Love Lives In Inconvenient Places

Love lives in places and ways often missed for love only needs an open heart to thrive. Such is the story of Harriet and Hal, a human and a Chihuahua.

They shared food and constant companionship as they spent their days in a well-worn, overstuffed recliner not far from a medium-sized, flat-screen television. Sometimes they watched current events and other times they just left the television on “for the noise.”

They did not care for quiet so when they tired of the background noise, they talked to each other. Hal seemed to take sound seriously. When they walked outdoors, Hal greeted neighbors with a steady stream of squeaks and yips that had a lower and upper register. He always had a lot to say. Harriet translated, if she felt it necessary.

Harriet is older, mid-70s, and Hal was in the middle of his eighth year. He put on weight but Harriet did not. Her health is in decline—congestive heart failure and significant vascular issues—she is a smoker, although she has tried to stop and prays every day she will.  Other than a steady increase in weight, Hal’s health was remarkably good.

Harriet often worried that Hal might outlive her. From time to time, she would formulate a plan to provide for Hal but each idea faded. She seemed to recognize their way of life was unique to them. It was as if she decided she would just have to outlive Hal. And so she has.Clarity in the wild 0413

On the second day in October, Hal’s health went into decline. Like Harriet, he developed congestive heart failure and there was fluid in his lungs; then, he had trouble walking and finally, could no longer stand.

Harriet rearranged their lives as best as she was able, including securing a new veterinarian who makes house calls. Hal did spend just over 24 hours at the animal hospital but his need for Harriet was greater than his need for better nutrition, a smoke-free environment or medical care.

Upon Hal’s return home, he yipped and squeaked until he had told Harriet all he had to say. They spent their last night together in their chair with Harriet doing most of the talking. The next day, Harriet held him in her arms as he died.

In Hal’s last two weeks I was a part of their world more than I had ever been for we only saw each other in the way that neighbors do these days, fleetingly. I was aware and not aware of how they lived.

Once inside their home, I struggled to keep judgment at bay. At times, my compassion left me, and I should have followed. I was trying to change the outcome as well as the story line, neither of which was mine to do.

It was only in embracing the pain of two friends saying goodbye–living as they had always lived—that I was able to help them, which is all they had asked. In letting go, another way of living began.

We are pure awareness experiencing life in all its appearances. In breaking open, all the labels and judgments spill out, leaving only the raw, pure energy of being alive. It is then we touch what is deepest in us and extend it to another.

This month’s Bloggers for Peace considers the challenge of embracing life as it is when everything in your being resists. Harriet and Hal showed me one way.forpeace6

Other Bloggers for Peace Posts:

Chronicles of a Public Transit User

Faith Fusion

A Quiet Prayer of Thanks

Why Confine Peace to a Dream?

There is no peace in dreams
only the drama of nightly wandering.
Fractured images, salvaged glimpses
of what might have been….

Some twenty years ago–maybe even longer than that–these lines opened an untitled poem I never completed. The lines have stayed around, although it is not as if they are always with me.

It is the nature of the unfinished to reappear and so it did when October’s Bloggers for Peace post challenge was announced: describe your dream of peace. These many years later, my mostly Buddhist self believes peace is accessible in every moment so why confine it to a dream?forpeace6

If I have a dream of peace, it is for a day like today, full of the daily drama of the story we live, each moment ripe with possibility. The state of world peace is the reflection of our inner revelations regarding ourselves.

As Mooji said, “You don’t awaken to Truth by analyzing the dream. Find out who the dreamer is.” Our truth is our inner state of peace, an ongoing awakening from one dream after another.
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Dreams allow us to test our truth in single scenarios, salvaging glimpses of what might have been for no peace, no truth ever stays forever.  It is not the nature of being.

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~

Dreams pass into memory where they pop up like lines of a lost poem, an opportunity to reexamine what once was, a momentary imbalance. Such is the undulating weave of existence—the web without a weaver—the constant that holds the chaos of everyday drama. 

Listen closely… the eternal hush of silence goes on and on throughout all this,
and has been going on, and will go on and on.
This is because the world is nothing but a dream and is just thought of
and the everlasting eternity pays no attention to it.

~ Jack Kerouac~

It is the nature of peace and dreams to wander in and out of every moment of existence. The challenge is to remember we are part and parcel of that everlasting eternity, offered one experience after another, day and night.

If we try to hold a dream, to confine it as we wish it to be, it splinters; all we salvage is a glimpse of what might have been. We find it unsettling to view peace and dreams as elusive—it is like trying to touch the wind—but we can breathe the air that is available, seek the peace that is accessible. 

A good traveler has no fixed plans
and has no intent of arriving.

