Sunday, November 22, 2020

Gratitude

 


I am taking a break for Thanksgiving.  So instead, here is this week’s Living Compass column and video, which is beautiful.  Thank you, Scott Stoner for sharing this every year right around now…

“Let the Gratefulness Overflow into Blessing All Around You

This week's column's title comes from one of my favorite videos. I have shared it in this column before, as it speaks so eloquently about the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

The video, which focuses on nature, beauty, and gratitude, brings the stunning photography of Louie Schwartzberg together with the spoken words of Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. Brother David invites us to pay attention, really pay attention to the simple gifts and blessings of life that can be so quickly be taken for granted. He points out that paying attention to the wonder of nature and the wonder of the people we encounter in our life is the basis for authentic gratitude. I could not agree more, and I am trying to practice it even in these challenging times.

This Thanksgiving, many of our hearts are filled not only with gratitude but also with grief. Grief for the multitude of devastating losses caused by COVID-19 and for not being able to be with friends and family as we make the difficult choice to do our part in reducing the spread of the virus. 

Perhaps because my heart is exceedingly soft this year, I am even more deeply moved by this video’s message. Seeing people in the video hug and be close to one another is especially poignant. While it made me miss such closeness with others, it also brought back beautiful memories of past holiday gatherings. It reminded me that a time would come when we will once again be able to share our love and gratitude with each other, socially close and unmasked. When that day comes, I think we will all hug and cry, never taking such wonders for granted again. 

You can view the video here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpkEvBtyL7M

 If you want to read along as Brother David speaks, the text of his words follows. His narration is spectacular, and so I highly recommend listening to him recite these words. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and in the words of Brother David, "May your gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you.”

  “You think that this is just another day in your life. It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you - today. It's given to you. It's a gift. It's the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response is gratefulness.

  If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is. If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.

  Begin by opening your eyes, and be surprised that you have eyes you can open to that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for our pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment, with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather, and even with the weather we don't think of all the many nuances of weather. We just think of "good weather" and "bad weather."

  This day, right now, with its unique weather, may be a kind that will never exactly in that form come again. The formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same as it is right now. Open your eyes. Look at that.

  Look at the faces of people whom you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face, a story that you could never fully fathom. Not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far.

  And in this present moment on this day, all the people you meet, all that life from generations, and from so many places all over the world, flows together and meets you here like a life-giving water, if you only open your heart and drink.

  Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch, and there is electric light. You turn a faucet, and there is warm water, and cold water, and drinkable water, a gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience.

  So these are just a few of an enormous number of gifts to which you can open your heart.

  And so I am wishing you will open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you. Know that everyone you will meet on this day will be blessed by you, just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch, just by your presence.

 Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then it will really be a good day.”

Words by Brother David Steindl-Rast”

Happy Thanksgiving and Namaste

 

photo from  https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-importance-of-practicing-gratitude/

 

 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Talents Entrusted to Us

 
 
Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus said ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest. So, take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This story always leaves me confused. It would be easy to “compare and contrast” the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven to Nirvana. I believe the Kingdom of Heaven is here on Earth and that is not what my heart is led to write about today.  This time I went back to the top to figure out exactly what the slaves were asked to do. The word stuck out to me this time was entrusted.  What is the difference between trust and entrust? The “EN” prefix changes a noun into a verb - an action. If we think in terms of money a Trust is a place where money is held. To be Entrusted with money (in this case a talent or 15 years salary) means you will take action with this money. Much like financial advisors of today, these slaves were expected to take action with this money.  The first traded, the second made, the last hid. Hiding is not a financial action. Trading or making are financial actions.

What are we entrusted with in our lives today? Perhaps the care of a child, or the care of each other.  Perhaps we are entrusted to do the best work we can in our chosen profession.  To follow the yoga idea of Ashima or do no harm, while taking action to leave the world a better place. 

But what about those that are hiding perhaps unable to do better out of selfish dark inward fear, suspicion, neglect, and misery?  How can we help trade or make their lives better, a place of selfless light outward risk, faith, love, and joy? We all are entrusted to help others grow. The ending of this parable is not a punishment, it is consequence of not doing the good work entrusted to us in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now.

