It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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Meeting Racism, Homophobia and Close-Mindedness With Love and Compassion

Hate, negativity, close-mindedness — none of this is new. Being heavily tattooed with big holes in my earlobes, a skateboarder and a fan of punk/hardcore music since my teenage years has left me all too familiar with judgmental people, especially growing up in a small town before these things started to become somewhat socially acceptable.

Disapproving looks, comments under the breath, or, in some cases, blatantly to my face, have been commonplace throughout my life and have led me time and again to contemplate why people feel the need, or, that they have the right to cast judgments and write someone off based solely on outer appearances or personal lifestyle choices.

There’s really no simple answer. Each person is a unique individual with a unique set of circumstances that has led them to become the person that they are today. One thing I’ve learned about myself however, and my own judgments (because yes, I too am human and have no shortage of them), is that they’re almost always rooted in fear.

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Broken Open and Broken

It is impossible to know why some of us are broken open while some of us are just broken. If we knew how to invoke the difference, we could change the course of history. Even within one life, we can experience transformative moments of being broken open and, at other times, we just suffer being broken. More than staying in the unanswerable tangle of why some of us grow while some of us stay stuck, it is more important to move from one to the other. When broken open, we grow. When just broken, we endure. And the crucial calling of all relationship is to inhabit what we learn from being broken open to help us endure those times when we are just broken. Essential to the practice of compassion is that, when broken open, we find a way to help those who are broken, and to be humble enough when broken to ask for the help of those who are broken open. In this ongoing way, the light of kindness fills the hole of every pain. We must resist the trial of fairness and the comparison of suffering and devote ourselves to completing each other as we tumble through time.

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The Life of Christ is Now

There is one way, and one way only, that any of us will ever know the real meaning behind the life of Christ, and that is... to share in his death. And by this, I do not mean symbolically, or by any other allegory. If our wish is to know the truth behind his seemingly incomprehensible, incomparable act of self-sacrifice -- and the rebirth that crowns this surrender -- there's but one thing to do: we must stop thinking about it... and get down to the business of actually dying to our own lower nature.

Spending one's time wondering why this god-man agreed to lay down his life for the sake of the immortal Self that he embodied... is like hoping to be healed by a medicine that you give someone else to take for you.
 

Let me be clear: it doesn't matter what we say we believe in, or otherwise profess to be true. Belief alone amounts to nothing. To paraphrase and enhance a timeless idea: faith without acts is not only fruitless, but along with being the dangerous root of fanaticism, it is one of the dark seeds from out of which grows the evil of religious intolerance. Comparing the value of our ideals to those of others is not what it means to act truly, anymore than the act of judging someone proves the worthiness of the judge.

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How to Successfully Persevere Through A Crisis

These are unprecedented times that we are all living through. There is fear and uncertainty so heavy in the air, you can certainly feel it and even almost taste it. We are all having this very real and shared experience of what it means to live as one people under the Sun. There's a shared sense of oneness because we are all in this together. It does not matter what creed, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation that you are, we are all managing, dealing and surviving this pandemic together.

This pandemic is shifting the way of life for all of us. And am I getting tired of sheltering in place? Absolutely… Anybody else? Is it frustrating? Absolutely…Are you tired of being patient and sheltering in place? YES! Trust and believe that even before all of this…I was not the most patient person and practicing patience is not one of my strong qualities. Yet, somehow, we must keep trusting. We must keep being patient, we must continue to persevere and move confidently forward.

And as I started meditating on what this time means in our lives, Divine Inspiration revealed that we all need a message grounded in how to have patience, how to persevere through difficulties, and how to have unshakable faith in God’s Promises during a season of frustration.

They say patience is truly a virtue and patience in God’s Timing is much different than the patience that we put on ourselves. I grew up believing that the Bible is our story. This Holy book like many Holy books can be used as our blueprint on how we navigate and govern our lives. It contains many stories of overcoming and can give us hope on how we not only survive but thrive through this thing that we call life.

