Necessity, Not Luxury

Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

~Dalai Lama, The spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism, 1391-1474

From the last blog entry: We want to reach out to others who are experiencing loss… This intention, wrapped in love and compassion, aligns with Source and seeks oneness with others…. but what do we say?  What words would be meaningful?  What is helpful rather than routine?  What would the experts say? These demands find us faced with a different loss.

Compassion takes on many faces. Traditionally, cards, poets’ words, inspirational books, shared meals, transportation/home services, monetary gifts or in-kind services from non-profit organizations or local charities, and fundraisers are fantastic ways to connect and make life easier and more positive for those suffering from any kind of loss. This is compassion connected with “doing” and is extremely helpful and appreciated.

Yet compassion can touch a deeper place in our “being” when we allow it, the place of self-compassion. At this level, we see ourselves in the place of those suffering. The universal gifts of love, stability, peace, and mindfulness that begin in Source come to us. We forget ourselves and open our hearts. We become the ones who suffer. Through these feelings, we discover yet a more extensive wellspring of connection. On an emotional level, we want to ease their suffering and pain by taking it on ourselves. Driven by empathy, love, and raw courage, we bind with them. We offer our presence and listen. We express words that we would want to hear. Our actions demonstrate understanding.

For some of us, this depth of connection may seem scary, impossible, or dream-like. Yet, when we know ourselves well enough, we can bind in this vital way. Considerations: having the emotional strength to take on another’s pain and suffering, being mindful of circumstances and overriding fear, and letting go of resistance to the present moment. The mental discourse of discovery can be found only through setting aside time, opening hearts, and working through what we find.

Without thorough inner study, we’d just be guessing at what we have to offer in the compassion department. When our inquiring minds need to know what to say about loss, it is essential to have the confidence of inner knowing. Introspection confirms if or how we need to change. How inspiring to know that we have nourished enough happiness, joy, and peace within so that we can share these qualities. Understanding and engendering love for self is the foundation for the quality and quantity of compassion that we can offer to others.

The following few paragraphs are paraphrased from “Being Love,” with Thich Nhat Hanh, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1o1TDuXf-8.  In the quiet moments, as we begin to examine the thoughts, actions and environments that have shaped us, it may be helpful to keep a journal.

Before we can offer love and compassion to others, we first need to love and feel compassion for ourselves. Turning inward, we listen to the calls of our body, feelings, and perceptions. Without judgment, we fully accept them as they are.

Buddhism offers four elements of true love. Here, we apply them to ourselves. Once we have absorbed their meaning, we are ready to apply the concepts to others. Spend some time with these beliefs each day to see how they might become a part of your life:

*Loving kindness-nurturing happiness in self

*Compassion- reducing suffering through acceptance of self

*Joy-innate delight; no effort required in self; balanced mind, body, and soul

*Equanimity-freedom to be self; spaciousness in heart, mind; calmness in self

By taking time to look deeply inward, we practice being in the present moment and know that our higher Self speaks to us. This is the cultivation of self-compassion. Four elements open us to dialogues of love and compassion—first with ourselves. With a bit of practice, we see how these dialogues make us feel cared for and can weave them into conversations with others, offering them compassion. Begin by talking to yourself.

* Presence: (Your name), I am here for you in my looking, sitting, breathing, walking. I offer my true presence.

*Recognition and appreciation: (Your name), I know you are there and I am very happy.

*Relieve pain, suffering created by Ego by being mindful, paying attention: (Your name), I know you suffer and I am here for you.

*Relieve pain, suffering created by a loved one: I suffer because of some action or thought that (loved one’s name) created. Please help me, (loved one’s name), to understand.

