Standing Up

What do I mean by standing up? I mean it in a few ways. I begin with myself. I know what I am passionate about, and I am learning to advocate for myself. As a child, I was not that way. I was outwardly focused and avoided speaking up for myself, particularly in my family. I was what you would call a people pleaser. Watching out for others is not a bad thing, but, initially, it did not help me to know myself.

I am learning to stand up more for myself. I have spoken up for myself for some time and belonged to groups where I could speak out against what I thought was unjust. One area I have felt strongly about is respecting all people: all races, all sexual orientations, all religions, and all cultures. There have been a few heroes who support my beliefs, and I have written about them before in this blog. One who I haven’t written about before is the documentary maker and speaker, Ken Burns. I am still working on a historical novel in which I used facts from the documentary he made and completed about the Civil War in 1990.

This last week I learned about Ken Burns’ talk at the National Endowment of the Humanities. I had the good fortune to hear Ken Burns speak on history in Charlotte, North Carolina when I lived there more than 8 years ago. I remembered it to be outstanding speech. What I love about this talk is that Ken Burns is standing up and speaking about race as a white male. His is telling his story and interweaves it with our American history.
I am giving you the link to the written speech because the video was not working.

Another person I heard about last weekend is a black singer named Adia Victoria who stands up for herself and other African Americans in her music and tells it how she sees it. Her new album is called “Beyond the Bloodhounds”.

I heard her on Public Radio. Here is the podcast.

For me, race in this country and the issues we have are still with us. I personally have friends from all backgrounds and cultures, and my life is richer for it. As a white woman, I do NOT have to live the discrimination that people of color in this country have to experience frequently, if not daily. However, as a woman and coming from the family I did, I know how this disrespect feels. I grew up though, and sometimes those old patterns of behavior affected my CHOICES. I know that my black friends experience discrimination in NOT subtle ways. They share their pain and stories with me.

My dream is that one day all of us could speak FRANKLY about how this country is NOT a level playing field for people of color at all. It is hard for us to become COMPASSIONATE for each other if we are coming from hate, blame, and fear. It is hard if certain people in this country are vilifying certain groups: Latinos, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim refugees, and African Americans. Fear NEVER solved any problem. It only creates division between people and it stops us from rational THINKING (REALLY).

It is the fertile ground from which DESTRUCTIVE choices for ALL AMERICANS are made.


The Web of Life

The interconnected and inner connected web of life is something I love to witness. While I was photographing the spider web on the left of this photo-montage, the squirrel in the middle photo was watching me. I believe this might be the same squirrel which welcomed me home last October. He appeared in another blog “Being Welcomed”. I was so happy my squirrel friend was curious about what I was doing. I feel a friendly connection with the squirrels where I live. That is just one way I experience how I am connected to everything else.

“It is through mysterious power that we have our being, and we, therefore, yield to our neighbors, even our animal neighbors, the same right as ourselves to inhabit this vast land.”
– Sitting Bull (1831-1890)

While I was teaching English-as-a-Second-Language to people from all over the world, not only did I teach English, but through my students, I began to learn and feel how connected all of us humans are. Yes, we have our differences, but we have so many common needs and human problems. I was fortunate to learn, first hand, how similar all of us humans are.

I do not claim to fully understand quantum physics, but I “grok” a sense of it. In a way, it helps me to “get” this idea of inner connectedness. It helps remind me to include all people, animals, insects, and things on our planet. We may see ourselves as separate with our eyes, but at a cellular and automic level, that is not TRUE. I also wonder whether this connects us all to what I call my source. I find this also hints at what Sitting Bull is calling “through mysterious power”. For me, this has also become a visceral feeling of inner connection to all that is.

When I look at politics in the USA today, I see us humans fighting to keep our separateness. Instead of love, support, and acceptance of others, I hear leaders proposing control and division. I hear FEAR dominating their conversations and proposals and ego-driven ambition pushing their own agendas. To me, this is the old way of thinking. We humans have thought this way for thousands of years, and look at what we are doing to ourselves and the planet because of this way of thinking. To me, this way of thinking is NOT WORKING. The other piece to this is that when we work together, I believe, we can conquer just about anything. That may mean that I (we) compromise with others, even if I (we) think I am (we are) right. I (We are) am not alone on this planet; I(we)need to consider others.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
– Chief Seattle (1780-1866)


Change and Changing

“There is nothing permanent except CHANGE.”
– Heraclitus (Died 475 B.C.)

