“He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in!” ~ Edwin Markham
“When we embody love, we are the most powerful being in the universe.” ~ Emmanuel
I wasn’t always as developed as I am now. While I have always been empathetic, compassionate, loving, and understanding of others, not all of those qualities of mine were always as deep or as vast as they are today. I used to be more judgmental than I am now, sometimes criticizing people or things without thinking it completely through if it’s really necessary, sometimes overlooking the fact that I also do things that can, maybe even “should” be, judged critically.
“The praise that comes from love does not make us vain, but more humble.”
~James Matthew Barrie
I think for most of us, we evolve the longer we live, the more we experience even if we don’t realize we’re evolving. And when we do realize we are becoming wiser, more educated, more aware, it’s possible to let it run away with us, let ourselves become a little bit too stuck up or arrogant, too proud, let our heads get too big.
Sometimes I feel so enlightened in some respects. I see things so much more clearly than I did before. I see how wrong I was in some ways about some things. And there have been occasions when I caught myself becoming too full of myself, arrogant, judgmental when I would have an encounter with someone who I perceived as not to be as “enlightened” or aware as I am.
Someone who still holds opinions that are not very evolved or opinions I disagree with or someone who handles those opinions in ways I don’t appreciate or wouldn’t do myself.
Like when I would meet someone who did not realize things or know things that I now know or realize. And I would criticize the person for it, totally neglecting to realize that at one point I did not realize this or something else, either and that right now at this very moment there are things I don’t know or understand, that I am so less developed than I will be in years to come, with age and much more experience. I’m not the most enlightened being on Earth and likely never will be. And that’s ok.
It reminds me of when I would take certain Logic and critical thinking classes in college. In the beginning of one class, our professor told us that in a few weeks we would already know so much more than the average person about reasoning, arguing, debating. He said we would begin to see all the flaws in people’s reasoning in everyday life. People around us, people on TV, commercials, everywhere. He said him, as a Logician with extremely advanced reasoning skills and nearly flawless logic, couldn’t turn off his ability to instantly detect flaws in reasoning even when he would be out with friends having a simple or trivial conversation, watching TV whether it was comedy movies or political or religious debates, reading, everywhere. His knowledge of Logic, fallacies, arguments…is so superior he can’t help but just see how everyone else’s logic is just so flawed. He often had to resist the urge to correct everyone everywhere.
I had a few philosophy professors who told us, although probably mostly in jest, that we may soon regret taking the class because all of a sudden everyone around us becomes so “stupid,” unenlightened, or unreasonable that it’s nauseating. Lol
They said we may become arrogant, inpatient, intolerant of everyone who has never taken a logic or critical thinking class. And it was true. I did start to detect flaws in people’s reasoning everywhere I would go, even in simple, everyday conversations. I noticed how fallacious so many arguments really are. Sometimes it was so frustrating to know so much more than the average person about certain things.
And years later when I began to actively practice and meditate upon universal compassion and general tolerance more than ever before and realized it’s the best way for me to be, I started to sometimes catch myself judging others who weren’t that way.
Sometimes I would give myself a pat on the back for being “just so much more evolved” than most people I know or come in contact with.
When someone would get worked up during an argument, sling an explicit insult at an opponent, argue in flawed ways like I used to do, I would be critical of those people, praising myself for being “beyond that.”
Now I quickly correct myself if ever I catch myself doing that. I’m usually patient in the face of other people’s impatience, gentle with other people’s aggression, non judgmental of someone else’s judgments, tolerant of other people’s intolerance and accepting of someone else’s lack of acceptance. I understand that not everyone will be understanding and I have more compassion than I used to, for those who lack compassion.
Constructive criticism is often a good thing but it can be delivered in a humble way. Assertiveness is necessary in some cases, firmness and unwavering confidence and strength in the face of some injustice.
Love & compassion & acceptance that I write or speak of, in no way means backing down and not speaking up. It doesn’t mean letting people get away with things they should not get away with. It simply means knowing bad things happen, injustice exists in the world, people have differing and horrible opinions and do horrible things but we don’t have to sink to the level of getting even, wishing horrific things on people as punishments, slinging insults and hurting others to seek retribution.
It’s possible to be firm, assertive, grounded, loud, opinionated but loving.
It’s important to stand up for whatever our Truth is, to advocate for what we believe in, speak out against injustice, abuse, cruelty in any form, to defend those who need us, speak up for those who need supporters…but we can do this while promoting love instead of bashing those who disagree. “Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.”
It’s not always easy but I believe it’s worth the struggle.
I’m very into Buddhism which teaches universal love and compassion. I’m not a Buddhist but I read about it everyday and practice many of their principles. There are more things I don’t know and understand about Buddhism than things I do know and understand. But I learn more and more each day.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to incorporate many of their virtues into your own life.
And it’s compatible with religions including Christianity, Judaism, and others. Some people disagree or don’t realize. But Buddhists don’t necessarily believe in any specific god and their principles can go along with the principles of various religions.
You can think of Buddhism as a philosophy or as a religion.
Monastic Buddhists are seriously dedicated, hardcore Buddhists who follow everything in the Lamrim, every principle in excruciating detail and lay Buddhists are looser in their views or lifestyles. They take Buddhism seriously but don’t necessarily follow every principle of Buddhism.
