7 June  2016      

Good day, and welcome to our newest week!  Summer is almost here,
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make the most of what's left of your springtime!

 A Relationship with Yourself (an excerpt)
Nancy Colier

 The Changing Seasons of the Moment
Christina Feldman

Strategies for Effective Giving
tom walsh

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If I have made any valuable discoveries, it is owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.

Isaac Newton

They are wise people who do not grieve for the things which they have not, but rejoice for those which they have.

Epictetus

We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it.  We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there.

Edward Abbey

Miracles are not in contradiction to nature.  They are only in contradiction with what we know of nature.

St. Augustine

  

A Relationship with Yourself (an excerpt)
Nancy Colier

Most people define self-care with a list of external actions--going to the gym, taking more walks, eating out for lunch, getting a massage, using their vacation days, and so on.  The concept of what it means to take care of ourselves is external.  Self-care has been kidnapped from the internal world and come to suggest something that we do to make ourselves feel good.  While all of the positive actions mentioned have the potential to improve our mood, they offer only a temporary relief from life's challenges, a short-lived state of pleasure.  There is a more profound kind of self-care, however, one that is not about muscling through life, but rather a self-care that come from building a new relationship with our real experience.  The kind of self-care that creates well-being with ourselves in a new and different way, not just when we remember to steal a moment away from our desks, but all the time.

The relationship with our own experience that leads to well-being is defined by kindness, curiosity, and acceptance.  In order to develop well-being, we must build a place inside ourselves that is like a good internal parent, one that can be loving, gentle, and interested in our thoughts and feelings while still remaining larger and wiser than what we are thinking and feeling.  When a good parent comforts a child who is upset, he or she empathizes with the child's pain, comforts the child, while also knowing (from a more mature place) that the child's pain will pass and that the child will be, and in fact already is, okay.

It is the parent's job to remind and reconnect the child with his or her fundamental okay-ness, that okay-ness which no situation can destroy.  The nature of our relationship with our own experience must be of this cloth:  supreme kindness within the larger container of wisdom.

In order to create well-being, we must develop an inner presence that is always with us and on our side.  This is a presence to whom we do not have to prove that our experience is deserving of care and kindness.  This inner-parent holds the assumption that what we experience is important simply because it is so.  The inner presence that leads to well-being is interested in how we are in the middle of the life we are living; it is us and not the situation that is of value.

As well, this inner presence explores our feelings without demanding that they change.  It wants to know who we are and how we are, and not a new and improved better version of ourselves.  Furthermore, this presence keeps its focus on our intention.  Kindness for our feelings is not dependent upon the external success or failure of our efforts.  Instead, this inner-parent is aligned with our experience and whether we receive what we were intending to create.

The inner presence that leads to well-being is there to comfort our experience as it is, while simultaneously encouraging us to continue growing.  When we start treating ourselves as someone we love, our path through life becomes clearer and more joyful.  We are included in the journey and as a result, we have our own presence and support to accompany us.  Self-kindness is the act of compassionately welcoming our true experience--ourselves--into our own life.  With well-being as our new intention and a new code of behavior for our relationship with our own experience in place, we can start practicing this self-kindness, and ultimately, becoming the I who will engage in this new relationship.
  
  

To "invite a monkey to tea" is to befriend our own mind-which is often compared to a drunken monkey for all its mad twists and turns. A wild monkey is full of irrepressible desires, and thus chases its own tail in its search for happiness! This book is about learning to welcome the mind as ally without fear or resistance, thus relaxing that frantic search and resting in the joy of who we already are. As a psychotherapist, author Nancy Colier has accompanied hundreds of people in their "search for happiness" for nearly two decades.

   

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The Changing Seasons of the Moment
Christina Feldman

Stand still in the forest in autumn and let the trees tell you their story.  The vibrantly colored leaves falling from the branches speak to us of the seasons of life.  Birth, age, sickness, and death--all the seasons of change are held within the falling of a single leaf.  The leaf on the ground becomes part of the loam that allows new seeds to grow.  The leaf is not separate from the tree but is born of the tree; it is also not exactly the same as the tree.  Intimations of change are held in each passing moment and there is nothing in this life exempt from that rhythm.  We are taught by those intimations; to try to interfere with a passing season is to enter into conflict, struggle, and sorrow.  There is a freedom in absorbing the simple truth of change--to live in harmony with this understanding is to find peace in all the changes of our lives.

