Life on Life’s Terms

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon

The theme at the BeZine this month is Hope: Great Expectations and Secret Desires. I had plans for this post to be something extra special and was hoping to impart some hard-learned wisdom about the nature of expectations and desires.  But…I’ve started and stopped, edited and deleted so many times now that I’m just going to try and keep it short and to the point. I’m not succinct by nature, and I don’t know if I ever will be. I can practice and aspire to it, but perhaps wordiness is just a part of who I am.🙂

Expectation LaoTzu

Image from Buzzle.com

In Zen practices, we learn that Attachment is the root of all suffering, and expectations and desires come from what’s called the “wanting mind”.  The “wanting mind” is part of our Ego, so it’s extra clever at making us attached to things of this world (including people). Expectations and desires are ways of being ‘attached’ to a certain outcome. You are better off trying to let them go, since no one can control the future…Life is what happens, remember?

I don’t think that most people are even aware of their own expectations until they become disappointed by them, and even then, many won’t realize that the reason they are disappointed is because of expectations – they will instead seek someone or something else to blame. So, awareness of your own expectations (whether they are self-expectations or expectations of other people) is the first, crucial step in letting them go.

Both expectations and desires are natural, human qualities. They’re normal, they happen, even when you try hard to get rid of them.  The main bad thing about expectations is that you set yourself up to be disappointed, because you don’t appreciate the present moment – you are partially in the future, trying to predict or control an outcome of something (or someone). Being present in the moment allows you to accept life as it is, as it unfolds…”Life on Life’s terms”, so to speak; no stress or worry, no anxiety about what you want or wish it to be, but simple acceptance of what it is.

Expectations

Image from Pinterest.com

If I could choose one thing for you to take away from this post, it would be to work on becoming more aware of and recognizing your own expectations and desires, and then let them go. You might write them all down on slips of paper and then burn them, releasing them in the process, or practice breathing in acceptance of things as they are, right now, and breathing out attachment to what you want it to be, letting it exit your body so that your mind may be clearer.  It takes practice, but you will be happier and calmer for doing it.

I’ll leave you with a thought-provoking and common sense video regarding happiness and expectations.  I’ll go so far as to say that I expect you might even enjoy it.😉

Posted in Awareness, Buddhism, Food For Thought, Frustration, Life, Past Present and Future, Peace, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Zen | 2 Comments

~ Regarding Faith ~

This month’s issue of the BeZine is up and what a splendid collection of inspiration it is shaping up to be! Our theme this month is “Faith in things seen and unseen”. Below is my humble contribution.

Kahlil Gibran Faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Regarding Faith ~

I have seen both angels and demons

in people.

I have blessed and cursed the gilt cross,

(and borne the guilt of that loss)

that symbol at the top

of the steeple.

 

I have witnessed the whispers of a faith so broken

that I could have sworn

the candle had gone out…

blasphemies unspoken, extinguished, forlorn,

doused by doubt.

Then flickering, then flaring to life

once more.

Hesitant to blindly leap

through Hope’s open door,

(it is a tale of patient observation).

 

To define the schism of a soul;

that of wanting to believe,

but in fear

of giving up

control.

Faith begins

pure white,

the color of the hottest flame

within.

Cast aside your fear

and embrace

the life you’re in!

(And your unique place in it).

 

Black, white, the infinite shades of grey,

all linger and swirl in the inner world,

with faith as an empty, clean, blank slate,

despite differences in how we pray,

or meditate,

there is only One

and we are all connected.

As for Faith…

it can continually die and be

resurrected.

 

What I know

is that

The Universe will continue,

whether we believe in it or not.

~ © 2016 C.L.R.

Posted in Food For Thought, Life, Peace, Poetry, Writing, Zen | 2 Comments

Musings on Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of the word “friend”. The theme of this month’s BeZine is “The Joys of Friendship” and I got to thinking about how that word has changed over the years and a few things about it that I have noticed.

Most people I know tend to separate their friends into categories. I know someone who classifies them as “A, B & C” friends; “A” friends are the closest, “B” friends the next closest and so on. The “A” friends include best friends and those in the “Circle of Trust”.

Others might say they have friends vs. acquaintances. Still others prefer to separate their “real life” friends from their “online/Facebook” friends (although I believe that friendships formed online can be just a strong, lasting and influential as those made in real life).

