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Posts from the ‘living’ Category

Judgement vs Right Perception

Today I had an interesting conversation with students around the idea of judgement and acceptance. The conversation evoked inquiry, and ultimately a renewed clarity for me, and I hope for others as well.

In spiritual communities, judgement is sometimes misperceived as bad, especially in light of ideas like acceptance and kindness. However, judgements are neither good nor bad. They are simply a facet of the thinking mind. They may have some information to relay, often about the person judging, rather than the object or person that is being judged. If we allow it to be, without suppressing or reacting from it, we can come into greater clarity and alignment with life. This allowing is the essence of accepting.

Acceptance does not mean we submit to life all the time, nor that we tolerate disrespect or abuse. It simply means that in this moment, I surrender to what is. This surrendering is not one of resignation. It is alert and awake. It is feeling and sensing. Through this, there is the potential to come into clear relationship with life. In time, we may open into ‘right’ perception, ‘right’ words, and even ‘right’ action when Life is calling for it.

My use of ‘right’ has no opposite. This ‘right’ does not make anyone or any other opinion wrong. It simply states what feels true; what brings me into alignment and harmony with life. When this truth calls for us to say ‘no’ to something, as Eckhart Tolle describes, it will be a “high quality no” that is free of all reactivity. “Without egoic defensiveness, there will be power behind your words, yet no reactivity.” (A New Earth, pg. 216) This ‘right’ also has no good or bad. In fact, what feels right might be very uncomfortable to navigate at times.

A little more often now, I can discern ‘right’ perception from judgement. Judgement often has a charge to it, an edginess, a sense of inferiority or superiority. The words and action that stem from judgement are less than skillful, sometimes hurtful, and I have had my fair share. ‘Right’ perception on the other hand feels clear and even strong at times, yet it has a calm, grounded and open quality to it. Generally it does not arise through thinking, instead it emerges from the vast, open, wise ground of Being.

In Peace,
Sheila

An Unexpected Encounter.

I haven’t written for some time.  Writing happens when writing happens.

Today I was walking through my neighborhood Randall’s to get a few items.  I meandered through the aisles with my short list on repeat in my head so that I would not forget.  All of sudden, my eyes fell upon a lady.  She appeared to be in her late 50’s, though truly I don’t know.  More than just the eyes, my whole body was moved by her appearance; a nervous fluttering, and breathing that spontaneously felt heavy.  I walked past her calmly, though my body experienced the opposite.

The following description may be too graphic for some, though I will share it because it was what I saw. 

She had two black and blue eyes, a nose that was swollen and crusted with a significant amount of visible blood.  Her demeanor appeared fragile, though that might have been my own projection.  She was on the phone as I saw her.

I headed to the check out, though my heart felt as if it had stopped in the aisle with the lady.  My heart felt uncomfortably concerned.  Even while I was paying for my groceries, I kept glancing back to where I saw the lady.  Was she still there?  Should I just leave and go on about my evening?  Should I go back and ask her if she is ok or if she needed anything?  Would she tell me even if she needed help?  What would I do if she said yes?

As I grabbed my grocery bag, I turned my head back one more time.  She was still there on the phone.  My legs started walking toward her even while my head continued with its questions.  As I got closer, she was no longer on her phone.

I stood in front of her and looked gently into her eyes.  I asked, “Excuse me, I hope it is ok for me to ask this, are you ok?  Is there anything you need?”.  She looked at me and very quickly said, “Oh thank you, I am ok.  I just fell.  I broke my ribs”.  I had no idea of broken ribs from the surface of her appearance.  “I am just coming from the doctor’s office and he fixed my nose”.  There was a brief pause.  I said, “Ok, I saw you and felt concerned. I wanted to check if you were ok or needed help of any kind”.  Our eyes still meeting, we smiled gently at one another.  I walked out of Randall’s to my car and back home to my family.

Perhaps what she said was true and perhaps it was not.  I wondered, “Would a doctor really let her leave their office without a bandage of some kind?”.  I guess I won’t know for sure.  My gut still felt concerned for her.  

I went back to the safety of my home and my family.  My hope is that this lady is safe and heals.  I will have to be ok with at least letting her know that I saw her and that I offered concern and care, even if for a moment.

 

***  I don’t know that I would have had the courage to walk back to this lady had I not taken SAFE’s advocate training this past year.  I am deeply thankful for those that do this important work daily.

Living into Dying

I have had the gift and privilege of sitting beside a friend who is in the process of dying.  Even saying the word is hard at times.  Sometimes I soften the language by saying “passing away”, almost like a cloud passing in the sky.  Dying and death has so much more of a finality to it, at least in this physical realm.  But still it is the straight truth.