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A New Perspective - Life without hope may be our best chance for peace

Are you, like John Mayer sings, “waiting on the world to change?” Or are you trying, as Gandhi advised to “be the change that you wish to see in the world?” Maybe, like too many of us you’re humming that old Dusty Springfield song, “just wishing and hoping and thinking and praying. Planning and dreaming …”In her poem “Hope” is the Thing with Feathers, Emily Dickinson’s creates a metaphor of hope through a little bird “that perches in the soul” and “never stops—at all.” It’s always there inside. It never asks for anything and it never takes flight. It never reacts or participates. That’s the thing about hope. It just hangs out with us, especially during dark nights. Although hope offers encouragement, it rarely mobilizes our energy or our actions.

Woody Allen parodied this metaphor in his book Without Feathers, about his neurotic sense of hopelessness especially in regard to God and death. It’s funny. It’s counter intuitive and it made me wonder is the opposite of hope really despair? Or is it participation?

As a young girl growing up in the heart of the Bible belt, hope was affiliated with the concept of victim. “I hope that God will hear me.” It actually lowered expectations and consciousness because hope became something that was always delayed or put on the shelf. It was about waiting for the knight in shining armor or some magical evangelical leader to be the change. In my early life experience, it taught me to give my power away. It put the responsibility on someone else—to live a life in the fading light of day.

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Living Peace, Allowing Grief

Yesterday just before sunrise I was overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, grief, and mourning. Tears streamed down my face. The unfathomable loss of life around the world from the coronavirus hit me like an avalanche. The number of cases is continuing to rise here in Florida and throughout the U.S. My thoughts turned to Boston friends who had died of cancer in the last year and the trip home to Massachusetts in May that Anne and I had to cancel. My own and the world’s sorrow and pain rushed through my body in waves as I wept. Gradually, after a time, it subsided, tear by tear, and I sat quietly in the half-darkness, breathing in the silence. The sky began to lighten. Then, as if in answer to my heart’s call for comfort, a mockingbird began to sing its morning song, a medley of every possible birdcall it had ever heard. My heart lifted, as it always does when I hear a mockingbird.
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One Earth—Peace Within Crisis

We have used language to separate ourselves from each other through a litany of pronouns—you, he, she, it, they—which together mean “other.” Yes, we say “we,” but it is usually used in a sense that cordons off “us” from “them.” The greater “we” that encompasses all of humanity is rarely part of our vocabulary. World events in the form of a deadly virus are now compelling us to open our hearts to that inclusiveness. We can no longer separate ourselves from one another, and that includes all of Nature as well. Our survival depends on seeing “we” everywhere. We are being radically schooled in oneness.

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2020: Your Year of Mindful Self-Compassion

Just for a moment, forget about all your standard New Year’s resolutions. It goes without saying that most of us want to be healthier, wealthier, and wiser – but what if we’re going about it all wrong? Have we ever really stopped to wonder whether it’s possible to shame and “should” ourselves into going to the gym more or eating better?

Luckily, there’s another solution. Allow me to introduce you to a lovely practice called Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). Mindfulness is the foundation of MSC. Why? Because we need to become aware of and acknowledge our suffering in order to respond to our discomfort with kindness. Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself as you would act towards a dear friend when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.

Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “tough it out” mentality, you can stop to tell yourself, “This is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, you are kind and understanding towards yourself when confronted with personal failings. After all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

You may try to change in ways that allow you to be healthier and happier, but when you are mindfully showing yourself compassion, you change because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means you honor and accept your humanness.

Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, and losses will occur; you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.

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How to Create Compassionate Holidays

Compassionate Holidays require that you act consciously each moment. Unconscious caretaking and pleasing others (giving gifts because it is the “season”) are NOT compassionate deeds. They ignore the humanity of the recipient because the recipient is being exploited by frightened parts of your personality. This type of interaction multiplied billions of time each “Holiday Season” makes the experience much less than it could be.

