“Tonglen” in Practice

I learned today that one of my closest friends is in the hospital, sedated, dying from bone cancer. It’s an odd juxtaposition in my mind since she and I shared tea and cookies on my patio just two weeks ago yesterday.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly two years ago, and underwent surgery, but declined any other treatments. The surgery and recovery were pretty tough. Recovery was complicated by an infection, and took much longer than anticipated.

But I felt her triumph. She continued to lead her friends and clients into the Light. When we talked two weeks ago, she shared with me that, if indeed her back and hip pain were cancer re-surfacing, that part of her was very excited to see what was beyond this world.

She has been a light in my life for nearly twenty years. We were roommates on our trip to Peru to study with the shaman. She gently steered me toward more self-discovery and acceptance in our everyday conversations. She facilitated the Mindful Self-Compassion classes that I took at the beginning of this year. I know in my heart that she is ready to see what’s next.

But, already I feel the loss of her company, her wisdom, her encouragement, her humor. She will stay sedated until the end, because bone cancer is one hell of a painful experience. And yet it is the perfect vehicle for her departure. She was sitting in the sun with me just two weeks ago, and now she will be unaware of the events leading to her death. It will be swift, but thankfully, due to modern medicine, not as painful as it could be.

Although I hope that I get to spend even a little time with her before she transitions, I know in my heart that, eventually, she will be just a little removed from me. I don’t think she’ll check in a la “Billy Fingers” but I do hold out hope that I will recognize her spirit when it lingers with me, wherever I am.

I wrote earlier today about the Buddhist meditation of “tonglen,” which is a practice that takes someone else’s pain away when you inhale and sends peace, ease, love, anything of relief when you exhale. It is a very powerful visualization. I ask that, if you can, please breathe an easing breath for my remarkable friend, Evelyn, and help her with her passing. Thank you.

Breathing Compassion

I ran into a great article yesterday in The Sun magazine. It was a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the summer 2010 issue of Buddhadharma, written by well-known Buddhist monk, Pema Chödrön. The title is “Transforming The Heart Of Suffering” and she writes that “In order to have compassion for others, we must have compassion for ourselves.” She goes on to describe the Buddhist meditation practice called “tonglen.”

I first heard about this practice when I read the book by Ken and Treya Killam Wilber entitled Grace and Grit, which followed these two from their engagement through their wedding and Treya’s ultimate surrender to cancer five years later. Both were practicing Buddhists, and tonglen was a favorite meditation of Treya’s.

As Chödrön describes, “We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and whom we wish to help.” The core of the practice is: “breathing in others’ pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness.”

What often happens, however, is that we come face to face with our own fear, resistance, anger – whatever our personal “stuckness” is at that moment. She says that you can change the focus at this point, so that you may focus on your own pain, and the fact that you share that with millions of other people. Inhale your own pain, exhale relief in whatever form you can imagine it.

The final paragraph gives me hope. She says, “Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a steppingstone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us, and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.” For me, that translates to this: Inhale the woes of the world; exhale peace, serenity, love.

As Jeshua reminds us, true understanding begins with the Love of Self, that piece of the Creator that resides in me. I like the tonglen exercise because it reminds me that I am truly connected to everything, and that by simply breathing I can help bring more compassion to this world.

Birthing the Christ Mind

Our Way of Mastery study group met recently to continue our exploration of Lesson 7, “Birthing the Mind of Christ.” We picked up our discussion on page 89, in the fourth paragraph under the heading “Birthing the Christ Mind.”

One participant, a school teacher, commented on the last sentence in the fourth paragraph where Jeshua says, “And for God’s sake, please refrain from all attempts to get anyone to believe that you love them!” She shared that she is always telling her first-graders how much she loves them, but also noted how exhausted she feels at the end of each day. She wondered if the lesson was telling her to stop “loving” the children.

