Thanksgiving 2016, without a leg to stand on

Sometimes there is nothing left but Rilke:

I love you, gentlest of Ways, Thanksgiving-2016 with Rilke
who ripened us as we wrestled with you.
You, the great homesickness we could never shake off,
you, the forest that always surrounded us,
you, the song we sang in every silence,
you dark net threading through us,

You began yourself so greatly
on that day when you began us—
and we have so ripened in your sunlight,
spreading far and firmly planted—
that now in all people, angels, madonnas, you can decide:
the work is done.

 

Let your hand rest on the rim of Heaven now
and mutely bear
the darkness we bring over you.

Barrows, Anita (2005-11-01). Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (Kindle Locations 823-830). Penguin Group US.

And that is enough.

 

The Earth Stands Still

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STANDSTILL

Evil people do not further
The perseverance of the superior man.
The great departs; the small approaches.

On Election Night 2016, as we all began to see what was happening, I went to throw an iChing, which often comforts me in times of horror.  The hexagrams that came up for “Present” and “Future” were both “Stagnation” or “Standstill”

In a state of standstill or decline, confusion and disorder come along. Inferior forces are on the rise, when the powers of clarity and creativity are on the decline. In such times, the wise take shelter in their own integrity and quietly remain faithful to their principles. Retreat from public activities and common exchanges until the times favor direct action.

During periods of stagnation, inferior elements in society come to the forefront. When the inmates are overrunning the asylum, summon up your fortitude, hide your worth and withdraw. Concentrate on your personal affairs with a quiet dignity, even if that means forfeiting short-term rewards.

Desiring to change a situation too quickly often creates extra conflict. By accepting hardship, while striving to maintain integrity, you are preparing for future growth. “A seed of prosperity is often hidden inside the husk of misfortune.”

Draw your own conclusions.

Leonard

I lost my way, I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place.
Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning. –  Leonard Cohen

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The doors keep opening and closing… Beauty and ugliness.  When will we learn?

On Election Night

When a country obtains great power,
it becomes like the sea: all streams run downward into it.
The more powerful it grows,
the greater the need for humility.
Humility means trusting the Tao,
thus never needing to be defensive.
A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.
If a nation is centered in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.

-Lao Tzu
Tao Te Ching 61

Critical Thinking

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I have been thinking, in this election season, about the art of critical thinking.  There’s not a lot of it around at the moment.  I know this, because I used to teach it to undergrads, and I always pointed out that if they would learn this skill, no one could ever make a fool of them.  Yet fools abound.

Here’s a definition of critical thinking from a pretty neat page I found:

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-concept-of-critical-thinking/411)

There are a lot of lies being told just now, many of them masquerading under the guise of “fact” taken out of context, misread, misinterpreted, falsified, etc., etc. . . . If we are willing to believe whatever comes before us instead of using our powers of reasoning, of careful reading, checking of sources, and questioning motivations and agendas including our own, perhaps we need to ask ourselves what our own motivations and agendas are.

And THAT is the last thing I will say about this particular election, except that I am embarrassed to be an American just now.

The Indifference of Forgiveness

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When the stream of love flows in its full strength it purifies all that stands in its course, as the Ganges in the teachings of the ancients purifies all who plunge into its sacred waters.

There are two people in my life who have taught me lessons about forgiveness.  I find that to forgive someone takes deep love and even deeper commitment.   There are, in fact, many people in my life that I have not felt the need to forgive or to be forgiven by, but that is because I was never able to love them.  I hope someday I will,  although I also believe that in some cases, forgiveness is not necessary, although only in the case of forgetfulness.

The first lesson I learned about forgiveness was from a teacher of mine, the one who took me where I wanted to go with all my heart.  It was hard for me when I later had to admit that he had some moral failings that I happened to find particularly unacceptable and painful to contemplate.  I was, in fact, angry at him for several years, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.  Yet gradually, I found that when I contemplated what he had given me and where he had taken me, when I considered what had come through him and how perfect it was, the enormity of his gift purified me and I realized that I could forgive him for being a human being and making mistakes.  It was a beautiful, clean moment when I realized that I didn’t even have to think of issues such as forgiveness where he was concerned and further, that whatever others felt and thought did not have to be my concern.