Seeing the changing seasons we understand the way to the end of separation, conflict, and confusion.  We learn to let go, to let be.  We stand amid the perpetually changing seasons of each moment.  Everything that is born will die; everything that arises will pass away.  Nothing is exempt.  Whenever we endeavor to separate ourselves from this rhythm we create a world of struggle and fear.  Each time we cling to or grasp any thought, experience, feeling, or encounter embraced in the rhythm of change, we set ourselves apart from the world.  Mindfulness is the art of non-interference, of not clinging anywhere.  In not dwelling anywhere, not fixating upon anything, we are present everywhere. 

The Buddha remarked, "The mind that does not cling, does not become agitated.  The mind that is not agitated is close to freedom."

Standing in the forest amid its life we come to see that no one is making all this happen.  The buds form on the branches, the sun, the rain, and the richness of the soil provide the conditions for those buds to develop into leaves.  The heat of the summer, the winds of autumn, and the first frosts of winter all affect the life of a single leaf, which will eventually fade and fall.  Everything is interdependent.  Life interacts with itself.  If the conditions changed, if there was a drought or the tree was damaged, a different process would simply occur.  The conditions of life are constantly changing and perpetually affecting and influencing our experience of each moment.  We are not always in control of these conditions and our commands are mostly futile, but we are not powerless.  The seeds of peace lie within the mindful presence brought to each moment.

The life of the forest is a reflection of our own life.  Within our body, mind, and heart, we experience the process of change in every moment.  Thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and experiences all arise and pass away.  Our world of this moment is affected and formed by where we are, what we are exposed to, and how we meet the simple truths of each moment.  It is futile to believe that at the center of this unfolding and interacting process there is a controlling entity.  As we learn to be intimate with ourselves and all things, we understand that nothing and no one is separate from the changing conditions of the moment.  Our understanding and sense of who we are undergoes countless changes in a single day.  The angry "me" changes into the "me" of tolerance and patience.  The hopeful, excited "self" of the afternoon has quite forgotten the "self" that brooded and obsessed over breakfast.  We begin to discover that it is impossible to find any sense of "self" apart from our beliefs.

The deep, transforming understanding of change, suffering and its cause, and the end of suffering, is the wisdom of mindfulness.  The secret of the Buddha's smile is endlessly speculated upon.  Perhaps he smiled at himself for spending years searching outside of himself for the freedom that was always in his heart.  Mindfulness is born in each moment we turn our attention to where we are.  With gentle, calm attention we engage with this moment; probing beneath the surface to understand the simple truth of the moment, we are taught by it.  Freedom is not complicated or distant.  We are asked to be present.  Suzuki Roshi, a wise teacher, reminded us, "To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day."
  
  

Internationally known
Buddhist teacher
Christina Feldman
shows readers how
to awaken to the
present in order
to capture those
moments of peace
and stillness, and
bring balance and
harmony to their lives.

   

   

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When you commit yourself to living love, you feel at peace with yourself
because you are at harmony with the flow of life.  Viewing life from the
highest perspective, you feel confident and secure.  You realize that no
matter how things may appear, you are loved and protected.  You know
you are one with God, and you bring your peace with you wherever you
go.  You’re not looking for love, but for opportunities to love.

Susan L. Taylor

   

 

Strategies for Effective Giving

When I first wrote this title, a question came to me immediately:  am I talking about giving being effective for the person who gives, or for the receiver?  And of course, the answer is "yes."  For giving to be meaningful and effective, it really must be so for both the person who is doing the giving and the recipient of that giving.  So much giving is conditional, or is done to achieve ulterior motives, that it really isn't a practice that makes a difference in our lives.

Giving should be something that makes us stronger, happier, healthier people.  It should be an element of our existence that helps us to grow wiser and more compassionate.  Giving can make us feel better about ourselves and strengthen our character while at the same time benefiting other people who need what we have to give, be it material possessions, time, money, advice, or whatever else can be given to another.

