Last Essay

Note: Davina left her corporeal being behind at 1:10 p.m. on July 24, 2021.

Dear Friends,

Well, that time has come. My body’s “use by” date has been reached, and I am no longer going to be present in physical form. Some call it death; I call it a new adventure.

I have had a wonderful time using this body – a great communication tool which provided me with many wonderful experiences. Teaching, acting, dancing, painting, writing…and, most of all, getting to know all of you. I have been most fortunate in my life to have met so many extraordinary people, full of ideas, humor, talents, and the ability to create friendship. Thank you to all of you, for being in my life in one way or another.

A wonderful woman asked me recently what I will miss most about living here, on this planet. My answer sounded negative at first. I said, “This planet is really an insane asylum, so I don’t know that I will miss much. And then I said, “I will miss joy. I will miss all the glorious things that make the heart swell, that fill me up so much with love, gratitude and appreciation. Music that brings tears of joy, overwhelms with its beauty. Birds flocking in chorus in the sky, moving as one wave, a resplendent demonstration of oneness in the many. Folk dancing in lines and circles, a smile on my face and my mind empty, the sweep of movement, the connection of being with all the other dancers. Teaching – seeing the light go on when a student “gets it,” whether it is a fundamental language concept, or a philosophic idea beyond words. And finally – but never last – humor, laughter, silliness. Oh, how I love to laugh, and to make people laugh. Life is funny, filled with the most hilarious, outrageous, goofy things. Humor – real humor – has no sharp edges. Only curves that make your mouth open in glee, and your body giggle.

The greatest gifts this life has brought me are teaching, and spiritual pursuits. I can say little about the latter, because each person has his or her own way of finding what will have inner meaning, and in some cases, in a particular lifetime, that is not even an interest at all. We get caught up in everyday living, and don’t have – or take – the time to explore what is inside rather than what is outside. For me that inner pursuit has been the most important, and I tried, whenever possible, to impart some sense of the inner life to my students, whether through literature or discussion. There were times – rare – when the air grew still as students suddenly grasped an idea that, if they allowed it, would last and affect their whole lifetime.

About teaching, I will say that it has been the most significant activity of my life. I loved being able to be with young people, to watch them grow and expand, and express themselves in writing, and in acting. It has been a joy to receive word of my students through Facebook, or from other students. I think if I gave myself one gift in this lifetime, other than my spiritual pursuits, teaching was it, the center of my life, the thing that brought me joy and a sense of value. I learned more than I taught. To all my former students, I say, thank you for the opportunity to have met each of you. What a blessing it has been.

And to all of you, dear readers, thank you for reading, for feedback, and for encouragement as I sifted through ideas that came to me, and spilled them on to pages.

Love to you,
Davina

P.S. As always, if you feel inspired, please do pass this on.

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FEAR

When I was a little girl, sometimes I would wake at night and be absolutely certain that someone or something was in my room, in the dark, right behind me. I would get very still, hold my breath, and try not to move. I would often stay like that for a long time, until I finally fell back to sleep. It was always exhausting.

One night I did the unthinkable – I quickly turned to face whatever was there. And there was – nothing. The same thing happened a few more times. Each time when I would muster up the courage to turn, I faced nothing. Well, no, that’s not quite true. What I faced was my fear.

At the time I could not have articulated the truth of what I was learning, which was this: we create our own fears, and then we sit in them and allow them to dictate to us about what we will do, can do, must or must not do. We become slaves to the energy of fear. UNTIL – we turn to face them.

I read somewhere recently (I think in “Divine Politics”) that all fear is in the future. It’s based on what we expect or anticipate will happen. But sometimes the fear of the future is based upon fear of the past – of what happened before. What if it happens again? I realized that the idea of fear being in the future is SO true – it shifted so much! Even if rooted in the past, it’s sits in the future – where we haven’t come to yet!

So, here is a true statement: When you are truly present, there is neither past nor future. Therefore, there can be no fear. We fear what might happen, and we fear things because of what has happened. And it doesn’t even have to have happened to you – just hearing about something can set your mind on high alert. Oh! What if! So – being present is the place to be; it’s where you have true power.

In this world of ours there are many fear mongers, among them are the government, big pharma, big medicine, the media, social and otherwise. They use fear to control, to keep you in place, to keep you guessing, to keep you still. And what’s behind this? A LOT of money! “This will prevent you from getting sick.” “This will cure you.” “Don’t touch that remote – there’s more to come. Hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorists! Stay tuned!” And then the ads play. As I just wrote – a lot of money.

And let us not forget “They.” “They” – who “say” stuff, as in, “Well, they say…” “They” who will think badly of us, and print it on social media; “they” who decide what we should wear, look like, think, do, eat, drink, drive, read. It begins when we’re young. Do we have the right clothes? Toys? Breakfast cereal? Do we watch the right shows? Have the right computer? Phone? Do we comply with the latest rules?

All of these factions in our society are social bullies. They seem to have so much power, but they are empty inside. They do not have their own powers – they get it from their victims. They get it from us. The victim feeds the power of “they” by showing fear. The bully shouts, threatens, is bigger and meaner, and thus he can hurt you. But stand up to him, and suddenly he has no power, even if he physically knocks you down.

Our world is often dominated by the “One thought fits all” mentality. In this context, it is important always to take notice when only one opinion dominates in our media, injecting one brand of thought and labeling people as “other” if they disagree. Fear then takes over, and with it anger, separation and labeling. Opposing opinions are silenced. This has happened too often in history, and we ignore such instances at our own peril. Later down the road we are faced with the curse of having to live through the history we ignored.

