Recently, I’ve been ramping up a practice as I go through Central Park on my way to the office that has to do with recognizing that everything I encounter along the way, every living being—human or otherwise—is kin. This recognition comes from the awareness that we are all “children of Gaia”, with no exceptions. A colleague mentioned to me last week that she saw a documentary in which the anthropologist pointed out that not so long ago, geologically speaking, we humans were part of nature’s “wildlife”. It was only when we began to use agriculture that we shifted from actively participating as local wildlife. It was a reminder that we humans, as well as every other life form, are born from the same source of physical life—we are all Gaian beings.
This practice got me to paying more attention to what I experience as I recognize that every living being I encounter in the course of my daily activities is kin. On my walk, for example, acknowledging people, trees, bushes, birds, dogs, grass, rocks—everything I encounter along the way—as kin, I notice that my heart becomes more open and I feel more immediately connected to the world around me. It’s hard to describe, but I become aware of a deepened sense of relatedness to, and part of, my world. That experience then touches something deeper that nourishes a richer sense of well-being. Read More “714th Week: When Every Being is Kin”
In a recent On Being broadcast on NPR, I heard a story about Howard Thurman’s grandmother. Howard Thurman was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and was an influential theologian. He was a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King and also one of the principle architects of nonviolent protests. His grandmother was a former slave who owned land in an area where there were also white people.
Apparently, Thurman’s grandmother had a neighbor, a white woman who apparently was unkind to all in her neighborhood and not just to Thurman’s grandmother. At one point, the neighbor began to gather chicken droppings from her chicken coop on a regular basis and dump them on the garden of Thurman’s grandmother. Rather than retaliate, his grandmother turned the chicken droppings into the soil each time they arrived. In time, her garden flourished because of all the natural fertilizer in the chicken droppings.
The neighbor woman eventually became quite ill and, because of her way of relating to people, no one was willing to visit her or help her. One day, Thurman’s grandmother went to visit the woman, taking her a large bouquet of flowers. The woman was surprised and delighted to receive the flowers and commented on how beautiful they were. Thurman’s grandmother said in response that the flowers were so beautiful because of all the neighbor’s contributions of fertilizer to her garden.Read More “814th Week: Being Kind Doesn’t Mean You Have to Agree”
During this time of political struggle and worldwide human suffering and strife, I’d like to begin this week’s practice in conscious living by sharing a quotation from Steven Charleston, a Native American elder who posts messages on Facebook. Here is one I read recently that I feel speaks to this time in our lives:
“There is a spiritual skill that many of us will probably need in the days to come: the ability to maintain a sense of calm in times of trouble. While I cannot predict the future, common sense and the front page both tell me we have more economic and political white water to come. Therefore, I engage my focus on serenity now in order to be prepared. I intentionally sit still, breathe slowly, and look to the Spirit in meditation. I steady my soul. I become the calm I need.”
I have seen other spiritual teachers echoing this same idea—that this is a time when being able to access a state of calm, as well as steadiness, is something that can benefit each of us. Because of my belief in collective consciousness, I also feel that when we are able to be steady and calm we contribute those qualities to our human collective and, for me, that is an important form of subtle activism.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to deepen your familiarity with calm and your ability to access it, as well as to deepen your access to the steadiness that lives at the core of your being, a steadiness that cannot be disturbed no matter what happens. For me, one of the important aspects of orienting to calm and steadiness is that these qualities in no way detract from also being able to act in whatever ways you feel called to do in response to what you experience in your world. It’s a both/and kind of thing. You can be calm and steady and also take action you feel is necessary.
I emphasize this because sometimes we think that being calm and steady equals not being engaged or moved by what’s happening around us. Nothing could be further from the truth. I feel that the calm and steady presence naturally lead to a powerful orientation to our heart space, where we open ourselves to the suffering in the world, to injustices that need to be challenged, to whatever situations we feel called to respond to.Read More “896th Week: Finding Steadiness in Challenging Times”