This one is for our son Matt.
And for all our children and grandchildren.
And for us all.
With so much love - Molly
As I became mindful of my body, it did not take long before my tears came. There was so much... so many images, so many feelings, so much awareness. I saw the refugees in Syria, the tents of the homeless on the cold Portland streets, my 90 year mother and how her Alzheimer's was claiming more and more of her, my sons' father and the disease of addiction that is bringing him closer and closer to death. I also experienced our warring and warming planet and the suffering of humans and other beings all over the world. I was aware of what some refer to as PESD - Post Election Stress Disorder - and all the sadness that comes with this downward spiral and the increasing threats to life on Earth, and especially for the most vulnerable among us. And there was the awareness of the gravity of these times and how it is our human ignorance that imperils us all.
And, with my eyes closed, I experienced wrapping my little 22 month old grandson Oliver in my arms, protectively, so wanting to protect him. Especially from our warming planet and from the violence and disconnection that is normalized and so prevalent in our nation and the world. And I just held him and wept. And I wept for my children, my three beautiful sons. And for Alli and our 8 month old baby grandson Carsten. And I thought of all the babies and children everywhere who, not through intention, but through our ignorance, we are endangering. Moving through me was the consciousness of the pain in the world. And out of that came, yet once again, an even deeper commitment to do everything I can to stand in protection of the children,... including the children of all the species everywhere.
Back before I began the long process of coming home to myself - that long journey from my head into my heart - I was oblivious to so much. The kindness and wisdom, the deep love and compassion, the courage and commitment to being a force for peace - all this lay largely dormant within me. My experience instead was one of disconnection. I also had no idea that I was experiencing this separation because it was all I had ever known; I simply had no conscious or body awareness of any other way of being in the world. Like all of us, I was a human being who had been wounded in life. I had absorbed this harm to my heart, mind, and soul, and then I neglected to do the work of healing. There is no fault in this. There is no blame for my ignorance or that of any of us. It simply is.
What I have also awakened to understand to be true is that we all are doing the best we can, the best we know how to do in any given moment. Can we do better? Of course. And, of course, it is also true that we have to want to. To move forward, to discover and heal and transform the wounds we sustain in life, we need to become aware that it is possible to grow and evolve in our capacity to love. We can seek to understand and heal, and to learn from and transform the obstacles each and every one of us have to loving more deeply. If we are alive and breathing, there is simply more to be done. This happens when we make a decision, a commitment, a vow, a deep prayer asking for help to embrace this commitment to our deeper Selves. And to one another...
It is both humbling and deeply freeing to recognize that we all fall somewhere on the continuum which holds ignorance and being asleep on the one end and awakening and enlightenment on the other. It is a gift to recognize that there is no competition here, no being better than anyone else. We all are somewhere on this continuum. It simply is. When I was disconnected from the deeper love of my heart and the deeper wisdom of my soul, when I was not having the conscious experience of the Sacred which weaves through us all, the unconscious experience of separation within myself and with others fueled my judging, finger pointing, critical and shaming-blaming mind. I remember over 30 years ago when a counselor at that time told me she saw me as experiencing more connection, more being on equal ground with others. I did not know what she was talking about. She then reflected back to me that I was not as often either elevating myself as better than others or going to the pit of shame and feeling profoundly flawed on the other.
All my addictions and denials, distractions and disconnects, painful and dysfunctional relationships, judgments and projections, pretense and image management, empathic failures and harming of myself and others were rooted in the pain I avoided in my heart and the pain of the collective heart which connects us all. Is it easy to do the gradual work of lifting the fog of our defenses and tenderly embracing our blind spots and the wounds that have unknowingly caused harm to ourselves and others? No, it is not. It actually takes a great deal of courage and support and a kind of fierce and passionate commitment to learning how to live in the greater wholeness of who we truly are.
