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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

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Other peoples’ words and actions arise from their own past, and how they experienced it. While you can do your best to help your interactions be compassionate and respectful, you can’t control the other side of it.

It can hurt when it feels people are behaving badly toward you. Perhaps you can even do something to heal the situation. But it would be counter-productive to take on their actions as a part of yourself, letting their troubling behavior become troubles of your own.

It may help to think about why something does bother you so much, and reflect on times that have made you feel that way. Maybe there’s a pattern this feels a part of, a pattern that repeats in your life. If so, what could you do to step out of that cycle? Would you let that cycle go, so you could move on?

Above all, recognize that other peoples’ thoughts and actions remain their responsibility, not yours. Your responsibility is to build and maintain your own inner strength, within the cyclone of human experience.

May you know peace.

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In any given day, you may interact with people who think of and/or treat you as a complete idiot.

You may feel the same way about them.

But as a rule, it’s counter-productive to dwell on either. What they think of you is their problem, not yours. The reverse goes for what you think of them. If you can turn the interaction into neutral, or at least not as bad, it’ll help you get through it in a better way.

More importantly than that, it can help you practice being mindful of how interacting with such people makes you feel, and what you can do about that. Is there a reason things like that would tend to get to you? Is there a way you could strengthen your sense of self and/or patience and compassion? Interactions like these can be an Advanced Course in finding out more about how your mind works, and how you can make it work better.

Running into people we really feel at odds with isn’t always such a bad thing. These can be the times we can most quickly learn lessons we wouldn’t have mastered another way.

We must be patient with our differences. Our best teachers are often the hardest to hear.

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fundainzunantei

I was raised with the ideal to be no Respecter of Persons. That is, don’t put somebody to be higher or lower than anybody else, but to treat all human beings as equally valuable.

Zen has that ideal, too:

Keichu was a great Zen teacher. He was the head of a cathedral in Kyoto, called Tofuku.

The first time the Governor went to visit him, he gave his calling card with Keichu’s attendant and asked to be announced. Keichu took one look at the words “Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto”, and handed the card back to the attendant. “I have no business with anybody like that, tell him to leave.”

After the attendant returned with the message, the Governor apologized for his error. He scratched out his title from the card, and asked the attendant to try again.

On receiving the card again, Keichu brightened. “Ah, that Kitagaki! Yes, I’d like to see him, bring him in!”

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While pursuing goals, it’s important we keep our focus on what we hope to enjoy and experience when (and as) we achieve them. Otherwise, the Idea of the goals can take over, distracting us from what we really seek.

Hakuin was a master of zen, who tried to keep his students focused more on the practice of zen than the idea of zen. Meaning, getting their minds undistracted from the pursuit of something elusive, so they may more keenly observe what was right before them.

To remind them, he liked to tell them about the old woman in the village who owned a tea shop. She was a master of the Tea Ceremony, and understood Zen with her whole self.

Naturally, each of his students eventually went down to the village to see her for themselves. And each time, the old woman recognized them coming, and could tell with just one look whether they came seeking to share her Tea Ceremony, or to ask her to explain her thoughts on Zen.

Compassionately, she had resolved to give each student what they sought. Those who came for tea, she graciously hosted with a truly enlightening experience of peace and attentiveness. Those who came for a teaching, she hid behind the door then surprised them with a sharp whack from her fire poker, beating at them until they fled.

Of all Hakuin’s students, only one in ten enjoyed the Tea.

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People tend to assume that for something to be Special, it must be Bigger Than, Better Than, Greater Than… or any other kind of superlative that makes it extraordinarily exceptional.

But that’s only one kind of Special. The first definition of Special at Dictionary.com says:

  1. of a distinct or particular kind or character

That is, something that has a distinct character, particular to itself. It doesn’t have to be Bigger, Better, or any other kind of superlative. There’s no competition that can declare who or what is Special. Rather, it takes mindfulness to find what is Special in all that surrounds us.

In this way, each moment is Special: it carries lessons and sensations unique in itself, which we can take advantage of only if we stop to appreciate what the moment brings

Each experience is Special: it carries challenges and pleasures in good ways and bad, and we can best learn from them only if we recognize it for the opportunity it is.