Love is the foundation for compassion. By truly loving and understanding ourselves, we can better love and understand others. Thinking and acting compassionately in the thick of things is “a necessity not a luxury.” Traditional forms of compassion are positive for all energies and the planet. However, compassion taken to a deeper level of getting to know, understand and love ourselves, lets us speak authentically. An authentic heart is a gateway or portal to Source. Now we know what we have to offer. No more wondering if certain words or gestures would be meaningful, if something is helpful, or if apologies are in order for not being a psychologist. We know. We’ve taken time to sit with our inner being. We speak from our heart. Any words or actions of compassion are exactly right.

In the quiet moments: Offer love and compassion to yourself, then to others, and then to all energies. Suddenly the world is friendlier and things go better. Give thanks for your life, well-lived.

© 2015 Barbara L. Krause

Courageous Conversations

“What counts is not the enormity of the task, but the size of the courage.”

~ Matthieu Ricard

 

Be ready for change. Take courage. Impermanence is constant, yet most of us spend our lives looking the other way; or thinking that, should adversity catch up with us, we’ll deal with it; or believing our strong faith will get us through any kind of adversity—no worries. Yet dealing with impermanence is not quite that simple.

 

Change is inevitable. Change in our families: parents becoming less able, children going to college, faithful pets of many years passing. Change at work: colleagues retiring; peers leaving the “rat race” and moving to a new locale to take care of an aging relative; co-workers dealing with workers’ comp issues and divorce after sustaining an industry accident. Change in community: Long-standing and wise community voices grow silent, buildings from our heritage are replaced, Mother Nature is destroyed in the name of progress.

 

Certainly there were conversations about dying and death between or among those who spoke from their hearts?  Between or among those who listened with openness, putting first another’s interests? Between or among those who understood with compassion? Most of us would have appreciated such conversations; instead, sadly, these conversations never materialized or grazed only the surface of end-of-life issues. Most of us don’t care to pay attention to the results of impermanence; it takes major life changes to hijack our attention. As a result, we are emotionally unprepared, are forced to focus quickly on too many possibilities, lament that we didn’t have end-of-life discussions with our loved ones, and hope for the best. If only we had known what our loved ones wanted?

 

Later, we try to explain away our behaviors…

  • We didn’t talk about it (death)—we wanted to maintain a positive attitude.
  • Massive, abrupt changes in health (stroke, sprained ankle with torn tendons and ligaments, prognosis of six weeks to live) turned our world upside down, yet we didn’t know how to begin sharing our deepest feelings.
  • I live alone with my dog, yet I couldn’t count on my pet to dial 9-1-1. Guess I need a Plan B.

 

Have a conversation. Have a conversation now. Have a conversation now when you are of sound mind, when you’re not stressed, when your emotions are balanced, even if you think it’s ridiculous. These conversations become gifts to both you and to your family and friends. Now is the time.

 

As the initiator of the conversation, decide on the topics to cover, place, and time to meet. Often others will be uncomfortable with the topics of health crises or decisions, your funeral or final wishes if they differ from the “norm,” finances, death, or others. Conversation means you care. You are not alone. Explore this critical information with your loved ones or with a trusted friend.

 

Many of these topics can be explored through web sites, medical doctors and specialists, or lawyers. To get started, consider questions to ask before an emergency.

Print the answers and make the information easily accessible (perhaps posted on the frig):

  • “Street address (and closest cross street)
  • Call-back number
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Recent medical events, if any”

www.webmd.com  “Calling 911: What to do in an Emergency” and more.

 

Another web site that covers extensive grief support resources by type of loss is www.mygriefangels.org.  For basic info on wills and probate or to locate a law firm specializing in this area by zip code, consider www.wills-probate.lawyers.com.

Finally, “The Huffington Post,” based in Washington D.C, carries a blog entry, “How to Have Everyday Conversations about Death and Dying,” by Karen M. Wyatt, M.D.

www.huffingtonpost.com

 

 

 

In the quiet moments: Engage in these important conversations today. The information exchanged will give you peace of mind. Take courage. I care for and love you.

