Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills

from the windows of the kitchen in our new home where i sit each morning for my daily meditation i can see the mountains in the distance.  each day they have a different appearance.  one morning the clouds were dark and flowed over them rapidly in our direction; another morning the pink glow of the new day peeked over them, bathing them in a beautiful light.  this morning the peaks of some have disappeared in a mist, while others are barely visible.  i am amazed that each day a new picture presents itself from the kitchen windows.  the mountains are unchanged, yet their appearance is always different.  how fortunate i and all others who look in the direction of the mountains are!

when i consider the beauty that presents itself each day, i am enveloped in a great peace.  the mystery of nature's wonders is the deepest sort of religious experience.  in the face of such an experience, all things seem possible:  the elimination of poverty, hunger, and homelessness, the cessation of our inhumanity to one another, the end of prejudices and the persecution that flows from them, protection of our planet from the ravages of our greedy ill treatment.  one wonders how our race can allow so many evils to continue when it is within our power to change.  what is our motivation to harm others and the planet on which we live?

it seems to me that we are presented with two opposing visions of our purpose here.  one vision promotes competition between us to control more and more, a constant striving to enrich oneself at the expense of others.  the other sees us all in the same boat, needing to paddle in the same direction without any one of us striving for control of another's paddle as we all move in the same direction in a spirit of mutual cooperation.  we have the ability to end the suffering caused by hatred, war, greed, and pride, to stop craving that which we do not need and to stop clinging to that which is not necessary for our existence.  will we give up the quest for power and control and work together to end as much suffering as we can, or will we continue along the path that pits us against one another?

for me, the mountains are a silent testimony to the right course of action.  the mountains make no deals, they do not strive for more and more.  they simply are, gracing us with beauty that is fresh each morning.  we can be like the mountains, content to be, new each moment yet somehow always the same.  we can let go of our clinging and craving and, in so doing, allow suffering to dissipate for ourselves and others.

may we see our common humanity.  may we let go of those things which cause suffering for ourselves and for others.  may the struggle for power and control cease, as we embrace loving kindness and compassion.  shalom.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rest Comes Sure and Soon

we continue to unpack boxes and spend much of our time looking for things we've unpacked and put away in places that are unfamiliar to us.  yesterday, though, we spent the day traveling to, attending, and returning from my uncle's funeral.  he was the last in our family of the generation that preceded ours.   our parents and all their siblings are now gone.  my dad's brother celebrated his 100th birthday last february and was in good health then.  in may he came down with the flu, then with pneumonia, and he didn't have the strength to recover.  his passing marked the end of an era, making my generation the elders of the family.

his funeral was held in the cemetery where he is to be buried beside his wife and son.  as we set in the covered pavilion open on all sides to the beautiful trees in the cemetery, i thought about how fitting the site was.  my uncle loved the outdoors.  he had carried on the family tradition of operating a sawmill and was an expert on every kind of tree that is native to this part of the country.  the views of the leaves rustling in the gentle breeze reminded me of how he had lived his life, as had my dad, his father, and his father's father and generations before them.

as the minister spoke the usual words of comfort, assuring those present that my uncle was now reunited with loved ones that have gone before, i wondered whether those words are true.  i'm not content to take scattered passages of the bible about life after death and resurrection as literal truth.  it doesn't worry me that i may not spend eternity with my parents and grandparents wandering around a city with gold-paved streets after passing through gates made of pearl.  i can't accept that anyone can speak with authority about what happens after our bodies take their last breaths.  i'm content to wait for whatever may happen.

i want to believe that there is something for us after this life is over, but i'm more concerned with what happens now.  what's important is how i live my life in the present; the future can take care of itself.  i hope that i get a chance to improve on the failings of my present life, but my greatest hope is that i will live a good life in the here and now, a life filled with loving-kindness and compassion.  i hope that each day i will live more skillfully than i did the day before.  i hope that when i pass i will leave a legacy of having made life better for those my life touched.  i hope that i will live on in the memories of others and that those memories will be good ones, just as my memories of my uncle are.

may each of us live fully in the present, unconcerned about what happens after this life is over.  may our hearts be open to all of life's experiences and may we rejoice in the gift of each breath we take.  may our troubles be transient, tinged with the joy of living mindfully.  may we love and be loved.  shalom.

