The Highest Good: No Fight, No Blame

Without a fight, there is no blame. This basic truth can be found in the Tao te Ching—no fight: no blame—as well as in the major texts of many spiritual traditions. Blame seems that integral to the human experience.

In last week’s post I chose the phrase aflame with blame as a reference to its incendiary nature. It is quick to flame, this blame, although it is not a trait with any substance.

Whatever person or event we blame is not what causes us to suffer (Byron Katie). Blame is a distraction, and it is easy to get caught up in its mindset.

We suffer when we hold onto a mindset; in a blind stance, we dig in for a last stand. Mindset is a misguided attempt to avoid the inevitable.

Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us

what we need to know

Pema Chödrön

 Turtle Row in fall 1013

It would be hard, maybe impossible, to provide an example of a life experience that does not teach us for in every moment there is something to be learned. At a certain point in life, each of us becomes aware that what breaks us open is what we need to make us whole again.

It is how we learn. It is hard to accept, at least for me.

But time and again, I have realized this one lesson: when I open myself to learning rather than blaming and struggling against, I find the highest good in any situation. The flames of blame and the smoke of striving fade away.

Often, I turn to the teachings of the Tao (in translation) for I treasure its basic truths. Such reflections soothe and instruct every time I return. I am refreshed.

Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive

(Tao, Verse 8)

And like water, the highest good is life-giving, “flowing in places men reject and so is like the Tao”  (Verse 8). All we need to remember is that water will flow—even through rock–rather than reject the route.

The highest good never rejects us, either, even when we do our best to shape what will not be shaped. There is no blame, no fight, no mindset.

Chronic illness is my greatest teacher, as I have mentioned many times. Even in my more difficult moments, I am more aligned with learning than striving, which is not to say I do not have some fiery moments of blame throwing. They are not as frequent.

I find it easier to recognize and to dismantle a mindset, and to do it with self-care and love. After all, a mindset deflates quickly for it is only made of air. And once I breathe it in, I can breathe it out.

Mindset is only a thought no matter how often it may appear. In my experience, mindsets return for they have unimaginable power IF they are allowed to attach and become unassailable belief.

We can learn from observing a mindset if we let it go for what it is. That is the way to keep learning rather than to continue struggling. I find hope in impermanence no matter how many times I meet similar situations. It makes the highest good in any situation seem not only possible but realistic.

We are more like water, wanting life for all and strife for no one. It is ours to flow, like water through rock if we must, open to the ten thousand things and like the Tao rejecting none.

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Unplugged to Get Rewired

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This image is of EmmaRose in her favorite place—in her plush and if necessary, heated bed–practicing her favorite pastime. If you live with a feline, you are constantly reminded how integral sleep is to life.

It is the way sentient beings unplug and get rewired, which is what EmmaRose and I have been doing for almost a fortnight. It is her daily way to unplug regularly.

I am, however, a slow learner yet I have another constant teacher, just as dedicated—autoimmune disease, lupus in particular and in a lesser role, Sjogren’s syndrome.  This is my sea to sail.

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about not unplugging, not ever coming to shore. I believed I could bully my way through any tempest—I was that kind of sailor–but that is not the law of the sea nor is it true self care. It is dangerous sailing, selfish and thoughtless.

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Self care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship

of the only gift I have,

the gift I was put on earth to offer others.

Parker Palmer

Good stewardship requires a daily course adjustment of how to offer my gift without the dualistic thinking of there is only one way. Dualism exacts quite a price for in choosing one way, another way is excluded. Better to steer between the two for balance. They are within the same sea, co-existing with one another.

I was reminded of the inherent imbalance in dualistic thinking as I came across a lively Facebook group discussion on healthcare, specifically alternative versus traditional medicine. Here healthcare is a civil war with both groups firmly entrenched in their respective camps.

There is no one and only one way to health for all but for each of us there is a way to our best health. It may be a balance of both camps or it may lie more within traditional rather than alternative medicine or vice versa.

But without the benefit of learning what each camp offers, there is no balanced approach to one’s best health. In balance is wholeness and without it, we are aflame with blame. Our essence is diminished.