I am generally in awe of the density and depth of this material. Initially, I think we all agreed that what she was doing was a good thing for the kids. But as we read further, it was clear what Jeshua’s message was. We don’t need to say that we love something all the time. We simply need to be that love. As he says:

“Put the whole of your attention on giving up the patterns of belief from which you have attempted to crucify the Self that God made and placed within you as your very awareness of your existence. Learn to love that Self beyond all created things. Learn to nurture that Self. Learn to cultivate within that Self only that which speaks of joy and truth. So that your words and your actions and your very presence always uplift another. So that when another walks into the room in which you are sitting or standing or moving, they feel like a breath of fresh air just hit them, even if you have not lifted a finger.

As long as there is a trace of energy within you in which you are striving to get from any perceived thing or object around you what you are sure you lack inside yourself, you cannot know the love of Self. And you cannot experience freedom. Happiness is an inside job.”

What struck me when I completed reading those two paragraphs was that “All is perfect – AS IT IS.” It was a very “here and now” moment for me. All internal strife evaporated for an instant. All was serene. All was peaceful. And although it was short-lived, it was true. And so I find myself coming back to those two paragraphs nearly daily to find that relief, that inner harmony that is so clear when Jeshua describes it.

He lovingly offers to show me the way “home.” “I know the way home because I have completed the journey, and I will show you the way. With every word that I utter, my one intent is to reveal to you the place within you that is the presence of Love that you seek.”

How could I resist that offer? I can’t. And that’s why I am gratefully swimming through this material, diving deep and coming up for air, soothed, comforted, swaddled in the Love he so generously offers.

Thank you, Jeshua, my brother and my friend, for walking this path with me, pointing out the beauties, the truths, the path to Peace. I am humbled and uplifted by the great Love you have for us all.

You Need Do Nothing

I went to a workshop at the bookstore Tuesday night that featured an Australian clairvoyant who helped the participants tap into their inner clairvoyant and connect with their angels and guides.

She explained that she kind of “backed into” this gift after working 10 years in the garment industry. She discovered her ability to connect in her early 30s and has been honing her skills ever since. She is now the author of at least three books and two CDs.

Like all other healers and visionaries I’ve been studying recently, her message is that all knowledge and wisdom are already within. We just need to slow down and tap in long enough to connect with that source. She gave us some very useful exercises that led us in that direction. It was good to spend time with her, and to have the message of what we need being “already within” reinforced.

Although I’m quite sure that careers like “medium,” “healer,” and “energy worker” are not on the list of successful careers for students taking placement exams, I’m also quite sure that jobs like “garbage man,” “street sweeper,” and “newspaper delivery person” are not on there, either. But we need all of these positions filled. As long as people find satisfaction in what they are doing, why do we deem some professions more important than others? What type of work am I not considering now because I’ve had such “important” positions in the past?

I ask myself, “If you didn’t need the money, what would you really like to do? What would make your heart sing when you walked into your place of work?” And when faced with a wide-open world, I have to say I have no idea. Old concepts about “having to make a living,” and “how will I pay the flippin’ mortgage?” seem to crowd out the joy I am looking to express.

When Jeshua says, “You need do nothing,” I kinda freak out. “But…but…but,” is my best, lame response. I know he’s telling me to do what I love, not just do something out of fear.

I’ve decided that if I want answers, I need to ask the questions. So I’ve been getting up an hour earlier and sitting in silence for as long as the cat will allow – usually 45 minutes to an hour or so. It’s a very nice way to start the day. I can’t make out any answers yet – munchkin monkey mind keeps telling me that anything I’m hearing is just my imagination. I’m going to have to give him a project, I think, before I can make more progress. Still, it feels good to start the day sitting in the dark and quiet. And I contemplate a question the clairvoyant had us ask ourselves in a short meditation Tuesday night: “What do I have to do or not do, start or stop, hold on to or let go of, to achieve my most wonderful, fulfilling life?” What things, indeed!

An Expression of Love, or a Cry for Help

So many lessons present themselves to me each week. Some are shallow and soft, some are deep and scary.

Last Monday I was working at the bookstore. I love that place – the smells, the soft music, the magical things that the owner brings into the store as books and gifts. I consider it a sanctuary. One of the “requirements” for opening the store is that you light incense and pray to be of service to all who enter the store that day. That’s a refreshing change from any job I’ve held before.