One opinion raised above others, while closing the door on different or opposing ideas, can prove dangerous to any society. For example, what was done to Jews and dissidents in Europe in the late 1930’s and 1940’s, and to Blacks in this country over centuries, were all based on one narrow band of thought. Many scientists and social leaders who had different, but sound views were silenced and even persecuted. But they were eventually proved right, much to our dismay. This should be a lesson for us all. A different view is not always an attempt to conspire; sometimes it is a wise warning to look again, think again, reconsider. And always ask, regarding the “one, dominating thought” – who benefits?

Fear dominates our culture in so many ways. The Higher Voice of spirit and truth is always the voice of reason and wisdom. And that voice does not ever seek benefit – it seeks truth.

The necessary response to fear is courage. Courage is not about not being afraid – it’s about being afraid and still being willing to do whatever is necessary, whether it’s speaking out against something you believe is wrong, or standing up against bullies, be they in the school yard, the political arena, the media, or leaving an abusive spouse. Courage means acting with your convictions, despite the rising voices that would quell you. Courage is seen in those who do not only listen to the one dominant voice, but who are willing to take the time to seek broader ideas and truths, who will often later be proven to have greater insight than those who follow the dominating, strident voice of “Do this and don’t disagree!”

Many years ago I received a diagnosis that could fill one’s mind with dread. I went home, looked up a bunch of stuff, got myself very quiet, and made a decision. I decided I would not let something or someone decide my internal diagnosis. Someone could tell me what my body was doing, but I would decide what I was going to do. I am not a body; I use a body to communicate. So I was not going to let someone dictate that my body was the decision-maker.

It is more than six years since my diagnosis. I am still here, much to some people’s surprise. Will my body last forever? Let’s hope not! Of course my body will leave. But not now. And when it does, I will still remain.

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Truth, the Truth, and Memory

Truth. A word that gets a lot of use, but, I think, is sorely misunderstood. I love lines from movies like, “You can’t handle the truth!” and “The truth doesn’t have versions.” Oh, if only the second one were true! But the fact is, for every viewpoint, there seems to be a “truth.” Note, I said, seems to be.

Let’s take Truth as an abstract. The great truths of the world are mysteries, because we know almost nothing about them. I think Truth has to do with what transpires behind what we see. The word Truth relates to words like Life, or Light, or Love.

What is Life? We know the word, but what it really is, is beyond our understanding. The truth of Life – that Truth is something contemplated, but not truly known. Scientists can observe what they see. For example, a group of cells in a body forming in a womb suddenly begins to move rhythmically to pump blood through that body. But what makes that happen? What tells the cells to do that? It’s actual cause is beyond us. We see it happen, but we do not know what lies behind what we witness. If, for a moment, we could see the Truth of what lies behind this happening, we might be opened to an enlightened moment. Knowing Truth would be enlightening.

And Light? We really don’t know what light actually is. We see it. Science describes its motion, its properties. But what light is, we really don’t know. The truth of it is a mystery.

Then there is another category of truth. When we say, “That’s not the truth,” what we are talking about has to do with facts, with what we think or believe occurred at a specific time and place. We often accept what the truth is without investigating to find out whether what we are told has actually happened. Anyone who has witnessed an accident can tell you that the different accounts of the occurrence are varied, and often completely disagree with another witness’s observation. So what’s the truth?

When we watch the news we are often presented with a selection of options, rather than the complete story of what happened. And we can never see that, because beneath all the activity are thoughts, motives and perceptions about which we have little understanding. If we were to see the entire story as it occurred, and then listen to the accounting of it, it could prove shockingly different from what we perceive.

This same thing happens when we judge a person we’ve met without actually knowing much at all beyond our own perception. Sometimes this is accompanied by the reputation the person has gained. Our perception can be colored with our own personal experiences, which can produce attraction and acceptance, or bias, suspicion and doubt. And a reputation is sometimes built on the same kind of flawed perceptions. We see what we want to see, or what we have been prepared to see, based on what we have been told.

So when we find out later that the same charming, intelligent and wealthy person we know has been embezzling money for years, we are shocked. And yet, we don’t even know if the person was ignorant of what happened, was set up, or actually did what accusation says. We don’t know his motives, which might mitigate our viewpoint of what occurred. In truth, we know very little. Yet we will judge by what we know, instead of just observing what we heard, and nothing more.

The fact is, the truth of facts can be as elusive as Truth. It is there to be found, but it is not always available at our fingertips. And when we hear about an event we are only going to get the viewpoint of the person relating the incident. Someone says something to me, and it makes me angry. I relate it to a friend, wanting agreement that what the person did was wrong. Then later I find out that I misunderstood something, and am no longer angry. Do I tell my friend, or do I forget, in which case she is still seeing the person through a slightly cloudy lens. And on it goes.

And now let’s take memory. Memory is almost always a lie, not because we wish to lie, but again, because what we remember from a time long gone, and what actually happened, are often two different things. We thought someone said something, but, no, they said something else and we misheard.

Many years ago I was with a friend at a party. We were upstairs by ourselves in a small room that was near a bathroom. We were both in a very giddy state, actually practically falling on the floor, hysterical over any little comment, being beyond goofy. And no, we had not been drinking. We finally realized that we might be drugged, and so we went downstairs to find the hostess, who frankly admitted that there was “grass” (marijuana) in the salad dressing, the pasta sauce, and the brownies.

