Stream of Consciousness: Planting

Feminist Thought, Spirituality

A bitter heart is fertile ground for the dream of revenge. It can extend beyond heart and mind, into body, into world. Enact the vengeance, and the recipient may agree, yes, this is justice.

Or she may not.

Her family may agree, or they may not. Her friends may agree, or not.

What if?

The wronged heart, too, grows bitter then. Poison cultivates a new dream of revenge. Imagination and courage dance, a perverse action.

Then.

Pain inflicted on another.

What if…

Newly wounded burn with anger, rot with pain, and poison the ground for a dream.

And so it is, the potential in actions born of bitterness.

With life comes pain. But in pain, do you seek restoration or destruction?

But what of a family, community, or nation? What is in the heart of those who act on behalf others? Does the seed inspire healing and wholeness? Or hurt?

How do you cultivate your heart? What fruits will it bear?

One task

Personal Narrative, Zaimu Challenge

Today I am thinking of fear. Feeling it. Working through it. Understanding it. Appreciating it as a teacher.

Fear, in certain degrees, can feel like a happy excitement. Stomach tingling, breath quickening. I felt that fear today. It comes when I have doubts about something I want to do, and I can see the beginning of paralysis. Self-sabotage. I haven’t given into Resistance yet, but I have the sudden urge to talk myself out of… progress.

But for now it’s just a tingle. It’s commentary about the relative location of me and my comfort zone.

A New Year’s Eve declaration.

Any time fear is my muse, I ponder the word fearless. I explored this a few years ago, and I have come to understand THAT being fearless is not really being without fear, but about lessening fear’s influence.

If giving into fear means remaining silent or standing still, then being fearless means speaking up or moving, despite the fear. The fear is still present, but it does not defeat you.

Fearlessness is about the steps you take when it feels safer, more comfortable, to stay put.

I’m working on a small project. For many reasons, it inspires fear. Will it be good enough? Will it come out as I expect? Will it have the impact I desire?

Will it…?

Will it…?

Will it…?

If fear wins, I’ll soon make up reasons to work on something else entirely.

If I am fearless, tomorrow I will complete one more task; bring it one step closer to completion.

A quick word on clarifying and silence.

30 Day Blog Challenge

I don’t give advice. I won’t go so far as to say I’ve never given suggestions or answered specific questions  (should I wear this dress or that one?), but life questions and, “here’s what you should do” stuff? No.

I’ve always been of the impression that I can’t tell you how to live your life, I can only offer you my perspective on how I might handle a similar situation. But it’s what I might do, not what you should do. And since it’s not about me – it’s about you, I turn the spotlight in the other direction and offer up a mirror besides.

My goal is to help you clarify your positioning to the topic/question/dilemma at hand, as well as your options and potential consequences. Clarifying, I can help you with; but deciding? That’s up to you. Our life is our best teacher. My wish is that we all become better learners.

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.
~Gloria Naylor

On looking and leaping. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge

NaBloPoMo March 2013

Do you always look before you leap?

Of course. Gravity is real and objects are solid. Not looking where you leap can lead to injury. Or worse.

That said, looking first doesn’t negate the leaping. It simply means assessing the situation beforehand. I weigh pros and cons. I mull things over and consider multiple angles. I do a gut check: How does it feel when I think about leaping? I can’t say if I put more stock in feelings over facts. It depends on the leap in question. I don’t do all of this to talk myself out of leaping, but rather so I can leap mindfully.

I think a related question is Have you ever taken a leap you’ve regretted? The answer to that is a solid no. Regret is a strong word and one I’ve always scorned. I love myself and I love my life. Everything is not exactly as I’d like it to be, and that’s part of the drama of life. Sure, I’ve made decisions I wouldn’t make again. But I don’t regret them; I learned from them.

There’s no need for us to be held back by the past or how things have been so far. The important thing is what seeds we are sowing now for the future. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Keeping past decisions and future goals in focus encourages me to be mindful of my present actions.

So yes, I leap. But first, I look.

Present moments and future pleasures. #NaBloPoMo

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Spirituality, Temple Building

Love in the past is a memory. Love in the future is a fantasy.
To be really alive, love — or any other experience —
must take place in the present.
~Jack Kornfield

I don’t want to get too caught up in what’s next. I want to enjoy what’s now. (While still excited about what’s next.)

