Powerful Stories of Courage and Hope
December 26, 2011
This photo is one I took in Key West, Florida. What is your first thought when you look at this man on a motorcycle, with a big paunch and the parrot on his head, the American Flag fluttering behind him? Laughter? Judgement? Compassion? Pity? Admiration? Disgust? Joy?
I read Rigpa Glimpse of The Day (firstname.lastname@example.org) every day and it always gives me food for thought. I thought today’s glimpse of the day was particularly poignant and ever so relevant to The Holidays:
“Compassion is a far greater and nobler thing than pity. Pity has its roots in fear and carries a sense of arrogance and condescension, sometimes even a smug feeling of “I’m glad it’s not me.”
As Stephen Levine says: “When your fear touches someone’s pain it becomes pity; when your love touches someone’s pain, it becomes compassion.”
To train in compassion is to know that all beings are the same and suffer in similar ways, to honor all those who suffer, and to know that you are neither separate from nor superior to anyone.”
As Rigpa always says at the end of every post: “Remember The View.”
How have you observed Compassion and Pity showing up for you this Holiday Season?
December 22, 2011
“Around us, life bursts forth with miracles – a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, raindrops.
If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes and forms: ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easy as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings.
When we are tired and discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.”
Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh
December 19, 2011
One day, out of the blue, I received a phone call from an old classmate named Randy whom I had not spoken to since second grade. We got to catching up, and Randy told me this story:
“I sat behind you for all of second grade. And one day you drew this picture of a boy and a girl holding hands. Under the boy’s picture you wrote ‘Randy’ and under the girl’s picture you wrote, ‘Mary Anne.’ I remember that you turned around to show me your picture and you had such a happy, bright face. I’m embarrassed to admit that I proceeded to slaughter you. In my defense I was only a boy of, what, eight? Well, even that is not a very good defense, and I am really sorry I did that to you. But anyway, truth be told, I made fun of you. I told you your drawing was stupid. I teased you mercilessly at recess. You never said a word. But your face I will never forget as long as I live.
“When we came back from recess, you went to your desk, picked up the picture you had drawn of us. With your eyes locked on mine and with the saddest face I have ever seen in my life, you crumpled your drawing of us up into a tight little ball. Then you turned away from me, walked over to the other side of the room, and threw the ball of paperreally hard right into the trash can.
“Then you burst into tears. You walked back to your desk and refused to ever turn around to talk to me for the rest of the year. I have never forgotten it all these thirty-seven years. I was so stupid. I am so sorry.”
I had no recollection whatsoever of this event.
After telling Randy he didn’t need to worry about this incident from our past anymore, I hung up the phone. I began thinking about what a tremendous gift this story from second grade was. Randy showed me a glimpse of myself as a very young girl, a girl who was full of resilience and strength. The more I thought about it, I felt this younger me was a me I could really admire and be proud of.
This story showed me that, at one time in my life, I had such a sense of self-worth that I would not allow another person to treat me unkindly or unfairly. That drawing, which began as my way of reaching out to share and connect with a cute boy in my class, ended up crumpled in the wastebasket as my clear message of separation from harm. My anger at his ridicule had motivated me to make this strong choice to destroy my own art.
However, even if the action was strong, the story clearly shows that my bursting into tears was a vulnerable and healthy kind of rage. My therapist told me that as long as children are not desensitized to their own feelings by abuse, they instinctively take very strong and quick actions to defend and protect themselves.
After hanging up with Randy, I sat and wondered where that part of me had gone.
In my memory as an adult, so many of my stories were about the times when I allowed other people to override my own instincts or intuition, to “walk all over me.” It seemed that mostly I could remember only the times I had been silent or not fought back when I should have. I had learned very well how to swallow my rage, my pride, my opinions and my strength. It’s no wonder I had become so angry.
With the help of very good therapists and loving friends, I have worked myself through much of my self-destructive behavior. It has been a process of learning to love who I really am, stripping away the layers upon layers of untruths that others have told me, negative things that I had believed about myself for decades as if they were facts.
I am not a “bad and ungrateful child.” I am not “stupid.” I am not “crazy.” And I sure as heck don’t have “thunder thighs!”
Today, the story of myself as a young girl, full of love, openness, and righteous indignation feels so much more familiar to me. She is more “me” than the angry, uncertain person I had allowed myself to become. After years of sorting through my life, I have finally come full circle to who I really am: the resilient, fiery, spirited, and also thoughtful girl who I was to begin with.
Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back from anything. Resilience is, in any circumstance, the ability to be vulnerable enough to feel in the first place. It is the ability to recognize that your safety and well-being come first. And if you ever feel something is not right, or uncomfortable or dangerous, then being resilient means that you have the courage and strength to immediately remove yourself from that situation, person, or location.
There are no exceptions to this rule.
None of us ever have to take care of others at our own expense. Resilience is the ability to take action on one’s own behalf, even if it is hard, makes waves or is out of sync with another person. Resilience is a deep awareness of what we each need to do for ourselves to protect ourselves.
I know now that sassy, strong, tender me was never really gone. She just became a little lost.
After all these years, I have made the journey home back to myself, like following the bread crumbs back to the cottage after spending so much of my life being lost in the woods. To get back to our true wholeness, we need both our vulnerability and our resilience in equal measure. This is a journey that we all must undertake eventually, even if we wait until the moment of death. It’s never too late. But, why wait?
From Me To You…
What part of the resilient, strong, and amazing you have you lost touch with?
The above blog is an excerpt from my new book out on Amazon called “Words to Thrive By: Powerful Stories of Courage and Hope.”
Here is the link to buy the book:
December 16, 2011
I’m a five time cancer survivor.
When I first heard The Big C Word, “CANCER ,” my very first thought was DEATH. If the moment I heard, “I’m so sorry. You have cancer,” had been written out as an irrefutable mathematical equation, it would have been C =D or “Cancer equals Death.”
However, now I’m thinking that cancer is one of the best things to ever happen to me. Why?
Now I’m Listening.
Well, honestly, I wasn’t really listening to my body or my heart, both of which were screaming for my attention and love. Now I’m listening.
Cancer = Communication.
Cancer has also given me the permission I needed to communicate in ways I never would have before, both with myself and with others. In fact, cancer has completely transformed my life.
So for me, the C = D equation has changed to C = C: Cancer = Communication.
Here are just three examples of how cancer has provided an incredible opportunity for communication and also has completely transformed my life:
1) Listen to Yourself
I’m finally listening to my body, and I no longer allow toxic people, food, ideas, or belief systems into my life.
2) Explore Your Many Options
Over the past three years, I’ve researched and learned everything I could about cancer and what causes it. As a result, in my treatment choices, I’ve done my best to combine not only the best of both the Western and Eastern medicine traditions, but also the best of the naturopathic medicine and even explored the raw-food movement, as well.
Now is the Best Time in the History Of The World to Have Cancer
What I know now for sure is that if you have to have cancer, now is the best time in the history of the world to have it! Not only has the technology improved dramatically, there are also so many wonderful treatment options now that we all have to choose from!
And I know from my own experience, with God’s grace we are each more than capable of completely healing ourselves!
3) Best of All is Your Journey of Healing From within.
I have a new relationship of Love, Compassion, Kindness, and Joy within myself that was never there before. I am now truly a Joy Ambassador everywhere I go. So, how in the world does a person become a Joy Ambassador for cancer?
In Joy We Abide
Well, every day I say to myself, over and over and over again:
“There is only one life. That life is God’s life. That life is perfect. That life is my life now. I am a Joy Ambassador and choose to learn all my lessons through Joy. From Joy, I was born. In Joy, I abide, and to Joy, I shall return.”
I take this inner Joy everywhere I go now. Each day, I try to embrace everyone and everything I encounter with this same Joy. And it’s a funny thing. Everywhere I go, people innately respond to this Joy with an appreciative smile, a word of thanks or perhaps even a tear of gratitude for a moment to talk with someone who truly “Understands” what they have been going through.
Listen to Your Own Wisdom
“I” am not “my cancer.” I am a spiritual being who has had several physical experiences of cancer.
I’m so convinced that God is so totally in charge of my life, I have now completely released my fear of death.
I’m listening to myself and my own wisdom for the first time in my life, instead of listening to a hundred other people ahead of my own gut instinct. And now as a result, finally, after all these years, I totally trust myself.
Live in Gratitude
I live in peace and joy.
I am grateful.
And God is the Wholeness I am.
If you are a cancer survivor, I know we can all benefit from your experience. What is the best piece of advice or support you were given during the time you had cancer?