Saturday, June 3, 2017

Frank Ostaskeski: Hearing the Cries of the World

This is from a beautiful new book I've recently purchased by Frank Ostaskeski, who is an amazing man who has dedicated his life to service. He has also been honored by the Dalai Lama and counts among his friends Rachel Naomi Remen, Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, and many others. He teaches internationally, has sat with thousands who transitioned from this life to the next, and has provided seminars at Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, and other medical centers and universities. I bow to each and every soul whose lives and messages they offer are devoted to the awakening and healing of us all and this beautiful planet we share. Whatever our religious or spiritual tradition, may we each be inspired to deepen in our own spiritual practices of healing, compassion, wisdom, and lovingkindness. 
Bless us all - Molly

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

California condors are magnificent creatures. The largest birds in North America, these spectacular, almost mythological beings can have wingspans of close to ten feet and soar like gods above the Big Sur coast. At one time, hundreds of condors roosted in the tall redwoods of the coastal mountains along the Pacific Ocean. But the last of the free-flying condors were taken into captivity in 1987 in order to save the species from extinction.

In the late '90s, California condors raised in captivity were reintroduced to the wild to restore the endangered breed. Unfortunately, these birds didn't adapt well to their release. They were ill prepared to live in the wilderness and were often found in places they didn't belong, flying in confused circles around buildings and near people, too afraid to venture into the woods.

Wildlife experts quickly learned from the error of their ways. For subsequent releases, they made sure the birds were reared by adult condors from early life and were therefore less imprinted on people. This new generation of young captives, upon reintroduction to the wild, adjusted well. The California condor population is now thriving.

In Buddhism, wisdom and compassion are spoken of metaphorically as the two great wings of our practice. If the balance between the two is underdeveloped or immature, we cannot take flight and find freedom. Like early young captive condors, we don't make smart choices and can end up flying in circles. Attempts at compassion without wisdom easily become sentimental and mushy. Attempts at wisdom without compassion can seem cold, indifferent, cerebral.

The wisdom that gives rise to compassion is the clear understanding of our interdependence, an appreciation that we are not separate. We may appear so, but this is misperception, a conditioned view that shapes how we see ourselves and how we engage with each other.

I have several surfer friends who are always trying to teach me about waves. They talk to me about the elemental forces that create ocean waves thousands of miles offshore, how the wind generates moving energy tides and currents, the shape of the ocean floor, the length of the reef, wave height, the fetch and face of waves, and how they get arranged into sets. They spend endless hours studying waves. Honestly, I don't see what they see.

I do see that each wave is completely unique. No two waves are the same. They come into form dependent on many differing conditions, live for a while, and express a distinctive beauty before they disappear., thrown up on the beach before flowing back to sea. Each wave is distinct, yet not separate. All are part of the same ocean. The ocean is one big body, and the waves are its individual expression.

We human beings are like that: exquisitely unique and differentiated, but not separate. With all our extraordinary differences, we share the same basic nature. We are all part of the same vast ocean.

When we release ourselves from a narrow sense of separateness, we open to a wider worldview. One that wisely appreciates that we are not alone, nor can we manage this life alone. We recognize that we are tangled up with each other and completely interdependent with everything else, including the earth, sky, and sea, the creatures that dwell in those places, and the seen and unseen forces that impact our lives.

This realization doesn't require religion or any esoteric spiritual beliefs. It is grounded in everyday observation. We share similar needs for water, food, a home, and love. We also have similar desires for attention, affection, to be seen, and to be happy. No matter how vast our differences, we human beings are really the same in fairly normal and essential ways.

A simple but effective meditation practice emphasizes this truth and serves as a way of evoking the compassion that is hardwired into our nervous systems. Choose that elderly person riding the bus with you, or call to mind the individual featured in the heartbreaking news story you just read, or bring it still closer to home to break the cycle of attack and withdrawal when you argue with your partner. Try it when you meet someone new. Silently repeat a few phrases to emphasize your common ground with the other person and feel the connection of simple human kindness:

          This person has a body, heart, and mind, just like me.
          This person worries and gets frightened, just like me.
          This person is trying their best to navigate life, just like me.
          This person is a fellow human being, just like me.

Now, allow some benevolent wishes for well-being to arise:
          May this person have the strength and support to face the 
          difficulties in life.
          May this person be free from suffering and its causes.
          May this person be peaceful and happy. 
          May this person be loved.

Once we have seen ourselves in others and seen others in us, it fundamentally transforms the way we live in the world. The shift in perception brings about a change of heart. We can no longer fool ourselves into believing that the intentional disrespect of others, placing ourselves above or below others, or acting in selfish ways will ever bring us real happiness. As the poet says, "Only kindness makes sense anymore."

I love how His Holiness the Dalai Lama explains complex concepts in plain language:

There is no denying that our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. There is no denying that if society suffers, we ourselves suffer. Nor is there any denying that the more our hearts and minds are afflicted with ill-will, the more miserable we become. Thus we can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion.

- Frank Ostaskeski
Excerpted from The Five Invitations: Discovering What
Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully

~ ~

No comments: