Thursday, September 22, 2005


In her book, Radical Acceptance, author Tara Brach quotes from a popular teaching story.

...a man being chased by a tiger leaps off a cliff in his attempt to get away. Fortunately, a tree growing on the side of the cliff breaks his fall. Dangling from it by one arm--the tiger pacing above, jutting rocks hundreds of feet below--he yells out in desperation, "Help! Somebody help me!!" A voice responds, "Yes?" The man screams, "God, God, is that you?" Again "Yes." Terrified the man says, "God, I'll do anything, just please, please, help me." God responds, "Okay then, just let go." The man pauses for a moment, then calls out, "Is anyone else there?"

Brach can of course address this issue in her book far better than I can in a brief blog. I use it to illustrate, rather colorfully I think, how we hold on to our fear. It shows the lengths we will go to to avoid, as therapists and meditators say, leaning into our fear and finding out what it has to show us.

Our world is in the grip of fear. Some of the fears are real and others are sensationalized by the media. We have been conditioned to act out of fear. Products are sold to us out of fear. You don't want to be shunned for having bad breath do you? Or heaven forbid, body odor? We buy these things out of fear. There are minimal, if any, health benefits.

We have bigger fears parroted at us in the media. The war on terror. The war on terror is happening inside each person. We are told to be terrified of something out there, but what really scares us is what is inside us. If we look closer at those shadows, lean into our fear, we might find that we can see the world a bit differently. It's not a good axis versus an evil axis at all. It's simply a large number of people, with different needs, cultures, and beliefs trying to survive in a limited amount of space.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Reaching Out

Right or Left? Conservative or Liberal? However labeled, one half of this nation disagrees strongly with the other half, and war is now writing our history. On September 29, a forum of eight community leaders will participate in a public dialogue to identify areas of agreement, disagreement, and misunderstanding.

I got an email inviting me to a forum sponsored in our local area. I think this is a wonderful idea. We both have ideas. There are certainly areas where we agree, but mostly we disagree about how to reach the objectives we all want. Perhaps if people within each of these groups really sat down and listened (*when* have I said that before?!) we might find out compromises that both sides can live with--not just because they are the best we can do, but because those compromises are ultimately better than anything any one group could think up alone.

Mediating could be a difficult task but I am excited that there are people out there in the community that are willing to try working with this. They have four liberals and four conservatives on the panel that are speaking. I hope things go well and we find some common ground that can start minimizing the divide in the United States.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It's possible to write entire books on mindfulness. I'm not that prolific on any of my blogs so it's not likely that I can do justice to the subject. It is an important subject, however, when trying to create peace inside yourself.

In today's world we are more often than not expect to do several things at once. Attending to only one thing at a time is considered the mark of someone who is very slow and perhaps not as accomplished. Yet it is this attending to one thing at each moment that is so very important to mindfulness and to experiencing the beauty of the world as it is.

When we are driving and we are talking on our cell phones we are not being mindful to either the person on the other end nor to the driving. When we are not mindful, we often loose bits of the moment. Perhaps we miss the important comment our conversation partner made and they feel a bit as if we are not attending to them as they would like (and they would be correct). Perhaps we don't attend carefully to the brake lights in front of us and we forget to stop--thus causing an accident. Both of these incidents are lapses in mindfulness.

Mindfulness takes practice. It is difficult to stay focused in the moment on one thing when we are so used to being in the future and with 5 different things. It's important to start small. Take a few moments each day to practice something mindfully. My best mindful task was weeding my garden. I hate to weed but I found that I did a better job if I attended mindful to each weed. I have read that mindfulness has a place in each of those household chores that we so hate. Let's challenge ourselves to doing one task we dislike mindfully this week.

Monday, September 19, 2005


I read that anger is a great emotion for covering up other emotions. Often we are angry when we want to avoid being sad. We can also get angry when we want to avoid being fearful. We can also be angry because something was unjust and wrong.

It's important allow the feeling of anger. Anger is an emotion that has a place. People who refuse to feel their anger often find that they end up with health problems later on. This does not mean that we can take our anger out on other people. We need to find productive ways to manage it.

Buddhists might sit with it. Others run marathons. Still others scream in the shower or beat pillows. I'm not sure it matters what works for you, I just think it's important to acknowledge the anger and feel it and then let it dissipate on it's own. When we can acknowledge when we are angry and feel that anger, it is less likely to build up and explode over some small little thing that really isn't important. The more we attend to our anger, the more we learn about it's nuances. Are we covering up another emotion or are we righteously angry?

If we are righteously angry, this anger might motivate us to take productive action to change the situation that causes our anger. Are we angry that the people in our life have let us down? Perhaps we can tell them. Are we angry that there is so much poverty in the world? Perhaps we join in with other like minded individuals and work towards change.

Anger in and of itself is not a bad thing nor is it an impediment to peace or peaceful living. It is only unacknowledged anger and inappropriate expresion of it that becomes the impediment. For this reason we must all recognize and acknowledge that things that make us angry. In addition we will find more help for ourselves if we can find out why these things trigger our anger.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Adding Respect

I have been noticing the way we talk to one another, particularly to those we do not agree with. We no longer speak to people we don't agree with with respect. I have a friend who is a Republican. In fact, he's my chiropractor. Nice man except we disagree on politics. However he's never disrespectful about it. He used to tell me John Kerry jokes and I'd say you know I heard that one but it was George Bush in the punch line and we'd both laugh... Yes he gloated after the election, but he does live in a blue state surrounding by democrats, so you have to expect that. Looking at his background, I can even understand why he votes republican and while I disagree with that, I don't hold it against him. Even if I did, I can't imagine thinking he personally is an idiot or some stupid fool for believing what he does. While he doesn't agree with my views on the Clintons, Kerry and Howard Dean, he can respect me enough that outside of the occassional, "Ya know, I heard this joke and thought of you..." comment he doesn't poke fun at me or tell me I'm a stupid liberal.

In order to stop being so polarized, I think we need to respect the other side as human beings. There are a fair number of people who write things to anger the other side and inflame the war, but it's important to recognize them for who they are. We don't need to be divided. I think everyone wants a better world. If we can listen (I just keep harping on that don't I?) then maybe we can work something out that's better than anything any 'side' wants.

We are diverse. This country, like it or not, is about diversity. We do have freedom of speech and yes that means ALL sides, not just the one we like. We have that because the founders of the United States knew that we couldn't have a truly free country by the people and for the people without it. While this may mean that we should then expect to hear things we don't like, we should also use it responsibly. We need to speak up for what we believe in but leave room for others to disagree with us. We need to respect them and their right to think for themselves.

If we get back what we put out, the only way people will ever respect our views is if we can respect theirs. That does not ever mean we have to agree with them. It just means we don't have to denigrate their character for believing what they believe and speaking out about it. The more often we can do that, the more we'll find that others start respecting our views. Maybe we'll even start listening to each other.