Compassion is being moved to and by acts of the heart. I am not speaking of the sentimental “heart,” the “heart” that feels pity and need to fix other’s problems (these are experiences of frightened parts of the personality). I am speaking of the most healthy, inclusive, grounded, and loving part of yourself. If this heart is not involved, no compassion is present. Therefore a compassionate Holiday, like a compassionate family dinner or a compassionate country requires you to replace the experiences of frightened parts of your personality (which also include anger, impatience, frustration, and judging) with the experiences of loving parts (gratitude, appreciation, patience, caring). This creates authentic power.

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How can we stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

You and I are in training to be free. We’re in training to be so present, so spacious, so embracing, we’re in training to not look away, deny or close our hearts when we can’t bear something. The statement, “I can’t bear it,” is what burns you out in social action. When you’re in the presence of suffering and contracting, it’s the contraction that starves you to death.


When you close your heart down to protect yourself from suffering, you also close yourself off from being fed by that same life situation.


If you can stay open to both the suffering and the joys and the stuff of life, all of it, then it’s like a living spirit. It just connects to your living spirit and there’s a tremendous feeding going on.

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Middle Earth

In Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien used the term Middle-earth to describe the land where his stories took place. Situated somewhere between angelic and demonic realms, the inhabitants struggled to hold to the light. Sometimes I feel that is where we live now. Opposing forces are mobilized on all sides. All around are compelling reasons to believe that “evil” is on the rise and that “good” people are increasingly victimized by those in power. Yet holding to the light within darkness means we cannot succumb to what the prevailing belief systems would have us accept as truth. We may live in Middle Earth now, but it is just a way-station on the way to the New Earth. The challenge and balancing act is to accept and live in the present moment while also embodying a new vision for the future.

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Have Compassion

Do You Care?

The Practice:
Have compassion.

Why?

Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer – from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish – combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.

You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and yourself.

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Why is karma yoga an important vehicle for conscious awakening?

In the simplest sense, you could say that Karma Yoga is using your karma as a way of coming into ‘yog’, or union with God, by using the “stuff” of your life. Using it as the way in which you do work in the world, and acknowledging whether or not that work in the world is a vehicle for spiritual awakening.

In books like the Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga is specified as Krishna saying to Arjuna, “Do what you do, but offer the fruits of it to me” …. That’s what karma yoga is.

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What is the ultimate act of compassion?

A conversation on compassion with Ram Dass & Raghu Markus

Raghu Markus: Can you talk about how we go about cultivating compassion so that we start to become more kind to ourselves and to others?

Ram Dass: We’ve lived our lives with negative images of ourselves, from childhood on, and we’ve built upon those images, and built upon them, and they became very heavy weights. These thoughts about us are a part of our ego, and they’re manifested through our roles of child or husband, wife, breadwinner, all of those roles. They’re built upon the thoughts of, “I’m not truthful” or “I’m not likable”, “I’m not good” – all of those negative images. Once you identify with your soul you start to taste the love in your true self, in your spiritual heart and it’s different than all of the loves you’ve ever had. It’s just different; it’s unconditional love.

Now you have the clarity and the vantage point of being able to see your incarnation through the perspective of the soul – it gives you a panoramic view of your incarnation. Only then can you develop compassion, first for yourself and then for others.

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How can we begin to heal the world?

If we are to help heal the world, we need to remember that it is a sacred place.

Our actions need to be positive statements, reminders that even in the worst times there is a world worth struggling for. We need to find ways to keep the vision alive, to acknowledge but not get caught in the dark side. To remember that even the worst aspects of suffering are only part of the whole picture. We need to enter lightly.

Entering lightly means not ignoring suffering but treating it gently.

We don’t want to ignore another’s pain, but our becoming depressed or angry about it doesn’t relieve it and may increase it. The delicate balance is in allowing ourselves to feel the pain fully, to be sad or angry or hurt by it, but not be so weighted down by it that we are unable to act to relieve it. It is a matter of ends and means again: to create a caring, loving, peaceful world, we need to act with care and love and peace.

