Tag: Rev Terry Hershey

Misery Is Optional

Another guest essay from the old lamplighter.

It seems to me that it is so incredibly easy to be influenced, even engulfed, by bad news.

Back on the 20th I posted an item that had been sent to me by John Hurlburt, who is the old lamplighter, called Interstellar News.

Here’s another essay from John that is a great reminder of that old adage: We are what we think.

ooOOoo

Lost

Misery Is Optional

There’s always been a delicate balance in the struggle between growth and stagnation. The emerging universe invariably prevails. The good news is that absolutely insisting upon the denial of reality naturally backfires in the long run. Common sense has repeatedly saved our collective bacon from the fire as our species has faced former crises. The stakes have never been higher.

There’s a natural balance that runs through our relatively brief species history. Extreme cultural alternatives include plutocracy and anarchy. There’s no question that if we’re not an active supporter of an inclusive solution we contribute to our collective dissolution.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. There’s a current global analogy. Global media communications reflect hate, divisiveness and violence. The obvious truth is essentially ignored. A result is our present state of angst, paranoia and associated stress disorders. We compensate with bread and circuses.

Indifference doesn’t have to be a local reality. We’re all naturally connected in whatever we conceive of as God. We share a common soul. If we are wise we’ll act accordingly. We’ll accept our inherent responsibilities as stewards of Creation. The fulfilment of positive actions in according with the nature of our being is a blessing that keeps on giving.

an old lamplighter

ooOOoo

These are beautiful words and whatever one’s religious or spiritual convictions if we don’t recognise that we are all “naturally connected” then it won’t be long before we run out of bread and circuses – and deservedly so.

Going to close this post by using the following picture and quotation taken from the latest Terry Hershey newsletter.

Machado

Beyond living and dreaming
there is something more important: waking up.

Antonio Machado

Our thoughts make us human

Serendipity strikes again!

Recently I read a post from Val Boyco over on her delightful blog Find Your Middle Ground.  Her topic was about breathing. Here’s a flavour of her post:

I’ve written before about how our breath is connected with our wellbeing and emotional state. Noticing how we are breathing is a tool that we can use to monitor how we are doing.

There is another pause that comes with our breath which is also revealing. The pause at the end of the exhale before we take in more air. When we are distracted, stressed or in an anxious state, there is no pause. We don’t trust we have enough air and we don’t allow ourself to relax and let go.

Just take a moment to tune into how you are breathing right now. Just notice without judgment.

Pausing at the end of an exhale can only happen when we are relaxed and in tune with our mind and body. When our body and mind are aligned in the present moment.

I then left a reply in the comments section:

Excellent advice. For the last few weeks I have been using a biofeedback unit that through guiding one to breathe in harmony with a musical phrase allows one to slow the whole body down. Down to about 4.8 breaths per minute. It really underlines how slow one’s breathing rate can be and, supporting your post, the glorious pauses after each inhale and exhale.

And offered to write a post about the unit and my experiences. (Coming out tomorrow.)

However, what I wanted to do as a ‘lead-in’ to that post was to discover if there was any research into the benefits, as in scientific benefits, of slowing one’s body down in this fashion. What is surely nothing more than a form of meditation. Where to start looking? Needn’t have worried; there were many items on YouTube that covered the benefits of meditation.

There was a video from the AsapSCIENCE guys Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, but I found it too jazzy and irritating, rather ironically! Then there was one from physicist John Hagelin that seemed much more appropriate to my tastes (and that is featured tomorrow as well).

By now it was coming up to 4:30pm and I had a dozen other things to do, plus try and fit in a biofeedback session – I could feel the stress rising within me.

Then I dipped into Terry Hershey’s latest Sabbath Moment and, guess what! Here’s what I read:

Learning to let go

January 26, 2015

Hershey2

Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. Herman Hesse

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. John Allen Paulos

When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. Lynne Twist

——-

Today I am sitting in a café (and bar) in Vaison-la-Romaine, in the Provence region of France, nursing my espresso.

No, wait… that was last week.

