Politics, religion and judgment: Part 2

Okay, now that I’ve revealed some of my biased opinions in a finger pointing way, I hope you feel a little uncomfortable with Part 1 of this post.  While I tried to keep it calm and lacking polemics, it still expressed an opinion that slipped into judgment about other people’s beliefs.  Imagine if that makes you feel uneasy how much worse the feelings are when we rage at those who disagree with us.

I was a hippie, liberal/leftist who protested against the Viet Nam war, marched for solar power and against apartheid and worked on nuclear power plant cases as a lawyer so I have some deeply ingrained opinions and I catch myself getting enraged at those who disagree.  But somewhere in my public interest work years I started becoming uncomfortable with the degree to which lots of people around me seemed to open their hearts to nameless, faceless masses far away but were often not so nice to people in the room.

We were supposedly working for peace and justice out of some belief that life is precious but I couldn’t help but notice that we didn’t behave as if all life was precious.  If all life is precious then it seems to me I don’t get to be mean to Republicans or pro-lifers or fundamentalists or whoever just because they have a different point of view.  They’re alive.  Doesn’t that make them precious?

It’s one of the greatest places in which I get to practice mindfulness because if I don’t stay alert to my reactions I slip into the vitriolic ranting that keeps hatred and rage in the atmosphere and fuels the fires of riots and wars and crimes.  I find that staying that mindful takes practice — for me that’s not only sitting meditation, but moving meditation such as chi gung or chanting or yoga nidra.  I practice a lot and I’m still not there.  But I catch myself more and more often and change direction with the lovingkindness chant for whomever I’m mentally dissing.

What you believe, what your politics are, what your religious views are, whether you do anything because of what I’ve said is not my business.  Nothing that anyone else does is my business.  The only business that’s mine is the process of becoming peace, of paying attention to my place in the web of life.  Until I can claim that I bring only peace I am in no position to point fingers at anyone else (and my observation of those who make it to “being peace” is that once there they don’t point fingers).  What’s your business?

Judgment and opinion and the fuzzy line between

Every spiritual tradition of which I am aware has something about not judging other people.  But I’ve run into a fair number of teachings that say you can have your own opinion that someone’s behavior doesn’t work for you and that you don’t choose to hang out with him.  As long as you don’t run around judging him as in “he’s a jerk”, you can decide for yourself that you want to stay out of his way.  Even more crucial, you shouldn’t tell other people he’s bad or a jerk, which presents them with a judgment.

But boy the line seems very fuzzy to me between the two.  Years ago I was asked by someone I didn’t know well to room with her.  Many of my other friends had had more experience of her than I but no one said a word.  When the situation turned way south pretty quickly they all started allowing as to how they’d been surprised that I would choose to share an apartment with her and began to recite stories of her self-centered and sometimes mean behavior.  In every case when I asked why they didn’t warn me beforehand, they said they didn’t want to cause me to pre-judge her because of what they said.

One part of me has always understood that they were working hard to avoid being judgmental, but another part of me feels they could have given me their opinions and left me to decide if I wanted to find out for myself.  However, I often find myself staggering along that line, trying to figure out whether a warning or a pre-comment is judging or just a helpful opinion.

Even in the seemingly benign situation where you’re going to introduce two of your friends, if you start telling each one, “I think you’re going to like her because she has such a big heart” or “because he’s so funny,” you’re giving the other person a picture or an idea of the person that may prevent forming an opinion based on their own experience.

In right speech there is a concept that you should never speak of another person who isn’t present.  That’s a tough one in our society, but sometimes I wonder if that’s just the safest way to avoid passing on judgments.  That doesn’t even address the issue of how to juggle between judgment and opinion in your mind.  That’s a work in progress for me.

The relaxation effect

Recently someone asked me if I knew about Rescue Remedy, suggesting that I keep some around.  I used to keep it and use it but I haven’t in years.  And I realized how calm I am in comparison to the anxiety-ridden person I used to be.  I can’t think of what would make me need the Remedy.  Not that I’m not ever a little anxious about something but it’s so mild compared to the overwhelming neurotic worry that used to be my world that usually a little deep breathing or a few minutes of yoga accomplishes all I need.

It’s one of the greatest benefits of spiritual practice; you sort of quietly achieve a state of greater equilibrium.  I haven’t had a daily meditation practice for some years, but my yoga practice is faithful and for several years I’ve also been faithful about the Five Tibetan Rites and the Eight Key Breaths and Flying Crane Chi Gung.  All of those things smooth my energy and bring me into balance in various ways.  My reasons for doing them were mainly to be balanced and for building chi and raising my vibration.   But a deep-seated calm that leaves me in a state of relaxation has been another benefit.

Emotional Mastery, a course/concept created by the late Ellen Margron, also helped as I learned how to shift from one emotional state to another at will.  Once you realize you can, you also realize that emotional states are a choice.  That’s helped a lot toward creating this greater sense of calm.

I’m far from achieving some state of true inner peace, but practices and emotional mastery have helped me leave the anxious neurotic state behind and to become a person who lives in much greater serenity.