~Lao Tzu~

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Thursday Tidbits: Ever Evolving Peace

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Although Thursday Tidbits posts remain irregular, the Bloggers for Peace movement stays the course in its challenge to bloggers. For September, participants are to post a single quote for peace, a single statement that each one of us might remember the next time disagreement seems inevitable.
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Not surprisingly, I turn to the words of the Buddha so frequently offered on the ever-wonderful blog, Zen Flash. For me, this past week has been one of discovering the broader dimensions of compassion—in more than one moment I was found lacking–all will be revealed on Sunday in a regular blog post. Between now and then, I hope you visit some other Bloggers for Peace posts:

Spunky Wayfarer

Bishop Eddie Tatro’s Study

Becoming a Writer

Indira’s Blog

Card Castles in the Sky

After Silence, Music Expresses it Best

The power of music was the Bloggers for Peace challenge for August. It brought to mind Aldous Huxley: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
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Throughout the history of humanity, music has permeated barriers often considered impenetrable. Music unites continents, as the deeds of humanity are recounted in song. Human existence is the song of the ages written across bars of hope and measures of peace.

From Paleolithic time onward, every major tradition—Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism Tao, Hinduism—embraced song as one way to reveal the stories of human existence. Combining music and story, each of the major traditions expressed compassion for all in the community as a way of daily living. Similarly, each tradition warned of the pitfalls of hoarding riches and extolled the virtues of giving to the least among us.
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In each verse of the song of community, all give and all receive, the song of the ages expressing the inexpressible.

For many in my generation, “We Shall Overcome” was the song for civil rights for every American as well as every citizen of the world. We are still singing this song, still committed to overcoming what divides us in order to live with what unites us–peace. Globally, it is the melody of the human heart, expressing the inexpressible. Within its coda is the constant vigilance required for compassion and thus, for coexistence.

Peace is not passive but like compassion it is alive, an aria to overcome what we have yet to accomplish in twenty-one centuries: to live with one another in the harmony of acceptance sans the labels of race, creed, color or any dissonance that divides rather than unites.

Since we began composing the story of human existence, there have always been notes of hope. Perhaps the power of music and its ability to express what we cannot will one day lead us to a vigilant, vibrant life of peace and compassion.

It is and always has been to our great credit that we sing.

If memory serves, the video clip of Joan Baez singing “We Shall Overcome” is from the 1969 movie, Woodstock.  There was a time I would have recognized it immediately. Well, I still know all the words.

Other Bloggers for Peace Posts:

Grandmalin: The August Post for Peace

Rarasaur: One Little Candle Burning Bright

The Seeker:  Music That Will Make You Smile

Rohan Healy:  Alien Eyes

Electronic Bag Lady: Music and the Brain

Dear ?: A Peace Letter

July’s Bloggers for Peace Post is to write a letter for peace, which was a real challenge for me beginning with the salutation. The forpeace6question mark is preferable to a mere blank as there is an acknowledged mystery in the question mark as well as an implied unknown and perhaps uncertainty. Yet, as mindfulness or present moment awareness reminds me time and again, it is in this unknown and uncertain realm where the infinite possibilities lie.

Dear ?:

This is a letter to existence, the life force that runs through everything on the physical plane. Deliberately, I have settled for a punctuation mark rather than a name, although there are many from which to choose, but more and more, I am convinced that putting a label on anything only excludes.

Now that I am past the salutation, there is the body of the letter that contains my current thoughts on peace. Like existence, peace is ever undulating, for peace is not a destination or even a goal but rather, a way of being.

“Peace begins when expectation ends”

~ Sri Chinmoy~
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The onus is on us, where it always has been, yet the planet seems so much smaller now for we crisscross it on a daily basis through images and words on screens. It is reminiscent of when the world wrote letters, and the challenge still is to respond rather than to react. Pen and paper required more of us physically and may have delayed reaction time somewhat.

The ability to communicate instantaneously to almost anywhere in the world has brought us face to face with ourselves. Ideals, illusions, and even institutions have been shattered as we find ourselves in immediate relationship with so many voices from so many places. There are few gaps between thoughts.

Peace is not some sort of lofty ideal nor is it an illusion or an institution. Peace is not a finite but an infinite state of being. Peace is not a one size fits all but is unique to each one of us. The oneness of peace is the acceptance of all of us just as we are for then—and only then—have we removed expectation. The possibilities are infinite.

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As always, I am overtly optimistic, which is not to say that I am not aware of how taxed our planet’s resources are or how many species are either being pushed to the edge of their existence or are already extinct. I am only too aware that “the world is too much with us” to the point of making my head explode but then I remember:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has

~Margaret Mead~

We begin from within, putting our own house in order from the inside out, which is a lifetime task. And that is how the world changes for we cannot give the world what we do not have within ourselves. If we are not at peace with ourselves, we are not in peaceful existence with the world.

It is no wonder that peace eludes us for we look everywhere except where it resides, within our own existence. It may seem more practical to fix ideals or institutions but change—impermanence–is the nature of all existence.

Discovering our own oneness is how we recognize our connection to all of existence. When we love ourselves completely and compassionately for the beings that we are, recognizing our faults and forgiving our mistakes, then our house is in order for we accept our own existence, unconditionally.

