A Gentler Way to Heal

Sometimes a disease may find its way into our life. When it does, the intended cure or treatment may be more painful that the disease itself. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a gentler way to heal?

I am not naive enough to think that all of our experiences with a disease can be easily cured, if at all. I know they can’t.

And even though there may be several treatment options, they might all fail.

What is our resort then?

Its asking a lot, but might it be worth it to try to shift our perspective. Perhaps we could take a deeper look.

Several years ago I wrote the first book in the Little Buddha series. Its the story of a young girl (Claire) who becomes a mentor to a man (Sam) who has been searching his whole life for illusive answers to his questions. He struggles with the idea that she could possibly be wise enough to share the wisdom he seeks, yet something within him opens and allows her in.

She offers him insights, not only to the mysteries of the world, but to his own inner life. Most of them come as a result of the assignments she gives him to complete. In the second chapter of the first book, Sam has been been searching for her without any success, until one day when he sees her lying in a chair in her front yard. He immediately knows she is not well. His worry propels him forward and a conversation follows.

Sam wants to know if there is anything he can do for her. Claire attempts to reassure Sam that although her body is not in harmony, her spirit is alive and well and that Michael is helping her. Sam does not understand her statement and wants to know who Micheal is. Claire explains that he is many things. He is her cousin, but also a ‘lightgiver’, who is one who knows a lot about the ‘light’, or what others would call ‘life’. She goes on to explain that Michael came to show her another way to understand wellness, a better, a gentler way.

Sam asks what Claire means by a better way.

Claire responds, “Well, my doctor says that I must fight and never give up and never give in. But Michael says there is another way. He says that everything we think, feel and say is either from love or from fear. He says that fear is not real. It is there for us to push against and to point the way toward love. It is our choice. So, if we choose to fight our condition, like my sickness, we are feeding it fear and this always creates conflict. And when your energy is already low, any kind of fighting works against you. Michael says that when you are sick and you are forced to slow down, if you can look, you can see things as they are. This can be an enormous gift, because when you look closely at things it can change your perspective and allow you to see the ‘dots’ so they become meaningful to you. Michael says that love is the key, not always easy, but always right. Love creates harmony in the body and in life. He says, the ‘light’ is filled with love. He works with me so that I see how my life is about ‘connecting the dots’ with love.”

Sam is perplexed and requests more of an explanation from Claire. As she often does, she asks Sam to share a meaningful and challenging event from his life. As he does, it becomes clear to him that each decision he made was connected to the one before and the one after. He also learns that labeling each outcome as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ made it harder for him to understand what was happening. Through the process, he discovered that fear, rather than being something to avoid, was actually a beautiful messenger, meant to lead him toward the light, toward love.

Sam gains valuable insight and starts to rearrange his view of the world. He comes to understand that Claire sees her disease not as a punishment, or a trial to be endured or a battle to be won. She places herself in the middle of it all and allows fear to have a voice and to help guide her toward ‘the light’. She acknowledges that her body is not in harmony, but allows her spirit to soar. She steps aside and looks at each moment seeing their connection and embraces the love she finds, using it to return to wellness.

You could see all of this as a gross oversimplification or a scenario unlikely to produce real results. That’s certainly one choice.

And perhaps I would agree with you, had I not had numerous occasions to see how this actually worked in my life. Being able to connect the dots, releasing any strength I’d assigned to good and bad labels, allowing fear to be a trustworthy guide and knowing that everything points toward love has changed my life.

And if you wish to see the connection between dots, I hope that it brings clarity into your life and a gentle wellness into your being.

Acceptance

I have very good friends whose points of view on a variety of subjects are radically different from mine. I wonder, how this can be?

Whether it’s politics, religion, sports, food preferences, child rearing decisions, you name it, the disparity can be significant. Any one of these topics could be the source of a major argument, and there comes a time when we have to ‘agree to disagree’ and move on to another topic.

Maybe you experience this same situation with some of your friends and family members.

Part of me is always interested in how things like this come about. Try as I might, the answers elude me. We’re each a product of so many influences, that it would likely be impossible to unwind things enough to discover the source, even if we tried.

A curious question arises for me. What allows us to continue to be friends, in light of the disparity in our points of view?  

My answer is simple. There is a greater love between us than there is a sense of divide. We relinquish ‘rightness’ in trade for ‘harmony’. Somehow, we are able to allow each other latitude, because down deep we have formed a stronger bond than anything we disagree about. To me, this is certainly a case where love overcomes.

But, there are of course, folks I disagree with and whose moral compass and opinions serve to separate us and the gap between us can seem monumental.

Looking at the world today, it appears present everywhere, that our various points of view are widening and causing major challenges, resulting in violence and revealing deep seated fears. I have little doubt this has always been the case, but with our abundant social media platforms, we hear so much more about it.

