Thursday, June 26, 2014

6/27/14—Slipping Into Another's Stream

Our last post was about letting go and trusting that what is truly yours will come to you. In it, I described surrendering as akin to letting a river's current take your body. Today I came across an older post of mine quoting Mark Nepo, who describes compassion as "entering the stream of another without getting lost." How amazing is that? Entering into the stream of another without getting lost.

If you consider there's an invisible hand guiding all of us down the stream of our lives, this is a pretty cool visual. And to understand another person is to experience their stream. As the author says, there is a danger of getting lost in another's stream. But compassion asks us to enter that stream without losing sight of our allow their stream to run parallel to ours, but not spill over into ours.

After all, we're all born from the same waters. Someone may do something we'd never do, but that doesn't mean we're not capable of doing it. Compassion requires getting in touch with that part of ourself that understands ourself enough to know there is nothing anyone does or feels that is not somewhere inside us. In that sense, there is really only one stream, but maybe different currents to get caught up in.

There are many who think compassion is only for the "deserving". And someone, somewhere along line distinguishes "deserving" from "undeserving", I suppose. But compassion is for everyone. I've been criticized many times in my life for having compassion for "undeserving" people. In a conflict between two sides, for example, I'll be able to see the pain of both sides and have compassion for both. 
People always say they don't expect you to pick sides. But they do. And the side you're supposed to pick is the one deemed more deserving. Compassion should flow only to that side. And if compassion flows to the other, as well, you're a traitor, playing both sides or sitting on the fence. Well, I'm OK with being criticized for thinking that's a big, stinky load of bullshit. Everyone is equally deserving of compassion. We are all children of spirit. We all have pain. We all feel misunderstood. We are all. Worthy. Of compassion. 
When Mark Nepo says compassion is slipping into another's stream without getting lost, that's the same as saying "feel compassion, but don't bend who you are while doing so". Sometimes I see people willfully hurting others in the act of what they call compassion for another...using compassion for one as an excuse to be nasty to another. That's getting lost in another's stream. Unless, of course, being nasty is part of your stream.

Compassion is not something you have to prove to others. It's not saying "I approve of your actions." Nor is it a weapon you wield by witholding. It's something that comes from the soul part of you—the part of you that recognizes that even those who are considered "evil" are of God, like you, and suffering from their separation, like you. It's the part of you that sees their pain and sorrow, even when it's hard to find. And the part wise enough to acknowledge the thin line that separates "good" from "bad" and sane from crazy, and feels bad for someone who can't keep from crossing over that line. Even if we can't empathize or know how they're feeling based on personal experience, we can nonetheless, genuinely say "I'm sorry you're in such pain right now". Regardless of what we think of them as a human being.

We slip into someone's stream without losing ourselves. And I'd go so far as to say that neglecting to find compassion for another *is* losing ourselves. It's losing sight of our shared soul—the human struggle and the oneness we share as children of God and the universe. When we deem another's "sin" as too ugly to look at or when we fight against it, we're dishonoring that part of us that is universal. We're saying we're so ashamed of who we are that we have to deny it. We are really not all that different.

The more honest you are with yourself and the better you know yourself, the more you can see that the same dark corners exist within you, even though you choose not to bring them to light. But there are other dark corners you DO bring to light, so you know how others struggle. When you have grown to the point that you can own that, then you can see the struggle in others. And when you see the struggle in others, how can you help but have compassion?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

6/25/14—Floating on the Breath of God

I came across this quote today while poking around in old posts on my blog. It's for all of us with trust issues or who get held up on wanting to know WHY something is happening. 

I'm going to quote someone who's quoting it, because that's the only way I know the quote. Richard Bruxvoort Colligan* quoted St. Hildegard by saying:
"Hildegard of Bingen said a faithful life means 'to be a feather on the breath of God.'
And what does a feather know about wind?
What does a kite have to understand in order to fly?
How much knowledge of meteorology does a sailboat need to feel the strength of full sails?"
This quote is so great because it captures the essences of trust, letting go and surrender all in a single, beautiful snippet. Personally, I usually visualize letting go and surrender as laying, arms stretched, in a river and allowing the river to carry me to where I need to be. 

The river is God or the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in. If you try to swim upstream, you'll waste a lot of energy and not get very far. That's what happens when we try to control situations...when we fight against what "is". We may make some progress in the direction we think we want to go, but eventually we end up where the universe wants us to be. And, from my experience, where the universe wants us to be is generally a much better place than where I think I want to go. And the more I fight against it, the less benefit I receive at the ultimate destination. So letting go is really the smartest way to get there. 

The quote also captures the "why" aspect. "Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening now?" Have you ever noticed the answers to those questions never come until you've reached—and embraced—your final destination? So the whys are just more wasted energy to add to all the swimming against the current we tend to do. 

