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10 Merton Quotes That Will Wake You Up

What can I say? I dig Thomas Merton. Probably because he had a not-so-holy past, he loved jazz, and he never stopped seeking with his open heart and his open mind. He made friends with the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, studied Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and other eastern philosophies, and never stopped stirring the pot when it came to his own faith and beliefs. He also said some really cool stuff. Here’s some…

 

1.“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

 

2. “Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

 

3. “Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.”

 

4. “The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!”

 

5. “It is therefore of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves but for others. When we do this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations. As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement. But if we live for others, we will gradually discover that nobody expects us to be ‘as gods’. We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.”

 

6. “It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from the effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.”

 

7. “We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.”

 

8. “Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint…They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems.”

 

9. “Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a person deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost”

 

10. “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

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Inner Wisdom vs. Constant Frenzy

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

-Thomas Merton – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander – 1966

When I am constantly bombarded with a parade of new issues that I feel compelled to act on, life can become a game of emotional whack-a-mole that often leaves me with more compassion fatigue than energy. This is why I find myself returning to this quote over and over again; to remind myself that, even when beginning with good and altruistic intentions, it is easy to lose “the root of inner wisdom” in the panic to do something, anything, that will help.

In my clearest moments, though, I realize this and return to center. I know that my compulsion to act on every issue I see is motivated by my perceived need to effect an “improved” future, while ignoring the opportunities of the present. When this happens, I am not in the flow of life anymore, doing things because they are there for the doing. Rather, I am stuck in a cycle of reacting to things I can only exert marginal influence over, if any…resulting in a hopeless and exhausted state of suffering.

This suffering, as with most every other problem, is rooted in ego…and it can be subtle. What appears to be a truly altruistic intention can be the ego pushing against the unsatisfactoriness of the moment and wishing for a “better” situation.  It is what Lama Marut refers to as the “if only syndrome”. The desire to do something in order to achieve a more satisfactory future or reward, instead of leaning into the present moment, doing what is needed in the here and now…and doing it with a sense of freedom, play, and enthusiasm. Accepting the universe’s invitation to dance, even when the circumstances may seem unpleasant. Asking: “What needs doing?” instead of the ego’s eternal question: “What’s in it for me?”

Considering how many times a day we are asked to turn our attention to this or that  tragedy, this or that cause, or this or that attack on our democracy, it’s no surprise that we have trouble making this shift. It may seem downright wrong or irresponsible to concentrate only on what is happening in this moment. We may even feel guilty for turning our eyes away from our algorithmically curated news feeds for fear that we will miss the next emergency we are supposed to feel outraged about.

But what do we accomplish by staying glued to our screens, watching the news outlets peddle fear in order to make this bond even stronger? Is anything substantial getting done through our participation, or are we simply exhausting ourselves by running from blaze to blaze, shouting for more water?

Obviously, we, as individuals, can’t address all the ills of the world. There are too many and there always have been. We can’t possibly deal with them all effectively, no matter how upset we are about them.  This is not to say that we should do nothing, but rather that, if we are present to what the world is asking for in this moment and we don’t let our ego lead us into past or future concerns, we will simply do the necessary thing instead of losing our “root of inner wisdom” in the pointless frenzy of agitation that we are always being pulled to participate in.

By taking care of the small things, we take care of the big things. By taking care of what’s in our town, we take care of the world. And by taking care of the present, we take care of the future. Do we actually “solve” anything by taking this attitude? Probably not…and it doesn’t really matter. As Pema Chodron has observed: “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.”

So, the question becomes: Can we, amidst this coming together and falling apart, let go of the egoic need for a solution in favor of simply being our best and highest selves? Can we help without needing the payoff of having “fixed” something? Can we take care of our brothers and sisters without seeing ourselves a heroic saviors and giving into the story of our own righteousness? And can we drop our need to save the world and, in doing so, find our “root of inner wisdom” so we can go about the business at hand?

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QOTD – Pema Chödrön on Letting Go

There’s been a lot to let go of in recent months and there is a lot more to come. It can be pretty scary to release the things that no longer serve you, but it’s so necessary. I love Pema Chödrön’s advice here from a 2005 article called: The Answer to Anger and Aggression is Patience. It’s helped me to slow down and not try to tackle everything at once. Maybe it will help you as well.