Now, neither my friend nor I ever used drugs. That form of indulgence wasn’t part of our lives. So we were shocked at this whole thing, and upset that we hadn’t been warned.

Years later, when we were reminiscing about the insanely giddy time we had been having that night, I said, “Oh, yes, we were in that small room next to the bathroom.”

“No, no – we were upstairs outside in a sort of screened in porch,” my friend said.

I was about to protest, when I realized, in our separate memories, we were in different places. And there was no reason to argue, because we had different experiences of that night. So we just moved on. What difference did it make?

I am known for wanting to be right – but that night I really saw so clearly that we don’t know about what we remember, nor do we need to be right about it. We can let go of our own memory images, and just move on.

Even in simple circumstances – I can say something, someone misconstrues, and before you know it there is a rift between friends. It happens. You know it does. And the best way to heal that sort of thing is to discuss, but if one or the other person is closed, certain that the truth is as he/she heard it, then a breach in the friendship – even if they continue to speak – can go on for years, with slightly less trust between them. What the motives were, what the intentions were, get lost in judgment and personal injury.

So what this all boils down to is that knowing the facts is not to be dismissed, but getting into arguments over something that was said or done, often years ago, or even the day before, is a waste of time. Is it worth it to argue over what someone says someone said about something? Even writing that is funny!

We can argue and debate issues, but we must always remember that there are layers and layers of facts and opinions that may not add up to the truth. If we are willing to settle to having a good discussion, without having to declare, at the end of it, that one person really knows the truth, then fine. Go for it!

But remember that in the end, Love still is the biggest Truth, and no one can adequately explain even that tiny four letter word. So don’t let a bunch of words destroy the love you have for a friend. NOT worth it! And don’t let a bunch of words destroy your peace. NOT worth it!

Enjoy your day.

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CHILDHOOD FROM ANOTHER TIME

My childhood was a different thing from what I see today. There were school, and friends, and family – that has not changed.

But there were so many moments that do not seem possible any more – moments of freedom, a sense of safety, a sense of wonder, and a feeling of being able to inhale the atmosphere around us. We lived with a sense of comfort and ease, even though our parents had their troubles. The Bronx, a place so wonderful in my childhood, changed terribly after years of decay. (I once said it became the anteroom to Hell)

Children seemed to be everywhere. We rode our bikes, skated on the streets, jumped double-Dutch, went to the school yard to play any number of games, some invented, some with actual rules. We played with bottle caps on the concrete squares in the school yard, played stickball in the streets with a broom stick and a pink Spalding ball (pronounced Spaldeen by anyone who knew anything). We were active, alive, blood pumping. We had fun, even as homework loomed, and spinach had to be eaten.

In summer, in the park, we played outside until dark, unaware of anything but the warm embrace of sunlight in the day, and the cloak of evening coming.

Each part of the day was a signal for a subtle shift. Noon meant riding or running home for lunch. I remember days when a holler to our second story apartment window would result in a sandwich and cookie being thrown down to me in a brown paper bag. Lunch al fresco with a couple of friends.

The smell of twilight told us to head home; the sparkle of fireflies told us there was magic in the air. The scent of trees, of sun seeping into leaves even as the night grew cooler – all of these were part of what one moment could bring.

In winter, on cold, snow-laden streets, we built snow forts, pelted snowballs across the street at the friends hiding behind their own icy barrier. We planned elaborate routes to come up behind them, bombard them with weapons made from packed slushy snow, only to be thwarted by lookouts, ready with their own salvos.

There were the usual problems. A brother or sister who bugged us; a person at school who teased, or worse. But just being outside with the neighborhood kids brought us an exemption from so many slight pressures. Breathing was easier. Laughing happened. And shouting.

And now the streets are silent. They have been for a long time, not just since this latest pandemic showed up. Electronics replaced activity, replaced life. It is saddening, and maddening, and I know that the children of today do not miss what I remember, because they never had it.

But maybe one of the gifts of all this pandemic separation and isolation is that when it is over, the children will come out again. Maybe they’ll play outside for the joy of it, for knowing they weren’t allowed to before, but now they can. And maybe the spiral of Life will turn on itself, and jars will be used to catch fireflies again.

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WINNING

This essay was inspired by a bumper sticker which read:
What if they gave a war, and nobody came?
And by a poster which read:
War is not healthy for children and other living things.

Both of these were from – where else? The sixties…

Several months ago I was having a conversation with a Vietnamese gentleman who is very kind, and very happy to be living in the United States. He came here from Vietnam as one of the “boat people.”

At one point in the conversation he surprised me by saying, “Well, the United States won the war in Vietnam.” I was pretty shocked at this, given that the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam without anything that could be called a victory. The Vietnamese people would not be defeated.

I told him that we didn’t win the war, and asked him how he had come to that conclusion. He said, “The United States killed more Vietnamese than the Vietnamese killed Americans.”

I stared at him, stunned. This is a very kind, gentle man, a healer. His analysis chilled me a bit. And of course, he was correct. A little over 58,000 American soldiers were killed in the war, as opposed to about 2,000,000 Vietnamese. But he was not correct about the victory.

I stared at him. Then I quietly said, “That is a terrible way to ‘keep score.’ No one wins a war. No one.” I continued to stare into his eyes.

He stared back at me for a long time. Then he sighed, nodded his head, and said, “Okay.”