One of the things I love completely about genuine Buddhism and true Buddhists or pro Buddhists is that they teach and promote certain principles and ways of life but they do not enforce them or judge those who do not adopt those views, attitudes, and ways. They teach, guide, advocate for but fully accept that others will not and they embrace those people anyway. This way they remain peaceful within and allow others to be what they will.
I think sometimes when some of us become enlightened on something or think we have and realize we were wrong or utterly ignorant or clueless previously, it can instill embarrassment into us, embarrassment that we did not know or realize this all along, it’s now so obvious, how wasn’t it always this blatant? And the humiliation is so strong we want to avoid it, repress, deny it and run fast away instead of facing it. So what do we do in this case? What makes it easier to avoid confronting ourselves on how wrong or clueless we were before? What’s often easier than admitting I was wrong? Judging, criticizing others who are in the place I used to be in, those who know less about something I now know more about, those with an opinion I once shared but now converted to a “better” one. It’s easier than confessing that I was wrong before and now realize or have become enlightened or changed. It’s easier to verbally attack the me I see in someone else than the real me, my own flesh and blood.
I believe it’s important to stay humble no matter how much more I think I know. Or how right I think I am.
There will always be those who know more than me and those who know less. Those who are more primitive and those more evolved, people who are cruel and seem stupid and those whose intelligence is way out of the average person’s league, people with extreme compassion and deep understanding of others and ones who couldn’t care less to try to understand, open minded and narrow minded, educated and uneducated, enlightened and still in the dark….and to me, they all deserve compassion, empathy, and to be embraced in universal love even if they don’t display that same love or care to be embraced in it. I can still wish them the best and let them go their own way while going my way. That is true, pure, selfless love. At some point I have been and will be again, many of those things I mentioned above.
~Hug the hurt
Kiss the broken
Befriend the lost
Love the lonely~
I believe in Universal Love, higher love, all encompassing love and compassion, being One with all that is.
Not everyone will agree and that’s ok.
“Always leave the world a little better than you found it.”
To me, one of the greatest joys of living is helping others, making things go more smoothly for anyone I can.
There are many simple ways to help people all throughout everyday. Simple things that have a great impact. We don’t have to have a certain job or anything to help out. There are endless opportunities in every day. ❤
There are ways to help people that will go unnoticed by everyone but the person helping but if these simple things are not done, it will be noticed.
You may think something along the lines of “Why even do this when no one will even know? Not even the person being helped will know!” But if you don’t, people will be affected in an unpleasant way.
For example, seeing milkcrates or boxes in the middle of a street with no one else around. If you move those crates or boxes away so people in cars can more easily drive by, there’s a very good chance no one will ever know someone was kind enough to move them. They never knew they were there in the first place. They’ll just drive by without ever knowing. They can’t bask in the joy or gratitude of knowing someone helped them because they don’t know someone did help them.
But if we don’t help by moving those boxes or crates, they will know they’re there. They’ll have to stop, get out of their cars and move them themselves. Or worse, they’ll crash into them, not paying attention. They will feel the impact of the hassle they have encountered. So there really is a purpose to doing simple things that will go unnoticed when the tasks are completed. If they’re not completed, they will be noticed so why not make things easier for people in general whenever we can?! We’re generally under no obligation to help make things easier for people, and if you don’t it doesn’t make you a horrible person, but it’s still fantastic to help anyway!
I don’t need credit or to be paid back in anyway whatsoever. Helping people is enough. I was thinking about this concept one day at work, recently, and it always brings me joy to think this way but I’m always unprepared for the immensity and the depth of the joy that hits me and flows through me, tingling in my bones when I think this way. It’s breathtaking.
The thrill of all the possibilities we have, all the chances we can take, to help anyone we
can in big and small ways. It’s exhilarating!
Even if it’s just eye contact with and a pleasant smile to a stranger, giving someone your seat on a bus or a waiting room, not judging distressed and overworked parents with screaming kids in a crowded place when everyone else is repulsed and giving them disgusted looks, actively listening to someone with a genuine interest in understanding instead of just listening to deliver an appropriate sounding response, being a loyal friend, adopting a pet and giving him/her a loving furever home, paying for someone in back or in front of you in line at a store, writing little love notes with inspirational quotes or messages and leaving them in random places for anyone to find, being extra patient with the stressed cashiers in busy stores, holding your tongue when you feel like lashing out at someone, trying hard to understand someone else’s situation that you never experienced for yourself, the opportunities are infinite.
Sometimes I think of all the ways I may have been helped by some kind stranger through the years, never even knowing it, never saying thank you because I never had the chance. All the puddles I never sat in on busses because someone dried them before I had a chance to sit in them, all the gum that never got stuck in my long hair on public seats somewhere because someone cared to remove it before someone’s hair or clothes got destroyed, the objects that were removed out of aisles of stores, off of pavements, and out of streets before I tripped over them not paying attention, I think of the houses and stores that never got broken into, the people who never got snatched off the streets because someone cared enough to call the police and scare the person away/catch the suspicious person.
