Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sit. Stay. Heal.

You’re having lunch with a few acquaintances and the conversation is humming along nicely. Suddenly, someone makes a comment that seems harsh, perhaps personal. You tense up, close down emotionally.

Depending on your wiring, you might withdraw, slip into battle mode, or feel yourself drifting dangerously near a vortex of unworthiness. Whichever way you go, there’s a tendency to unconsciously weave a story line, one that may exist mostly within your own psyche. Or perhaps you simply repress your reaction all together.

In her book, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears*, Buddhist nun Pema Chodron shares the Tibetan word for this phenomenon~~shenpa, which is commonly translated as “attachment”.

Chodron, however, finds this term too abstract and instead prefers the word “hooked”. Shenpa is about the ways we get hooked, caught up in a series of reactions that can lead us far into the brambles, removing us from a true experience of the moment and complicating our interactions with others.

Expressions of shenpa are as varied as we are. “This is very personal,” Chodron writes. “What was said…triggers you. It might not bother someone else at all, but we’re talking about what touches your sore place.”

Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re hooked until we’re well into acting out our reactions in some way. But working with shenpa offers another option. If we can catch our initial response before our unconscious reactions have gathered steam, we have, in Chodron’s words, “the possibility of becoming curious about this urge to do the habitual thing, this urge to strengthen a repetitive pattern.”

We can, instead, simply notice our reaction. Feel it physically. Experience its all too familiar emotional and mental qualities. By not acting and, instead, fully experiencing our responses simply as they are, we allow space for something special to occur.

“Our natural intelligence begins to guide us,” Chodron writes. “We begin to foresee the whole chain reaction and where it will lead. There’s some wisdom that becomes accessible to us.” This wisdom, Chodron continues, is “based on compassion for oneself and others that has nothing to do with ego’s fears. It’s the part of us that knows we can connect and live from our basic goodness, our basic intelligence, openness and warmth.”

Refraining from acting out our shenpa does not mean, however, that we refrain from acting. By slowing down and quieting ourselves, we are able to tap into our inner knowing, that intuitive sense that every one of us was born with. Only then can we determine the best way to proceed. Only then can our feet find the path likely to be the most helpful and effective.

Chodron shares another Tibetan concept inherent in this process. Shenluk translates as “renunciation”, another word with layers of meaning. “Renunciation isn’t about renouncing food or sex or your lifestyle,” Chodron clarifies. “We’re talking about loosening our attachment.” In this context, we renounce that strong push to respond in habitual ways. We recognize that pausing is in everyone’s best interest, including our own.

Chodron tells of a gift she once received~~a bone~shaped piece of jewelry engraved with the words, “Sit. Stay. Heal.” We don’t heal by acting in the same unconscious and unhelpful ways we always have. Chodron encourages us to, “learn to stay with uneasiness…so that the habitual chain reaction doesn’t continue to rule our lives, and the patterns that we consider unhelpful don’t keep getting stronger.”

We are all in training, not just our pooches. By learning to sit and to stay, we open to that which is Sacred, no matter the name or conceptual framework.

We heal a bit more. And in so doing, we welcome that Light more fully into the world.

Shine on!

Loanne Marie

*No, I haven't read this book yet. A lovely excerpt was included in the Winter issue of Sacred Journey, the Journal of Fellowship in Prayer. A special "Thank you!" to dear Bonnie who, in true recycling fashion, always passes this mag on to me when she's finished with it.

I most often write what I need to learn, and it was a discussion with another dear friend (you know who you are!) that prompted me to learn more about shenpa. Thank you as well!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blessed Unrest

I’ve recently become aware of the phrase blessed unrest. What an evocative description of the feeling that stirs hearts and souls toward positive action! I don’t know how original the phrase is, but I recognize the concept as stretching back through time.

Blessed unrest has inspired opposition to war, economic injustice, environmental degradation, and legislated forms of discrimination. It was the impetus for the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa, the rejection of colonial and totalitarian rule throughout the world, and the social justice and environmental movements in our own country over the last century. Currently, blessed unrest is propelling change throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, including right here at home.

There is a commonly held perception that we humans are too small and insignificant to make a substantive difference. Author and environmental activist, Paul Hawken, views that impression as erroneous. In a video easily found on YouTube and linked below, he begins to scroll through the names of some two million organizations worldwide that are transforming blessed unrest into positive change.