Then I mentioned how the United States helped to build post-war Europe after WWII.
The U.S. had a major interest in helping Western Europe to recover and stand on its own. Secretary of State George C. Marshall said that our policy was not directed against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. He stated that the purpose of the aid should be the revival of a working economy in order to permit political and social conditions conducive to free institutions to emerge.

And while America’s post-war commitment to Western Europe demonstrated the better aspect of our nation’s character, it also advanced our own economic pursuits. We definitely had our own interests in mind.

Not only post-war Europe, but also Japan, benefitted from post-WWII aid and investments. This is because the United States also understood the strategic importance of using foreign assistance to aid and rebuild post-war Japan. Washington invested billions of dollars in Japan’s reconstruction effort. The amounts spent are about one-third of the $65 billion in goods that the United States exported to Japan in 2013. Now the world’s third largest economy, Japan is a mature democracy, and one of the United States’ most important allies in the Asia-Pacific region. *

So after the war, Americans went in and helped to rebuild what they had destroyed. And the result was a win for everyone.

So here’s a suggestion. Why don’t we decide NOT to invade any countries, and instead total up all the money we could spend on war, and on defense. Then figure out where to spend that money to upgrade a country. No war – no “against” anything. Just money well spent to create thriving economies all around the world. A win-win proposition. After all, why should someone have to lose for someone else to win? What a stupid way to run a planet!

As to aid – we could start with the U.S. and set up educational institutions to explain the principles of civility, sanity, decent behavior and honesty in media and government. (Just kidding??)

And here’s another suggestion: forget wars. Start where you are. If you are involved in any kind of disagreement, any conflict that is not going away, or there is someone whose behavior just drives you up a wall – why don’t you just put aside your feelings, and let go of your grievances, whatever they might be. In fact, you don’t even have to talk to the other person; just let it go from your end. Forgive them. Release the hostility – it doesn’t hurt anyone more than it hurts you. It’s a burden you can do without.

You can also try to get into communication to find out what’s going on with the person you have a problem with. You might be surprised that you are able to come to some deeper understanding between you, and that you can, if not really like the person, at least be comfortable with him or her. The worst that can happen is that nothing changes.

But really – is it better to be right than to be happy? Are you so unwilling to try to see any conflict in your life as a chance for redemption, for forgiveness, for peace? Would you really rather sit – righteous and angry – than reach out and build a bridge instead of a wall?

There is no reason why any conflict cannot end well, with resolution and peace.

And to all of you, I wish peace and joy. And forgiveness for anything you won’t forgive yourself for. You deserve it.

*Information from U.S. News and World Report – June 6, 2014

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PROBLEMS AND GIFTS – PART II

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for your in its hands.
You seek problems because you need their gifts.” Illusions – Richard Bach

I sent the essay “Problems and Gifts” out in May, with my plan to send out Part Two the following month. Editing a book (not mine) and other factors intervened.

I wanted to look at the many problems facing our planet, and see what the gift – the silver lining – was.

I wrote down some of the issues that had gotten my attention. War – forty conflicts on Earth as I write this; corruption in politics; greed in almost every corner of the business sector; medicine for profit, with pharmaceuticals leading the pack; energy; education; scientists being muzzled in the press; anyone trying to tell the truth being muzzled or discredited; young people feeling a lack of purpose; racism, voter suppression, nationalism, religion in politics, politics in religion, extremism, hatred of the “other,” greed, malice, social media lies and distortions; economic inequities, and despair.

As I wrote in the last essay: “Gifts? Are you kidding me?”

But then a light dawned. (Chorus raises voices, stage left…) I had a realization, and it really was the answer to my first question: What IS the problem on planet Earth? And the voice inside me began to spill out the answer: All the problems are NOT the problem. Every one of them is a symptom of ONE PROBLEM. In fact, I had already sort of written the idea for this in January. I guess it just wouldn’t go away; this problem has been out there for a loooong time. Forever.

One problem makes the solution simple, yet at the same time, just about impossible to implement. Simple but not easy. Then again, the problem has created so many symptoms, of course the solution will not be easy. But it is simple.

Here is a hint: How could we, a species with minds that supposedly have a huge capacity for understanding and communication, have come to the point where communication has become more and more solid, escalating from yelling and accusations, to bullets and bombs? Eventually misinformation via cyber crime of global magnitude has turned truth up on its end. We have come to the point where “understanding” comes down to grasping only one viewpoint, and each one holds tightly to that viewpoint, lest it be threatened by – truth!

We have misused our minds, and abused our creative imaginations by failing to look clearly at the issues. Limited viewpoints close off any opportunity to see a wider picture, or consider another view. Thus – SEPARATION. Which is the problem.

SEPARATION. We, one entire species, have split off into tiny pods of special interest, special wants, special beliefs, and special situations, and we have become so disparate that we cannot have a meeting of the minds. Pitiful, but true.

None of us belongs to the human race any more. We belong to special groups all around the globe. We have lost our capacity to communicate honestly, with integrity, because we are so distrustful, certain that if the other guy wins, we lose. And that is a major part of the problem. Our whole system is set up so that one has to lose so another can win. We are separate, not equal, and not willing to give an inch, not even if it were to save the world. Everyone wants to be right, and no one is happy. That’s because everyone would rather be right than happy.

And this is not just about countries and politics. It is about families, neighbors, distrust and dislike among all sectors of society. So what is the solution then?

