The Ah in God

Contemplating the divisiveness these days on many issues, especially religious, I’ve been thinking a lot about some teachings I received long ago.  Late 80’s into mid-90’s I had several different teachers who talked about vowel sounds in ancient times and how they relate to chakras, meanings and to modern language.  There was a gem about the sound and meaning of “ah” that has always stuck with me.

The two teachers I can recall most specifically are David Patten, who is a Druid descendant and teaches about ancient Celtic practices at Nine Gates, including the alphabet– the “oghams”– and Paul Ray, who taught Sufi at Nine Gates (long ago, when I went through…).  I lived in an apartment connected to the home of my friend Gay and David, so I also got to hear about oghams at the dinner table while he worked on a book.  This many years later I don’t remember which other teachers and much of what I learned is a bit of a jumble.

For all these years, though, a teaching on “ah” as the sound of God has always stuck.  Many of these ancient concepts provided layers of meaning to each letter — things like, a type of tree, a mineral, a bird, a divination interpretation, etc. — and those ideas were often incorporated in later alphabets and languages though the underlying layers are no longer known in general.*  So it turns out that the “ah” sound, if you look carefully, is in every name for God.  Krishna.  Allah.  Yeshua (Jesus). etc.  And of course the way we pronounce “God” there’s an ah in it…

As I studied with teachers from different traditions and increasingly realized every major religion has the same principles at the core, I would come back to the sound of “ah” and realize the name is not only there in each place, but the sound that conveys all those principles and shows up in each one is a unifying piece.

The name may look different in each language, but the spirit of love in the “ah” is always present.  The same principles of the Eightfold Path — right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — are within all of them, they just use different words to express them.

So I look at all the division and discord about this religion versus that or this denomination versus another and I wish everyone could take a breath and feel the “ah”.  For many, if the words are different for some reason they can’t see the heart is the same.  I just feel the love at the core and keep wishing we could all find our way back to the heart and the love and compassion.

This is my first post for this year’s Nano Poblano — a version of National Blog Post Writing Month.  The group decided to change it up, so this year participants are committing to 30 days of blog activities–  10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform. You can see posts for the event here.

*David has been able to translate some obscure modern languages without having ever studied or spoken them just by applying his knowledge of the meaning of letters.

No Mo Nano Poblano!

Yea!  I’m happy.  I’m sad. Happy and sad…

Relieved and happy to be done with the daily posting.  Sad because I’ve enjoyed meeting lots of new bloggers.  Happy because most days– I’ve made a couple of weekly commitments– if I post it will be only because I have something I really want to say and I’m in the humor to get it posted.  Sad I won’t be able to search the “Nano Poblano” tag and run down a list of great posts by lots of people I haven’t met before.

When I posted the other day about being too tired to write I garnered a few messages both privately and on the blog giving me advice about how to plan better next time.  My plan next time:  state clearly from the beginning that I’ll post as much as I’m comfortable posting but am not committed to posting daily.

In the end I only missed one day, with a couple of not-quite-a-post days when at least something went up.  But I also had many days when I posted on two of my blogs and a few more when I posted on all three.  So total posts for November is over 30 and I feel very accomplished.

My creative juices bubbled up and I learned it’s probably a good idea for me to work on posting more often than I have.  I also really saw the benefits of engaging more with other bloggers than has been my habit.

I’m following a new bunch of blogs and I’m being followed by a bunch of new people.  I’m pleased that happened and sad it’s about to slow down unless I keep up with spending more hours a day on this than I have…  I participated more with the Nano Poblano folks but I always dipped often in the waters of the NaNoBloMo headquarters.  So many amazing blogs, so little time…

All in all, I couldn’t be more pleased that when I first saw the Nano Poblano info on November 2 (having fortuitously happened to have posted already on the first) I spontaneously decided to jump in.  Thanks everybody for making this a great, fun month!

Turning thoughts to peace

cloud for bluegrass blog

I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to spending some time focused on peace.  Whether you need to clear something that stands in the way of inner peace or you want to chant or pray or meditate or perform a ceremony, please give peace a chance today.

Collective Prayer Sundays:  In case you’re new, we’re finding 10 minutes at a minimum to pray or chant or meditate (or???) for peace every Sunday.  Details are on the CPS page.  For comments:  you can comment here or on that page or you can go to the Facebook page.

Unsolicited Advice and Right Listening

qestion mark and exclamation mark

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note:  Although I’ve been tagging all my posts with Nano Poblano, when I search the tag, my posts on this particular blog aren’t showing up in my reader.  If anyone from the Poblano group who also follows me can give me a heads up as to whether posts you’ve seen through your subscription also show up when you’re reading the Poblano posts, I’d really appreciate it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  So love and appreciate this crowd.  Hope you had a lovely holiday if you were celebrating and a great day if you were not.

After raising issues about what kinds of comments are appropriate in my last post I decided to refurbish and update the post I mentioned about Right Listening and Unsolicited Advice.  The issue was a comment that offered a lot of advice I’d not asked for.  Lots of viewpoints showed up in the comments and it seemed like a good moment to mention the notion of Right Listening and it’s guideline:  avoid giving unsolicited advice.