Thus, one of the final lessons he taught me was how to forgive, and all without saying one word on the topic.

The quality of forgiveness that burns up all things except beauty is the quality of love. – Inayat Khan

I was given a further lesson just this morning, and I suppose that is a good sign, but I feel eviscerated and wounded, and perhaps those feelings are a good sign as well, because they take place in the heart and not the ego, if that is what one focuses on.  What happened, you might possibly ask.  Well, I live in a culture that is currently quite polarized as our leaders take us through a process that very probably involves their shadow-projections making us all too aware of our own.  One of them, as you may know, is putting this country through a rather horrifying time, as he is completely unfit to be a leader and seems determined to be exactly that.  We Americans are, I suspect, frightened at this time, and our fear reflects the overall, historic success of our way of government, because however imperfect it is, it has kept us relatively safe for a long, long time;  yet now we are given to realize how fragile and easily broken our way is, that we are not immune to the horrors other countries have known throughout history.  It is easy to judge someone like this person I refer to, and the media fully cooperates in the process of manipulating peoples’ fears and emotions.  It is a time of grave dishonesty, a time when people’s fearful minds are being manipulated at the hand–ultimately–of this person who is at a level of evolution such that this is all he can do.  How does this idea of forgiveness operate in cases like this?  Inayat Khan offers one solution:  he points out that we ought not to judge the person, but that we can certainly judge his actions:

For instance, take a person who is ill, and creating disturbance in his atmosphere by crying, weeping, shouting.  It disturbs us. We say, “How bad, how annoying! What a bad nature!” It is not bad nature, it is the illness behind it. It is that reason which will make us tolerant.  When we see no reason, we are blind to that Light of God, blind to that forgiveness which is the only essence of God which can be found in the human heart. – Inayat Khan

That kind of forgiveness is a tall order, but think of the power in its sincere application.  Yet a global, distant forgiveness of this kind is far easier than forgiving someone who has the power not just to make us angry, but to break our hearts.  To forgive at a distance is a powerful thing, far more profound in its effect than the worst judgment or punishment.

When a friend or family member hurts us, what then?  Once upon a time, long, long ago, Murshid (I mean, here, Hazrat Inayat Khan, my life’s teacher) came to me in a dream.  I am not old enough to have ever met this great soul, although I have been taught by his friends and relatives, so to meet him in this way was very precious to me.  At the time, I was going through the breakup of a marriage, and I was certainly a spiritual infant at that time… and when Murshid came to me, he offered me the premier definition of indifference:  Indifference, he said, means to be so completely in love with the person who causes pain that one doesn’t even see the need for forgiveness, doesn’t even see the wrongdoing, but only sees love in the other.

Another tall order.  In my case, that one took a long time to work, but I know it is the ultimate definition of forgiveness.

And now a friend has hurt me.  We are told that when we find another’s behavior intolerable, we need to look at ourselves first, and I realize that I invited what happened, and that although I would like to think that I handled my end of it intelligently and kindly, it doesn’t matter, because the other person didn’t think so, and lashed out at me.  And so I have given us both the opportunity to learn to forgive.

My thoughtful self,

Bear all and do nothing,

Hear all and say nothing,

Give all and take nothing,

Serve all and be nothing.

While I was roaming through the forest, a thorn pricked my bare foot and cried, “Ah, you have crushed me.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
A wasp flying in the air stung my arm and cried, “Ah, you have caught me in your sleeve.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
My foot slipped and I fell in a pool of muddy water. The water cried, “Ah, you have disturbed me.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
I absently happened to touch a burning fire, and the fire cried, “Ah, you have extinguished me.” I felt sorry and I asked its forgiveness.
I asked my gentle self, “Have you received any harm?” “Be thankful,” said she, “that is was not worse.” – Inayat Khan

“I look to thee, o Lord, when I try to do right and it turns to wrong.” (Inayat Khan)

 It occurs to me that the present time offers, most of all, the opportunity to learn forgiveness.