It just sounds sexier than saying, “Today I’m looking out my window at a gloomy winter sky, here in the Pacific Northwest, with a Thesaurus in hand hoping for a gushing synonym for gray.”

Welcome home. Home for me is always awaited and valued, but still elicits a bout of scotoma (selective vision), where we end up comparing the life we have, for the “life we deserve” (the actual wording for a recent advertised e-course).

My favorite part of my recent France trip was visiting family run wineries, spending time with the owner / wine-maker, with the permission to linger, sensing a comfort grounded in story and connection. Said one (when we asked him about being a small winery–in a world where big is everything), “I am glad. I am not alone. I work with family.” (Referring to his son and three daughters.)
And it makes me wonder about this mental sleight of hand we use, thinking about the life we are destined for, as somehow different (or better) from the life we now we live.

There is a Tibetan story about an earnest young man seeking enlightenment. (Earnest people must think this quite unfair–since they play a central role in most parables and stories about enlightenment.)

A famous sage passes through the man’s village. The man asks the sage to teach him the art of meditation. The sage agrees. He tells the man, “Withdraw from the world. Mediate every day in the specific way I will teach you. Do not waver and you will attain enlightenment.”

The earnest man follows the sage’s instructions to the letter. Time passes — and no enlightenment. Two years, five, ten, twenty pass.

It happens that the sage once again passes through the man’s village. The man seeks him out, grumbling that despite his best intentions and devotion and diligent efforts, he does not achieve enlightenment. “Why?”
The sage asks, “What type of meditation did I teach you?”
The man tells him.
The sage says, “Oh, what a terrible mistake I made! That is not the right meditation for you. You should have done another kind altogether. Too bad, for now it is too late.”

Disconsolate, the man returns to his cave. Staking his life on the sage’s instructions, and now believing he is without hope, the man abandons all his wishes and efforts and need to control his road to enlightenment. He does not know what to do. So, he does what he knows best: he begins meditating. And in a short while, much to his astonishment, his confusion begins to dissolve, and his inner world comes to life. A weight falls away and he feels lighter, and regenerated. When he walks out of the cave, the sky is bluer, the snow capped mountains whiter, and the world around him more vivid.

There is no doubt that all too often, our efforts–to succeed or achieve or attain–get in the way of our living. It brings to mind my favorite Robert Capon quote, “We live life like ill-taught piano students. So inculcated with the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”

I understand. I was weaned on a spirituality that predicated itself on artifice. In other words, the importance is placed upon appearance, rather that just being. (It was vital to “look spiritual.” Which begs the question, “What do spiritual people look like?” As a boy, I always thought the “spiritual people” looked as if some part of their clothing was a size too small.)

What is it we are holding on to–so rigid, so firm, white-knuckled in our determination?
At some point, we’ve got to breathe.
Just breathe.
Without realizing it (and after the sage’s disheartening news), the man in the story “let go.”

He let go of the need to see life as a problem to be solved.
He let go of the need to have the correct answers (or experiences) for his “enlightenment.”
He let go of the need to see his spiritual life in terms of a formula.
He let go of the restraints that come from public opinion.

Abandon your masterpiece, sink into the real masterpiece. Leonard Cohen

Without realizing it, he took Leonard Cohen’s advice. He abandoned his “masterpiece”–the perception of what he needed to accomplish, or how he needed to appear, or what he needed to feel–in order to allow himself to sink down into this life, this moment, even with all of its uncertainty and insecurity.

For the first many years, meditation or prayer was a requirement or compulsion. In his emptiness, meditation and prayer was an offering of thanks, freely given, and without constraint. True spiritual enlightenment, it seems, happens when you are not trying to impress anyone, or score any points with heavenly bookkeepers.
It sounds easy doesn’t it?
But here’s the deal: My best intentions to play the right notes can fabricate an armor that keeps me from the vividness of life–whether it be to pray or meditate or notice or give or mourn or dance or play or grieve or laugh or celebrate or love… or just to walk.