The answer has been staring at us all along, and we have been led systematically down the path of mistrust and separation by those who can profit from our confusion. (Please note the word profit, a chief instigator in this nefarious scenario. And I am not just talking about monetary profit, but power profit as well.)

The solution to the problems on this planet are not outside us, though it seems as if they are. If only we could fix the corruption in politics, or change the way the economy is run, or fix the problems regarding ecology and the sane and sensible use of our planet’s resources – then things would get better.

But no – none of those will get solved , because they are just symptoms of separation. Until we use the solutions that are inside us, and bring out our best selves to deal with our ONE PROBLEM – SEPARATION, nothing will be repaired, and we as a planetary species will continue until we destroy ourselves.

So the answer to the dilemma of separation happens to be the same one from “Problems and Gifts – Part I) The answer is inside us. It is the strength and integrity and sense of purpose we all carry within us, but which has been supplanted by all the divisive influences around us.

The answer looks like three answers, but they really go hand in hand:

Communication Understanding Love

True, honest communication leads to understanding, which leads to love and acceptance. When we learn that there is no other, that we are all in this together, we can finally drop all the defenses we’ve built up, and get to work reuniting our human race, finding positive cures for our ills.

“Oh please,” you say. “Understanding and love? Airy fairy bull!” (Uh – you might want to read the sentence above where I wrote about total destruction of the human race. If you think I’m airy fairy, you’ve got the wrong person.)

People don’t even understand what love is, and they don’t really get what “understanding” is, either. People will avoid these two ideas, dismissing them in order to avoid confronting the truth, so they can keep their ideas intact.

There’s actually a deep, esoteric meaning to the word understanding. When we understand, we “grasp the meaning,” we “comprehend,” we “get it.” And, when it comes to people, true understanding leads to love.

We’ve all had those moments, maybe sitting in a classroom, or reading something, and the light dawns. “Oh! I get it! I get it! And once you have that understanding no one can ever take it away from you. Things are clear, a light dawns. You see, and not just with your eyes, but with your mind. The light shines, and darkness disappears. You understand. This could just as easily refer to a complex mathematical problem as it could to someone’s behavior. Or to one segment of the whole human race. One moment there’s a mystery; the next, it’s all clear. And once you see it, its yours forever. Someone is a mystery who drives you crazy; the next moment, you understand what they’re about, and you get it. You get them!

What is missing in our world is understanding of one another, which has led to separation. It has led to a complete breakdown in our love and caring for one another. The “most advanced species on the planet” kills its own each day, destroys the land and the oceans and even our own air. We argue with one another because we do not understand each other – or, for that matter, ourselves – and because we do not understand each other we do not know how to communicate with each other, embrace each other and help each other. And we fail to recognize that even as we are different, we are all the same. Our differences do not count; our similarities, our sameness, should bind us in understanding.

But because most people would rather be right than happy, they will sacrifice Earth and everyone on it, simply because they do not understand. In fact, they do not even understand themselves, or why they are so filled with anger and hate. (Note the above comment about profit – those in power profit from this dilemma. If we look at the problem squarely, we will be able to regain our own power and “become who we can be, not who we are”.*)

Just like the people in “Problems and Gifts, Part I”, the solution to the problems that beset our human race and Planet Earth is inside us. For starters, we need to drop the weapons from our hands and we need to start learning how to put our hands out to help and to heal..

How many times have you had an argument with someone and then found out later it was based on a total misunderstanding. Here’s a clue: almost all arguments are based on misunderstandings. This means between individuals, countries, organizations. And the other thing that causes arguments is the deep-rooted refusal to take the time to look at another’s point of view. “My way or the highway,” is the byword for all those who think their religion, political viewpoint, special opinion or preference is the only one that counts. We absolutely refuse to see that maybe someone’s idea of what is of benefit has value.

But – when you are able to understand someone, and see that there can be different views, but you are still connected by your humanity, then you are capable of not just understanding. You become capable of love. Why? Because love is NOT an airy-fairy notion. Love is a deep-rooted sense of connection with another. It can be created by simply finding out how someone else sees the world, and coming to see the world through their eyes.

This essay has gone on too long, but I think the picture is clear. And, by the way, you don’t have to think of this as just a way to solve the world’s problems. Start out with your own life, your own family. That neighbor you just cannot stand? Your cousin who has driven you crazy with her obsession with her looks? What is behind their behavior? What do you see that so troubles you that you cannot find a way to communicate?

Find some common ground. Find a way to connect with someone in your own life, and see how well you do. It starts there.

I may have to write more on this…it’s a big topic. To me, it might be the only topic.

*John Denver

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STILLNESS AMID CHAOS

Note: This was written in early March of 2020, but was never posted.
So sorry. Next posting coming in a few days.

This morning I sat down to meditate, but my mind was so overactive that I could not get still. Higher mind kept trying to pry open the wall of mental armor to get between the chinks somewhere, and it was a struggle.

Then everything went still. I sat, at first, with no thought at all. Then I realized how essential it is to be quiet, when the world is full of madness, turmoil, anger, fear and terror. So much emotional noise – a patchwork quilt of chaos, smothering so many areas of the planet with mixed emotions of rage, frustration, uncertainty and shattered hopes.

Here I sit in my tranquil home, while many miles away the world is being torn to shreds – not just physically, but psychologically – by mad uncertainties and crazy bureaucracies.

People ask, “how can we fight this?” and I believe that is the wrong question. The more we think of fighting, the more we create combative situations. Being silent – creating a pool of stillness within the mind – is a gift to the world. Creating a place where anger, noise, fear and chaos do not exist is a way to alleviate the pain and constant turmoil that envelopes us, if not physically, certainly psychically.

