17 June 2018

Are we really separate from others?

 quotations and passages on oneness

No one is an island, entire of itself; everyone is a piece of Continent,
a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is
the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor or thy
friends or of thine own were; any person's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Humankind.   -
John Donne

We like to think of ourselves as islands, don't we?  We like to consider ourselves as unique, separate entities that really don't have any connection to our fellow human beings unless we decide to forge such a connection by talking to them, caring for them, being with them.  But we're way off base when we look at our realities this way, and we only have to look at the amazing amount of discord and stress and conflict in our world today to realize that we are causing this discord with our unfortunate tendency to consider ourselves as separate from everyone else.

We think it makes life easier for us if we maintain separation from others.  After all, we don't want to deal with everyone else's drama and problems and issues, and when someone starts getting annoying, it's easy to just cut off contact with that person.  But do we ever consider the possibility that so many people have issues and problems because of the ways that we separate ourselves from others?  Do we ever stop to think that perhaps acknowledging our oneness and our unity could be an important step towards healing many, many people of fear and anxiety that result from feelings of separation and isolation and aloneness?  Many or the current issues facing human beings are actually caused by our insistence on seeing ourselves as individuals rather than acknowledging our place as a part of the whole.

It's often difficult to focus on oneness and unity when so few others are doing so.  But it's not impossible.  We simply need to be willing to take a risk and love and care for others who may seem unlovable or unpleasant.  Loving them doesn't mean that we have to care for them as we care for a spouse or a child, but it does mean acknowledging their existence as human beings who are part of the same whole that we are--the human species, which is on this planet to live together and to share love, but which is actually living separately and refusing to share love with anyone other than their closest companions.

We are all part of one.  Why must we look at ourselves as separate when we are actually a whole, albeit a non-unified whole?

13 June 2018

The Best Policy?

We must make the world honest before we can honestly say to
our children that honesty is the best policy.

George Bernard Shaw

We live in a world in which people seem to have lost their desire to be honest.  Nowadays (and probably in the past, too), honesty is something that is practiced as long as it can benefit someone.  "I'll be honest if there's something to gain from it," seems to be the standard attitude towards the concept.  Advertisers will be honest as far as it serves them, but they'll leave out information that could be vital for me to make a good decision about whether to buy their goods or contract their services.  All in all, honesty seems to have become the black sheep of the family, the person that people deal with only if they absolutely have to, only when they might lose out on something if they don't.

Bit it's important that we don't lose our relationship with honesty.  It's one of the cornerstones of strong relationships, and when we practice it consistently, people know that they can depend on us, and that's something very valuable that we can give to others and to ourselves.  Honesty taken too far can be hurtful and damaging, of course, but we can recognize those situations ourselves and deal with them when they occur--for the most part, honesty definitely is important.

In our political and economic worlds of today, though, honesty has lost its luster.  The Internet is full of blatant lies that are designed only to harm others and to make someone feel better about his or her views.  And those lies are being spread constantly be people WHO KNOW THEY ARE LIES, but who feel that they validate their own beliefs and ideals.  But you and I don't have to do that.  You and I need to strengthen our relationship with the truth and learn about when the truth should be revealed, and when it shouldn't.  We shouldn't ever hide it for personal gain, but only to protect others--there are situations when complete honesty can be incredibly damaging.

We know who we are, and we know that we want to live our lives fully--and honesty is one of the most important aspects of the character that we must develop in order to do so.  Let honesty into your life--live it and love it and share it.  Let others know that you're someone who can be trusted, and they'll appreciate you for that.  Most of all, though, you'll be a bright light in a dark world, and one of the people responsible for keeping honesty alive during these dark times.

 quotations and passages on honesty

07 June 2018

Are you listening to the song?

 quotations and passages on integrity

Deep inside, our integrity sings to us whether we are listening or not.
It is a note that only we can hear.  Eventually, when life makes us ready
to listen, it will help us to find our way home.

Rachel Naomi Remen

We all are blessed with integrity--the question is whether we're willing to listen to it or not, whether we're willing to allow it to become a guiding force in our lives.  Many of us like to put it aside, to hide it in a closet or a drawer, while we make decisions more for expediency and personal gain than for the sake of maintaining our integrity.

