Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Reality - Beautiful and True

The truth is a difficult concept to define...
We live in an era where it's becoming more and more difficult to 
determine the facts and what's fake.”
Gary Schwartz
     Most, perhaps all of us, are born with a deep intuitive knowing of reality that is indescribably beautiful, inconceivably vast, and is therefore impossible to put into words
    But society conditions us to agree on a greatly-simplified model of reality that most of us can understand, describe, work with & manipulate - "consensus reality." Gradually, most of us forget reality and start to assume that our simplified working model (consensus reality ie our "common sense" understanding) is not just a dumbed-down model, but actually real
   The other major distorting influence on most of us is that of trauma. The combined affect of consensus reality & trauma is so potent, that as Anais Nin observed, we can't see things as they are. We only see things as we are - ie what's left behind after trauma & forgetting our true nature.  "... we live in the distortion ... " Thomas Hübl
    The greater our distorting influences, the more vehemently we defend the accuracy of our perception AND the more rigidly we resist opening our mind-heart!

                 “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” Carl Jung
    Learning about mystics, saints and the increasing numbers of people who are serious about Truth, intrigues us by resonating with that deepest intuition we still retain about reality. It can't be directly expressed in words, but only pointed towards poetically, by way of metaphors, stories, music, etc.

Half of any person
is confused and bewildered
and way off The Path.


The other half
is dancing
in some Invisible Joy.”
    As to which half of our self we choose to inhabit has most to do with which of two, very different ways of being we trust more: fear - or - love. Me alone against the world - or - pulling together for our collective well-being. As long as we remain convinced that life & the world are basically hostile to ourselves & our loved ones, we remain fearful, tight, aggressive & alone. This sad, hurt, angry mood is common, especially in old age, when we finally realize that craving for material possessions will never satisfy our deepest hunger for realizing what's true - reality.
    Many of us would deeply benefit from BOTH psychotherapy AND a deep spiritual path. It's easier to wallow in simmering discontent, ending life in bitter cynicism - "ordinary unhappiness."
    BUT if we let go of craving, and open-up & lovingly nurture those around us, we are re-born to be who we've always been.

    Walking the path toward the complete ending of clinging & suffering is the noblest thing a person can do. It opens the fist of the mind, and allows a person to walk in the world with gift-bestowing hands.” Gil Fronsdal


by Mollycules


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Kindness and Humility

    “At every meeting we are meeting a stranger.” T. S. Eliot, from “The Cocktail Party (I,iii)

    “Speaking disparagingly about another person can have far-reaching effects. But on an even deeper level, a mind that is seized by a frozen view of another, whether the thoughts are spoken or not, is incapable of being open & awake. So, in a broader sense, this precept invites us to not only speak of but to meet even those we think we know — such as our mother or father — as if for the first time, like Eliot’s stranger. ...
    When we have the courage to squarely meet what we hold on to, to acknowledge & experience it with each new encounter, then over time we find that the bondage of our holdings loosens."
Diane Eshin Rizzetto, “Meeting Others as Strangers”

     This is a great teaching - to assume that we know little or nothing about "the other." Wiser people than I suggest that we also know next to nothing about ourselves or "God." What we do know about ourselves is that if we're honest, we deserve to be very humble.

     Many, including myself sense that the Source (Nature, the Divine, non-dual emptiness) takes things far less seriously than we humans do. What if s/he is playing each & every one of our roles in the spirit of pure creativity & fun - like s/he were the creative writer, director, producer, set designer, and ALL OF THE ACTORS in a play.

                "What if God was one of us?
                Just a slob like one of us
                Just a stranger on the bus
                Tryin' to make his way home?"    Eric Bazilian, "One of Us"

    But as soon as s/he ("we") manifests in physical form, in our world of opposites (duality), most of us completely forget who we truly are - otherwise, finding our way home wouldn't be much of an adventure.

     The human mind (ego) was not designed by evolutionary forces for finding truth. It was designed for finding advantage.” Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel laureate

    It takes a cosmic joker to voluntarily manifest as such apparently wildly opposite personalities: the Buddha, Stalin, Mother Teresa, Putin, Jesus, Trump, Pol Pot, Gandhi,  … and yet, in a way, are we not all 'just slobs on a bus, tryin' to make our way home?'