No matter which side you lean toward, it seems everyone senses a measure of discomfort.

So, what to do?

It feels like the truth to me that we know by now that, ‘the fangs first approach’, will not heal the world. When we allow our fears to lead the way with visceral reactions, they create a predictable defensive outcome, the return of barb for barb. It’s highly unlikely that this will ever produce any real answers.

I believe things will change only when our love is greater than our fear.

Fear thrives on maintaining set ideas and an avoidance of anything new. Fear needs to be listened to and allowed to have its say.

I believe there needs to be a search for a true understanding. We have to be willing to suspend our own beliefs, in order to ask questions and listen carefully to the perspectives of others. We need to be open to hearing their answers, with an eye toward resolution.

This is a tall order, no doubt about it.

It seems like the fundamental question is whether the love that is within each of us can rise to the surface and accept another human being the way they are? Can we give them an opportunity to express their concerns, so that we hear them, before we express our own? Can we see if it is possible to find common ground first, then build on that toward a better future?

I am not always successful in doing this and sometimes I fail miserably. When this happens, I try to recognize that I’ve fallen into old patterns and awaken myself to a better path. I try to release fear and summon love, because it’s the only way to live the life I want to experience here.

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More Forgiveness

Perhaps you’ve witnessed the same thing I have.

At times I’ve seen a wonderful relationship between two people come apart at the seams. The glue suddenly melts away, because of something said or left unsaid. Hearts become hardened and everyone loses something important. And always, there is a loss of the connection to love.

In 1990, I wrote a series of stories which became my first book. The title of the book is, Witness of the Heart, and it’s very precious to me. It’s the first experience I had where I felt (god) was writing with me. And, writing it was my way of speaking what felt like the truth to me and of saying what my heart yearned to tell others. Doing this released something that was wrapped up inside me. It was incredibly liberating.

Once the story was down on paper, everyone else could make up their own mind about its value. But, at least it was there.

Here is the story that came to me about the experience of forgiveness.

many things have a beginning

but most do not,

they just continue.

they include

some of what has been

and reach for what will be.

some things

we seem a part of

others

leave us outside

it is that way.

but,

we strive to always

be within

even at the center

and this causes each of us pain.

once,

we saw

how two lost sight of this.

they hadn’t meant for the fight to happen

but neither could they stop it

once it had begun.

and it hardened each of them

and they would not speak

nor look at one another.

and time did not heal them.

a season passed

and another

until it became more and

more difficult to remember

what had split them.

but this did not change

their resolve

instead their bitterness grew.

and another season

came and went

and to their shame

nothing changed.

and as it happens

some are strong

others weak

and one of them

slowed

and became sick.

the other saw

but could do nothing

for their hardness

kept them away.

and sliding from this life

the one who was sick

called for the one who was well.

and the well one came

and their eyes met

and as it has the power to do

sickness allowed a bridging.

and they overcame

their distance

and held each other’s hand.

while they sat together

the sick one formed

“I’m sorry”

on his lips

and the well one saw

and wept.

and in that moment

each realized what burdens

you carry

when you can not forgive.

and how it lessens you

and closes you

and keeps you from the

fullness of life.

It strikes me that there is an anatomy to forgiveness.

At first, a seed is planted. We let what is said or done enter some part of us that keeps track of all things. Our reaction may happen through a thought or feeling, but some part of us has taken it personally. A remark or action has challenged us or forced us outside our comfort zone and we feel the need to defend ourselves or to attack others.

I wonder, what if we didn’t take anything personally? What if we allowed everything to flow through us, not bothering to hold anything inside, especially those things which seem to hurt?

The Toltec wisdom tradition teaches this as one of its four cornerstones. They recognize the incredible merit to understanding that what is said or done to you by another, is solely about them. None of it is about you, unless of course, you choose to believe that it is.

I grant you that this is a skill that requires practice.

The question, as always is, is the practice worth it?

That’s a decision we each must make for ourselves. I hope what you choose creates peace and harmony in your life.

Information about Witness of the Heart is available by clicking on BOOKS and scrolling down.

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Forgiveness

I’ve spoken with a lot of people over my sixty-eight years. One of the most common themes I’ve heard is the sense folks have of being out of balance. Things are going along nicely and then, poof, something happens to change them.

Often, as the stories unfold, a disagreement has occurred. Sometimes it’s small or seemingly insignificant. But, at times, the issue creates a major flare up. And when a resolution to the issue doesn’t happen quickly, everything can unravel.

When each side feels that their opinion is worth more and that they should not have to give in, a distance occurs. Closing this gap and restoring harmony requires a degree of openness, a willingness to listen and a belief that common ground can be found.