As a yoga therapist many entrust me with their health and healing. I model selfless light outward risk, faith, love, and joy using my skill set hoping to trade, make, or move my clients out of selfish dark inward fear, suspicion, neglect, and misery.  Karma yoga, free service, is a way to give to those that have nothing. For a period of time I led free meditations at the Family Resource Center and started a non-profit that offered yoga by donation to all in Rome, Georgia.

We all have different talents to contribute. How do you use the skills entrusted to you to make the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth a better place?

 

Photo: "The Parable of the Talents" (1906), artist unknown. Bible card, Providence Lithograph

 

 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Have Faith


Yoga Sutras Book 1 Verses 1-14

Now, the teachings of yoga. Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness. Then, pure awareness can abide in its very nature. Otherwise, awareness takes itself to be the patterns of consciousness. There are five types of patterns, including both hurtful and benign. They are right perception, misperception, conceptualization, deep sleep, and remembering. Right perception arises from direct observation, inference, or the words of others. Misperception is false knowledge, not based on what actually is. Conceptualization derives from linguistic knowledge, not contact with real things. Deep sleep is a pattern grounded in the perception that nothing exists. Remembering is the retention of experiences. Both practice and non-reaction are required to still the patterning of consciousness. Practice is the sustained effort to rest in that stillness. And this practice becomes firmly rooted when it is cultivated skillfully and continuously for a long time.

Matthew 25: 1-13

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you; I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

“Keep awake” what does Jesus mean when he says this? Does he mean to literally never sleep? Does he mean to stay guarded at all times? To me these ideas seem anxiety inducing, and I cannot believe these would be Jesus purposes. So, my choice is to interpret this as to mean stay disciplined, practice, and trust that I am coming. Said differently: “Have faith.”

This story doesn’t leave us simply with the words “have faith,” it gives us some simple instructions on how to have faith. Keep the faith lights on, keep your faith replenished, and don’t be distracted by those of little faith, and if you find your faith dwindling do not run away – have faith. These are much like the patterns of consciousness described in the Sutras above: right perception, misperception, conceptualization, deep sleep, and remembering. This is discipline or practice, this is a pattern of consciousness, this is a rule of life. Many Christians subscribe to the idea of a rule of life. I am a member of the Order of the Daughters of the King. If you have ever noticed the necklace that never leaves my neck, then you have witnessed my very subtle evangelism (one of the rules). My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all also “daughters.” Our rule of life is a commitment to Prayer, Service, and Evangelism. I’ve already told you the Evangelism of wearing a cross, but the other part is to never shy away from discussions of faith. The Prayer rule is one of constant prayer for all who ask and all in need. The Service rule is to serve our church family in any way we may be called upon. Following these three rules is our way of keeping the oil full and the lamps lit, even if our faith dwindles, waiting for the coming of the lord.  

There are other groups that have different rules of life. Notably Priests, Monks, Imams, Rabbis, and Nuns of all faiths. Lay people can have their own rules of life as well to keep faith. But for all, the important and notable intersection in these rules of life comes in the discipline required to carry them out.

For me this discipline enters my life in many ways. The discipline of prayer, meditation, reading, and care for my body and mind. For me much of this happens in the practice of yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras, and Tai Chi or Hapkido practice. The act of moving my body, synchronized with the movement of my breath can move away anxiety (conceptualization and right perception). The act of meditation (deep sleep), whether I am the leader or a participant, allows me to reach inward non-verbally but prayerfully. Moving through fear (misperception), the valley of the shadow of death, to a place of no fear (remembering) is freeing. For me, these practices are an integral part of my rule of life, I find it hard to keep the lights on without them. For you, the rule may look completely different, and that is how it was intended to be, we are all unique. God knows right now we need to respect and appreciate each one’s unique qualities and ways of moving through the world. So have faith as you practice your own unique rule of life.

Namaste