Bless the world with your practice

Bless the world with your practice

Whatever it is that you practice, do you pause to consider your intention? to direct your heart?

Whenever  you practice, recognize that it benefits the world, not just you personally.

Recognize that your practice simultaneously uplifts you and other humans and living beings.

Recognize that your practice simultaneously nourishes your soul and the Soul of the World.

Strengthen the healing and awakening power of your practice for the greater good by bringing greater consciousness, choice, and precision to your intention.

Then open your being and let it fly.

Bless yourself and the world with your practice.

 

Pardes

by Sara Eisenberg

 

Standing plain, cupped,

bending barely audible lunar winds towards You,

wedded and bedded,

drawing out each fine, twisted silken thread.

Say us together, a single illumined word.


 

For more on Blessing: https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/a-blessing-habit/

For more poetry: https://alifeofpractice.com/musings/transition-and-mischief-makers/

https://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/women-friends-come-bearing-gifts/

https://alifeofpractice.com/poetry/still-life-with-cat-2/

How a seeker of justice weds the troubled human

How can we each use our life of practice to wed the seeker of justice with the troubled and imperfect humans we are: healed and healing, awakened and awakening?

This is tricky territory. On the one hand, we want to serve the world, not serve our wounding or neuroses. This requires us to turn deeply inward to inquire into our personal reality and the origins of our motivation. On the other hand we want to engage deeply with the world: if we wait until we are completely pure of heart before we act, we will remain forever immobile – and useless.

We do our best to run and return between the inward and outward journeys, bringing the wisdom of each to the other, and wrestling with the limitations of each. We could say we engage in each aspect of this work for the sake of the other.

From the front lines of this tricky territory

This week, I find myself in a passel of trouble. Troubled by one violent act upon another. Troubled by my own reactions. Broken-hearted  over the killing of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl, as she was walking in the neighborhood near her mosque in Reston, Virginia. The man under arrest for the killing is only five years older, barely an adult himself. From El Salvador. Did he flee gang violence there?

Broken-hearted, yet I have trouble remembering her name. If I am so heartbroken, why hasn’t her name engraved itself on my memory? But I look up the meaning of Nabra, and listen to the pronunciation, “Nehbarrah.” Google translates it as “tone.” I wonder about the Arabic nuances, and what her family was intending when they gave her this name. Last night I dreamed that she and I were talking quietly and intimately in the corner of a room – or maybe it was one of her three younger sisters.

What is it about Nabra among all the others murdered or maimed? Innocence? Sacrilege? Is it that she is the same age as my grandson, who was raised mostly ignorant of his Jewishness and is about to go off to college where others may see him only as a Jew?  A news article reported that Nabra had tripped over her abaya, a garment she had borrowed for the late-night Ramadan prayers because she rarely wore one.

I am equally troubled by the stark contrast with my response to the shooting of Republican congressmen just a few days before. I am more shocked at myself  than at the event. I am sanguine, cold: well-what-did-you-expect, well-now-you-know, well-y’all-invited-it. I am ashamed that my emotional reaction insists on being what it is.

Inquiring within

I do recognize this pattern in myself, how I am drawn to the protection, the defense of those who have no voice, no place, how I am repelled by the mis-uses and abuses of power. And how that is mixed up with  my own neuroses/wounding. I have, over the years, untangled many knotty threads to begin to claim my own voice and my own place. Enough so that I can sigh and say, well, there it is again. Enough so that I can begin serving more than my own wounding.

Then I have to remember another potent pattern that is active here – a certain way that I steel myself, withhold myself from life, from the moments that are especially dicey, aka life-threatening for me. I wrote about this “held-back goodness of the heart” some months ago, about the nuances to my withholding, each supported by a faulty assumption. Meanwhile, I remind myself here again. Goodness – goodness itself is unchanging. It doesn’t vary in quality or go bad, like those food storage experiments lingering at the back of the fridge. It’s not “my” goodness, but the Goodness of Reality of which I partake, of which I am made. The Goodness of which Nabra was made. The Goodness of which even her killer is made. The Goodness of which even congressmen whose behavior I abhor are made.

Saving my sanity

It is only throwing all this up against the Radical Oneness that saves my sanity and gifts me with clearer seeing, a bit more choice and courage. A bit more capacity to be in relationship with what is – so I am less and less trying to save myself from my own terrors and actually capable of serving.

By naming my feelings, even the shameful ones, I have given them a place. This does not mean that I have either solved or dissolved my conflicting feelings. Nor am I absolved from acting. I can and must choose from the abundant opportunities life offers me to show up, to protest, to act locally, to pray globally.

It is a great goodness to allow myself to sorrow still for my own childhood difficulties even as I sorrow for Nabra, even as I work to separate out these streams of sorrow.

And I must continue to wrestle with my own privilege – the privilege of a material security in which I can fall prey to the terrors of psychological life-threat, when so many humans are in urgent, immanent, physical danger of violence and death.

Pragmatically, materially speaking, we need all the wisdom we can access, and all the wholeness we can muster, to meet life.

From a spiritual standpoint, we each are born into this world to bend the arc in a particular way: that particular way of bending that we are born for, born to, heals our soul, and heals the world. Inseparably. Simultaneously. The very same life.