Finally, though, this is about trust. It's about lifting all the questions up to the universe and allowing the answers to come in their own time. It's about trusting that you're being led to a place that will serve your higher benefit. That doesn't always look like a winning prospect in the beginning, but my experience in life is that we have no way to lose. If you believe everything happens for a reason, then withholding trust is, again, more wasted energy. 

What's key to know here is that things like trust and letting go aren't necessarily talents you're born with. More often, they're skills you develop. So when you say, "I wish I could be more like you and trust in the future," you can. If you work at it as hard as the person you're admiring, that is. Trust and letting go and surrender are all practices. They're things you work on every day in your relationship with your higher power. 

So when you notice yourself letting fear creep in, stop yourself and visualize yourself floating down the river toward a magical light or soaring through the air as a feather on the breath of God. Just absorbing the idea of floating on the breath of God alone will fill you with the faith you need to weather the storm. Over time, the trusting and letting go will become more and more automatic as you begin to see the wisdom in the practice. 

We don't need to know or understand why things are happening the way they're happening. We just have to let ourselves be taken away by the breath of that which has always looked after us, whether you call it God or Allah or Yaweh or the Universe. It has never failed you yet. And if you think it has, then you haven't yet embraced where you've landed. Regardless of whether you like an outcome or not, though, it is what it is. And you can live there in bitterness or gratitude. That's your choice. I choose to let go and trust. 

*If you want to read the Christian sermon this quote came from, follow this link or the link above (you'll find the links on The sermon goes on to help you with a prayer you can say and it references scripture and stuff. It's a good post.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

6/23/14—Letting Clouds Pass

Cloudy, gray sunset.
Tonight's post is a rerun of one I did earlier in the year. It popped into my mind recently, probably because it's something I needed to read again myself. Hopefully it will catch you at the right time, too. Also, if you missed this week's bonus post, head over to and read "Choosing Joy and Love." Here's today's post...

Last Friday we talked about how clouds make the sunsets more interesting and colorful, as do the "clouds" that come along in our lives. Last night's sunset kind of expanded on that. 

See, it started out all overcast and gray. And I was pretty sure the sunset would suck. But then I saw a tinge on pink on the bottom of one of the clouds and thought, "well now". Then minutes later, the sunset exploded into fabulous color. 

This reminded me of what happened at my last job. I said the wrong thing at the wrong time to my boss and she, in turn, completely handled the situation poorly and it became clear my days were numbered. So the skies on that day seemed pretty gray. But almost immediately it occurred to me to become a freelancer. The gray clouds got a tinge of pink. Then days later, I gave my notice. And, since then, it's been one wild, colorful, spectacular sunset! 

Kinda. :)
A hint of pink lines the gray.

It has certainly resulted in the best years of my professional life so far. So the very best thing that ever happened to me started out as gray skies. For some, the very best thing started out with a spouse leaving them. Or catching a disease. Or like something that happened as a result of an old friend's actions many years ago.

My friend drove drunk on New Year's Eve and it resulted in a young man's leg being severed from his body. She went to jail for a couple of years and hasn't lived a day of her life without torturing herself over that night. But this young man contacted her 20 or 25 years later and told her losing his leg was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was going down a bad path and it was just the wakeup call he needed. Today he has a wife and children and he doubts that would have ever happened had he not been in the "wrong place at the wrong time". 

The sky explodes into glorious color.
Sometimes our gray clouds don't show their pink edges immediately. And sometimes the pink edges are very subtle and hard to see. But I can't think of anything that's happened in my life—even the really bad stuff—that didn't end up with pink edges and even spectacular color. 

We tend to think of things in terms of winning or losing, luck or misfortune, or of whether or not God or the universe is on our side. But in the end, there is no such thing as loss. Nobody's being punished for anything. There is no such thing as an unsupportive universe. There are just people who prefer to live in perpetual victimhood. That sounds harsh, but the fact is that what you take away from an experience is your choice, not your fate. If you're deep in the "poor me's" it's because that's where you choose to be because it gives you an excuse not to move forward. It's natural to visit the "poor me's" when things turn tough, but wallowing there and making it your story is choosing to be a victim.

You see the choice to thrive in the face of adversity in the video of the guy with no arms or legs who turned his disability into an extraordinary ability to inspire. And through the young girl singled out and shot by the Taliban for promoting education who, after recovering her ability to walk and talk, took her fight to a much larger and more powerful audience. And through John Walsh, who used his son's kidnapping to create a national sex offender registry and the precursor to the "Amber Alert". There is no telling how many lives have been saved or criminals captured as a result of this man's gray clouds. 

All these people turned their gray clouds into spectacular shows. Really, what challenges do any of us have that compare to theirs? There is a win in every loss we have...a bigger plan than we can ever imagine when we're down. Last night I waited about 15 minutes to see why the gray clouds had to be that way. Whatever you're going through may take longer. But it will change and the beauty of it will be revealed. All it takes is trust and making the choice to turn your eyes towards the gift.