I’ll admit that’s been hard the past few months. After a period of dormancy, my life is in the full bloom of spring. It’s glorious. I have big plans and I’m working toward them day by day. Still, I find myself saying things like, I can’t wait until

Now, I want to be clear: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about the future, no matter whether future means five years or five minutes. But being too caught up in future happiness – or past, for that matter – makes you miss opportunities for joy and growth in the current moment.

Happiness is not something far away. It is to be found neither in
fame nor in popularity. When you live with integrity,
your hearts begin to fill with a happiness as vast as the universe.
It’s about being true to yourself and starting from where you are.
~Daisaku Ikeda

Where are you?
There’s risk living fully in the present moment. You have to be open. Vulnerable. You have to face life as it is, not as you would have it be, or as it used to be. It requires acknowledgment. Discernment. And it’s a balancing act, really. Reflecting on past moments, looking forward to future moments, all while living in the now, is more than a notion.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

That’s really a challenge if you feel your life is a smidgen too far from perfect. Why focus energy here and now, when you really want to just hurry up and get to happily ever after? And if life is good now, but better is just around the corner, it’s easy to want to rush time along.  Funny thing, time.  You can’t get to future moments without experiencing this one. And because the chain of cause and effect is never broken, the way you experience the future is predicated, in large part, on the way you frame your present adventures.

Mindful moments.
One way I’ve remained mindful of (and grateful for) present moments, is by adding to my joy jar. I could do this more often, and I’m writing about it now as a gentle reminder to myself.  Another strategy I implement is listing. I jot down small, specific tasks I want to accomplish in a short period (one day or two), and check them off as I go.  It’s simple, but it allows me to see and appreciate constant progress, and consequently build momentum.

I also enjoy simple things like outdoor exercise, sitting in the sun, stretching, or salt baths. These all help me slow down and notice what’s going on right now. They also help me listen to my body, which whispers its need of rest or better nutrition before turning to drastic measures like illness or injury.

vorfreudeCultivate your life.
My aunt is a Master Gardener. And no matter how excited she is about her future blossoms, there’s no escaping today’s work of tilling the soil, planting and pruning as the case may be. She enjoys the work of gardening (even the setbacks), the anticipation, and the fruits of her labor.

And so it can be with us.

Good credit. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Productivity

NaBloPoMo March 2013When good things happen, people tend to underestimate how much credit is due to their own efforts, and overestimate the influence of outside forces.

  • That was just luck.
  • It’s only because someone else did thus and such.
  • I was in the right place at the right time.

Meanwhile, when something negative happens, the opposite is suddenly true. They get plenty of credit for the poor outcome, while the external forces are let off the proverbial hook.

  • It’s all my fault.
  • I always do thus and such wrong.
  • If only I had done this, that or the other thing.

In either case, the scales are always tipped to favor luck for good things, and self for bad.

Why is that?

We are co-creators in this world. That means just as there are some things outside of our control, there are other things that we have the ability to influence. We owe it to ourselves to get clear on our power in either case. We deserve credit for the victories in our lives. Perhaps we were in the right place at the right time, but we were also prepared and ready for the opportunity when it came along.

History is created by people. Each individual is a key protagonist in that endeavor. Instead of relying on others, we must enact our own great drama of creativity. Then we can break through the shell of our limited self, advancing and improving ourselves day after day. ~Daisaku Ikeda

We have agency. Don’t relinquish your power, content to subject yourself to the whims of the universe.  Sure, good and bad things “happen.” But be just as sure that you contribute to the good things. The more you recognize your power to co-create the wins in your life, the more victories you can accumulate.

Yes, Lady Luck deserves some of the credit, and so do you. Give credit where credit is due.

First Class as “Visible Reward”

Personal Narrative

As I have often mentioned before, it is said that,
where there is unseen virtue, there will be visible reward.

~Nichiren 

Despite mainstream portrayals to the contrary, some people live lives that are not wholly centered around little plastic rectangles. They may operate in cash, or favors, or may require little in the way of strict identification for one reason or another.

I, on the other hand, am one of those beholden to plastic rectangles. For better or for worse, many of my most important transactions are facilitated via these objects and their imprinted numbers, letters, and/or photos. So when I found a wallet bulging with these Rectangles of Life, my next steps were easy.

