World Kindness Day

1379 Relax and Succeed - Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness

As promised, I am working on some pieces about my experience, the fear, and dealing with intense pain. Due to the depth required for those subjects I will need more time to fully assemble those ideas. You are better served if I can find ways to make my experience useful to you in the most material ways possible.

In the meantime, I am grateful that it happens to be World Kindness Day. That fact allows me to take the time to write and finalize those pieces, as well as celebrate this day by discussing how we can extend our sentiments beyond this single day, so they may imbue our lives throughout our year.

We can often see our kindnesses or our gratitude as things we give to others, but this is only because we tend to see our reality as being ‘out there,’ in some external sense. With a deeper understanding, we realize that all of our ‘experiences’ happen within our consciousness, which means genuine expressions of gratitude or kindness are even more our experiences than they are those of the people we may be helping or showing kindness toward.

Today, and going forward, I would strongly encourage everyone to join me in the daily meditation of seeing life not as something happening to us, but rather an experience we are co-creating with the universe, moment by moment. Like the cells of a single organism, our state does impact the state of those around us, just as those parts of reality also affect us, so control is not our answer.

Just as we will sometimes not be at our best, so too will other cells in the organism that is our larger society. There is no hope of us fully grasping or controlling that reality, but we can learn to accept it in ways that are profound, and that permit us to understand what people mean when they say things like, “Before I was enlightened I suffered. After I was enlightened I suffered.”

Acceptance adds a form of grace to the latter portion of that statement. By living in that way, we build no residual resentments, attachments or expectations, although we may experience them fleetingly. Likewise, we all regularly experience enlightened moments. What everyone seeks is a somewhat efficient route from their suffering, and to their moments of grace.

While we are never free of what the Buddhist’s call the cycle of samsara, we can learn to move within it with greater awareness and psycho-spiritual skill.

How this takes shape in real time can be demonstrated with my recent pain, and the fears around potentially losing my sight. As with anyone, the pain was agonizing, and the fears were based in very real potential outcomes. We can come to see that external reality as ‘our environment,’ much like the banks of a river are not the river, but they do form –and are formed by– the flow of our lives.

What gives us grace is our ability to remember that, like the river, periods of tumultuous rapids and frightening waterfalls are only parts of our overall flow through the moments of our life. All rivers change as they move through the geography of our reality, so all states are temporary. This is why I often refer to a wise Buddhist monk who once told me that the secret to living is that “everything changes.”

As we experience intense pain, we can become aware that our state is temporary. This turns our agony into a waiting-game of positive anticipation. We don’t know when or how we might feel better, but we know that the river of our lives continues to flow even though our pain can leave us inactive.

The above describes why suicidal thoughts can be natural, and yet ultimately foolhardy, because they operate on the presumption that nothing is changing if we are still. But whether rapids on a river last for 10 miles or one, our surrounding geography will eventually change our flow whether we act or not. In this way our own patience is a form of meditation or prayer.

If we can see this clearly, it allows us to simply let our suffering ‘be.’ That wisdom is reflected in Paul McCartney’s advice to John Lennon’s son in the song, Hey Jude,” wherein he reminds the boy that despite our periods of personal darkness, it is worthwhile to maintain our conscious anticipation and movement toward better experiences to come.

1379 Relax and Succeed - The level of our success is limited only by our imagination

Again, while our suffering in life is often unavoidable, what allows us to flow forward is our deep knowing that all of our states of mind are always temporary. This also means that, when we see others in states of suffering, we should not see our acts of kindness as merely gestures –in fact these actions are what shape the banks of other’s rivers.

In many cases, our own ‘rapids’ will dissolve thanks to the efforts of others, both seen and unseen. That being the case, in closing, I would like to thank the many people who very recently and greatly contributed to the gradual easing of my own suffering.

Without these people I would surely have struggled far more, and while my gratitude is my own to feel, I do hope they each saw their own kind acts as their own meditations on gratitude, empathy and compassion. In this way, my own pain can act as an opportunity for grace for those around me.

In terms of specifics, I would like to take this opportunity to single out those who have, and continue to, allow this struggle through the rapids of my life to move from near intolerable, to places where I can now feel deeply grateful to no longer be in the worst parts of the experience.

To this end I offer deep and special thanks to Doctors Baker and Sia, as well as the entire remarkable staff at the Alberta Retina Consultants. In addition to them, I would also like to thank the support and surgical staff at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, as well as the family and friends that supported me throughout this process.

These people include Don, Anita, Henry, James, Nick, Mike, Kirsten, Christina, Brian, Jarrid, Christian, Sausan, Sue, and for the compassion shown by Tracy, Beth, Rob, Dwayne and Charlotte (and any others my addled state may have forgotten).

As I also live in a nation with nationalized health care, I would also like to thank my fellow Canadians for your contributions toward making such a system work in my time of need.

In closing, today, as you move about your own World Kindness Day, remember that you are not only lifting weight from the specific people you help but, in total, you are also adding to a much larger force that, along with others, is easing suffering throughout the universe itself.

peace. s

Fostering Self-Respect

1350 Relax and Succeed - Fostering Self-Respect

People keep thinking the world’s a terrible place and yet people who are psychologically healthy see only challenges and fundamentally good people at various states of life who impact those challenges in a variety of ways that make sense. The Buddhists call this ‘causality.’