Why do we do this? Why do we categorize, classify and separate our friends?  I think, in part, it comes down to having to prioritize some people above others.  Friendship has often been compared to a garden, in that you have to “water” it, pull the “weeds” and otherwise “tend” to it in order for it to thrive. In other words, you have to devote time and energy to it. Otherwise, it wilts and fades, even dies. There are only so many hours in a day, and if you try to devote all your waking hours to your friends, then you neglect yourself and your own, personal “garden”. That has to be tended, too. I think real friends will understand this, and even encourage it.

Of course everyone has probably encountered “frenemies” (think of the saying “With friends like that, who needs enemies?”) or “fair-weather” friends.  A lot of times you don’t know if a person is a true friend until things get tough. That is the litmus test of a real friendship – if they will stand by you through good times AND bad, if you can count on them to be there for you when life throws you a curve-ball, then consider yourself lucky to have such a person in your life.

For those of you who have a hard time making human friends, don’t forget that sometimes animals can be the best of friends!  To me, they pretty much embody all of the qualities of a good friend: They listen, they care, they can empathize, provide you with joy and laughter, comfort you when you’re sick or sad, be there for you when you need someone to talk to…just because they can’t talk back, doesn’t mean they can’t communicate.

I have had many friendships over the course of my life so far. Some have been much closer than others. Some have stood the test of time, while others faded. Some who I thought would be there forever are no longer part of my life. Some come in and out of my life in cycles, and we pick up right where we left off, as if no time had passed at all.

In closing, I would like to share a bit of wisdom that I discovered a long time ago. The author is anonymous (which I find especially fitting) and it has given me something to ponder many times, at different points in my life. Maybe it will resonate with some of you, as well.🙂 Cherish your friends while you have them. Life is far too short not to.

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Books that changed my life

Ask a librarian, “What’s your favorite book?” and he or she is likely to cock an eyebrow and respond, “Is this a trick question?” Luckily, this month’s theme at the BeZine is “Books that changed our lives”.  For me, that’s a much easier question to answer.

A quick bit of background: I’ve always been a Type A personality. I used to worry about every, little detail and tried to plan for everything. I was always anxious about the future, dreaded unexpected problems and tried to control everything (and sadly, a lot of people) in my environment. It led to a constant state of stress, which affected my physical health and took a toll on my mental and emotional well-being, too.  Not long after I graduated college, I fell into a spiraling depression, hit rock bottom and it seemed like there was no way back to a life worth living.  And then a well-meaning friend gave me a book that quite literally changed my life. That book was “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff.

Tao and Te

It started me on the path of Taoism and I never looked back. It was closely followed by “The Te of Piglet” and then “The Tao Te Ching” by Laozi (Lao Tzu).  I learned that we all have elements of each one of A.A. Milne’s lovable characters from the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s what we do (or don’t do) with each day that counts, and we only ever have one day at a time, so it’s worth making the best of each day. Worry and anxiety are a waste of energy.  The only thing we ever have control over is ourselves, and how we react to what life hands us each day.

taoteching

If you find yourself stressed and anxious, a Type A personality without the ability to let go of control and take what comes, I highly recommend reading all three books I mentioned. I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t regret it, and maybe they’ll change YOUR life, too! 🙂

Tao and Te2

 

 

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Poetic Evolution…

Poetry moves us. It makes us think, feel, inspires us to do more, be more. It has been here as long as people could speak and sing, and its energy and intention will probably outlast the end of humanity. Like everything in life, it has had to evolve and adapt. One of the main purposes of poetry, to communicate something with someone else, has necessitated new ways of reaching an audience. This is especially true now, in this digital age of instant gratification and social media.

Poetry has learned to deliver its message via video, recorded poetry slams, Skype, flash mob poetry in action…blink and you might miss it. But even if you DO miss it, you can probably find a recording of it somewhere. No longer is it simply written words on an immortal page in some heavy, dusty collection of poetry, or an oral history sung through the ages and generations.  There are still formal forms, still meters (or even free form, as even it has a “beat”), still rhymes (or not), still those who will read it and listen to it. Some things about it do not change.

There have been many famous poets who have attempted to define what poetry “is”;  the well-known, poetic “greats”, and they all have valid definitions. I tend to agree with one of my favorites, Robert Frost, who said:

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

To me, poetry is a type of communication that touches the heart and soul. 

In honor of (inter)National Poetry Month celebrations at The BeZine, I would like to share a couple of poetic videos with all of you. Both of these “spoke” to me. I hope that you find them as powerful as I did, and maybe that you will look at poetry as more than dry, printed words on a page. It is very much a living thing. And it continues to evolve, just like people do. 🙂

First, is a poem by actor Woody Harrelson.