I never did find a good enough synonym for the gray (although I’ll keep looking). Gladly, the sun has broken through. And there is enough warmth to persuade us that spring may arrive tomorrow. Daffodil shoots everywhere–up through the leaves and debris–help the ruse. So it’s garden time this afternoon, turning manure into the vegetable garden beds, beginning to cut back and clean some of the perennial beds. Enough work for the back to call a time out and request reprieve. I’m headed to the swing under the maple, when I look up to see the sun illuminating the red-twig dogwood shrubs, 10 foot canes glowing, a bright cranberry red. It catches my breath. And I am glad to be alive.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive… of the rapture of being alive. Joseph Campbell

Such power in those words. Then how moments later what I had read from Terry made so much sense to me. So perfectly connected with yesterday’s post Animals make us human. So relevant that quotation yesterday about animal happiness. This one:

Neuroscience key to animal happiness

…research in neuroscience has been showing that emotions drive behavior, and my thirty-five years of experience working with animals have shown me that this is true. Emotions come first. You have to go back to the brain to understand animal welfare.

Animals Make Us Human : Creating the best life for Animals

by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson

Such a close parallel with that well-known saying about us humans: ‘we are what we think‘. How our own happiness, just as it is with our animals, has its roots in our emotions.

How letting go, how staying in the present, is so good for us. How dogs do that so perfectly.

How we humans have so much to learn from our dogs.

Pure, deep peace radiating out from Hazel's loving eyes.
Pure, deep peace radiating out from Hazel’s loving eyes.

 

Yet life is what we make of it!

Events!

Perhaps the fundamental reason why I am so hooked on this world of blogging is because there are always wonderful surprises.  What do I mean by this?

Yesterday’s post, Sometimes the world seems very strange was a rather bleak affair. I had been affected by, and reported, a couple of items read elsewhere that seemed to me, in a rather dark and miserable way, to highlight what is wrong with our so-called modern society. Perhaps, no more clearly expressed than in my reply to a comment left by Sue Dreamwalker.

Here is what Sue said, and how I replied.

I agree with what Alex has to say… The super rich live in a totally different reality… Have no clues on the real structure of how their wealth is being created often on the backs of the poor. Who are squeezed ever tighter at every conceivable way of extracting more in the form of taxes, both on incomes and on everything else..

Change will come but what frightens you Paul is that when it does come it will come swiftly.. We have seen the social unrest in other nations… What is happening in many countries is the injustices and discriminations which are getting ordinary peoples backs up..

Stupid Gun Laws to teach children how to handle weapons..

Yes Paul sometimes the world is very Strange.. and also Very Stupid!..

Thank you and wishing you and Jean a lovely week
Sue

oooo

Sue, a wonderful reply from you. Thank you. What I find so strange is this. That here I am, turned 70-years-old, having enjoyed a fabulously interesting life, full of variety and opportunities. That, to some small degree, I believe I have a better, albeit still partial, sense of how we humans tick than, say, 20 years ago. How our lives fundamentally revolve around our relationships, with the most important one being our relationship with ourself and, flowing from that, some understanding of who we are!

Yet, (and you knew there was a ‘yet’ coming, didn’t you!) beyond the very small world of loved ones, family and close friends (and I count blogging friends in that last category) the world around me becomes more strange, more remote, more alien almost on a week-by-week basis.

I was born in the middle of London six months to the day of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Those first six months would have been unrecognisable to the later world I grew up in, and got to know. My fear is that I will spend the last six months of my life in a world that is similarly unrecognisable from the world I thought I knew.

Thank my lucky stars for a wonderful, loving woman in my life and for so many fabulous doggie friends.

Sue, apologies, I went on a tad – nay, a tad and a half!

Fondest love to you and your Hubby.

Paul

I think that makes it pretty clear what my mood was like yesterday morning.

Jean and I were out from 9am until 12:30 pm and it was coming up to 3pm when I sat down in front of my PC. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue as to what to write and still felt pretty miserable about the ‘strange world’.

