“If we can learn to listen, maybe life will tell us how it needs to regenerate. In the ancient ways, the leader was not the one who told people what to do, the leader was the one who listened, watched the signs, was attentive to the inner world.
Sufis talk about the ‘ear of the heart.’ This is something you learn in the relationship with the teacher. I spent 20 years sitting at the feet of my teacher listening. You learn through listening. You learn how to listen to what is between the words. You learn to listen to the heart, to the soul. You listen to people’s dreams, the signs in their lives. And similarly one can listen and watch the signs in the world around us.
The earth is calling to us, sending us signs of the extremity of its imbalance through earthquakes and tsunamis, floods and storms, drought, and unprecedented heat. These are what Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ‘Bells of Mindfulness,’ awakening our awareness to where it is needed at this moment in time.”
Jeff Foster studied Astrophysics at Cambridge University. In his mid-twenties, after a long period of depression and illness, he became addicted to the idea of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and embarked on an intensive spiritual quest for the ultimate truth of existence.
The spiritual search came crashing down with the clear recognition of the non-dual nature of everything, and the discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the clarity of this seeing, life became what it always was: intimate, open, loving and spontaneous, and Jeff was left with a deep understanding of the root illusion behind all human suffering, and a love of the present moment.
One of my favorite quotes from the Buddha is: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Gratitude is one of the fruits of living from genuine happiness; at the same time, it arises from an inherent seed in our being, a seed that requires cultivation. There’s a quote from Meister Eckhart, the Christian mystic, that illustrates how important this quality is: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” If we truly understood the depth of this teaching it would be all we’d need to know.
Unfortunately, we can’t just tell ourselves to be grateful and expect it to happen, yet it’s a quality that certainly can be nurtured.
As people say in Canada, this is the week of American Thanksgiving (instead of October’s version), but any day, it’s as good time as any to give thanks, and feel the warm glow of gratitude.
I hope you have a good week, no matter where you are.
And I just wanted to let you know it makes me feel warm to have you checking out this blog (or on the Facebook page), the way you do. I’m glad for the comments & the emails & the notes & the feedback you give me, and most of all, I’m glad we get to do this together.
I hope you find & feel & allow light & love to surround you…
I know it’s not graduation season exactly, but it feel like a good time as we look over the lengthening light the Winter Solstice brings to offer the light of Paul Hawken’s words, here.
One of the best I’ve read in past few seasons of speeches was the one Paul Hawken presented here below, as this incredible man with an incredible mind & no formal schooling received an honorary degree.
See what you think… it’s a good read & an inspiring way to start the day.
“You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.”
The Unforgettable Commencement Address to the Class
of 2009, University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009
By Paul Hawken
When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” Boy, no pressure there.
But let’s begin with the startling part. Hey, Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation – but not one peer- reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.
This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food – but all that is changing.
There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.
When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.
People are looking for the answer. In churches, in books, in relationships, in jobs, in money (and sometimes, no money, if you have a vow of poverty.) Any amount of looking is tiring work, I think, unless you have your own house in order, inside. Liz speaks to that, here:
You and me both, dear Neil…you and me both.
I’ve been finding myself talking about this subject a lot on stage during this BIG MAGIC book tour. I keep talking about the way my mother raised me to be as strong and self-providing as possible — insisting on it, in fact, to a degree that was sometimes uncomfortable for me when I was young, but for which I am now eternally grateful.
Even when I was a kid, my mother would not save me. Rather, she held me accountable for learning how to save myself. (“You need to talk to your teacher about this yourself,” she would say. Or: “You need to stand up to that bully yourself.” Or: “You and your coach need to work this problem out on your own terms.” Or: “You need to pay your own way.”)
I didn’t like it. I wanted her to fix everything for me. She refused.
This was not because my mother was neglectful or a hard-ass. This was because she was wise. This was because she was guided by her own fear — her own VERY legitimate fear of raising a helpless little girl who would turn into a helpless grown woman. This is why my mother modeled for me her own example of being a woman who always had her own income, her own independence, her own handcrafted exits out of any bad situation. This was because my mother’s life had already taught her this iron-clad truth:
ONLY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO WOMEN WHO WAIT TO BE SAVED.
When you are waiting to be saved, after all, you see everyone who crosses your path as a potential rescuer. This is the most dangerous worldview that could possibly exist for a woman. A woman who is waiting to be saved will run into the arms of ANYONE, hide behind ANYONE, give her up power to ANYONE. A drowning woman (or a woman who perceives herself to be drowning) will climb up into any lifeboat — no matter how sketchy and dangerous that boat may be. And what happens next can often turn very quickly from a fairy tale to a horror story.