It was an unusually busy Monday. I had at least 10 people in the store at any given time from 10:00 a.m. thru 1:30 p.m. At one of the busiest times, I was helping two young women, sisters I assumed, and one had a very energetic son who appeared to be about eight years old. As I began to ring them up, I heard the boy say something and noticed that he had grabbed a necklace display and that it was about to fall over. I gently took it from him, righted it and told him that it was not something he could play with. His mother, appearing embarrassed and angry, grabbed him and pulled him to her, raising her voice to express to him that he should not touch things in the store.

A young man appeared from somewhere in the store, got right next to the young mother and accused her of child abuse, threatening to call the police. I felt that I had to direct the situation, since it was happening in my place of work. I told the young man that his actions were not appropriate and asked him to leave. He turned to me in anger and explained that he was a survivor of child abuse and knew it when he saw it. He turned back to the young woman and told her she should not raise her hand in anger to her child. Her sister jumped in and said that not only had her sister not raised her hand, it was none of his business.

In the fray, I asked again that the young man leave the store. As he got to the door, I apologized to the young women. He turned back to us from the door, and addressed the little boy. “I’m sorry you have such horrible parents,” he yelled.

After he left, an older woman in line said to the young mother, “You discipline your child as you see fit.” That seemed to calm the situation. I felt badly for all who were exposed to the “energetic chaos,” but my heart broke for the young man who had experienced – and was continuing to holding onto – the abuse. I wished that I had had the presence of mind to say to him, “Not all discipline is abuse.” But I don’t know if he could have heard me.

One couple told me that they appreciated how I had handled the situation. I thanked them, but felt in my bones that I could have – should have – acknowledged the young man’s pain. How difficult his life must be to constantly regard the world through the lens of his abuse.

As Jeshua lovingly describes in both The Way of Mastery and A Course in Miracles, all actions are either an expression of love or a cry for help. I heard the cry loud and clear, but did not make an opportunity to wrap the young man in the love he so desperately needed. My hope is that next time, I will.

Loving Compassion in Practice

All the books I am currently reading are telling me this: Everything happening in the world at this time is moving us more toward love. It may not look like it from the outside, but even the ISIS martyr, blowing himself up in the name of his God, is moving us all toward more love. Conflict, domination, superiority aren’t working. Loving, compassionate partnership needs a chance – in all conflicts.

Recently, as part of my job as parking permit distributor for our condo complex, I came across a vehicle which appeared to be illegally parked. After leaving a note that encouraged the vehicle owner to come see me and straighten out what may have been a misunderstanding, the vehicle continued to park “illegally.” I slapped a very sticky notice on the driver’s side window and warned that the next step would be to tow the vehicle.

I noticed the next day a note on that window, addressed to the board, better known by this individual as “dumbasses,” that he was indeed a renter and that this was his assigned parking space. I discovered that his management company had failed to inform the board that we had a new renter.

Properly chagrined, I returned to his vehicle the next day, scraped the rest of the sticky sticker off his window, and then knocked on his door to give him his parking permit. I knocked repeatedly for several minutes until I heard movement from inside and he opened the door. I introduced myself to him with my name, and then said “better known as ‘dumbass’ ” and we both laughed. I explained the misunderstanding, and he told me he had recently moved to our town to work nights at an oil and gas company, about an hour east on the interstate. He had been sleeping when I knocked on his door. I offered to buy him a six-pack of beverage of his choice, which he declined. And he apologized for the “dumbass” note. We parted on good terms.

I am grateful, again, for this opportunity to practice loving compassion. Obviously, it’s not easy. But, I can’t know anyone’s situation without communication. I can’t assume that they just want to be a jerk. I must remember that we all were created by the same source and we all have our purpose as part of the whole.

And I heard my guides today, with this gentle, loving reminder:

You are enough – as you are
You are loved – as you are
You serve your purpose – as you are

I’m going to allow some time for that to sink in…

A Playful Approach to Divine Guidance

Several weeks ago I wrote about how my orthobionomy friend told me she could see and hear my spirit guides, and shortly after that I found a book, Let Your Spirit Guides Speak.

I’ve been following the author’s recommendations on how to start a dialogue with the guides and the progression is, um, interesting.