Travelling easy

I’ve been basking in the beauty of Marin Co. for almost a week now.  I have a very push/pull, love/hate relationship with travel.  I think I love to travel.  Until I’m packing and running a dozen errands required to leave house and cat secure and to embark with good hair and the “everything but” that goes in my suitcase.  By the last day before departure I’m generally swearing and asking myself why I think I like to travel.  Then I go into high anxiety about getting to the airport on time, getting through security with minimum hassle, etc., often not sleeping.

This time I got up to that last day cranky thing and reminding myself that this is “always how it goes,” when suddenly I stopped and asked myself why.  Why do I choose to have this anxious, unhappy relationship with the process of the journey?  So I began to affirm to myself that this was going to be easy and effortless and everything would go fine.  For once my short first flight left on time so I didn’t have to sprint through O’Hare without even a bathroom stop.  Had a leisurely stroll and even got to drink coffee.  Slept through the uneventful flight, got my suitcase right away and the moment I stepped on the median the airporter for Marin pulled up.

You’d think I’d know by now that all I have to do is change my attitude to change the unfolding of events.  But with some ingrained habits of thinking I just carry on as before unless I have one of those moments when I ask:  “Why am I choosing to have it ‘always’ be this way?”

What’s a life worth?

I’ve been a little shocked lately at the news about Bin Laden and the people rejoicing in the streets over a man’s death.  I don’t like what he did and I’m not questioning whether there should have been a mission or even that they felt there was no choice as to the outcome once the mission started, but he was a living person and I find it ghoulish to be jubilant that he was killed.  I chanted the lovingkindness chant for him for hours long ago and eventually I softened and felt the divine nature beneath the angry mask.  Doesn’t mean I liked him or approved of him, but I recognized him as another member of the web of life.

We stormed Iraq, a country that had no known relationship to 9/11 and no nuclear weapons and caused the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians and left thousands more living in fear and often without services like electricity ever since.  If we think justice for the loss of life on 9/11 is served by killing someone, how do we imagine justice will be served for the Iraqis?

I don’t have answers for how to handle terrorists but I keep thinking that the kill/revenge/kill cycle that’s been the way of the world is not the way to peace.  Don’t get mad, be peace.

Don’t get mad, be peace

When I watch the news (try to avoid it) or face opposing political opinions or hear about what I perceive as injustice, I tend to react.  Sometimes I’m pretty angry, raving and waving my arms around.  I try to be mindful in this arena, to realize when I’ve flipped into mad mode.  Because I believe absolutely that the only way to have a world at peace is for enough of us to release our anger and truly become peace; peace in your heart, compassion in action, etc.

In this great big web of divine oneness that we all inhabit each one of us affects the entire web by the emotional patterns we hold and express.  Just because almost everyone I know would be angry about the same stuff doesn’t change the fact that all anger fed into the web contributes to hatred and violence and war.  At any given moment the balance of the world moves toward peace or war depending upon the vibrational patterns of all the members of the web.

As much as I would like to blame those other guys whose attitudes and anger about my opinions are just WRONG, I’m contributing the same crap to the web that they are every time I point a finger and declare them wrong or bad.  When my mindfulness efforts are working well enough that I realize I’ve started a knee jerk reaction against someone or something, I stop and say the lovingkindness chant for whomever is receiving my fury.

Every time I do it a soft, smoothing wave flows through me and the world feels right again.  In those moments I know that I have to learn how to hold that space of loving peace as my center.  Have to for my own well being.  Have to for the web.  I don’t want to take a chance on being the bit of energy that’s the tipping point to war.  I want to say to everyone, “Don’t get mad.  BE PEACE!”

The horrors of change…

Sometimes I think the greatest source of resistance I have to becoming enlightened is the secret fear that I’ll have to live a life to which I don’t aspire.  Some sort of ascetic life possibly involving no shoes and/or a begging bowl.  And a lot of religious doctrine tells me that upon enlightenment I’ll be happy to have nothing and indeed that I won’t achieve it unless I give up material pursuits first.

I don’t really have a desire to hoard billions or wear Versace but I like houses and cars and computers and WEARING SHOES and on some level I’m uneasy as to what enlightenment means relative to life as I’ve known it.  Of course life as I’ve known it seemed fairly sucky when I started this journey, hence the journey.  Quite a puzzle…

Twenty-five years into the journey I’ve experienced a lot and changed a lot and, from the perspective of now, it’s been pretty great.  But if you’d told me when I started all that I would face and some of the changes I would make, I’m not sure that I’d have kept going.  For me it’s one of the hardest parts of a transformational journey:  not knowing what the transformed life will look like.  And it isn’t as hard on the surface as it’s hard in those deep dark places that catch me unaware and lead me into self-sabotage and resistance.

Preventive Mindfulness?

Spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks lying around with the flu and the weak aftermath.  You’d think with all that down time I’d have had some profound thoughts to write, but when I had the energy to think at all it was more like, “Not another sneeze, my nose hurts,” or “boy, I’m so shaky…”  Now with a little more pep I’m thinking about how much more I’ve been sick with colds and flus in the last year than I’d been in a long time.

