It’s good to take a few minutes each day to unwind, but I include Sunday evenings to my daily unwind time.
Every culture uses something that pleases the senses to help in their prayer or meditation practices. Incense or some kind of fragrance is helpful, because it alone can set the tone of a room. And smells are one of the things that we remember and associate experiences with often. Lamps or candles are often used too; I prefer oil lamps because the flame is steadier than the flicker of a candle; inviting the witness to slow way down and come home for a little while.
Early on, I developed a way to learn by just observing. What to do, what not to do.. Observing is a way that I try to use to see things around me. Something that I learned about a long time ago has been coming up a lot for me lately; in all areas of life. It’s a statement that goes “People don’t see the world as it is, they see the world as they are”.
I see this showing up all over the place. Mostly between people. One of my favorite exercises to help slow down involves going into the woods and noticing how different all the trees are. And realising that we don’t judge the trees for being tall or short, straight or crooked, thick or thin. We just accept the trees for what they are and move on. We don’t get hung up on the fact that one tree might not have gotten enough sunlight and therefore grew a certain way, we just accept the tree for what it is and we move on.
I think that this is a practice that is desperately needed now with how we’re seeing each other. Chances are, we don’t know someone’s story and how they’re managing their life as a result of their story. All we see is how they’re managing their life.
I think we need to see people more like trees, and less like how we think they ought to be.
One of the most powerful and honest images there is.
If we find ourselves repeating the same behaviors in different jobs, with different partners and in different situations; and if we don’t go back and examine how it all began, we’re just treating symptoms instead of the cause.
A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe”; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is kind of a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task MUST be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Not one of us sees life as it is, the world as it is. We all see life as WE are. We look at others through our own likes and dislikes, desires and interests. It is this separatist outlook that fragments life for us – man against woman, community against community, country against country. Yet, the mystics of all religions assure us on the strength of their own experience, if only we throw away this fragmenting instrument of observation, we shall see all life as an indivisible whole.
What is it about people that change the world? How do they do it? What’s the secret?
If you look at any one person that lived their lives this way, you’ll find that they lived from a perspective of something greater than themselves.
You know the story about someone planting a tree, knowing full well that they themselves will never enjoy the tree’s fruit or shade?
“But that sounds too poetic, or too saint-like. How is that even possible, to live that way?”
Its just as basic as that little voice that softly and quickly asks you to stop if you happen to be the first person to come up to an accident on the road. Its that instinctual reaction of helping someone else. Something that we’ve all experienced at one point or another. Only in cases of people that make such large changes, they’ve widened their aperture to see humanity needing help on the side of the road, and not just one particular car.
So if we want to honor someone like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, we can look at not just what she did (which was remarkable on its own), but how she lived her life. And we could try to see how we might find a bit of the same way of existing and experiencing life within ourselves.
Learning how to widen our own field of vision to encompass just someone else. You don’t have to try to take on the whole world. You can just start with trying to see one other person as an extension of yourself. The same life, just formed a little differently than you are. But underneath, the same life.
And what would you want for that same life?
You’d want them to feel safe; to feel loved and to feel free wouldn’t you? The same things that you’d want for yourself. A life well-lived.
This is all it takes.
I’ll bet that Ruth and everyone else like her would approve.
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up.
This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done.
By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”