Next, is a piece by rapper Prince Ea

 

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Campaigning for Compassion…

Photo 2016 © Animalpages.com

Photo 2016 © Animalpages.com

The focus of this month’s BeZine is “All God’s Creatures”. Try closing your eyes for a moment and imagining a world without animals. No gentle bird song to wake you in the morning, no coyotes or owls to sing you to sleep at night, no furry face or wagging tail to greet you after a hard day at work.  Your diet would be affected, too, whether you eat meat or not – about 35% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators. As it is, animal species extinction is happening 1000 times faster because of humans. I think it would be a very different world without our animal friends; a darker, much emptier one.

Fortunately, speaking up for animals is one of those things that just about anyone can do.  Whether it’s a preference for domestic cats and dogs or wild and exotic animals, no matter what kind of animal you love, there is a campaign out there just waiting for your help.  I’d like to present some of the causes of specific animals which are important to me, and encourage you to join me and find animals you’d like to help.

  • Meet Tony, the Truck Stop Tiger.
    Photo: ©FreeTonyTheTiger2014 | ©The Animal Legal Defense Fund

    Photo: ©FreeTonyTheTiger2014 | ©The Animal Legal Defense Fund

    Tony is a sixteen-year-old Siberian-Bengal tiger who has lived his entire life in a cramped, concrete cage in a truck stop parking lot in Louisiana. Poor Tony is an exploited, illegally kept roadside attraction/gimmick and activists have been fighting to free him since 2010 (6 years!) to get him released to a reputable big cat sanctuary (there are several who have offered to take him in, since he would not survive in the wild).

    “Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger, has endured more than a decade of misery at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. Living at an isolated gas station parking lot, with the stench of fuel and the drone of diesel engines, is harmful to an animal with such sensitive hearing and an acute sense of smell, says veterinarian Jennifer Conrad, who has cared for captive large cats for decades. Tony is “in poor condition and needs intervention on his behalf,” she says. He has been taunted by truck stop visitors and his enclosure lacks adequate enrichment. As a result of this stressful confinement, Tony constantly paces, putting him at risk for dangerous and painful injuries.” ~ ALDF.org

    Tony’s Story
    Facebook Page
    WordPress Page
    Petition for Freedom
    Twitter: @FreeTonyTiger and @TonyTiger2000
    Instagram
    Pinterest
    Youtube

     

  • Meet Lolita, the Orca.

    Lolita - Image © PeTA

    Lolita – Image © PeTA 2016

    Lolita is a 20-foot-long, 4-ton orca who has lived at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970. She was 4 years old when she was forcefully taken from her mother and pod in Puget Sound and placed into a 35-foot wide, 20-foot deep tank with no shade. Activists have been trying to free her to have her relocated and reintroduced to her home in Puget Sound since 2003.  Not only are killer whales highly intelligent, they can roam as much as 100 MILES a DAY in search of food and play. From a range of hundreds of miles to a small, concrete tank that’s 35-feet wide, forced for 45 years to do tricks for human entertainment

    “When not performing in her show, Lolita floats listlessly in her tank, all by herself.  In the wild, killer whales swim hundreds of miles a day, diving as deep as 500 feet.  In her tank, she swims in circles inside the 35 foot wide area and can only go as deep as 20 feet, in a small area in the center of the tank.” ~ Save Lolita.org

    Lolita’s Story (YouTube)
    Facebook
    SaveLolita.org
    OrcaNetwork.org
    Us.Whales.Org

  • Meet Lucy, the Lonely Elephant.

    Photo: © 2016 Sam Whincup and Lucy's Edmonton Advocate's Project (LEAP)

    Photo: © 2016 Sam Whincup and Lucy’s Edmonton Advocate’s Project (LEAP)

Lucy is a 40-year old Asian elephant who was sold to the Edmonton Valley Zoo in Canada as a young calf. Not only is the near-freezing climate horrible for ANY elephant (who live in tropical or desert regions in the wild), but Lucy has been alone for a very long time, suffering serious foot problems, obesity and arthritis (due to standing on concrete floors her whole life), and exhibiting all the classic signs of stress and depression that are known to plague elephants in captivity.

There are numerous celebrities (like Bob Barker, Leonardo DiCaprio, William Shatner and others) who have gotten involved, two well-known elephant sanctuaries (The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society)) have offered her a permanent home in climates MUCH more suitable with experienced elephant vets on staff, and enough money has been raised and donated to pay for her transfer fifty times over. Activists have been fighting to free her for over 10 years, but the city and zoo both refuse to allow any independent veterinarians (meaning not associated with the zoo) to examine Lucy, so she continues to suffer. And we continue to fight for her freedom.

