Being unafraid of this world’s pain

mindfulness-meditation-quote

This month I’ve been deep in contemplation about the world and about myself. Old questions have arisen with new urgency, such as Who am I? What is my reason for being here now? How may I best serve the world, and alleviate the suffering which seems to be everywhere? Some days I only crave solitude and stillness in order to listen deeply within. Other days I’ve sought the wisdom of other voices in order to help make sense of what feels utterly insane and incomprehensible.

Tonight I listened to a program by Bioneers, which was a conversation between several well- known wise women as they explored how Women and women’s innate knowing is a crucial piece to the process of healing our broken world. The speakers included Alice Walker and Joanna Macy, who both spoke passionately and eloquently on this topic. Joanna Macy is an activist, author and Buddhist scholar who has worked tirelessly for decades to support people in their journeys towards healing themselves and the planet. She has long taught a method called The Work that Reconnects. The gist of the method is that a person must be willing to dig into the pain which they carry (whether they are conscious of it or not) in regards to the state of our world. We must allow ourselves to feel the sorrow, anguish, rage, and despair that lives inside us which we usually stuff way inside and do not allow to consciously surface. It is through this allowing, Macy states, that we begin the process of healing both our individual and collective selves, and from there, our beloved, ravaged planet.

Clearly, this is difficult work on all levels. None of us wish to dig into our hearts and souls and dredge up painful emotions and memories. Speaking for myself, I admit that to consciously choose to look at the terrible tragedies playing out across our earth at this time is just about more than I can bear most days. It’s too big, too horrific, and too overwhelming to gaze with steady eyes and heart at what humanity is doing to itself and to our planet, our home. How can I possibly bring myself to take Joanna Macy’s advice and allow myself to feel the great weight of despair residing inside me? After all, I have to get up and go to my job, interact with other human beings on the daily, and if I truly allow myself to see what is happening in the world and to feel the suffering of those experiencing it, there is no way I will be able to function.

Yet, Macy understands deeply the Buddhist path to end suffering. She advocates that we acknowledge and feel the suffering, but that we don’t dwell there. Just as the Buddha did, we must work to find the place of peace and stillness within our soul that is untouched by the world and its vast drama. This is the most difficult and rewarding work we can do while incarnated. To be in the world and yet not of it means exactly this—we acknowledge the world’s suffering, understand that suffering is caused by mistakenly believing the illusion to be reality, and then stilling the mind and emotions enough to experience the truth—reality is not this three dimensional story of separation we’ve been telling ourselves for thousands of years. In fact, the earth itself is on a journey of ascending into a higher plane of existence, and those of us who are awake to it, are here to help it arrive safely, much like an army of midwives helping to birth the new age of Earth and of mankind.

I have a saying taped to a wall in my kitchen. It says,

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do Justly Now.
Love Mercy Now. Walk Humbly Now. You’re not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

When I become very quiet and still and can go beyond my ego mind’s chatter, then  I understand what the Buddha, Joanna Macy and many other wise teachers teach. Then, I acknowledge the pain and immense suffering of this world, while also calmly seeing that it all stems from the false belief that we are separate and discreet entities from each other, unconnected to Earth or to Divinity, the Great Spirit that dwells within each being. We have lost our way because we have forgotten our inherent connection to everything else. It’s so very easy to forget as we go through our daily routines. Other people are annoying, rude, ugly and every other negative adjective we can come up with. Why should we care about them? Why should we be kind or smile when they don’t care to return the favor? How can we bring ourselves to love those who are purposefully destroying all we love and wish to protect? To forgive those who bring pain and suffering to others and then lie, cheat, dominate and destroy? I mean, this is VERY big, and difficult work.

Coming back then, to Joanna Macy’s words that rang through my soul tonight, I get it. As unbelievably painful and hard as it is to see, acknowledge, and feel it, I know that the only way out of our global predicament is through. We cannot, we WILL NOT change our world until enough of us can do exactly this. Business as usual is destroying our planet bit by bit, fire by fire, melting ice cap by melting ice cap. We are all so busy running around our lives, failing to stop long enough to truly listen to Earth-Gaia-Madre Tierra, crying out for us to Stop, Look and Listen. To see what we are doing to our only home. To cry for what we have all done to Her. To find better, healthier, cleaner ways to live upon her, in harmony with her great cycles. Until we can collectively get on our knees and ask for her forgiveness, we will continue to teeter on the brink of extinction.

