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Life as a Drama

I asked a friend the other day how he maintains hope and faith when the whole world seems to have gone mad, and he told me he views life as a drama – there will be happy parts and sad parts and scary parts. He doesn’t expect life to be a smooth ride where nothing happens.

He also told me a particular scene we find distasteful could be pivotal to the story – in hindsight we may find certain actions were crucial.

I like his perspective – it helps me to detach a little and not become quite so dismayed at the events in the world. I’m not saying I no longer care, nor that we should sit back and do nothing. Rather, his perspective reminds me this is reality. I want everyone to be happy all the time. I want life to proceed in a straight line improving day by day. I want rainbows and sunshine and kittens prancing through fields all day long. But that’s not what we’re living in, and that’s never what we’ve lived in. Life is a series of ups and downs, twists and turns. And furthermore, there are good people and bad people, just like in any riveting tale. There are heroes and villains, and I hate to admit it, but the villains usually prompt the heroes to leave the house. If the villains weren’t engaging in some nefarious scheme, the heroes would twiddle their thumbs and maybe knit a scarf. Personally, I’d find that kind of story dull and would ask for my money back.

So melodramatic.

Similarly, real life is the same way. There are heroes and villains, there are wise advisers and fools. We all have our parts to play, but unfortunately, no one handed us a script or fed us our lines.

My spiritual teacher says, “When human beings bring something within the scope of their intellect, and by perceiving and observing it closely, can understand the cause behind it, this is called kriidá; and when the cause is beyond the scope of their thinking it is called liilá [or play]. Whatever the Macrocosm does is beyond the periphery of the human intellect, and that is why whatever He does is His liilá.”

My interpretation of this quote is a lot of stuff happens in this world. Some of it I will understand and some of it I won’t, and maybe never will. The stuff I don’t understand is liilá or play. My point of view is instead of agonizing over why this happened or why this didn’t happen, it’s better for me to take the mindset that life is a play, life is a drama, something I get to witness unfolding.

What I also believe to be true is ultimately the arc of civilization bends toward the beneficent. Ultimately things improve for all of us. However, getting there sometimes requires clash and conflict. Sometimes things get crazy and bizarre, like any good drama, before they are sorted out. It seems to me right now our society is in the middle of an important and intense scene, one that I’d like to believe is leading us somewhere better, but it won’t make sense until later on when the story plays out.

I dream of a world where we view life as a drama. A world where we realize the ups and downs are a part of life. A world where we understand we all have our part to play and we play it with gusto. A world where we keep doing our part trusting eventually the story will resolve.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Always with Us

I have a lot of fears. Most of them centering around physical safety. For much of life, I’ve tried to inoculate myself from danger by either not engaging, or by believing terrible things wouldn’t happen to me because I’m protected by my higher power. A few years ago, I was hit by a car as a pedestrian and that viewpoint shattered. It was a horrible time that shook me to my core. I realized being a woman of faith doesn’t mean I’ll escape all harm. Rather, it means regardless of what happens there is always a loving force with me.

I’m also reminded of a scene from the movie Rogue One. If you haven’t seen it and are planning to, stop reading or listening right now. The scene I’m thinking of is where blind warrior Chirrut chants, “I am one with the Force; the Force is with me,” as he strides into battle. He accomplishes what he sets out to, but he dies anyway. Being “one with the force” doesn’t make us immortal or keep us from getting hurt, instead it offers us the reassurance, the comfort, knowing we are not alone in any thing at any point.

We have one true friend.

In my yoga and meditation group, my spiritual teacher says our relationship with source or the divine is like the relationship of a fish with water – ever present, inseparable. Higher power, or whatever name you want to use, is our one true friend, the being who loved us in the past, who will love us in the future, and will be with us always.

This feeling was cemented for me over New Year’s. After the midnight meditation during my yoga and meditation retreat, I was struck with a strong feeling that we are deeply loved; through thick and thin there is a divine presence with us. That we will never be abandoned.

In these troubling times, when the future is uncertain and I don’t know what will happen next, it’s a balm to my soul realizing I’m not alone. That even if something terrible happens, I’m not handling it by myself – not only because I have friends, community, and me, but also because there is a loving presence with me always. It’s a comfort to me knowing I have a true friend.

I personally wanted faith to act as a force field shielding me from harm, but that’s not realistic. To be alive means to experience joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The more I accept that, the better off I’ll be. But the lovely thing is I’m not alone with any of it, none of us are.