It is the task of a lifetime and always has been.

Yours in Impermanence,

KM Huber

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Thursday Tidbits: Peace in Relationship and Dystopia

forpeace6This week, Thursday Tidbits considers peace in terms of our relationships, as the June post for Bloggers for Peace. I am reminded of Pema Chödrön’s observation that we are always in relationship, even if the only other being in the room is an insect.

We are always in relationship, and the first is with ourselves. Whatever that relationship, it flies as our banner, the basis of our relationship with reality, peaceful or no.

When you enter deeply into this moment, you see the nature
of reality, and this insight liberates you from suffering and confusion. Peace is already there to some extent: the problem
is whether we know how to touch it
.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh~

Our day-to-day relationships are mostly peaceful but not always, for we are human and do not always lead with compassion. Yet, by entering deeply into each moment, we are able to try again, perhaps even to meet one another in acceptance, if not in agreement. Is that not the threshold of peace?

Just recently, I read Piper Bayard’s dystopian thriller, Firelands, a fine novel that raises question after question regarding our relationship with our world.

A cautionary tale, Firelands is as unpredictable as the nature of relationship for we are taken down paths that prove not to be what they seemed but like any master storyteller, Bayard allows her characters to reveal themselves for all that they are and are not.Firelands 0613

I am not a frequent reader of post-apocalyptic fiction but as I read Firelands, I was reminded of a favorite Mignon McLaughlin quote:  “The hardest learned lesson [is] that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind.” Bayard’s vision is not a pessimistic one. Rather, it is refreshingly realistic.

In the theocracy of Firelands, we see what a faction-weary world can become for such a world, like ours today, “desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds” (Dalai Lama).

Storyteller Bayard affords us a glimpse into one possibility for our future and offers us the opportunity to look at ourselves now, in our present. But mostly, she takes us to the threshold of peace by reminding us that our story is one of relationship and always will be; to touch the peace within ourselves is to extend it in relationship in any world that comes to pass.

Although this is Piper Bayard’s first book with StoneGate Ink, we can look forward to more fine writing, including a seven-book series written with Jay Holmes. I am a constant reader of their blog, Bayard & Holmes, for their posts are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Often, they reveal a perspective I had not considered.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: The Art of Peace

This week’s Thursday Tidbits is the Bloggers for Peace monthly post, specifically the art of peace.  The art of peace begins within ourselves and radiates outward into every relationship we have, in particular those relationships that for one reason or another are askew or gone awry.forpeace6

To renew a relationship begins with intention, although to re-open our heart is often difficult. That is why the art of peace begins within, for when we are at peace with ourselves is when we re-connect to serve all.

In order to start, Pema Chödrön maintains it is not such a great effort to once again establish a relationship that serves, if we will just consider that a commitment we once made is now broken.

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It means we have to let go of the story we’ve been telling ourselves–the why, the what, the how, or who– and just acknowledge “…that we hardened our heart and closed our mind, that we shut someone out. And then we can retake our vow. On the spot—or as a daily practice—we can reaffirm our intention to keep the door open to all sentient beings for the rest of our life” (Pema Chödrön).

Everyday life, no matter how we approach it, is a practice that requires patience, especially when we do not seem to notice any progress within ourselves or within the world.

There are four emotions that never involve the ego—compassion, gratitude, joy, and love—these four ways have many other names including the four agreements of Don Miguel Ruiz that ask us to be “impeccable” in our speech, not to take whatever occurs personally, to be present in all we do so we are not assuming anything about anyone for when we are present, we are doing the best we can.

The art of peace is available to us in every moment we have for each moment is free from any attachment to what has been or what might be. That we affirm our intention to be the best we can be and live with true compassion for ourselves and others in every moment is what keeps peace always within our grasp. It begins with being present.

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“That’s the training of the spiritual warrior, the training of cultivating courage and empathy, the training of cultivating love. It would be impossible to count the number of beings in the world who are hurting, but still we aspire to not give up on any of them and to do whatever we can to alleviate their pain” (Pema Chödrön).

In alleviating that pain we must remember the key to the art of peace: the idea of serving rather than helping or fixing anyone or anything. It is only in serving that we view ourselves and our connection to all life as whole, not broken or weak.

When we are clear in our intention of serving, we are open to what is available for all of us. The art of peace is a celebration of the diversity that makes up the whole, an acknowledgment that uniqueness is necessary for completeness.

Here are links to other Bloggers for Peace and their consideration of the art of peace:

Kozo Hattori: Art Thou Peaceful 

Bodhisattva In Training: The Art of Peace

Grandma Lin: May Post for Peace

The Seeker: Peace is Like a River

Caron Dann: Recreationist Theory

Card Castles in the Sky: Float Upward

One of my favorite combinations of the art of lyrics, music, and painting is this well-known video featuring the music and lyrics of Don McLean and Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.