While sitting in meditation, I began asking them the questions recommended in the book, and a vision appeared before me. There were four of them with large white wings and they had their backs to me. One was alone, and was closest to wherever I was, and the other three were in front of that one. All seemed a respectful distance from me and each other.

As I began posing the questions again, the one closest to me peeked around its wing on its left side and gave me a very coy, playful look. Then the vision was gone. The interaction made me smile, and the invitation to play (something I had not expected) seemed very clear.

The next time I chose to engage, I was asking the questions to what appeared to be an empty space. Suddenly, their faces rose up from the bottom corners of the scene and just as quickly they were gone. They all had open-mouthed, joyous looks of surprise and delight on their faces, but it happened so fast I did not have a chance to register any features. It was kind of a “jazz hands” moment and it made me laugh.

I think I’ve been expecting something serious, with sonorous chanting in the background somewhere. That’s probably why I think they are playing with me. Everything I read about guides has them telling us humans to lighten up.

I notice that I am approaching them obliquely, not sitting down daily to learn their wisdom. I remember a very long time ago, my parents had sent me to some revival thing (I was in my early teens) and I remember being terrified of God, especially if He would be asking me to give up my life to do His work. God and Jesus as I knew them then were pretty scary guys – watching me for the slightest indiscretion, waiting to throw me into some kind of burning pit forever.

We’ve all grown up a lot since those days. Jeshua’s words in The Way of Mastery are the ones I turn to now almost on a daily basis because of their compassion and love and humor. And it appears that I may be in for a delightful introduction and relationship with four fairly large winged messengers who appear to have a rather developed sense of humor.

More to come!

Have an “Amazingly Awesome” day!

Although I started this blog as a living study of The Way of Mastery, chronicling the teachings of Jeshua ben Joseph, I’m finding there are “masters” out there everywhere. Whenever I find loving, supportive, heart-centered teachings, I am happy to share.

I’m a huge fan of New York Times bestselling author, Pam Grout. I discovered her companion books, E Squared and E Cubed in late 2014. Those books have helped change the course of my life.

This week, Pam’s newest book, Thank and Grow Rich, came out. I was able to buy a copy last week at the bookstore, but I was compelled to give that copy to a friend, so I’ve only read about half the book. Even so, there are some really wonderful things in the first half that are worth sharing.

Pam encourages “radical gratitude” and the book is designed as a 30-day experiment in which participants can increase their “capital” in five different areas: alchemic; spiritual; creative; adventure and social.

To kick it all off, she promotes something she calls “AA 2.0.” The AA stands for “amazingly awesome” and here is the really good part. Before you even get out of bed in the morning, declare to yourself “something amazingly awesome is going to happen today” (you can do this with our without a fist pump), and then “come to believe in blessings and miracles.”

Well, I’ve been practicing this for the last several days and here is the biggest benefit I’ve found so far. When I declare that something amazingly awesome is going to happen, good old munchkin monkey mind goes on the hunt for the AA stuff. It’s so busy looking for miracles, it has no time to focus on negative stuff. On top of that, I assign it to look for things to simply be grateful for. One example that Pam gives is a woman who, upon waking, thanks her sheets and pillows for a good night’s sleep. Well, that opens up more possibilities for gratitude, doesn’t it!

At the end of each day, write down three things that were amazing for that day. Pam says they have to be unique – no repeats! And my take is that I have come to see the blessings in the smallest things – sunrises, smiles, clouds. I feel like I’ve pulled my head out of my anatomy and am seeing life clearly for the first time in a long time.

I encourage you to give it a try. It costs nothing, and it’s great fun!

Connecting with Divine Guidance

It’s been more than two weeks since I saw my orthobionomy healer who helped put the pieces back together again and gave me some breathing space. Her recommendation to me at the time, in order to hear the voices of my guiding angels, was to meditate daily. Today was the first time I finally got around to it.

I didn’t hear any direct communications from guiding spirits, but shortly after I sat down, I was flooded with gratitude. Suddenly, the world looked brighter and sweeter, all the while sitting on the futon in my office. I had a feeling of being wholly loved, and of wholly loving the entire universe. It was wonderful.

