A Tree Says…

IMG_1387“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men,

IMG_1314 like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

IMG_2369A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neitherIMG_1357 here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

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Just Around the Riverbend [repost]

This was first posted on my blog The Real World as I prepared to leave Namibia.  I have included some of the thoughts I had on the future just a year earlier.

“What I love most about rivers is you can’t step in the same
river twice.
The water’s always changing, always flowing
But people I guess can’t live like that
They all must pay a price
To be safe we lose our chance of ever knowing
What’s around the river bend”

Like the river that is flowing by, every moment is new. We all know this. It’s common sense. Every minute things change. People are born and die. People leave, fall in love, decide to follow God. We know this.

Even though things are changing on us every minute we cling to the illusion that we have control over each outcome, each change. We plan. We worry. We replan and recheck. We resist.

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The only thing that trying to control everything does is make it harder to admit we don’t have control over everything. In fact we have control of very little, mainly our reaction to change.

Resistance creates a dam in our river. The water backs up and becomes mucky, full of snails that carry disease or twigs that snag our thoughts, pulling us down. Resistance keeps us from moving forward.

I experienced this when I first decided to return to the States. I built a damn of resistance in my head. I filled my water with negativity. Everything from “I have no money” to “It is too cold.” I swam around with them for a while. Until I couldn’t anymore.

I took down my dam. I let the negativity come out to be pushed to the shore. I swam down my river, cleaning it of all the things that scared me and started to see all the beautiful things about going home. My family and friends, free time, new opportunities, my car.

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It is difficult to describe the feeling of rigid flexibility you need to get along in this world. You need to be able to plan, but when they fall through you need to be able to see the adventure that an unplanned span of time can bring us. When some volunteers and I were on our big road trip last year, we made a plan and it fell to pieces. Still each unplanned step brought things we would have never experienced on our own terms.

Let your plans fall apart. Don’t worry too much what is coming around the river bend. You’ll get there when you get there and when you do, it’s usually more fantastic than you ever planned for yourself anyway.

Tomorrow I face the next bend in my river. I leave Namibia at peace and excited for the things ahead. Back out into the World! What a Real World it is!!

Sutra Sunday: Love and Community

Today’s study is about love and community.

1 Corinthians 13:3-8; 14:1 (The Voice)

I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts.  Love is patient; love is kind.  Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag or strut about.  There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude or indecent – it’s not self-absorbed.  Love isn’t easily upset.  Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth- yes, truth- is love’s delight.  Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes and endures no matter what.  Love will never become obsolete.  So in everything strive to love.

This passage is often read at weddings.  It is definitely a beautiful reminder for couples embarking on a new chapter of their love.  However, I feel, this neglects the true message of these words.  Love is not limited to our partner.  It is not limited to our families and friends.  The message can’t be any clearer “In everything strive to love.” 

Earlier in the book of Corinthians, Paul talks about the gifts each one of us is given to use during this life.  Some gifts or talents are given more weight than others.  This was a divisive element in the early church and is a divisive element of our society as a whole today.  Some talents are more valuable than others.  “…Paul shifts his focus to the central role love plays in a believer’s life in chapter 13.  Love is essential for the body to be unified and for members to work together.  Members of the body that are very different, with little in common, are able to appreciate and even enjoy others because of love.” (The Voice Commentary)

On some level we know this.  Sometimes love is the only thing we can share with someone who we don’t understand or agree with on any other level.  Though Paul is clearly addressing church members, this does not exclude non-Christians from the conversation.  If we can think of the body as this global community that we are all a part of, it is clear that love is the thread that was meant to bind us all together.  It is not enough to love our neighbors.  We are asked to love our enemies as well.  We are called to love complete strangers, as well as our closest friends.

This “we” I gather together is not the Church of Christ.  It is not a satsang of yogis.  It includes us all; all of the fabulous human beings participating in this crazy mess of life.  Everyone who is and was and will be.  The words of this particular book may be aimed at those who follow Christ, but those who choose another path are no less obligated to love those around them with all they are.

As a global community, we must find ways to allow the gifts of each person to shine.  The more we cultivate the talents of others with love rather than disdain, the more we allow others to become who they are, the more we discover how each person’s contribution can work together, the stronger this community will grow.  I realize we are a long way from this, but there’s no harm in dreaming.