    “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” Confucius 500 BCE

    “The Golden Rule, ‘Do onto others as you would have them do onto you,’ is a part of every religion we have. Every religion has something about this in their creed. It’s a guideline we have to follow for most of us, but for near-death experiencers, they’ve experienced it as a law of the universe. Let me give you an example of this:

    Tom was in his mid-thirties when a truck he was working under fell and crushed his chest. He had a very elaborate near-death experience (NDE). There were many parts of it, but one part was his life review. He went back over every event in his life in minute detail. He said, ‘I could count the number of mosquitoes that were buzzing around me at this time, which he couldn’t have done during the event, but in the NDE he did. And he said, ‘Not only that, but I experienced everything through my eyes and through the eyes of other people involved in the scene.’ He described one incident in particular, when he was a teenager, driving his truck down the street, when a drunk man wandered out in front of him. He jammed on the brakes, and was furious at the man for almost denting his truck. So he rolled down the window and started yelling at the man. And the man, being quite intoxicated, reached his hand in the window and slapped Tom across the face. You don’t do that to an angry teenager.
    So Tom got out of the truck, and started beating the man up. And he left him a bloody mess on the median strip. Now Tom tells me, when he relived this in his life review, he felt it through his own eyes – the adrenalin rush, the rage. And he also felt at the same time, through the eyes of the drunk man – the humiliation of being beaten up by this kid, the 32 blows of Tom’s fist in his face. Now Tom couldn’t have told you it was 32, but reliving it anew in an NDE, he felt 32 of them. He felt the man’s nose getting bloodied, he felt the man’s lower teeth going through his lower lip. And he came back realizing we’re all the same thing. There’s no difference between me & that man. It’s like if you’re looking at your fingers, they look like they’re separate things, but they’re really connected, and you can’t cut one off without hurting them all. So the Golden Rule for near-death experiencers is not a guideline, it’s the way things are.”
    Dr. Bruce Greyson - "After" - WMRA Books & Brews Feb 2023 :

    Recently I read that what we all desire above all is to be seen & accepted for who we are. This seems to imply by another person, BUT many feel that we first & foremost need this deep self-acceptance & unconditional love from ourselves.

    “Love thy neighbour as thyself for the love of God” is seen by some as an impractical infringement on one's individual right to find & secure as much personal material wealth & comfort as possible. Fewer & fewer see it in a proprietary, religious exclusivist context.

    Increasingly, people see the Golden Rule from a non-dual perspective ie that my neighbour, myself & God are one & the same - ONE entity manifesting as infinite variety of appearances, including everyone & everything: spiritually independents, scientific materialists, agnostics, atheists, theists, "president-for-life" dictators, drug dealers, petty crooks, mosquitoes, dogs, birds, fish, trees, rocks, mountains, oceans, earth, sun, moon, clouds, sky & cosmos. Divine non-dual infinite potential self-reflecting by manifesting as & exploring duality - the material world of opposites.
    On manifesting as humans, we tend to forget our true nature, AND also 
forget most of our wisdom. Awakening is remembering who we truly are - and - how to live appropriately as 'dual citizens' of non-duality & duality.

    So, no matter who we think we are, let's be kind, humble & pull together like wise, nurturing grandparents.


Saturday, September 9, 2023

Resistance, Baggage & Awakening

    We ALL KNOW (at least subconsciously) that there's something more true, authentic & wholesome we yearn to experience. AND PARADOXICALLY we ALL resist change, naturally opting to keep thinking, speaking & behaving the way we're used to. This unique pattern of habits forms our (mistaken) identity - who / what we believe we actually are. The major reason why we resist shifting to experience what we know to be more true, authentic & wholesome, is fear of losing this 'self' - this false, mistaken, small sense of identity.