“Whenever there is pain of any kind–the pain of aggression, grieving, loss, irritation, resentment, jealousy, indigestion, physical pain–if you really look into that, you can find out for yourself that behind the pain there is always something we are attached to. There is always something we’re holding on to…

…After a while it seems like almost every moment of your life you’re there, at a point where you realize you actually have a choice. You have a choice whether to open or close, whether to hold on or let go, whether to harden or soften… 

It requires enormous patience even to be curious enough to look, to investigate. And then when you realize you have a choice, and that there’s actually something there that you’re attached to, it requires great patience to keep going into it. Because you will want to go into denial, to shut down. You’re going to say to yourself, “I don’t want to see this.” You’ll be afraid, because even if you’re starting to get close to it, the thought of letting go is usually very frightening. You may feel that you’re going to die, or that something is going to die. And you will be right. If you let go, something will die. But it’s something that needs to die and you will benefit greatly from its death.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s easy to let go. If you make this journey of looking to see if there’s something you’re holding on to, often it’s going to be just a little thing. Once when I was stuck with something huge, Trungpa Rinpoche gave me some advice. He said, “It’s too big; you can’t let go of it yet, so practice with the little ones. Just start noticing all the little ways you hold when it’s actually pretty easy and just get the hang of letting go.”

That was extremely good advice. You don’t have to do the big one, because usually you can’t. It’s too threatening. It may even be too harsh to let go right then and there, on the spot. But even with small things, you may—perhaps just intellectually—begin to see that letting go can bring a sense of enormous relief, relaxation and connection with the softness and tenderness of the genuine heart. True joy comes from that.”

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Love is a decision

“To live is to find out for yourself what is true, and you can do this only when there is freedom, when there is continuous revolution inwardly, within yourself.”

-Jiddu Krishnamurti

 

The problem began when I started believing in my own superiority. I have no idea when this happened, but it did. Somewhere along the way, my opinions, actions, and outlook were praised and agreed with by someone, or more probably, many someones that I respected and from that point on, I craved more of that reinforcement.

Over time, my circle of friends began to closely reflect my beliefs back to me and we all began to believe in our goodness, especially in comparison to all the badness in the world. Long nights of endless cigarettes in dirty coffee shops were spent discussing what might be wrong with “those people” who we disagreed with, providing us with a rush of self-righteousness that fed our belief in ourselves as iconoclastic, punk rock heroes, bravely standing up to the evil bastards who were ruining the world.

This had been my story for as long as I could remember. Champion of the underdog. bleeding heart liberal, resistor, anti-establishment, anti-racist, anti-hate, anti-sexist, anti, anti, anti. It’s a good story…and if you’re clever with words and outspoken, you can travel a long way on this story. Many of us live this story our whole lives and believe in it with every fiber of our beings.

The problem is…it’s just a story. It doesn’t actually accomplish much. Sure, organizing against something that you disagree with may produce short term results, but in terms of actually changing the world, this story is pretty useless.

It’s useless because its premise is rooted in the duality that causes more problems than it can ever hope to fix. It’s the most widely accepted game we play as humans. Namely, us versus them, good versus bad, and right versus wrong. As soon as I adopt the belief that my story is the better one and place myself on the side of the good and righteous, then someone, by definition, has to be bad and wrong.

You can see this story play out every day, and sometimes, multiple times a day across social media…especially when we are facing a national tragedy like a mass shooting or a humanitarian crisis. We are quick to project blame, beat our breasts, and decry the injustices being perpetrated on the unfortunate by the uncaring and morally bankrupt people who are running the show, without ever considering our own responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in. Instead, we condemn the other and loudly ask from behind our screens: “What is it going to take for this to change?”

My answer to this question, as far as it concerned me directly, was uncomfortable. It cut against everything that I believed to be true about myself and it was found in, literally, the last place that I wanted to look…the mirror.

