You

My experience has been that certainly among life's greatest challenges is making a conscious choice of whether or not to be bitter. If we do not make this a conscious choice, we will likely be acting out our unconscious choice in ways that cause more harm than healing. Certainly among life's greatest callings is to learn the gifts of the alchemist - how to embrace, heal, transform the harm we have suffered from others, and from ourselves, and discover the hard-won gifts of wisdom, compassion, and deepened and mature love buried in our suffering. It is there. May we claim these precious gifts. 

Peace & blessings ~ Molly

Friday, December 26, 2014

Terry Tempest Williams: The World Is Holy

The world is holy. 
We are holy. All life is holy. 
Daily prayers are delivered on 
the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings 
of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.

Terry Tempest Williams: This Is My Living Faith

This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.