Each person is Special: we each contain our own blend of experiences and perspectives, which we can share in only if we stop to appreciate what each of us have to offer.

As I get back into my daily routines this week, I’m going to try to remain mindful of the Special nature of what I encounter and experience. I’m interested to see how it helps me better identify the opportunities before me, and make greater use of them as I start this year.

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Let’s pretend you are a community bus.

When a single mother needs to get to her second job, you’re right there to get her to work on time. When an elderly couple need to get some  groceries at the store they’d gone to for decades, you deliver them right there, and back. And when children need to get to the park, you are their first choice to bring them!

Yes, whatever people need, you’re always ready and willing to share of yourself, giving all you can. That’s how you become a good and valuable vehicle for kindness, right?

Or is that really all there is to it? What if giving of yourself whenever you possible can doesn’t make you the best vehicle for kindness you should be?

What happens when a vehicle is always in service, never taking time out to be idle, to be repaired? Yep, it breaks down. Often, right in the middle of the busiest crunch time, leaving people stranded when they could instead have had their needs met through contingency plans.

How often do you schedule yourself time to repair, and recuperate? Is it nearly enough to fulfill your responsibility to keep yourself as healthy, centered and grounded as you can be?

Also, sometimes giving someone a free ride right to where they want to be isn’t the best way for them to get there. What if there was a much better job for that mom nearer her home, one that would give her enough hours so she could just work one — but she never looked for it, because she had a ride to her other ones? What if there was cheaper, fresher food at a market right next door, but they never broke their habits and tried it? If the park is just a block or two from the children’s home, wouldn’t it be healthier for them to walk there?

How often do you feel as though you’ve failed someone when you can’t get them what you think they need? Could you do with more patience when it seems like things aren’t working out, and instead open your heart and mind to better possibilities? Are you able to accept that maybe your help isn’t what’s needed in a given situation, or at least not the way you’d thought?

I think that on some level, most of us realize that we need to take better care of ourselves. We may even put some guilt onto that, piled onto the guilt we may also carry about not being able to do more for other people, too.

I think we’d do well to fret about it all just a bit less, and simply schedule that time to take care of ourselves. Where we feel we’ve fallen behind a bit — so what? We are where we are. Winding ourselves up into not being where we think we want to be is a waste of precious time and energy. Our energy is best spent in tending to our own needs, moving forward in the way and pace that suits us best.

I’ve heard all these things before, and I think even written them, too. Yet I’ve been working through these lessons lately… again… and thinking that writing this all down may help me in my practice.

In this case, I think practice isn’t about getting perfect; it’s about being at peace with and tending to our imperfection.

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I wanted to break my latest hiatus by letting you know I’ve been thinking of you. I know I haven’t reached that many people with my words in the grand scheme of things. That said, I do believe that those whom I have touched have in turn touched the lives of others, just as I continue to share the gifts of insight and love that others have given me. We are sharing the human experience, and we can’t stop our influence from spreading beyond our reach.

It is my sincerest goal that my life bring more love, more peace, and more joy to the lives of those around me than I would have thought possible. And that, through enjoying those blessings we share, those lives then shine their light forward to illuminate the dark spaces of others. In this way, the light and love that I have received with may continue that work throughout our world.

Please, take a moment to remember something that is special to you, that warms your heart. Remember a thought, an experience, a talent or a dream that helps you feel your spark inside. Take three deep, slow breaths, savoring this moment of precious peace. Feel the sacred beauty of nature, and of the human heart, savoring that precious unity-point where the outside world touches your skin. Remember we are one people, sharing one planet, and enjoy a moment of gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Take another moment, please, to experience the positive, warm peace that dwells within the stillness. Form a memory of what that feels like. And from now on, whenever possible, call up that moment of peace to your conscious attention, to help you through a hectic time, or even to periodically brighten your day.

As you practice this, you can’t help but create a positive influence for the world you inhabit. May that warm embrace of the joyful stillness come easier and easier for you, until it shapes your every day.

