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Tattoo for an Old Lady

I’m seriously thinking of getting a tattoo. The problem is that it would have to go either on my back side or my stomach to have enough space. That would defeat the purpose, because I couldn’t see it well in either place. And the whole point would be to have it as a permanent and visible reminder. Here it is:
Tips for Mental Health
Feelings are not facts!
Seven important things we need to develop:
1. The will to bear both physical and emotional discomfort (and only whine on Monday).
2. The courage to make mistakes, admit them, take responsibility for them, learn from them, ask and accept forgiveness, and then for goodness sake, MOVE ON!
3. Patience with small gains.
4. The will to do what down deep, we know we should.
5. The determination to stop digging up the past. (If necessary, write it down, cremate it and let the wind carry it away.)
6. The energy and caring to help others. (Look around: we are surrounded by invisible lonely people. We don’t have to fix them, just let them know we see them.)
7. The wisdom to not let the perfect defeat the good.

The Commandments: Humanity’s Keys for Survival/The Beatitudes: Our Handbook for Freedom to Love

I’m pretty sure that law and the concept of sin and consequences were created to try to help us live in the groups we need to survive and prosper. Society is a two edged sword. It keeps us from having to do everything for ourselves from fighting off wildlife, planting, harvesting, to creating clothes and shelter, thus giving us time to think, create, explore, and ask questions about the why, not just the how. But, since humanity is a work in progress…..the old adage, that there’s both a goody and a baddy to everything, holds true for society. Society helps us survive physically, but it also challenges us to learn to love.
The commandments were first of all, simply practical. The laws were aimed at keeping us alive, both as individuals and humanity, long enough to become loving. Whatever the Intelligence called God is, that created and nourishes life, it lives within each of us. It is a source of grace to become more loving, than competitive and combative. And we are like cells in a body. Each of us not only affects those closest to us, we affect the whole for better or worse, even the generations following us.
Self-honesty and understanding, rather than guilt, are the beginning of learning to love. And those take courage and grace. The divorce rate makes it obvious we haven’t become enough like Jesus to even love those closest to us, never-the-less those different from us or even “against” us. The commandments are the basic tools of survival for society. But, Jesus showed us the next level through teaching and living the spirituality of the Beatitudes. They call us beyond the fundamentals of the Commandments and just survival. They call us to freedom, the freedom to love others.
Caring is prayer. Prayer is in the intention, whether expressed in words, thoughts, feelings, candles, symbols, acts of kindness, or forgiveness. There is power in prayer. But both wisdom and love are needed to use the power for others, to understand that all creation, without exception, is one.
Jesus is a turning point in humanity’s journey. He fleshed out a love that sacrifices for not only the weakest physically, but the weakest spiritually. This is not survival of the fittest.
His resurrection also illustrated that this life span isn’t all there is. Jesus is the living example of the potential of God’s grace even within our own humanity.
His resurrection shows us death is simply a door to eternity. When we believe this, it gives us a very different value system than death as the finish line. And His openness and love for all show us the way to overcome the finality of death.

Compassion or No One’s Playing with a Full Deck

From when I was quite young, I stayed stressed night and day over the possibility of being scolded for anything. Unfortunately, even if a fellow student was scolded, I also hurt for them, literally. My stomach would ache.  As an adult when a friend was going through a painful divorce, it seemed almost like I was going through it myself. In many ways this made me compassionate and I tried always to relieve others’ suffering in any way I could.

But, my life became controlled by an underlying need to relieve suffering of any kind, my own, my friends’, the world’s. This sounds like a good thing, and at times it undoubtedly was. But suffering is an inevitable part of life, everyone’s life. And a lot of suffering is self inflicted and perpetuated by attempts to escape it, rather than experience it and learn and grow from it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Compassion and fear of our own suffering may be two sides of the same coin.

Over the years I learned that I could not protect my children from suffering. And after a couple of friends, that I tried to give emotional support, ended up committing suicide, I gradually accepted that I am not God and cannot control life for anyone.