However, one of the first things that I saw in my ‘in-box’ was the weekly email from the Rev. Terry Hershey. Here is how his email opened up:

Live deeply and deliberately

January 12, 2015

Hershey

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” Pema Chodron

“On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love,
and on his left hand was the word fear,
And in which hand he held his fate was never clear.”
Bruce Springsteen: “Cautious Man

To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” Wow! Did that ‘speak’ to me or what!

Then the very next item in my ‘in-box’ was a note that “Deaf Duke is now following Learning from Dogs“. I try and make it across to every new follower of this blog and thank them for their support.  Seems the least I should do.

So it was with ‘Deaf Duke’. But I have to quietly admit that before clicking on the link I found myself wondering just what Deaf Duke was.

Then I went across to their place and was uplifted; hugely so!  Because Deaf Duke is the name of a blog that … well in their words ….

Duke

About

Deaf Duke is an American Bulldog mix that my boyfriend (Tyler) and I got just after the Fourth of July this year. He was only 6.5 weeks old when we got him so he had some issues to begin with. When he was about 6 months old we decided to take him to a trainer, we thought he was a bad dog because he would never listen to us, we soon found out that he was becoming deaf. He wasn’t a bad dog he just couldn’t hear us. Our lives changed a lot from that moment on. Everyone says that training a deaf dog is no harder than training a dog that can hear, which is true on so many levels but they never talk about how difficult it can be for the owners who are primarily vocal beings. This blog is about the upbringing and stories about Duke and his life.

Here’s a post from Deaf Duke from last December.

Skinny Boy

SB1

When we got Duke at 6.5 weeks old he was very under weight. Finding out that he was deaf could explain why he was. Deaf dogs generally don’t wake up for feedings because they cannot hear when the other puppies in the litter are eating. Duke is now a healthy and happy 7 month old boy learning just like his parents are to train him and us.

SB2

So thank you Terry, and thank you Duke and your Mum and Dad, for reminding me that life is utterly and whole-heartedly what we make of it!

Onwards and upwards!

The book! Part Five: Stillness

The last quality that I want to write about, as in the last quality that I see in our dogs that we humans should learn, is about stillness. There was a very deliberate reason to make it the last one. But, if you will forgive me, I’m not going to explain why until near the end.

Stillness! The dog is the master of being still. Being still, either from just laying quietly watching the world go by, so to speak, or being still from being fast asleep. The ease at which they can find a space on a settee, a carpeted corner of a room, the covers of a made-up bed, and stretch out and be still, simply beggars belief. Dogs offer us humans the most wonderful quality of stillness that we should all practice. Dogs reveal their wonderful relationship with stillness.

In the August of 2014, TED Talks published a talk by Pico Iyer. Despite the uncommon name, Pico Iyer was not a person I had heard of before. A quick search revealed that he was a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian origin. Apparently, Pico is the author of a number of books on crossing cultures and has been an essayist for Time Magazine since 1986. Pico Iyer’s TED Talk was called: The art of stillness.

It was utterly riveting. In a little over fifteen minutes, Pico’s talk touched on something that so many of us feel, probably even yearn for: the need for space and stillness in our minds. Stillness to offset the increasingly excessive movement and distractions of our modern world. Or to use Pico’s words:”Almost everybody I know has this sense of overdosing on information and getting dizzy living at post-human speeds.

Now Pico has clearly been a great traveller and the list of countries and places he has visited was impressive. From Kyoto to Tibet, from Cuba to North Korea, from Bhutan to Easter Island; a man having grown up both being a part of, and yet apart from, the English, American and Indian cultures. Yet of all the places this man has been to he tops them all with what he discovers in stillness: “… that going nowhere was at least as exciting as going to Tibet or to Cuba.

Here are Pico Iyer’s own words from that TED Talk. Firstly:

And by going nowhere, I mean nothing more intimidating than taking a few minutes out of every day or a few days out of every season, or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life in order to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most, to recall where your truest happiness lies and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.

