Your Attention, please…

“There is not a single instance in history where hate has brought joy to human beings. Hate destroys those who hold it in their minds and bodies. If humanity released all hate, fear, and resentment, then no dictator could ever rise, and we would have peace on earth. Peace on earth can occur only through peace within each of us.” ~ Rhonda Byrne, The Secret Daily Teachings

There’s a saying, “Energy Flows Where Attention Goes”, that has been attributed to several different sources. Regardless of who initially said it, I believe it to be true. Not only is it true, I also think it’s crucial as a way of “Overcoming Hate”, which is this month’s BeZine theme.

In order to “overcome” anything, it must first be understood, and broken down into the parts which make it up as a whole.  When you think about the word “hate”, what comes to mind? Do you picture the opposite of love? Do you picture anger, or fear in disguise? What makes up this powerful emotion to which we humans so often cling? Why do we allow it so much power to influence and run (and ruin) our lives?

From a certain perspective, hate may be defined as “Judgement directing Anger”.  There is a good, more in-depth post about this at one of the blogs I follow, here. In addition to judgement directing anger, I also believe that fear is a strong component of hate. Whether it’s fear of “Different” or “Other” (someone who is “not me” or “not like me”) or fear for survival, fear of someone taking away what I have, having more than me, being better than me, etc.. To truly overcome hate, we must be willing to overcome (and face) our fears.

Just as there are almost infinite shades of grey between black and white, there are many nuances of hate. I found a chart from here which shows some of the most widely accepted types, but there are different variations and combinations of all of them.  Do any of your personal “hates” seem to fall into any of these categories?

Oh, I know there are people who will say, “But I don’t hate. None of those fit me. I try very hard not to hate anybody or anything.” While that may be true, hate is such a base emotion that I find it hard to believe anyone who says they “never” hate. Trying hard not to hate is a noble effort, and a good first step. Self-awareness is always a good thing, even when it’s painful.

But then I would ask, what are you doing to decrease the hate in the world? Using the self awareness you have worked for, to be mindful and not spread any kind of hate can be a lot tougher. Especially in today’s technological society, where memes, tweets, and all manner of social media stories spread like wildfire…often without being fact-checked, without the user consciously thinking about what kind of ripple effects and consequences sharing that particular story, meme, tweet, etc. will have.

where-your-mind-goes-energy-flows_tbt

There is a big difference between passion and hate, and it seems like lately, people tend to confuse the two. I understand being passionate about something, willing to stand up and fight for your beliefs. So when does it cross the line to hate? When it harms other people? When it harms your own well-being? The measurement is probably different for everyone, and only you can make that call.

Where is your energy going? If you are focused on the negative, then all of your energy and attention is only making that negativity stronger. “But what about all these other people who are spreading hate and misinformation, how do I change their minds?” you might ask. I could answer with something like “only love can conquer hate”, and while I do think that’s true, it doesn’t quite address the reality of the extent and amount of hate that we face every, single day. The thing is, you can’t control anyone other than yourself. So you concentrate on YOU.

“Never waste energy on talking to a closed door with a person ready to fight behind it. First work on releasing the fight, then opening the door, and then finally finding any middle ground for reason. Then a dialogue can start.” ~ Casey Kochmer, Personal Tao

Where is your energy going? To what are you giving your attention? Is your focus only serving to spread and invigorate hate or are you helping to overcome it?

Posted in Awareness, Food For Thought, Frustration, Inspiration, Peace, Philosophical Ponderings, Social Media, Zen | 2 Comments

~ Scraggly Dandelion in a Concrete Crack ~

This month’s theme at the BeZine is all about resistance. The community of artists and poets, seers and doers have come together to show our resistance to all of the madness and badness pervading our country lately. Not just with the craziness of the recent election cycle (although that is prominent) but the unrest, hate and intolerance that seems to be spreading around the world. We must RESIST adding to the darkness. Below is my humble offering to this month’s issue. I hope it makes you think. And I hope you check out the rest of the ‘Zine for some extraordinary examples of creative resistance!

Image from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License Source author: Kleuske

Image from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License Source author: Kleuske

It begins, with one brave enough to appear.
One idea, one voice in an asphalt void.
Oligarchs try to crush all dissension with fear.
Undaunted, the idea will not be destroyed,
Shares roots with others; reassures, “I’m still here.”

One soft heartbeat, then two, then ten.
It becomes a thrumming pulse of multitudes.
Hundreds turn to thousands, to millions and then
It can’t be paved over with false platitudes.
Like defiant dandelions, reaffirm, “We’re still here.”

While those in power, on their golden thrones,
Bloated and squinty-eyed from swallowing so much hate,
Full of flatulent, hot air and pompous-pride groans,
Fail to recognize that their hour groweth late.
The masses are gathering; reassert, “No more fear!”

History paints rebels and martyrs the same:
Trading their lives for belief in their causes.
The greater the oppression, the brighter the flame
Of kindled resistance in lieu of such losses.
The full bloom of awakening, “We won’t disappear!”