I realized that, as long as I believed myself to be better than the shooter, or the President, or the congress, or the neo-nazi, or the rust belt conservative, there was little chance for real transformation. I couldn’t say that I loved people and then consider myself superior to them, simultaneously. I couldn’t preach tolerance and condone nazi punching, expecting that the result would be a more peaceful society. And I couldn’t keep my precious progressive identity that I had so carefully crafted over so many years if I wanted to do anything more than continue to spin my wheels.

That was a hard, jagged pill to be sure, but I found that if I truly wanted a world where all beings were liberated, free, and lived a life that was directed toward the greater good, I should swallow it…along with my pride…because I finally “got” that the root causes of all the problems we have aren’t located “out there” in the world. They are located right here in our heads. They are perception issues, and they perpetuate every single undesirable thing that we are experiencing right now. Violence, guns, racism, greed, hubris, etc, etc. They all start within us and, if we are willing to drop our stories and take responsibility for them, they will change.

Not by forming coalitions, and voting, and protesting, and contacting representatives. I can still do all those things, of course, but the more important work is internal. It is about keeping the ego in its place so when I do go out in the world, every action I take or word I speak is directed toward the compassionate care and support of my fellow beings (all of them. no exceptions). It’s only when I deny our interconnectedness and consider someone to be anything but a reflection of myself that trouble starts. Once I make that distinction based on whatever false criteria I choose (race, religion, political party, education, socioeconomic background, music taste, etc.), then I’m right back at the beginning, hating the “other”, and by extension, hating myself.

Conversely, if I embrace our interconnectedness and direct my energy toward making people feel safe, loved, and included, then there are no problems we cannot fix. Contented, happy, and loved people don’t shoot other people. They don’t view people as pieces in an economy. They don’t amass piles of wealth on the backs of others, and they don’t feel the need to look for scapegoats. I can’t think of a single, human-created problem that we are experiencing right now that wouldn’t be immediately solved if the person who was perpetrating it suddenly felt loved and contented, can you?

So, now I’m doing that as much as I can. The price of admission was everything I thought I was, which may sound steep, but your choices are pretty limited when you reach a spiritual impasse. You can either ignore the signs and keep on truckin’ or make the hard choice, get humble, and call yourself on your own bullshit. I’m trying hard to do the latter.

 

“Love is a decision – not an emotion!”

― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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QOTD – Heartbroken

Today’s quote is lifted from a friend’s social media feed. It is a conversation he had with his daughter, the morning after the Las Vegas massacre. I am paraphrasing here as I have lost the post, but it has stayed with me all day. I could write 10,000,000 words and not have one one-hundredth the insight or compassion that she casually dispenses here.

Daughter: Why did that man shoot all those people?

Dad: I don’t know, honey. Maybe he was sick in his mind.

Daughter: I think he was heartbroken, because when you’re heartbroken you can’t feel love…and when you can’t feel love, you make bad decisions.

Indeed.

 

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Squirrel, Interrupted

Hustle. The oft used term that is supposed to marshal our hidden reserves of energy and point them toward whatever goal we have set for ourselves. The dictionary defines hustle as “to work hurriedly” or “to obtain something by forceful action or persuasion”. Two things that do not fit my personality at all, so it’s no wonder that I’ve been resistant to the idea of “hustle” since it re-entered our modern vernacular as a banner word for obtaining whatever it is we want.

I get the compulsion, though. If you think that you need to compete with someone in order to get whatever piece of the pie that you desire, then hustle is certainly something that you would want so you could gain an edge. Outworking the competition so you can “beat” them has been proven to work time and again. 

But not all of us are wired with a desire to compete. We may do it because that’s what society tells us is required if we want to get ahead, but we don’t like it. We don’t get a thrill from beating anyone and, generally, we are happier when everyone is winning. But we don’t see this possibility as being viable because competition is such a strong societal story that we’ve embraced.

I mean, how many billions of hours of sleep have been lost over how to be NUMBER ONE in whatever space it is that people are trying to control? How much stress have we put ourselves under, strategizing about how to create the downfall of our perceived enemies in business, life, politics, and social circles? How much energy have we devoted to getting to the “top” at the expense of others?

