WE MUST HOLD CLOSE THE DIFFERENCES RATHER THAN THE SAMENESS AMONG US, THEREIN LIES THE GIFT....
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I am always touched deeply by Pema Choedron's view of the world, try this:
NOT BITING THE HOOK
In Tibetan there is a word that points to the root cause of aggression, the root cause also of craving. It points to a familiar experience that is at the root of all conflict, all cruelty, oppression, and greed.
This word is shenpa. The usual translation is “attachment,” but this doesn’t adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as “getting hooked.” Another definition, used by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, is the “charge”—the charge behind our thoughts and words and actions, the charge behind “like” and “don’t like.” Here’s an everyday example: Someone criticizes you. She criticizes your work or your appearance or your child. In moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste, a familiar smell.
Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever. That sticky feeling is shenpa. And it comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Somebody says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift. There’s a tightening that rapidly spirals into mentally blaming this person, or wanting revenge or blaming yourself. Then you speak or act. The charge behind the tightening, behind the urge, behind the story line or action is shenpa.
You can actually feel shenpa happening. It’s a sensation that you can easily recognize. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there. Someone looks at us in a certain way, or we hear a certain song, or walk into a certain room and boom. We’re hooked. It’s a quality of experience that’s not easy to describe but that everyone knows well.
Now, if you catch shenpa early enough, it’s very workable. You can acknowledge that it’s happening and abide with the experience of being triggered, the experience of urge, the experience of wanting to move. It’s like experiencing the yearning to scratch an itch, and generally we find it irresistible.
Nevertheless, we can practice patience with that fidgety feeling and hold our seat.
(From Pema's book, Practicing Peace in Times of War)
Getting OLD…… hmmm.Sometimes you encounter a sense that it
is all hard: Creaking stiff limbs and failing health, loss of our more vital
lives and identities, financial worries, and the parade of deaths of our
friends and family.
I recently came upon some
quotes that might lead us to alter that impression.There are many reasons that the last third of our lives can
be quite stellar.If we are doing
the work of growing our emotional and spiritual lives, there can be such reward
during this period.
In our youth and mid lives
we can explore the outer world and learn about ourselves by traveling and
challenging our careers, our minds, our bodies and it is wonderfully
fulfilling, life altering, satisfying, and defining.This next part of our lives truly asks for a more
internal journey. The tasks that can help us achieve this as outlined in “Analysis
with the Aged”, in the book Jungian Analysis by Murray Stein are as follows:
realities of aging and you eventual death.Our awareness of the limited time left to us allows for a
deeper, more meaningful engagement with our world, activities and people.
2)Take some time
to remember your life, write a memoir, talk to people about your experiences,
write in a journal, make letters to leave after your death.These things all allow us to be seen,
and this allows us to move forward and be more present.
evaluation of where our time and energies are spent.Reset limits.As we let go of old obligations and aspirations, we can use our
attention and energy on what is now our real focus and what is actually
the parts of us needing to impress others.Letting go of the exhausting job of creating a persona for
others.Becoming more visible as
we are and being less bound by ego.
5)Listening in a
deeper way to what I have talked about as the “call”. It is the still small voice. Seeking wholeness, blending our understanding of our
conscious and our unconscious presence, being receptive to our own mysteries
and those of our world.
6)See your own
patterns, make efforts to step outside them, seek understand of your true path
and your particular reason for living, and then step onto that path.
creative energies. Explore ways to
express your experience of living.
Is who you have been in your life, i.e. the mask you have been wearing a
good fit? If not how can you
express yourself differently and with more resonance to your late-in-life
self. Explore the arts, and begin
to see your own life as a painting, a novel, a dance. Allowing the living itself to becomes an art, not a
business. The unexpected can be
the material of exploration.
I have gathered some
quotes regarding Aging that I thought you might enjoy:
There’s many a good tune
played on an old fiddle.Samuel Butler
We grow neither better nor
worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.Mary Lamberton Becker
Anyone who keeps the
ability to see beauty never grows old.Kafka
The advice of the aged
will not mislead you.Welsh
For let me tell you, that
the more the pleasures of the body fade away, the greater to me is the pleasure
and charm of conversation.Plato
Old age is ripeness.American Proverb
It takes a long time to
become young.Pablo Picasso
It is only when we truly
know and understand that we have a limited time on earth==and that we have no
way of knowing when our time is up==that we will begin to live each day to the
fullest, as if it were the only one we had.Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Every age has it’s
beautiful moments.Albert Einstein
I enjoy my wrinkles and
regard them as badges of distinction-I have worked hard to get them.Maggie Kuhn
I could be well content/
To entertain the lag-end of my life/ With quiet hours.
There is a fountain of
youth:it is your mind, your talents,
the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you
love.When you learn to tap this
source, you will have truly defeated age.Sophia Loren
It is wrong to think of
old age as a downward slope.One
the contrary, one climbs higher and higher with the advancing years, and that,
too, with surprising strides.Brainwork comes as easily to the old as physical exertion to the child.
One is moving, it is true towards the end of life, but that end is now a goal,
and not a reef in which the vessel may be dashed.George Sand
The closing years of life
are like the end of a masquerade party, when he masks are dropped.Arthur Schopenhauer
One should never count the
years—one shold instead count one’s interests.I have kept young trying never to lose my childhood sense of
wonderment.I am glad I still have
a vivid curiosity about the world I live in.Helen Keller
To know how to grow old is
the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficultchapters in the great art of
living.Henri Frederick Amiel
Life appears to me too
short to be spent in nursing animosity or gistering wrong.Charlotte Bronte
Life is half spent before
one knows what is it.French
Old places and old persons
in their turn, when spirit dwells in them, have an intrinsic vitality of which
youth is incapable precisely, the balance and wisdom that comes from long
perspectives and broad foundations.George Santayana
For the unlearned, old age
is winter; for the learned it is the season of the harvest.The Talmud
enthusiasms can add years of creative life to your time on earth.Benard Baruch
One has only to grow old
to become more tolerant.I see no
fault that I might not have committed myself.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
One should be explorers,
be curious, risk transgression, explore oldness itself.T.S. Eliot
Life does not accommodate
you.It shatters you.It is meant to, and it couldn’t do it
better.Every seeds destroys it’s
container or else there would be no fruition.Florida Scott-Maxwell
Life is not measured by
the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath
Whatever your age, may you celebrate your OLDNESS today and be in it! Blessings to you all, Misty June 13, 2014
Following is an eight minute commencement address given by George Saunders, one of America’s best novelists. I find it very meaningful and inspiring. I suspect you will also.
Some Thoughts on Kindness.
Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).
And I intend to respect that tradition.
Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” And they’ll tell you. Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked. Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.
So: What do I regret? Being poor from time to time? Not really. Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?” (And don’t even ASK what that entails.) No. I don’t regret that. Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked? And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months? Not so much. Do I regret the occasional humiliation? Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl? No. I don’t even regret that.
But here’s something I do regret:
In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.
So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” — that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”
Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.
And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.
One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.
End of story.
Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.
But still. It bothers me.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?
Here’s what I think:
Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).
Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.
So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?
Well, yes, good question.
Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.
So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.
Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything.
One thing in our favor: some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish — how illogical, really. We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality. We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be. We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now). Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”
And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.
Congratulations, by the way.
When young, we’re anxious — understandably — to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you — in particular you, of this generation — may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can . . .
And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously — as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.
Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.
So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.
Congratulations, Class of 2013.
I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.