I do not haunt these discussion healthcare boards as I once did but I am reminded of my own imbalance in my approach to my best health. I am fortunate in having experienced the benefits of both camps but I do not know that I have expressed that in a broader perspective.

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And while my preference for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) remains the course I steer, it is not without the benefits of traditional medicine. For traditional medicine continues to teach me about the western perspective on autoimmune disease. In turn, that perspective broadens my TCM options.

Wholehearted living is not a onetime choice.

It is a process. In fact, I believe it

is the journey of a lifetime.

Brene Brown

Good stewardship just may the journey of a lifetime, easy to drift off course or become becalmed. And then, there are the storms of life, much like the one I am in now, tossed about, swamped from time to time, but not run aground or sunk.

Some who read this blog also know chronic illness. We sail a similar sea as we chart our course anew for storm or to catch the wind for full sail. When we dock for a rest, we learn from our days at sea. We share our catch.

We know what we offer is the best we have to give, and that it only lasts a short time. We also know the impermanence of the sea requires we open our sails to the wind when and as it is given, and when it is denied to rest with a steady hand on the tiller.

Here are some of my favorite resources: Toni Bernhard’s How to Be Sick seems a guide for any storm as is Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.’s Mindful Eating. And through every storm I practice meditation and a gentle yoga flow.

Till we meet again.

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Looking into Nature’s Mirror and Finding Grace

Waverly Larch Spring Nubs 0313The cycle of seasons is nature’s mirror, ours for the viewing. Mostly, we celebrate a new season but not always the length of time nature takes to make the change.

We assign spring a date, anticipating an event that may or may not arrive as assigned. Arrival is always a mystery. In a moment of grace, nature unfolds in its own time, in its own way.

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” Anne Lamott

I do not understand the mystery, either, but I am content for the experience of it. All I do know is that grace transforms. And like spring, it is its own mystery.

Grace flows with the majesty of a meandering river. Part of its mystery is the gradual eroding of its course, without beginning or end. We do not know the precise moment we are transformed. We only know that we are.

In grace, we do not wallow or stagnate but discover and re-discover the spring of our lives not so much as to re-live but to be reborn in yet another season.

Spring is not a one-time event.

Grace moves us to deeds we once thought impossible. In each spring of our life, we emerge anew. Grace allows us to bare ourselves as we are—to take the risk again—to meet each new spring we are allowed.

We are given only one body to grow but we have the gift of grace to transform, to meet yet another spring. Our seasons cycle within our hearts, bold with the opportunity each affords.

We need not remain wrapped in winter, blanketed in its protective shell. Like nature, ours is not to stagnate or to wallow but to transform from a winter’s day into a spring’s blossom. It is the way of grace.

The bud opens, and life begins anew, yet again. There is grace in this falling away of one season for another, a radical change replete with uncertainty.

As we are revealed so are we seen. Grace unlocks our softness.

A Day in Search of the Theory of Everything

I am at the point in my life where I can appreciate every day of the week as just another day.  I keep plans to a minimum. It keeps me open to just what any day can bring.

Every once in a while, a day does take on a life of its own. Often, when there is a plan involved. So it was with last Monday and my plan to see the movie, The Theory of Everything.

The day began like any other Monday as I perused my WordPress reader for a #MondayMusing post to share on my Twitter feed. The first post I read–Core Spirit–made an indirect reference to the Theory of Everything.

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It is a thoughtful essay on consciousness, in particular the differences between the scientific perspective and the spiritual experience. These differences are centuries old.

To me, science confines itself to the natural world, what it can prove/observe.  Those in the spiritual community—poets, philosophers, religions—confine themselves to the experience of just being alive.

In the Core Spirit essay, scientists seek to define the natural world; the spiritual seek “communion” with it. Yet, it is a world we all share. That we have unique and different perspectives should serve to broaden understanding—fuel curiosity—ultimately, it still divides rather than informs.

As for the Theory of Everything explaining all the laws of nature and accounting for all that has ever happened? The essay ends with: “Einstein said that knowing this equation would be reading the mind of God” (Core Spirit).

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To my mind, agreement upon that equation will not come readily but then I am one who immerses herself in the wonder of the moment. Science may  find the equation; some say it already has. For me, science only adds to the awe.