For those of you who would like to hear Joanna Macy, here are more links to some of her talks. Joanna Macy- Embracing Pain
Active Hope Show 1_ Prophecy of Shambhala Warriors

A note of thanks and encouragement

Thank You Word Cloud background
via 123rf.com

Hi Readers and Bloggers! Today I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has read my blog, interrelatedplanet.org, over the past year. This blog has a tiny readership by most media standards in today’s world. I have done very little to promote it, other than sharing posts via my FaceBook and LinkedIn accounts. The purpose of this blog is to give me a platform to inform, inspire and share my opinions about the world we live in and how we are all connected and interrelated at the core level. The fact that during this past year people from 51 countries have read this blog is, in my mind, pretty amazing!

There are days when I admit to giving into the feelings of despair and isolation that crop up when reading mainstream media on the internet. It’s clear that we are collectively going through a period of chaotic and intense change, unlike anything that humanity has known since recorded history began. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all and lose hope that our world will one day soon become a global society based on equity, justice, the rule of law, compassion, care for all life, and respect for all people. I’ve written before of of the United Nations charter , created 74 years ago, which lays out the blueprint for how a world based on these qualities and principles could be for humanity. In these times of great change, it can very much seem as if the forces of darkness and evil are, indeed, winning the battle.

Today, dear Readers, I want to encourage all of you who take the time to read my words to NOT GIVE UP on ourselves and our world. Yes, terrible atrocities continue happening daily across the world. Yes, the corruption, greed and power-mongering by the richest world actors and government leaders continues, as news outlets’ daily headlines clearly show. Yes, climate change is happening faster than we can keep track of, with extreme weather affecting millions of people across the planet. I could go on and on, but you understand. These are crucial times, extraordinary times, and exceedingly difficult times to be living through. Our current systems allow for and even promote oppression, inequity, and environmental degradation. Given all the factors and actors vying for power and control of the world’s precious resources at all costs, how do we find hope that a future world based on peace, justice and love is coming?

This week, most of the world’s leaders have gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York City for the 74th annual General Assembly. The UN is committed to transparency, and want all people to be able to know and understand the global issues and challenges we face. Towards this end, they post all the speeches made by each country’s representative on their You Tube channel so anyone with an internet connection may watch them. This week I’ve taken time to watch some of their speeches, but perhaps even more interesting, I scrolled through their channel to look at the faces of the people who are leading our current world society. I have to say, the vast majority of them look unhappy, tired and perhaps even a bit desperate. Only the smallest fraction of their faces are smiling or seem positive.

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World leaders would do well to find their inner child, who remembers how to smile.

The conclusion I draw from this experiment is, most leaders in the world today know our current system is broken, highly unfair, and unsustainable for our collective future. While some continue to display ungracious arrogance and stubbornly refuse to listen to reason or science, for the most part I believe that the great majority of people on Earth today sincerely desire us to change for the better. Most of us are beyond weary of war, power struggles, violence and living in fear. In our deepest hearts we know we are better than this. Problem is, how do we get from our current state of chaos, violence and inequity, to the more beautiful and peaceful world we know is possible?

It is a long, tedious, and painfully slow road from where we are now to where we want to be. But it is NOT impossible. The beloved Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh, reminds us that smiling is very important. If we cannot smile, the world cannot have peace.  It is step one. How I would love to suggest to the world’s leaders this week that they ought to begin their speech by finding one thing to say that is positive about our world at large, and smile as they do so. Even such a small gesture would have resounding impact on everyone in the hall, and everyone on our planet.

Again, I wish to thank you all who read this blog. I would love to read your comments too, as long as they are respectfully given. I encourage all of you to continue doing your good work in our world, in whatever field you are working. In order to change everything (for the better) we truly need everyone. Namaste and blessings to each one of you, from my heart.

What is your profession?

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Blue skies in September are magnificent. Image via flickr.com

Ahh, September! The month that signals the end of summer, the start of the academic year, new projects, cooling breezes, blue skies and more grounded energies. I’ve always loved September.

This year is the first in the past few that I’ve not returned to classes since I graduated with my bachelor’s degree last December. Instead, I find myself with the intention of meeting my new, perfect, long-term professional work in the very near future. Sounds good, let’s get right on it!

Except that there’s a bit of a problem. I am one of those humans who has a very difficult time claiming to be an expert at any one particular thing. In fact, I’ve had several careers in my adult life that are seemingly unrelated. I’ve also done all sorts of paid work for money that could hardly be called a career. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’ve done what I needed to so I could keep my life and my family’s needs met and going as well as possible. There’s getting by, and then there’s that all-powerful, shiny, castle-on-the-hill word: Success.

Dear Readers, we all know that Success is a slippery slope by its very nature. It’s a word loaded with connotations in many directions, depending on who you are and your point of view. There’s worldly success, which is synonymous with money, fame, recognition, accomplishment at a career and all the trappings of such. We look to famous people we admire and believe they have achieved that shiny goal of worldly success. Then we might look at our own, much more humble lives, and wonder why we haven’t been able to achieve similar status. This is a familiar human pattern to many, and a painful one.