I remember one day I was texting while crossing a bus terminal to get onto a bus and stepped in front of another bus, speeding at me, not paying attention. It was more than just a “close call.” I was nearly hit. And so was one of the men who saved me. The bus driver hit the horn but couldn’t stop fast enough. And it was speeding fast. Two men yelled and risked their own lives to save mine. Men I never saw before that day and never saw again. They did not know each other or me. They saw it turn and coming my way when I did not. They both jumped out into the street, one pulling me, the other pushing me. The one actually put his body in front of the bus to push me out of the way, almost falling on top of me to get us both out of the way. If they weren’t at the bus stop that day I probably wouldn’t be here today. Or I would be physically damaged. They did not know who I am but they know that I’m someone. They never knew my name, my values or opinions, my story, my personality, my interests or anything about me other than the fact that I exist. But they clearly valued my life that moment as much as their own, disregarding anything else about me.
Because of that I never look at my phone or anything while crossing a street. Ever. Not once since that day a few years ago, have I even briefly glanced at my phone while crossing even small streets with no traffic. Even when I’m really into something on my phone when I get to a street I act like the phone doesn’t exist. I honor their heroic act.
While I felt immense gratitude I was mortified. It was so stupid to be texting while crossing a busy street/bus terminal. I put not only myself in danger but others. On the bus that day it’s all people could talk about, how lucky I was, how close it was to a tragedy…Luckily no one said out loud how stupid I was. I couldn’t get off that bus fast enough.
(this is the bus stop But on a different day lol! I was looking for a pretty picture to put here and coincidentally this is one of the first to show up on my phone which is broke so all my pics aren’t showing up…)
But if I wasn’t texting that day crossing into the street, I would still be doing stuff like that days after that and maybe another day I wouldn’t have been so lucky to have two Earth angels so close to me. So they saved my life that day and possibly days after. I think of all the days I wasn’t hit by a bus because two heroic men taught me a great lesson. Texting while crossing or driving is a dumb thing to do. It’s dangerous. It’s deadly. To the one texting and the ones around that person.
There are so many blessings we don’t even realize we are living or have lived because they’re the things that go unnoticed when they are done by someone but their absence would be noticed if they weren’t done by someone.
We can give thanks to and for all the Earth angels and heroes out there and those no longer with us by paying it forward. Always being the one to leave the world a little better than we found it. By loving out loud.
Jonathan Huie is one of my heroes I never met in person. Like Norman Vincent Peale, Stephen Covey, Richard Carlson, Sarah Ban Breathnach, and many more. And Daniel Gottlieb who I finally got to meet, last night! All of these people work or have worked to help better the lives of others.
I am deeply inspired by all of them and their brilliant work and lives.
Jonathan Lockwood Huie explains in an Ezine article here:
What Zero-based Gratitude is.
He explains this by first contrasting zero-based budgeting and incremental budgeting, which are techniques often used by businesses, governments, and sometimes individual people. In incremental budgeting, which is traditionally employed, the entity starts with the budget for the last year or previous instance and prepares the subsequent budget based on the previous one. Incorporating whatever increases or more seldom, decreases, is considered to be appropriate.
In contrast, zero-based budgeting begins with a baseline of no expenditures as opposed to the baseline of last year’s expenditures. Instead of looking at some previous year, they just look at now. Right now. As Mr. Huie explains, every single proposed expense must be justified on its own merit as opposed to resorting to the argument that it was in last year’s budget and that everyone is expecting and demanding it.
For most people, their gratitude is incremental gratitude instead of zero based.
When they have a baby, get a new car, get a promotion, more money, a new house, a new love…they’re all thankful. If they lose their job, are forced to get a smaller house or less of something, experience a breakup, get into an argument with someone, become ill or have a sick family member or friend, they get disappointed and angry, lose touch with the gratitude they felt when great things were happening. They haven’t been as blessed today with all they had yesterday.
But still blessed. They just don’t know it. Or feel it. It’s ok to feel sad but we can still be grateful.
There are people who say if the quality of life they have now was greatly reduced by illness or injury, they would choose not to live. Not to be resuscitated. Not to be kept alive with a feeding tube if that means they cannot walk or take care of themselves, if it means they cannot talk like they can now or express themselves in most ways they now can, if it means being a “burden” to others. If basically all they can do is sit up with support and look around a room, being fed with a tube.
But you know what? Many people like this can feel. They feel the touch of others, they feel the care of those who show it to them. They’re alive and conscious. No longer like they used to be. They can’t hold ordinary conversations. They may not be able to speak words, maybe not even completely understand language always.
But they understand touch. They understand smiles. Their hearts understand love.
They see and feel. They see flowers, balloons, smiles, faces. They’re not always suffering even when they re all shriveled up looking, in a chair with a feeding tube. They may look like they’re in an “unfortunate” state to some people but they can be very happy in their own context, just as happy as a walking, mostly independent person who can feed herself.
Some are even born this way and are some of the happiest people! They’re not “vegetables” or “retards” or “burdens” or “brain dead,” they’re people!!
If I all of a sudden tomorrow found myself very unlike the way I am today, my abilities dramatically reduced, my body damaged, with a feeding tube in me but I could still feel, both physically and emotionally, I would choose life even if I couldn’t consciously say or even think it in words.