To help us grasp how many two million is, he explains that if the scrolling continued, “all day and all night, and the day after that, until a week passed, and then for three more weeks, and then a month after that, we still would not have seen the names of all the groups in the world.” While these organizations vary in size and focus, each is fruit of the plant called blessed unrest.

I recently heard a reference to a teaching of the Buddha concerning a mother who had no arms. When that woman’s beloved toddler fell into a rushing river, she immediately moved forward into action, no matter her missing limbs. When we move forward, even against great odds, we remain true to that larger creative and loving Essence which imbues and surrounds us. Living in harmony with that force, we act~~and thus minimize the perils of apathy and despair.

“There is another superpower here on earth,” Hawkins continues, one that “flies under the radar of the media by and large. It is non~violent; it is grassroots. It has no cluster bombs, no armies, and no helicopters. It has no central ideology. A male vertebrate is not in charge.”

“This is fundamentally a civil rights movement, a human rights movement; this is a democracy movement. The very word “movement” is too small to describe it. It is the coming world.”

In my last posting, I referred to the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium. At the Symposia I attended last weekend, we were brought face to face with our blessed unrest. We were encouraged, too, to discover the issues we felt most passionate about~~and to act. Now.

We each come to this moment in history with unique dispositions, different skill sets, and varying interests. The Symposia reminded me that we don’t all have to do it the same way. There are so many areas in need of attention. If we act in the arenas that are most dear to our hearts and souls~~and support others in doing the same~~we become, as Paul Hawken describes, active members of a movement that is larger than that word can convey.

So, we take time to look around our lives to ascertain what contribution we feel moved to make. We see what inspires us, note what devastates us. And then we act. We may start slowly at first~~making one shift in our daily habits, doing one small thing in the outer world~~but our momentum will increase as inertia is surmounted. We move forward, just as the mother who didn’t let the mere fact of two missing limbs slow her down.

Whether the baby gets rescued or not, whether our world survives or not, is not ours to decide. We act because we are caring, connected beings. We act out of love. To do otherwise offers indifference and hopelessness a toehold. If we choose that route, we twist our natures and support the problem rather than its solution. No, we do what’s ours to do and let the outcome take care of itself.

There is one development in my small part of the world that cries out for my attention. I will be attending the meeting of the Pueblo County Commissioners as they consider a zoning change that would allow agricultural land in Avondale to be used for an energy~producing facility. Intended for inclusion in that multi~faceted enterprise is at least one nuclear reactor.

I recently re~read an article from the Feb 5th Pueblo Chieftain about this issue. One quote stood out. “If you zone it, they will come.” While this quote alone compels me to act, I initially misread it. Believe it or not, I first read, “If you zone out, they will come.” Indeed.

Nuclear reactors in Pueblo County? Not without my voicing my concerns. Blessed unrest has me refusing to zone out.

The meeting will be at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center Ballroom on Tuesday, March 15th at 5 p.m. (NOPE! THE DATE'S BEEN CHANGED TO WEDS, THE 16TH AT 5*). I’ll meet you there. I’ll greet in person those who live nearby, and I’ll feel the presence of the rest of you, who will join us in spirit.

Thank you each for who you are in this shared world of ours. I pray you never believe you are alone or that your contribution goes unnoticed.

Loanne Marie

Here are links to two videos I was introduced to during the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream events. The first is the Paul Hawkin video mentioned above. Truly inspiring and, I believe, worthy of a few minutes of your time. Here it is~~Blessed Unrest. The second is a fun video with a serious message. Only a minute long and I guarantee at least one chuckle, if not an actual guffaw. Here it is~~Listen to the Wombat.

And here’s a simple gift~~just cause I love you! A beautiful rendition of an even more beautiful poem by the always exuberant Hafiz. Here it is~~We have not come here to take prisoners.


* Re the meeting dates: They've decided to divide the meeting in two. The meeting on the 15th is for people FOR the zoning change; the meeting on 16th is for folks OPPOSED to the change. I find this rather odd, as though they're not expecting anyone to have their minds changed by listening to the other side. Likely true, but unfortunate. See you there~~in body or spirit!