I dream of a world where we feel into the presence of a loving, nurturing higher power with us at all times. A world where we recognize in good times and bad there is something else with us. A world where we know no matter what, we’re not alone.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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The Purple Dawn

For the past five days I’ve lived in a bubble. Members of my yoga and meditation group gathered in Malibu where we sang, danced, meditated, and learned from each other. Gazing at the ocean surrounded by so much beauty and love, it was easy to forget the real world. And then I flew home.

Re-entry startled and unnerved me, raw and sensitive as I am running on a few hours of sleep. On the drive home, I saw police officers tackling a man on the shoulder of the highway. It wasn’t me being chased, but my heart started pounding nonetheless. On the same ride, I saw hearts painted on the roof of a building. All of these things coexist.

The new dawn is on its way.

I don’t know what this year holds. I’m guessing it will be a mix of things, just like my ride home. There will be happy things and scary things and sad things and awesome things. For some of us there will be an unequal mix. But feeling my heart pound watching someone else’s life, reminds me we are all in this together. We all belong to each other and we are all responsible for each other. We are not as separate as we’d like to believe. On the same car ride home, the word “one” also caught my attention from a passing sign. It seemed to me a reminder of that fundamental truth.

As we start this new year, I want to quote my spiritual teacher because the message seems relevant. He said:

Just as the advent of the purple dawn is inevitable at the end of the cimmerian darkness of the interlunar night, exactly in the same way I know that a gloriously brilliant chapter will also come after the endless reproach and humiliation of the neglected humanity of today.

Those who love humanity and those who desire the welfare of living beings should be vigorously active from this very moment, after shaking off all lethargy and sloth, so that the most auspicious hour arrives at the earliest.

Let us all greet the new dawn. Let us all experience a gloriously brilliant chapter. And let us all work to bring that “auspicious hour” sooner rather than later.

I dream of a world where we remember we’re all connected. A world where we remember we all belong to each other. A world where we work together to create a glorious and brilliant life that we all wish to lead.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

 

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Lighting the Way Together

I’m spending time with my family right now so I’m editing/recycling some old posts of mine.

Right now it’s Christmas and Hanukkah, which I love. In times like these, I think we need to be reminded of what unites us instead of divides us.

Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but to me, Jesus seems like a mythical figure on the order of Zeus or Apollo. He lived so long ago that sometimes I take for granted he actually existed. He was born, he bled, he defecated. Jesus was a human being. Yes, an amazing human being, but he still existed, was still blood and bones the same as you and I, which astounds me. Fun fact, Sir Isaac Newton was also born on December 25. Newton wasn’t Jesus, but he was still a remarkable guy.

Let’s light the way for each other, together.

Why am I mentioning Newton’s birth? Primarily because when I hear about incredible human beings like Jesus, Newton, Albert Einstein, or Martin Luther King Jr., I somehow put them above me. I think to myself, “Those were amazing human beings, but I could never do anything like they did. I could never accomplish what they did.”  I somehow don’t believe they felt the things I felt or struggled the way I struggled. But that’s not true. They were people just like us. They had fears and failures just like us. Nothing separates us.

We’re all made of the same material. We all come from the same source. We are all light, which brings me to Hanukkah. One of the principles of the holiday I like the most is that one candle may kindle the light of many others and yet lose none of its own light. Right now I think it’s important to remember great people of the past, to remember we are like them, may accomplish what they’ve accomplished, and also we can be candles in the dark that kindle the light of many others.

My spiritual path is about using everything as a vehicle for liberation or enlightenment. About not running from feelings and tough times, and yet always remembering there is something more to me. Something outside the drama, the ups and downs, a witnessing part of me that remains unaffected and emits a light that can never be diminished. It’s my job to keep growing that light, to keep remembering its presence, and to kindle that light in others.

We need to keep kindling that light in others so we create a world we wish to see. A world where we live amongst each other in harmony. A world where we celebrate with each other and mourn with each other. A world where we aspire to great heights, accomplishing what we burn to accomplish like people in the past. A world where we remember who we really are — light beings.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Remaining Unperturbed

The other day, a monk from my yoga and meditation group posted a Facebook live video about remaining unperturbed in the face of external stimuli. His comment struck me primarily because I’m not unperturbed. I’m disturbed by every little thing. When the news is bad, I feel bad. When the news is good, I feel good. My mood of late seems to be tied to what’s going on in the world. This is not how I want to live.