My life would be just as valuable as the life I live now. Nothing can reduce my value.
I would see balloons and flowers and smiling faces. I would feel the sweet, loving touch of a friend on my arm or the healing, compassionate touch of a doctor, a hand on mine, eyes looking into my own eyes. Feel the warmth of caring people, the beauty of daylight, the beams of golden sun, the sweetness of a gentle breeze, the vibrancy of the colors around me, the life that would still breathe in me. And that would be enough for me.
Even if I couldn’t see or hear, I would still FEEL, most important of all!
Yes I would choose to be a “burden” and I know I wouldn’t really be a burden. Someone somewhere would be happy to have me. BLESSED to have me. Blessed with my smile, my love, my will to carry on. Maybe a family member or a friend, another kind person or kind and loving health professionals who choose to care for people with extra needs who aren’t suffering but are not as independent as people who can walk and talk and feed and change themselves. Someone would have me. And I would gladly have that someone.
And someone would gladly have you and anyone else.
In a state like that I would have so much less than now but I would still choose gratitude. Still choose life.
What I have now are luxuries, beautiful luxuries. If I lose them, this life will still be beautiful. I will still be beautiful.
Today I have a house to live in, a bed to sleep in, blankets, heat, air, material objects like furniture, books, my phone….but if tomorrow my house burns to the ground taking everything I know with it, as long as I’m alive, I will give thanks. Even if I have to live out on the streets for a while. It would be devastating, shocking, depressing, but I would STILL have things to give thanks for, my life, the sky above me, kindness and love….LOVE.
On many occasions I would probably have to force myself to see the goodness, the greatness. But it’s there and I’m capable.
I have a chronic physical pain disorder and it gets so horrifying that sometimes I wish I were dead when it flares up to that degree but I learned more and more to remember GRATITUDE for all that IS right even when it’s flaring up badly. And lots of things are right. Even when it seems my world is crumbling on top of me.
This also goes for my depressive disorder. When I have a severe flare up, I think about dying but not nearly as often and usually not as deeply as I used to. I learned to often appreciate this life and give thanks even when it hurts. No matter how lifeless I feel or how agonizing my emotional pain is. I learned to live in the present and not compare it to what I previously had or to what someone else may have.
Depression and physical pain have been my teachers, teaching me how one moment, everything can crumble and it seems like I have so much less than what I had just very recently. When a disorder flares up out of nowhere or is triggered by an environmental issue or a thought, it can be traumatic and it makes me see all the little things I had to be grateful for before the flare up. I become painfully aware of all I was ignoring. My emotional or physical anguish makes the simple joys of life jump out at me and it’s painful to now notice them and know I was taking them for granted so frequently. Painfully beautiful. Beautifully painful.
But these disorders show me how not to do that so much. I developed an ingrained habit to notice and look for the joys of living whether I’m in any kind of pain or not. When I’m in extreme physical or emotional pain, I usually can’t take as much pleasure in things as I can without the pain but I can experience some joy and pleasure. And with practice I can even learn to increase my joy even when it hurts.
These are some examples of zero based gratitude. It’s true that we can wake up one morning with significantly less than we just had the night before but instead of using last night as a reference, we can focus on the NOW and what we currently have. Let us give thanks for this present moment.
In some cultures, like the U.S. Culture for example, this is our way, to be very ungrateful for the most part. Not always though. We often give thanks for friends and family when the topic comes up, and like some other countries, we even have a whole holiday dedicated to gratitude. But as a culture, we don’t seem to make gratitude and expressing it, our general way of life. We compare what we have to what others have and to what we previously had if it was more. We can think of a long list, when asked or when it’s a holiday, what we’re thankful for but then we soon forget.
The more we have and get, the more we demand and if we lose some things we previously had, our lives “suck” or “FML!.”
I’m guilty of this myself. And probably will be guilty again. But I have learned to mostly be conscious of when I’m doing this, to be conscious of what I’m grateful for, and for it to become an unconscious way or “second nature” to automatically give thanks.
There are blessings all around and within. A whole abundance of gifts and goodness.
Even when our blessings are reduced and we lose what we have, there is still an abundance of greatness.
Let’s give zero-based gratitude a try.
” We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.” ~
I’m currently reading a book by Leo Buscaglia called “Personhood.”. I had this book for quite a while but never got around to reading it until now. I still have much more to read but I love the whole concept of the book. It’s not a philosophy or political book or even really a psychology book. It’s a personal development book about living up to our full potential, loving and connecting with others.
Dr. Buscaglia explains how no matter how different we are than each other or no matter how similar we are to one another we can connect with each other through our basic humanness. We don’t have to have very similar life experiences or relate or identify with each other in very significant ways to deeply connect with each other.
We are similar in very basic ways. We are alive. We all have a story and all experience pleasure and pain and have needs and desires.
I have always loved people and often feel deeply connected with others whether I know them well or not. I have so much gratitude & appreciation for the lives of others.
Recently I was with my mom, dad, and little sister in my dad’s mini van and we were driving in Center City, Philadelphia at night and there were lots of people walking, standing, sitting….around the city.
