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

Transformation Requires Refraining

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Often, we get caught up in transforming our lives. We decide that we will no longer assume an old way of being or an old way of doing. In other words, whether it is New Year’s or not, we make a resolution not only to do better but to be a better person. Just like that.

What we discover is that letting go of a habit or a behavior requires a lot more than filling ourselves with resolve. Letting go is a lifelong practice for we revisit old habits, old behaviors–neuroses we once cherished–often, we recognize them immediately but sometimes, they are disguised as something new and possibly, beneficial.

 The three difficulties (or the three difficult practices) are:

1.   to recognize your neurosis as neurosis,
2. then not to do the habitual thing, but
to do something different to interrupt
the neurotic habit, and
3. to make this practice a way of life

(Pema Chödrön)

Recognizing what we no longer wish to do or be is usually obvious but recognizing all that it has meant to us–how it has disguised itself in order to be an integral part of our every day– is a lifelong practice of recognizing neurosis as neurosis.

For a while, just rising above the neurosis is reward enough. Yet, life is uneven and the rise of the unexpected often dissolves our resolve whether it lasted for minutes or months. Thankfully, life is impermanent, and we get lots of practice in letting go.

What we get to do each time we recognize that once again we have invited in a familiar neurosis is to accept that is exactly what we have done. That is the first step in letting go, accepting what is. Think of it as resolving to refrain rather than resolving to deny.

Refraining comes about spontaneously when you see how your neurotic action works. You may say to yourself, `It would still feel good; it still looks like it would be fun,’ but you refrain because you already know the chain reaction of misery that it sets off.

 (Pema Chödrön)

Even if we have begun to set off the chain reaction, we accept that we have and refrain from going any further. We set our resolve to refrain because we accept where we are. Refraining allows us to halt and not go where we have gone before and unhook from the neurosis.

Resolve serves us as long as it is to accept that life not only changes but masks itself in new faces and different viewpoints, allowing us to experience familiar habits, recognized behaviors, and old relationships through yet another perspective.

Transformation is not a matter of discarding but an accepting of all that we are and were. Such resolve is the genesis of transformation, a lifetime practice of experiencing, letting go, and when we are ready, refraining.

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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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Ringing the Bell of Uncertainty

“Suffering is a meditation bell, not an enemy” appeared in a recent update on Jeff Foster’s Facebook page.  The context of the quote is that in suffering, we identify ourselves as a single thing, image, or sensation, thereby confining ourselves to that single identity. It is only when we remember that we are “no-thing” do we discover our true nature, “which is everything” (Foster).

Suffering grabs our attention as a signal that our “okayness” is about to change. It is the ringing of the bell of uncertainty. We can resist and suffer or we can accept and “allow” as Anita Moorjani calls it.

Allowing or accepting is not passive in any regard but rather, an open-arms welcome to the uncertainty inherent in each of our lives. In allowing, we transcend duality, forgoing the labels that make us this or that. Allowing is discovering our true nature, and it is a lifelong trip.

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“To access the state of allowing, the only thing I had to do was be myself. I realize that all those years, all I ever had to do was be myself, without judgment or feeling that I was flawed. At the same time, I understood that at the core, our essence is made of pure love” (Anita Moorjani).

Moorjani’s book, Dying to be Me, is a fresh approach to accepting ourselves as we are. It is also an accounting of her recovery from physical illness that includes a near death experience, which is not the focus of the book, at least not for me.

Quite specifically, she writes that her story is just that–her story—of recovery from cancer that led her inward to her true  nature, which is entirely unique to her. Likewise, what her story may or may not mean to any of us is just as unique.

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“I don’t advocate that if we ‘believe’ a certain way, it will eliminate disease or create an ideal life…. Having awareness, on the other hand, just means realizing what exists and what’s possible—without judgment. Awareness doesn’t need defending” (Moorjani).

Moorjani does refer to a kind of “clarity” that she had as she lay dying.  In a coma, she considers where she was as a state and not a place.  There are no conversations with God or with any other being just awareness:

“…I instinctively understood that I was dying because of all my fears. I wasn’t expressing my true self because my worries were preventing me from doing so.

“I understood that the cancer wasn’t a punishment or anything like that. It was just my own energy, manifesting as cancer because my fears weren’t allowing me to express myself as the magnificent force I was meant to be” (Moorjani).