And so, I am inviting all people – whether you meditate or not – to take time each day, even if it ‘s only five minutes, to be completely silent. Consider it a service to the world. Just find a space to sit, close your eyes, and be still. Listen to each breath. Listen to the air move. Expect nothing and give all your attention over to these moments of quiet, where nothing is said, nothing is done.

Think of the Sun, which shines every day, and never asks, “What have you done for me lately?” Just return the favor for a few minutes a day – be still, a place where chaos cannot enter. We are all connected – we can give the message of stillness and peace simply by being.

An addendum:

I was thinking after writing this of a visual example of what stillness against terror would look like. Some of you might not be old enough to remember the June, 1989 student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital of Bejing. Demonstrations went on for days, and exposed the split within the Chinese political leadership.

A crackdown on the demonstrators began on June 3rd. Martial law was declared; troops with assault rifles and tanks attacked unarmed civilians. The protest was memorialized by one lone man, who stood silently in front of a column of tanks. When the tanks attempted to move around him, he continued to move until he was once again standing in front of them. Time Magazine later named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Silent, still, unmoving, standing in front of a line of tanks. No stone throwing; no attempts to harm anyone. Simply silence and stillness. I will never forget seeing this man, because he was a lesson to the world.

Silence does not mean doing nothing. It means merging with the essence of being, and simply allowing life to be, without affecting you, until you choose to allow it to.

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PROBLEMS AND GIFTS

I’ll start this essay with a quotation from “Illusions” by Richard Bach. It reads: “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.”

I know, I know – I can just hear it now. “You want my problems? You can have them all!” We see our problems, and they are awful. Money. Sick children. Older parents. Illness. Hateful job. Abusive relatives. Believe me, I am neither ignorant nor impervious to the kinds of problems that exist in daily life for almost everyone at one time or another.

But to me, the second part of the quote is the important part, for I have come to realize that at a certain point, if I stop drowning in the problem, let go of the sorrow, the fury, the confusion, the petty, roiling thoughts that enter in one door, leave for a minute, only to show up a minute later with two friends, then there is a chance I will see something besides the problem.

It takes a while to find the gift. First the problem swallows you up; you are filled with sorrow, guilt, remorse, fear, fury. The mind babbles; you feel as if you could scream at someone for days. Maybe scream at God.

Death, sudden accident, illness – loss, overwhelming sorrow and confusion. We are brought to our knees by these things, and sometimes we cannot imagine getting up again. We don’t even want to, unless things can go back to the way they were.

Where’s the gift there? How does one let go of the suffering, and say, “Oh, I’ll just look for a gift here?” Sorry, Pollyanna, but that’s just not happening right now. Mostly because you really have to at least begin to let go of the problem, the sense of nothingness, in order to be free enough to find the gift. But eventually, if we are brave and hardy enough to work through the problem, the gift begins to filter its way into our lives.

And once you start to see the gift, the problem has already begun to shift, to mean a little less. Then the clouds part, and you see a little clearing, and something finds you – or you find something – and life seems a teensy bit brighter.

I can think of two examples, which will demonstrate in a very clear way what Bach’s quotation means.

The first is a young woman who was a public figure at one time, and lost pretty much her entire planned future.

Jill Kinmont (Boothe) was an American downhill skier. She was the reigning national champion in slalom in 1955, and was expected to win a medal in the 1956 Olympics. She had a bright future, until, while competing in the Snow Cup in Utah, she suffered a near-fatal accident, and was left paralyzed from the shoulders down. That same week she’d been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Now how does someone pick up the pieces from something like that? The body she had was left without almost any power; the life and future she’d planned was gone. And, to top it off, her fiancé, internationally known “daredevil” skier Dick Buek, was killed in an airplane crash in 1957, on his way to see her for her birthday.

So – a bright future, a stellar career in skiing, and suddenly the body is “useless” and your future husband is dead. Gifts? What gifts? Are you kidding me? Forget gifts – how does one ever dig oneself out from that?

Jill went into rehabilitation, and then on to graduate from UCLA with a B.A. in German. She earned a teaching credential from the University of Washington in Seattle, and had a long career as an educator, first in Washington and then in Beverly Hills, California. In the latter part of her career she taught special education at Bishop Union Elementary School from 1975 to 1996 in her hometown of Bishop. She married John Boothe in 1976.

Jill also became an accomplished painter who had many exhibitions of her artwork. She wrote an autobiography, which became the subject of two movies – The Other Side of the Mountain and The Other Side of the Mountain II.

So yes, there were gifts – inner resources and strengths she discovered and developed, which helped her to become a beloved teacher and an accomplished artist. It did not come easily, and she did not do it alone. Friends she met along the way – some of them in similar physical situations to hers – encouraged her and were by her side. But most of all were the gifts that came from within, in the form of gifts to others. Teaching. Giving of herself to others, and being the example that says, “You are not just your body. You have gifts you can share.” And then, of course, there were the paintings, which didn’t come until later.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I have more than one dear friend who has lost a child to suicide. It would be difficult to imagine anyone actually recovering from such a loss, which is always compounded by a sense of guilt, remorse, constant questioning as to what could have, should have been done, but wasn’t.