    “What I failed to realize was that my resistance was in itself a pose, a stance – a result of my conditioning ... I’d never been stripped of myself, and so I mistook a cleverly embroidered outfit of attitudes for my deepest self, which I had to ‘be true to.’ Through the path of negation of self, I began to get an inkling of just how thoroughly cloaked I was in attitudes & platitudes – in my own bullshit – and I also learned that despite this, I had to keep going." Shozan Jack Haubner
    Our personal ('me, myself & I') & collective ego ('my' religion, political party, race, color, etc) is far, far more DOMINANT in our thoughts, words & actions than we realize, UNTIL we start actively freeing ourselves from ego's overriding control by waking up. Until then, the 'I' and the 'we' are emotionally defended at all cost, while everyone else is certainly at least childish, if not dangerously wrong. As we evolve spiritually, communication becomes less & less an ego vs ego 'pissing contest,' and increasingly a heart-to-heart transmission where words are less & less important

    Laurence Freeman is a wise Catholic meditation teacher, mystic & reformer. The first 46 minutes of this video is WELL worth a listen re the importance of meditation practice to help us shift out of personal & collective ego and into oneness with God :

    “Simply stated, (practice) is the act of un-practicing habituated tendencies that cause us to (mis)perceive reality as divided into subjects & objects, pasts & futures, and problems & solutions. When we slow down this momentum of the mind, we begin to remember (experientially) what it is to be unbound, vast, and intimate with all of existence. In short, to practice is to undo habituated mental patterns that cause us to suffer. As long as there is a sense of a self-apart, (the one struggling to get life right, to wake up, and to solve the problem of being a suffering human), then directing the effort that arises out of that sense, to an investigation of your true nature, is a valuable undertaking.
    Angelo DiLullo MD. “Awake. It’s Your Turn.” 2021. Wise, gentle yet powerful guidance HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

    “Sensing how caught up (the professor) was in intellectual concepts rather than benefiting from practice in her own heart, Achaan Chah answered her quite directly, ‘You, madam, are like one who keeps hens in her yard,’ he told her, ‘and goes around picking up the chicken droppings instead of the eggs.’” Kornfield J, Breiter P. “A Still Forest Pool. The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah.” Quest Books, 1985.
    It's incredibly easy to wander off topic - onto intellectual pursuits, daydreaming, surfing the web for related & completely unrelated topics, etc, etc, INSTEAD OF being fully present & appropriate, here & now. Another, almost as important point Chah's story illustrates is how common & easy it is to listen only "from the neck up" instead of "listening with our whole body
" ie using all of our intelligences.

    Adyashanti's very recent, excellent online presentation, on deep listening (& more):
    The quality with which we listen, or engage in anything, really dictates how much we receive back from it. This applies to anything you do – listen to a dharma lecture, doing any task around the house, any job, anything. If we really open ourselves up to anything that we’re doing, if we can listen from that quiet mind, those are the moments when we tend to also receive, and sometimes in quite unexpected ways
    Remembering that we can always use our analytical mind, with its critiques & judgments – we can always do that later, if we want to do that. That’s totally fine, if we feel that’s necessary.
    But in the moment, just opening the whole body, listening with the whole body. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what I mean by ‘listening with the whole body.’ It’s really listening with all your senses. And if you just hold that intention, over the days, it will start to clarify for you what that means, because it’s actually not that complicated. We do it when we lay down in a really relaxed way, or if you ever just sat down listening to the rain drops fall. You’re not listening to the rain drops fall in an analytical way. Your analytical mind is not leading then, it’s a part of the picture but a much bigger spectrum of your being is involved in something as simple as listening to rain drops.

    September 6, 2023 Broadcast with Adyashant

    And finally a cautionary tale re resisting change, procrastination & remaining 'comfortably numb':
    “A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.
    All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
    Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.
    The old eagle looked up in awe. ‘Who’s that?’ he asked.
    ‘That’s the eagle, the king of birds,’ said his neighbor. ‘He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.’ So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.”
Anthony de Mello SJ
    At a certain stage in life, some of us realize that there's no time to waste on trivial pursuit:  activities we now find
meaningless, small-talk, groups & individuals immersed in concerns that we've outgrown, etc. There seem to be an awful lot of chickens around - AND YET - we're ALL eagles.