To the tyrants, the haters, the xenophobes, too,
The racists, misogynists, who spew toxic bile:
No matter your claims for your self-righteous views,
You must understand: our resistance is fertile.
Love conquers hate, and it will always persevere.

~ © CLR 2017

Posted in Awareness, Flowers, Future, Love, Poetry, Politics, Resistance | Leave a comment

Piece By Painted Piece

art-washes-away-from-the-soul-the-dust-of-everyday-life-50This month’s theme at the BeZine is “The Healing Value of the Arts”. The Arts have an intrinsic value in and of themselves, of course, but most of the time when people read or hear the word “Art”, they don’t associate it with healing or medicine. And yet, there is a very real power in art to be and do exactly that. I want to share a personal story with you about how art really can change a person’s life and help them heal.

My brother-in-law, whom I will call “TW”* for the sake of this piece, is a proud USMC and Army National Guard veteran who served our country for almost a decade.  He did tours in Bosnia and Iraq and when he returned to the States, he was not the same vibrant, easy-to-laugh young man who first enlisted. The things he witnessed and experienced overseas changed his mind to such a degree that his everyday functioning was affected. You see, TW suffers from severe, debilitating PTSD. There are good days and bad days, but on the bad days, his body freezes up and he has problems performing simple tasks that you and I might take for granted. He has been known to curl up into a fetal ball for hours at a time, trying to escape the monstrous hell his memory is reliving.

Of course, he has meds which his doctor prescribed for him, and they help…to a degree. But the most amazing treatment of all has been his painting. His art has helped save him more than any pill ever could. TW builds and paints hundreds of miniature figurines and it has become much more important to him than a simple hobby.  He agreed to answer some questions about how this type of Art has changed his life and how it continues to help him get better.

imperial-knight-1

Q: How did you get started in using painting to handle your PTSD?
TW: I was having so many panic attacks, and when that happens, there are a lot of times it’s something that you’re not aware of until you’re right in the middle of it. It’s like your body does its own thing, it floods with adrenaline, the nerves go haywire and it gets hard to control your emotions. That’s something you learn as a marine…you learn the ultimate control, you don’t feel fear or rage or any of that, because having emotions over there can get you or your buddies killed. So to not be able to control it like that makes me feel like I need to do better somehow.

I tried video games for awhile, but they didn’t help the same way that painting does. They say “idle hands are the devil’s work”, well, an idle mind is just as bad and I got sick and tired of being afraid all the time. So I was looking for an outlet, something to take the place of the fear, you know? Back in high school, I kind of messed around with models a little bit, so I thought, “Here’s something tangible to keep my mind and hands busy” and it just grew from that.

Q: How often do you paint and for how long at a time?
TW: At least once a week, but sometimes a lot more. It just depends on when inspiration hits, and if or when I need it. I’ve learned some of my triggers, but the attacks can still creep up on me and can happen at any time. If I feel like one is starting, then I can take some meds and start focusing on my painting and it helps calm me down almost immediately. I usually paint for a few hours, but sometimes it can go all day. It just depends.

model-groupQ: Why do you think it helps?
TW: Well, this may sound weird, but it’s a routine I do. I have several steps, and those steps have steps. Like, I prepare my work space, and that might be two or three steps. Then I pick out my paints and brushes, and that’s a couple more steps, and so on. It’s a ritual, and it helps calm my mind by giving me something tangible to focus on, one thing at a time.

Another part of it is the ethos of the figurines I paint. What I mean is that the lore behind the models is something that empowers me. These figures, they’re Space Marines, so of course I can relate to that part of it, but it’s a fantasy world, too – they’re soldiers who don’t ever feel fear, they never get PTSD; I can command troops and build my own army without any of the weaknesses of real people. I mean, they’re super-human, genetically engineered warriors. So being able to pour myself into that…helps me feel better about myself, helps me be stronger.

Q: Have you told your doctor about it and has it affected what kinds or the amounts of medicine(s) you take?
TW: Yeah, I did tell him about it and it’s encouraged for patients like me to keep busy and calm. He called it a constructive focus, so that I can come back to reality with a possible different perspective, from a different place mentally.  As far as the meds go, I can tell you this:  before I started painting, I used to drink, a lot – to escape all of it…and now I don’t. I have a pretty good schedule for the meds I do have to take, but on days when I paint, I don’t need some of them because I just don’t have any attacks on those days.

Plus, if I’m going through a period of insomnia, which happens more than I want, I can paint and come down enough that I can actually get to sleep. Most of the time, though, I like to paint during the high sun of the afternoon and my doctor has encouraged that, because the sunshine helps with my moods, too. It also helps me see how the models look with details that show up in natural light that don’t always show under artificial light.

demon-modelQ: Do you think it could help other veterans like you and have you mentioned it to anyone else whom it might help?
TW: Yeah, I do. I mean, it’s not for everybody, and some people might find it boring, but it’s helped me become more patient, keeps me calm and focused. Making sure all the details come out right is a good challenge for me.  A couple of my buddies are vets, too, although they’re from different units, and I’ve told them how much it helps. But everybody has to find what works for them, and I think it’s good if you already have an interest in it, like I used to be sort of interested in it in high school. But I recommend that anybody should try it because you never know. I know it’s worked for me and I think it would work for other people, too.
_____________________________________________________________

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that Art can’t heal. I’ve witnessed it, so I know that it can. I know TW’s case isn’t the only one, or the only way that art has helped someone. Look around, pay attention. I bet you can find ways that The Arts heal people, too. 🙂

* When I asked my brother-in-law what nickname I should use for this piece, he said to call him “The Wizard”. It’s a private joke with his doctor, about the ‘powers’ that each of them have to help TW get better. I abbreviated it to keep it from being too distracting to read. 

