Can there be anything more beautiful than a family, together and healthy, sharing stories and laughter on Christmas? May your holidays be just a beautiful as ours.
See below if you would like to read our holiday letter.
“I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle...
"…the great body of reality is indivisible. It cannot be cut into pieces with separate existences of their own…
“Consider the example of a table. The table’s existence is possible due to the existence of things which we might call ‘the non-table world’: the forest where the wood grew and was cut, the carpenter, the iron ore which became the nails and screws, and countless other things which have relation to the table, the parents and ancestors of the carpenter, the sun and rain which made it possible for the trees to grow.
“If you grasp the table’s reality then you see that in the table itself are present all those things which we normally think of as the non-table world. If you took away any of those non-table elements and returned them to their sources--the nails back to the iron ore, the wood to the forest, the carpenter to his parents--the table would no longer exist.
“A person who looks at the table and can see the universe is a person who can see the way…
“We have to strip away all the barriers in order to live as part of the universal life. A person isn’t some private entity traveling unaffected through time and space as if sealed off from the rest of the world by a thick shell… In our lives are present a multitude of phenomena, just as we ourselves are present in many different phenomena. We are life, and life is limitless.”
I thank You God for most this amazing day;
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes.
The world had seen the same thing happen many times before. After it happened in Nazi Germany, all the big, powerful countries swore, “Never again!” But here we were, six harmless females huddled in darkness, marked for execution because we were born Tutsi. How had history managed to repeat itself? How had this evil managed to surface once again? Why had the devil been allowed to walk among us unchalleneged, poisoning hearts and minds until it was too late?
I prayed for God to receive the child’s innocent soul, and then asked Him, How can I forgive people who would do such a thing to an infant?
I heard His answer as clearly as if we’d been sitting in the same room chatting: You are all my children ... and the baby is with Me now.
It was such a simple sentence, but it was the answer to the prayers I’d been lost in for days.
The pastor told his children to take a good look at us. “There, but for the grace of God, go any one of you,” he reminded them. “If you have the chance to help unfortunates like these ladies in times of trouble, make sure you do it — even if it means putting your own life at risk. This is how God wants us to live.”
He grabbled Felicien [Hutu gang leader that killed Immaculee’s family] by the shirt collar and hauled him to his feet. “What do you have to say to her? What do you have to say to Immaculee?”Now, some might be put off by the subject matter. Others might be put off by the explicit references to God and Christianity. But I urge you to look past those, if they concern you. I see a story that transcends any particular religion. Indeed, I see a story that both defines and transcends faith itself.
Felicien was sobbing. I could feel his shame. He looked up at me for only a moment, but our eyes met. I reached out, touched his hands lightly, and quietly said what I’d come to say. “I forgive you.”
I come from the East, most of you are Westerners. If I look at you superficially, we are different, and if I put my emphasis on that level, we grow more distant. If I look on you as my own kind, as human beings like myself, with one nose, two eyes, and so forth, then automatically that distance is gone. We are the same human flesh. I want happiness; you also want happiness. From that mutual recognition, we can build respect and real trust of each other. From that can come cooperation and harmony.But once again, I come back to compassion, forgiveness, and loving-kindness. Or just Unconditional Love for short. Regardless of your spiritual background or your religious persuasion. Consider its power, and its salvation for humanity, and that most complex, and at times, disconcerting thing called "the human condition". And then smile at your insight, for you have found the path to peace and bliss.
-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Someone asked me, “Aren’t you worried about the state of the world?” I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, “What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world to fill your heart. If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.” There are wars big and small in many places, and that can cause us to lose our peace. Anxiety is the illness of our age. We worry about ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, and the state of the world. If we allow worry to fill our hearts, sooner or later we will get sick.
Yes, there is tremendous suffering all over the world, but knowing this need not paralyze us. If we practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, and working in mindfulness, we try our best to help, and we can have peace in our heart. Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don’t know how to breathe, smile, and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, from the “Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”
The Art Of Drowning, by Billy CollinsYes indeed.
I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.
After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs-
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.
How about a short animated film, a slide presentation?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph?
Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography-
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.
Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all the lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,
a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.
The world is your mirror.So, when all is said and done ... Here’s looking at you, kid. Take a gander in that mirror. You just might notice something you hadn’t seen before.
The good you find in others, is in you too.
The faults you find in others, are your faults as well.
After all, to recognize something you must know it.
The possibilities you see in others, are possible for you as well. The beauty you see around you, is your beauty. The world around you is a reflection, a mirror showing you the person you are.
To change your world, you must change yourself. To blame and complain will only make matters worse. Whatever you care about, is your responsibility. What you see in others, shows you yourself.
See the best in others, and you will be your best. Give to others, and you give to yourself. Appreciate beauty, and you will be beautiful. Admire creativity, and you will be creative.
Love, and you will be loved. Seek to understand, and you will be understood. Listen, and your voice will be heard. Teach, and you will learn.
-- Author unknown
”As long as we are caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we’re always running away from discomfort, we’re going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and disappointment, and we will feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us to develop inner strength.”
-- Pema Chödrön
Being your true self, being your true nature, is different than experiencing it with thought. Realize that you are the mystery, and that you can’t really look at the mystery because you are only capable of looking from the mystery. There is a very awake, alive, and loving mystery, and that’s what is seeing through your eyes at this moment. That’s what is hearing through your ears at this moment. Instead of trying to figure it all out, which is impossible, I suggest you ask, "What’s ultimately behind this set of eyes?" Turn around to see what is looking. Encounter pure mystery, which is pure spirit, and wake up to what you are.