From Elephant Advocacy: “They are born to roam often traveling as far as 30 miles per day browsing and foraging for food and water. When an elephant is deprived of the ability to roam long distances and to socially interact within a stable herd, they lose their sense of belonging and slip into neurosis, depression, dissociation and chronic illness. The complexity and depth of the elephant psyche is terrorized and traumatized by captivity. Social deprivation, solitary confinement, chains, taming techniques and circus training is cruel and unusual abuse for any elephant and enslavement to entertainment venues is inhumane.

Lucy’s Story
Friends of Lucy on Facebook
Save Lucy the Elephant on Facebook
Lucy’s Edmonton Advocates Project (LEAP)
Friends of Lucy (YouTube)

I’m not saying that all zoos or aquariums are bad. Zoos often play an important role in conservation/rehabilitation and may end up being the only reason that future generations are even able to see living examples of certain species.  But we share this planet with animals. That doesn’t mean that we can endlessly kill, trap, destroy their habitat, exploit, dominate and drive to extinction the rest of the animals that are left! I hope you’ll give it some thought and agree to be another voice for those creatures who have no choice, no say in how humans affect them. The Earth needs them. WE need them.

Posted in Animal Rights, Animals, Awareness, Food For Thought, Frustration, Loneliness, Social Media, Stories, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Animal Stories

In keeping with this month’s theme at the BeZine, I thought I’d recommend some of the best books about animals that I have read.

© 1972 James Herriot

© 1972 James Herriot

The theme “All God’s Creatures” immediately reminded me of one of my favorite series of animal books by author James Herriot.  He was a British rural veterinarian who wrote books using many of his own cases as material. The series starts with All Creatures Great and Small, and continues in All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, Dog Stories, The Lord God Made Them All, and finally, Every Living Thing.  Herriot’s tone is gentle but wise, and his compassionate nature and witty humor make these books a must-read for anyone who loves animals (including the human animal).

 

 

 

 

 

Image from deweyreadmorebooks.com

Image from deweyreadmorebooks.com

Next on my list would have to be Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. Cat lovers everywhere will adore this true story of a tiny, orange kitten who was abandoned inside a small-town library book drop!  How the library staff dealt with this windfall and how it changed not just the library, but the entire town is a story that both inspires and touches the heart. Don’t miss it!

 

 

 

 

 

Image from Johngroganbooks.com

Image from Johngroganbooks.com

And then there’s Marley and Me, by John Grogan. This one is more for dog lovers, and fair warning: it’s a tear-jerker. It’s the story of a lovable, yellow Labrador retriever named Marley and how he managed to wiggle his way into the hearts of his family, their friends and everyone who was lucky enough to get to know him. From an adorable puppy to a ninety-seven pound giant with a heart of gold,  Marley will take you on an adventure you’ll never forget.

 

 

 

 

 

Image from amazon.com © 1993 Jim Brandenburg

Image from amazon.com © 1993 Jim Brandenburg

Wolves have always been one of my favorite animals, so I had to include Brother Wolf, A Forgotten Promise by Jim Brandenburg. Jim is a wildlife photographer, who has spent years capturing and creating images that stir and move the viewer’s soul.  Brother Wolf is often told from the eyes of the wolf, beginning with a heart-felt, haunting letter to mankind. In addition to the breath-taking photography, Brandenburg’s text is philosophical, poetical and will leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Image from Wikipedia © Tad Williams and cover art by Braldt Bralds

Image from Wikipedia © Tad Williams and Cover Art by Braldt Bralds

Next on my recommendation list is Tailchaser’s Song, by Tad Williams. This wonderful story explores the myths and legends of cats from the feline point of view. The cat characters in this mystical, magical tale are all highly relatable and memorable.  It was originally marketed for young adults back in 1985, but it’s such a good story that people of any age can enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Richard Adams 1972

© Richard Adams 1972

Last, but certainly not least on this list, is Watership Down by Richard Adams. This is a well-written story about a colony of rabbits and their heroic adventures to find a new home where they can be free and safe. While it was written for children and young adults, it has some deep, adult themes that should be considered before reading it to kids.

There are so many more incredible animal stories out there, but this post would be pages long trying to list all of them. Hopefully, you will enjoy one or more that I’ve suggested, or maybe you have your own recommendations to add in the comments below.🙂

Posted in Animals, Cats, Literature, Reading, Stories, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments