bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: motherhood

I’m not Catholic, but you’d think I was based on the way I jog.

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I lace up my running shoes and open the front door, greeted by 39 degrees and spitting rain. It’s Saturday morning and I’m excited to hit the sidewalks after several weeks of snow and super cold temps. I took up jogging a few months ago — a real shock to the system as this meditation-loving lady is notoriously sedentary. I had come to realize that at age 41, the only way to keep my waistline from feeling like a jelly doughnut was through cardio. And guess what? I like it. Not because of the cramps or the sweat or the having to wash and blow dry my hair after — I like where I go, physically and mentally.

My destination is always the same: Mother Mary. There’s a statue of her tucked away in a small garden at St. Mary’s Catholic church, a mile from my house. Sometimes I take a creative route and sometimes I beeline for her. Today I choose a direct shot because of the rain.

Per usual, I find a kick in my pace as I near her. I leap over snowbank remains and charge past side streets. I can feel Mary’s energy. It’s like we both know a reunion’s coming and we’re giddy to experience each other.

I greet Mary with silence, then begin our private ritual, mother to mother. After a short time together, it’s time for me to get home, but I’m all jacked up on Love and decide to take the long, hilly way.

The hills are hard for me. My mind starts wandering, thinking about discomfort. I start silently chanting, Left. Left. Left-right-left, understanding for the first time that our military forces use a matra-based mindfulness technique to keep soldiers present, in the moment. I play with other chants, Fat. Fat. Fat-burn-fat, and then decide the military version is much more effective. The chant keeps me focused, but I’m jogging uphill at a good clip and I’m starting to lose confidence.

I consider ducking down a side street to avoid the climb. I know Prince Street is ahead — and it’s downhill. Whenever I pass Prince I think, Prince of Peace, so I decide I’ll take refuge on my boyfriend Jesus’s street in a few blocks.

I’m thinking about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. How good he’s been to me over the years, how supportive he’s been of my relationships with Buddha and Krishna and Ben & Jerry. As I arrive at Prince Street, a voice directs, Don’t use me as an exit strategy. Use me as your inspiration to keep going! (It’s so amazing, the things you can hear when you’re listening.) I find another kick in my pace and pass Prince. A block later, the road flattens out.

I pad past a few more side streets and reach the final turn toward home. Slowing down, tears suddenly roll down my cheeks. A big, bright love is swelling my my chest and I feel both Mary and Jesus with my full presence. Those words Exit Strategy are building in my mind. I’m sorting through messages about Salvation and Faith. The messages are beautiful, simultaneously simple and complicated. They’re about not hiding behind heaven, not waiting until then end to reunite with The One, but instead experiencing the Kingdom in ordinary moments, trusting that Salvation is not later, but NOW. I’m wiping tears away as a man walks past me with his dog. I smile and try to maintain focus on the loving, mighty voice in my head. Messages keep streaming — fast. Let me hold onto your words, so I can write them down, I beg in a whisper.

I start running again, then break into a sprint. I need to get home and write before the words dissipate, like wispy clouds on a sunny day. I burst through the front door, toe-heel my sneakers into the corner, abandon my hat and gloves on the kitchen floor, whip out my laptop, and write. But the messages are gone. They only existed for me on the wet road home, in that moment. In this moment, there is something else. There is gratitude.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

 

my first time on a radio talk show

BlogTalkRadio

Super excited to be discovered by Dr. Michael Harris.  He hosts The Dr. Michael Harris Show on Blog Talk Radio out of Dallas.  Tune in and say a prayer for me.  Call in and share your thoughts!  Starting up in 30 minute – 2pm EST.  (NYC time.)  Click link below to listen to show today and visit his site http://www.drmichaelharris.com when you can!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/drmichaelharris/2013/08/12/bringing-up-buddhas

xoxoxoxv

5 Mindful Mommy Tricks to Surviving Summer with Kooky Kids

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My 7 year old getting her purple kitty on with our new puppy.

There’s a picture of my sister in our family album that has inspired a family idiom: the purple kitty face.  In the photo, my sis is standing in our driveway on a summer day wearing light blue undies and holding a tiny black kitten, scooped from a litter of mates produced by our ginger cat Selena.  In her sweet and quirky four-year-old way, she had convinced herself (and probably me) that the kitty was not black, but purple.

If you look closely at my sister’s expression, you’ll notice that her lips are pursed tightly in a sort of painfully loving grimace.  Her teeth are clenched, as are her two little hands that are quickly crushing purple kitty’s spindly rib cage.

If a thought bubble could appear magically above my sister’s head it would say, “You’re so cuuuuuuttteee!  I love you to deeeeeaaaaath!”  Fortunately, no animals were injured in the filming of that scene.  At least not that we knew of anyway.  I imagine that Mom swooped toward her daughter after snapping the pic, rescued the kitten from imminent death and returned her to the cardboard box from whence she came.

There’s a psycho-medical term for this exact situation I’m sure, but nothing quite pins the tail on the donkey like purple kitty.  (Though that Looney Tunes scene with Daffy Duck and the abominable snow man comes close, “I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George.”)

Th purple kitty is sort of like that feeling of being insanely cold.  When you’re so cold that shaking is involuntary.  Only when you notice that your teeth are chattering so much your jaw hurts and your thighs are sore from tightening them against the weather do you become aware of the tension and mindfully release it…  only to squeeze up again with the next frigid gust.  (I’m a lifelong New Englander, I know about these things.)

My children make the purple kitty face all the time.  We just got a puppy and she is often the recipient of squeezey loving.  But I know it’s not just a behavior reserved for my family.  All kids do this.  I remember one day my old boss came into work and told us that her beloved family pet, a hamster, was laid to rest in a shoe box that morning – a victim of her daughter’s loving embrace.  It happens.  And not just with animals.

I remember doing this with my neighbor as a kid.  He was such an adorable baby.  I remember hugging him a little too tight, sucking my breath in through clenched teeth, body shaking from the effort of physical love, releasing only when the little toe headed cutiepie squeaked rather than exhaled.   Honestly, sometimes I notice myself doing it still.  What can I say?  Babies are cute.

As a parent of small children, I’ve noticed that my purple kitty face, once associated with over-loving, has become one of Holy-Shit-I-Can’t-Take-It-Anymore-You-Are-Driving-Me-Crazy-And-I-Need-You-To-Stop-Screaming-At-Each-Other-Before-My-Eyeballs-Eject-From-My-Skull.  I think the more common term for this is frustration, but frustration is not a rich enough word for the exasperation, disheartened-ness, desperateness and anger that I can feel when my kids are totally obnoxious.

So I admit it.  I’ve been known to occasionally squeeze my kids.  And not because they’re cute.  Thanks to a committed mindfulness practice, I can typically defend them from my clenching grip, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never sent my kids off to school praying that their teachers wouldn’t roll up their sleeves and find red stripes around their biceps from where I grabbed and squeezed, imagining that my vice grip would somehow convince them to stop screaming, listen to my words or clean up their blasted Pokemon cards.

It’s summer vacation now, and all this quality time with our unscheduled babies, as delightful as it is, provides us with endless opportunities to feel emotionally overwhelmed by their antics.  So there are a couple of things I’ve done that have helped me to stop the squeezing and relax my purple kitty face, and I wanted to share them with my sea of online readers, well, let’s face it, it’s more like a small pond of readers but I love you and appreciate you as if you were the vast Atlantic Ocean.

I have three small children ages 4 through 8 and I mother each of them differently, but these five things work consistently for me with all three.

  1. Meditate.  Your reaction to your babies is not about them, it’s about you.  When you’re composed, no amount of nagging, screeching or spoiled-rotten-American-kid complaining will offend you.  A meditation practice takes time to develop, so in the meantime try this: The second you reach for that little arm, breathe into your squeezey hand and let the irritation melt like butter on plain pasta with no red sauce.  Think these words:  “This will be over soon, and we will be happy again.”  Another great mindfulness trick is the 10-10-10 rule.  Ask yourself, “How will I feel about this in 10 minutes?  In 10 days?  In 10 years?”  Probably not so great.  So loosen up the tourniquet and know that this too shall pass.
  2. Make sure they’ve eaten.  Hungry kids are CRAZY.  We all know this, but somehow we all forget.  Feed them.  I always have a bag of apples and a slicer wheel nearby.  It’s the perfect emergency food.  But even with that, I still forget, too.
  3. Whisper or speak very softly when you’re explaining or disciplining.  They’ll be like, “What?  What, Mommy?  What?”  and they’ll stop screaming long enough to listen.  Most of the time, they start modeling my volume and instantly the stress level dissipates – mine and theirs.
  4. If whispering doesn’t work, try crying.  Channel your inner soap opera diva.  Most likely, fake tears will not be hard to conjure, but feel free to give yourself over to real ones.  There’s nothing wrong with letting your kids see you cry.  They should know the effect their behavior has on others.  And when you’re teetering on the edge of an emotional volcano, a sobbing mommy meltdown can be a great side effect – they stop flipping out and turn their compassionate focus on you.  “I’m so sorry, Mommy.  I’m so sorry,” complete with hugs and kisses and sympathy.  Then they can stop being lunatics long enough for you to regain composure and control.
  5. When all else fails, put them in water.  My neighbor, an experience mother of several, taught me this and I am ever-grateful.  Draw a bath, toss in a few face cloths and buckets, turn on some Mozart and leave the room – bathroom door open, of course, we wouldn’t want the little brats to drown.  Joke!  That’s a joke!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Originally published by Vanessa Gobes for Intentblog.com.

awww shucks, an inspiring award

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Big thanks to Molly at Love Well Live Well for the very inspiring award!  Please visit her page  http://lovewell-livewell.com, where her mission states:  “I love learning and sharing about holistic wellness. This site was developed as extra motivation to remember to love myself and prioritize my wellbeing, as well as a hope to be a small source of inspiration to others.”  Her blog is diverse and helpful – check it out!

These are the requests of award recipients:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers for this award and link to them.  (I changed this number from 15 to 7 because of the time it takes to copy/paste/post/type/YIKES!)
4. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

1.  Dennis at Gotta Find a Home:  http://gottafindahome.wordpress.com. Dennis is chronicling the lives of homeless people.   This one is particularly touching to me because the homeless hold a special place in my heart.  More on that some other time.

2.  Andrew Mellen at his site’s blog:  http://blog.andrewmellen.com.  He’s all about simplification and less stuff.  Plus I’m in love with his mother’s day message.

3.  Maryanna Hoggatt at Little Wolf:  http://littlewolfblog.com.  It’s so inspiring to see people following their passion – especially when that passion induces grins, gasps and giggles.  If you enjoy whimsy, fantasy and downright creativity, this blog is for you.

4.  Robbie Bobby Boy at Letters to a Nichiren Buddhist:  http://www.nichirenletters.com.  Nam myoho renge kyo.  Period.  🙂

5.  Harula Ladd at Words That Serve:  http://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com.  I nominated her last time I received an award, too.  I just love everything she does.

6.  Terry Marotta at Exit Only:  http://terrymarotta.wordpress.com.   Terry and I occasionally share an editorial page in The Winchester Star.  She is funny, creative and seems to have a bottomless well of inspiration.

7.  Charlotte Porter at Momaste Blog:  http://momasteblog.wordpress.com.  All I can say is, “If you like this blog you’ll LOVE Momaste!”  😉

Thank you for the shout out!  Happy blogging!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

compassion doesn’t always come naturally

Last night my 7-year-old whacked her big sister in the head with a hard toy.  Big sister cried out in pain and started to sob dramatically (a bit too dramatically); little sister walked away casually, shrugging her shoulders, “I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Well your sister is in tears over there.  Ask her if she’s okay and give her a hug.  Apologize.”

“But I didn’t mean to do it.”

“But she’s crying.  Your mistake hurt her body.”

With another shrug and a little eye roll, she did what came naturally – ignored us and went back to playing with her toy.

Sound familiar?  I assume that I am not the only mother dealing with this sort of behavior.  It’s so frustrating.  My husband attributes this inability to react with compassion to a combination of stubbornness and pride.  He might be right, it sure makes sense to me.  But how do you fix that?  Or can you?

My oldest and youngest  children have a natural compassionate tendency.  Though they don’t understand diplomacy, a tool that helps us to employ our compassion interpersonally, the feelings exist and they’re well on their respective ways toward a lifetime of caring.

There are lots of kids, like my 7-year-old middle child, for whom compassion is not innate.  She just has to learn and develop the feeling.

After last night’s toy-smacking episode, I sat down with her in bed and the conversation went something like this:

“We’re all born knowing things.  You naturally have a beautiful eye for fashion.  You are creative and colorful and instinctively know how to sew.  You are naturally curious and love to read.  You naturally have terrific rhythm and are musically inclined.  These are all gifts.  But there are things that are important for you to understand that don’t come naturally for you.  Like compassion.  Do you know what compassion is?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me.”

“I don’t know, Mommy.”

“Compassion is deeply understanding how another person or animal is suffering.  Does that make sense?”

“No.”

“Okay, picture yourself walking home from school in winter time.  There’s a toddler on the sidewalk, alone and underdressed.  He’s shivering cold.  How would it feel for you to see a little boy that way?”