Now, imagine for a minute that none of that is necessary and competition doesn’t matter. I know, but just imagine it! What if the time that we spend devising our plans to crush someone, or some business, or some politician was devoted to cooperating in a way that made us equally successful instead of one ending up on top and one on the bottom? What if we spent all that time thinking about how to make things supportive, fair, and equally beneficial to all parties?

Naive? Oversimplified? Utopian hippie sh*t?

Back in 1998, when I was teaching partner dancing, we did this in San Francisco with the other swing dance teachers. A big name in the international scene was moving to town and all the teachers were having a little freak out about losing business to the rock star who was about to steal our livelihoods. But instead of building an army against this poor guy, we asked him for a meeting and, at a Denny’s in San Carlos, we all hashed out what we wanted the scene in San Francisco to look like and we came to an agreement that was upheld by everyone for years to come.

We decided that we wanted the scene to be very open, with dancers and students freely moving between classes and venues and that, wherever they ended up, they saw everyone’s flyers and understood that, as a scene, we supported each other. Teachers support teachers, students support students, teachers support students, students support teachers, and everyone supported venues. In this way, we effectively grew the scene and made the pie bigger instead of fighting over who would get the largest piece. And we all ate well.

This “top down” collaboration going on between teachers and venues inspired the same kind of openness among the students and social dancers and San Francisco became a beacon for other scenes and a model for influencers across the country. Nobody ruled the SF scene. It was co-created by thousands of people who felt a real sense of ownership and who were willing to give of themselves to make sure that our scene became the most welcoming, friendly, and innovative in the nation. Cooperation did that…and nobody had to “hustle”.

Is this a possible model for every business, and perhaps even our lives outside of work? I have no idea. I haven’t been in every business and your life is your life. I can only say that, for a magical decade in San Francisco, it worked for us and I’ve never since encountered a community that was so in tune with itself and offered so much to so many. And because the effort that it took to accomplish this was spread out over thousands of “owners” of the scene, nobody had to hustle because there was no need. Everything got done and no one person had to do it all. In the most organic way, we grew a beautiful thing and, in the end, any one of us could rightfully claim: “I did that.”

 

“He who stands on tiptoe

doesn’t stand firm.

He who rushes ahead

doesn’t go far.

He who tries to shine

dims his own light.

He who defines himself

can’t know who he really is.

He who has power over others

can’t empower himself.

He who clings to his work

will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,

just do your job, then let go.”

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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QOTD

Today’s quote comes from Śāntideva (Shantideva), the eighth century monk who didn’t care much for rules. He rarely went to class or practiced. He was so “lazy” that his fellow monks said that his three “realizations” were eating, sleeping, and sh*tting. One day they decided to embarrass him by inviting him to give a speech, knowing that he would likely crash and burn, but instead, he sat down and transmitted The Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra (The Way of the Bodhisattva), one of the most studied texts in Buddhism. Then, eyewitnesses said, he levitated out of the building. That’s a badass mic drop. #GangsterAF.

May the blind see the forms,
May the deaf hear sounds.

May the naked find clothing,
The hungry find food;
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks.

May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy;
May the forlorn find new hope,
Constant happiness and prosperity.

May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed;
May the powerless find power,
And may the people think of benefiting one another

Śāntideva

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Love is the Real Rebellion

About a month ago, I stopped paying attention to social media. My feed had become a never ending horror show of political animosity and fear and it finally broke me. The news itself was only part of the reason I had to turn away. The more distressing part was watching my friends being swallowed whole by the distraction machine, shouting into the progressive echo chamber, and keeping their blood pressure redlined as headline after headline sent them into convulsions of stress and sadness. I was one of these as well, for awhile. Since the election, I had been glued to a screen, devouring and reposting whatever the latest insanity coming out of the White House was…and then I woke up one morning and decided it was over.

Not because I don’t care about what’s happening. Not because I don’t want to participate. And certainly not because I want to stick my head in the sand. I did it because it wasn’t changing anything substantial and, in living my life through social media channels, I found I was giving more energy to things that were beyond my control, while taking it from things I did have power over, like helping people.