When you come together, each person has a vital role because each has gifts.  One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach.  One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation, but all of this should be done to strengthen the life and faith of the community. (1 Cor 14:26)

Failure is a Stepping Stone

I recently made a pretty big mistake.  It got me thinking…

How do we come to terms with messing up, without becoming messed up?  How does ‘I did a bad thing’ not turn into ‘I am a bad person’?  How does ‘I made a mistake’ not become ‘I am a screw up’?

Swami Satchidananda, founder of Integral Yoga, says:

If you make mistakes it doesn’t matter.  Make mistakes and learn.  The best teachers are your own mistakes.  you learn even faster by your mistakes…

Every failure is a stepping stone.  Remember, though, that you can’t use the same stone for each step.  Every step should be on a new stone.  That means you should not keep on making the same mistakes.  Learn well from each one…Experience is the best teacher.

Most of us have heard this advice in some version or another since the day people decided we were old enough to take responsibility for our actions.  Learn from your mistakes.

It may be the truest, most cliche advice I’ve ever heard.  It’s also the most tedious.  Taking time to examine your actions and accept that something you did led to a disastrous outcome is not fun.  It flat out sucks.  It’s way easier to lie on the ground, play dead and let your thoughts beat you to a pulp like an angry gang.  Both options hurt, but for some reason self-examination is always way more excruciating than self-flagellation, though much more productive.

So the next time you make a mistake try these steps.

1) Feel it.  Get angry, cry, laugh, rage, insult.  Do whatever it is that you first feel like doing. Write a nasty letter in your journal or punch a pillow.  Let out the emotions in a safe space, keeping it between you and your closests.

2) Take responsibility.  Examine the mistake and own your part in it.  What could you have done differently?  Is there anything you can do to change your situation?  If not, what do you need to do in order to accept your mistake and move on?  Is an apology in order?

3) Learn the lesson.  Often we look back wistfully thinking, “If only I’d known then what I know now.”  But we didn’t.  However, the next time a similar situation occurs, our knowledge will be tested and we can no longer claim we didn’t know any better.  What is the lesson you can learn from this mistake?

4) Practice.  Once you’ve identified the lesson, go back over the actions that led to the mistake and make a game plan for the next time you are faced with this challenge.  What can you do differently?  Are there people you can turn to for help? You can go as far as to write out or discuss with someone else why you may have made the mistake and what can be done to avoid it in the future.

5) Take the test.  The test will come.  You will be faced with circumstances that echo those that led up to the mistake.  If you have done the work and are able to be aware enough to see the situation for what it is, you will pass the test and move on from this mistake.  If not you will repeat it again and again until you’ve become aware enough to end it.

I hope these little tips help.  It helps to work out mistakes with those you love and trust.  Perhaps they will see something you did not.  Give it a go.  And remember:

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Sutra Sunday: The Truth Hurts?

Bringing back the Sutras!

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gives five yamas, or restraints.  These are the things we should not do.  I outlined the yamas in Being A Bad-@ss YoginiThe first two yamas are ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth).  During teacher training, we discussed how sometimes these two ideas seem to work against one another.  As we often hear, “The truth hurts.”  Right?

I was taught by my teacher that ahimsa always comes first.  Above all, do no harm.  All other yamas are subsequent to this.  However, this does not give us a free pass to lie.  Little white lies are an easy way of preserving someone’s feelings, but this is not the lesson that we should be learning through these two yamas.  The real lesson here is awareness.

Some truths are simple.  They are harmful and therefore probably don’t need to be heard by anyone else.  A character from How I Met Your Mother put it this way, “Just because something needs to be said, doesn’t mean it needs to be heard.”  Taking a moment before you say something gives you the power.  It makes you a deliberate speaker and one who is an advocate for non-harm through real action.