We must learn to save ourselves. We must learn to build our own lifeboats, or to swim for shore.
Teach your daughters well, Dear Ones. Teach them how to save themselves.
Peace isn’t something you ultimately receive when you slow down the pace of your life. Peace is what you’re capable of being and bringing to every encounter and event in the waking moments of your life.
Being peaceful is an inner attitude that you can enjoy when you’ve learned to silence your incessant inner dialogue. Being peaceful isn’t dependent on what your surroundings look like. It seldom has anything to do with what the people around you think, say, or do.
A noiseless environment isn’t a requirement.
St. Francis’s famous prayer states it better than I can: “Make me an instrument of your peace.” In other words, St. Francis wasn’t asking God to provide him with peace. He was asking for guidance to be more like the peace he trusted was his Source. Being peace is different from looking for peace.
This principle isn’t about merely choosing tranquil thoughts when you’re feeling frayed and anxious. I suggest picturing a container deep within yourself out of which all your thoughts flow. Inside of this container, at its very center, imagine a candle flame. You need to make a commitment that this flame in the center of the container holding all your thoughts will never, ever even flicker, although the very worst may go before you.
This is your container of peace, and only peaceful thoughts can fuel the burning candle. You don’t need to change your thoughts as much as you need to learn to be an energy of peace lighting the way and attracting serene, harmonious thoughts and beings. In this way, you’ll become a being of peace.
As a being of peace, you make a huge impact on those around you. It’s almost impossible to be totally stressed out in the presence of someone who has opted to be peace.
Peace is a higher and faster energy—when you’re being peace, just your presence alone will often nullify the uneasiness and tension in those around you. The secret of this principle is: Be the peace and harmony you desire. You cannot get it from anything or anyone else.
Maybe we have a friend or cousin or grandma who is nearing their time of transition, and we get to hang out with them.
Sometimes we’re surprised, with a car wreck, or a heart attack, or “the news” that we’re gonna die.
Sometimes we don’t need the reminder, and we take time to give dying the sense of wonder it calls for.
But at the end of the day, no matter where we or our friends are, on the path, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we’re not alone. And – one of the beautiful things about being in this physical world is that we get to walk with each other towards home. And to walk each other home.
Doesn’t really matter who gets there first, or second.
Like many folks, I’m still getting used to the idea that Dr. Wayne Dyer made his transition this morning. Gotta say, I’m happy for him as he moves on to the next round, and I’m happy that I got the chance to learn from him in his time here.
Out of a bunch of online writings & lectures & shows & things, I thought I’d re-post this visit he had with Oprah a few years back, with a talk about the Tao…if you haven’t seen him before, it’s give you a feel for the spirit & humor of his teaching & sharing.
“I hope that you will listen, but not with the memory of what you already know; and this is very difficult to do. You listen to something, and your mind immediately reacts with its knowledge, its conclusions, its opinions, its past memories. It listens, inquiring for a future understanding.
“Just observe yourself, how you are listening, and you will see that this is what is taking place. Either you are listening with a conclusion, with knowledge, with certain memories, experiences, or you want an answer, and you are impatient. You want to know what it is all about, what life is all about, the extraordinary complexity of life. You are not actually listening at all.
“You can only listen when the mind is quiet, when the mind doesn’t react immediately, when there is an interval between your reaction and what is being said. Then, in that interval there is a quietness, there is a silence in which alone there is a comprehension which is not intellectual understanding.
“If there is a gap between what is said and your own reaction to what is said, in that interval, whether you prolong it indefinitely, for a long period or for a few seconds – in that interval, if you observe, there comes clarity. It is the interval that is the new brain. The immediate reaction is the old brain, and the old brain functions in its own traditional, accepted, reactionary, animalistic sense.
“When there is an abeyance of that, when the reaction is suspended, when there is an interval, then you will find that the new brain acts, and it is only the new brain that can understand, not the old brain.”
I hope you find new people & new ideas & new ways to see the way it all works….good place to start (if you don’t know him already) is Randall’s xkcd webcomic….he gets it, and has fun getting there. Here’s the link to the one above, and his site….be careful, you’ll get lost in the archives, or just hitting the ‘random” button, which is poetry in & of itself.
Some days, do you get the feeling you’re missing something?
This is a story a friend of mine told me:
I was walking down the sidewalk on a busy New York City day with a friend who lives in the forests of Brazil. He stopped, cocked his head & said, “Listen! I think that’s a robin.” And sure enough, we looked up and there was a bird on the sign above us. I said, “Wow, how could you hear that, with all the city noise here?”