The mystery always takes care of itself -- as long as we are not addicted to following concepts. This addiction cuts off your access to the mystery. It’s like having a jewel in your pocket but you can’t get your hand into the pocket to pull it out. When you deeply know that you are the mystery experiencing itself, you realize that’s all that is ever happening. Whether you call an experience a me or a you, a good day or a rotten day, beauty or ugliness, compassion or cruelty -- it’s all still the mystery experiencing itself, extending itself into time and form. That’s all that is happening.
If this understanding is held only in your head, you can know it but you are not being it. The head is saying, "Oh, I know, I’m the mystery," and yet your body is acting like it didn’t get the message. It’s saying, "I’m still somebody, and I’ve got all these anxious thoughts and wants and desires." When we are being it knowingly, the whole being receives the message. And when the whole body receives the message, it’s like air going out of a balloon. When all the contradiction, turmoil, and searching for this and that deflates, there is the experience that the body is an extension of the mystery. Then the body can easily be moved by the mystery, by pure spirit.
-- Adyashanti, From "Emptiness Dancing"
"Nobody wanted Rick in a road race. Everybody looked at us, nobody talked to us, nobody wanted to have anything to do with us. But you can’t really blame them - people often are not educated, and they’d never seen anyone like us.Not really too surprising, I guess. But that's not why I clipped this quote.
... they’d never seen anyone like us ...I found that wording so very interesting.
Any ONE like US.Isn't that what we have to understand? Really. Simply, that we truly are all one.
You are not your body.Such simple words. I find a resonance in them. And I wonder why this took almost 50 years. Would they make any sense at all at an earlier age? Do they make any sense at all to you?
Your body is not you.
You are not the doer.
You are not the enjoyer.
You are pure awareness,
The witness of all things.
You are without expectation,
Wherever you go,
-- Ashtavakra Gita 15:4
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom"
-- Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
~~ from Manfred Mann's version of Blinded by the Light,The other day, I happened to look up at the sun. Yes, it had been a while since we last saw it ;-) And what did my eyes behold? Blindingly bright light, surrounded by a circular rainbow. For this picture, I let the peak of our garage block the sun. So you don't see the entire rainbow, but trust me, it goes all the way around.
~~ originally written by Bruce Springstein
[D]o not become trapped. This is NOT America, nor the world. This is a caricature drawn for a single purpose: to titilate, to stimulate, to profit. There is no accuracy to the picture. You know that in your heart. Your experiences tell you that as well. But the infernal drumbeat looking to steal your attention will continue. Just turn it off. That is your choice.OK, so you know my bias. But what on earth is my point?
Let a thousand individual voices create the harmony that reduces the media drumbeat to mere background noise. Which your mind is designed to naturally filter out. Until it might as well no longer exist.When you see the caricature painted by the media, and the frenzy of talking heads feeding at the trough of sorrow, throw back your head and laugh. It is tragic comedy, not reality. The suffering for the families of the victims, and the family of the killer are real. We can be present for that. Respectful of that. And offer them our love and forgiveness. And one act we can take to help heal our worldly family in this time of sorrow, is to turn off the TV. Just turn it off. Be present for your own family. And begin your own journey of awakening to real life.
What is this life if, full of care,We've all heard the phrase "it's the journey, not the destination" but how many of us really understand what that means and live by it? How many of us get caught up in the busyness of planning to get to Point X, then traveling to Point X, and finally reminiscing about Point X? All the while missing what might have been in store for us at Point B or on the way to Point G, or while zipping right past Point Q?
We have no time to stand and stare.
-- from "Leisure," by W.H. Davies
"The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." -- Henry MillerAnd what of it? Well, listen closely. Can you hear the notes ... the melody? I can. So soothing, so moving. As you lean back and soak up the afternoon sun, smell the pine bows, feel the damp soil with your hands, and smile. Something connects. Nothing else to do. Nowhere else to be. This is where you belong, right here, right now.
"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony." -- William Henry Channing
What happens to us when greed masquerades as need, when cries for help become casting calls for chumps, when our most noble actions make us patsies?It's an interesting question. I don't know about you, but I can remember as a kid, telling myself to not be so gullible, and to keep myself on-guard for various pranks and tricks. Makes one grow up, I suppose. Prepares us for a rough-and-tumble world. But the loss of innocence is somewhat sad, upon reflection. Of course, just who were the perpetrators -- other children.
Lynn Green: How can we keep from becoming cynical in this crazy world?
Kent M. Keith: Cynics think the worst of people. It often strikes me that cynics are disappointed believers. They want to believe in people, but then become disappointed. Cynicism is the pose they adopt to cover their disappointment. We won't become cynics if we live our most cherished values, stay close to our families and friends and do our personal best. If we live that way, we will begin to notice others who live that way, and our sense of trust in human nature and people's motives, our own and others', will grow.
The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is a cognitive powerhouse in many ways. “But a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once,” said René Marois, a neuroscientist and director of the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University.
In another case, we asked Kristin, a management consultant, "What is the greatest recognition you have ever received?" Her answer: "Three words in an e-mail." We then found out that when Kristin's mother passed away, a mentor at work whom Kristin had admired throughout her career wrote her a special note. Her mentor's e-mail concluded by saying: "Your mother was very proud of you, and so am I." After 25 years with her company, three simple words carried more meaning than any other recognition Kristin had received in her entire life.Now there is no way to know which moments will have profound effects. So to me that indicates we need to live from the perspective of 'cause', and not 'effect'. 'Means', and not the 'ends'. What actions are we taking, what decisions are we making, today, right now? Regardless of whether they will be monumental ones in the end or not (for there is no way to know that now). But you have to realize that each moment can potentially have a dramatic effect on someone's life -- and possibly your own.