Friday, June 9, 2017

My Song Is Love Unknown

during the past several days, we have been in the process of moving and getting settled in our new home.  now that most of the furniture is in place, the task of unpacking and finding room for everything that we spent many weeks packing up is well underway.  last night, it dawned on me that i had not posted anything in my blog last tuesday, and this catch-up post will be short.  i have been able to revive my meditation practice but other parts of my daily routine will have to wait until more order emerges from the chaos of boxes and packing materials.

as i type, one of the three "outdoor" cats that we moved with us is rubbing his small head against mine.  we rescued him after a friend found him abandoned in the park near our former home and was unsuccessful in adopting him.  he lived in a large bed of bushes and flowers at the park entrance but could be coaxed out by bowls of food and water.  it took several attempts before we persuaded him to move into our yard.  now he trusts us and is the most loving cat anyone could wish to share life with.  somehow he injured his neck in the storage room that was to be his temporary shelter, along with our other two cats until they were acclimated to a new place, and he has moved into the master bedroom while he recuperates.  his transformation from an alienated, wary creature to a loving pet and friend is gratifying and reminds me that all of us are alone in this vast and often difficult world until we are adopted by others who share their love with us.

may each of us find a family that loves us without condition and may we return that love.  may we appreciate that even the most unlovely among us deserves love.  may we embrace the transformative power of love.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Walls of Gold Entomb Us

the presidency of donald trump continues to amaze and trouble.  the world watched as he bragged about the sale of billions of dollars worth of armaments to one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, describing the sale as a boon to american workers, as he shoved aside the prime minister of another country at a photo-op, and as he alienated our closest allies.  all the while, the revelations about his campaign's connections to the russian government continue to play out here in the usa.  his proposed budget guts the social safety net for the poor and for family farmers, crippling environmental protections.  the good news on the budget front is that leading republicans said that the this budget was "dead on arrival."

it is difficult to have compassion for bullies like mr. trump.  his continuing rallies where he reinforces the prejudices of his base are too reminiscent of rallies of another bully who was masterful in exploiting the longing for a scapegoat among the german people.  one can only hope that the country will wake up to the danger in which this presidency places it and that leaders of his own party will disavow the man who now heads their party.  the 2018 mid-term elections should signal whether the american people are ready to turn away from the path on which mr. trump's election placed us.

it is apparent that mr. trump is out of touch with the lives of ordinary people and that he has no experience with the difficulties faced by those at the bottom of the economic ladder.  he sees the world as being made up of "winners" and "losers," the losers being those who haven't managed to enrich themselves at the expense of others and the winners those who have.  his rhetoric is close to the randian view of producers struggling against looters, moochers, and parasites.  during his campaign, he promised to leave social security, medicare, and medicaid untouched, yet his first budget contains drastic reductions in social security disability and medicaid funding.  those who are his strongest supporters are among those who will be most harmed by the implementation of his policies, but the effect of those policies has not hit home yet.  pronouncements at his rallies and those of his surrogates like mr. pence distract the loyal followers by reinforcing his base's view of an "us versus them" society.

may we find ways during this 100th anniversary year of the birth of john f kennedy to return to the ideals of his presidency.  may we who are citizens of the usa renew the spirit of mutuality that embodies our highest ideals.  may our government serve all its people, not just those in power and those at the top of the economic ladder.  may we see that, as citizens of the world, we are more alike than we are different and that we have a responsibility to care for one another.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Charm from the Skies Seems to Hallow Us There

our house is full of boxes, even after we've hauled almost 500 boxes of various sizes to storage in our new home town.  all the decorative items that made our house "ours" are packed away, as are the souvenirs of trips we've made and things that remind us of our life as a family here.  we can begin to picture another family living here, and our minds have shifted from thinking of this as "our" house to realizing that soon someone else will occupy it.

despite the depersonalization of this home, it is still warm and protective, a safe haven, as it has been for us for the past thirty years.  i recall our first look at our home when the realtor unlocked the door for us.  when we walked through that front door, we knew immediately that this was "our" home.  everything about it welcomed us, and we knew our search for a house was over.

as i sit thinking about this wonderful piece of architecture, my mind goes to the new owners and what i would say to them about how much this home has meant to us.  it has embraced us, it has made us better people.  the architect and the first owners who worked together more than fifty years ago to create this place must have "gotten" each other, and the spirit of their collaboration lives on in the home they created.  we are the third family that has called this "home", and in a couple of weeks a fourth family will move in.