The dictionary definitions of the word are interesting.  It gives us what most of us see as the main definition, that of "the quality of being honest, etc."  But the second definition is also extremely important--possibly more important to me.  It says:  "The state of being whole and undivided."  Now, how many of us can say that about ourselves?  I want to be able to, and I wish I could, but I'm not sure that I'd be being honest if I were to say that I am "whole and undivided."  I divide myself too much, and I'm not sure that I do have that kind of integrity.  If my heart tells me to treat a person a certain way, yet I don't do so, do I have integrity?  If I know that there are rules about computer use at work, yet I spend time on Facebook in violation of those rules, do I have integrity?  No, because there are competing forces against me.  I've made an agreement to abide by the rules of my workplace, and because I'm violating that agreement, I'm torn inside.  I know that I've made a promise that I'm now breaking, and that's never a good feeling.

Our integrity is a wonderful guide through life, if we but heed it.  Sometimes we don't heed it because we're not ready to do so, and one of our goals in life should be to work towards living always according to our integrity.  Other times, though, we fail to heed our integrity by choice, and that choice always will lead to harm, one way or another.

Listen to the song your integrity sings, and live by that song.  It truly is a beautiful song, one that can definitely, as Rachel says, lead us home.

29 May 2018

The positive side of tolerance

If humans are to survive, we will have learned to take
a delight in the essential differences between people
and between cultures. We will learn that differences
in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's
exciting variety, not something to fear.
-Gene Roddenberry

It's getting quite discouraging at times to see just how unwilling we've become to accept differences in others--different skin colors, different political views, different ways of seeing the world.  And while the word "tolerance" may have some negative connotations, at its foundation the word is a good guide to all of us--we should tolerate the differences in opinion and viewpoints of others because they have every right to see the world from their own perspective that we have.  And we should go beyond tolerance, and Gene says here, and actually take a delight in those differences, for they're what make the world go round, what cause positive change in the world, and what allow us to learn and grow and start to see the world in different ways.

You can support any political agenda you like, and I should be able to tell you why I disagree (if I do) without showing any sort of intolerance.  That's called a discussion.  You can be any religion you feel called to follow, and we should be able to talk about it without hatred or rancor or anger.  The moment I say that you're wrong, though--the moment I say that you should change the way you see things or I can't accept you--then I've become completely intolerant, and I'm the one who's causing problems because I'm not willing to let you be who you are.  I'm expecting you to change to please me so that I can accept you.

Intolerance leads to division, and we have a world that's so divided right now that we're in danger of destroying ourselves because we're not willing to accept the views and opinions and beliefs of others.  When we learn how to tolerate differences, then we learn how to live with much less stress in our lives and much more love and compassion and understanding.  And we contribute peace and love to the world rather than suspicion and discord.

(And of course, a disclaimer:  Should we "tolerate" things like murder or child abuse or other kinds of criminal and destructive behavior?  Absolutely not.  But that brings a complete different aspect of the word's definition into play--there's a positive tolerance that allows us to live and let live, and a negative denotation of the word that is a result of fear, indifference, or even cruelty.)

25 May 2018

Enlightenment, anyone?

 quotes on enlightenment
Everybody wants to get enlightened but nobody wants to change.
This is the simple, daunting truth that has been staring back at me
from the eyes of countless seekers over the years.  "I really want
to get enlightened," they insist.  "But are YOU ready to CHANGE
now?" I ask.  "What?" is the inevitable response—surprised and
even slightly stunned.  And I repeat, "Are YOU ready to CHANGE
now?"  What follows is always a strange and surreal moment of
ambiguity, confusion, and backpedaling.
"But I thought you wanted to get enlightened... "    -Andrew Cohen

Andrew makes us realize here that enlightenment isn't something that we don't have to make sacrifices for.  It's not something that just hits us one day and leaves everything in our lives unchanged.  Enlightenment by its very nature is an agent of change, and unless we're willing to allow those changes in our lives, we hold on to the status quo, the way things are, and we don't allow ourselves to be the way we could be--enlightened.

When I "become" enlightened, after all, I may not be comfortable keeping my same job, or I may see just how damaging a particular relationship is to me.  Enlightenment, after all, implies a heightened awareness and a deeper understanding of life and living, and when I understand life better, I'm going to recognize problems much more readily.  And once I recognize them, it's going to be time to make some changes concerning them, isn't it?

We're comfortable in our beliefs and our fears and our habits and our traditions.  They make us feel safe and secure, for they fool us into thinking that we actually have some sort of control over life and events.  Enlightenment by its very nature has no respect for the status quo--in fact, it's about as opposed to maintaining the status quo as anything could be.  If you want to be enlightened, that means you're not currently there.  If you refuse to let go of the things and beliefs that you have now, that means that you're going to stay in your current unenlightened place.  That's simply the way it is.