May we each succeed gloriously: for the sake of our loved ones, for the sake of those we serve in our personal and professional lives, for the sake of the civic body and our common good, for the sake of the earth.

“I can’t see!”  How habit blindfolds us!

Habit is an effective blindfold: it keeps me from seeing what is there, and directs me away from my own responsibility.

I pulled up short behind the SUV as we approached the intersection with a small side street. It looked as if the driver was about to make a right turn without having signaled. Immediately I reacted with irritation, one that I automatically generalized to the whole category of “drivers of SUVs.” A moment later I saw there was a compact Honda (same model as I was driving) in front of the SUV who was actually making the turn.

Initially, I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see what was actually happening, so I reconstituted a dried out old story and slapped it on the moment, then reacted to it. The dried-out story was colored by my prejudices against outsized vehicles that obscure the road ahead and engage in otherwise obnoxious-to-me road behaviors. In short, thoughtless road hogs. Even though some of my best friends drive SUVs.

I was reminded of another foundational personal experience of not-seeing.

I had gone to “see” a musical, and paid a pretty penny for a decent theatre seat. Through the entire performance, I found myself leaning to one side or the other, trying to see around the large body blocking my view of the stage. I found myself muttering, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” Until at one point I almost laughed out loud as I realized that most certainly I could see! I could see a large, stolid body and a very partial view of the stage. It just wasn’t what I wanted to see. Or what I thought was fair for the ticket price.

Blame and responsibility

So today’s driving experience demonstrated to me how much more work I have to do to take personal responsibility – how I can go all knee-jerky and immediately look for someone or something to blame when things don’t go the way I want.

As I follow the news, this distinction between blame and responsibility is actually one of my pet peeves. Blame is liberally dispensed by pundits of all political leanings. Responsibility is rarely assigned via sound and nuanced analysis of complexity, and seldom assumed by anyone. The common “I am sorries,”  e.g. “I am sorry I called her a b- – – -,” “I am sorry I used the n word”? To me these “apologies” translate only as “I am sorry I got caught and called out for saying what I think.”

Here are a few behaviors  that in my book break the habit of blame and move me along to take responsibility:

  • Self-examination.
  • Taking in the damage I have done.
  • Regret – and depending on the scale of the hurt, remorse.
  • Some meaningful move to repair any damage to the injured party.
  • Resolve to not repeat the behavior.
  • Repeat all the above steps as needed.

Admittedly, there are more substantive examples of my casting blame that are of greater consequence to the people in my life, but any moment is a good moment to come awake, even if it’s “just” behind the wheel of a car.


More on habit: https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/thankyou/

A night of small revelations

I was twelve when Cecil B. DeMille’s technicolor biblical spectacle left me wide-eyed in my neighborhood movie theatre: The Ten Commandments!  Last night I was in synagogue with family in Durham, North Carolina marking the Giving of Torah to the Jewish people: a night of small, nourishing and human-scale revelations.

The evening began with a group of Muslim guests and their imam standing with us around a Torah as the rabbi lovingly spoke about the centrality and holiness of the scroll. He described how the parchment is prepared, and the great care with which the writing is done. For example, should the scribe make an error in the writing of God’s name, that whole section of parchment must be unstitched from its neighbors. The text must be completely rewritten – without error – and then restitched in place.

I had never heard this bit before – about the unstitching, the rewriting, the restitching. At the same time, I was struck by the fact that the stories themselves are full of human error, human imperfections.

The Torah scroll unfolds the ultimate error-ridden, and unfinished, story. It opens with our common origins, the Creation, then traces the early generations of humankind who, within a matter of a few pages are banished from paradise to the labors of childbirth and working the land. We soon fall into envy, murder, and drunkenness. After the Flood God starts over. More generations of ill-will, jealousies and betrayals of one another and God. The Jewish people are enslaved, taken out of Egypt, receive a collective revelation – Torah, wander in the wilderness under the protection of God’s Cloud, and with Moses’ leadership. The scroll ends as God directs Moses to ascend Mt. Nebo to die, in view of the land he will never enter. Nor do we in the Biblical telling. It’s back to the beginning for us too.

Nevertheless, we learn, it is God’s nature to give, and humankind’s to receive.

And on the night of Shavuot, we receive by grappling with texts late into the evening.

We consider the power of the very letters and white spaces of the Torah scroll. We discuss commentaries from a half dozen sources on the meaning and power of blessing. We puzzle in discomfort over a contemporary Israeli poem suggesting that Torah itself will move on, will actually leave us. We wrestle with passages from the deeply mystical text of the Zohar that warn us not to take the stories as anything but garments which clothe the ultimately unknowable Mystery of God, yet also instruct us how to live and care for one another and the world.

I neither saw thunder nor heard lightening, as the Jewish people are said to have done at Sinai. No life-changing insight into myself or my own surely numerous errors of perception, belief, behavior.

But some dew settled on me, some nourishment, much fellowship, laughter, argument, provocation. For which I give thanks.


The banner image, Egg World,was painted by my dear friend Kristine Rasmussen, who knew how to delight in life better than most of us.