Elizabeth Lesser writes ― "I have tried both ways: I have gone back to sleep in order to resist the forces of change. And I have stayed awake and been broken open. Both ways are difficult, but one way brings with it the gift of a lifetime. If we can stay awake when our lives are changing, secrets will be revealed to us ― secrets about ourselves, about the nature of life, and about the eternal source of happiness and peace that is always available, always renewable, already within us."
It is an amazing experience, truly profound, to go from the experience of separation to one of deep and soulful connection. As more and more of the fog I have lived in gets lifted with each year as I grow older, I find those qualities I most admire and am drawn to in others grow stronger in myself ― kindness, courage, compassion, passion, joy, playfulness, laughter, wisdom, integrity, authenticity, honesty, empathy, love. So many paradoxes. For years, before and especially after my twin brother's suicide, I did not allow myself to cry. Instead I continued on the path of fortifying the protective walls around my heart. I did not even know I was doing this. And yet these walls also kept joy out. And deep belly laughter. And feeling connected with and equal to you and you and you. If I cannot see the beauty within myself, I cannot experience it within you.
Yet, it is exactly the doorway of my tears, the path into the tenderness of my heart, that my heart has grown the eyes to see, to truly see. And with each passing year my heart's vision grows more clear, more expansive. And it is to the point today that I can no longer agree that it is okay to call anyone an idiot or asshole. It is not okay to demean and demonize and denigrate. It is no longer acceptable to perch myself on the ledge of arrogance looking down upon my fellow human beings pointing my shaming fingers. Not today. No more. Because I have been owning and healing and transforming my own shame and coming to see the truth of how the Sacred resides within us all. And because I have been on this journey of befriending my shadow, I don't have to condemn yours. We all have blind spots, we all have been wounded, we all have our defenses against seeing ourselves more deeply. This is part of what it is to be human. And given the intimate relationship I have cultivated over many years now with my own pain, I am no longer afraid of yours. And what I know, what I understand, what I am intimate with, I do not have to judge in others.
Again and again and again I am humbled. And profoundly grateful. But for the Grace of God go I - sober, connected, kind, joyful, heart breaking open, and scaling the empathy wall - as Chuck Collins so beautifully calls it - again and again and again to see those I once considered as Other, or didn't even see at all, with the eyes of compassion and caring.
It is not easy to be human. It isn't. We all are wounded in life. Even if we grew up in more connected and less shame-based families, we still live in a very disconnected and shame-based culture. We are immersed in ignorance rather than the consciousness of loving one another. There is such a deep need, I believe, to search more deeply to connect with those whose lives reflect a strong and soulful connection with the Sacred. They illuminate a path that is heart-centered rather than the painful disconnect we see in our polarized nation.
I come back to weeping in my therapy session last night, holding my grandson Oliver in my heart with such great love and caring and concern. And out of my tears is emerging a peaceful warrior that is only growing stronger and more committed and passionate about the world we are leaving to him and to all the children everywhere. Because these children will no doubt hold us, those of us who are adults today, to account. Did we stand in protection of them? Did we do the hard work of addressing and embracing and transforming the obstacles to our love for them? Are we intervening on our inner critic and remembering compassion instead? Are we reaching out our hands again and again to others to build bridges? Because we all need each other. We do!
Does this mean that we shut up and don't bring forth our strong voices that stand in protection of the children and our Earth Mother? No! Our strong voices are absolutely needed. However, these voices must come from the roots of the kindness, compassion, and consciousness of our larger Selves rather than the fears and judgments of our smaller selves. Instead of calling names and pointing fingers at all those Others out there, we can ask how is it that each of us can grow in awareness and love? Where are my blind spots, my places of ignorance, my limitations that need attending, accountability, and transformation? How can we listen with the wisdom of our hearts? How can we act on that wisdom? And how can we name ignorance in a way that illuminates a deeper need that is rooted in love and awareness of what it is that needs healing?
Many of our children are awakening. There is the law suit filed by 21 youth from all over the country. "Their complaint asserts that, through the governments affirmative actions in causing climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources." https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/us/federal-lawsuit/. They know that our ignorance imperils their future and the well-being of the planet. They know. They are not calling names. Instead they are calling attention to a great harm that is happening and what we adults urgently need to do about it now. They are illuminating the problem and demanding a solution. How will we answer to them in ten or twenty years if we do not listen, if we do not stand in protection of them today?