Of course, none of this means that there are going to be wholesale changes on the life level if you become enlightened.  After all, one of the most famous quotations about enlightenment says, "Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.  After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water."  You can continue in your job, but you'll treat the job differently.  You can continue in your marriage, but your approach to the marriage will change.

If you desire to "be" enlightened, then you have to be ready and willing to go through and to make changes in your life, because you're not there now.  Simply put, if you're not willing to see change in your life, then you probably shouldn't be seeking enlightenment, for you're going to reject it when you find it.

18 May 2018

Deciding Today

I live now and only now, and I will do what I want to do this moment

and not what I decided was best for me yesterday.
-Hugh Prather

It's very easy to get caught up in the idea of "sticking to your decisions."  After all, yesterday I said that I would do this task today, so of course, I'm obligated to do this task right now.  After all, I keep my word, don't I?  And very often, this is a very good strategy to follow.

Very often, though, it's not.

What if I woke up this morning and I realized that I'm close to burnout, that if I don't take some time away from the task, I'm going to suffer emotionally or physically?  Yesterday, I didn't feel this way, so my statement was easy to make.  But when I made the decision, I didn't have all the information that I needed in order to make a decision for today, and now that today is here, continuing with the task doesn't seem to be the best idea at all.  Perhaps it's time for a short break--some recreation or moving to a different task--in order to make sure that I'm able to continue effectively later.

When something drastic happens, it's easy to lay aside plans.  When your son or daughter breaks a leg, all plans are off while we take the child to the hospital.  That's an immediate response in the moment that makes complete sense because it's so obvious.  Many of our needs, though, aren't nearly as obvious.  Yesterday I decided to plant the garden, but today I see that my best friend needs someone to talk to--am I going to talk or plant?  Just because I said yesterday that I planned something today doesn't mean that I can't go with today's needs, today.

Let today talk to you.  Listen to its directions.  Live in the moment.  Today knows what today needs--yesterday had only a vague idea.  Listen to the day that knows.

16 May 2018

What are your favorite illusions?

The universe is illusion merely, not one speck of it real, and we are
not only victims, but also captives, bound by the
mineral-made ropes of senses.
-Annie Dillard

I often have a hard time with this concept.  After all, when I reach for my coffee cup, my hand encounters something solid--and I've learned that if something is solid, then it's no illusion.  I see my wife almost every day, and I talk to and touch people in my life constantly.  How can they be illusions?  They actually exist, don't they?

I'm not sure.  I can't be sure, because I really don't know enough about anything to be completely sure about anything at all.  Just because I've learned that illusions must be intangible, is that really true?  Perhaps some illusions take physical form, and we all accept that form for what it is, so we see it as "reality."

When Annie says, "not one speck of it real," what does she mean?  I believe that she means that as human beings, we like to "know" things.  We like or need to have explanations for everything in life.  And the only way that we're able to explain things is through our senses, which are extremely limited.  Because of that limitation, we're not able to see or feel or smell anything but that which exists within the realm of our senses.  There are more types of light than that which we're able to see; we're able to hear just a small portion of the sounds that surround us constantly; our sense of touch is necessarily limited to those things that won't do our body harm; taste, also, is limited to those things that we eat or that enter our mouths by accident; and who knows how many things we simply cannot smell?

Because of these limitations of our senses, our view of the universe and all that's in it is incomplete.  This incomplete picture is illusion, even if we're pretty sure that the cow that we see and hear and smell is pretty real.  Sight is merely light entering our eyes and being received by our brain and then interpreted; sound is vibrations in the air being perceived and interpreted by our ears and their inner workings--and on and on.  We use our senses only to the extent of their limitations--and no further.

So what does this mean to us?  Why is it important?  Well, perhaps if we realize that what we see and hear may not be exactly what we think it is, we can respond to it more positively.  Maybe we can realize that so much of what we believe to be true--and therefore so much that affects our happiness and our peace of mind--is simply what we believe to be true, rather than what's really true.  And when we realize that, we can reclaim our happiness and our peace of mind and our lives will be a bit simpler and definitely more pleasant.

Likewise, when we realize that many other things we consider to be obstacles really are just what seems to be true, many of those obstacles will fade to nothing because they weren't obstacles to begin with.

How we see the world is our choice.  What we choose to see is our choice.  Let's choose to remember that most of what we see is illusion, and then we can lead these lives in happy, healthy, and productive ways.