Sure, you can argue that social media has democratized the way we communicate, where Jill Q. Public can stand on the same ground as Rachel Maddow and have access to an equally large audience. And, of course, there has been some terrific fundraising done through social media as well. It has also kept us connected to our far flung friends and it has sometimes been a place where we have gathered to learn from each other. I’m not saying there aren’t positives about social media, but I am saying that it’s not real life and if we think we are making a difference by firing off our vitriol into the ether, we are fooling ourselves. But it’s hard to see. I get that. When you are receiving an emotional/chemical reward for sharing, in the form of likes and comments supporting what you think, it’s awfully hard to break that cycle and see something for what it is…a waste of your, and my, time. A great egoic circle jerk that separates us while claiming to keep us connected.

Quitting for me wasn’t about abdicating my responsibility to pay attention, though. Quite the opposite. Quitting has meant that I have accepted, more fully, my responsibility in the co-creation of what we are currently experiencing, and it has made me recommit to sharing my energy in places where it may actually make a difference. It has made me take a step away from what the ego craves and toward what really matters…love.

At first reading, that may sound naive to you. That’s fine. But bear with me here.

We progressives love love. I have seen more “Love Trumps Hate” signs at rallies I’ve been to and in photos from the newswire than any other sign. It’s a good saying. But what does it actually mean? Who are we seeking to love? Does it mean that we should love everyone, or only the other chill, groovy, and progressive people we agree with? If it’s the former, I’m down with that. If it’s the latter, I’ve got issues.

Let’s start by assuming that you don’t have to agree with someone in order to love them. What we are loving in this example is not their ideas, or their stories, or their anger, or their policies. We are not talking about the love between friends or romantic love or familial love. This love is more difficult. What we are loving in this case, is the human standing in front of us, precisely because they are human. Because we are connected. Because we recognize that their stories are made up, just like ours are and that we are both suffering at the hands of our own dissatisfaction with our realities. And it is this suffering that ties us together more than any other single factor. The problem is, most of the time we never get that far. If someone has what we consider to be an abhorrent ideology, we assume that this person is bad and we bypass the opportunity to see them for what they are (a reflection of ourselves and a chance to create empathy) and we jump straight to labeling them as our oppressor. And in doing so, of course, we become their victims. A weak and frightened place from which to operate.

“Ah…but wait…”, you say, “Are you telling me that there aren’t bad people in the world doing bad things and that we shouldn’t fight these bastards with everything we’ve got?” Not exactly. What I’m saying is that sure, bad things are happening and people are most definitely responsible for them, but being people ourselves, so are we…and our framing of ourselves as victims is just allowing us to shift any responsibility we may bear away from ourselves and onto the doorstep of whatever bogeyman we are currently being “oppressed” by. Sure, Trump is doing awful stuff, but we have co-created an America that allowed Trump to happen…and homelessness, and poverty, and malnutrition, and killer cops, and awful healthcare, and racism, and violence, and wars, and misogyny, and the pay gap, and wage stagnation, and literally everything else. Republicans or democrats didn’t do it. We did. And until we can take an honest look in the mirror and tell ourselves the truth about that, nothing is going to change, the great “Us vs. Them” spectacle will continue, and love will be a quaint and unreachable ideal.

We all have the capacity to lie to ourselves about our complicity in the situation we are in now. We all pretend that we are clean and that our positions are morally superior. I think most of us liberals would be comfortable saying that we believe in a just, fair, and equal society, but our hands are not nearly as clean as we like to think they are. How many of us have our closets filled with sweatshop clothing, our fingers adorned with blood diamonds, and the very pieces of technology we use to espouse our beliefs in a Utopian society coming from a plant where people are literally jumping off the rooftop because their working conditions are so poor? This is not meant to inspire shame, but just to illustrate that, while we are busy pointing out the bad people, we are doing so with  bloody keyboards, and that what we find repellent in others is also what we know ourselves to be capable of.

And if we can really come to grips with that, in a radically honest and humble way, then we may have a shot at love. The most difficult type of love. A love that looks beyond repugnant behavior and understands that, in believing ourselves to be morally superior, we are perpetuating a false duality that will keep us in the same cycle of suffering and pain we have been in since humans arrived on the scene.  A love that understands that compassion is the stronger choice when compared to anger and violence. A love that knows how to separate a person who is suffering from the erroneous idea they have adopted in order to deal with their suffering. A love that is wise and strong. A love that builds better institutions. An unoppressable, unvictimized, unchained, and unrelenting love that will consume our suffering and reveal our oneness so we can get on with building the world we claim to want. Or, we can continue to let ourselves believe that we are somehow better than “those people” and the pattern will continue. Our choice.