Some were homeless and dirty, dressed in rags, some were dressed warmly and smiling, talking on cell phones, waiting for busses, giggling with one another, some looked sad and distraught while others appeared to be happy and carefree. Some were alone, some in groups. I noticed short people and tall people, young and old, men and women,Asian, African American, Latino, Caucasian…
Some spoke languages other than English. One pretty young lady with long blonde hair who was with a man was laughing wildly like she had no care in the world. They were smiling and genuinely joyous. I couldn’t help but stare, maybe to the point of rudeness. They looked perfect together standing beneath the city lights at night laughing with wild abandon. I had no choice but to smile myself. They were speaking a language I couldn’t understand.
Then they started walking towards my sister and me as we stood on the street corner waiting for my dad and mom to come for us. We went to a bookstore and there were no parking spaces so my dad had to drive around the block til we came out.
When the girl got close to me she smiled , looked directly at me and said “Bonjour soeur.”. And continued walking.
I can only speak English and I wasn’t completely sure what she said to me but in high school I took an Italian class and some days conversations of other languages came up including conversations about the French language.
I got an idea the girl said “hello sister” in French to me. So I looked it up on Google translate on my phone and discovered that is in fact what she said.
It warmed my heart. I couldn’t understand her language but I certainly understood her smile, her laugh, her beauty, and the spark in her eyes, her need to reach me…
And she saw something in me that inspired her to reach out with a warm & friendly greeting.
So we had the language barrier but that doesn’t prevent human connection.
We all speak different languages, have different cultures, different experiences, different skin colors, and ethnicities, sexual orientations, nationalities, political views, religions, opinions, and many other differences but our smiles, laughs, love, beauty, and basic humanness connect the same.
As I was looking at each person I asked myself “Is it weird to love every person I look at, to feel a strong sense of gratitude for the lives of people I don’t know and will probably never know and never see again?”.
It may be weird to some people but weird or not, it’s what I often feel. I don’t know those people but I know they are someone. They bring a light to this world. They all have a name, a face, a life, a breath, a story, a dream. They have a heart and they experience pleasure and pain, desires, and needs.
We may have sharp differences and experiences, opposing views, disagreements but we are not very different underneath.
Leo Buscaglia, in his book, describes some very brief experiences where he met someone who he could only connect with through their basic humanness. Because of language/culture barriers or because of dramatically different life experiences, these people he encountered were only able to connect with him through being living humans but still the connection is deep, satisfying, and rewarding.
He describes a woman he saw one hot afternoon while he was in southern India. She was in a faded sari and walking. He noticed she seemed strong and erect and determined. She had a large, heavy water pot balanced on her head. There was no sign of where she has been or where she was going.
He writes this: “She paused for a moment and our eyes met. We knew each other.”
Not a word was spoken, yet these two people connected deeply.
He writes of the “beautiful, toothless old farmer in Nepal” who allowed him to stay overnight in his house with all of his family and animals. Leo Buscaglia writes,
“Conversation, beyond sign language, a smile, eye contact, a touch, was impossible.”
This farmer had no idea where the USA is, never spoke to a Western person, and never traveled in a car. He never heard of history, knew nothing of politics, and knew nothing at all beyond his village life. But Dr. Buscaglia writes,
“Still, for an evening we were brought warmly together. When the time for parting came, feeling that we would probably never meet again, we walked arm and arm to the village’s end and wept. We are still together.”
He writes of the young anxious business man who helped him find his way in Tokyo when he was lost, the Brooklyn, NY teenager who told him that he helped him create his purpose, the Kindergarten child who he laughed with in a lunchroom.
Dr. Buscaglia writes this about his experiences,
“For these few brief seconds of our encounters, I was and still am that Indian woman, that Nepalese farmer, that Japanese businessman, that New York student, that Kindergarten child. We were all one in the same thing, humanness. When our minds could not meet, our hearts were the common bond. When our speech was a mystery, it was solved by our eyes and arms.”
“Some moved in technological wonder, others in primitive magic ; some rested in material opulence, others in the greatest simplicity and even desperate poverty; some were equipped with strong formal educations, others simply used their natural mental endowments, enriched by experienced. But, whatever, they all had a strong common tie – their humanness, their deep need to survive, to realize their experience, to love and be loved, to overcome loneliness and isolation, to use their creative endeavors, to make things more comfortable and beautiful for themselves and their loved ones, to attempt to understand their world and their part in it.”
“Each of these people were the history of all people, but all were also a part of the unique history which only their lives would write….”
Isn’t this beautiful?!? We are all connected. I am you. You are me. In so many ways.
The homeless people you see, the financially struggling, the rich people, the ones you feel are way out of your league, the ones you feel that you are above in some ways, the “losers,” the “saints,” the lucky ones, the unfortunate ones, the people who seem to have it all, the ones who have next to nothing, we are all each other.
Some of the most deepest connections, conversations, experiences I have known, have been with random strangers or people I just met, on the busses, in hospitals, walking the streets..
I am very shy but very open to people.
If ever you feel lonely and isolated, remember there’s a whole world full of people. Ones who will walk with you for a while, embrace you, make eye contact with you, listen to your story….
“Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.” ~ Rumi
“This girl is a woman now
She’s found out what it’s all about
And she’s learning learning learning to live…” ~ Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
“The wound is the place where the light enters you. ” ~ Rumi
“Surviving meant being born over and over.” ~ Erica Jong
Adversity can crush our spirit – or strengthen it – it is our choice.
Yeah, this post isn’t about reincarnation in the sense of the rebirth of a soul or spirit after biological death. But it is about death and rebirth in a sense.
This post is more directed at women but men and anyone who identifies as both/none can read and learn too! The message is definitely not exclusive to women. The book I’m reading is mostly geared towards women. But the lesson goes for anyone.
I’m reading Sarah Ban Breathnach ‘s “Something More – Excavating Your Authentic Self.”
I absolutely love her writing style. It’s so warm and gentle but so strong and passionate.
In this book, in a section called, “Near-Life Experiences,” she writes
“Every day we experience death. The death of dreams, misconceptions, illusions. The death of vibrancy and enthusiasm. The death of hope. The death of courage. The death of confidence. The death of faith. The death of trust. More often than any of us ever expect, life stuns us with the sudden wrenching away of a loved one, a devastating diagnosis, a conversation that begins with the chilling words “There’s Something I’ve got to tell you.
We feel as if life is over, and we are right. Life as we knew it is over.”
Sarah Ban Breathnach writes about when her marriage ended and when her health was threatened. She writes
“In each instance, when I regained consciousness months later, I was someone else. I died to myself, and a stronger, wiser, and more passionate woman was resurrected in my place. Although this woman answered to my name, she was profoundly different. “
This woman was in a serious accident, years ago, in a fast -food restaurant with her toddler daughter when a large ceiling panel fell off and crashed into her. She fell unconscious onto the table. No one else was hurt. She suffered a severe concussion, was bedridden, confused, and disoriented for months and disabled for a year and a half. For a few months her senses did not function properly. She had to stay in bed constantly in the dark because her injuries rendered her extremely sensitive to light. She was inarticulate and couldn’t speak coherently. She felt imprisoned in her own body, neither alive nor dead but having a “near -life experience.”
She shares a quote by Eudora Welty, “the fantasies of dying could be no stranger than the fantasies of living. Surviving is perhaps the strangest fantasy of them all.”
And here is, what I see, as the most beautiful part of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s story.
When she was bedridden in the dark she had nothing to do but tell herself stories in her head. She writes this,
“In order to get through this purgatory, I would lie in the dark and tell myself stories – discombobulated sagas, to be sure – as I wove in and out of wakefulness. Clara Pinkola Estes believes that ‘Stories are medicine.’ They certainly became my homeopathic remedies. Although I had been a journalist for ten years, I had never thought of myself as a storyteller. But snatches of stories-fairy tales I’d heard as a child, adventures I’d lived as a young woman- would float to the top of my distress and hang in midair until I retrieved one and recast it as a personal parable. Each starred my own romantic heroine, an extraordinary woman who triumphed over her travails with courage, grace, and grit – a person who bore no resemblance to me at all. This woman was beautiful and radiant, with a strong, healthy, and vibrant aura. Her eyes sparkled and she laughed uproariously . She was mysterious, magnetic, accomplished, powerful, irresistible, confident, smart, sassy, funny, and sexy. She was passionate. She possessed verve, but more important, she reflected, even in the worst situations, the essential characteristic of all romantic heroines – repose of the soul. I couldn’t remember having an imaginary friend as a child, but now I did and I adored her company.
I looked forward to my alter ego ‘s daily dose of diva-gation- her wandering, straying, but always pulling through with pluck to live and love again.”
After this ordeal was over, Sarah Ban Breathnach realized that this beautiful, passionate, strong woman in her waking dreams is in fact herself. Her authentic self.
The self she always knew deep, deep inside she can be. The self she already was then but buried beneath layers of social demands and pressures, the stresses of everyday life, denial, feelings of unworthiness….She had to learn this and practice acknowledging it but eventually she came to know that she is a strong, wise woman of love, passion, and strength. This woman and this wisdom were born of pain and horror but she was there all along waiting for the birth of herself.
It’s true that every single day parts of us die so new parts can be born. Even our skin and cells physically die and give way to new ones.
Death hurts. Not just the biological death of someone we love or the death of a relationship but even the death of minor details in our lives or the death of certain ways of thinking can hurt. Something we once believed and no longer believe. The death of certain opinions, the death of an illusion.
The death of certain ways of living.
Even the death of something unpleasant can hurt at first. A job you always wanted to leave and finally do get to leave it. It can hurt because you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, something you have known for so long. It hurts. Even though it’s what you wanted.
When hope dies, when faith dies, and we fall, when we have setbacks and seem to fail, we can let this all guide us, push us forward to something bigger and better, we make room for new things, better things, more beautiful things to fall into place.
We can allow our pain, struggles, challenges, failures, setbacks, relapses, and unpleasant experiences to strengthen us, make us wiser, better, enlightened, empowered, and more empathetic and compassionate to others and ourselves. We can take our pain and struggles as challenges to come up with creative ways to better ourselves and use them to our advantage.
