Present Tense

Time to try a new nut……

Several months ago, I stated on my Facebook status that pistachios were the world’s finest nut.  This past week I changed my mind and proclaimed that the macadamia is indeed, a better nut.  It was meant as a whimsical observation that might spark a little harmless controversy.  Mission accomplished.

But, I had a deeper point and that is that we CAN change our minds; we can alter long standing beliefs and opinions and it’s okay.  In fact, let’s encourage it.

I still love pistachios…and cashews…and almonds…and pecans…but not Brazil nuts (too much nut) and yet, I have decided that the macadamia has the perfect size, crunch, texture and taste.  For now.

To everyone who argued with me about this, I asked them to open their mind.  Just because they were part of team cashew didn’t mean they couldn’t re-examine their beliefs.  If you pick up a macadamia nut with the firm belief that you much prefer the cashew, you’ll never REALLY taste that macadamia.  Let the old bias go and try something new on for size. Baby steps to growth and awakening.

The nut discussion is obviously a metaphor for all of our long held beliefs and preferences, whether it’s religion or politics or prejudice against other people. We see so many things through the filter of ‘like/don’t like’, ‘agree/don’t agree’, ‘right/wrong’.  Wouldn’t it be great if we just put aside the preferences and biases and listened and consumed with an open mind?  One Buddhist teacher calls it “don’t know mind”.

I’ve written a lot about my mission to let go of stuff that hasn’t been working for me; to begin to embrace new ideas or old ideas that I used to reject and in order to do that, I have to leave my mind open.  Meditation is helping me prop it open, at least part way.  I’m honestly beginning to see things with more calm, clarity and compassion.  That’s a big step for someone who used to fight mightily to be ‘right’.

Think of it this way:  when you were a kid and your mom plunked something new in front of you for dinner and you whined that you didn’t like it.  Moms universally say, “How do you know if you don’t try it”?  We are grown ups now and we still tend to default to not liking things that challenge what we think is true or are comfortable with.  My little journey has taught me that comfortable is overrated.  If all we seek is comfort and security, we are blind to reality and that leads to unhealthy behaviors.

So, think about how often you reject; how often you don’t like.  Stop it.  Open up.  Set aside the pistachio and just TRY the macadamia with a new outlook.  Really taste it and consider it.  I guess it’s time I gave the Brazil nut another chance.

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Here’s what we can do….

Another mass tragedy on our soil.  Another 24 hour news cycle full of pain, anger, talk of revenge.

As I watched the coverage of the terrorist attack in Boston, all I could think was ‘here we go again’.  I’m sure you felt the same wave of shock, anger, frustration, grief, and pain that I did.  We feel helpless.

We feel a surge of collective energy to ‘do something’.  Sadly, it appears that the pattern in our country is to turn that ‘something’ over to our leaders in government and law enforcement, while we sit back and fret and hope for revenge or justice. Valid reactions.

But, let me tell you a story about my friend Kandis.  She is a gay, single mom of a nearly 6 year-old daughter.  She has had a rough few years, personally, but is very active in her church and is one of the most generous people on the planet.  Due to her sexual orientation, Kandis has endured the kind of discrimination and yes, hate, that most of us can’t even imagine.

Yesterday, as the events of the day washed over us and most of us were sitting on the couch glued to the TV coverage, trying to make sense of another deadly act of terrorism, Kandis did what she always does.  She went to one of her volunteer events and fed the hungry.

When I realized what she was doing as opposed to what I was doing, all I could say was “YES”.  This is it.  Kandis gets it.  Kandis is my hero.

We all have this huge amount of energy circulating.  Most of it is negative energy. We wring our hands; what can we do?  What can the government do?  How do we stop this?  How do we combat this?

Kandis shows us.  We may not be at the point of being able to love or show compassion to our enemies, but what most of us can do at the very least, is muster some love, compassion and generosity for people less fortunate.  People in worse circumstances than we are.  Or show some kindness to people who merely irritate us or cause us some minor inconvenience.

That’s where this energy can be channeled.  If we’re honest, we realize that there is nothing we can do for the victims in Boston.  We can post encouraging posts on Facebook or make donations from the comfort of our living rooms, but does that really do anything to help our fellow man?

The way to perpetuate more anger and hatred and violence is to hold that in your heart.  The way to combat it is to throw a little more love, compassion and understanding into the world.  Small acts, one step at a time.  We hold the key.  It’s up to you what you do with that energy.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Let’s fix this mess…..

It’s become a mantra. “The world is a mess”.  We hear it and say it over and over.  The world is dangerous, it’s chaotic, it’s unpredictable, it’s a horrible place to bring children into.  All true, I suppose.  But, it’s always been that way.

Life on planet earth is all of those things and I’m pretty sure it was the same, even BEFORE all of us highly intelligent and highly evolved humans showed up.  It’s fascinating how nature and science are so orderly and rhythmic and yet life is so chaotic.  But, alas, it is.

We see this disorder and randomness in our lives everyday, but we never can quite grasp it as the natural order.  We still believe that if we follow the rules, eat right, brush and floss and pay our taxes, we’ll be okay.  All of those things won’t hurt, but if we’re honest and awake, we know that as the old bumper stickers used to warn us, “Shit Happens”.

The key is how do we react to ‘shit happening’?  I’ve often thought  that I live a charmed life.  Things just seem to work out for me and I look around and see so many people that have had really awful things to deal with.  My parents are still alive at 92, my siblings are alive and healthy.  I am alive, healthy and professionally successful.  What on earth do I know about suffering?

Well, I’m a recovering alcoholic and I’ve been on and off the wagon several times.  I spent time in jail…in two different states.  The drinking was very damaging to me and to numerous relationships.  I’m sober, but never quite in the clear.  My husband was diagnosed with cancer 8 years ago and lost one of his kidneys in the process.  We got through it and he is cancer-free.  I’ve battled almost crippling self-doubt and self-hatred.  I’ve gone through several rounds of counseling and dealt with abusive co-workers and a hostile work environment in one of my first radio jobs.  So, there’s that. Charming, eh?

So many people that I know and don’t know have been through and are going through way more brutal things in their life, but my point is that we all suffer as humans.  Nobody really has a ‘charmed life’.  It’s all in how we deal with it and how we react to the inevitable pain, setbacks and trauma that will happen.

The first lesson is to realize that nothing lasts.  Life is impermanent.  The pain of this moment will subside, as will the joy.  Life moves on and very soon we’re on to the next thing, good or bad.  When you stub your toe going to the bathroom at night, it hurts like hell, right?  For about 2 minutes.  Then, it passes.  Even if it’s broken, it heals in time.

Secondly, practice compassion.  We’ve all been ‘that person’ who is rude in line, cuts someone off in traffic, talks loudly on a cell phone, doesn’t pick up after their dog, etc.  It happens.  Be patient and realize that person may be going through something extremely painful; they may not be themselves at that moment.  Understand that we are all flawed and capable of turning into an asshole in an instant.  Silently wish them well and let it go.

I guess my point is that if the world is a mess, it’s up to us to clean up our own.  We leave little human messes in our wake all of the time.  I certainly have and still do.  In trying to temper our reaction to events, we can make the world a tiny bit less chaotic and painful.  That’s all we can do.  We can’t control other people, despite our delusions to the contrary.  But, we can cut them some slack and even wish them well on their journey.  We all suffer together in our humanity.

Stay connected.  We can help to clean up this messy world, one person, one act at a time.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments


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