One of these friends was tangled in years of depression, sorrow, and a self-isolated state so profound that I never actually met her during that time, though I knew of her for years through mutual friends. When I finally did meet her, she had been working on a magnificent project called “Grief Cards” – glorious pieces of art which spoke to the person using them of redemption, and of future, and of more than just loss.

These cards are a gift to others, those who had lost a child, those who felt that there was no longer a world worth living in. Into these cards my friend poured so much love and empathy and understanding that she created a pool of light around her, and it has shone upon her, and brought her out of darkness. I know at some point those cards will be published more broadly, and they will have such positive response, because others will be healed from her gift.

Like Jill Kinmont Boothe, this friend learned that the gift she needed was already there – it just had to be dug out from behind all the tragedy and loss she endured for years. She is now happy again, with a new life, a forward looking attitude, and an opportunity to share her gifts with others.

So Jill Kinmont Boothe, a life pretty much over if she had allowed herself to wallow in her sense of loss, became a beacon for many, and a friend to many, despite hitting a large bump in the road which sent her over the mountain she was skiing on, to the other side. She was brought down to her lowest place, found and used her inner gifts, and she gave them to others.

My friend who lost her child did the same – she came to the deepest dark place, and from there brought herself back by following her own light. And that light will shine on others. The gift is first given to others, but it redeems the giver.

And that, I believe, is the truth of the quotation.

May you all be blessed, in difficult times, with the gift of your inner light, which will bring you back from dark places.

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What Is Karma, Anyway?

Karma is a Sanskrit word from ancient texts, the first of these being the Hindu text known as the Rigveda. Essentially, it means ‘action’. But it actually has a more profound meaning, having to do with the cycle of cause and effects, action and the outcome of that action.

The Law of Karma is concerned with the idea that what is currently happening in a person’s life is likely the result of actions in the past. So – an effect happens, but before the effect there was a cause. The cycle of this cause and effect, as it relates to life, is called karma. When we attach the idea of consequences as the outcome of an action, then karma implies a more moral attribute.

    Just a short aside here. If we consider the body we walk around in as our 
    complete self, the whole of our existence, then the idea of there being 
    consequences from a previous life seem ridiculous. But if we come to the 
    realization that the body is simply a vehicle for an existence that goes 
    beyond the physical (some call this the soul) then we are also open to the 
    idea that our true Self uses the body to experience material life for a  
    particular amount of time, and then leaves it. 

    There are some who believe that the soul decides its departure date before 
    it even takes on its next body. There is no way to debate the latter idea, 
    but there does seem to be ample evidence that people have lived before in 
    another existence, and then returned as a different person altogether. This 
    gives us the idea of re-incarnation, a soul taking on a new body in a new 
    existence. 

I believe that Karma is related to the idea that the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence will decide their fate in the future. Believing in reincarnation means that karma has a greater influence in one’s thinking than if you think it’s a lot of nonsense. But even so, there is karma in everyday life, which may have nothing to do with reincarnation or past existence.

Often when something happens to us, if we don’t look at how we might have caused the situation, we can end up thinking of ourselves as victims. Note – I said, “thinking of ourselves.” The good news is that it doesn’t mean you are a victim, it just means you think of yourself as that. “Poor me! Why me! Life isn’t fair!” Not so – and this is the good news. As it happens, you are always responsible, which means you are always in control. And if things are in your control, you can prevent them, or avoid them, or remedy them.

Actually if you think about it, karma is related to Newton’s third law of motion. It states: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The pair of action-reaction forces make it possible for fish to swim, birds to fly, and rowboats to move in the water. In life, we can see a quick and quite simple example: Joe hits John. John gets really angry, and hits Joe back. Action – reaction. Cause – effect.

Since all of life is energy, and all of life is balanced, this simple example gives you an idea of the cyclical balance of the energy in the universe, and on our planet, and in our lives. So while Newton’s Third Law of Motion is a law of physics, Karma might be considered a law of metaphysics. But what does this have to do with how you live your life?

Jesus said, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” You plant a seed, it grows. What you plant will manifest in your life. If you sow seeds of kindness, generosity and compassion, you will receive the same. If you sow anger, greed and discontent, you will receive that in your life. It’s actually a very simple matter of balance.

So in every moment of our lives we get an opportunity to shift the balance. As I just wrote in that last sentence, you get an opportunity to shift the reaction if you recognize what your action could cause, and do something about it.

I remember a time when I was in high school, in a PE class. I was at bat, and the girl who was pitching made some comment. I, known for witty repartee, made one of my “cute” comments in return. It was not well received.

The class ended, and that was that. Until I was told later in the day that the girl – who was pretty tough, and hung out with a group of tough girls – had gathered a couple of friends and was planning to beat me up after school. Yikes! I am not and have never been a physical fighter. This was serious.

I realized at that point that I had really hurt this girl’s feelings, and I was truly sorry. And yes, scared. What to do? Run? Get a bunch of my friends together? Okay, last one is definitely off the table – a bunch of wimps, all of us.

I got excused from my class, went to the office to find out where the student was, and went to the classroom. I asked the teacher if I could talk to the girl. We went into the hall, and I told her that I had heard she was really angry. I apologized. I told her that sometimes my mouth runs off, but that I truly did not mean to hurt her feelings. She was actually very surprised, and told me it was all okay. I don’t think anyone had ever taken the time to apologize to her. She was soft and sweet about it, and after that, we became sort of buddies in our PE class.