In nature change is obvious. Every day I see the changes from light to dark, seasons changing and places that have changed. Change is inevitable, and I am pretty good at accepting those changes.

Making changes in my OWN life has usually been dramatic for me. The one constant has always been ME. I have been the one present for those changes, so I needed to learn to become clearer about my part in making better choices for the next stage and changes in my life. It took me surrendering and learning that I am not in control of everything. I needed to learn it was my SOURCE’s
Way NOT MY Way for my life. I can plan, make goals and set deadlines, but I am NOT in control of every outcome! I have been deluding and frustrating myself when I believed this in the past.

The other thing that made change so difficult for me was my expectations of how things SHOULD be. Those phony pictures in my head, the DISNEY version of the perfect family and the prince arriving to save me, were FALSE expectations. When I look back at my life resisting CHANGE has just cost me a lot of undue suffering, which today I am learning to let go of. Yeah, FREEDOM!

I remember hearing about new way of seeing change at a workshop at least 35 years ago, from a very smart young man who had to use a wheelchair all the time. He had completely accepted this huge change in his life. He said that he had seen many able-body people who were disabled in their thinking and attitudes. At the time, I did not realize and was not aware that I was one of the people of whom he was speaking.

My sister-in-law, who is a beautiful human being called me as I was getting ready to publish this blog. She is in my life now and is an extraordinary woman who had a spinal cord injury almost 30 years ago when she was in her thirties.
She had to change her whole life. At first, after her accident, she said that she felt rage at her new fate. She said that she has transmuted that rage into positive action. Sometimes the only positive action she can do is pray.

As you can tell, I love inspirational stories about people who are making great changes. May 9th, I heard about a program that is helping convicts change their lives. It was on PRI (Public Radio International) during the show “The Takeaway” with John Hockenberry. A community college program is retraining inmates in Walla-Walla, Washington. Take a listen:

Years ago I heard another quote:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
– Heraclitus


The Sufi Journey: Key Concepts

This is an amazing blog.

Sara Latif

This post is an introduction to a series I am beginning where I explore Yoga through the lens of the classical Sufi journey. One travels the journey by moving through states and stations, ascending the heavens of the world and self until one reaches the divine presence and experiences full integration and union.

Before beginning on the various levels, states and stations of the soul’s heavenly ascent in upcoming posts, I thought I would tell you a story that will help elucidate many of the concepts you need to know. This story is a Sufi allegory for the spiritual ascent of the soul to the divine presence, extracted from The Pond of Life, a Sufi Yoga manual that inspired my own journey. Keywords are in bold.

The Story of the Soul and her Union with her Self

I was in the old quarter of my country, the home of my parents and grandparents…

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Thinking with My Heart

What do I mean by “thinking with my heart”? I mean I have found if I feel first and then think, I make better choices for myself. I am a happier person. I care more about myself and others when I live from this space. I feel more present in my life, not just going through the motions.

My “automatic” thinking tends to be darker, more fearful, more competitive, and less creative. My automatic thinking came often from fear and expecting the worst. When I go to my automatic thinking, I am less open and see fewer possibilities for myself and others.

Look out at our world. Would it be a better place for all of us, if we felt what we needed to before we reacted to situations and conversations? Would we be more compassionate? I believe we would. What I have noticed about myself is that I like myself more when I say something or act in a more open and generous way towards others. This takes effort. I have to reflect longer before I respond to people. Instead of making snap judgments, I take longer to assess what is going on before I respond to something or take action.

“The heart has its own language. The heart knows a hundred thousand ways to speak.” -Rumi

This is a TEDx Talk which speaks about this subject by Magdalena Bak-Maier:

Naturally, there have been times when I have felt angry, and that was an appropriate reaction to what was happening. Thinking with my heart does not mean denying what is happening or has happened in the past. I can return to thinking with my heart once I have processed whatever I need to.

Another huge factor that keeps me thinking with my heart is I need to check in with “my source”. My source is a force I believe connects me with every other living thing. This source helps to guide me towards thinking from a more loving space filled with compassion for all including myself. What is great today, I have more choices how I respond when I think with my heart.

“Our days are HAPPIER when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece our mind.”

Thank you, Pinterest, for this saying.