Other truths are more tricky.  Sometimes the possibility of hurt feelings may save someone from harm in the long run.  This takes more discernment than deciding whether or not to say something.  Discerning what your intention is in saying something comes first.  Jake at InstantKarma.org says,

“Often, people say hurtful words and than justify these words by  saying that they had good intentions – they only wanted to help the other  person. This is usually associated with the idea that a person wants to teach someone  how to be a “better” person. If someone leaves their clothes on their floor, they  are given a lecture on how lazy and sloppy they are to help them become a  better person. The intentions of the lecture are to “help” this person. The truth  is, these lectures have very little to do with improving the person, these lectures are  given to change something about a person that someone does not want to live  with. A person usually does not give lectures on being sloppy or lazy because they  really want to help the other person – they give the lecture because they are  tired of cleaning up after them. The motives of such speeches are completely  for oneself.”

If the intention of the speech is truly to help someone, then the task is to decide how it should be said.  Creating a positive sentence takes more time and care than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.  However, it can often save people’s feelings as well as motivate them to take action.

“We can see that the idea of hurtful words and intention do  go together. Telling someone that they are lazy, forgetful, thoughtless,  uncaring, etc. are all hurtful words. Even if they are said with good  intention, i.e. to help “improve” the person, the hurtful words will create a  negative affect. There is an amazing difference in the affect that “Please,  honey, could you put your dirty clothes in the hamper instead of the floor” has  than “Would you stop being such a lazy pig dropping your dirty clothes all over  the damn floor!”. ”

Often we feel that people will be motivated by a blunt or somewhat harmful version of the truth.  This is probably true.  When people say hurtful things to me I automatically find a way to change so that I do not have to hear them again.  It is pain avoidance.  Not true learning.  Sometimes, as Jake stated, the person really does not need to change, you would like them to change to make you more comfortable.

No matter how kind the words, the truth might still sting.  We cannot always predict someone’s reaction to our truth.  But we can use kind words.  We can have good intentions behind our words.  And we can take a moment before we speak to decide.  Tap into your breath, become fully aware of your body in space, repeat a mantra, whatever brings you into the present moment.  Take that moment and make a choice.  Taking control of our words is a powerful message to the world, and ourselves.  We all have the potential to be messengers of truth AND love!

Acceptance

We all want acceptance from those around us. Especially from those we love. While on a walk the other day I asked for guidance on how to let go of the icky feeling I had that I was not being accepted. This is what I heard. The italics are the thoughts I had that seemed to propel this voice to tell me more.

Help me let go of the need for acceptance.

Accept the person for how they accept you.

And then…?

And then… There is nothing more to do. The person already accepts you into their life in the way they know how. It is your desire to be accepted the way you see yourself and not the way that they see you that causes pain. When you have accepted how this person accepts you, you will no longer care what he/she thinks of you but instead be able to be fully yourself in their space without trying to fit what he/she needs. By not caring about what they think, but rather caring enough to accept them as they are, you become the example they need. By being yourself and not placing judgement on the other for how they judge you, you break the cycle and allow room for each individual to be who they are without fear. When they have lost fear of who they are, they are less likely to fear who you are.

This is what is meant by liberation.

You become the light. Your light repels the darkness so that you are able to keep shining. A flame might bend in the wind to allow it to move past. You may bend to others, but a flame that bends too far will go out. Bend around the wind. Better yet, catch the wind. Set fire to the world. This is the way you become the light of the world. Set fire to it and bring along everything in you path. Do it not in the NAME of the Lord but rather with his breath. His breath shall be the wind that spreads the fire with which you were born. The one the world is trying to extinguish.

This is the Holy Spirit, which is represented by wind and fire.

You must fan the flame with the breath of the Spirit and nothing else. Pray that yor flame be cuaght up in the universal fire. Pray that you have the passion and the momentum to take all you meet higher into the flames. Then keep praying.

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A parable

Cutting off the bacon

A newly wed husband noticed that his wife always cut the ends off the bacon and asked her why she did that. She replied that she did it because her mother always did it. So the man asked the mother why she always cut the ends of the bacon off. Her reply was that she did it because her mother had always done it. So the man went to grandma and asked her the same question. She solved the mystery by explaining that she had always cut off the end of the bacon because her frying pan was too small.

Blindly following tradition can sometimes be limiting.  It is good to go to the roots of a tradition.  Seeking out the sutras and other ancient texts is a must for yogis.  However, once the tradition is understood there may be room for change and improvement.  Doing something just because that is how it has always been done is not always for the best, or at least not always necessary.

 

story credit: http://shamakern.com/should-you-study-thai-massage-in-thailand/