Part of me has been pissed about “getting old.” I’m not on the brink of any significant birthday, and there’s nothing that I can’t do that I haven’t been able to do all along. I think it’s been my creaky joints reminding me of the passage of time. Never mind that I had a very “exuberant” youth, playing lots and LOTS of sports. I guess I thought that once I was finished with a regular work schedule, I could get back in shape and be invincible once again. Hmmm. Maybe not…

But today, due to this unfettered gratitude, I am not at war with myself. I’m just grateful.

You know how the saying goes, “Once the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”? Well, here I go again. I have the ultimate privilege of working in a metaphysical bookstore. A new book arrived. The title is: Let Your Spirit Guides Speak. I glanced through the book, and I love the way this author, Debra Landwehr Engle, gives such clear, direct instructions on how to connect to my own spirit guides. I think that is why I felt such gratitude and peace when I finally sat down last Friday. And as soon as I get paid, I’m buying that book!

Due to all these “signs,” I now have faith that I have direct, divine guidance, and I am looking forward to learning that language.

I am continually amazed at how these important things spring into my life. In Lesson Six of The Way of Mastery, Jeshua mentions these angelic beings and their ability to help us direct our lives. Then my orthobionomy healer friend points out the four divine guides that have been sent to help me – and now a book about how to actually connect with them. The perfection of the progression stuns me, and gratitude overwhelms me.

Divine guidance is as close as our own breath, as Jeshua continues to remind us. If all of us can, and finally do, plug into this perfection, I imagine the world will be a much better place.

I encourage you to plug in, too, and please let me know how it goes.

Cultivating Compassion

I’ve been re-reading The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible for a book study group that I facilitate. The book is not an easy read, but it seems revolutionary to me. The author, Charles Eisenstein, envisions a world in which all of us, with our unique gifts and talents, live in a more sharing society, make heart-based decisions, and leave judgment and separation behind.

He writes extensively in the first half of the book about the extent to which we are influenced by what he calls the “Story of Separation.” It has given us an “every man for himself” mentality, an “us versus them,” “me against the world” viewpoint that is at the base of all our core beliefs.

I was especially intrigued with his discussion on “dispositionism” and “situationism.” I’ll quote directly from the chapter on “Judgment” since he says it so succinctly.

“…‘situationism’ …says that it is the totality of our internalized and external situation that determines our choices and beliefs. In contrast, most people in our society hold the view of dispositionsim, which says that people make decisions by the exercise of free will based on relatively stable dispostitions or preferences.”

Situationism says we act differently in different situations. “Dispositionism, and its attendant judgmentality is encoded into our Story of the World. In your shoes, I would not do what you did, because I am different from you, separate from you.”

I think what he is saying in his book is that situationism is more true to our natures, but we think in terms of dispositionism. It’s easier to compartmentalize our thoughts (and judgments). “I disagree with you, so you are a bad person. You always have been and always will be.” We deprive ourselves of our own humanity with that kind of thinking. We deprive people who have perhaps done a misdeed due to a desperate situation from ever being redeemed. That black mark that we put on them stays there forever (in our minds).

I relate all this because I had a very enlightening experience around this recently. I was entering the grocery store on my way home from work and saw a man walking toward me with a quart of something like juice or tea, no bag and no receipt that I could see. He was looking at the cashier’s stand on the other side of the floral section, and, to me, he seemed to act like he was stealing the item. So I confronted him with, “Hey, did you pay for that?” He replied, “Of course I did,” and walked out of the store.

I kicked myself all the way home. Here I am, studying this compassionate way of looking at and being in the world and what do I do? Act like a jerk. I could have offered to pay for his item, I could have kept quiet, I could have said a small prayer for him, or really anything else but pit my (righteous) self against his (clearly deviant) supposed bad behavior.

After I stopped cussing myself out, I said a little prayer of gratitude to the universe for providing me with such a clear lesson. Compassion does not come easily in all situations. But I do believe we are given opportunities every day to practice.

As Jeshua reminds us in Lesson Nine, “Compassion does not exist floating about in the universe until you manifest it and cultivate it within your own consciousness.”

Looks, as usual, like I have a lot of work to do…