Right speech is part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. It’s a huge topic with lots of subcategories. I almost feel as if right listening should have a ninth slot on the Path because it seems too important to be subsumed under right speech. In full disclosure, I’ve learned enough about it to be able to teach Right Speech classes and I have a couple of friends who’ve become master practitioners so I know what it looks like in action, but though I am good at it when I’m sitting in practice with someone, in daily life, well, let’s just say I’m a work in progress.

Both right speech and right listening require you to stay mindful and to learn to be honest with yourself and therefore in what you say. I think right listening has further challenges. For now, I’m just going to look at the aspect of right listening that asks you not to offer unsolicited opinions or advice.

Literally that means that if a friend has just told you about a problem she’s having but has not asked you to tell her what you think she should do, then you should not offer an opinion.  Nor should you hear about someone’s project or plan and immediately start offering advice on how to better it or why not to do it unless they’ve specifically asked you to give advice.

Right speech and listening is a dance of communication in which you each try to hold a space that helps the other person to explore deeper into their thoughts and feelings so that you communicate from the heart.  Your job as a listener is to try to put aside your own thoughts and feelings—a great spiritual exercise—in order to really hear what your friend thinks and feels and to ask neutral questions that help her to explore more deeply into her topic and what she feels about it than she has before.

Our conversational habit as a culture (U.S.) is to step in every time someone mentions a problem or question and start offering suggestions and opinions, so I think it’s a huge challenge to practice right listening.  In the world of blogging, this shows up when people write posts in which they complain or discuss an issue but do not ask for readers to supply them with solutions.  And then in the comments one or more people tell them what they should do.

Whether face to face or in blogging, when you jump in with solutions you’re burdening the other person with your opinions — often fueled by your issues, fears, and unexamined beliefs.  Instead of inviting this person to explore his/her own heart and helping them to examine their own wishes by asking neutral questions, you’re substituting your thoughts for theirs.

Even when you know someone well enough that you’re sure you know what they really want, try to step back and leave space for her to decide on something unexpected but even more right for her.  Even when you love someone dearly and want to save or protect or circumvent, get yourself out of the way and see what you can do to help him figure out what’s best for him– even if it’s not what you would do.

Many unsolicited-advice comments demonstrate a lack of familiarity with the post on which they’re commenting. Right listening requires, well…  actually listening.  Many comments I read on my blog and on other blogs feel like the writer has an agenda of some sort or had a button pushed by some phrase that unleashed a lot of words that don’t address the post’s content; in some cases they give advice that completely ignores what the post-er said.

For the person who wrote the post, that often feels like you weren’t “listening” at all.  If you want to really engage with another blogger, try to read/listen carefully. Pay attention and understand their post and if you comment, comment on material that’s actually in the post, not on the chatter that’s in your head.  If you’re not sure what something meant, ask.  If you’re not sure whether they want advice, ask.  If you want more info to figure out where it seems like they’re headed , ask.  Most people love to be heard.  When you ask for more information based on what they wrote, they feel heard and the questions feel like you really want to understand them.

It’s amazing how much deeper relationships can become when you’re really listening, when you set yourself aside and put the other person first.  When you learn to take your beliefs and opinions out of the equation and try to move deeper and deeper into the other person’s thoughts and wishes…   that’s when you’re connecting from the heart.

For a few years after I learned about right speech at Nine Gates I had a couple of practice buddies and a greater consciousness about the opinions thing so I was better about avoiding it. But old habits are hard to break and that particular habit is so much a part of the way everybody seems to converse that I fell back into it and I know I unconsciously offer that unsolicited advice more often than I’d like.

I try to shift that practice by taking a moment before I respond—can I be that mindful? whole other question… I like Sylvia Boorstein’s question, “Is what I’m about to say an improvement on silence?” I think a moment taken to ask that question would change a whole lot of what comes out of my mouth. Might change what you write in comments.  Anyone care to try it for a while? I’d be interested to dialog about how people do with it and how it feels.

Comment etiquette?

English: Comment icon

English: Comment icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kind of funny, Nadine Marie has been blogging about reactions to unsolicited advice in comments over on Aligning with Truth and today I got a comment that I’m not sure what to do about.

I’m really not upset. Just taken aback.  And interested in some feedback about how others would take this.  I’ve learned over time that often when I take offense or feel miffed about what someone else said or did, they just accidentally hit one of my buttons.  So I rarely get bent out of shape initially.  I take a breath as I note my reaction and then step back to ask myself if I just have an issue.

And sometimes I like to check out how others say they would take the same words or actions.  So I thought I’d show you all this comment (which I have not approved, so the original, identifying the writer, is not on my blog at this time).  This reader dropped by my blog for the first time ever, read yesterday’s post that explained I wasn’t putting up a regular post and left this comment:

“i have a drafts folder for blog posts, sometimes it’s just a title, sometimes it’s the first two sentences. I keep a few there and when NaBloPoMo started I had like 7 or 8 blog posts ready to expand and go. That left me available to write on days when I had the time and stack up a couple in advance. Right now I have zero in my drafts and the next three days of blog posts ready to go. Think of NaBloPoMo as Thanksgiving 0 you gotta do the prep work. I too started cooking today. Good luck with both.” {sic]

I blinked when I read it.  My first thought was “Well, bully for you.  Aren’t you the queen/king of organization?  And thanks so much for dropping by to chastise me.”  But, of course, I’m all about blogging for peace and, well, that’s not exactly peaceful 🙂  Not quite sure how I want to respond, whether to respond at all…  whether to even approve the comment.