So, girls think of the woman you long to be, the one you would love to know, be friends with, be in the company of, the woman you KNOW you CAN be and deep inside ARE already her.
Materialize her. Realize her.
Think of the best girl friend you would love to know or one you have already if you’re that blessed or the the kind of mother you want to be if you want to be one and would love to have for yourself, the kind of sister you would adore, the professor you would look up to in college, the counselor you would love to talk to, the neighbor you would love to chat with on the street, the girl of your dreams….
What do you love about her? Why do you adore her? What traits does this beautiful woman possess and display? What virtues does she embody? What surrounds her? What dwells within her? What does she do? What do you see in her? What ways does she have about her? What goals does she have? What does she dream about at night? What daydreams occupy her mind? How does she feel? How does she love?
If you can dream her, you can be her.
You can recreate yourself into the you that you want to be. You can strengthen and play up the things you already love about yourself and develop the things you want but do not yet possess.
“Act like a lady, think like a boss.”
“She believed she could so she did.”
“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.” ~ Elizabeth Edwards
“She always had that about her, that look of otherness, of eyes that see things much too far, and of thoughts that wander off the edge of the world. ” ~ Joanne Harris
“Girls compete with each other, women empower one another.”
Don’t deny your needs and desires. Don’t repress yourself. Let your opinions be heard. Don’t feel threatened by an opinion which opposes yours. If you know what someone says is or may be correct and you are wrong, admit it, at least to yourself. Let it shake you up and then change your views. If you know in your heart of hearts that you are correct then let your opinion be as loud as the opposing one. Don’t let anyone make you squirm or back down. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand.
It’s ok to be wrong and it’s ok to give in and see the other side and admit it.
It’s ok to build yourself up.
To call yourself beautiful.
To love you.
To cherish you.
Do what makes you happy no matter what, don’t let anyone dull your sparkle or get in your way. Be true. Be you.
Take care of yourself, tend to your needs, be selfish occasionally when you have to be for your own mental/emotional/psychological/spiritual & physical health. Say no when you must. Say yes to you.
Buy yourself flowers.
Laugh loudly. Live passionately. Love fiercely.
Reflect and think about who you want to be, write in a journal, meditate, list qualities you wish to posses or strengthen and ones you want to abandon.
And if you’re not a woman, this can still apply to you. It applies to all humans. We can all work to be a better version of ourselves.
Each moment we fall apart, we are made new. Born again. And again. And again. And again…..a new dawn comes to life. The sun rises again. Morning has awakened.
Crumble. So you can stand again but even stronger.
“Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything .”~ Helen Reddy
“You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul” ~ Helen Reddy
“I’m not a one in a million kind of girl, I’m that once in a lifetime kind of woman.”
“Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of Hell
But I won’t back down
No I’ll stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down.” ~ Tom Petty
Let your pain make you better, not bitter.
“Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.” ~ LeeAnn Womack
This, here, post is another one about the book I read called “Learning from the Heart” by Dr. Gottlieb, a Temple University graduate of Psychology. He is a psychologist who specializes in family therapy and addiction and was the director of a program in Philadelphia. His book is a book of lessons learned in his life.
Dr. Gottlieb was in a tragic accident when he was 33 years old. His life was going very well, he was married with two little girls and a great therapy practice going when one morning he got into his car and saw a black object flying into his windshield. He later woke up in a hospital to find that he is paralyzed for the rest of his life. He was in that hospital for one year. He struggles with quadriplegia. People with this condition suffer with recurrent and permanent infections as a result of the paralysis. He is permanently paralyzed at the chest and down.
Dr. Gottlieb, at first, had much difficulty accepting his condition and wanted to die by suicide.
This experience taught him how to view Hopelessness in a different way than we usually think of “hopelessness.”. What do you think of when you hear the word “hopeless?”. Desperation? Despair? Giving up?, Misery, …
There is another way to look at a “hopeless” situation. As a gift. Hopelessness itself can be a true gift. It can give us the liberty to move on or move forward with the life we currently have instead of desperately clinging to something we do not currently have and may never have and missing out on right now lusting after or longing for something else.
Shortly after this accident, Dr. Gottlieb made the decision to live for two years and then see if he were able to go on living. He hoped that something would change dramatically.
It may sound good & pleasant that he had hope. But this false hope was actually a hindrance to him. It was imprisoning him,not allowing him to live in the now, in the present moment, it would not allow him to embrace his current life. All he could do was “hope” for things that would never happen, then he would be happy.
He hoped he would walk again. With quadriplegia that’s not possible, ever. He hoped his infections would cease to exist. With quadriplegia, that’s not possible.
Dr. Gottlieb is Jewish but he seems, by what I read, to be somewhat secular or a free-thinker and doesn’t really have a definite concept of any sort of god.
He wrote this “At the end of two years, I took myself into the bedroom and I had a deep, reflective conversation with…well, I don’t know. God? My god? My own truth? Anyway, the conversation went something like this: ‘Okay, I will live with it if you give me hope that one day I’ll walk.’ And what I heard back was, ‘Nope. No hope. Live or die. Make your choice.’. So I said, ‘Give me hope that I won’t be so sick.’. (My health was so fragile – I just wanted some assurance that I would feel stronger and be able to fight off infections.). And I got the same answer. ‘Either live with it or don’t. It’s not going to change.’ For every request, I got the same answer.”