Eventually, I also recognized that some people become addicted to being victims and are bottomless pits of needs and wants that no one but God can fill.  I can be kind. I can share insights I’ve gained through my own struggles. I can bring a little laughter into the lives around me. But ultimately, each person’s journey is uniquely tailored to the process of making them into the people God created them to be…no more and no less. We can all only play the hand we were dealt and no one other than God can judge how well we are doing that.
Each person is born with their own set of genetic strengths and virtues. The thing we often overlook is that each strength has a corresponding area of weakness. Our pattern of growth will build on the strengths, but also will involve facing our weaknesses and allowing for them. We can develop survival skills in those areas, but they will never be our gifts.
That means we need one another. That means at times we must set aside our strengths and avail ourselves of the opposite set of gifts of other people. This is a dying to self of sorts. It involves suffering and humility. Not an easy task, but definitely part of becoming a couple, a family, a friend, a community, a nation, a world.

In other words, none of us is playing with a full deck! And we can help one another in partnerships, but not in dependency relationships that keep us from growing.

Compassion calls for not only kindness, but the capacity to accept suffering as part of our own lives and of life in general for everyone.
It comes down to the age old prayer: God help me to change what I can, accept what I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference.

Passiondeathresurrection: Inseparable

I once heard a priest say, “Passion(suffering), death, and resurrection should all be one word.”
Somehow most of us in America have bought into the delusion that life is just for fun. And any discomfort, never-the-less suffering, starts us looking desperately for escapes.
Unfortunately, escapes can’t protect us from suffering forever, they just make us miss the meaning that can be found by embracing the whole of life.
I have always been a devout coward and have used many escapes over the years.
But finally, I began to realize that the greatest suffering would be to get to the end of my life and realize that I had missed the point.

Living in the Uneasy Tension of Paradox (Mark Nepo Quote reblogged from Make Believe Boutique)

To bring back trust to life requires the deepest sort of listening. I’m still learning how to listen in this way. Even after sixty years, it feels elusive, as the most important teachers whisper behind the wind to ensure that we give ourselves totally to discovering their secrets. Two such teachers are ‘not-knowing’ and ‘paradox.’ Essentially, I have learned that true knowledge that can help us live waits on the other side of our ability to hold two things at once that are both true. One aspect of true knowledge that came to me through my experience with cancer is the paradox that we need to die in order to live. I am still trying to understand the daily meaning of this. It seems our capacity to withstand the tension of opposites is key to entering paradox, and key to that is becoming comfortable with the space of not-knowing. Understandably, most of us are uncomfortable when things are undefined, when things are not clearly to or for, up or down, left or right, or right or wrong. But the deeper truths always take time to reach us, and it is our job to enter a practice of waiting openly- which involves enduring the tensions of not-knowing. The truths that matter require us not to form opinions or beliefs hastily. On the contrary, we are asked to allow time to surround us with the Wholeness of life, to take the time required for the paradox of truth to show itself. It seems that the practice of not-knowing begins with a trust in the unnameable space that holds us, in the mysterious atmosphere in which we all live. That seems to be the true space of listening and learning, where our brief experiences of life in its totality, whether harsh or calm, will not fit into our tidy little maps of perception. Yet where are we educated in this? Where are we taught to withstand the surf and undertow of ambiguity and confusion long enough till we can drift in the majestic swell that sages and poets of all traditions have called the unity of life?      Mark Nepo

What Is My Bliss?

One of the hardest things about life is discovering that it is NOT about being happy. Happiness is a by-product of the life long process of becoming the person that we were created to be. Ultimately, that involves becoming wise and loving.

Along the way we acquire knowledge and skills in order to survive, though obviously surviving is not the end purpose in life.  We all die eventually.

Important parts of the process are  recognizing that knowledge is not wisdom and need is not love.

Financial success and even accomplishment are not a necessary part of the process for everyone and most definitely not a substitute for becoming wise and loving for anyone.

Some of us just accept whatever we were taught by family and our particular era and culture. Others rebel against these in total. Both responses leave us trapped in a time warp and defeat the larger goal of helping humanity also become wiser and more loving.

Political opinions, philosophies, religious beliefs, if left unchallenged by questioning or other viewpoints, generally get carried to extremes to the point of becoming not only ridiculous, but destructive.

Truth is paradoxical. Our limited human perception leads us to half truths or warped truths. Our human tendency to delude ourselves that we see the whole truth and nothing but the truth pushes us into polarizing and alienating conflicts. And we never develop our ability to truly listen and to stretch our world views to encompass much needed balance.

Wisdom and love are inextricably linked. What often passes for love is destructive to both the giver and the receiver. Wise-love discriminates between needs and wants and respects the needs of all.

“What is my bliss?” is not the same question as “What makes me happy?” Rather it asks, “What are the ways I personally can best grow in wisdom and love?”