Those of us whose lives are married to those plastic rectangles know the frustration, and, depending on your line of work or primary mode of transportation, the near paralysis that comes when any of these little bits of matter become compromised. Whether they are lost, stolen, or sucked in to the ATM abyss, it’s not too far afield of tragic.  I’ve dealt with this, albeit on a very small scale, only a couple of times. Once, someone hijacked my debit number and went on a shopping spree. I had to  cancel my card and order a new one. Before that, an overseas ATM decided I must be a criminal rather than simply barely literate in the host country’s language. It kept my ATM for my own protection.

So that brings us to this afternoon. I settle in at the gatehouse, awaiting my flight. I choose a spot a few seats away from a man, and continued a phone call in progress.

Within a few minutes, it’s time to board. I gather my things and notice a wallet where the man used to be. I look around, guarding it, wondering if he’d touch his pockets and realize they’re a bit lighter. No such luck. Sneaking a peek at his ID, I don’t recognize his face in the swelling crowd.

I present the wallet to the gate agents. Nearby passengers tap their pockets and breathe sighs of relief. Their plastic rectangles are still in tact! One agent summons Scott, who appears from the crowd, not too far from where we’d been sitting.

The other agent decides to give Scott a hard time. She requests that he show his ID. Good-natured Scott pats his pockets and fumbles with zippers on his carry-on.  Obviously unable to produce it quickly, she stops the charade, “How about I show YOU your ID?” She hands him his wallet and he sort of laughs, a dazed, or maybe grateful look in his eyes. “Where did you find it?”

They point to me as the person who retrieved it. Nearby passengers marvel, “Oh there are still nice people in the world! Thanks for that!”

Turns out Scott, handsome, yet also married, has trouble with wallets. He’s lost one before. Some way or another it went for a swim while he was boating with friends. “It took me six months to get my life together after that. I can’t believe I almost lost it again. I owe you.”

The least he could do, he said, was trade seats.

And that’s how I ended up in first class today. 🙂

Cultivating Inner Discipline

Personal Narrative, Productivity, Spirituality, Temple Building

People often remark how disciplined I seem as if I woke up one morning and it just happened. It didn’t. And truth be told, I’m not equally disciplined in all areas of my life (who is?).  Like everyone else, I am a work in progress.

No Victory is Too Small
Being disciplined is the result of daily effort – but not Herculean effort. For me, the smaller, the better.

I take baby steps. I may not accomplish everything I want today, but I can be accomplished today. I can move forward today. I do this by finding the one, small, specific item I know I can do. I set my self up for success by making sure I have the time allotted to accomplish whatever that small, specific thing is. With a clear understanding of the task, I go for it.

Keep Moving Forward
Spending time and energy lamenting what you aren’t doing, doesn’t magically cultivate inner discipline. In fact, I find it to be a deterrent. Beating myself up (known as self-slander in Buddhism) is a sure-fire way to sabotage my forward motion. An oft-heard retort: “But you can’t move forward without self-criticism.”  No, you can’t move forward without taking a step forward.

You can, however, be reflective and honest, without being negative to yourself. After that honest reflection, you can decide on a small action, take that small step, and praise yourself for a job well done.

Praise is Karma, Too
We can devote plenty of time and effort to complain about what we aren’t doing, but for some strange reason we can’t spare a high five for our accomplishments. Especially something we view as small. We equate small with inconsequential. We shouldn’t.

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito. ~African Proverb

It’s so easy to recognize the significance of small steps when babies take them. But suddenly they “don’t count” when we expect we should have mastered self-discipline {or insert topic here} by now. The inner you is starting from the beginning! We don’t yell at the toddler taking her first steps, “that doesn’t count!” We say “yay!” We give smiles and hugs. We are full of congratulations. We offer encouragement for the baby to continue because she’s doing something right! She’s on the right path. When you’re taking your small step, so are you!

People often characterize karma as negative. It’s something bad that happens in response to our bad deeds. This is inaccurate. Karma simply means action. To that end, every thought, word, and deed count. What kinds of actions are you accumulating? Your negative self-talk? It counts. Those baby steps? They count, too. Every action is of consequence.

Where Are You Now?
Cultivating inner discipline means starting from where you are and taking a step. And then doing it again. And again. There’s no need to lament last week or yesterday. Don’t be overwhelmed about next week, or even tomorrow. Start from the current moment. Move forward today.  And that small step you’re planning? Congratulations in advance!