I can step back and view it as an attempt to be helpful.  But my post didn’t ask for help.  Since this person doesn’t read my blog s/he obviously doesn’t know that I have openly stated many times that my commitment is to post twice a week.  I’ve never posted about how I work on blog posts, so it’s a bit presumptuous to advise me how I should do it better when s/he couldn’t possibly know my habits.

Now, rarely, I’ve received comments that were clearly offensive and clearly meant to be and I just delete them and never think about it again.  But I also periodically receive these unsolicited advice-type comments and always feel a bit on the fence.  Again, they don’t really upset me, I just don’t know what to do with it.  You can see my thoughts about Right Listening and Unsolicited Advice here.

When bloggers with whom I regularly exchange comments offer a suggestion I don’t mind at all.  I’m a little bothered when someone who doesn’t know me or my blog  presumes to offer advice that displays they know nothing about me and, often, didn’t really read the post on which they’re commenting.

Bottom line, I find the above comment an oddly offensive way to say “hello” on a first visit to someone’s blog.  And I’m curious whether anyone agrees or whether you think I just have a button being pushed here.  If you want to be quick, use the poll, but I’d love to hear more if you have time to comment.  What do you do with comments that offer advice you didn’t ask for and/or find off-putting?

Thanksgiving trumps blogging?

Thanksgiving oven

Thanksgiving oven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Started working on Thanksgiving today-- a day later than normal and without all the groceries picked up.  Grocery shopping and major cooking all in the same day is a bit much for my stamina.  So, the best I can do for today's entry in NaBloPoMo is to say I'm now too tired to write.

For once, I have remembered to take pictures as I go along so there will be posts on the Scribblings blog about the menu.

It’s the big problem for me with these November daily writing things.  I make a big deal out of Thanksgiving and the planning, shopping and cooking goes on for a couple of weeks.  I mete it out to suit my health issues and I love to do it — but there’s not a lot left of me for anything else.

J2P Monday: Breathe

English: By kac's meditation

 meditation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My stress management classes grew out of being a lawyer with the Illinois Governor’s Office in downtown Chicago at the same time I studied meditation and yoga.  I soon found myself adapting what I knew to the office situation, exploring many quick ways to defuse stress.  Over many years of practice I learned that the practices that relax are also key to finding peace.

My number one favorite go-to for stress is breathing.  There are so many ways you can use your breath, even in public, to calm yourself without anyone realizing that you’re having a relaxation moment.

Most Americans breathe very shallowly and suck the stomach and solar plexus areas in on inhalation and release it on exhalation.  Natural, healthy breathing involves inhaling deep into the abs and having the abs/solar plexus/diaphragm area expand as you fill with air.

Exercise:  Many people find this pattern very difficult at first.  To get the feeling for expanding and contracting the solar plexus area, lie flat on the floor and place a book on your solar plexus (area of rib cage, between the navel and the base of your chest).  On each inhalation concentrate on pushing the book up.  On each exhalation focus on lowering the book as the air goes out.  Practice raising and lowering the book as you breathe until it feels easy.

Once you feel that you can inhale into your abdomen, the next step is to learn how to take a full breath.  Inhale into the abdomen and feel that fullness move upward until you have inhaled all the way up to the collar bone.  On exhalation, begin releasing the breath from the top level and continue releasing on down to the solar plexus.  Breathe slow and long and make sure that you feel completely filled with each inhalation and that you’ve emptied all the air completely on exhalation.

Exercise:  Sit comfortably, with a straight back.  Tune in and note how you’re feeling.  Notice the natural pattern of your breath.  Then begin full breath– start counting as you inhale and make your exhalation have the same count.  If you finish the inhale on the count of 8 then count at the same pace to 8 as you exhale and make sure you pace the exhalation to be finished on 8.  Continue for 8-10 breaths, keeping the inhalation and the exhalation even.  Then double the length of the exhalation; for instance, if you count to 6 on the inhale, make the exhale last to the count of 12.  Take 8-10 more breaths with the longer exhalation. Check in again and note any change in how you feel or the pattern of your breathing.

Frequently people who are stressed also hold the breath.  It’s an unconscious habit of sucking in some air and then holding it. If you become mindful of your breathing and use the full breath several times a day, you’ll start shifting out of that pattern.

Any time you feel angry or upset, stop and take some full breaths before you react or say anything.  As soon as you calm down, your view of most situations will change.

Full breath is absolutely the easiest way to calm yourself.  You can practice it any place any time.  Only a few minutes of full breath has an incredibly relaxing effect.  The counting also serves as a focusing device. so each time you stop and count you’re having a little meditation break.