Monday, May 28, 2012

Flowers on the Wall

Often in life we may feel left out or shunned by people for whom we want to be accepted:  the “in crowd,” our boss or people we may aspire to be like.  Those situations leave us feeling inadequate and we really do not know why.  What is it in the human psyche that tells us “I am not good enough to be acceptable”?  No other species on the planet, other than humans, devalue themselves like we do.  

Yes, there is a “pecking order” in chickens and in some animals, the stronger dominate the weak.  But the weak do not think to themselves “I am not worthy of being equal.  I deserve to be beaten and dominated.”

So why does the species with the most develop brain defeat themselves?  The answer is a cloudy connection to their spirit or buddha-nature.  We all have the life-sustaining force within us, without which we would be dead.  Indeed, in some severe circumstances, when that connection is completely blocked, suicide occurs.

How does the connection become blocked?  Sometimes it is through psychosis, sometimes it is environmental, a learned response from our childhood.  Sometimes it is karmic debt we have to work through.  Regardless of the reason, the solution is always the same.  We must revere our pure essence.  For if we recognize the purity of our soul, spirit or buddha-nature, we cannot fail to hold ourselves in high self esteem.  Once we realize that our core is EXACTLY the same as the core of those we aspire to emulate or those we worship, how can we not feel equally reverent for ourselves?

If we revere ourselves, we do not cloud up our minds and bodies with drugs; we do not sell ourselves for any amount; we do not dominate others to attempt to fill a void – there is no void!
We desire nothing of others because we have all we need right here, right now.  We do not need to take anything from another to feel superior because we recognize the absolute equality of all and we are OK with it.

The greatest source of suffering/dukka in the world today is the lack of understanding of who we really are.  We believe that we are who others say we are. “You are too stupid to…”  “You will never amount to anything.”  Why do we believe others instead of listening to our core?  Why are we willing to think the worst about ourselves instead of the best?  We do so because we allow the connection with our core to become clouded.

So wake up!  Embrace your spirit or buddha-nature!  Mirror your physical life after your true inner life, not the ruminations in your head, but the core of your being.  Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.  Demolish the pecking order and bring everyone to the same high level.  Don’t be a flower on the wall, waiting for an invitation to live life to the fullest.  Pop yourself off and join those growing in the garden sangha.  Stand tall, petal to petal with the other beautiful spirits.  The hippies of the 60’s had it right -“Flower Power!”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ego Control and Finding Your Way

Sometimes even accomplished people need direction.  Problem is those are the people that are least likely to realize they need guidance and are the ones less likely to accept it too.  Guidance comes in many forms.  When it comes as a thought that just “appears” in our own head it is easy to accept because we believe it comes from us.  Rarely is that the case.  Guides/buddhas/angels are at work.  This type of guidance is very common but rarely do we recognize it as guidance.

Another type of guidance comes from our friends/families/peers.  If the guidance is presented in the form of a story, “That happened to me and this is how I responded, and this was the favorable outcome;” then we might listen.  If the guidance is presented as “Do this.  This is what I did and it worked.”  If the other person is acting loving and caring way, then one might listen if they believed the other person really has their best interest at heart.

The third kind of guidance comes from an authority figure –there are many sorts of these.  If the guidance comes across as compassionate, we may listen.  If it comes as a command – forget it.  The guidance will instead be seen as intrusive, unwarranted and unwanted.  The human ego reacts by pushing back “Who are you to know what is best for me?’  Unfortunately it is often this very advice that is most helpful for us.  The big question is how do you silence the ego to learn? 

Another question that often comes up is “Is this person just trying to take over and dominate the situation?  How do I know that his or her intentions are real and I am not being manipulated?”  These are normal reactions but not helpful ones.
Before deciding on issues of importance, meditate on these questions:
  • What action or decision is in my highest good?
  • What decision or action is in the highest good of others?

Be open to receiving messages, you do not have to answer these questions alone. 
So what do you do if the responses for the above questions are opposites?  Is there a middle ground?  More often the answer to the second question will be the correct answer.  Dealing with your own ego and putting the good of others first is very difficult.

Consider this story:
There are some birds hanging around of different species.  They are soaring on the wind, playing in the thermals and just enjoying being birds.  Below them they see a younger bird that is in the thermal for the first time, trying to get the hang of how to glide with the energy.  The younger bird flies to close to the ground and a coyote appears from nowhere and snaps at it. 

