Pruning Dead Wood

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Recently where I live we had an ice storm. 2/10 of an inch or more of ice caused some havoc with electrical outages where I live. The aftermath of that storm also left some trees which had lost a few small branches, or lost major branches, or were even uprooted. Those trees that could bend under the weight of the ice survived with almost no loss of limbs. The pruning by nature took place in the whole area where I live, but how severely each tree withstood the ice storm varied greatly. I believe this metaphor also works for all people including myself.

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion- towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

During my life there have been times when I needed to prune my own dead wood. What I mean is, I needed to change or transform ways of thinking and doing things, or habits of thinking that had not worked in my life. When I did not prune those habits, I made poor choices of people and things in my life that did not serve me. I learned this kind of behavior in my own family. Once I finally became a parent in my 30s, I found out what a challenge it was to rear a child. I had one child. However, I was one of five children. All of my siblings and I were born close together, 5 children in 7 years. Since I was number four, I was glad to be born, but great challenges were part of my childhood. My parents did the best they could. My mom had to do much of our rearing alone with the help of my grandmother because my dad had a job that was many miles from the home my father built for us. My mother had it hard trying to give all of us the attention we needed.

From these beginnings, I learned some not great habits. One of them was I had a poor self esteem. That hindered the choices that I made of people who I made important in my life. I did not know how I needed to be treated. I also was a people pleaser, which was not helpful to myself because I was clueless about how I felt about what I honestly wanted. I was not seeing “my part” in my own life. I had nearly no boundaries for myself, so that I was taking on other peoples’ issues without knowing it, and not acknowledging my own issues. This kind of dead wood I did not know I needed to prune until later in my life. There have been consequences to me and others I love because of the choices I have made, and particularly after I became an adult (in age) and lived on my own.

My first pruning and personal ice storm came after I was divorced in my mid 30s. I am thankful that I became a more reflective person after that time. I started to look at what “my part” was that may have contributed to the end of that marriage. After a year or so after the divorce, I started to feel happier and freer because I realized I had an opportunity to find my own profession, and learn who I am. (I had married at 20 years old.) I also did not want my divorce to become some kind of anchor that I dragged through my life as some personal failure or shame. At the same time, I did need to be honest about what had happened to me during that marriage and not dismiss my own feelings about it, and, importantly, I had to summon courage to face some parts of myself that I was not happy with.

“I don’t think we spend enough time in reflection and introspection. We don’t know who we are as individuals in this culture anymore.”

Naomi Judd

For me this process of pruning has taken a long time. The way I grew up, I rarely knew what I honestly felt or wanted. These were habits that I “lived” for years that I needed to prune and overcome, and I am still learning to ask myself how I feel each day. I am finally learning what boundaries actually are between myself and others. I am still thankful for that first ice storm of a divorce that happened many years ago because it started the process for me to begin to reflect on a deeper level about myself and my life and to learn who I AM.

I wrote this poem more than 10 years ago. I can’t even remember what triggered me to write it. It may have been when my father died 13 years ago.

Light or Load
by Barbara E. Wade

Underneath our professional, adult veneer
Aren’t so many of us
Still needy children
Grasping for our mother’s
For our father’s attention…. approval?
Longing to be heard.
Waiting to be acknowledged,
But met with silence.

As we grow older
Time dulls the ache,
But life’s circumstances
Show us that…
Underneath our professional, adult veneer,
That so many of us
Are still needy children.

How do we get past the suffering?
How do we shed the pain?
Tell ourselves how much we hate
To feel emotionally disconnected once again.
Notice that life’s delivering you
Your childhood experience
In an endless stream of repetition.
And accept that this emotional hurt
Of unfulfilled expectations
Is a mistake of perception
And we aren’t even aware
Of our self-deception.
Even though it feels exactly
Like it did
When we got little attention,
When we were merely kids.
Underneath our professional, adult veneer,
So many of us
Are still needy children.