 

 

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Station to Station

Lately, I’ve been finding it a useful exercise to consider all input that I receive as a lesson and all people that I encounter as my teachers. The lessons are not always pleasant and neither are the teachers, but I know that if I consider myself a student in the world’s class, I don’t get upset so easily when the lessons are difficult. If I think about the guy who yells at me in traffic as a guru sent to teach me something, I have discovered that any animosity I would have normally felt in a situation like that is greatly reduced and sometimes, non-existent. It’s hard to be mad when you believe the universe is giving you a gift that will allow you to let go of a pattern, or thought, or emotion that no longer serves you. And since we know that our reality is totally subjective anyway, I might as well believe that life is conspiring to send me just the right teachers at just the right moments, right? Right.

And Alice was one of these…

I was having coffee with a good friend, deep in conversation about life, the universe, and everything, when Alice rolled up to us in her wheelchair. She had no shoes, and there were no footrests on her wheelchair, so she scooted along, using her bare feet to propel her at a painfully slow pace to wherever she was going. When I looked up to see her there, she asked if I would push her to the train station a half block away and without thinking twice, I said yes (Thank you, Universe).

As we rolled along, we talked and I learned a lot about Alice. She told me she was eighty-nine years old and that she lived on the trains, just riding around all day, reading or just looking out the window. The hardest part, she said, was trying to find a safe place for the 4-6 hours that the trains didn’t run. Transit police were always running her out of the well lit and warm train stations and depositing her into the street, where she was routinely the victim of theft, and sometimes violence. She told me that this is what happened to her shoes. They were stolen off her feet by another homeless person and she had been shoeless for two days. I offered to buy her a pair, but she refused and said that she had enough money, she just needed to get to a shoe store.

As we rode the elevator up to the platform, she told me about when she had lived in L.A. and we discovered that we had lived only blocks from each other when we were both there. She had been in the bay area since the early nineties when her building in L.A. was sold and she was evicted by the new ownership…on Christmas Eve. She lost her daughter in the same month.

When we made it to the platform, I waited with her for her train and she thanked me for helping her, but honestly, I felt like it was she who helped me. All morning, I had been getting bogged down in my own muck. Feeling slightly sorry for myself, and finding it hard to pull out of the tailspin. Just running the same old negative tapes and basically being ungrateful for all that I had, in the face of what were really just minor and totally surmountable problems.

But you know how it is. If you’re having a day that is getting on top of you and you disconnect from all the mindfulness and self-compassion that you know you should be bringing to the situation, things can look pretty hopeless. It’s easy to get mired in your own stories about how hard your life is and how unfairly you have been treated. It’s easy to complain, to dump, to consider the world to be a cold, dark, and friendless space. Until, that is, you meet someone like Alice.

She was my guru that day. On a half block walk she guided me back to service, she guided me back to compassion, and she showed me by her own example that, no matter what your situation is, there is always something to be grateful for. 

Thank you, Alice. You were right on time. Lesson gratefully accepted.

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Love me some Michael Franti. Especially when he takes the time to sing with and relate to his young fans. Check out the video below of Franti and 9 year-old Josilin singing Love Will Find a Way if you need a boost this morning. I think I might need to watch this every morning! Thanks to Sister Deb from Liberated Spaces for sending this little gem along. Peace Y’all.

 

Love WIll Find A Way – Josilin & Michael Franti

Listen as my friend Jocelin reminds us all that LOVE is winning. "And when you're feeling like you can't go onLove Will Find a WayAnd through the clouds and smoke and guns and bombsLove Will Find a WayAnd when the whole world falls on their knees to prayThat love will win todayJust keep holding on, holding on'Cause love will find a way" #LoveWillFindAWay #StandUpForLove

Posted by Michael Franti and Spearhead on Friday, September 22, 2017

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