21 June  2016      

Good day, and welcome to our newest Tuesday in our lives!
Today is our first full day of summer, and we hope that you're
able to start your summer well--and for those of you in the
southern hemisphere who are celebrating the beginning of
winter, we hope that your season is bright and cheerful, too!

 Loving Kindness for All
Ed and Deb Shapiro

Discovering the True You
Joan Duncan Oliver

Strategies for Finding and Living with Silence
tom walsh

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We can see in the puddle either
the mud or the reflection of
the blue sky, just as we choose.

Lucy Fitch Perkins

You need only examine your present situation to discover unlimited resources and opportunities.

Ari Kiev

When life's problems seem overwhelming, look around and see what other people are coping with.  You may consider yourself fortunate.

Ann Landers

There is no danger of eyestrain from
looking on the bright side of things.

unattributed

  

Loving Kindness for All
Ed and Deb Shapiro

Kindness does not stop with us; we can extend it outward from ourselves, like the ripples on a pond, toward our family, friends, and loved ones.  This is relatively natural and effortless.  But for loving kindness to be genuine, it cannot just end with the people we know and like; it has to go further, toward those we do not know and even do not like.  This includes people we may be having a hard time with, someone with whom communication is difficult, where negative issues have arisen that are pulling the relationship apart, where there is anger, resentment, or dislike.

When we are affected by someone being hostile, dismissive, critical, or hurtful, then it is often because there is a hook in us for that negativity to grab hold of, a place where it can land that triggers all our hidden feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, doubt, even self-hate.  However, when we extend kindness toward such a person, as we can in meditation, an extraordinary thing happens:  The landing place, or the hook within, begins to dissolve.  There is no place for the negativity to take hold.

The negative reactions that arise within us during moments of discord or disagreement cause continued suffering and conflict.  Extending kindness toward the adversary is, therefore, really extending it toward ourselves, as it releases the inner pain and puts us into a more balanced place.

As a Burmese teacher once told author Andrew Harvey, "Out of compassion for myself, let me let go of all these feelings of anger and resentment toward others."

As we focus on the adversary, all manner of divergent feelings may arise about what happened, about who said what to whom, and what someone did or did not do.  To get to loving kindness, we have to accept those feelings while also letting go of the story, releasing the details.  Who did or who said what is not relevant; what matters is the shared human experience.  Hurt and disagreement and anger arise when we forget our essential unity and hang out in separate, isolated places, while knocking heads with each other.  By letting go of the story, we are going beyond the ego's affront to the shared space.

We can extend kindness toward people who are upset, angry, or irritable, whether their feelings have anything to do with us or not.  In this way, we can stop negativity from affecting us.  Whether it is our boss or a bus driver or our partner or teenage children, wishing them well helps us keep our cool.

From extending kindness toward an adversary, the natural next step is to extend it toward all beings, whoever and wherever they are.  Theoretically, this sounds very straightforward, but it can highlight hidden issues of prejudice and resistance.  Can we really extend kindness toward terrorists, murderers, or dictators as easily as we can toward caregivers, charity workers, or our loved ones?  Can we step beyond personality to the essence of shared beingness?  Can we find a place where all beings are equal in our heart?

Prejudice can go very deep.  It is only healed when we end the war within and accept those parts of ourselves we find so unacceptable.  Then we will have the courage to accept those who are different from us, who have different beliefs, who are a different color, or who live differently.  When we can tolerate ourselves, then we can be tolerable toward others and extend kindness to all equally.

As Mohandas Gandhi said, "We must widen the circle of our love until it embraces the whole village; the village, in turn, must take into its fold the district, the district the province, and so on, until the scope of our love encompasses the whole world."

   
  

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Discovering the True You
Joan Duncan Oliver

Are you ready to emerge from the cocoon of your past?  The key to inner freedom is self-reflection--uncovering the habits that have held you back and identifying your strong points.  With self-knowledge comes the ability to frame new responses and to relate authentically to the world.