After the two years was up, Dr. Gottlieb had to make a choice. Live or die. He lost hope that he would ever walk again. He lost hope that he would stop getting sick with infections.
And he chose life.
If he kept up the hope that something physical would change, he would have missed out on this life now in hopes of a “better” tomorrow.
But he chose now. Hopelessness gave him the gift of Now.
This is a very different and very beautiful way of looking at hopelessness. When we become hopeless about something we want, we let go. Not let go of life. But let go of lusting after what may or may not come in the future. Embrace now. Cherish now. Love now.
Dr. Gottlieb still struggles, he writes, but he realizes how beautiful life is now and he loves his beautiful life.
There have been so many days I have lost, hoping for something better, wishing for more in the future and I let now slip away. But when I let go, I make room in my heart for this life I live Now.
Is there anything you are holding onto? A hope for something that you’re clinging to that is not letting you live now?
“I’ll be happy when I lose 5 pounds….”
“I’ll be happy when I find the love of my life…”
“I’ll be happy when I have a better job….”
“I’ll be happy when I become rich….”
“I’ll be happy when I have kids, when I get married, when I don’t have to work anymore, when I graduate college, when…”
Why not be happy now?! You can still work for things but it’s best not to let it destroy your serenity and love right now.
“Normal day, let me be aware
of the treasure that you are.
let me learn from you, love you,
bless you before we depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest
of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
let me hold you while I may,
for it may not be always so. One day
I shall dig my nails into the earth,
or bury my face in the pillow,
or stretch myself tart,
or raise my hands
to the sky and want, more
than all the world, your return.” ~ Mary Jean Irion
“You know the future’s lookin’ brighter
Every morning’ when i get up
Don’t be thinkin’ ’bout what’s not enough,now baby
Just be thinkin’ ’bout what we got
think of all my love, now
I’m gonna give you all I got” ~ Eddie Money (Baby Hold On)
“It’s not that I don’t want a lot
Or hope for more, or dream of more
But giving thanks for what I’ve got
Makes me so much happier than keeping score
In a world that can bring pain
I will still take each chance
For I believe that whatever the terrain
Our feet can learn to dance
Whatever stone life may sling
We can moan or we can sing
Truly grateful I am
And duly grateful” ~ John Bucchino. (Grateful)
“So the sidewalk is crowded, the city goes by
And I rush through another day
And a world full of strangers turn their eyes to me
But I just look the other way
They roll by just like water
And I guess we never learn
Go through life parched and empty
Standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst” ~ Joe Cocker (and other singers)
“I was always reachin’, you were just a girl I knew
I took for granted the friend I have in you
I was living for a dream,
Loving for a moment
Taking on the world,
That was just my style
Now I look into your eyes
I can see forever,
The search is over
You were with me all the while” ~ Survivor
There’s a book called “Learning from the Heart” by Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, a practicing psychologist and family therapist, among other things. He received a graduate & an undergraduate degree at Temple University and he was the director of a community based treatment program in Philadelphia.
In 1979, Dr. Gottlieb was in a near fatal car accident and became permanently paralyzed starting at the chest down. He was devastated and suicidal after the accident but he eventually learned to live with it and came to love his life as it is. I love his book, it’s very inspirational and Dr. Gottlieb is a very inspirational person. His book is full of beautiful lessons he learned in his life. His writing is beautiful, heartbreaking, breathtaking, and lovely.
I want to share one of his lessons here.
This lesson is “What I’ve Learned About Heaven”. Dr. Gottlieb, in this chapter, is not referring to the religious or spiritual “Heaven” but life itself, here on Earth. He believes that life is wonderful and beautiful even through the pain, struggles, & suffering.
This lesson is that we are already, currently, surrounded by beauty. It’s right before our very eyes. We overlook it, frequently, constantly in search of something more, something better, something somewhere else. The grass is greener over there…what we have is never enough….
But the truth is we don’t have to look too hard to see, feel the beauty in all its various forms right here. Around us, inside us.
It’s good to travel, to explore, to work for more, to expand…but that doesn’t mean we can’t cherish and bask in the beauty we have right here, right now.
Dr. Gottlieb wrote this:
“During a recent vacation, I had the good fortune to visit the Grand Canyon. I’m not a good enough writer to describe the magnificent vistas. Suffice it to say that when most people see it for the first time, they are moved to tears. Not from sadness, but from awe.
At the end of the day, several hundred people gathered to watch the sun dip slowly behind the canyon. Everyone sat in silence as nature did what it does. And in the moment the sun closed the day, everyone applauded. More awe.
And then I thought: But the sun sets every day, everywhere. And it is no less magnificent wherever it sets. The only difference here was in the attitude we all had as we watched.”
There is much wisdom in this. It’s true, the same sun sets everywhere, the same blue sky rests above us all, flowers bloom here, moonlight dances upon our skin wherever we are at night, the stars twinkle for us….
Open your eyes, open your heart and let the world in, in this present moment.