Thursday, May 8, 2014

5/9/14—Loving And The Art Of Gifting

Today's post is a guest post from Sparky and Goddess on Love And The Art of Giving.....

This month, we decided to write about gift giving.  To get started, we treated ourselves to a long, leisurely and somewhat nomadic conversation, exploring our gift-giving experiences, to see wherever we might land together.  

This particular journey found us yakking it up on a late night phone call, traversing through holiday memories, rituals and various cultural landscapes where familiar clusters of colorful, paper wrapped boxes with bows had likely appeared.  Around each box and bow we ascribed feelings of excitement, gratitude, surprise, expectation, appreciation – while also recognizing entitlement, manipulation, judgment, pressure, disappointment, ungratefulness, and so on. 

There was a pattern to both of our experiences - a path to what first appeared like a light, delightful stroll into Candyland and began to morph into an unfulfilling, forced march through a gnarly gauntlet.  Our experiences with holidays, anniversaries and birthdays – not to mention the blatant, communal trance of Christmas excess, had changed our relationship towards observing such traditions and the requisite gifting frenzy.  

Together, we acknowledged that the ritual of gifting - when practiced freely and spontaneously, can beautifully represent something far greater than the thing given.  But, as in so many other aspects of life, when the gifting becomes invested with such heaps of ego, it hogs all the energy and overshadows the finest intentions of celebration and tradition.  We continued chatting like this, recalling various observances that ranged in description from an authentic and intimate expression of love to a grotesque, public orgy of base pathologies.     

We’ve all been to these things that pretty much script out the same.  All leading to the big moment when the king or queen bee must graciously, or maybe not so graciously, receive and react to each gift as spectators ooh and ah appropriately while swimming in a deep sea of complex, subtle parleys that showcase skillsets designed to veil what amounts to judging and being judged.  We had to laugh at the infinite mirror metaphor reflecting a judge judging while being judged as others judge others judging… Sheesh!

Then came the story of a group of 13 year olds that had been picked up in limos for dinner at a Georgetown restaurant, followed by front row seats for a performance at the Kennedy Center and dancing in a private club.  At the club, the birthday girl was found weeping, being consoled in her distress by concerned friends, because a parent chaperone had remained in tow, downstairs.    

We shared the tender memory of a parent that had, year after year, arrived with a modest, but thoughtful birthday gift – each of which were well received and treasured.  It was only later discovered that the same gift had been secured in bulk, and given to other relatives of similar age and gender, year after year.  

It’s a teaching to consider: we want our gifts to be imbued with meaning, but meaning can only be what the receiver sees.

It’s been said that the greatest gift you can ever give anyone is your attention.  To train that upon another and open to blending in that greater field of awareness, connects and fulfills in ways that other gifts and words cannot.  Doing so lays a foundation of connection, a blending of trust and understanding, upon which any other gift in form can lay.  When that foundation is formed and tended too, the greatest gift is already present.    

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

5/7/14—Rethinking The Golden Rule

I had a revelation in the shower the shower the other day. It's not really groundbreaking or anything, but it has given me some interesting and profound thoughts.

I've always been compelled by how pretty much every religion agrees on the really big things. They all agree there's a higher power of some sort, for example. And most have, as a key dictate, what's known as an "ethic of reciprocity" (aka The Golden Rule) that says you should treat others in the same way you would like to be treated. 

I mean, think of it...once you agree on those two things, as most humans would tell you they do, there should never be war or violence. There should never be fighting over whose God is best. We should live in a peaceful society. Most of the Ten Commandments are covered by the Golden Rule. Most societal laws fall under that umbrella, too. Once you've agreed upon there being a higher power and an ethic of reciprocity that needs to be followed, really everything else is details...what's the god's name, does he have a son, do you have free will...none of that is bigger than "there is a god and he wants you treat others well."

But that's not my revelation. 

My revelation is that, in New Age thinking, there's something they call "The Law of Attraction". And what that means is that your thoughts create your reality. If you believe you're misunderstood, you'll find evidence of that all around you, for example. The Law of Attraction is also said many ways...what you put out comes back to you...thoughts become things...if you believe it, you can achieve it...what you're looking for will find you...even "he who smelt it, dealt it." :D

What I hadn't realized before is that this is the same thing as the Golden Rule. It's just coming at it from a different angle. And it's less of a rule or ethic than it is a law, fact, warning or guarantee. What I mean by that, is that the way you treat others defines the way you will be treated. Not the other way around. So the Golden Rule isn't a suggestion, it's a statement of fact. It's an accurate prediction based on past performance. It's like a mathematical equation. Absolute. The way you would treat others is how you will be treated.

If you're the kind of person that's ready to fight back at least as hard when you're attacked, you will be attacked. There will be a lot of conflict in your life. Because that's how you would do unto others, that's the energy or vibration you attract. And until you change the way you feel and think about reciprocity, you're going to continue to attract that energy, whether you're outwardly attacking others or not. As long as you think "an eye for an eye" is the way to go, you will live in an environment of fear, attack and hair trigger response. 

And as long as you wait for everything around you to change before you change (aka, "I'll give in when he gives in,") you'll be stuck in that cycle. Because think about it, if you're waiting for the other side to wave the red flag, you're essentially saying "I would like the other side to wait for ME to wave the red flag before they give up." Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Maybe this isn't such a brilliant realization...haha. I've just noticed that, over the past few years as I've become a nicer person and have been willing to be the first to give up on fights from time to time, my world has changed. It hasn't changed the people I've struggled with one bit, nor should it. But it has changed their potency and presence in my life. And more than that, it has changed the kind of people who ENTER my life. And that gave me the context to see that the Golden Rule isn't just some Biblical ideal, it's actually an operators manual for how life works. 