For those who are reading this who do not yet believe in the impact of fossil fuels on our warming planet, please know that it is also the military who have been sounding the alarm for years because they know that they are the ones who are going to have to fight a lot of the time as our planet becomes increasingly chaotic due to climate change. Please also know that Exxon is among those who for years have been backing the same kinds of propaganda denying the human impact on global warming that was used to deny the link between cigarettes and cancer. This is toxic, criminal propaganda when it puts the very lives of our children at risk. I would also please ask you to consider this one question: If the 97% of climate scientists worldwide who are sounding urgent warnings about human induced global warming may only have a chance of being right by 5%, do you want to risk the welfare of your children and grandchildren for even that 5% chance?
Because I love my children and grandchildren so much, because I have researched deeply and am informed of the facts regarding what most threatens them, I am moved to do everything possible to stand in protection of my loved ones and yours and all the children everywhere. I'll be reading and writing and doing activism and doing civil disobedience and more. I need to do this in order to get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, knowing that I have done everything I could. I continue to flash back to holding Oliver in my arms, weeping...
Which moves me to another question: what will each and every one of us do? In the very least, we could look deeper. This is something we all can do, if we choose to. Among the resources I would highly recommend reading and viewing are these:
If you have any doubt about our warming planet and its impact on life on Earth, it is my hope that you will explore these resources. If nothing else, please consider doing this for your children and grandchildren. And mine.
Another question each and every one of us can ask ourselves is where do I fall on the continuum of being asleep on the one end and awakened on the other? Without judgment, without shame, but rather with tenderness and compassion, can we - will we - seek to know the truth of where we stand right now today? How conscious are we of both our blind spots and our strengths? What is the work we could choose to do to grow more conscious, more connected, more loving and wise? What can we do for ourselves, for one another, for the children, for other beings, for the planet?
After my therapy session last night I met for dinner with our youngest son, Matt, who is now 29. I weep more now as I reflect on our conversation... Before Matt was even born, and when Brian was just three years old and Kevin was just six months old, I embarked on my journey of awakening. I did not think of it in that way all those years ago. All I knew is that I wanted to do anything I could to "break the cycle" of pain and suffering that had gone back in my family for generations. Now here I was on December 21st, 2016 sitting across from the table at Laughing Planet restaurant on Belmont Street in Portland listening to Matt talking yet again about how he is doing a "searching and fearless inventory." I weep now........... He's doing it, he's really doing it. Matt is waking up. And he's sharing with me the choices he is making today. Among them, Matt spoke of how he is committed to being mindful, to intervening on himself when the old places surface, and to "being kind no matter what."
My son and I both know what it is like to be disconnected from our hearts and how that disconnect presents a huge obstacle to being in the world with lovingkindness. And we are each now on a journey, on a path of commitment to being in the world, as best as we can and one day at a time, with kindness, consciousness, and caring. As Matt says, this is a decision he has made. This is a decision we all could make. What will you choose?
I imagine a world in which more and more of us will draw from the courage and choices and commitment of those such as my young son. Just imagine a world in which we all were doing a "fearless and searching moral inventory!" WOW! The world would be transformed!
I have many prayers. Among them is that each and every one of us will work to deepen our spiritual practice, whatever that means for us. And, if we already haven't, that we will make a decision, a conscious choice, a commitment to kindness and love, to mindfulness of the ripples we send out into the world, and to our own - and to planetary - healing and awakening.
There is much work to be done. It is not easy to open to the truth of the pain in our hearts and in the world. Yet, this doorway is also the one that opens us to joy and connection and the experience of how it is that we are all related, all in this together, all woven together with the thread of the Sacred. May we deepen our awakening. For the children, may we become who we are, our beautiful holy Selves.
With love and blessings,
We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
— Thích Nhất Hạnh
— Thích Nhất Hạnh