Forgiveness can become the key, allowing each person to release the thought that there is only one right path. Hearts can be opened to see other directions so that new possibilities can become visible.

I want to offer two consecutive posts about forgiveness because I feel it is so important.

Many years ago, a friend of mine was having an extraordinarily difficult time forgiving an important person in their life. They asked me if I had any suggestions. My response to them came by way of a story. And, this story became the first chapter in my Little Buddha book series.

A man, Sam, asks Claire, a young six-year-old girl he’s met on the beach if she can help him understand how to forgive others. She’s shown her wisdom to him, enough so that he feels he can risk asking her this.

This is her response to him.

 “Imagine (pointing to the pail beside her) that my bucket is you. It’s everything you think and feel and experience during your life. Imagine that everything that is within you- YOU chose to put there. Nothing got in without your choosing. Nothing. Whether conscious or not, every thought, feeling, idea, reaction and prejudice. Every cruel word, every kind gesture, every act of faith, every indifference, everything. Imagine that each of these things takes up space, just like the grains of sand in my bucket. Once it’s full it’s very hard to find any space for anything, no matter how valuable or important. There are ways you can empty part of your bucket if you choose. One way is forgiveness. But first you have to imagine one more thing. Can you imagine that everyone else here is just like you? They’ve lived their lives filling their buckets and sometimes they don’t have any space left either. They’re doing the best they can with what weighs them down. In their hearts, they too wish to be free and to have open space to experience more of the beautiful things in life. But they too don’t know how. They probably sense it, dream about it and desperately want it just like you do. This is very important to know. To forgive anyone anything, requires YOU make a conscious choice. No one else can do it for you.” She eyed (Sam) carefully, “now bring to mind something which begs forgiveness. Feel the space it holds within you. The weight of it, the size, color and dimension. Imagine knowing it needn’t exist and that you can fill its space with something beautiful. Now, close your eyes. Welcome it in. Let it rest in front of you. Believe that it has served its full purpose for you, but does so no longer. Look inside your heart and allow love and compassion to open within. Breathe easily. Smile for a moment. Know that no matter what, this decision is up to you and no one else. Picture your love and compassion surrounding you and the focus of your forgiveness. Now, allow it to fade and fade and fade until it disappears. Breathe and feel the space inside you open. Feel the sunshine enter you and the air move around you. Listen for the sound of your own being. Sense the room created inside of you, now open for that which does serve you. For beauty. For wholeness.”

More to come.

Information about Little Buddha Book One, Two and Three is available by clicking on BOOKS and scrolling down.

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More Balance

I love trees. I have for as long as I can remember. They’re beautiful and they’ve shared many truths with me.

Recently I was gazing at a tree that sits between our neighbor’s house and ours. It has such gorgeous leaves, which have mostly turned various shades of orange. Some of them seem to glow, like they are electrified.

I noticed that the leaves closest to the trunk were still green and very healthy, while the ones furthest away, were the most colorful and vibrant. They were also the ones that were first to fall off.

And, for some reason, I thought about the hara line. I wondered if every living thing has its own hara line. Surely, if this concept is true, it would apply to a tree, with its roots sunk deeply into the earth and its branches reaching far up into the sky.

I looked at the tree’s trunk, firm, straight and incredibly strong. I watched as the wind played with its branches, moving them all around, while the trunk remained firm and solid and unmoved.

I wondered, how does the tree maintain its balance throughout the seasons. I wondered too, whether the tree was trying to silently teach me what it knows to be the truth.

It certainly felt that way.

So, I opened my awareness and let its message pour over me. As is so often the case, its wisdom came in the form of questions.

It asked me, what nourishes you? What fortifies you? What inspires you?

Wonderful questions and clearly meant to connect me with a greater sense of balance within myself.

One of my favorite experiences is to attend workshops at Kripalu, a retreat center about forty-five minutes away from me. On one occasion I drew a picture of a tree, complete with roots, trunk and branches. Along each one of the roots, I wrote the name of something that nourished me. Then, I noted on some of the branches those things which I hoped to accomplish in my life.

I realize now that what I choose as nourishing sources matters a great deal to my sense of balance and harmony in this world. The more sources I choose and the deeper they connect me, the more firmly I feel rooted.

I see too, that what I chose to believe about myself, either keeps me growing straight and tall or bends me, forcing me into wayward directions. Directions that keep me distant from what I say I want to experience while I’m here.

The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful.

And, just as important as what feeds me and helps me grow, is what inspires me. I want to reach toward the sky and feel the strongest sunshine on my face. I want to live with infinite possibilities all around me, ready for me to call their names.

And so I wonder, what nourishes, fortifies and inspires you? If you feel like sharing, let me know.

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