I was pleased at the coincidence of coming across the post on the day I planned to see the movie about the Theory of Everything.

I checked the movie’s show time once more before leaving but paid no attention to the movie theatre location. That, I was sure I knew.

When I arrived at the third movie theatre location, I was told the movie is now out on DVD. The movie theatre employee looked at me askance, of course, but she did have to make a phone call to discover that information. We both learned something.

If I had read the complete movie listing, I would have discovered the fourth location where the movie was, indeed, playing at that specific time, out on DVD or no.

Of course, it was too late to drive to that location. I was not dismayed. There might be a day to see the movie but it was not that day.

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Once home, I checked my email. Within the last twenty minutes, I had received an email from the Washington Post, asking to re-publish “Learning Zen from a Beagle,” my post about a blind beagle showing me the way.

Had I gone to see The Theory of Everything, I would have missed being available for a back and forth email session with the Post editor. I would have missed this moment in my life. Maybe, I would have missed everything now unfolding.  Maybe not.

As for my next plan to see The Theory of Everything, my name is in the local library queue. On another day, my name will come up. Who knows what will unfold.

 * * *

For a thoughtful and concise post on the equation and the Theory of Everything, here is Matthew Wright’s “How Stephen Hawking Reconciled the Irreconcilable.”

For a considered discussion on consciousness, here is “The Akashic Field and Consciousness.”

If you are interested, here is the link to the Washington Post’s republication of “How My Blind Beagle Taught Me Zen.”

Upon Closer Reflection, Comfort in Chaos

Last week, I wrote of finding balance and the ongoing shifting of left and right until balance arrives of its own accord. Osho refers to this as a “graceful” shifting, which for me it has never been.

Rather, it has been a struggle, one worth taking on but very like sitting in a cave of chaos. I have not found grace there—not yet—but I discovered comfort, thanks to reader comments on last week’s post.

Comfort comes from accepting that balance is in constant motion. It is impermanent. When I start to squirm, I know I have shifted too far one way. It is time to let go and begin to swing back.

Balance is not identifying with left or right because in balance, I am both. Standing in the middle of a moment is mindful, and I have all the time I need.

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I experience moments I wish would stay forever. There are others I am convinced will never leave but being alive is being in motion as no moment ever stays. Life touches us—painfully, indescribably, unbelievably–myriad experiences ever in motion.

It’s chaotic. And it seems I have found comfort in that.

The reason everything looks beautiful is
because it is out of balance,
but its background is always in perfect harmony.

This is how everything exists
in the realm of Buddha nature, losing its balance
against a background of perfect balance.

~Shunryu Suzuki~

In looking at past posts, variations of the Suzuki quote appear in one form or another at least annually, sometimes more. Yet, this year is different. Why? I have a physical sense of balance.

Regular readers know I recently explored northern Florida with a dear friend. We covered over 500 miles in four days, which for a person with lupus is too much sustained activity. I am grateful for every moment, and yes, I was exhausted.

I am used to the routine of resting that usually follows such an outing. I  break from life, including blogging and writing. I shift from full days of activity to days of complete inactivity. Always, that has been the way.

Not. This. Time.

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I do not remember consciously thinking of Suzuki’s “perfect balance of existence” but it seems my subconscious decided to trust it. I shifted my resources, not gracefully but gradually, with a certain awareness of the ever-changing balance in each moment.

Oh, there were moments of despair but they were brief, not worthy of support. I could not rouse myself to give in, give up, and wait. There was no life in that.

Rather, I immersed myself in each day, looking to the balance available to me. I communicated with my pain—sensing its signals—without struggling but with shifting.

When I went to my acupuncture appointment, my meridians overflowed with energy. An acupuncture point full of Qi (energy) signals stagnation; the needle is the stimulation to release it.

Point after point, Dr. Gold’s needles provided relief. I did not want that treatment to end–the release was that deep and that immediate. When I arrived, my overall pain level was a solid 8, my knees a 10. The treatment reduced my overall pain to a 3; in some locations, the pain was gone.