Throughout the years of my working life, I have come to know that my success at work is measured by a few key factors. They include: how happy am I when I’m at work? To what degree is the work itself interesting and worthy of keeping my focus and attention? Who are the people I’m working with, my colleagues, and how much do I enjoy being around them each day? Do I feel that the work I do there is making a positive difference to others and to the world? And, do I feel that my work and who I am as a person is valued and appreciated by the people I work with and for? These are important questions for all of us to ponder when considering a change in our worklife, or when doing the work of applying for new positions.

When I was preparing to finish my individualized degree program last year, I took a course to help promote my degree. The instructors emphasized the importance of memorizing our elevator pitch, the 30 second soundbyte version of what our degree is about. They even made us practice our elevator pitch in front of the class, which most of us managed well. In today’s internet-data driven world, even 30 seconds can feel like a long time. Technology seems to be relentlessly driving humans to do everything faster, including reading (mostly scanning), making decisions and yes, finding that ‘perfect, dream job’ that matches your skills, talents and deliverables with the needs and demands (often unreasonable) of the employer. As I search through job postings on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, it’s nearly unfathomable to me to read the sheer amount of skills, talents and experience many employers expect the candidates to possess. One could even argue that some employers are looking for superhuman (AI?) candidates who can perform super feats of amazingness on a daily and hourly basis, all the while keeping a smile on their faces, a can-do attitude and retaining grace under pressure all day, every day.

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Online job searching can feel like you need complex positioning in order to apply. image via https://positek.net

There’s a whole new language for these job descriptions, compared to even a decade ago. Deliverables, flexible, nimble (like Jack of nursery tale fame), passionate, innovative, strategic –we are at a point now where humans are expected to create a brand for themselves, the same as a business or corporation does. My personal brand? This might not strike some of you reading as strange if you are a Millennial or Gen Z person. But to someone like me, who remembers a world where people were simply people, and our name and a simple resume of who we are and the experience we bring was enough basis for a decision to interview, the new personal branding strategies smack of artificiality and egoism. (Think Michael Jackson and David Bowie, who basically pioneered the personal brand phenomenon a few decades back.) Here’s an example of a portion of one job description I read this week:

Creates strategies around vetting, developing and implementing identified priorities,
Ensures successful implementation of all initiatives through the development of action items, performance measures, timelines and evaluation processes,
Provides financial oversight of initiatives to ensure they stay within budgetary constraints,
Oversees the implementation, necessary revisions, and data analysis of the Client Input Survey,
Supports the necessary implementation and advocacy required for the success of the program

What makes you unique? What do you have to offer that no one else has? These are the kind of questions career coaches love to ask. In a world of nearly 7.8 billion humans, it is clearly becoming a little difficult to stand out as unique. Yes, we are all snowflakes, but at the same time, it’s not easy to see the individual beauty of one when standing in a field of billions. And when AI robotics are culling through thousands of resumes, looking for matches with certain words to determine if that human will make it to the next phase of the recruiting process, well it just takes all the fun out of the whole shebang!

One site I looked on today asked me straight up: What is your profession? Now that is a loaded question for a person like me. For someone who has had a straight path in their career, and has one solid title for what they do (think attorney, professor, executive director, musician, etc.) this is a no-brainer. But for those of us who have explored many different paths during their work lives, answering that question can bring anxiety. Indeed, what is my profession at this point in life?

I’d like to answer that for both myself and all of you still reading this post. It may take longer than 5 seconds, so be prepared for more than a soundbyte answer. Here goes:

My profession is in supporting humanity to awaken to their potential as more evolved, self-aware and compassionate beings than they currently are. There is greatness inside each human, but most are asleep to their vast potential as creators of their own lives and caretakers of Earth who is their source of life. My work is to offer ideas, suggestions, inspiration and information, in order to assist any and all humans who wish to awaken to the truth of who they are, and change their ways of living to be in harmony with that truth. This work involves a high degree of idealism, faith in human potential, and extreme courage. It requires a kind of strength of character and tolerance for human folly that takes a lifetime to cultivate. It is arduous, tedious, and even excruciating at moments. But the rewards, when actualized, are greater than most can currently imagine. This profession is one that many humans have taken up during this lifetime, once they awakened to the great need that humanity is facing.

Dear Readers, this is my profession. It’s not one I can tick in a list of boxes, nor quickly explain in an online application to be read by a computer bot. This is why it is so difficult for me to “find a job” or “create my dream career” as the coaches like to suggest. They simply don’t know what to do with people like me.

Once again, I’m reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us and the world will live as one.”