Tying my mood to anything external is a dangerous business because things in the external world are so changeable. I think it’s important to know what’s going on in society, but to plunge from high to low at the drop of a hat is exhausting. My spiritual teacher advocates mental balance and equipoise and said, “We must maintain our mental balance and remain indifferent to both praise and slander, to both joy and sorrow.”

I'd like to be as placid as this lake.

I’d like to be as placid as this lake.

I’ve heard this concept before, to remain unaffected by what people say because our self-esteem and self-worth comes from within, but I haven’t thought about the concept much in terms of the news. Seems wise, especially as the news these days runs from bizarre to baffling. How to accomplish this though?

The short answer is to turn inward. To keep remembering what’s really important, to hold tight to our innermost presence. About this process my teacher said, “The charming allurements of the external world no longer keep their minds in thrall. The dazzling splendor of form and color, their glittering attraction, no longer evokes any response in the innermost recesses of their minds. The radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of their inner life become one.”

Yes please. I’d love for the “radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of [my] inner life” to become one. That sounds delightful. I’d like to remain unassailed by circumstances, for my mind to remain steady regardless of what’s happening externally. I’m pretty sure the only way to do this is to keep aligning my will with my higher power’s. To take shelter under the benevolent and loving force that pervades the universe and to keep letting go over and over again.

I dream of a world where we maintain mental balance. A world where external circumstances don’t affect us so drastically. A world where we keep turning inward over and over again. A world where we take shelter under the unaffected and unssailed power that’s greater than us.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Forgiveness: The Other “F” Word

During the earlier part of this week, my knee hurt. It could be because I tweaked it or slept funny, but I like to cover all my bases so I checked out what Louise Hay said in her book, You Can Heal Your Life. She said knee troubles have to do with inability to bend, fear, inflexibility, and not giving in. The antidote is forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and affirming, “I bend and flow with ease, and all is well.”

Louise Hay, I tell ya, she knows her stuff. This week what have I been dealing with? Why, lack of forgiveness of course! I’m harboring anger and resentment toward a few people. I’m so pissed at them, but at this point my anger is no longer serving me – in fact, it’s harming me. Realizing my knee troubles stem from holding onto a grudge shows me I have to let this go. I have to forgive.

I like to think of forgiveness as giving over to something greater.

I like to think of forgiveness as giving over to something greater.

What is forgiveness? My spiritual teacher says, “It means to remain free from vindictive attitudes towards anyone.” I like that. His definition works for me. I don’t want to spend my time wishing ill will on anyone. Or myself for that matter. It doesn’t serve anyone. In fact, it results in knee pain. At least in my case.

The difficulty for me in forgiving someone is I don’t want to sign off on their harmful behavior. I don’t want to say, “It’s OK for you to treat me this way,” when it’s not. However, I think there’s a difference between remaining free from vindictive attitudes and condoning someone’s behavior. Quite a few steps exist in between.

Forgiveness then is primarily an act of letting go. For me that means holding someone in the light. Giving them over to the powers that be and saying, “Here. You take it.” I can’t keep expending my energy stewing in anger and resentment, particularly because the other person is not going to change. And if they do, it won’t be because I directed vitriol at them. How other people behave is out of my hands. Lordy how I wish that wasn’t so, but it is. The way I maintain my inner peace and serenity then is to let go, to forgive. To realize all I can do is take care of myself by setting good boundaries, enforcing them, and removing myself from harmful situations.

What’s funny is after typing that I wanted to swear. Forgiveness really is the other “f” word.

I dream of a world where we’re able to forgive. A world where we’re able to let go of our desire to punish another. A world where we recognize what we can control and what we cannot. A world where we practice forgiveness not only for others, but for ourselves.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Pursue Joy

It has been an incredibly stressful and busy week for me so I don’t have the energy to write a new post. However, all this week I’ve noticed it’s easy for me to slip into the doldrums, to notice all the horrible things going on in the world and overlook the good things. This post from a couple of years ago sprang to mind as a good reminder that we have to actively pursue joy.

A few weeks ago I listened to a radio show by Radleigh Valentine and he said on average, people laugh 15 times a day. Fifteen times! And then he asked, “Do you remember if you laughed at all yesterday?” He pointed out it’s easy to remember the unpleasant things – the times we’re sad or scared or anxious – but the joyful times, the laughing times, are easier to forget. He encouraged his listeners to take note of when they laugh, to see if it adds up to 15 times. And then he said something really interesting: Plan for joy.