 

Posted in Art, Creativity, Food For Thought, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Veterans, War | 2 Comments

A Little Kindness…

heartlit

I had no idea what to write for this month’s BeZine theme: Metta. Metta is also known as loving-kindness. It’s a practice often found in Buddhism, but also in other religions. It builds empathy and compassion for self, others, and the world around us. I was going to talk about random acts of kindness and senseless beauty, and while it’s a subject I adore, it didn’t seem quite right. As I was thinking about what to write and searching for some inspiration, the perfect story presented itself.  I’d like to share it with all of you because to me, it sums up what the idea of loving-kindness is all about. Enjoy, be inspired (and maybe have a kleenex handy  😉 ).

http://www.littlethings.com/tara-wood-mr-dan/

heartflame

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The Day Begins With You

Be still
This month’s theme over at The BeZine is about rituals for peace, healing and unity.  Throughout the years, I have taken part in rites for each and all of those things (within the Christian, Wiccan and Buddhist faiths), but this month I wanted to share something simple and personal that might feel a little more accessible to anyone.

Historically, the Zen tradition is overflowing with rituals to bring inner and outer peace, healing and unity.  Between being mindful of each breath, each action (or inaction) to sharing a mantra with a gathering of others, or creating and destroying sand mandalas to affirm the impermanent nature of the universe, there are many rites with many purposes.

Finding your own ritual and personalizing it is one of the most important steps to making it work for you, so that you’ll continue doing it. For example, many people meditate after waking, but I have incorporated my shower and coffee into mine. I personalized it for what works best for me.

I have a ritual every morning, where I wake up, shower and then meditate with my coffee for around 20 minutes. As I shower, I am mindful and grateful for the clean, hot water that I can enjoy, knowing that so many others in the world do not have such luxury. I am mindful not to waste more water than I absolutely need, because I try to stay aware of my ecological impact upon the planet.

I prepare my coffee, again being grateful that I can. I pay attention to the liquid as I add it, the pouring of it into the cup and enjoying the scent from the steam. Paying attention to the tiniest of details can give one a better appreciation of everything about life, and indeed, make it a much richer experience.  It can bring you peace, and when you pay attention to how you fit with everything else around you, it can also grant a feeling of unity with the world. Pay attention to the world as it wakes up around you, with you; the heat and light of the rising sun, the songs of birds, the occasional barking dog, the scent of flowers, dew-laden grass and morning fog.

While sipping the coffee, appreciating the warmth of the cup in my hands, I quietly give thanks for another day stretching before me to fill with purpose. Being grateful for each day is a wonderful way to find peace and happiness. How you begin your day sets the tone for what follows and is an important cornerstone to staying centered. If you don’t like what happened yesterday, then realize that today is a brand new chance to start all over again. While you meditate (or simply sit in silence with your coffee or tea, quieting your mind) remind yourself that you are lucky and blessed to have another chance to live your best life. Today simply is. What you do with it, if it’s going to be a good day, is up to you. 🙂

Posted in Awareness, Gratitude, Health, Inspiration, Peace, Present, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Zen | 4 Comments

~ Last Call ~

This month’s theme at the BeZine is the Environment/Environmental Justice. On the 24th of September, we will be celebrating with 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC) to raise awareness and come together for this important cause. I hope you can join us!

moho_braccatus

Image borrowed from Wikipedia (Public Domain) “Adult and Juvenile Moho Braccatus”, also called The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō Bird.

A sweet, cheerful song no longer heard,

The species who sang it, now gone.

EXTINCT now labels this beautiful bird.

The O’o Bird’s sad story is done.

We’ve burnt all the trees and drained all the lakes,

Chasing the money, whatever it takes.

We’ve polluted the rivers and trashed all the seas,

Butchered the elephants, poisoned the bees.

We’ve strip-mined the mountains,

Fracked the stone, deep below.

Buried black tons of sludge

With that “clean” nuclear glow.

We keep building cities,

Crowding animals out,

Pour concrete slabs to dam rivers,

And then whine about drought.

We’ve been warned about Warming,

Money calls it a ‘hoax’.

But ALL the life on this planet

Pays the price of those ‘jokes’.

What will it take to change Mankind’s ways?

Can the world survive human beings’ greedy thrall?

Perhaps, like that bird, we’re in our last days…

And the Earth can recover once we’ve sung our last call.

~ C.L.R. ~ © 2016

 

Posted in Animal Rights, Animals, Awareness, Ecology, Environment, Food For Thought, Future, Life, Past Present and Future, Poetry, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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