Eye of the Beholder

I began meditating consistently two years ago to protect myself from the possibility of prison due to involuntary manslaughter…or maybe even justifiable homicide. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a vigilante ~ or perhaps more (like the commercial) The Fist of Goodness, balancing the scales of Truth, Justice, and the American Way It Oughta Be.

For some reason, while I didn’t do very well at standing up for myself, I was awesome at championing others. This would frequently lead to my desire to verbally level the playing field, with my actions following closely behind my desire. I was a super hero for the underdog, but sometimes (probably wanting a noble purpose for my temper) I jumped in too soon, and on the wrong side of goodness, breaking my own heart in disappointment when I realized I’d been duped.

I went from a job two years ago that was so pleasant, and not at all taxing, back into the management arena I’d hoped to never experience again. Being not at all the same person I’d been my first trip through, I had somehow lost my tolerance for what I considered stupidity, poor planning, lack of leadership, and my most frequent thought was:

“Oh. My. God. , are you SHITTING me?”.

I went from La La Stepford happiness into my version of Children of the Corn, or Silent Rage, or hey~Linda Blair spitting pea soup all over the place.

Kids, it was not pretty. I knew I was making myself sick; I was letting circumstances poison and rot my thinking, and in desperation signed up for a 21 day online meditation course. I began to meditate like medicine, the nitro pill that kept the heart attack from killing me, the counselor that helped me begin the day calm enough not to blow by the end of it…usually, and somewhere along the way I was able to see myself before I reacted to circumstances around me.

I began writing again as an outlet for survival purposes, and yoga kept me from twisting heads off in my mind.

I had accidentally created a momentary pause button between my first thought of what needed to happen~and what I actually chose to do. It was amazing.

I realized I wasn’t the evil twin sister I appeared to be, neither was I the white robed bodhisattva I yearned to be. I was a multi-faceted blend of all the parts it took for me to be me. I was the watcher of my ego, anger, and angst. I was the witness to my level of integrity high or low, my compassion or lack of, my judgment or acceptance of myself or whatever existed in my world at any given time.

I was the Beholder, and in the eye of the Beholder, all parts of me were valid, vibrant, and vital. All sides of me, no matter how it looked through the mirror darkly, were to be held, loved and listened to. All of me has something to say, something to share, something to teach.

I learned through the silence of meditation, and the momentary pause of the Beholder, that my Shadow is just as important as my Shine. If I let go of the reactivity and see what the triggers have to show me, then they become gifts of wisdom, yes? And if I hold my anger close like a beloved child and listen to what it says, in what wondrous ways will I change?

Do I still have moments I want to be the Fist of Goodness? Yes, yes I do. But if I throw in the Bodhisattva and a pinch of Jester, I just may have a winner~in the Eye of the Beholder.

Behold your own magnificent self.

I Know What Love Is…

This morning, as I was doing the Open Heart Meditation, I had my hands open receptively and was breathing in…out…in…out…and I felt a furry nose land in one hand and a crazy licking dog in the other…and I thought with a smile~ahhh, there’s love right there…my two goldens giving love to momma.

The amazing back story to this is that a few months ago, when I first started meditating, it SO pissed me off to hear a bothersome sound or be “interrupted” by my dogs. I mean, I’m trying to MEDITATE right? HOW ANNOYING!!  lol.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Like many “going to church” Sundays when parents are yelling for kids to move along, or get ready, or get in the car, or whatever. Who we really are at the moment gets in the way of who we are trying to be. The interesting part of that is~we don’t have to try so hard. All we have to do is relax and let go.

I’ve had a VERY trying couple of days. There were a few times I was looking the old me right in the eyeballs, telling myself mentally to STAND DOWN. There is value, reason, facts and righteousness in that part of me, but no peace. No true north. No lay my head down and feel good about my behavior at night.

When I first started this journey, I PRETENDED to not be angry. Ha!! Ever tried that? It is stroke inducing, I can vouch for that. I looked very successful at what I was trying to do, but on the inside…I was a volcano waiting to erupt at any moment, or maybe an old building ready to implode on itself.

Now is better. Even on my bad days. Even when I see it coming on the horizon, I know it’s not worth it. It doesn’t keep me from feeling the strain, but my decision is made ahead of time, and my reactions~those I can live with as I go along the road I’m travelling now. No pretending. Just me and the real deal.

I know what love is. It’s not pretending and saying I love you while actions say get the hell out of my way. It’s feeling a furry nose in one hand, and a licking dog in the other, and smiling to yourself because “Ahhhh, here’s what love is, right here”. It’s actually BEING the spouse, partner, companion, friend. Actually pulling your weight, and giving support, and being the love someone needs instead of letting them carry your ass too many times. Let’s be who we say we are~no more pretending for the public.

I know what love is. It’s not the words, it’s the living of them.

Lessons In Discrimination

I consider myself a regular, middle-class, average white woman in America (although this is the first time I’ve actually stopped and tried to “classify” myself). I’m nice to people, they’re nice to me~I live in the mid-west where I think sometimes that everything is “overly” normal to boring. I have all kinds of friends, of different everything: old/young, rich/poor, church-going/not, and it is hard for me to think “different skin colors” because I just don’t think that way. I have friends from different countries and different religions and it really has never mattered to me.

I’ve seen horrible movies about racism and discrimination, and some of them I will never watch~because it makes me sick to my stomach and my heart. I always feel so sad and angry for the people who are punished or ostracized by the “regular” folks of the moment~BUT I really never had a stinking clue what even the smallest slice of that would feel like directed at me.

That is my intro~this is my life-lesson.