My friend said, “You hear what you are trained to hear,” and took a handful of change from his pocket and scattered it on the concrete at our feet. Immediately, people turned and stared, and bent over and started picking it up; the sound was not even as loud as the bird’s song in the city din.
“See?” he said. “You hear what you hear.” He smiled.
Seems to me there are plenty of songs going on around me, that I miss because I listen for coins, not bird songs. Sometimes the song is a smile from a friend that I miss because I’m too worried about something.
Sometimes it’s something blooming on the bush when I’m walking & thinking deep thoughts about things that aren’t blooming; often I miss a song from today because I’m focused on something that happened in the past.
The guy in the story above says, “You hear what you are trained to hear,” and I think it’s possible for us to re-train ourselves.
This week I’ve looked for & found a new song each day – something I hadn’t noticed that is right around me, but that I couldn’t hear or see or taste or smell or feel because of the head-din in the city of my mind. I stop, I breathe, I listen, and there are new things all around.
Upon learning of Dr. Maya Angelou’s passing on May 28, Oprah Winfrey released a statement that referred to the poet, author and legend as “the rainbow in my clouds.” The touching sentiment is one that Dr. Angelou herself had discussed during her 2011 appearance on “Oprah’s Master Class.”
During that interview, Dr. Angelou explained where she first heard the “rainbow in the clouds” metaphor, which comes from a 19th-century African-American song popularly known as “God Put A Rainbow in the Clouds.” In the above video from the episode, Dr. Angelou sang the powerful lyric that resonated so strongly with her.
When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.
“Imagine!” Dr. Angelou marveled. “I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds. I had a lot of clouds, but I had so many rainbows.”
Dr. Angelou said she always carried these “rainbows” with her to her speaking and teaching engagements, whether in a large venue or intimate classroom. “I bring everyone who has ever been kind to me with me,” she said. “Black, white, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American, gay, straight, everybody. I said, ‘Come on with me. I’m going on the stage. Come with me. I need you now.'”
Whether her “rainbows” were living or had long since passed, Dr. Angelou said she always felt and drew strength from their support. “I don’t ever feel I have no help,” she said. “I had rainbows in my clouds.”
She also encouraged people to apply the “rainbow in the clouds” philosophy to their own lives.
“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God — if they call God at all,” she chuckled. “I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”
It is my greatest dream that no news story get published until it’s passed this test, in this anecdotal fable attributed to Socrates:
Once upon a time in ancient Greece, one of the acquaintances of the great philosopher Socrates came up to him and said: “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”
“Hold on a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I would like to perform a simple test. It is called the ‘Three Sieves Test.’ ”
“The ‘Three Sieves Test?’ ”
“Yes. Before you say a word about my student, take a moment to reflect carefully on what you wish to say by pouring your words through three special sieves.”
“The first sieve is the Sieve of Truth. Are you absolutely sure, without any doubt, that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“Well, no, I’m not. Actually, I heard it recently and…”
“All right,” interrupted Socrates. “So you don’t really know whether it is true or not. Then let us try the second sieve: the Sieve of Goodness. Are you going to tell me something good about my student?”
“Well…no,” said his acquaintance. “On the contrary…”
“So you want to tell me something bad about him,” questioned Socrates, “even though you are not certain if it is true or not?”
“You may still pass the test though,” said the Socrates, “because there is a third sieve: the Sieve of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”
“No. Not so much.” said the man resignedly.
Finishing the lesson, Socrates said: “Well, then, if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor useful, why bother telling me at all?”
Lots of folks have lots of different angles about this week’s 50th anniversary celebration of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, but one of the perspectives is provided as a reminder that sometimes we need to
* get off script
• challenge our inner wiring, and
• say what’s in our heart & mind, before we talk ourselves (or think ourselves) out of it.
Sojourners’ Jim Wallis was fourteen in 1963, but he heard this story:
I have been personally moved by the reminders of that providential moment in the final speech at the March, when King’s favorite Gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, told the preacher from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “Martin, tell them about the dream!”
King set aside his prepared remarks and did just that, reminding us all to put down our prepared notes and cautious plans and speak from the depths of our own souls and the soul of our faith to the soul of our nations.
Thought for the day…
"They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus. That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes. But if I talk about God, my record won't get played. Huh?" -- Kanye West
About Brother Ian
Over the centuries, Brother Ian has been collecting stories & information & discourses for the purpose of elevating the human condition as needed, dissecting it when necessary, and building the case for hope.
In the spirit of noting that organized crime, organized baseball, organized labour, and organized religion tend to engender controversy & occasional discord, I promise to be neither organized or critical of those who are.