Then a few moments later, him saying:

And of course, this is what wise beings through the centuries from every tradition have been telling us. It’s an old idea. More than 2,000 years ago, the Stoics were reminding us it’s not our experience that makes our lives, it’s what we do with it.
….
And this has certainly been my experience as a traveler. Twenty-four years ago I took the most mind-bending trip across North Korea. But the trip lasted a few days. What I’ve done with it sitting still, going back to it in my head, trying to understand it, finding a place for it in my thinking, that’s lasted 24 years already and will probably last a lifetime. The trip, in other words, gave me some amazing sights, but it’s only sitting still that allows me to turn those into lasting insights. And I sometimes think that so much of our life takes place inside our heads, in memory or imagination or interpretation or speculation, that if I really want to change my life I might best begin by changing my mind.

Emails, ‘smartphones’, telephone handsets all around the house, television, junk mail on an almost daily basis, advertising in all its many forms, always lists of things to do; and on and on. It’s as if in this modern life, with the so many wonderful ways of doing stuff, connecting, being entertained, and more, that we have forgotten how to do the most basic and fundamental of things: Nothing! It’s as if so many of us have lost sight of the greatest luxury of all: immersing ourselves in that empty space of doing nothing.

Thus it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that more and more people are taking conscious and deliberate measures to open up a space inside their lives. Whether it is something as simple as listening to some music just before they go to sleep, because those that do notice that they sleep much better and wake up much refreshed, or taking technology ‘holidays’ during the week, or attending Yoga classes or enrolling on a course to learn Transcendental Meditation, there is a growing awareness that something in us is crying out for the sense of intimacy and depth that we get from people who take the time and trouble to sit still, to go nowhere.

Even science supports the benefits of slowing down the brain. In an article[1] posted on the Big Think blogsite, author Steven Kottler explains what are called ‘flow states’: “a person in flow obtains the ability to keenly hone their focus on the task at hand so that everything else disappears.

Elaborating in the next paragraph, as follows:

“So our sense of self, our sense of self-consciousness, they vanish. Time dilates which means sometimes it slows down. You get that freeze frame effect familiar to any of you who have seen The Matrix or been in a car crash. Sometimes it speeds up and five hours will pass by in like five minutes. And throughout all aspects of performance, mental and physical, go through the roof.”

The part of our brain known as the prefrontal cortex houses our higher cognitive functions such as our sense of morality, our sense of will, and our sense of self. It is also that part of our brain that calculates time. When we experience flow states or what is technically known as ‘transient hypofrontality’, we lose track of time, lose our grip on assessing the past, present, and future. As Kotler explains it, “we’re plunged into what researchers call the deep now.

Steven Kotler then goes on to say:

“So what causes transient hypofrontality? It was once assumed that flow states are an affliction reserved only for schizophrenics and drug addicts, but in the early 2000s a researcher named Aaron Dietrich realized that transient hypofrontality underpins every altered state — from dreaming to mindfulness to psychedelic trips and everything in between. Sometimes these altered states involve other parts of the brain shutting down. For example, when the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex disconnects, your sense of self-doubt and the brain’s inner critic get silenced. This results in boosted states of confidence and creativity.”

Don’t worry about the technical terms, just go back and re-read those last two sentences, “For example, when the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex disconnects, your sense of self-doubt and the brain’s inner critic get silenced. This results in boosted states of confidence and creativity.”

All from stillness!

Back to Pico Iyer’s talk and his concluding words:

So, in an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still. So you can go on your next vacation to Paris or Hawaii, or New Orleans; I bet you’ll have a wonderful time. But, if you want to come back home alive and full of fresh hope, in love with the world, I think you might want to try considering going nowhere. Thank you.

At the start of this chapter, I mentioned that I would leave it until the end to explain why I deliberately made this one on stillness the last one in the series of dog qualities we humans have to learn.

Here’s why. For the fundamental reason that it is only through the stillness of mind, the stillness of mind that we so beautifully experience when we hug our dog, or close our eyes and bury our face in our dog’s warm fur; it is that stillness of mind, that like any profound spiritual experience, that has the power to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy.