Lately, whenever I try to start something new, whether it's a project or a friendship, things don't seem to come together as I'd hoped or planned.  I make all the right moves, but success remains elusive.  Somebody suggested that the problem is something I'm not looking at--a hidden assumption I'll fail, for example.  Maybe so, but I don't see how digging around in my psyche will help.  I simply want to get on with my life.  Any suggestions?

Unfortunately, we can't just set aside what we don't want to think about and assume that it will go away.  Whoever suggested you try a little self-evaluation makes a good point.  When we've exhausted all the excuses for why life isn't working--other people, bad luck, misalignment of the stars--we're left with the possibility that the answer lies within.  Nine times out of ten, it's our fears or doubts or attitudes--carryovers from the past--that are getting in the way of our accomplishing what we want.

Can't I just let bygones be bygones and start afresh?

Unfortunately, "the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind" exists only in movies.  Even if you could ignore the past, I doubt that would make you happy.  The past is the repository of all your experiences--the joys and triumphs, as well as the disappointments.  Without your past, you wouldn't be you.  When you say you want to put it behind you, don't you mean you want to be free of unpleasant memories?

I guess so.  Whenever I think about the past, I have a thousand regrets.  Every "Why did I. . . ?" or "Why didn't I. . .?" feels like karmic punishment for my sins.

Everyone has regrets.  We've all said or done things we're not proud of, or that failed to get us the results we want.  But torturing yourself by rehashing those moments isn't going to put the past to rest any more than ignoring them would.  Karma isn't a cosmic evaluation slip that says, "Too bad, you failed the test."  It's merely a clue to where you need to do some self-reflection.  Karma says, "Mine your experience for what it can teach you about your habitual responses to the world."  You need to find out what's keeping you from expressing fully who you are.

If I look, I'll only feel inadequate.  Maybe whatever is happening now is just my karma, and the best I can do is accept it.

There's a common misperception that karma locks us into what was true in the past.  Fortunately, that's not the case.  Character and personality are malleable.  We can and do change.  In fact, our inner experience of the world changes constantly.  That's why it matters so much what thoughts we entertain.  If we cling to our old ways of thinking, we'll simply respond as we always have and the same things will keep happening to us.  The first step toward awakening is admitting you want something different.

Some things aren't going my way right now.  I suppose my whole life could use an overhaul.

It isn't a matter of overhauling your life--though aspects of your life are bound to change as you develop self-awareness.  This is about understanding who you are at the core.  We all have within us a wealth of resources--everything, in fact, we need for growth.  Evolution has seen to that.  The way to tap that inner wisdom is through self-examination. . . . self-reflection is very practical.  What are the hopes and dreams you cherish, the abilities you aren't yet actualizing?  What are the secrets and nasty little habits you're hiding?  Only if you bring all this to light will you be able to lead the full, rich life you crave. . . .

I see how mindfulness could enhance my experience of the present, but how will it help me put the past to rest?

The only place you can change the past is in the present.  By not focusing on the "story" of your life--the events themselves--but rather on how you interpret and shape those events, you will start to see patterns emerging.  Insight into the assumptions that have been running your life will tell you why things turn out in certain ways.  The patterns and habits you've developed are karmic opportunities.  Unlike age or eye color or family of origin, they're aspects of yourself you have the power to change, which could, in turn, change your life.  Karma arises out of our choices.  When we choose not to respond as in the past, we create the possibility of a different future.
   
   

Good Karma shows us how to take responsibility for our words and deeds, to listen to what our conscience is telling us, to behave in a way that won’t undermine our prospects for happiness, and to examine specific actions closely and untangle the right from the wrong.  The karmic view on decision-making discussed so intriguingly here is one of the trickiest, most essential forms of self-analysis that we can undertake—and one of the most rewarding.