Conversations at this precipice of life and death are unabashedly Real.  We sit and meet each other Being to Being.  When the body and personality are in the processing of going, they naturally soften into the background.  Here the foreground is spacious, and we can feel and share how the personal and transient currents arise and fall away.  They carry less of a good or bad.  It is very much like Rumi describes, “the field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing”.  Everything just is.  Judgements soften, and intimacy and trust deepen.  

For me it has been a season of witnessing the tenderness of humanity, the fragility of the physical body, and the immensity of Spirit/Essence that is so large that it moves through me like the ocean itself.

Love and ease to my friend as this journey continues within and beyond the body.

 

 

Remembering

It is fitting that I am remembering my Dad today on September 9th.  It is his birthday, though he is no longer here in physical form.  He passed away almost twelve years ago now.  My relationship with my Dad was mixed, loving at times and quite difficult others.  I know in my Heart that he was always doing the best that he could. Despite the difficulties, he was often, if not always at my soccer games.  He took a keen interest in my education.  I remember when fiber optics was all the rage, he took me into New York city to an exhibit at the museum of science on telecommunications.  Trips to NYC were rare so it felt pretty cool, though I am not sure I appreciated it fully at the time.  He had a passion for science and was eager to share it with me.  Beyond soccer and science, he had a real quirkiness about him, likely where I get much of mine.

Fast forward to 2005.  He was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma five days after the birth of my daughter, Sophia. He passed away eighteen months later, just a month prior to the birth of my second daughter, Sonia.  Birth and death were very much alive for my family, all at once.  The first year of Sophia’s life I traveled most months between Austin and Houston, so that I could be at home at least a week or two, out of every month.  I often tell myself that I didn’t fully process my Dad’s passing because I was either postpartum or just about to deliver my second.  As I look back now, I realize that the processing was happening across those last eighteen months of his life.  Watching cancer move through him was preparing my whole family for the final passing. In his later months, he was quite weak.  He no longer looked the way we had known him to look.  His spirit was alive, but his physical state was fragile.  For a man who could have a fierce temper, it was hard to see him in this way.  Those eighteen months, I grieved.  I grieved for him not being able to see his grandchildren grow up.  I grieved for him not being able to enjoy retirement in the way that he could have.  I grieved for all the moments I wish I had had with my Dad, and for those sweet moments that I did have.  I grieved, realizing that he had always done the best that he was able to do as a father.

I remember in the last months of his life, my sister had an unfortunate injury to her ankle, leaving her to have urgent surgery and then recuperating at home for almost two months.  During this time, I went to Houston to be with them.  It was a complete paradox of fortune and misfortune.  My Dad was entering his last stages of life and my sister was recovering from a severe injury.  I was able to be at home with all of them – my Mom, Sophia, Sonia in utero, my Dad and my sister.  Even during that time, as weak as my Dad was, I could feel his concern and care for my sister’s recovery.  He would occasionally prompt my then fourteenth month old to go into my sister’s room to shower her with kisses in the way only a fourteenth month old could.  After a few weeks I returned home to Austin, only to receive a call a week later that it was time.  My Dad called me saying, “Sheila beta, there is not much time now”.  My heart sank.  I still remember it so vividly.

*****

The next day, I was back in Houston with Sophia and Herb.  Three days later he passed away at home surrounded by his family.  Those last three days are still a blur to me, and perhaps that is why I feel that I didn’t grieve fully.  Everything from that point onward also feels cloudy, as we returned home to Austin with my mom, and I delivered my dear Sonia a little more than a month later.

*****

Today, on September 9th, 2018, it is raining.  We have the screen doors open.  I can hear the pitter patter of the rain, and feel the humidity on my skin.  There is an achiness in my heart, my throat feels caught as if in mid-sentence, my abdomen tender.

It feels like the breath and the rain are washing over me.

Happy birthday to my dear Dad.

Among the Trees

This week I was able to spend a little time outside during the early dawn hours.  I enjoy and savor the quietness of the mornings.  I can rest in the soft melodies of the birds, the scurry of the squirrels, the wind, the leaves, clouds just becoming visible, adrift in the sky.  My inner dialogue and the world’s still in an easeful slumber.  Lately, I often pause in awe of the trees.  The Grace with which they meet the seasons of their life.  They are a vision of exquisite surrender, not resisting the wind, the sun, nor the rain; simply rooted, their leaves falling and returning every spring.  And if it was meant that they were to be completely uprooted, then that too is included.

This morning my attention began to settle a little lower.  The earth beneath the trees and the beauty in this.  I could feel the earth holding all of these trees through the seasons of their existence.  The earth does not seem to have an agenda, not fixing nor changing.  It just holds what is.

My attention settles a little closer to home, to the terrain of life within me.  Was the earth not holding me through the seasons of life just as she holds the trees?  Is she not holding all of Life, at all times?  Here, no experience and no one is more or less worthy.  For a while, I rest in this open embrace, just the experience itself.  After a few minutes I walk back inside, remembering Mary Oliver’s poem.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”