She stuck up her thumb and then slowly turned it to point down.

“Okay.  Would you imagine how cold he must be?”

Her head nodded.

“What would you do?  Would you walk by?”

“No, I’d take off my coat and put it on the baby.”

“Well that is a show of compassion.  You could imagine how cold that baby must have felt and that the baby was suffering.  So you used your power to help him.  Did you smile at him when you helped him?”

“Uh-huh,” she smiled big and climbed into my lap so I could rock her like a baby.

“So you showed him kindness, too.  That’s great!  But you know, when we learn a new skill, it’s important to spend some time practicing it.  If we want to be good at something we need to practice.  Just like the guitar or sewing.  So how about I give you a little assignment?”

“What?”

“Tomorrow night when you come home, I want you to tell me one act of compassion or kindness that you showed to someone during the day.  Can you do that?”

“Mom, that’s embarrassing.”

“Honey, this isn’t embarrassing.  This is life.  Life is hard sometimes, isn’t it?  And it only gets harder.  But there are some tools that can help make the hard times a little easier.  Your breathing is one tool.  Compassion is another.  But you’ve gotta start practicing now.  There’s nothing embarrassing about that.  What do you think?  Wanna try?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you listening to what I’m saying?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, give it a shot for just one day and tell me what happens.  Will you try?”

She shook her head.

We spent a few more minutes snuggling then I tucked her under the covers.  We’ve had a hundred conversations about compassion and honestly, I’m not sure why the lessons don’t stick.  But I’m confident that my little lectures are seeping in somehow so I’ll continue to give them.

This morning while she was still sleeping I crept into her room and climbed under her covers, “Wake up, sleepyhead.  It’s a cold day today.”

She rolled out of bed, hair tangled in knots, and shuffled toward her closet, “Is it cold like milk?”

She’s naturally funny, too.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

🙂 🙂 🙂  Please share this post if you like it.  I so appreciate your support and hope this message reaches just the right person at just the right time.  🙂 🙂 🙂

 

creating space for mommies

boys won’t be boys

Men completely baffle me.  No offense, guys.  As a gender, you’re real go-getters – strong, handsome, and a very necessary component in procreation.  But honestly, between the insatiable need for power (be it in the form of money, attention, strength or remote control handling) and the twisted inclination towards professional wrestling, porn and realistically bloody video games, I can’t decide if I should run away from you screaming in terror or just move into a lesbian commune and wash my hands of you entirely.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about men.  Young men.  Well, boys really.  I’m rearing one currently.  He’s four, the caboose on a train of three older girls.  Generally, he’s very sensitive and sweet.  He cares about people and animals.  He articulates his feelings and is well-behaved.  At least I think he’s all of those things…  until he finds a stick on our post-winter lawn and immediately begins whacking the dog with it.  Then imagines that stick as weapon and fires it dramatically at his sisters who are chalking quietly in the driveway.

There are more boyish antics, of course.  The tasmanian-devil-style thrashing he displays for what seems to be no reason at all.  The make-pretend enactments of a werewolf mauling a honey badger in the forbidden forest.  The wet sponge ambushes on his sisters at bedtime as they brush their teeth.

I never taught him these things.  I’m pretty sure my husband didn’t either.  We don’t initiate or encourage this type of play.  But he’s a boy.  And he seems naturally wired for bursts of destruction.

This is no excuse.  Absolutely not.  I refuse to lie down and say, “Boys will be boys.”  I’m fighting this overused saying, not with my sharp claws or stick weapons, but with kindness, discipline and love.

I’ve also enlisted my daughters to teach our wild little wolf cub how to become a respectable human being since girls generally enter life with more compassionate tendencies.  It’s not a hard lesson, really, this lesson in compassion.  But it needs to be taught daily.  Daily.  Daily.  Daily.

This past weekend I had 7 kids here for a sleepover.  We watched Indiana Jones.  During the blood and guts portions, they watched unfazed.  But when Indy started making out with his leading lady, the kids all belted out, “Eeeeewwww!!!  Disgusting!  Hide your eyes!”

I was appalled, “You little turkeys mean to say you’ll watch happily as bloody monkey brains are served for dinner but Doctor Jones planting a kiss on his girlfriend makes you want to throw up?  Come on!  Love is beautiful and natural.  Hurting people is eeeeewwwww.  Get your priorities straight, small people!”

Whether or not my words hit home, I’m unsure.  My intent, however, is always deeper than a 30 second lecture at a sleepover party, or even a 500 word essay on mothering a typical boy.

Mothers of boys have a precious opportunity to co-create and inspire young boys who become compassionate and mindful men.  There are no other more important qualities for a man to possess.  When all actions, all intentions, all thoughts are created with mindful compassion, humans will be on our way to world peace.  And we mothers are 100% responsible for instilling this quality in our sons.

The end of sex-trafficking?  The solution to corporate greed?  The dissolution of hate crimes?  The pacification of violence?  This can all happen through compassion.

We spend so much time trying to fix the problems we have.  Counsel the women who have been exploited.  Mend the planet that has been ravaged.  Heal the people who have been pained.  Why not skip the pain and spend that time nurturing boys who value love over destruction?

No four-year-old boy thinks, “When I grow up, I want to pimp out 14 year old girls…  Or maybe I’ll be a bigot…  Or a banker who invests in companies that rape our planet of resources…  Or maybe a dictator that stockpiles nuclear weapons.”  I know mine doesn’t anyway.  So while they’re young, and while we mommies have control, let’s teach our boys how to love a woman, how to love a planet, how to love their enemies.  The world will thank us for it in 30 years or so.

Please share this post with mothers of boys…  or anyone you think might enjoy it.  I so appreciate your shares, likes, tweets and comments.  Peace!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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Two of XG’s big sisters coach him through an Air & Space exhibit. He’s in control… at least he thinks he is.

Arms Wide Open

Children can teach us some pretty spectacular lessons.  After I recorded this video I continued to think about the twins – about their unselfconscious display of acceptance, joy and excitement.  As I pictured them bounding through the playground, I remembered that the other boys around them were following their lead, chanting and jumping for joy in step.  The twins inspired not only warm feelings in my son, but also naturally ignited a spirit of wholesome inclusiveness amongst all the boys.  The twins were (and are) the drop that causes the ripple that inspires the wave.  So beautiful.  What a blessing.

We are only a reflection of the people by whom we surround ourselves.  It’s important to make sure we like what we see in the mirror.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

my first time with his holiness the dalai lama

I’m going to start off by asking you to not only read this article, but share it.  Facebook, Twitter, email, text, anything.  A bold way to start, I know, but these words have very little to do with my ambitions as a writer and everything to do with us…  you, me, them.  Us.  Oh, and there’s a lot of punctuation ahead, but just push your way through it, annoying as those little dots and curved lines can be.

I’ll start by setting the scene.  My friend LB tipped me off that His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be speaking in Boston this fall, promoting The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics & Transformative Values at MIT, a non-partisan think tank organized in honor of HHDL’s vision to enact holistic education focusing on human and global ethics.

I eagerly bought two tickets for my husband and me and yesterday we were blessed to sit just 20 feet from His Holiness while he shared thoughts on religion, ethics, values and wellbeing.   I snuck the pic above with my iPhone, hence the crappy quality.  Anyway, here’s the story, peppered with my own interpretations and common sense applications of the day’s events:

JAMES TAYLOR:  An emotional opening act

We begin with Boston’s beloved James Taylor warming up the crowd for His Holiness, inspiring a thousand lips to curl up at the corners with his beautiful folk music, as he’s accompanied by BSO’s Owen Young on cello.  The playlist includes You’ve Got a Friend, a cover of I’m a Roadrunner, a folk version of Bach.  Fat tears roll down my cheeks as he sings Sweet Baby James.  I feel as if he sings this sweet lullaby just for me, as I had sung it for my own sweet babies each night as they fell asleep in my arms.

He nears the end of his set, “Shower the people you love with love…  show them the way you feel…”, a heavy door left of the stage opens and the audience breathes a collective gasp.  People rise to their feet, hands to heart center as the one and only Dalai Lama steps into the room, surrounded by crimson-robed monks and dark-suited bodyguards.  His presence alone inspires awe, love and hopefulness.  After a surge of clapping, the group sits down and JT invites his wife and daughter to the stage to join him in one last song before His Holiness takes over.  It is a lovely moment.

HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA:  Quotes, insights and paradigm shifts

His Holiness mounts the stage with his trusted interpreter, greeting fellow panelists:  Father Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk and priest of St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, founder of The Centering Prayer Movement of Contemplative Outreach, and author of several books including Open Mind Open Heart; and Brother David Steindl-Rast, co-founder of The Center for Spiritual Studies, a center incorporating thoughts from Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Sufi religions, founder of gratefulness.org, and author many books including Words of Common Sense for Mind, Body and Soul.  The panel is moderated by Liz Walker, former anchor at WBZ News in Boston, now a reverend at Roxbury Presbytarian Church and founder of My Sister’s Keeper, a grassroots human rights initiative for women in Sudan.

Bows and friendly gestures are exchanged amongst the spiritual brothers and then His Holiness turns to us, his adoring fan club, bowing and smiling.  He begins our first lesson of the day:  The Biological Factor, linking science and Buddhism with our every day actions.  Always the gentleman, he delivers a message to ladies first…

He tells us that the most important thing one can do in life is mother affectionately.  Though we aren’t all mothers, we all have mothers, so everyone can understand.  As new human beings, the first thing we look for is nurturing love from our mothers.   HHDL says, “Right away, the newborn knows how to find the…  the…  the…  [Interpreter:  ‘teats’]  the…  [‘teats’]  no, the…  [‘teats’]  PIMPLE!  [‘NIPPLE!’]”  Laughter ensues.

Comedy aside, his point is perfection.  A good life begins with a loving foundation.  Love is the natural tendency, the biological tendency.  “Females have more sensitivity about others’ suffering,” he says in thickly accented staccato, “Not religious belief.  Biological factor.  Female should take more active role in this field.”  (Thunderous applause.)

I get it.  I understand it.  It registers.  BIOLOGY IS LOVE.  Same, same.  ((MC, I swear I actually hear HHDL say that and I’m snickering!))  He says that we need to teach children love, kindness and compassion the same way we teach children science.  The two are braided together to form the whole tightly-woven truth.  Without an intimate understanding of love, how can we understand our own biology?    His Holiness urges us to educate mankind about the science of loving kindness and about the science of happiness rather than leaving that responsibility to religion or by filtering love through the lens of any one religion.  Love is for everyone, believers and non-believers.  Science has caught up to what spiritually rich people have known for centuries.  Love is real, love is ethics, love is responsibility, love is mainstream.  And just to prove the point, one of the best universities in the world, MIT, is backing up that theory by opening The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics & Transformative Values.

HHDL continues, “Religion gives us practice of hypocrisy, because in reality [people] don’t care about the philosophy of teachings.  They have no firm connection about these basic values…  [We must] educate them through scientific finding and common sense for happy life, happy family,  happy community.”

His Holiness is telling us that he understands – religion teaches strict dogma and demands standards that are so hard to meet that most people give up.  We disconnect.  We stop caring.  We float through life without any solid foundation in spirituality or love.  We live our lives on the foundation of selfishness, of arrogance.  We do this.  You, me, us, them.  We.  We take things because we want them.  We buy things because we need them.  We waste things because we can.  We hurt people because we don’t think.  WE DON’T THINK ABOUT THE EFFECT WE HAVE ON EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE ONE AROUND US.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

His Holiness reminds us, “Each person can make a difference. [We] should not think of ourselves as helpless.  A worldwide movement first starts from individual.  First one.  Then your neighbor.  Then ten families.  Then a thousand families.  Share with more people…  more people.  Think more and keep enthusiasm to do something.”  (English is obviously not his first language but, trust me, no love lost in this room.)

“A lot of our problems are of our own creation,” he presses on.  Yes, yes, yes I’m thinking.  We’ve created an ocean of garbage.  We’ve destroyed forests.  We’ve hunted and killed animals for sport.  We’ve bought handbags made my 5 year olds in Vietnam.  We’ve eaten food full of chemicals wrapped up in slippery plastic bags.  We’ve done all of this without thinking.

“Ignorance is the opposite of understanding.  Investigate with a calm mind.  Know reality.  Think.  Then decide,” His Holiness gently impresses.  Think.  That’s all we have to start doing.  Think.  And this is something that each person can do on his or her own.  Just think twice before buying that case of plastic water bottles.  Think twice before leaving the house with the lights on.  Think twice before walking past a person on the street without acknowledging their presence with a smile.  JUST THINK.

These days, we adults are like toddlers in a toy store.  We pull everything out, cause chaos and disorder, push each other around, break everything then leave behind a mess for someone else to clean.  And like small children, we don’t think twice because we don’t realize we have impact.  We don’t realize we matter.  It’s just a plastic bottle.  It’s just a new car.  It’s just a rude comment.  It’s just a middle finger.

As a parent, I understand the frustration of having to sweep up after mischievous kids.  So I should have more understanding.  I should be thinking twice, no three times, before I make a mess.  Where was this dress made?  Do I really need to redecorate my living room?  What’s in a Swedish Fish anyway?  Could I be kinder to people who challenge me?  Could I stop engaging in gossip?  Because here in the grown-up land of planet Earth, my parents won’t be cleaning it up.  My children will.  And depending on the behavior we model, they can continue the cycle or they can start a new one.  There is no politician, no judge or teacher who has more power over the direction of this planet than a mother.  Each mother has an enormous responsibility to offer her children opportunities to THINK about their impact on this planet.  But in the end, it’s up to all of us to be better, to do better.

THIS WORLD REVOLVES AROUND YOU.  THEREFORE YOU MATTER.  EVERYTHING YOU DO… EVERY THOUGHT YOU THINK…  IT ALL MATTERS.

So now that you know you matter, what do you do?  Ignore the call?  Pretend it never happened?  Or do you join the wave of goodness?  Do you start playing the role of responsible human being?  After all, in a hundred years we’ll all be dead.  But our grandchildren will be here.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to train our children to make responsible choices and practice loving kindness by modeling that behavior ourselves?  How else will they learn?  Loving kindness is taught at home, not in school.  At least not yet. 😉

FATHER THOMAS KEATING:  Not your mother’s Father

Now, most of my friends are Christians, and regardless of your level of Christian devotion, I think you’ll be very interested in learning more about Father Thomas Keating.   If you love your faith and believe in God but are sometimes frustrated by the church’s narrow interpretation of the Bible, boy, have I got a monk for you.  If you are searching for a modern take on Christianity, Father Thomas is the just the 80 year old priest that will inspire you to connect fully and passionately to your faith.

I am not your mother’s Father, are the words he does not say, but then again, doesn’t have to.

Father Thomas begins by talking about evolution, setting the tone right away.  The earth is fully populated and this, he considers as proof that the human species is fully evolved.  He challenges, “It’s time to look at the development of consciousness that is beyond biological.”  He goes on, saying that as spiritual seekers, we are constantly searching for union with God, as if God is the “Other”.

“There is no ‘Other’,” he says emphatically, “Everything is a manifestation of the source.”  In other words, we are already in union with God, we just need to awaken to it.  Our problem is that we, “want to become God on our own terms.”  (Yes, yes, I am with you, Father Thomas.)  He tells us we need to reduce our selfishness by serving others.  “We think satisfaction of our emotional needs is happiness, even if it’s brief,” but God is not brief, God is everlasting, so in order to become God, we must invest our efforts in activity that provides us with longterm clarity and peace.

My interpretation:  Stop behaving badly, stop treating our bodies like garbage disposals, stop being assholes to each other and stop disrespecting this planet.  The human race evolved so we could stop acting like animals.  And that’s just what we’re doing!  We are a temporary embodiment of holy spirit.  When we die and shed our skin, all of the bullshit drags our souls down.  Our souls want to rise!  We can elevate by honoring the beautiful energy within us by investing in the intangibles, discovering happiness, serving mankind.

BROTHER DAVID STINDL-RAST:  With gratitude for saying the words we need to hear

Brother David Steindl-Rast (WHOM I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!!!!!!!!) completes Father Thomas’ point by sharing a quote from Father Thomas Merton:  “GOD ISN’T SOMEONE ELSE.”  Wait, wait, wait.  Did you hear that?

GOD ISN’T SOMEONE ELSE.

The audience is awake.  We are all taken by Brother David.  He speaks, we applaud.  He speaks, we applaud.  He is wonderful.  He tells us that God is a mystery that doesn’t fit into the limited institutions that we’ve created to contain it.  He urges, “A non-violent revolution against power structure must be started in small communities.”

By revolution, he is telling us that NOW is the time that we can create a better future for the human race.  It has to be now.  (If not now, when?)  We have building momentum, maybe just a loving trickle at this point.  But by adding more mindful energy to the revolution, we can create a steady stream.  And then a flood.  Until we discover we are swimming in our new normal.  Welcome the Christians.  Welcome the Buddhists.  Welcome the Mulims, the Hindus, the Jews, the Sufis, the Non-believers.  Because regardless of our religious beliefs, science has proven something that we can all agree on.  LOVE MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER.

Liz Walker asks Brother David, “Are we guilty of failing God?”

He responds by bringing the conversation full circle, conjuring up an image of a mother at home with her baby, splattering food on the floor and misbehaving.  The mother doesn’t accuse the baby of being a failure.  She loves him and encourages him to do better.  Brother David tells us to do the same, “Look at the world with eyes of a mother and say, ‘You can do better.'”

“Write that one down!  Write that one down!”  My husband whispers as I scribble frantically into my notebook.

POST-GURU FEAST

Like any spiritual junkie, after the conference broke up, my husband and I find ourselves with a glorious high and a serious case of the munchies.  We walk over to Legal Seafoods and order a feast of salad and fish.   We pour over my messy notes and chatter excitedly about our own interpretations and moments of awakening.  We are wrapped in enthusiasm all the way home, where we joyfully embrace our children who have missed us all day.  And then, we pass out.  Because like any spiritual junkie, we cannot escape the crash.

So this morning, I write and think and meditate my way through my first spiritual hangover.  Hair of the dog.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

“and now instead of him watching TV we all sit around and watch him”

the blog title and pic above are of shel silverstein’s famous  jimmy jet.  the following quote by robert thurman is in ed and deb shapiro’s book BE THE CHANGE, how meditation can transform you and the world.

“Meditation is a neutral and very powerful tool.  The choice is what are we going to meditate on?  Most people let themselves be guided by a culture that this trying to make them buy things or make them afraid through the news.  When we watch television and we see a commercial, it is like a guided meditation on dissatisfaction.  We have to guide our meditation in a positive direction.  We do this when we meditate on freedom, on penetrating to the deep nature of reality.  In other words, if we meditate on being egotistical, we will become more egotistical, but if we meditate on being selfless, we will become more caring and altruistic.  When we experience ourselves as totally integrated with everyone, we are naturally going to be compassionate and kind to them.”

i never really thought of tube time as meditation, but after reading these words i can see how this is so true.  so often, we sit in front of the television and vegetate.  vegetating is meditating, right?  so whatever is streaming into our consciousness is going to marinate for as long as we sit on the couch with the tube on.  and then it becomes a part of us.  this could be scary.  powerful.  advertisers are changing who we are on a cellular level through commercials.  seriously.  this is true.  and this is CRAZY.  it’s like brainwashing.  no wonder why every kid i see has a friggin pillow pet.  that commercial must run a hundred times a day.  they almost have no choice but to put the thing on their christmas lists.

i just had a conversation with my daughter’s montessori teacher yesterday about how different children are these days – how much bolder they are with adults.  how quick they are to inflict an abrasive comment on their teachers.  there is little doubt, for me, that the kids learn this snarky behavior from TV.  the way children act on “family” sitcoms is atrocious.  the characters are rude to their parents, they are rude to their neighbors, they are rude to other children’s parents.  (i’m thinking of shows specifically on disney and nick – “icarly” and “good luck charlie” such.)  whether we choose to believe it or not, the fact is, our children are modeling their own behavior after these characters.  they think that these actors are cool.  and they think that the behavior of these characters is…  wait for it…  NORMAL.  yes, that’s right.  scary.

and then, of course, is the programming that is pouring into that wide open channel in our adult brains while meditating in front of the TV.  through most news media and dramatic programming we are being programmed to fear.  notice how the tense of the verb changes.  we are no longer actively making a decision about how our brains are functioning; the television producers are making decisions for us.  we ARE BEING programmed.  not to get all big brother on you, but, well, it’s sort of like big brother.  right?

early last year, i banned all real housewives and most news programming from my house.  this was a big decision for me.  i reaaaallllllyyyyy loved my housewives.  BUT.  while watching the new york housewives reunion on bravo, my husband walked into the room and sat down on the couch.  the women on TV were verbally slaying  each other and hubby goes, “oh, v, my jaw is getting tight just listening to this.”  and then i scanned my own body.  my chest was tight and i had a big lump in my throat.  i turned it off and walked away for good.  and then i noticed the physical reactions i had while watching other programming, specifically local news.  i’d get tight and squeeze-y.  i encourage readers to do a physical scan while you watch TV.  it’s madness.  so now i limit my TV intake to programming that lifts me up or educates me.

my kids love TV.  i usually let them watch PBS, animal planet (they love “river monsters”) and some nick jr.  but as of today i’m pulling in the reins.  (oh, god, please give me the strength to do this.)  if they are going to do something as powerful as meditate on an idea for 30 minutes, it’s sure as shit not going to be what some money-focused CEO at disney wants for my kids.

meditation is a powerful tool.  maybe THE MOST powerful tool.  make a mindful decision about how you use it.  start by turning the channel.

from mine to yours,

vanessa

(this entry is reposted with edits from my blog “everything old is new age again“, may 18, 2012.)