Resting came easier as did my sleep. My level of body energy, no longer trapped, shifted to the daily balance available. The body is graceful when allowed to do its work in its own way.

Acupuncture opened me to trusting the chaotic nature of balance. It is not the nature of balance or mine to stagnate. Ours is to be in the constant chaos.

My readers’ comments opened me to just how exceptional that is. Thank you, dear readers.

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Maintaining Moderation Requires Graceful Shifting

For me, moderation is elusive. I struggle for balance—the measure of moderation—at times, my struggling is painful.  When I become aware of pain, however, is when I cease suffering from it. I aim for even on the day I have rather than going in search of the day I want.

[When] balance comes of its own accord…

[it] has tremendous beauty and grace.

You have not forced it, it has simply come.

By moving gracefully to the left,

to the right, in the middle,

slowly a balance comes to you

because you remain so unidentified.

~Osho~

Osho’s words remind me of Michael Singer’s observer: “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind. You are the one who hears it” (The Untethered Soul).

I find his image of the observer quite helpful in finding the balance in any moment but especially in those where I am on the edge of right or dropping off far left.  As the observer, I have an immediate distance and thus, a broader perspective much like what happens in writing.

The thoughts are in my mind and with my fingers on the keyboard I search for consonants and vowels to create a physical representation of the thought.

The distance between the ever evolving thought and its concrete representation—the word(s)—moves me closer to the center. I am not identifying with the left or the right as I move to the center–not always with grace, I admit.

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That may be the overall process of moderation—each of us has our unique way with it—and at one time or another, we struggle with it. Why? We have to let go of what we have to receive what we are given. To me, that is the grace of moderation.

It means keeping the “big picture” in mind.  Whether we are discussing diet, climate change, or the world future generations will inherit. And that’s difficult to do. In terms of global issues, the big picture now looming is an ominous one.

In seeking a balance for a better world—finding moderation—we have to change the way we live, maybe even who we are. Balance—the measure of moderation—is a constant shift, an adjustment to the world as it currently exists. That will determine the world that is yet to come.

Often, the task feels overwhelming, especially if we anticipate a future we cannot know or gnash our teeth over a past that cannot be changed. All we have is the moment to gracefully move a little left or right to maintain our balance.

We begin with observing the life we know best–our own—ever aware of doing no harm to no thing, to no one. Then, we move gracefully to the right or to the left as life comes at us only to leave us. And when we leave, ultimately, both left and right are increased rather than diminished.

The Beauty of Being is the Truth of a Woman

This week, I am participating in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest (IV). It is an honor to support boaw-logo-2015-originalAugust in her tireless work to help women recognize how remarkably beautiful they are—just as they are.

The beauty of a woman is in her having the freedom to be who she is, free to evolve as the unique human she was born to be.

The unfolding of the beauty of a woman knows no barriers for it is within her body to give life, should she choose. In this, she is one with the earth.

Yet, the world of a woman is not equal in opportunity or access. That we still cannot find equanimity in the most basic difference between human beings—gender—speaks volumes about where we are and how far we have to go.

If we cannot equally support men and women in their pursuit of living their truth–and what else is beauty–how we can possibly eliminate the other labels that diminish each one of us?

We are one, each of us a unique thread, our own blend of beauty that is our moment in the tapestry of existence. That the beauty of a woman unfolds with all other human beings is the only opportunity she ever needs.

Perhaps beauty is the key to the door of equality that we cannot seem to unlock. Far too often beauty has been seen as a barrier rather than as an avenue to equanimity.

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth, -the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

~Emily Dickinson~

We are one in our humanness more than we are separate. Unique, yes, but we are not diminished by each other. Rather, we are truly increased. Our truth is our beauty—our path.

As of yet, we are not comfortable in our beauty so we cannot lie down with our truth. We are not yet on the path of equanimity but that we have not given up is to our credit.

To realize the full potential of humanity is to see the beauty in every woman as her truth, her unique contribution to the worldwide web of human beings.  There is no one path for everyone but for everyone there is a path.

Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.

~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj ~

In the ecstasy of life lies equanimity.

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(The Blog Fest runs  through March 1, 2015. You can read other blog fest posts here. )