Radleigh recommends using this card as inspiration for pursuing joy.

Radleigh recommends using this card as inspiration for pursuing joy.

When he said, “Plan for joy,” I wanted to pause his radio show so I could take that in. It hasn’t occurred to me lately I would need to plan for joy – I assumed joy would sort of happen if I bumbled around in my life. But you know? That’s not true – I mean, sure, I stumble across joy every once and a while like an adventurer coming into a clearing – but it wasn’t necessarily something I planned for or actively pursued. I assumed I’d experience joy once my life was peachy keen – when my financial situation improved, the love of my life came along, etc. I think you know this already, but joy is the quiet moments, the small events that we may not remember long after they happen. It’s having a friend call you up spontaneously asking to hang out. It’s laughing along with a television show. It’s finding out the book you put on hold at the library has become available.

Joy can be spontaneous, but it can also be planned and pursued and that’s what struck me the most about Radleigh’s show. In an interesting juxtaposition, I had a powerful therapy session this week. I went from fearful, anxious, and insecure in one moment to laughing, goofy, and joyful in the next. My therapist had me remember a moment I felt joyful, loved, and appreciated, and embody it. She asked me to notice what colors I associated with the experience, and then asked if a movement or sound accompanied it. It did – joy for me looks like strutting with my toes flexed and my heels out singing along to “Let’s go fly a kite” or Life of Brian’s “Always look on the bright side of life.”

What amazes me is no matter how icky I feel, strutting around my cottage and singing, “Always look on the bright side of life,” automatically puts a smile on my face and lifts my mood. I can be melodramatic and get caught up in what’s wrong with my life. Lately, like I wrote on my birthday, I’m noticing what’s right. I’m seeking joy even in the midst of the things I do not like. And I’m remembering joy is not winning the lottery or buying a new car, it’s humming to myself while I walk, it’s remembering all the times I laughed yesterday, it’s making an active effort to improve my mood because I am planning for and pursuing joy.

I dream of a world where we remember we can access joy at any time. A world where we all have that one song that brings a smile to our face. A world where we remember the times we laugh. A world where we not only experience joy, but we pursue it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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We Were Made for These Times

I would say the prevailing sentiment for me right now is disillusionment. I’m seeing things as they are, not how I’d like them to be. I read an article the other day about the presence of white supremacists growing faster on twitter than ISIS. The number of accounts has grown by 600 percent since 2012. What’s interesting is instead of feeling scared, I feel relieved. I think a part of me knew this was coming, expected it, and perhaps even prepared for it.

As I’ve perused news stories about the rise of white supremacy and neo-Nazis, a voice clearly said, “You were made for these times.” I’m not alone in this. We were all made for these times. Every experience we’ve had to date has prepared us for this precise moment and for all the moments to come. No experience is wasted.

We are each a spark of light.

We are each a spark of light.

When I think about my experiences, I see how my outlook, my loving nature, and my empathy are useful for today’s world.

I grew up in a household that practiced yoga and meditation and was taught from an early age to find similarities over differences. It wasn’t unusual for a person from a far-off land to stay with us. Hearing different accents was normal. I won’t say I’m completely free of bias and prejudice, but I will say I make an effort to work on it. I didn’t realize how valuable that was until after this election.

My spiritual teacher says, “Those whose preachings encourage discriminatory feelings are the worst enemies of humanity. These are the people who in every age … have caused blood to flow. And even today these vested interests are still trying to perpetrate discrimination in a thousand and one ways.”

He obviously has some strong words about those who want to encourage division. Instead, he advocates seeing everyone as a expression of the divine, something far easier said than done. A way for me to practice that is empathy. To recognize we are all human beings trying to meet our needs. I may not agree with the strategies to meet those needs, but I can see we all want the same things.

Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.”

Surviving with dignity means building bridges, not walls. It’s important for us to create a “we” space, not an “us versus them,” space. “Us versus them” means hate, it means discrimination, it means fear, it means cruelty. I do not hate those who hate me. I do not hate those who hate others. Hate only breeds more hate and more division. Instead, in these challenging times I’m choosing to see other people as human beings, worthy of love and respect. I will fight tooth and nail against policies and practices that harm others, but I will not do so with hate in my heart because my experiences do not allow me to do that. I was made for these times. We all were.