The power of overcoming negative minds and cultivating constructive thoughts, of experiencing transforming meditations is right next to us in the souls of our dogs.

Sanctuary is where you go to cherish your life. It’s where you practice being present. And it may not be that many steps from where you are, right now.” The Rev. Terry Hershey.

1,523 words. Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

[1] http://bigthink.com/think-tank/steven-kotler-flow-states

And we’re back!

My internet connection was restored late yesterday afternoon.

Thus, inevitably, the weight of my ‘in-box’ prevented quiet writing times.

So for today’s post I’m going to do no more than republish an extract from a recent Terry Hershey mailing.  I have included items from Terry before but for those new to him, do pop across to his website and catch up on what he writes.  To give you a flavour of what you may find, this is from his home page.

TERRY HERSHEY is an inspirational speaker, humorist, author, organizational consultant and designer of sanctuary gardens who has been featured on The Hallmark Channel, CNN, PBS, and NPR. Terry holds a mirror up to our fast-forward, disconnected lives, and offers us the power of pause—the wisdom of slowing down and the permission to take an intentional Sabbath moment to regain emotional and spiritual balance… to find the sacred in every single day.

I’m sure that touches many people in these interesting times.

So on to Terry’s item.  Written in Terry’s voice.

ooOOoo

Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coal-mouse (a small bird) asked a wild dove.

Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.

In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coal-mouse said.

I sat on a fir branch, close to its trunk, when it began to snow–not heavily, not in a raging blizzard–no, just like in a dream, without a wind, without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say, the branch broke off.

Having said that, the coal-mouse flew away.

You see, it takes just one snowflake to make a difference.

Just one.

Every once in a while we are all pestered by the question, “Does what I do, or give, or offer, make any difference? Does it mean anything?” Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make me wonder.

It’s been an odd week for me, six states in ten days (close to two thousand miles, not one on an airplane). Translation: I spent a boatload of time in a rental car, with a boatload of time to cogitate.

My week began in Northern Indiana (Victory Noll Retreat Center, Huntington), the landscape an endless horizon of cornfields, still unharvested, the stalks acorn brown. I pointed my rental car north, toward Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, drinking in the progression of autumn color along the way toward Lake Superior. I had time with my Father. We began each day with breakfast at deer camp (his home-away-from-home, heated with an antique wood-stove/oven), an ATV ride from his house into the woodland, and only a stone’s throw from the Ottawa National Forest. (I will concede that this menu is neither found nor endorsed by any diet book.) After a few days, like the flocks of Canadian geese who escorted me on the way, my rental car headed back south, down through Wisconsin (passing on the temptation to buy cheese trinkets) and to a reunion dinner with a friend in Chicago. Again through Indiana, this time in a driving rainstorm–a heavenly show and tell — with thunder and lightning, and the night sky erupting with a rippling light spectacle. On to my weekend in Cincinnati (Transfiguration Retreat Center) where we talked about living our days from sufficiency instead of scarcity.

In case I wasn’t clear, I’m not an enthusiast for road trips, so I confess that my attitude is dictated by an agenda — an impatience to cross another state line, and cross another milestone off the list.

No, it’s not easy to savor the scenery when you have an agenda.

And yes, I don’t always practice what I preach.

Which means that surprises are nice. Like the view from Brockway Mountain Drive, above Copper Harbor Michigan; below a sea of autumn color framed to the north by Lake Superior’s cobalt blue.

I discover that driving long distances creates an ideal container for musing, which, somehow, in a rainstorm deluge, morphs into existential angst, questioning everything about life and the pursuit of happiness; an opportunity to weigh and measure, and find some reason why I’ve come up short on this road toward success. Lord help us and down the rabbit hole we go … So, just before the precipice of self-pity, I crank up my friend Bruce, and sing along; This Little Light of Mine, and smile, and laugh out loud.

Have you ever asked yourself the same question: Do I make a difference?

I have found that this question messes with me only when I assume that something is missing from my life. Or that I need to prove something to someone. And it doesn’t help that we live in a culture that assumes “enough is never enough.” (Only insuring that we will respond to the question with an even more frenzied lifestyle.)