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Range of Our Compassion

Dogs can hear well beyond the range of human hearing. In California, it’s been reported that dogs have heard the beginnings of earthquakes before seismographs could register their initial tremor. In just this way, there are those of us whose ability to feel, see, and hear others is beyond our normal range of compassion. We call them empaths or psychics. And we often discredit them because what they know because is beyond what we can sense.

A central physic of the heart is that the range of our compassion is widened each time we experience suffering or love. Like a mud-filled pipe that is hollowed out by the rain to carry water underground, the force of each experience clears us out. Listening, expressing, and writing are conscious ways to clear ourselves out and to expose and extend the range of what we feel. And so, the artist or poet in us is that deep part of who we are that keeps extending the range of our compassion.

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Compassion Towards All: Moving toward a Plant Based Diet

For most of human history it’s been “normal” to eat non-human animals. This is now changing. We are awakening to the massive suffering of the billions of animals killed each day for food, the horrors of the animal-food industry, and the impact it has on climate change (second only to fossil fuels.) In this short talk Tara shares her personal story of transitioning to a vegan diet, and invites listeners to investigate, without judgment, their own choices in this domain.

NOTE: this short talk was given at a special class on “Loving Life with a Plant-Based Diet.” Tara was joined by guest speakers, Mark Tercek (The Nature Conservatory) and Brenda Sanders (Afro-Vegan Society), and hosted by Jonathan Foust. Full video available at Tara’s Facebook page and soon at IMCW.org. Evening concluded with a wonderful vegan food-tasting donated by Yes! Organic Market.

When the animals come to us,
asking for our help,
will we know what they are saying?
When the plants speak to us
in their delicate, beautiful language,
will we be able to answer them?
When the planet herself
sings to us in our dreams,
will we be able to wake ourselves,
and act?

Gary Lawless

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Let’s Be Ambassadors of Reconciliation

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  — Rumi

The other day, the priest at my church said something that caught my attention. He spoke about becoming what he called an “Ambassador of Reconciliation.”

“Are there individuals you have chosen to walk away from?” he asked. “Are there individuals you have chosen not to walk toward?”

If so, he said, then perhaps you should see yourself as an Ambassador of Reconciliation: a person who can bring reconciliation to a person or a situation that needs healing.

This got me thinking. Where can I bring healing to my life? Where can I be an Ambassador of Reconciliation? Who have I walked away from? Who have I not walked toward?

I am a big believer that we all need healing. I believe we are all walking around wounded, and that those wounds play out in all of our relationships.

Whether we care to admit it or not, sometimes we don’t even know why we are so angry, why we are so hurt, or why we have such a strong reaction to a certain person or situation in our lives.

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How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?

We all know our humanity too well.

That is why we put the focus on recognizing the part of us that isn’t stuck in the human-ness. Not to deny our humanity, but rather to bring it into balance through a compassionate heart.

That’s what you offer another person. When I look at some of you, I know you have problems with addiction and sexual obsessions, problems with loneliness and problems with anger, diseases and frigidity. I see the whole sea of stuff and you tell me about it, and I see curriculum after curriculum.

I see a group of beautiful souls on earth, each having its own karmic work to do.

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The Power of "We"

Human beings came to this planet to learn how to live together in peace. To realize and express the love in their hearts through compassion and kindness. It’s a simple as that. We didn’t come here to accumulate wealth and material possessions while others have nothing. We didn’t come here to distrust and hate everyone who is not an exact carbon copy of our beliefs and physical appearance. We didn’t come here to build walls and wage wars against difference. While those may be the polarities the human species experiences along the way, our final destination is beyond all those divisions and separations. Ultimately, we came here to recognize that “I” alone is incomplete; only in “we” do we find strength and commonality in being alive. Only in loving ourselves and others are we made whole. As the song says: “We are the world…”

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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