I dream of a world where we realize we were made for these times. A world where we realize we all have unique talents and skills that may be put to use in service of others. A world where we understand each experience prepares us for another. A world where we realize we were born for this.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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Building Blocks

I am struggling to have hope for the future. To keep the faith things will work out in my favor both personally and in society. It’s very easy to feel that way right now I think. When all signs and evidence are pointing toward one direction, how could I possibly believe another? I know that’s why it’s called faith, but faith has always been a struggle for me.

There’s a saying I like: “More will be revealed.” It’s popular within the recovery community because more will be revealed. We don’t know what the future holds and more will be shown to us. I appreciate that sentiment, and know it to be true, but I also need a little more because, again, issues with faith over here.

Slowly and gradually some things are built.

Slowly and gradually some things are built.

My spiritual teacher says, “[W]ell-directed effort is the first and the last step toward the mundane success, psychic achievement, psycho-spiritual attainment, and spiritual fulfillment of human beings; indeed, aversion to this [well-directed effort] is the greatest impediment to success, great or small, in human life. That is why Shiva said in clear language, ‘Without well-directed effort, success in any field of activity is impossible.’”

Reading that I feel a little better because I can’t control the future, I can’t bend the world according to my whim, but I can keep doing my part. And my part is to keep showing up, to keep doing the footwork, to continue the well-directed effort, and success will be achieved. I think of it in terms of building blocks. I want everything to be finished and complete already, maybe just slap on a coat of paint, but that’s not how a new house is built. A house is built starting with the foundation with each piece carefully placed, otherwise the structure isn’t sturdy.

Maybe instead of wishing the house was already finished and lamenting that I can’t live in it yet, it would be better for me to see I am building something. Slowly but surely I’m building something new, and gradually, with time and continued effort, the house will be complete. The important thing is to keep going, to not give up, even though right now the house looks like a maze instead of a home.

I dream of a world where we keep making strides toward our dreams even when we can’t see the fruits of our labors yet. A world where we realize it’s our efforts that make change possible. A world where we understand the future is made up of building blocks and it’s up to us to place each piece.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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The Hero Within Us

Last week I wrote about how I don’t want to be responsible right now. I want to retreat, to withdraw. I’m tapping into something deeper this week and realizing it’s more than that. I want to be taken care of. I want someone else to make the hard decisions, to be a leader, a hero. I want to be like a child feeling joyous and free because someone else is taking care of business.

This week has destroyed all notions I’ve had that someone else is taking care of business. Regardless of your political affiliation, I think the majority of us are fed up with many of our political leaders. I think the majority of us have lost faith in the people steering this ship. I know I have.

We all have an inner hero.

We all have an inner hero.

It’s hard and it’s scary for me to say that, because again, I want to be like a child, only concerned with her toys. What I’m realizing is I cannot. None of us have the luxury of becoming disengaged. We are who we’ve been waiting for.

Dhomang Yangthang says, “But now who is the arya sangha [the exalted community]? It is all of us, all of the practitioners of the present time.” That to me means I can’t wait for someone else to show up and be the hero. I can’t wait for someone else to come in and save me or save humanity. I really don’t think it’s up to one person anymore. I think it’s all of us. My spiritual teacher says all spiritual aspirants must strive to become leaders.

We must all find our inner hero because as I think we’ve been shown, most of our leaders are primarily concerned with power, not with our welfare. There are exceptions of course, thank God, but it is up to us to keep the pressure up, to have a voice, to be empowered. And it’s more than just voting once every four years. It’s easy for me to sit back and say, “Well, I voted and that’s good enough, that’s all I can do.” Voting is great! Voting is important! But voting isn’t everything.

To ensure we’re being taken care of, we have to take care of ourselves. To ensure our brothers and sisters are being taken care of, we have to take care of them. What I’m saying is we can’t rely on someone else. We can’t be passive players in our lives because when we are, we become like sheep terrorized by wolves. Wolves will always be wolves, but together, we can drive the wolves away.

I’m going to quote my spiritual teacher again who said leaders will “work for the good of all countries, for the all-around emancipation of all humanity. The downtrodden humanity of this disgraced world is looking up to the eastern horizon, awaiting the leaders advent with earnest zeal and eagerness. Let the cimmerian darkness of the interlunar night disappear. Let the human being of the new day of the new sunrise wake up in the world.” I’m ready for that new day. Are you?

I dream of a world where we realize we have to work together to save ourselves. A world where we realize we have to be our own heroes. A world where we develop the leader within us in order to make the world a better place for all.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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