Author Archives: Grace

fierce love

Adyashanti talks about fierce love, and Ram Das talked about fierce grace. At first I didn’t really understand what they meant. But after being a care giver for over a year, I got it. I wrote the following, about love and grace, while caring for my 102 year-old father, who had mild dementia and some physical limitations. He was the last one in my family to die, after his wife and three sons died the previous year. It was a tough year.

Love doesn’t always look like I imagined it would, or should. Everything I thought I wanted to do with my life – the better future I imagined – is coming into play here. Unmet dreams hitting the wall of Reality: this IS my life, here, now. I have never not lived my life, here, now. I have only dreamed that I wasn’t, that I ‘should be’ doing something else. Would, eventually, be doing … something else. Something that I ought to be doing, should be doing, wanted to be doing – more than what I was doing because I thought I should be doing something else. (Anyone who denies that this doesn’t describe the circus they have – at one time or another – called their own life, is lying. This is the story we were all raised to believe in: a better future.)

Love is messy. Other feelings – like anger, fear, frustration or confusion – can overshadow it. If not seen, met, and welcomed, those feelings will continue to play out in life, in some fashion. On the small stage of our personal life or the greater stage of the global life. In this setting, I’m seeing, turning towards, meeting and welcoming long buried feelings. For example, sometimes in response to something my Dad says or does, an old tape of needing to be right plays. What a joke THAT is! A need to be right with an old man who’s memory is often so short he doesn’t remember what he ate 10 minutes ago? Wow. But the tape plays for a reason: to be seen. The feelings are allowed and all that has been hidden becomes visible, or conscious. There is so much to see in such a simple, seemingly instinctual act of rebellion, “No, it’s not like you think…” Who cares about being right? If I look for her, the one who needs to be right, I only find the heartbreak underlying that need. And it’s the heartbreak – the one who feels heartbroken, unheard, unloved – that needs to be allowed to finally stand up and be seen, not the one who’s right. In the end, even the heartbroken one can not be found. Only feelings. Felt. I label them heartbreak for convenience, and because the feelings often center in the heart area, but I could just as easily call them something else. Shakespeare would agree.

Love hurts. The world I have occupied for decades is filled with heartbreak and heartbreak hurts. But only when I let my heart break. It can’t break if it’s wrapped up in the tightly wrapped package that I’ve labeled: a better future. That package hides SO much of value. It hides what IS. And what IS is ALL there is of value. No future, no matter how pretty the package appears to be, will ever compare to THIS moment. Which isn’t even really a moment, because there is no such thing as a moment, or “the present” – (those words and concepts imply time, and there is no such ‘thing’ as TIME) – there is always just THIS indescribableawarelivingbreathingmessyfiercegraceLOVEshiningperfection.

Love is soft. It bends and folds and slips and slides and seeps through the tiniest cracks. But it is more powerful than water that can wear down stone.

Love has no enemy. It rejects nothing and no one. It embraces all, always, in all ways.

Love is eternal. It became clear to me when I witnessed the intensity of my mother’s physically contracted body, hearing her use her very last breath to utter, “I LOVE YOU” with a fierceness that belied the frailty of her 80 lb body, and then seeing that body finally surrender to the inevitable. We never, ever, fail to find love. And we discover that it doesn’t always look like or manifest in ways that we expected it to, or thought it should.

Every breath we take, every beat of our hearts is an invitation to love. And that invitation has no end date. We can live a thousand lifetimes filled with misery and longing and suffering and still – it’s there. In every life, burning fiercely.

If I were to offer anyone advice, let’s say, my own wee struggling self, I’d say this: “Don’t turn away. Face what is here, now, for it’s YOUR invitation to Love. You are welcome to turn away, of course, but another invitation will come your way. All of what is, is the same invitation. So be strong, my dear, and face what IS as if you wrote the invitation yourself. Because you did.”

hope

Like all other humans, I grew up with the nearly constant companion that we call “Hope.”

I had the usual childhood self-centered hopes for things, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I also hoped to be loved and supported, trusted, treated well. In my teens, I developed the more mature, altruistic hopes for a better world that often accompany the transition into young adulthood. And then, in my 20s, I started hoping to become spiritually enlightened, earnestly pursuing this idea for the next several decades, in a variety of ways.

In hindsight, I see now that I didn’t realize that this impulse – to become enlightened – was motivated by a desire to be free from all the worries that weighed on me, the ones that birthed hope. I hoped for many things, but felt that most, if not all, would likely not come to pass: a long, healthy life and an easy or swift and painless death; enough money to live comfortably; a better, brighter future for myself and my loved ones, and for all people; and, of course, the big hope we all share – world peace – a life of ease for all of the Earth’s inhabitants.