Now, someone might say I just apologized because I was scared of getting beaten up. That is partly true. But that is only a small piece of the story. Really, what bothered me most was that something I said so angered another person that she was willing to get violent over it. This is not an effect I want to have. It is not the kind of person I want to be. But my apologizing does also show how karma (I hit you verbally, you hit me physically) can be mitigated, reversed, when you see the effects of your behavior and take action to counterbalance it.

Okay, so there’s a big question that often comes regarding karma, and it’s this: “Why is it some people are mean, cruel and dishonest, but they’re rich, seem to have everything, and seem to get away with their cruelty and dishonesty?” Ah, yes. Key word – seem. They do seem to get away with it. But there is justice in the universe, and it does not happen instantly. There are people born into miserable existences, and one wonders how did that person land there, and another didn’t?

And in this lifetime, with all the wealth, and maybe all the trappings, the social gathering and the glamor, what do they really get? Wealth you cannot take with you. Temporary physical stuff. Real love and loyalty? Admiration? Could someone love this person freely, without fear? This person has very little of true value, and Life will balance out actions eventually.

People who are unkind and enjoy cruelty are sick, and detached from humanity. They are only in control of themselves and others by force. This is not a life of integrity and trust, of the wealth of good character and firm connections to others. It is not a life to admire, emulate or desire. So what has the person who commits acts of dishonesty or violence gotten away with? Nothing. Life will catch up now or later. Karma does exist.

So I guess the lesson is to consider consequences, the effects that our actions might have. It means paying attention – to our words, our deeds, our thoughts. And beyond that, it means learning how to shift negative into positive.

I wish the Wall Street bankers who created the 2007 financial debacle had paid attention to the possible consequences of their actions, and used their vast intelligence in a different way. Instead of scheming for their own benefit, they could have “schemed” to upgrade the whole world’s economy. Now that would have really been paying attention, and creating balance! Just makes me smile to think of the possibilities!

So where does one start with creating balance and good karma? With yourself. Ditch the negative self talk, and start looking at the qualities you have that are admirable. Maybe the first one would be that you are willing to work to improve yourself. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, ask yourself if you would talk to a best friend that way. Every time you do shift from a negative thought to a positive one, you have shifted the world energy a micro-bit. But it does have an effect.

Work at being sincerely kinder andn more ethical. Consider smiling more – lots of people smile back, and that alone can make you feel good. Decide what attitudes and behaviors you’d like to shift, and work on one. Treat yourself well, and then you will be able to go on to treating others more kindly, more compassionately. You will be creating good karma for yourself, and it will carry through to who knows when…

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It Is Time to Change the World

It is time to change the world.

The scientists have many answers, but the politicians and business people won’t listen, and won’t let the information be heard.

The businessmen won’t do it, because their main interest is profit, and they do not see the connection between profit and making the world a place for everyone to thrive.

The politicians won’t do it, because their interests lie only in getting re-elected, and they are tied to leaders whose only interest is power. Their love of power will destroy the world, because they do not understand that the only real power is the power of love.

Now, before you jump to the idea that love is just an airy-fairy, sentimental feeling, think again. Love as we use it now is some romantic notion, and the word has been so misused and abused that it means nothing. “Oooh! I love that green jacket!” “I love chocolate.” “Love ya!”

Real love is connection. The connection between atoms, which form molecules. The connection between mother and child. The connection between all humans. The connection between moons and planets, planets and stars. Love is the connective tissue that binds all things together, and when we ignore it, we ignore the fundamental principle that rules the Universe. When we ignore it, we do so at our own peril. Love connects us; hate divides us. But we are still all connected, despite the emotional turmoil of our times.

Everything is connected. People starving in one section of the planet means we are all going to suffer. Cutting down forests to profit the few means we destroy the lungs of the planet, which provide all of us with oxygen. Polluting our oceans means we pollute our future.

It is time to change the world. We are not meant to be a polluted, disease-ridden, oxygen- deprived species floating around on a ruined, decaying planet.

Having money will do nothing for you, if there is no food to eat, no air to breathe, and no water to drink. Having power over a destroyed world will bring you no profit or joy. Love – recognition of the connection of all living things – is the answer. I’m not a big Bible reader, but to those who revel in their money, their profit, their status, their power, and to those who support them, the question should be put to them:

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

It is time to change the world, to create answers and solutions. But they will come at a cost, and we must be willing to pay any price to make these changes. When you truly see the connection between all beings, you cannot hate, you cannot turn away when help is needed. You will want to work to correct the course humanity is on, and thus correct the course of planet Earth.

We are all from the same source – race, religion, culture, economic status – these should not divide us. They are just false constructs. We are all humans, and we should all be stewards for Planet Earth and its inhabitants. The inhabitants are us! We need to be caretakers of all of us. It’s time to change the world.

It is time to change the world. And yes, we can do it. It is a matter of standing up for what is right for all beings, and standing up for the Earth, which is our home.

Who wrote this? A human. One person among many. There is no need for one name, because people will instantly ask, “What does (s)he know? What makes him/her an authority?” The answer is that this idea is not unique to one human. Thousands, probably millions, know this. But in the onslaught of corruption in politics, finance, and various industries, their voices are not heard, and if they are heard, they are ignored. Not only humans, but almost all animals know this truth about love and connection. Among themselves they know this as surely as they know the sun brings light. This knowledge is straight-knowledge, within their cells, connected to the source of things. Humans have the ability to touch such truths, but have ignored it, in favor of power, monetary wealth and pleasures. But this is the Truth. It makes no difference if you believe it. The Truth is true.

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