Moorjani’s book focuses on present moment awareness of the self– the exploration of one’s true nature— and within that journey the necessity of loving ourselves unconditionally in this realm that is here and now. Repeatedly, she indicates her healing was not positive thinking or mind over matter but consciousness, which she calls “magnificence…a state of being…the part of me that’s eternal, infinite, and encompasses the Whole.”

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Moorjani is well-versed in all of the Eastern traditions as well as Christianity. She is not a physician or a scientist but a woman who nearly died of cancer seven years ago and is completely recovered.

In previous posts, I have mentioned Deepak Chopra’s Quantum Healing and Perfect Health regarding the role of consciousness in one’s health, specifically the “intelligence” inherent in the physical body. I have read other medical and scientific works as well. In the 21st century, there is a growing body of work in neuroscience—and to some extent, physics–that is exploring the role consciousness may or may not play in our health. I find it fascinating, all of it.

To me, it is increasingly evident that our level of health is inextricably tied to our true nature. Our physical and emotional health reveals our level of awareness of our true nature, in essence whether we resist or accept our lives. Who knows? Attaining our optimal health may begin with our response to the meditation bell of suffering.

In the coming months, I plan to explore optimal health and consciousness. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments and that you take time to read my blog. Thank you, dear reader.

Time for a break; regular posts will resume in May.

Thursday Tidbits: The Zen of Kitchen Tasks and Meditating Cats

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post considers Zen as revealed through meditating cats and kitchen tasks, the everyday of  Zen spirituality.

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”

Alan Watts

Perhaps more than I should admit, Zen spirituality is a constant in my kitchen, which is not to say that I am able to tend to the task at hand completely, far too often not. Rather, as I am chopping onion I consider what the next moment might offer. Rarely, do I consider the onion.

EmmaRose in MeditationKMHuberImage
EmmaRose in Meditation
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Often my musing ranges far beyond the physical plane–my own private “soaring with the over-soul*–rather than considering the outcome for the onion, usually mere mush.

At best, I might be considering whether I will scramble eggs or shred lettuce for a salad; both are dictated by the state of the onion and just how far my thoughts have strayed.

It is scrambled eggs if I am envisioning the next scene in my old woman novel but the salad may be saved if I have only strayed to whether or not laundry needs to be done. The answer to that is always the same, a crisp, clear “no.”

Every time I immerse myself in the Zen spirituality of the mundane, I discover something new. It never fails. To be fair, when my thoughts are anywhere but the task at hand, there are also discoveries, including the best tasting cup of coffee is made from the proper proportions of both water and coffee.

Regardless of the outcome, discovery expands the moment to its brim. There was a time that a burnt coffee carafe or hot, coffee-colored water dismayed me, and although I may greet those moments in resignation, I am able to see them in their own Zen spirituality.

Living with animals has taught me more about Zen spirituality than any other resource, including kitchen tasks. This week’s video, courtesy of ZenFlash, features just over a minute of cats meditating, which I found illustrative of Zen but not the kind of meditation that feline EmmaRose has taught me.

EmmaRose has always been a meditating cat but not with any kind of object, especially round and especially large, as she tops the scale at five-and-one-half pounds. For EmmaRose, small, round objects are for batting and chasing into obscure areas invisible to human eyes. She prefers meditating at the window, which she does daily, and she considers the panes carefully.

Choosing Her PaneKMHuberImage
Choosing Her Pane
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Often, squirrels are visible from the right pane while the left side might offer a darting, lime-green lizard–EmmaRose seems to sense the season for lizard viewing–the middle pane offers the most sun on any day. Whatever these moments provide EmmaRose, she is at her window to discover anew each day.

Who is to say whether or not she “soars with the over-soul”* for she has the light of day, which may offer a squirrel or the infrequent lizard as well.

I and my onion can only aspire.

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.

*Soaring with the over-soul” is from a satirical essay Louisa May Alcott wrote regarding her father’s involvement with 19th century transcendentalism. 

On My Way to the Way With Everyone Else

Single Path 0313I do not believe there is only one way for everyone—never have—but rather, we are all on our way to the Way. We have various labels for the Way–Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism—regardless, the Way always has been and always will be.

“The Tao is both named and nameless. As nameless it is the origin of all things; as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things” (Tao). Our path is our experience of the 10,000 things of the Way: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Everyone practices in order to find out for him or herself…how to be balanced, how to be not too tight and not too loose. No one else can tell you. You just have to find out for yourself” (Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape).