   

   

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Have you ever seen an inchworm crawl up a leaf or a twig,
and then, clinging to the very end, revolve in the air,
feeling for something, to reach something?
That's like me.  I am trying to find something
out there beyond the place on which I have footing.

Albert P. Ryder

   

 

Strategies for Finding and Living with Silence

Very few cultures value silence.  We like to fill our days and moments with sounds, with music, with television, with radio.  Anything but silence!  Silence actually makes many people nervous, and they don't lose their nervousness until they're able to fill the air with sounds by turning on some sort of device.  It's really quite a shame, too, because silence can be one of the strongest healing influences in our lives if we allow it to be.  Silence can be a balm that can sooth our hearts and spirits, but first we have to lose our fear of silence.

Why might we actually fear silence?  Perhaps the noises remind us that we're alive by stimulating our ear drums and thus our brains.  Perhaps we fear that in silence we're going to realize things that we perhaps don't want to realize--that we're going to be able to think at depths at which we aren't normally able to think when we're constantly distracted by sounds and noises.

I knew a student once who moved from New York to Vermont to go to school, and for quite a while she wasn't able to sleep at night because everything was just "too quiet."

   

Silence is something like an endangered species.  The experience
of silence is now so rare that we must guard it and treasure it.

Gunilla Norris

   
For most of us, finding silence has to be an active pursuit, for it truly is not common in today's world.  We're constantly bombarded with sounds in our lives, especially sounds related to transportation--cars and planes and buses and motorcycles.  Notice the difference between the noise level very early on a Saturday or Sunday morning (when most people aren't even up to enjoy the relative silence) and almost any other time.  The difference is almost astonishing.  Most of us have to actively seek out silence or we won't find it at all, and most of us never have been encouraged to seek it out for any reason at all.

The most important thing we can do is to find a place where we feel comfortable that also has the potential to provide silence for a certain period of time.  The basement is probably better than the kitchen, and the bathroom is possibly the best place in the house for avoiding noise, especially when the bathroom has no windows.  And if you think that seeking out silence in the bathroom sounds unpleasant, perhaps filling the tub with hot water and taking a bath would help.  While the sloshing of water as you bathe will ensure that the silence isn't complete, it's not a noise that tends to intrude in negative ways.

When you have your place, it's important to find realistic times when you can enjoy the silence.  If you have kids, there are certain times when silence is simply impossible, but if you examine your day closely enough, you should be able to find some times that could work.  At work, for example, most people take their breaks or lunches in break rooms, talking to other people, rather than finding quiet spots where they can recharge and refocus for the rest of their day.  While there's nothing wrong with talking to co-workers during a lunch break, that time is often one of the few chances that we get to spend time in quiet solitude, and when we sacrifice it, we ensure that we don't have any quiet time at all.
    

Silence stands outside the world of profit and utility.
It cannot be exploited for profit; you cannot get anything
out of it.  It is "unproductive," therefore it is regarded
as useless.  Yet there is more help and healing
in silence than in all useful things.

Max Picard

    
We also must remember that silence doesn't have to be absolute in order to be useful or helpful.  We can hear birds sing, we can hear the odd car go by, we can hear the hum of the refrigerator.  While the benefits increase as the ambient noise decreases--until we hit complete silence--there are still deep benefits to finding quiet that is not absolute.  Some of the most amazing silences that I've experienced have been during walks in the woods or especially the desert--even with sounds all around me, the silence is stronger than they are.

When you're in the silence, it's important not to leave it too soon.  As with anything else that we haven't done or experienced in a very long time, it's very easy to become uncomfortable or uneasy in a silent environment.  We start to feel that something is missing.  But if it's just noise and voices that are missing, then it really isn't missing at all--our brains are just telling us that it is because they're so used to it.  Don't leave your silence too soon, even if you feel uncomfortable.  It's like getting into a pool sometimes when the water feels too cold--stick it out, and soon the water feels absolutely perfect after your body gets used to it.