And—very important—it's not just about what you DO, it's about what you feel and think and say, too. So if you're an innocent victim of people treating you in a certain way, take a good, hard look at how you think of others. The rule doesn't necessarily work tit for tat, in that if you call someone names, they will call you names. You may hurt people in ways other than they hurt you. The problem is in thinking it's EVER OK to intentionally do harm to another. 

So there you go. If there's an energy in your life that has dogged you too long, change your thoughts and actions. Be the one who gives up the fight first. Be the one who makes a different choice. And don't just do it so good things will come into your life, feel it and think it, too. That's the hard part. There's a certain amount of "fake it until you make it" involved, but ultimately you have to change the way you've been seeing and handling things all your life. 

Ask yourself honestly, "if I knew the Golden Rule was an edict that shaped the course of my life, rather than a suggestion of how things "should" be, would I act differently than I do now?" Some may not. The way we respond to others is just as imprinted in us as smoking or excessive drinking are, and people continue to do that when they know it's killing them. But at least ask yourself. Because you can't change what you're not aware of. And if there's something in your life that needs to change, you're the one that's going to have to do the changing. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

5/5/14—Experiencing Moments of Extraordinary Beauty

Let me tell you about my weekend.

I did some yard work. Walked the dogs. Rested a lot. I didn't accomplish everything on my list, but everything that needed to get done got done. It was, in fact, a completely unremarkable weekend, but for a few exceptions—extraordinary moments of presence and gratitude. 

The picture I used for this entry created one of those moments. More often than not, I watch the sunset from my front stoop with my boy, Kizzie. Sometimes I'm in the moment, but most of the time my mind wanders to chores or bills or work things or conversations I had or wish I'd had. My mind was in this soup of thought—a place it resides whenever I'm not writing or meditating—when I looked up and saw the moon between two cloud formations trying to decide whiter to be rain clouds, white clouds or pink ones. So I started taking pictures, then the moon disappeared behind a puff of cloud. So I sat there, rapt and barely breathing, with camera to eye, waiting for it to reappear again. Then I took this picture. (The moon is just a little north of center in this pic. It's hard to see when the pic is this small.)

When the shot was taken, I noticed that whatever furrowed brow I had before I saw the moon...whatever weight of thought I'd fallen under...was gone and it was replaced by a joyous grin. For a moment, I felt I wasn't just IN the moment, I'd transcended it. "Tierney" disappeared while the drama of the moon and cloud unfolded and when I returned to my body, I was revived.

I'm sure we've all had moments like this. I've just had a lot of them this past weekend. And I think I know why.

The sun, breaking through heavy cloud cover to light Kizzie perfectly. 
It all started with Friday's sunset when my soup of thought churned out, "you have the entire weekend before you and nothing HAS to be done." So I decided to proceed through the weekend with no pressure and no guilt, only gratitude. Then things started happening. The magical moment when the dark clouds broke and lit Kizzie beautifully (not to mention the big smile it gave him.) The moment where Mystic and Magick both flanked me on the deck box while I petted them and joined them on their watch for squirrels. The brief second when, on my way to my car, my nostrils filled with the scent of wisteria from across the street. All of these were one-time-only moments that could either be experienced and appreciated or hardly noticed as we shuffle forth, unconscious, lost in a stew of thought.

Each of these moments, lived consciously, not only transported me, they overwhelmed me with gratitude about the sheer awesomeness of what we get to experience here on earth. I'm getting choked up just writing about it. This place we get to live is filled with indescribable beauty. I tried, this weekend, to imagine a place more beautiful and I didn't even know where to start! The experiences we get to have here are truly magical and ever-changing, too...a buffet of love. This body we inhabit, this mind we have and the senses we use to perceive it all are a miracle. 

Just before the sun broke through on Friday. 
If you had no context to build upon, who we are and what we are would be literally beyond anything you could imagine. And we only know a fraction of the answers and all the amazing possibilities that exist. We haven't evolved enough to perceive or understand or measure what's REALLY going on out there. When you think of the billions of years and all the random interactions it took to create the galaxy, planet and bodies we inhabit, just the fact we're here to experience it all is unlikely. All those random interactions and WE get to benefit from it. It is truly a gift. How we just naturally move through life taking it all for granted is a mystery to me...another unexplainable factor of existence that keeps us from wandering this earth in a constant state of awe.

For me, these realizations were different from the mind-blowing realizations we have when
One more pic of Saturday's moon.
we start thinking about the stars in the sky, the size of the universe or how we came to be. And I've been grateful for and present in simple moments before. But the combination of giving myself permission to accomplish and think about nothing in particular, combined with my overwhelming gratitude to be me in this precise moment, somehow gave me a depth of sight I've never had before, and it gave me gift after gift each time I chose to just be present this weekend. 

We have no idea how long we'll be here. We have little control over what comes our way. But we do get to choose. We get to choose how we'll spend our limited time here and whether or not we're conscious of the beauty in ordinary moments. We get to choose how we respond to the things that cross our path—do we greet them with fear or love? And we get to decide whether or not the sun breaking through dark clouds hurts our eyes or illuminates new depths of our soul. Gratitude and conscious attention change everything.