Giving can be difficult, mostly because of the fear that so many of us have that we will never again have that which we're giving.  I might not want to give away a certain book because I'm afraid I won't find another copy; I may not want to give money because I'm afraid that I'll run out myself.  Another reason that we find for not giving is because we're attached to something that we should be giving to someone else.  I may know someone who needs a coat and I have an extra one, but it was a gift from someone special, so there's no way I can get rid of it.

   

We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

   
For me, one of the most important steps in learning how to give (and I'm definitely still in the process of learning!) is to see myself as a giver--and a cheerful giver at that.  When I think about how I want other people to remember me, I know that I would like them to think of me as someone who was willing and able to give.  When a situation comes up in which I have an opportunity to give something and I remind myself that I want to be remembered as a person who gives, then guess what?  It's much easier for me to give then.

I also try to keep in mind one of the immutable laws of life:  when we die, we can take none of what we have here with us.  When I let fear convince me that I can't get by without something, I remind myself of the fact that nothing really belongs to me, anyway, so there's no need to hold on to it.  Eventually, everything that I have will be left behind, so why not start now?

Giving is a continual process of letting go of things, so it's important that we teach ourselves how to let go if we want our giving to be effective.  We need to let go of the thing itself, let go of our attachment to it, and let go of arguments such as "But I worked so hard to earn the money to get that!"  Everything about life is temporal, and the sooner we realize this important fact, the sooner we'll be able to become cheerful and effective givers.
    

As Coleridge said, "We receive but what we give."  The happy life is a life
of continual generosity in which we go out to meet and acclaim the world.

Gerald Brenan

    
I believe that the most important aspect of giving is to give without causing the receiver to feel any sort of obligation to reciprocate.  If we give with the desire to receive something back--even a simple "thank you" is an expectation, then we are no longer giving, but bartering.  I'll give you something if you give me your gratitude in return.  True giving, though, asks nothing at all in return.

True giving can literally turn another person's life around.  When people have given to me when I've had a desperate need, it's been an amazing experience for me.  Their generosity in giving helped me to strengthen my sense of self-worth, helped me to see just how deep the effects of giving can be, and helped me to become a cheerful giver myself.  While what they gave me at the time in the form of material things such as money and time and encouragement helped me greatly then, their giving has never stopped having a positive effect on my life.  It's humbling to think that if I can give as they did, I might have a similar effect on someone else sometime.

Giving doesn't have to be complicated or excessive to be effective, as Charles Burr points out below.  There are so many things that we can give that we can't even begin to give everything possible, but we can give much, much more than we think we can if we just approach our giving with a sense of purpose and a sincere desire to help someone else--even in very tiny ways--to get through some sort of problem or to overcome some sort of obstacle.
   

Simply give others a bit of yourself; a thoughtful act, a helpful
idea, a word of appreciation, a lift over a rough spot, a sense
of understanding, a timely suggestion.  You take something
out of your mind, garnished in kindness out of your heart,
and put it into the other person's mind and heart.

Charles H. Burr

   
Do you want to be a giver?  Most people have learned to be pretty good takers, so you won't have a lot of competition in your giving.  But if you do decide to give what you can in the best ways that you can, you're assuring yourself a happier and richer life because, as Coleridge said, "We receive but what we give."  Make your life richer not by accumulating goods and money, but by giving what you're most adept at giving to others.

   
More on giving.

   

One of the most important elements
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There is no need to invent an
ego that is separate from the
divine if our basic human nature
is trusted.  If we trust ourselves,
we know how to avoid interfering
with nature and how to live in
harmony.  When we know God
as an unseen, loving, and
accepting power at the heart
of everything, allowing us to
make our own choices, then
God is a trusted part of our nature.

Wayne Dyer

  
Life

Life, believe, is not a dream,
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
foretells a pleasant day:
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
Oh, why lament its fall?
Rapidly, merrily,
Life's sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly.

What though Death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What though Sorrow seems to win,
O'er Hope a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, virtuously,
Can courage quell despair!

Charlotte Brontë
   
  

Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise--
then you will discover the fullness of your life.

David Steindl-Rast

    

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