 

 

© 2015 Barbara L. Krause

small acts, great love

It all began on Friday at 6:30 a.m.—witnessing little things done with great love—and became more apparent as the weekend continued. Strong winds throughout the night had made sleep difficult, yet the early morning hours brought a smile to my face. There is nothing like the aroma of pancakes and bacon wafting into the bedroom. No, Paul had not gotten up early this particular day to make breakfast, although I am the luckiest woman on the planet to experience a nutritious morning spread nearly every day, including eggs, Swiss chard, and a variety of fresh fruit. No, IHOP® had not gone mobile. No, this day my nonagenarian neighbor was performing her magic. Her husband, three adult children, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild would highly agree that she has perfected a lifetime of culinary skills. She is quick to smile and add a story to complete her breakfast fare. I offered silent gratitude that she put so much of herself into an often taken-for-granted task. Source was in the thick of things. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Putting our hearts into whatever we do demonstrates a deep, pervading love that people feel, regardless of age or circumstance.

 

Preparing for dinner guests later that evening, I glanced out of the kitchen window and saw a man with a familiar gait. Each day, for the last two years, he walked. Regardless of weather, this fitness seeker’s route included the street that went past our house, over to other streets and downtown. Occasionally he would stoop to pick up litter and make a difference. One day, while running a few errands downtown, I met him on the sidewalk and stopped to thank him for picking up refuse. He seemed surprised that I had noticed. I’m walking anyway. It’s just a small thing that I can do, he said. What great love and compassion for Mother Earth. No expectations. It just seemed to be the right thing to do.

 

The next morning I attended a yoga class. Most yoga teachers offer verbal modifications for poses during yoga classes. From time to time, I try an Intermediate Vinyasa class to see if my muscle tremors will permit me to build more core strength. On this day, the asanas were still too demanding, and I sank into Child’s Pose, the premiere modification pose to regain breath and composure. To my surprise, several seconds later, I felt the warmth of the teacher’s hands soothing my spine, letting me know that she was aware that I was struggling and, regardless of my situation, that I had her support. This small act offered with great love brought tears to my eyes. Source was in the thick of things.

 

That afternoon I learned about how a couple I admire has been corresponding with a prisoner who is up for parole this coming spring. Once back in mainstream society, he will be trying to make ends meet with only a small disability check. Recently, he found out that his few possessions had been stolen. My friends contacted Friends Anonymous, a local group of people whose financial gifts have helped hundreds of people over the last eighteen years. The words of Margaret Mead guide this group of thirty altruists. “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.” In fact, it is the only thing that ever has changed the world. The organization, without judgment, offers limited financial means to people with no other way to access finances. Meeting monthly, the group tries to maintain a bank balance of $0. Cheers to my friends for offering great love without expectations and to Friends Anonymous for their behind-the-scenes love and work.

 

The next day I learned of a man who has changed his ways of thinking and habits. Since his wife died, he has become more aware and involved in life beyond himself. He is the quintessential volunteer and delights in putting first the good of others. Recently, he developed Shingles and is maintaining a positive life view, still seeking to help others. He knows the value of giving of himself.

 

The “Small Acts, Great Love” theme brought to mind yet one more example to end my weekend. One of my friends knits hats for people who have undergone chemotherapy for cancer. A sweet knitting fanatic, she began doing this when her own mother was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair during treatments. When enough of us practice small acts of selfless love, we reach the tipping point of maturity and compassion. We recognize our connection with each other, know we are not alone, and see Source in the thick of things. Awareness is beautiful.

 

 

In the quiet moments: Set aside five or ten minutes a day to brainstorm simple ways to show great love by doing small things that require a minimal investment of time, personal effort or a change in attitude. Perhaps it’s reading to children. Or, listening, conversing, and hugging someone in need of a bit of nurturing. Maybe it’s simply smiling/saying hello to people on the street. No expectations or judgments allowed. Start now. Let me know what happens.

 

 

© 2015 in the thick of things