In the airport before returning home to Seattle today, this question about making a difference still dogs me, so I peruse an airport bookshop. One book offers inner peace, another balance, another wealth, another a renewed sense of urgency, and yet another some comprehension about life’s most pressing questions. The variety made it awfully difficult to choose, so I settled for a bag of Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate. That seemed to help.

In the Gospel of Luke, a 12 or 13-year-old girl is given an extraordinary assignment. Her response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

In essence, Mary said to the angel, “I am willing to be one snowflake.

I am willing to do what I can, with what I have been given, with a full, grateful and willing heart.
I am willing to not worry about the outcome.
I am willing not to worry about what people think or say, or how it will be measured in the court of public opinion.
I am willing to literally, let it be.

So, why am I afraid to let this be enough?

To know that, even as a single snowflake, there is enough. In fact, there is abundance. The retreat group this weekend reminded me of this truth, and I gladly sent them forth, to know that one touch means the world.

You may doubt it if you wish. But know this, you still make a difference.

On the ferry ride home tonight, the sun is setting beyond the Olympic Mountain range. Back-lit, the entire range is art done in charcoal. And to the south, the moon–a day or two shy of full–shines down on Tacoma harbor. I breathe in the night air.

The scene is exquisite.

It is perfection.

Which takes me back to snowflakes.

The moon, after all, is just being the moon.

Here’s the deal: the journey to wholeness it not about me becoming something I am not. The journey toward wholeness is about reflecting what is already there. Inside.

It is about snowflakes, and making a difference by just being you.

ooOOoo

Do you recall Terry writing of singing aloud the Bruce Springsteen song This little light of mine? Here it is.

Wherever you are in the world, have a wonderful weekend, and if you have a dog or two in your life reflect on the example of wholeness that dogs offer us.

The coming new year!

Be warned, one of my more reflective muses!

Tomorrow is the last day of the year 2011.

For reasons that I am not clear about, there is a mood of pessimism about my person.  Whether it is the scale of global issues that I see ahead that drags me down, whether the year of an American Presidential election will remind me of the loss of reason that afflicts so many modern democracies, whether the messages in Kunstler’s book The Long Emergency still resonate in my mind well, who knows?

But when one does look at the broader picture of modern society, there is much that troubles.

So forgive me if I provide a couple of examples of these troubles.  I do so on the grounds of communication – the more that understand the risks ahead of us, the more likely we, as in the peoples of this planet, will say to our leaders, “Enough of this!  For the sake of my children, my grandchildren and all of humanity we have to change our priorities, and soon!”

Here’s my first example.

The US National Resources Defense Council recently published an item about severe weather including an interactive Extreme Weather Map, introduced thus,

Climate change increases the risk of record-breaking extreme weather events that threaten communities across the country. In 2011, there were at least 2,941 monthly weather records broken by extreme events that struck communities in the US.

That was backed up by an article on the Onearth website that opened,

By many measures, 2011 was the most extreme weather year for the United States since reliable record-keeping began in the 19th century — and the costs have been enormous. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2011 set a record for the most billion-dollar disasters in a single year. There were 12, breaking the old record of nine set in 2009. The aggregate damage from these 12 events totals at least $52 billion, NOAA found.

And that just for the USA.  But will climate change be the Number One political issue in 2012?  And if not in 2012, when will it be?

Let me move on to my second example, very different from the one above but, in a sense, just as scary.  This is an interview that was in a recent article on the Food Freedom website ( brilliant website, by the way).  Dr. Joseph Mercola, the leading natural health practitioner, interviews Dr. Don M. Huber, one of the senior scientists in the U.S about the area of science that relates to genetically modified organisms (GMO). Here’s an extract from the article on Food Freedom,

Toxic botulism in animals linked to RoundUp

Dr Mercola recently interviewed Dr Don Huber, whose letter to the USDA warning that Monsanto’s RoundUp, a broad-spectrum “herbicide” that has been linked with spontaneous abortion in animals, continues to be ignored by food and environmental safety authorities. In this important hour-long discussion, Huber, a plant pathologist for over 50 years, explains how RoundUp is destroying our healthy soils by killing needed microorganisms.