i hope that the new family will find the joy in living here that my wife and i and our two children found.  i hope that they will sense the warmth that their new home generates.  i hope that they will look forward to coming into this home at the end of each work day and feel that it their refuge, as it has been ours.  we will be sad to leave, but we know that it is time for others to enjoy this house as we have.  we looked at many, many houses in our new home town before we found one that spoke to us as this house spoke to us thirty years ago when we walked through the door that first time.  we are excited to find such a home there, and, as with this home, we knew as soon as we walked in that it was the right home for us.

may everyone find such a place to live, a home that embraces them and comforts them, a home that protects them--not only from the elements but also from the vagaries of life in this world.  may those who have no place to live find shelter and peace.  may we all work until there are no homeless, no hungry, no poor, until all people find a place to belong.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

our planning for our big move continues, and a myriad of details swirl in my mind.  there's so much to be done when undertaking such a move--bank accounts to be closed and new ones opened, addresses changed, business affairs put in order, all the arrangements for movers, closing out of professional and personal relationships--the list goes on and on.  on top of all this is the packing, the acquisition of boxes to pack in, the sorting and thinning out of possessions.  in addition, my wife is suffering from some health problems that we have to attend to, many of them brought on by the stress of the move.

amidst all the chaos, i began to feel overwhelmed a few days ago.  i am normally a very optimistic person, but some of our relatives who have been here helping us with our packing are very negative.  their pessimism dragged my wife down, and in my efforts to keep her spirits up, i suddenly felt completely exhausted, drained of the energy it takes to move forward with the joy and excitement which is my usual persona.  after our relatives left, my wife suffered a severe episode with her health issues, and i went to bed that night filled with anxiety.  the next morning, i sat for my daily meditation, focusing on my feelings of helplessness in the face of all the chores and decisions ahead of us.  as i sat, i explored my emotions and how my angst expressed itself in my body.  at the end of my meditation, i realized that all this was a passing phenomenon, one that i could deal with and come out happy and whole at the end of it.

i was able to admit that i'm no super-person who never experiences worry or depression, but i am a resilient person who can deal with these temporary problems.  i can be strong for my wife when she needs me, and i can see beyond the negativity of those well-intentioned folks who tend to see only the worst possibilities as they attempt to help us.  as i honestly owned my feelings, i was able to accept them as natural under the circumstances, that as the circumstances change my feelings will change, too.  my feelings are not me, but a transient reaction to transient events.

may we each live into our inadequacies and shortcomings, accepting our imperfections, while opening ourselves to the deep strength within us.  may we not confuse the stories we tell ourselves with the reality of who we are.  may profound joy and peace undergird us as we deal with the vagaries of our daily lives.  shalom.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Love to the Loveless Shown

my wife and i are busily packing for our move.  we've begun the process of buying a home in our new town and must be out of our present home in about three weeks.  one of my wife's sisters who lives in the town where we're moving came to help us pack, and her two other sisters decided to drive up to help us.  one of them is controlling and is very free with her advice as to how we should live our lives.  she had not been in the door thirty minutes before i had to stifle the temptation to tell her to mind her own business three times.

when this sister is around, my wife is very ill at ease.  i soon realized that her fear that i would blurt out something in anger at her sister's meddling and my wife's  desire to do the same was causing my wife a great deal of stress, and i resolved to shrug off her sister's unwelcome advice so as not to compound my wife's trepidations.  we made it through the evening without any angry outbursts, and the tension headache my wife was suffering from had subsided by bedtime.  as i thought about the grief this sister causes those around her, i tried to think about how she must be suffering.  she pushes all those who want to be close to her away by her insistence that all things be done her way, and she has no friends.  her only daughter cannot get along with her, and her grandchildren spend time with her reluctantly.  in her loneliness she reaches out in the one way she believes that she can, by sharing her life experience to tell others how to conduct their lives, and in the process further alienates those she is trying to help.

over the course of that first evening with her, i resolved to look for ways to have compassion for her and to recognize that her bossiness was a symptom of her deep suffering.  it costs me nothing to refrain from angry rebuttals to her unwanted advice and benefits all those around us when i hold my tongue.  today, my goal is to look for all the good in her that i can and to remember the source of her need to help in the only way she is able, unwelcome though that help may be.  i hope to remember that she didn't have to travel 250 miles to help us pack and go another 250 miles to deliver as many of our belongings as her vehicle can carry to our new home.  i hope to respond in gratitude for her generous help and to shrug off the comments that so often cause me to become angry.

may each of us find ways to show compassion for those who cause us suffering.  may we be grateful for the opportunity to live more skillfully that they afford us.  may we love the most unlovely.  shalom.