Any and all of the ways teach us, no matter what label resonates individually: God, the Universe, the Source, the Unified Field, Spirit, Creator, Krishna, Buddha, or the eternal phenomena of the Chinese “web that has no weaver.”  The unique expression that is each of us is also our connection to one another.

Deepak Chopra says “we are all God in different disguises”; God is having a unique experience on the physical plane through each one of us. As such, we are the energy that is God, the Oneness that is our connection to one another.

It seems we should celebrate our connection to one another but often we separate rather than celebrate, disconnect rather than connect, although we are hardwired to love and belong—it is in our DNA. When we separate from our own way, we leave the path to the Way, and we suffer.

We all know suffering–no matter how we label craving and clinging—weThick of it 0313 do not have to know others’ experiences nor they ours to feel what  DNA is tugging on us to do: connect with one another. When we are separate, we do not trust our way to the Way.

Going out and changing the world doesn’t work for me…It only feeds into the same judgmental energy….Instead, letting go of attachment to any way of believing or thinking has made me feel more expanded and almost transparent so that universal energy can just flow through me. More positive coincidences happen in my life when I’m in this state of allowing” (Anita Moorjani, Dying to be Me)

The need to connect with one another keeps us in search of our way to the Way. Our journey begins at birth. We bring our own bits of light and dark to the being that is our life. The darkness and lightness of each of us is what we offer to the world, what we come to know as our path to the Way.

We do not have to live as labels for it is in our Oneness with one another that we find our way into the Way.

Thursday Tidbits: Digging Deep for “Meraki”

This week’s Thursday Tidbits considers meraki, a modern Greek word for that “extra something” we add to whatever we’re doing, no matter the task. Usually intangible and often inexplicable, meraki helps us immerse ourselves into whatever is at hand. We dig deep for meraki.

Over the last few weeks, I have had to reinvent my diet, in fact my entire daily way of being. Thanks to Prompts for the Promptless, I now have a word for it, meraki, which actually is often associated with cooking, that hard to identify ingredient or quality so essential to adapting to life.

Although I thought I was on a Slow Boat to Fitness, it seems it was not my boat at all. Last November, I began supplementing Meraki Momentmy diet with a few legumes, bread made from brown rice, and a few fruits. I was able to tolerate the extra carbohydrates but steadily the inflammation increased as did the discomfort. Only apples are still allowed.

At first, I thought it was the yoga so I modified my practice yet eventually, I had to stop. I continued with my walking but as the inflammation and discomfort increased, my distance lessened. Yet, after five months, I finally had a meraki moment.

Did I gain weight? Yes one day and no the next and then yes again, the usual roller coaster that has been my experience with the inflammation from degenerative arthritis and lupus. Overall, my weight did not change, which I attribute to the doshas of Ayurveda, of which I am kapha, mostly. Ayurveda eased me into my meraki moment regarding my food.

The ancient art of Ayurveda is not concerned with classifying carbohydrates, proteins, and fats but concentrates on the six tastes found in food: the hot tastes of pungent, sour, and salty; the cold tastes of bitter, astringent, and sweet. Those tastes carry different messages to the body and it reacts accordingly. Ayurveda is so much more than that but I am just beginning.

For me, Ayurveda provides a way to practice my meraki with maitri or loving-kindness as I let go of a diet that I enjoyed but did not provide my body the fuel it must have to fight inflammation and support my joints. I was looking outside myself for answers that were always within me:

If you look for the truth outside yourself,
It gets farther and farther away.
Today walking alone, I meet it everywhere I step.
It is the same as me, yet I am not it.
Only if you understand it in this way
Will you merge with the way things are.” ~ Tung-Shan ~

Meraki helps me listen to my body rather than sending it commands to which it cannot comply because it does not have the energy. A return to yoga is actually relieving some of the discomfort in my joints, and the walking is easier.

With meraki, which always involves one’s enthusiasm for life, I have added daily trips to the delightful blog, Zen flash, an online temple offering daily posts of solitary images and transcendent lines.  It is a part of my morning meditation practice but I also visit at other times to remember:

“Everyday life

is not divorced from

the Eternal State.

~~Sri Ramana Maharshi

In the spirit of Zen flash, this week’s video offers Schumann’s Opus 15 as a moment of merkai from me to you.

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.