I realize now that hope is an empty promise. This moment lacks nothing, despite all outward appearances, and there is no such thing as the future (other than as a thought). Knowing this, what is there to hope for?

But our global situation – life on Earth – seems to be filled with more than enough fuel for a lifetime (and the proverbial lifeline) of hope, and so, paradoxically, I am free to continue to hope for freedom from pain and suffering for all. The difference is that hope now springs from the eternal knowing that all is well.

anger is repressed fear

I’ve come to see anger as fear that is repressed. If you doubt that, watch the resistance and denial that comes up from that statement. Resistance is a way to know what is buried deep within the story of you.

Awareness of this allowed me to go inward in openness, to really look at what it was I was so angry (afraid) of. What did the dynamic that was occurring represent to me on a core (identity) level… safety, non-relevance, lack of love? What exactly did it mean to my story?

Non-relevance was particularly significant in that it forced me to look at WHAT exactly was it that feared irrelevance, thoughts?

Holding onto stories is the way in which the mind builds its identity and (apparent) relevance.

You have to WANT to see, even if it’s fearful.

Even if your mind says you have a “right” to your anger.

Once I accepted this it changed the way I saw anger, both my own and another’s.

I recognized the mind superimposes onto EVERYTHING what it “thinks” something means based on conditioning.

That doesn’t mean it’s real.

Being aware of this changed the way I looked at things, which in turn changed what I was looking at.

Unconditional compassion occurred when I no longer shared the fears of those I was compassionate towards.

~Rita Friedman

lies

My mother was ultra conservative and grew even more so as she aged. She was prejudiced against liberals, black people, latinos, muslims, and gays. “Queers,” she would say. Oh, and fat people. She hated fat. Not necessarily fat people, she claimed, but fat. (It’s hard to separate “fat” from “people” when you believe that being fat is a bad thing, as she did.)

She also voted Republican. She believed the birther stories about Obama and thought he was evil. She grew increasingly concerned about immigrants and foreigners. After breaking her pelvis, in 2014, she was sent to rehab and taken care of by Muslim women who wore hijabs, skinny Filipino and Vietnamese women whom she couldn’t understand, super friendly gay men who gracefully sauntered into her room as if they were coming into a party, and several African American women with kind hearts in big, beautiful bodies. Two years later, she voted for Trump. In her mind, he promised to rid her world of all the people she felt threatened by – including all of these compassionate beings who bathed her, wiped her butt, tended to whatever need she had at the time, even though she would have said, “Oh, I have nothing against them.” A month after the election, she died. (But not before being cared for everyday by a sweet, chubby Latina mother of five – whose husband was also a hospice caregiver. The irony of it did not escape me.)

My father was also prejudiced and paranoid about “others” – though less so than my mother. My brother, an alcoholic who lived with them, shared their fears. He owned guns and slept with a loaded 45 under his pillow, Rush Limbaugh blaring on the radio. He said he would use the guns if or when “they” came to take his guns away. Both men were also under hospice care, and would actually say, “I have nothing against them” – meaning these same non-white, mostly liberal people who tended to them. (They were actually quite enamored with most of their caregivers.)

It became increasingly clear to me as my mother grew older and colder, that she wasn’t going to change. I watched her die never having known the ease of feeling at one with another. And I was pretty sure that my Dad – though he was a very sweet man – and my brother, were both unlikely to think any differently than they did, no matter what I might say to them or how kind their caregivers were. They were, it seemed to me, brainwashed.

During my time as a caregiver for my family, and actually for decades before it, my body was in a kind of constant turmoil, my gut clenched almost all day and night. I didn’t know that I was embodying the mantra most of us repeat constantly, in some form or another: “This should not be!”

Eventually I came to realize that my family’s judgments broke my heart. I was filled with heartbreak for those “others” whom my mother so loathed, and I felt shame and guilt for my entire family’s rejection of “them.” After the election, the more I read about the division in this country, and witnessed it on my own FB page as ‘friends’ went to war with each other about Trump and all that he brought to the table, the more heartbreak I felt. I wrote my own share of “This should not be!” posts about the current state of the world. In so doing I could not deny the many judgments that I was leveling about those “others.” And about all those “others” who were so judgmental of other “others.”

I finally had to ask myself, “How is my judgment any different than the judgment I am being so judgmental of?”

My conditioning, like others’, runs very deep (whether we buy into it or rebel against it). It’s embedded in our cells and it powerfully influences our thoughts, behaviors and deeds. We’re not at fault; we’re just unaware of this mechanism, and the trauma that it inflicts on us, until we are. And then we might realize that it’s been like a poison coursing through our veins, polluting our minds and bodies.