I was raised Lutheran, went to a parochial school until 8th grade, and quit going to church as soon as I got away from home on my own (as most of us do for a while). As time progressed, I became a student/seeker of all spiritual paths that I happened to come across because it interested me how similar the heart’s of these religions or churches were underneath the different rituals or practices.  Our Creator is at the center of it all. God is God no matter what name you call him.

I noticed that the people here and there who truly lived their lives as they believed God wanted them to operated from the same tuned in heart to others, kindness, compassion, lack of judgement etc…what they wore, or how they did their hair, or their rituals, or their days of worship were all vastly different at times, but if I shut my eyes and listened, their hearts were all tuned to the same frequency.

My story up to now has led to my interest in Buddhism. As I have with every other branch of worship or whatever you want to call it, I began studying on the internet, bought a few books, read a few magazines and asked questions of those more educated on the subject than I.

I went to check out a beautiful temple and it’s grounds several months back,  and decided to visit during one of their classes or teachings to see what it was like. The first time was interesting and made me a little nervous, but it was a professor instead of the regular teacher so we went back again Sunday to get the real experience so to speak.

It was so peaceful. The teaching was on a couple of verses from The Wheel of Sharp Weapons. I heard about compassion for others. Compassion so great and true that you are willing to go to the gates of hell to save just one. Even, only one. I heard about growing myself into the kind of person that has so much love and compassion that the very charisma of being such a person can disarm the cruelty and negativity in another simply with the true intention of attitude, expression, word, and heart. I heard about how hate is instilled artificially by the words or belief of another who also holds artificially installed hatred in their hearts. How can we hate people we don’t even know? A whole people? I don’t know the answer to that. I heard about programming myself with prayer and meditation to remove the power from the seeds in me I didn’t want to grow, and pour my attention on the seeds that needed to grow bigger, stronger, and more vibrant. I heard about stepping away from these prayers and meditations daily with a heart and mind of higher quality.

Seriously. Do you hear what I’m saying? I just re-read that last paragraph and I have to ask~who in God’s name would not want to be that person? At least strive to become more of that within themselves? Who would not want to learn how to love and accept themselves with all their bad seeds of anger, jealousy, judgement, flat-out meanness~and learn how to transform them into the compost of creating and growing the most beautiful person they could possibly be inside?

Thich Nhat Hanh says that if every single religion had one person who truly lived the heart of their religion, they would be practicing Buddhism. It is a practice of living in such a way that every religion of every name would be proud to claim and many do~under a different label. To me, Buddhism in practice is actually living the way you say you do when you go to church on Sunday. There’s not a person out there who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t have to choose or label myself a Buddhist. I don’t need a label at all. But it is nice to learn and practice a better way of living and loving where the rubber meets the road. In such a short time it has revived my faith and belief in God and what it means to have this awesome gift of living that we have for such a short time. It speaks to me and has helped me shed my disillusionment with “religion” and the trappings thereof, and the players of such.

After attending my second teaching (the Wheel teaching), someone close to me saw a book I had bought ~”Buddhism for Beginners”. I was asked if I was becoming a f*****g Buddhist or what? I was told I was obviously a seeker and severely confused. There was serious anger, aggression, a condescending and demeaning tone and attitude. My answers were “no”, “what’s the big deal here”, and “do you even know what Buddhism is?”.  The explanation of living as a more loving, kind, and compassionate person was ridiculed as me basically being a poser trying something new. (is that what learning is?). Then I was told to never f*****g talk about it again. (did I mention that I didn’t bring this topic up? I was asked.) So I was astounded and astonished by this whole scenario. I was so much struggling with this EPISODE that I had experienced that it wasn’t until I was driving to work this morning that I realized the entire event had been a tiny slice of full-blown discrimination and persecution. It was freaking awful. And I was so…overwhelmed by the meanness, judgement, and belittling that I did not know how to respond.

This kind of behavior has never been my reality. How can I actually know someone who would treat me like that? Even knowing me well? I have no idea what it must be like for ANYONE to put up with more than 60 seconds of this from anyone. I will not soon forget that feeling, or that knowledge.

Six months ago, my response to that kind of behavior towards me would have been so catastrophic that there would have been no healing from it. It would have been ugly, cold, and permanent. It would have been fire with fire. But I have learned a lot lately about dealing with anger in myself from the f*****g Buddhist studies I’ve been doing which brought back a verse I memorized in school from the Bible

Luke 6:45

A good man produces good out of the storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.

That enables me to feel compassion for both of us. It’s all a lesson.

Hungry Ghosts

In Buddhism there is a phrase I love~hungry ghosts. This is the term for those with big empty bellies and small narrow throats who are starving for nourishment but can’t take in enough to satisfy their raging hunger. They are incapable of taking in all that is there for them until they can open enough to receive.

This is a common problem today for most of us. Wanting love, respect, affection. Having the desire to be truly seen by another, truly heard. But being incapable of receiving all that is there for us because we are hard of heart, and narrow of mind. We feel we must protect ourselves from hurt, disrespect, or injury so we close off and shut down. Our hearts become narrow and hard due to our cynicism and all we want is locked away from us, by our own behaviors and choices.

It is so easy to keep ourselves “safe”, and so damned sad that we feel we have to. We train ourselves to become cowards, unwilling to take any risks, or give any opening to softness. We have become our own prisoners of war, with no one to wear bracelets in our memory until we release ourselves.

The amazing thing is this: when we open our hearts and step out, those we feared would hurt us in some way are cowering there in their own prison of safety, looking at us in hope and wonder that they too might be able to unlock their hearts and step into life. We can be, by example, the saviors of the souls we protected ourselves from so unnecessarily.  And if they still fear, and throw rocks through the bars, we can give them our compassion and understanding until they are ready to breathe the fresh air of possibility.

And then, with a heart wide open, we can take in all the love that is here for us, and thrive.