Bald Eagle

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Investigating - instead of - Avoiding

     It's a basic, natural biological reflex to turn away from the unpleasant and towards the pleasant. Even the simplest single-cell organisms do this. Humans are also programmed to automatically behave the same way, but some or most of us learn to override this programming. Although throwing toys all over the place is more fun than picking them up & putting them away, (most of us) gradually prioritize tidiness; although playing is more fun than going to school, (most of us) gradually prioritize an education; although chilling in a Lazy-Boy feels good, (some of us) prioritize physical fitness, realizing that we get far more enjoyment from rest after vigorous exercise.
mantra of social work is, 'lean into difficulties.' A mindfulness mantra, for similar reasons, is 'be curious' (rather than negatively judgmental). These relate to some challenging matters we habitually judge negatively & thus avoid - an understandable reflex. However, routinely avoiding some challenges actually has negative consequences, & can even interrupt maturation / spiritual growth

    We touched on this on the previous blog, how we tend to get caught up in our internal conversation (self-talk / negative judgment / rationalizing avoidance), thus missing out on experiencing the depth of the challenge we're facing here & now.
    "... in the willingness to experience that without the narrative about that;
without good or bad judgment; just to for a moment be absolutely, completely irritated (intentionally FULLY BE WITH the PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE). And without a narrative, irritation can’t last (EVERYTHING - even acute pain - CHANGES). But it can reveal something deeper – maybe it’s true anger, maybe fear, maybe bliss, and finally, maybe, this radiant, unspeakable, indefinable presence of your own being.” Gangaji :

    Angelo DiLullo expands on this pivotal point:
    “… we live in a society of endless distractions and any of these can be used to avoid discomfort. Well, (if or) when we take up an investigation of our deepest truths***, we are voluntarily putting ourselves in situations that, by nature, make it hard to distract ourselves. As we do this, we will often notice some discomfort. Sometimes it is a mild uneasiness. Other times it might feel more intense. Either way it can be tremendously helpful to simply acknowledge the discomfort. ‘Okay, I am feeling uncomfortable. What is it like? What does it feel like in my body at this moment? Do I have to do something to immediately distract myself like my thoughts or habits suggest, or can I just be with it?’ You might be surprised. What you’ve been running from for years might turn out to be tolerable, even enjoyable after a time. 

    ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort & convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ Martin Luther King Jr.

    Perhaps you can only sit with the discomfort for a few minutes at first, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Over time you will start to recognize that you have an innate capacity to relax into whatever the body is feeling in the moment. With this relaxation, you may notice an alchemical process. The restlessness & discomfort will begin to transform into an experience of presence & wholeness. An intuitive realization might dawn – the discomfort itself was not what was making us distractible, restless, & irritable. These were only side effects of the habitual activity of running from our emotions. With this realization, we start to recognize that there is intelligence in discomfort. It is like a messenger telling you, ‘Look here.’ This will begin to replace the old habit pattern that seems to say, ‘Run away.’ As we experientially recognize our capacity to sit with these processes, a certain spontaneous willingness begins to emerge. We see that by voluntarily opening to the intelligence of these uncomfortable moments, we are simply acknowledging what is already within us. We recognize that to run from these experiences is to run from ourselves. We’ve done that for too long, haven’t we? All that running is what is causing our suffering. This separation from ourselves is what perpetuates that sense of separation from others, and from life itself.

    The whole point is for you to awaken to your own deepest truth*** if / when you choose to do so. Your deepest truth is a living truth that could never be contained by a set of beliefs or views. It is far too vast and free and, paradoxically, too intimate and self-obvious to be contained by a belief system or a paradigm.
    You will find this to be the adventure of all adventures. If it’s not your priority at this time in life, then by all means, put it aside and pursue what most authentically moves you. ... There is no judgement from me or the Universe. If you genuinely feel that it is your path to be an exceptional parent and raise a family, then that is exactly what you should be doing. If you want to throw yourself fully into art or music, then that is exactly what you should do. If you feel genuinely moved to pursue a life of scientific investigation, then by all means go do that. This is your life, so doing what feels most authentic & relevant to you regardless of social expectation is what will be most fulfilling

    The intuitive part of you is starting to awaken and attune itself to its inherent awake nature. You will start to become more conscious of it functioning in an intuitive & intimate way. You will learn to trust your instincts as they come into alignment with your deepest truths, and your deepest truths will synchronize with the natural flow of life.
    … I am not trying to teach you something so much as dial you in experientially to your natural awake frequency.

Angelo DiLullo MD. “Awake. It’s Your Turn.” 2021. HIGHLY-RECOMMENDED IF serious about Awakening

    DiLullo's book can skillfully guide us through & beyond painful paradoxes, so we don't remain stuck :

"Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat.
The breeze makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song,
in the laugh of the next stranger.
In the very center, under it all,
what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.
I am so sad and everything is beautiful."
Mark Nepo


Greg Rakozy photos

Thursday, August 31, 2023

One Love

    We all function at 2 very different levels of consciousness (ways of being) on different occasions.
    How often do you recognize this in yourself?
    Why is differentiating between these important?