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Eric Arthur Blair had the opportunity to pursue the life of an educated Englishman, contributing his own part to the furtherance of the British Empire, rewarded by a steady, if boring career. It would probably have been an easier life than that of a hobo in East London, falling gravely ill and getting his belongings stolen by the hospital staff more than once, and getting his throat shot in the Spanish Civil War. It certainly may have been easier for him to avoid getting embroiled in political controversy through his social and cultural exposes.

Easier, I suppose, if he didn’t have such a burning need to explore the depths endured by those around him, and report on those struggles to the broader world.

George Orwell was the first author whose works made a profound impact on the way I experienced my world, and the framing propped up around it by my culture. I read Nineteen Eighty-Four first, then Animal Farm – A Fairy Story, borrowed from my grade school library. I was in an age of reading voraciously to try to better understand how life is understood differently by others, and these two books helped me understand how crucial it is to search below the surface-gloss of how we’re led to assume things are.

It’s more than 65 years to late to be able to thank him personally. Yet as I realized his birthday was coming up, I also realized that this August 17th will mark 70 years since Animal Farm was first published: its Platinum Anniversary.  He had finished the book years earlier, but the political climate wouldn’t allow it. The British elite still considered Stalin an ally, so his obvious criticism of Stalin’s regime was intolerable… until the Cold War suddenly made it popular.

Deeply inspired by Orwell, I wrote a book a few years ago that I fairly quickly quieted down, as I didn’t want to deal with the political controversy it was digging into. I was (and am) concerned about how Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is used as though it is a textbook for how society and economics best serves the most callous assumptions of human nature, but I didn’t feel my contributions would do much to help people consider a more egalitarian — a more humane view.

Yet, seeing these anniversaries on my calender, I decided a few days ago that I could do more to honor the impact this author has had on my life. So to celebrate the 112th Birthday of Eric Arthur Blair, today I’m putting my book up as an ebook for Pre-Order: Galifesto – A Love Story.  It will release on August 17, 2015.

It was written as a narrative, so I’m setting up shop to record it as an audiobook, and am also working on getting the print version to release the same day. This takes significantly less than spending time as a hobo or fighting in a civil war, so I figure I can do this much to help this world in its path to seeing one another with truer eyes.

If you haven’t read anything by Orwell, please visit your library and browse his section, see what catches your fancy. Or even just take a fresh look at the people you pass by in your day, holding an appreciation for struggles they silently bear in making it through this world we share. In this, I think you’ll be taking part in the impact he wished his work to have on the world he left behind.

Thank you.

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We can’t deeply experience hard pride or shame without believing people are more or less worthy based on our behavior, our beliefs, or even just how we were born. To allow ourselves to feel superior or inferior, we must first embrace the idea we are separated from one another by our fortunes or failures. This idea is harder to hold onto each time we feel that spark of true connection from one heart to another. Each moment of pure acceptance of the divine beauty inherent in the human soul.

It is important for us to do our best to live up to our ideals for ourselves, and maintain a self-awareness that helps us recognize and remedy where we’re slipping. It is equally important that we practice patience and lovingkindness along the way, recognizing that who we are — our innate human worth — is eternally true regardless of what we do or say. We are not our successes. We are not our failures. The types of Pride and Shame that try to mark and set us apart based on such things are hamartia, missing the mark.

We are each human beings, learning to do the best we can with what we carry inside us. The ideas, experiences and opportunities that come to us shift from moment to moment, and we can’t reach out to them if we’re holding onto our judgments of what we thought we had just a moment before.

This applies both to judgments of others, and of ourselves. Love one another, as we love ourselves. That’s the path of wisdom, and the way ahead toward our truest selves.

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While I’m thinking about identity, I wanted to share a Zen anecdote I rediscovered recently.

Fishy Zen

While Chuang-Tzu was walking along a river with a friend, he noticed the fish were swimming about in the clear water. After watching them a few moments, he remarked, “Those fish are having such fun, enjoying themselves in the water!”

His friend scoffed, “You are not a fish, you couldn’t possibly know whether they’re enjoying themselves.”

Chuang-Tzu shrugged back at his companion. “You are not me. How do you know I can’t know they’re enjoying themselves?”

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