The young bird freaks out and the rest of the birds scatter out of harms’ way, all but one that is.  This one brave bird swoops down and heads directly for the coyote, scaring it off.  In doing so, the coyote snaps at the wing of the brave protector and injures it.
The juvenile bird is safe but the adult protector is not.  Suddenly, the protector bird dies and begins to disintegrate.  After a few minutes, another larger stronger, wiser bird appears.  The protector bird is a phoenix.

As humans, we have the opportunity to rise anew as a phoenix in every opportunity where we squash our egos for the betterment of others.  We should not consider it a diminishment of ourselves but a “rebirth.”  With each such rebirth in our lives, we move more steadily toward the realization of enlightenment.

Wasn't the most enlightened roles models we have Shakyamuni Buddha, Nikkyo Niwano, Jesus Christ, Mohammed (many others too) filled with compassion for others?  Didn't they put the needs of others before their own? This is what we need to do, too.  When it is in the higher good of all - be a phoenix!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Value of One Life

In today’s entertainment world, the cost of one life is not much.  Every second of every day, you can turn on the TV or scan movies and see someone blown away.   The higher the level of violence, the bigger the attraction, why?
We humans are the only species that kills each other for sport, or for pleasure, or for no reason at all, just because we can.  What then is the value of life?  Non human life is worth even less than human.  “Cruelty to animals” is against the law but not killing them, why not?

If we are going to move ahead in our level of “civilization,” we need to take many steps backwards to a time when animals and man were of equal value.  Yes, animals have always been part of the food chain, but they were blessed and thanked for their ultimate contribution.  The one killed and the consumer both realized the ultimate sacrifices made for man.

So again I ask, what is the value of one life?

Consider the honey bees; they are becoming extinct through interbreeding with the aggressive African bee.  In many regions, they no longer pollinate our corps to the degree they once did.  The world food supply had dwindled as a direct impact of this loss.  Humanity is dependent on a “lowly” bee.

Every time a human is killed, their death provides opportunity for growth; learning what not to do.  However, in our eye-for-an-eye -or more realistically, eye-for-a-hundred –eyes world- the only lesson is revenge.  We even have a TV show called “Revenge” and there was a spin off reality show “Revenge for Real.”  Both raise the glorification of manipulative payback to great heights, the more painful the retribution, the better.  If anyone gets caught in the way as collateral damage, well it just raises the entertainment factor. 
Why, what is the point?  So much pain has been heaped upon each other, over the period of the existence of man that it no longer has shock value; except that more is better.  Our spiral into self destruction and taking the rest of the animal and plant kingdoms with us has to stop, or at least slow down.

How do we do this, of course by recognizing the undeniable interconnection, direct linkage, of all sentient beings.  All religions of the world pay lip service to this reality.  All have rules that command against killing but why do so many adherents to the religions enjoy a “good who done it murder mystery” film or book?

The change can start – needs to start- with you.  Turn off the violence by refusing to be entertained by it.  Refuse to financially support the continued chaos that encompasses our every sensation.  Turn off the news, both on the radio, TV and in print.

Turn it all off.  Celebrate positive connections, helping one another, nurturing each other and supporting all sentient beings.

So I ask one last time – what is the cost of one life?  Answer, there is no definable value.  Without the linkage of lives- we all perish.  It is invaluable.  It is high time we retake our role, modeling compassion, love and support instead, instead of destruction seriously. Stop the craziness!  How?
  1. Be shocked again by violence.  Be repulsed, not entertained by it.
  2. Make revenge illegal, unacceptable.
  3.  Devalue the “strong” over the “weak”.  We all have both characteristics in us.
  4.  Speak out against violence, real and “entertainment.”  Passive acceptance is the same as doing it yourself.
  5.  Truly believe and realize the interconnection of all, in the intricate self supporting chain of life.  When one link is removed prematurely and by force, all are affected.
  6.  Generate and send healing to yourself, your family, friends, and most importantly to your enemies.
  7. Turn your enemies into your friends. 
We are all bees.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What is the Center of All Life

Life begins with thought, a breath, a signal of life.  The breath is a whisper from the universe that all are connected and good.  There is no matter too small or large that does not hold the life of compassionate energy.  All are thinking in their own way.  A rock does not worry about what it will wear to dinner that night but instead its consciousness is focused on just being.  A tree is focused on just being.  Humans clutter their most precious and gifted minds with useless thought.  They create for themselves pain, from desire/ lacking that is artificial and of no use to the universe. 