I started asking myself some hard questions. How can I possibly cease being afraid of “others” as long as I believe that “they” are different, and separate, from me? Are there really any “others,” and do I really know the things I claim to know about “others” (or even myself)? What scares me? What makes me feel angry, guilty, filled with shame or remorse? What motivates me to want to help “others” – or, yes, maybe even harm them? Do I really know better than the “other” that I am judging? Am I, somehow, superior? Is it possible that the things that I believe to be true about all these “others” are just made up stories?

Thank goodness my heart can bear it all, including the difficulty of this kind of self-exploration, and the sometimes painful excavation that is required to look at all of this within. It isn’t easy to dig down through layer upon layer of lies, and to feel deeply what believing them has done to this innocent body. This body, that feels so deeply, is being held – embraced by – a vast Beingness that knows itself in and as the paradoxical multiplicity of “others.”

all is sacred

It is possible to realize a truth that is hard to reconcile with all of our conditioned beliefs. And that is that there is no “you” – as in a separate individual entity – that has control, of anything. Including the decisions that “you” appear to make. The very thought of this is alarming (to say the least) to the one who thinks he or she has control. But when this actually happens, an unimaginable relaxation occurs in every aspect of the human body. The mind quiets, the heart opens, the gut unclenches. The one who has felt fear can no longer be located, other than as a memory. There is, instead of a seeming heavy solidness, an almost unbearable lightness of being.

So much of what people pursue, and do, is to improve a self that doesn’t exist. And to improve a world that this same non-existent self believes needs to be made better. As if they can *do* something to make it better. As if they have the choice, are in control. As if…

The truth is that they don’t have choice, and are not in control. The truth is that they don’t … exist. And whatever it is that *is* in control, does. Exist. Not as an idea, a projection, or a memory. Nor as an entity that is separate from other entities.

Yes, there seems to be a human being. Being human. But the thinking human isn’t in control. And what is in control is simply Being, being human. And Being, being animal, plant, star. Nothing is not Being, being… whatever. Everything is Being, being… whatever. The ten thousand things.

All of the “bad” things (or the “good,” for that matter), that are apparently happening, are not in your control. This doesn’t mean you can’t, for example, vote for the candidate of your choice. Or chose to eat a whole foods plant-based diet because you believe that it will help you feel better, live longer, or save the planet. But as long as you believe that your vote counts and your decisions matter, you will actually suffer, on some level. This suffering will consist of nagging thoughts that plague you and a body that is experiencing some form of contraction 100% of the time (even if you don’t realize it). This is because believing you have a choice is arguing with reality, and when you argue with reality, you lose. All of the time.

When you realize at the deepest level that you cannot improve reality, that reality is not in your control, and when you know that what is, is … perfect … (even the judgments about how imperfect it all is), a great weight is lifted from your body. It is the weight of the belief that you have some control. When the burden of that belief falls away, it is as if your body turns into a cloud, through which all things can pass, including learned and conditioned behaviors and beliefs which will continue to rise. As Rumi says, welcome them, as you would a beloved guest. 

Upon awakening, one’s view of the world profoundly shifts. All becomes sacred – is recognized to be sacred. There is not a molecule or atom in existence that is not sacred. Everything is The Divine. 

don’t leave this moment

Whenever your attention is directed towards the content of your life, and not to the context within which the content arises, you have gone into fantasy-land. Betrayed Reality for a thought that you take to be real… but isn’t.

Don’t leave this moment for some imagined moment.

Stay. Here. Now.

 

all is well

Big puffy cloudsSome epiphanies are hard to describe. And they don’t “make sense” – cannot really be understood by the thinking mind. They come unbidden, and can blindside you. So much so that tears spring to your eyes. Like the epiphany that came this morning as I was driving into town to run errands, seeing big, white, puffy clouds against the backdrop of a sky so blue it almost hurt my eyes to look at. Did the tears spring to my eyes because of the brightness, or was it something else that seemed to cause those tears? I don’t know, but I had to pull over. Gratitude filled me.

FloodingBut my mind flitted to thoughts of the storm slamming the Carolina coast, flooding, all of the lives in danger. Human and animal. The potential for lasting property and environmental damage. Scenes of the devastation happening all over the planet came to mind even as my eyes were squinting at the sky, tears pooling, and then sliding down my cheeks. My heart was bursting to be witness to such breathtaking beauty.

In that moment of contrasting scenes – the one before my eyes and the other in my mind’s eye – it became crystal clear that there is nothing wrong. Ever. End of story. All is as it is, and all is well.

The mind might exclaim “WTF?” – mine did, and it is of course free to do that – but despite its complaints and arguments (of which there are as many as there are humans walking the earth), it was clear, too, that the truth is that all is well.

