Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Middle Way

According to the teachings of the Buddha, the middle way is the path of wisdom. It promotes moderation between the self-indulgent pleasures of the world and the austere practices of self-mortification. And while this middle way or road denotes a balance between extremes, it is not to be taken to mean non-action, but rather an ongoing effort to maintain that balance.

This past week, our country suffered another school shooting, this time at a community college in Oregon. Nine dead and nine injured. A young gunman had entered and randomly shot teachers and students, young and old, without respect for human life at all before turning one of the weapons upon himself. Yes, weapons. He had six with him and another seven at his place of residence.

Facebook and other social media immediately begin filling up with comments, condolences, and accusations. Those wanting gun control were using it as proof that it was needed. Those that want no gun control used it as proof it was not needed. Fingers pointed to the president as if it is his fault. I saw someone post a picture of Chris Mintz, our local hero there, which stepped up and tried to help. And he was lucky…he was shot several times but survived. The picture of him said something like, “No invitation to the White House” insinuating that our President did not consider him a hero. He is lying in a hospital bed and going through surgeries! How could our President have even had the time to invite him, and certainly it would have to be an event far into the future as his recovery will be extensive. Then I saw that someone had put up a post about the President remaining silent on the issue. Does anyone watch the news? Obama was by no means silent.

The purpose of this blog is not to condone gun policies; but, rather to serve a twofold purpose. The first purpose is back to the opening on the Middle Road. I personally do not care for guns. I do, however, believe in our rights as American citizens to own them. It was one of the basic rights granted to our newly formed country and for good reason. Our forefathers knew that when a government moves to ban guns from its people, it leaves people open to be controlled by their government in unsavory ways. So we have the two ends: one says we should be able to own guns without any questions asked and without any stipulations at all. The other faction says we should not be allowed to own guns. But there is another road….a middle road where each of these extreme points of view take one step….just one step….towards the other. It could be that people wanting to purchase guns would be required to take a class, or at least have a background check performed. I know in many professions and in many workplaces a background check is performed and we think nothing of it. We know that guns don’t kill, people do! Or that there would be a maximum amount of guns one person could own. I’m not here to propose the middle road of all this, but rather to suggest this middle does exist. Compromise is essential to our lives.

Take the matter of abortion. I doubt the majority of people in this world “believe in” abortion. However, if such a path is deemed necessary – not by a law maker – but by the person involved, there should be a path available that is safe and legal…one that includes counseling and other options and medical advice.  Again, a small step from each side is necessary.  And remember, I, personally do not advocate abortion. I also don’t advocate children being abused, going hungry, and lacking in education or opportunity, which is sometimes the outcome for unwanted (and wanted) children.  And while on this subject, it seems that we have already had this fight back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. What has brought it back around? Extreme thinking without a middle road.

My second purpose in all of this goes back to the various posts on social media garnering attention from these types of events. PEOPLE WAKE UP!! THE MEDIA FEEDS US ON OUR FEARS AND BELIEFS!! It doesn’t matter if you support Obama or Bush, Clinton or Trump! Our media drives and divides us into thinking we are opposite in our thinking, but in reality, it is just different sides of the same coin! The people that really run our country….those holding the wealth… could care less if you vote republican or democrat, because they own both! And polarization just adds to the chaos!

To the world, I am a small, poor, and unimportant person in the grand scheme of things. Yet, I know that to achieve peace, each person must find that peace within themselves. I implore you to find a middle road and support it. Become indifferent to the media bombardment. Check the facts before you endorse something. Stop allowing yourself to be used for a political agenda. They even use our beliefs against us. Our country was founded on religious freedom, and a separation of church and state was imperative to this ideal…so, even if you feel your way to God is the one way, be mindful that others feel the same about their God. We are brothers and sisters, each a member of the human race. Show more love, be kinder, be soft. 

Our children know about the middle way. Have you seen the little girl’s video where she tells her parents to seek the middle? “…in the middle where my heart is…” Check it out. “A little child shall lead them…”

Thank you for reading…now go and seek the middle way. When you find it, offer it to others. It is the only way we can survive as a nation and as a people.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blowin' In the Wind - Love from Hate

Just before turning in for the night of June 17, I learned of yet another act against innocent
people having a prayer meeting in their church.  The perpetrator: a 21 year old white man; the victims: all black in a predominately black church, long a symbol for the people of Charleston.  The young man, Dylann Roof, came into the church, sat with the members attending a Bible study for about an hour, and then the shooting began.  I was reduced to tears when the reports started coming in and felt I could not take any more bad news about human beings having so little consideration for other human beings.