Embrace, comfort, and protect your needy child.
Love and care for her/him.
Let her/him lay down his/her load,
And be filled with light and lightness.
Observe her/him when she’s/he’s feeling down,
Remind her/him it’s old healing wounds
To let go of and live.

This year has taught me that after my mother died in October, that she was the source of LOVE and goodness in my family. The needy child that I have had in me did not fully see who my mother was and that she was unable physically and was too overwhelmed to LOVE me as much as my needy child wanted during my childhood. Now she and I are both free and I have pruned away that false expectation and perception of whether my mom loved me or not forever. These days I am also learning to be more compassionate of myself, as I do all this pruning of dead wood.

This blog is complementary to my own;
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/5-ways-to-feel-more-love-compassion-for-yourself-and-others/

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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.
http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/ken-burns-jefferson-lecture

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.
http://www.npr.org/programs/weekend-edition-saturday/2016/05/21/478962804/weekend-edition-saturday-for-may-21-2016

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.

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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.

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Being Open

I love dogwood trees. The first time I saw one, I thought the tree had butterflies on it. I grew up on the west coast, and where I lived, I had never seen a dogwood tree before. Now they are one of my favorite trees. The blossoms on a dogwood are open and, to me, represent being open.

For me, being open means, trying to accept what happens in my life. It means to try to be less judgmental about others. Being open also means I don’t get to control everything. Stuff will happen over which I have no control. Accepting what happens in my life does not mean I am resigned about what happens. It means I get to choose how I will respond to what happens in my life.

To be open, I try to be kind and loving towards everyone, including myself. When I am not loving towards myself, I have a hard time giving that love away. The kind of loving I mean here is I try to be compassionate. This is not always easy. If I anger someone else by telling him/her/them how I truly feel in the kindest way I can, I have to remind myself not to take their reaction personally. They will respond how they respond.

If I am fearful of others, I can’t be open. Fear is a closed door or wall that keeps others out. I do not like to live in fear. It is a good signal to myself that I might need to ask for help from an understanding friend or work on something in myself.

I must also remember everyone has an opinion and that often, that opinion will differ from my own. If I am willing to listen to others and be open, I don’t have to agree to respect that other person. Last week I saw a story about the famous singer, Joan Baez, who is very open to listening to others. Please read this story.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/08/13/765667/-Joan-Baez-diffuses-right-wing-protest-at-Idaho-concert

To read this story you may need to cut and paste the above URL. At least, that was the only way I could get it to work.

“Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?”
– Bob Marley

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Love vs Hate and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“We must learn to live together as brothers. Or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  …”

from 1968  – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

One of my heroes of the twentieth century was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His words and deeds have long outlived him. He lived and spoke words of truth and love, of cooperation, social justice and equality, respect and dignity for all peoples, cultures, and backgrounds. He is one of mankind’s great teachers, thinkers, healers, and uniters.

human fist

Human fist of hatred

It was the fist and gun of hatred that killed King.  In America’s  and the world’s history, there have been others who were hated for speaking or acting for the equality of all people and then gunned down or murdered: Malcolm X, Viola Liuzzo, Steven Biko, Sitting Bull, Mahatma Gandhi, Medgar Evers, and Abraham Lincoln.

“I still believe that LOVE is the most durable power in the world. Over the centuries men have sought to discover the highest good. This has been the chief quest of ethical philosophy. …I have discovered the highest good. It is LOVE. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos.”  from 1956

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I choose love, as did Dr. King. Love feeds the heart and the head blood and can lead us to feel more cooperative, calm, and compassionate towards others.

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The loving heart

To show you how love and hate even said as words can affect objects in nature Dr. Masaru Emoto asked monks to pray over water and then froze that water into crystals. What he discovered shows us humans how even words and intentions about love and hate must affect us humans greatly, too. You can see the crystal for LOVE and one for “You make me sick” or “Hate” at:

http://www.whatthebleep.com/water-crystals/

In the case of Zak Ebrahim, he was taught to hate, but he learned peace and compassion.  Watch his TED Talk:

I stand with uniters, and those with compassion for all peoples from the past and present. What do you choose?

 

 

 

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