This doesn’t mean that I cannot be involved in making things “better” – if I believe there is need of such actions. But beneath all of my actions, if there is even a hint of attachment to my belief that all is not well, unless or until “this” or “that” changes or happens, then I suffer. And I miss  (the word sin, btw, means to “miss the mark”) the incredible peace that passeth all understanding. The peace that is available to be experienced in any given moment, in all moments. That isn’t the result of anything I (or we) think or say or do. It stands alone, independent – not the result of anything – in glorious living color and every shade of grey in between. It is there, evident, in every breath taken, in every beat of my heart and every heart, in all that is – regardless of how the mind interprets all that is.

shit happens

If you are observant, you may have noticed that the last post on this blog was nearly two years ago… dated November 25, 2016. I didn’t know at the time I wrote that post that my 93 year old mother had just had a massive stroke, which left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. I soon flew down to Arizona (from Washington, where I live), to care for her. My 102 year old father was thin, frail and confused. My 65 year old brother was sick with multiple alcohol-related diseases. All three of them were under hospice care, and for much of my time caring for them, I slept only intermittently.

Over the next year+, most of my family died. My mother was the first to go, a week after her stroke, and my father the last, nearly 14 months later. In between them, my three brothers, an aunt and uncle, my son-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a friend also died.

shit happensI don’t share this to garner sympathy, but to state the obvious: shit happens. During the time I was a care-giver and administrator of estates for some of my family members, it was a challenge to find time to go grocery shopping, let alone post on this blog. But a lot of insights came to me, often in the stolen quiet hours of the night when my father was medicated enough to sleep through his Sundowning tendencies and I laid beside him, listening to his quiet, steady breathing. I hope to find time in the coming months to post some of these insights to this blog. Perhaps they will be as helpful for some of you to read about as they were for me to experience. That is my wish, and is – ultimately – the only reason I bother to write.

“The senseless sorrow of mankind becomes your sole concern.”
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

With love,
Grace

this should not be!

“This should not be!” is the battle cry of all humanity. Shouted from rooftops, whispered in bedrooms, hospitals and alleyways. Discussed in a million different ways over coffee, tea or cocktails. Plastered across various media outlets. Humans have been living by this creed for millennia. It takes the form of “stamping out inequality and injustices,” “fighting for a cure” for cancer and intending to “beat to odds” of various other diseases, and “doing the right thing!”

It’s certainly in full vocalized force these days, post election. No surprise, really. Activists are howling rejection and rebellion. But if activism is rooted in “This should not be!” then it’s rooted in resistance and is, therefore, no different than that which it intends to rectify. Donald Trump is not the enemy. Nor are his projected policies. He is a prime example of someone – and a mirror for all who remain – trapped in the egoic sense of a separate self who has control. Cancer is also not the enemy. It’s a label that completely obscures the lived, moment-to-moment reality that is beyond such a simple label, beyond all description.

There is no such thing as separation, to say nothing of a separate self that has control. When this is seen, well, all problems cease to be problems – including who is president and the symptoms of cancer. What is, is. Period. End of story. The thinking mind – the one that thinks it has control, or can at least figure out the solution to life’s problems – will never understand this. It will go on screaming its battle cry, “This should not be!” until the last breath is taken and the body becomes lifeless. That the body becomes lifeless doesn’t mean that you die… quite the contrary: You were never born; you never die. Only the thought of ‘you’ (the one who has control) dies. Even this isn’t accurate. The thought of ‘you’ is seen for what it has been… a kind of hypnotic trance, a movement.

It’s best to just give up trying to understand any of this and see, instead, that you misunderstand. Then, at least, there is a chance that the thought of ‘you’ will die before the body becomes lifeless. And if that happens, let the trumpets sound “Hallelujah!”

Do Not Misunderstand

all that remains is Awareness

When the I dissolves, so does the body. All that remains is Awareness, without an I, without a body, without thought. This can be known, and seemingly ‘afterwards’, described as one would describe an ‘experience’ of oneness. But it isn’t an experience that the I has – the I ceases to exist. It ‘dies’ (never really did exist… ). That, and the body in which it ‘appears’ to reside, arise simultaneously in object consciousness (Awareness is ‘prior to’ object consciousness). Objects/object consciousness arise simultaneously (as ‘the ten thousand things’). They exist (it seems) ‘in’ Awareness. Awareness IS… independent of / prior to consciousness. But really there is no independent of nor prior to.

You may wonder how ‘I’ know this. I don’t, and therefore can’t tell you. Because there is no I. But it is known… here… and attempts like this, to describe it such that the thinking mind can understand (even the thinking mind that seems to be ‘here’), are futile.

So be it.