According to reports, Dylann Roof’s intention was to start a “race war”.  But he did not know nor understand the trends of our present day world that tell us, despite the media’s constant bombardment of all that is evil in our world and the items they use to distract us, that people everywhere are tuning in to the need to embrace each other as brothers and sisters and to realize that we are all human beings and basically want the same things. Nor did he realize that he set in motion events to bring people even closer together rather than to divide them in a war that can never be won.

In the days since this event took place, I have been overwhelmed by the response to this tragedy. Was it possible that through this act of intense hate, a message of love would be revealed?  As each day has unfolded, my question has been answered and the answer is a resounding YES!  Nine precious souls were required to sacrifice their lives, and they did not sacrifice in vain. These brave men and women laid down their lives to enable us to look hate in the face and have the opportunity to answer it with love.

In honor of these nine brave souls, I share 5 positive outcomes that have been observed as a result of this act intended to divide us in hatred.

1. The abandonment of the confederate flag. Dylann Roof used the confederate flag as a symbol of racism.  This flag has long been a point of contention in the South.  It was basically created as a battle flag for one of the Virginia armies during the Civil War.  The main issue in the Civil War was the disagreement over the right to own slaves.  Once civil rights were passed many years later, many southern states used this flag as a symbol to oppose integration.  In the fight against racism, this flag has been allowed to fly for too long.  And the one place it does still fly is at the State Capitol in South Carolina.  This week, as a result of this young man’s hatred, Nikki Haley, the governor of SC, has called for the removal of this worn out symbol.  Not only will that flag be removed, but retailers such as Walmart and Sears have announced that they will no longer sell it.  

2. Unity. The Emanuel AME Church did not close up or back down in fear. Instead, they
inspired the nation by exemplifying love, peace, and forgiveness. On the Sunday following the shooting, the church doors opened for services. Other churches in the area joined in with their
directive to ring bells at 10 a.m. and then many walked to the church where they stood outside as there was no room inside. I have a friend that lives in Charleston and participated in this moving event.  Some of these photographs are from her experience. No, she is not black. In fact, look closely at these photos and others that are available on the internet. You will see that there are all types of people present….old, young, black, white, male, female…if only we could look at each other without assigning one of these labels!

3. Forgiveness. At the hearing on Friday, June 19, several of the victims’ family members were present and addressed Dylann Roof.  The message was the same from each:  I forgive you and am praying for you.  What enlightened souls they must be.  Even in the wake of loss, they did not forget their mission of love, nor the mission of their loved ones now departed.

4. Peace. On Sunday evening, June 21, thousands gathered to march across Charleston’s Arthur Ravenel, Jr.bridge in a show of solidarity.  They filled up 2 miles in the “Bridge to Peace Unity Chain”.  What a beautiful show of brotherhood. This is us, the American people, coming together to say we have had enough…enough killing, enough hatred, enough division. 
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Tucker Bowman

5. Love. Social media has been full of uplifting quotes and expressions of love pertaining to this event. Civil Rights have only taken us so far. Racism is alive and well.  Each of us must do our part.  Call out those that speak despairingly about others.  Stand up for your race….the Human race…and see each person as your brother and sister.  Yes, even Dylann Roof.  Pray for him and those like him. Address any prejudice in your own heart.  Sit with it.  Observe how it made its way there.  Then love it so much that it dissolves into love itself.  

This old folk song is as relevant now as it was in the 60’s, if not more so.  I could not help but hear it playing in my head over these past few days.  (PS – the answer is LOVE.)

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind

The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Songwriters: Bill Sherrill and Charlie Rich

Monday, June 8, 2015

We the People

We The People
Rarely ever do I speak out on the subject of politics.  As Leon Russell says in his song, “Magic Mirror”, “the left ones think I’m right, and the right ones think I’m wrong” which I think basically means that no one can agree. However, today I feel compelled to speak out.

 For many years, I have felt that our bipartisan system is just too extreme, and no one attempts to compromise and come to a middle ground for the good of all.  As a matter of fact, it seems no one can agree on what is for the good of all, so we head to our perspective corners with our arms crossed.

With the advent of social media, this situation seems to keep getting worse and worse.  And we, the American people, seem to care less and less.  We allow laws to be made and enacted that we would never support!  But we just get so tired of it all, that we become complacent.  Our forefathers were not complacent!  If they had been, we certainly would not have the country we have today.  Even with all of the issues we have right now, it is still a great country which affords us freedoms for which so many long.