Pretty good eating, lots of water, 15 years of nasal cup use, some great Chinese herbs for colds and Airborne have helped me prevent that kind of stuff.  (Colds and flus are one of the “fruits” of chronic fatigue so I worked hard to get rid of that problem).  Suddenly I focused on all the huge muscle releases that have been happening during this last year and I thought, “kundalini flu”.

My California pals used to talk about it when I was out there dealing with kundalini and lots of flu.  The idea is that as kundalini burns through issues and opens things up in your body toxins that have been stuck in your tissues are dumped into your bloodstream and your body becomes overwhelmed.  Really, though, any time anything is opening up muscles that have been twisted or knotted, toxins are being released.

I always make sure to drink water when I’ve had a massage, but even knowing all these things I wasn’t mindful enough to take extra preventive measures during this time of many releases.  I keep reaching the understanding that practicing mindfulness is the key element of all spiritual progress.  Then I forget to be mindful.  Again.  Hardest thing about being mindful is remembering to be it.

The magic of beginnings

I’ve been looking back at the beginning of my journey a lot lately.  I feel like I’m approaching the end of the physical healing part of the journey and peeling away more layers.  Seems to bring up thoughts of “then” compared to “now”.

I started the journey with great excitement.  Two friends and I explored together and were giddy with our new discoveries.  “Can you believe the synchronicity?”  “The one who channels Ramtha is coming!”  “I see now why I do that!”  You get the idea.  As I look back I think we also had a lot of hubris about the degree to which we’d succeeded and how quickly we assumed we’d be done.

Eventually I learned that one of the signs of maturing along the journey is ceasing the expectation that there’s a final “doneness” or that the road to enlightenment is swiftly travelled.  I do miss that sense of great excitement though.

Somewhere along the way my journey lost that sense of magic and became more about constant practice and delving and releasing with progress that became ever more slow.  I think the excitement at the beginning is what draws a lot of initial success at manifesting and generally feeling better.  Then a lot of people run into the walls of their own issues and progress becomes more sporadic.  It sure happened to me.

I’ve been wondering whether part of the idea of keeping what the Buddhists call “beginner’s mind” is the ability to maintain that initial sense of delight.  Previously I related it to just trying not to be jaded or to ever think that I’ve become so advanced that I couldn’t learn something new from an introductory class or someone who’s new to the journey.  Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of the beginner is the joy of new discovery and that’s one of the more difficult things to hang onto; at least it is for me.

Forgiveness–How do you make it stick?

My mother’s only sibling was a bitch on wheels and she didn’t have children so guess what only child got the dubious benefit of her maternal focus (I don’t say instincts because she had none or they were deep in the negative).  I’ve done a lot of forgiveness exercises.  I really thought I’d forgiven deep in my heart when I sat with her as they disconnected life support and as she struggled to breathe.  The only family member willing to show up, I prayed and felt her spirit leave.  Forgiveness.  Check.

Recently I keep remembering this story from something like 35 years ago when my aunt was probably about 50.  Mom called me one day to tell me that the latest secretary (one in a long line of grossly underpaid, overworked and verbally/emotionally abused employees) had snapped and held my aunt at knife point for a few hours.

After a few shocked questions about how everyone was I started giggling and burst out, “Really when you think about it isn’t it amazing this is the first time anyone’s gotten ticked enough to pull a weapon on her?”  That set Mom off.  “It’s a wonder nobody’s killed her long since.”  That totally cracked us up.  (I’ve often thought it’s a testament to the innate goodness of man that my aunt died at 75 without a knife or gunshot scar on her and as far as I know nobody ever had their hands around her throat…)

Thinking about the story lately I can get that that’s a horrible way to speak of another person and I still think it’s funny.  So you get the picture.  Forgiveness.  Uncheck.  Back to the drawing board.  I’ve explored lots of reasons and issues fueling the anger and tried various forgiveness exercises but clearly something still eludes me.

I find forgiveness a slippery issue because at the moment I’ve completed some forgiveness practice or just decided that I forgive, it feels completely true.  Then at some later point anger may rear again.  How can you tell that you’ve forgiven on every level?  Haven’t figured that out yet.  If you have a formula, please tell.


The boring intro post

I started writing these little pieces a couple of months ago.  I haven’t really been drawn to the blogosphere, so when I wondered what to do with them, “blog” wasn’t the first thing to come to mind but when I read a news blurb about some of the better blog hosts I thought it just might be the right forum.

The pieces are thoughts about my own journey and insights about general issues in metaphysics and about health and healing.  I’ve picked up a thing or two in 25 years of yoga, meditation, soul searching, workshops, practices, etc., so you might actually find some useful ideas.  My hope is to start some conversations, so please post your thoughts.

I only plan to post a couple a week.  At the moment I have a small stockpile so I’m good for two/week for a while.  Never been a journal-er in a consistent way, so expect some gaps.  The good news is that this first time you get a “two for” special, so after this boring introduction you can read a real entry.