If  humans could follow the example of the rocks and earth and just BE, their ability to fully experience their role in the web of life would be limitless.  It is only through BEING that DOING can have a fundamental base to loving serve all sentient beings in this universe.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Prevailing Winds

Life is most unpredictable, yes; we may get out of bed the same time each day, go to the same workplace, and maybe even eat the same thing for lunch every day.  But what goes through our minds and how we interpret events change – even if it is the same event from the day before.  

How is it that we respond to stimuli diametrically opposite in manner and believe in the absolute fundamental correctness of both reactions or interpretations of the event?  EGO!  The ego sees what it wants to see, hears what it wants to hear and therefore believes that two opposite conditions are correct and therefore are reality.  Well, they very well are THEIR reality.

Our ego has but one job, to protect the image of who we are.  This protection extends to protecting ourselves from ourselves.  Oftentimes, it shields us longer – much longer, past the point when others know the truth about us before we know it ourselves.

At some point in our lives, we develop a mental image of who we are.  We develop every detail, for example:  we are a protector of our loved ones, we are forgiving, we are understanding, we let others be who they want to be and we help them to be in the image of themselves.  We do not argue because we feel they are unhealthy, so we try to keep the relationship environment steady and peaceful.  We love those in our lives unconditionally and take great pride in this fact because it shows our flexibility.

The character just described sounds like the perfect mate, perfect family person, and this is exactly right if the other mate has all the same (or most of the same) characteristics.  However, if the other mate is controlling, a wounded ego that needs to lord over others, in order to feel their own worth, then the first person here becomes the victim of domestic abuse.

The abuse does not have to be physical to be damaging.  In fact, the vast percentage of abuse in the US is verbal, mental or emotional in nature.  Sometimes this can and does turn physical, but does not have to become physical to be effective.  Because of the ego’s inability to accurately read situations and sees only what it needs to see to protect its image of itself, it willingly withstands great levels of pain rather than open its eyes to the truth.  

So how does the cycle break?   How can we remove our veil of self ignorance and pull back the shroud covering our mirror of ourselves?  The answer is mindfulness.  When we live absolutely in the present moment, then we see each moment for exactly what is it without preconceived notions and judgments, and then we can see the truth.  But we must set aside our emotions and preprogrammed thinking to do this.

In “active listening” we are taught to listen with an open mind to what another person is saying, and then take a moment to formulate a response after that person has finished speaking.  This is so that we do not make snap judgments before knowing all the details.  Typically, we engage in non-active listening and while the other person is speaking, we stop listening and begin formulating our response.

Because of the magnificent complexity of the human mind, we are able to practice non-listening on ourselves.  Our ego mind begins to interpret scenarios we find ourselves in, as a way to protect us and not see what is really happening.  Our “loved” one standing before us yelling obscenities at us gets interpreted as “I must have done something to deserve this so I will have to try harder to get it right and please them.”

This is classic abuser/victim mentality that keeps us rooted in behavior patterns that can be and often does become deadly.  By being mindful of each exact moment and not putting our protective ego overlay on the moment, we will be able to more accurately interpret events.  But we must be willing to be completely honest with ourselves in order for the cycle to change.  We have to drop our preconceived image we have of ourselves – it is usually wrong anyway, so why hang on to it.

Decide each moment on its’ own merit.  When you do, you can better judge the prevailing winds and steer your actions to the proper course.  Do not be afraid to steer in the opposite direction from past routes.  If those routes brought you suffering in the past, don’t go there, you will only get the same painful results.

Tell your ego to step aside and allow compassionate wisdom for yourself to shine through.
The flight attendant’s instruction while taxing before takeoff is “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.”  This is applicable in all situations in life, not just when oxygen levels drop at 30,000 feet in the air.  Inability to breathy at ground level has a debilitating effect too.  So put on your mindful oxygen mask and leave it in place permanently.  See what others see and put an end to your personal delusions.  Abuse takes many forms, even the form of self sabotage.  No matter where it comes from it is unhealthy and must be eradicated with surgical precision.