Not only did his team discover a new soil pathogen, but he reports that animals are coming down with over 40 new diseases, like toxic botulism. Huber explains that before the widespread use of herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified food and feed, natural probiota would have kept Clostridium botulinum in check

The video, below, of the interview is included in the article.  Please don’t be put off by the length, the material covered is riveting and critical to our general knowledge about the threats to our society.

So that’s enough from me for one day!  On Monday, I shall include another video relating to the RoundUp issue that reveals, both directly and metaphorically, how the only solution to pessimism is to embrace the need to make change happen.  Be inspired by this poem by Sam Keen, included in the latest Sabbath Moment from Terry Hershey,

I Want to Surrender

God, I want to surrender
to the rhythm of music and sea,
to the seasons of ebb and flow,
to the tidal surge of love.

I am tired of being hard,
tight, controlled,
tensed against tenderness,
afraid of softness.
I am tired of directing my world,
making, doing, shaping.

Tension is ecstasy in chains.
The muscles are tightened to prevent trembling.
Nerves strain to prevent trust,
hope, relaxation….

Surrender is a risk no sane man may take.
Sanity never surrendered
is a burden no man may carry.

God give me madness
that does not destroy
wisdom,
responsibility,
love.

Sam Keen

Present perfect!

Probably the best lesson dogs offer their human companions.

Having surfaced recently from being completely immersed in the writings of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake’s book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (start here and work backwards if you missed my musings on Sheldrake) I used the recent flight across to London to start into the book by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson Dogs Never Lie About Love.

Masson's book

While I might disagree with some minor aspects of the way that dogs relate to humans, the essential premise of the book is very powerful.

Indeed, the very last sentence of Chapter 2, Why We Cherish Dogs reads as follows:

Questers of the truth, that’s who dogs are; seekers after the invisible scent of another’s authentic core.

For me, any attempt to seek our own ‘authentic core’ can only come from understanding the power of remaining in the present.  Dogs do this so naturally and instinctively.  As Masson writes a little earlier in the above chapter,

A dog does not tremble at the thought of his own mortality; I doubt if a dog ever thinks about a time when he will no longer be alive.  So when we are with a dog, we, too, enter a kind of timeless realm, where the future becomes irrelevant.

One could almost imagine this being the ancient wisdom of the teachings of Buddha!

Anyway, in a rather serendipitous manner, just before starting this essay, I read my weekly News and Notes from Terry Hershey.  This is what he wrote about being in the present.

Did you see Mr. Holland’s Opus? About Glenn Holland’s lifetime of teaching music to a high school band. In one scene he is giving a private lesson to Gertrude. She is playing clarinet, making noises that can only be described as other-worldly. He is clearly frustrated. As is she. Finally Mr. Holland says, “Let me ask you a question. When you look in the mirror what do you like best about yourself?”

“My hair,” says Gertrude.

“Why?”

“Well, my father always says that it reminds him of the sunset.”

After a pause, Mr. Holland says, “Okay.  Close your eyes this time. And play the sunset.”

And from her clarinet? Music. Sweet music.

Sometime today, I invite you to set aside the manual, or the list, or the prescription.

Take a Sabbath moment. . . close your eyes and play the sunset.

Mary Oliver describes such a moment this way, “. . .a seizure of happiness. Time seemed to vanish. Urgency vanished.”

Because, in such a moment, we are in, quite literally, a State of Grace.  In other words, what we experience here is not as a means to anything else.

If I am to focused on evaluating, I cannot bask in the moment.

If I am measuring and weighing, I cannot marvel at little miracles.

If I am anticipating a payoff, I cannot give thanks for simple pleasures.

If I am feeling guilty about not hearing or living the music, I cannot luxuriate in the wonders of the day.

Living in the present is not specifically mentioned but how else could one interpret these beautiful concepts.