We have all done things we wouldn’t do today, so when people move in what we might call the ‘wrong’ direction that is really just humans being human. If they can’t avoid that then we can’t either, so the real problem is our thinking –our judgment.

The media makes a lot of money off our strongest emotions –fear, anger and sexuality– and they do not tell us really what is happening, they tell us whatever is happening that is likely to incite those emotions because that’s what keeps our eyeballs tuned into their product and their job is to sell ads or themselves.

But those financial incentives should be seen as just that: only an incentive. We can choose to see all of the countless great things that happen every day.

The reason this matters is because it is brain-training. If we constantly judge others for being ways we’re not, and if we constantly look for what’s wrong, scary or disrespectful, we aren’t defining who the ‘bad’ people are, we are teaching ourselves to be be judgmental and disrespectful to ourselves. Our brains get good at actions. Which directions they are aimed at is irrelevant.

How many people watch for kind or generous acts conducted by drivers or pedestrians? Who watches for people helping others with their kids, or small kindnesses offered in a grocery store lineup? Who sees the book recommendation from a co-worker as an act of love? They had a wonderful experience and want to share it with us. That is a beautiful thing.

1350 Relax and Succeed - Our ways of interrelating with each other

As someone who does this all the time, I see evidence of how the world is amazing every single day, from scientists making life-saving discoveries to new parents losing all of their sleep to care for a newborn, to signs designed to help us find where we’re going, or a boss correcting our work so that we don’t lose our jobs. Even something as simple as walking by a park shows that, at some point, some people cared enough about others to want them to have some green-space.

By seeing the best in the world around us we help ourselves to see those qualities within ourselves too. We benefit from exercising that muscle. We benefit from the practice. When we feel strong, and when we feel like we have many allies, we are powerful beings.

The problem is less our differences and more about how we choose to live with them. Because the problem with two people disagreeing over an issue is not that they differ, it’s when they will employ hatred and a lack of respect and then claim the other person deserves it for merely disagreeing with our beliefs —no matter what those beliefs are.

If we want to know how spiritual we truly are, we find out in our exchanges with those with whom we do not agree. That will tell us how we treat ourselves during challenging times, because that is when we also question our own wisdom and question our own worth.

Criticism takes us nowhere, but compassion and humility will get us where we want to be. And that can not only change us, it can change the world, because young minds will use us as the guides for their own behaviour.

peace. s

 

Light The Darkness

1317 Relax and Succeed - Light the Darkness

The biggest challenge for society is also the biggest challenge for most individuals; to find a way to love our enemies. But this is not as hard a thing as one might imagine. What we need is not some new level of love, our natural love is plenty. What we need is, understanding.

Racists of all types are obviously sources of tremendous suffering to many. And people will say that hate doesn’t overcome hate, but just as quickly they will justify mean-spirited exchanges or even violence by talking about the need to ‘fight back’ against ugliness. The fighting back itself is a form of ugliness. That strategy has been tried for a long time. It’s simply not what works.

Irrational fears of other cultures are no different than irrational fears about water, or airplanes or germs. People aren’t evil for not understanding something. They’re not stupid just because they don’t have enough experience with something to understand it. Fear of the unfamiliar is built into us by nature. We all share that.

In cases of racism, let’s not turn it into actual people. It’s just some misinformation and an honest human survival mechanism triggering unnecessarily due to a lack of conditioning. Even what times we eat were established by conditioning, so we should all be able to relate to how ideas come alive within us feeling very much like our nature. That is why it doesn’t help to scream at a racist to change.

From a racist’s perspective they are simply being rational. What they are missing is more nuanced experience with their subject. So we have to kindly invite them to walk alongside us while we get them more familiar with some ideas that might at first seem very foreign and uncomfortable.

1317 Relax and Succeed - Make the world brighter

If anyone is going into foreign and uncomfortable territory, we’d all want someone friendly along. But we have to do the friend part first, but few of us want to go there. It takes spiritual courage.

If we attack people for attacking others we are only showing that we’ve lost sight of another person’s humanity when that is exactly what we must appeal to. But it must be their spirit that we speak to, not the framework of their ephemeral ideas.

We first must be trusted by their soul. Only then can we inform. With greater understanding, fear and anger naturally have no place and serve no purpose. The problem solves itself through understanding.

We don’t need to fight fire with fire. We don’t just want to strive toward justice in this world. We want to be forgiving, and even go so far as to extend compassion to those who oppose us. That is the emotional territory that truly leaves our ‘opponents’ off balance –it’s too rare a reaction.

If we’re looking for an advantage in life, then love is likely the answer. People see so little of it from those they disagree with, that it almost shocks them into a kind of spiritual submission.

Learning how to give love sincerely in difficult cases is a spiritual achievement in and of itself. So let us make forgiveness of those we disagree with our spiritual practice for the rest of this week. Let us see if we can find new ways of engaging with old challenges. Because when the world feels dark, the wise shine brighter.

peace, s