When we're in silence, our minds will also start to tell us that we need to be more productive, that we're wasting time.  When you look at being in silence as time spent preparing--preparing to feel better, preparing to be more productive, preparing to raise your energy levels and your concentration--then there really are few things in this world that you can do that are more productive.  When we plant crops, the seeds lie in the ground for quite a while before we ever see any indication that anything is growing, and so it is with silence.  We don't necessarily see or feel immediate results, especially the first few times that we immerse ourselves in it, but the benefits most definitely are there.
   

Take time to be quiet.  This is something that we don't do enough
in this busy world of ours.  We rush, rush, rush, and we are constantly
listening to noise all around us.  The human heart was meant for times
of quiet, to peer deep within.  It is when we do this that our hearts
are set free to soar and take flight on the wings of our own dreams!
Schedule some quiet "dream time" this week.  No other people.  No
cell phone.  No computer.  Just you, a pad, a pen, and your thoughts.

Jim Rohn

   
If you take the time and make the effort to make silence a part of your life, then you'll discover a world of beauty and relaxation that you didn't know existed and that is extremely easy to access.  It may take some effort in finding the right place and making enough time, but it is most definitely worth it.  One of the most important things that we can do for our spirit and our psyche is to give them a rest from the constant inundation of sounds in our lives--that constant noise is a destructive force, no matter how we look at it, and escaping from it from time to time is necessary to maintain our life force at high levels of productivity and peace--the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

   
More on silence.

   

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To travel a circle is to journey
over the same ground time and
time again. To travel a circle wisely
is to journey over the same ground
for the first time. In this way, the
ordinary becomes extraordinary,
and the circle, a path to where
you wish to be. And when you notice at last that the path has
circled back into itself, you realize
that where you wish to be is
where you have already
been. . . and always were.

Neale Donald Walsch

  
Several years ago, a friend of mine lived with me during the final few months of her life.  Not completely understanding the effects of her illness, I kept saying, "Michelle, you must eat.  You're getting too thin!  Eat!"  And after she died, I read in her journal about how "Marianne takes it for granted that if you eat, you gain weight; if you want to go out somewhere, you can; and if you want to live past this year, it's a reasonable proposition."  She was someone who had so little to be happy about, but she taught me so much about happiness.  During those months, right after the birth of my daughter, I would come home to find my dying friend with my baby snuggled next to her.  There was a smile of bliss on both their faces that I will remember all my days.

Marianne Williamson
Everyday Grace
Listening
Wilferd A. Peterson

The key to the art of listening is selectivity.  You stand guard at the ear-gateway to your mind, heart and spirit.  You decide what you will accept. . . 

Listen to the good.  Tune your ears to love, hope and courage.  Tune out gossip, fear and resentment.

Listen to the beautiful.  Relax to the music of the masters; listen to the symphony of nature -- hum of the wind in the treetops, bird songs, thundering surf.

Listen with your eyes.  Imaginatively listen to the sounds in a poem, a novel, a picture.

Listen critically.  Mentally challenge assertions, ideas, philosophies.  Seek the truth with an open mind.

Listen with patience.  Do not hurry other people.  Show them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say, no matter how much you disagree.  You may learn something.

Listen with your heart.  Practice empathy when you listen; put yourself in the other person's place and try to hear his or her problems in your heart.

Listen for growth.  Be an inquisitive listener.  Ask questions.  Everyone has something to say that will help you to grow.

Listen creatively.  Listen carefully for ideas or the germs of ideas.  Listen for hints or clues that will spark creative projects.

Listen to yourself.  Listen to your deepest yearnings, your highest aspirations, your noblest impulses.  Listen to the better person within you.

Listen with depth.  Be still and meditate.  Listen with the ear of intuition for the inspiration of the Infinite.
   
  

Life is slipping away with incredible speed.  We are racing
through space at the rate of nineteen miles every second.
Today is our most precious possession.
It is our only sure possession.

Dale Carnegie

    

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