Our media bombards us with hype on a day to day basis.  It encourages polarization between races, genders, sexual orientations, religion, and the haves and have nots.  Our middle class is all but dissolved.  All we hear and see gives rise to us taking a strong position on one side or the other of this fence.  It is often presented to us to cause emotionally charged stances, rather than middle-of-the-road solutions.  

It is time to WAKE UP!  These “issues” with which the media is bombarding us are just distracting us from focusing on the real challenges.  While we are now aware of everything about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, we are not focused on demanding labeling for our foods.  While we have decided where fault lies between George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin, we are supporting people that are being bought and sold by companies that support fossil fuel usage.  We are complacent about abuse of people and animals in our country.  The media twists and turns and spins stories that merely serve to distract us from our larger problems:  food, energy; infrastructure; compassion; healthcare; and making this country a leader in education, invention, and progress.

Marianne Williamson ran for a seat in congress in California.  Although she lost, she introduced something very important into our vocabulary:  politics of consciousness or politics of the heart.  This is our future.  We must come together to create laws that help sustain our foods by forcing labeling and stopping the use of GMO’s.  (  We must come together to elect officials to implement sustainable energy options.  We must come together for alternatives to fossil fuel transportation which are already out there! We must come together for healthcare, not for pharmaceutical or insurance companies to get rich, but for real cures for our disease-ridden people! We must come together to force investment in our children’s education…not as sheep that can pass a test, but thinkers, doers, inventors.  No matter what your political preference, aren’t these issues upon which we can all agree?

By coming together on these and other important issues, by replacing many of our political “leaders” from those that are merely “yes men” for large corporations, and by living from our hearts, we will by default become more tolerant of each other and our differences.  If we work side by side to change this country from a country of sleeping victims to a country of promoters of positive change, our differences will no longer seem so great, but instead WE THE PEOPLE will bring about a new paradigm that can move us into a future of promise, of freedom, of tolerance, of peace.  

Here is a small list of some things you can do to support making a difference!  Most of all, live mindfully and go where your heart leads you.
1.    Reuse/recycle
2.    Call your local leaders and express your concerns
3.    VOTE for politicians intent on positive change
4.    Collect food for foodbanks/take leftovers to a soup kitchen
5.    Adopt/rescue/foster/donate to animals
6.    Grow a garden/support your local farmer’s market
7.    Stop using plastic bags/bottles
8.    Become a mentor for a child
9.    SMILE – give at least one away every day
10. Be the change you wish to see in the world (Gandhi)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

You Are Wonderful

We all have a past.  Most of us have things in our past of which we are ashamed, feel guilt, feel regret, or feel remorse.  It is just what happens over the course of our lives.  These times are usually the moments in which we learn.  Hopefully, our mistakes teach us what not to do in the future.

I recently found myself thinking about certain things from my past and categorizing them, such as, “that was ok”, “that was bad”, “I should have never done that”, “that was one of my worst mistakes”, and so on.  I am very hard on myself in that way, all too often.  And though I would offer this word of advice (which is attributed to Maya Angelou, but was told to me long ago by my Spiritual Mentor) to others, “you did the best you could, and when you knew better, you did better”, I was not so forgiving of myself.  As I was lingering with these thoughts, I suddenly realized that each and every one of those past events about which I was feeling so despondent, were actually the stepping stones to bring me to the moment in which I now find myself!  I saw and understood that I should look at my past self as I would my own family and friends:  with a forgiving and loving nature.  By sending love to my past self, I could heal those “mistakes”, learn from them, and become even more of the person I strive to be.  I realized that I am happy with the person I have become, and even though I am a work in progress, I do act in a manner that is in keeping with my beliefs.

It has become a habit for me to remain alert to the signs that come my way.  I anticipate signs and signals from God, my angels, the Universe, or whatever name you prefer for that higher power, that intuition, that still small voice.  As a result, I receive them a lot!  

After a very cold and wet winter in NC where I live, a warm day arrived recently to remind me that Spring is close at hand.  I took my pup, Zoey, to our local park and walked the well-known path.  I had those thoughts on my mind about forgiving my past, about loving my past self, and about the progress I have made in my life.  As I rounded a curve in the path, there, written across were the words, “YOU ARE WONDERFUL”!!  Some beautiful, sweet soul had allowed his or her self to be used to provide encouragement for me and probably many others.  I took it as my sign, and hope in the reading of this, you will accept it as yours.  For just where you are right now in your journey with all your flaws, your past, and your magnificence, YOU ARE WONDERFUL!  Love yourself more fully, and you will find your ability to love others will expand.