    Too often, most of us are striving to control our external world – ‘just trying to get by’ – not only in the present, but even in the future or the past! This feels stressful. No matter how well we manage situations, we feel it should have gone better, and there’s a nagging sense of lack or emptiness inside – ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ At this level of consciousness, we feel alone & at least somewhat alienated from everyone & everything else in the world. To some extent at least, most of us have been conditioned to perceive the world as uncaring, at times even hostile to us. As a result, this fear-based, survivalist (FBS) level of consciousness / way of being - often referred to as the ‘small self’ (Eckhart Tolle’s ‘pain body’) – dominates our way of being in the world.

    “All of us are prisoners of our early indoctrinations, for it is hard, very nearly impossible, to shake off one’s training.”
Jubal, in ‘Stranger in a Strange Land,’ by Robert Heinlein

    At times, however, you may feel deeply immersed, ‘at one with’ an activity - alone or with one or more people. There’s no thought of yourself, time, or anything outside of this one activity. You, the activity & other participants are a single, pleasantly flowing process, like a wonderful dance or joyous celebration. You feel gratitude, intimacy with everyone & everything. Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi named such common but sporadic, universal human experiences ‘flow.’
    However, when this sense of (‘true self’) Self becomes increasingly dominant in one’s life, spiritual teachers refer to this sense of unity or oneness as ‘Universal Consciousness’ in the process of ‘awakening.’

    Our deeper intelligence tells us that we're profoundly interconnected & interdependent with everyone & everything - AND - science shows that we're only truly happy while intimately engaged with whoever / whatever we're dealing with in each successive present-moment.
Killingsworth MA, Gilbert DT. “A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind.” Science 2010; 330(6006): 932.

    “When we quit thinking (excessively) about
ourselves & our own self-preservation
, we undergo
a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
Joseph Campbell

    "… the greatest antidote to insecurity & sense of fear is compassion. It brings one back to the basis of one's inner strength. A truly compassionate person embodies a carefree spirit of fearlessness, born of the freedom from egoistic self-concern."
The Dalai Lama

    How can we tell when we’re in fear-based survivalist (FBS) mode?
pretty fast & easy when we learn to focus on & thus refine awareness of our thoughts & feelings. Physically FBS mode feels tight & cold. Mentally / emotionally FBS feels insecure, repetitive, unpleasantly stressful & unsustainable. It’s easy to recognize the re-run of old internal conversations we’ve heard way too many times before: ‘I’m no good at this,’ ‘I can’t handle this,’ ‘When will this be over?’ ‘I hate this,’ ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘If only I could have x, THEN I’d be happy,’ ‘If only I could avoid y, THEN I’d be happy,’ ‘If only z never happened, THEN I’d be happy,’ ‘If only so & so could change, THEN I’d be happy,’ etc, etc.
worrying about ourselves almost non-stop, is simply failing to realize that far from being helpful, it is the cause of most of our unnecessary suffering.
    Even in the worst possible situations – the death by suicide of one’s child or the loss of one’s family, home & all possessions in fires or floods – the most healing thing people who’ve sustained such unimaginable losses can possibly do, is to help others who’ve just suffered these same losses. This is the all-important shift from preoccupation with self to concern for others.

    It’s impossible to be happy when we fail to be authentic / true to our Self, just as it’s impossible for a fish to be happy flopping about on dry land; or for a healthy eagle to remain stuck in a small cage. It’s largely up to us WHETHER we remain stuck in the rat race – OR – be authentic to our true nature. Re-discovering who we truly are is primarily an intuitive journey, not something we can think our way to. Thinking is based on theories & models of reality. Who we truly are must be directly experienced, in the moment
skillfully points us to directly experience our true nature:

    “I really try to direct people into just discovering there is a direct experience and then there is a narrative about that direct experience. Because we’re so attuned to the narrative (our internal conversations, opinions, judgments), we often follow the narrative as if it were reality, as if it were the direct experience. (BUT our narrative is based on our past experiences & how these have conditioned us to react. So, as Anais Nin has keenly observed, “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ie we see & react to memories from our past, triggered by the present, rather than being able to directly experience & thus respond appropriately, to what we encounter right here & now.)  
    So even a superficial experience like feeling anger, or irritation not even anger. You feel irritation, we have a narrative about that. We’re righteous in our irritation because somebody cut me off on the freeway. Or, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t feel that way, I should let them do what they have to do. I shouldn’t feel this.’ And we get caught up in our internal conversation and we don’t get to experience the depth of what is here
    Even if it starts as something superficial, like an irritation, in the willingness to experience that without the narrative about that; without good or bad judgment; just to for a moment be absolutely, completely irritated. And without a narrative, irritation can’t last. But it can reveal something deeper – maybe it’s true anger, maybe fear, maybe bliss, and finally, maybe, this radiant, unspeakable, indefinable presence of your own being.

    Gangaji interview: - POWERFUL 81-year-old female spiritual teacher

    "Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Curiosity, Acceptance & Nurturing

"May I develop complete acceptance and openness
to all situations, and emotions, and to all people.
May I experience everything nakedly, completely
without mental reservations and blockages.
May I never withdraw from life or centralize onto myself.
May my heart be laid bare & open to the fire of all that is."

Reginald A. Ray
    Our acceptance & openness needs to INCLUDE the MANY daily random accidents, screw-ups & irritants like stubbing our toe, dropping, spilling & breaking things, losing keys / wallets / phones, burning & ruining meals, crazy random digital errors, loooong 'holds' on the phone, near impossibility contacting health-care providers, trades people & most companies ... We REGULARLY encounter a LOT of situations that very easily annoy, frustrate, irritate & anger us, even if / after we feel we've successfully 'dealt with' (fully processed) the real biggies in our life ie past major traumas.
    But our acceptance & openness ALSO needs to INCLUDE ongoing inescapable major traumas like chronic pain, prolonged disability, incurable illness & death of loved ones, friends and our self! These can & do cause "shipwrecks" - at least one of which is pretty much guaranteed if you live beyond 60. Do see :

    Aversion to all that we fear / dislike / can't control is common & understandable, but is at best only a short-term band-aid. Clinging & chasing after things we like, think we need or must have is also common & understandable, but easily becomes obsessive eg addictions, and there are many "entrepreneurs" to feed our hunger to escape (see the 2023 miniseries "Painkiller" on Netflix). But it's a meaningless delusion to see our identity just a meat-machine that avoids undesirables & chases after desirables. "The one who dies with the most toys wins" is desperately simple-minded.
     Our ONLY WORTHWHILE OPTION is repeatedly remembering our true nature and repeatedly embodying it by BEING a NURTURING PRESENCE to others & the environment no matter how annoying, great or persistent the challenge. This is simply being natural, true to whom / what we are - like birds flying in the air and fish swimming in water. 
    We see great nurturing when parents really know their children and spend quality time with them by providing all that they require to optimally express their natural talents and mature into healthy, balanced, self-sufficient, caring, intelligent, pro-social adults. 
    Nurturing has NOTHING TO DO WITH stuffing them full of candies & fast food; indulging them with as much screen time as they want; throwing money at them to blow shopping online or at the mall; buying them all sorts of toys & clothes - there is no quality time here - just spoiling and creating helpless, hopeless, miserable perpetual infants. The worst fear of wealthy parents is their kids "growing up to be assholes." This fear easily becomes a reality if parents don't have the wisdom & energy to spend quality time with their kids.

    EVERY stage of life has its own challenges. During our youth, we try so hard to learn and become competent & competitive to get by in this fast-moving world. During our middle years, we try so hard to establish a career, a home life, have & raise kids, pay our bills, maybe even live a little, put a bit of money away for retirement ... During our later years, we're dumbfounded that life went by so fast; if we're fortunate enough, we can help raise grandchildren; again, if we're fortunate enough, we have the inclination to devote our time & energies on NURTURING our own & loved ones' spiritual maturation / evolution of consciousness, rather than wasting our time wallowing about our progressively declining physical & mental health.

    “… for each & every one of us, we have circumstances in our lives that are chaotic, out of our control, outside of the box of what we think of as practice. And that is actually your deepest practice.
    The Buddha talked about this precious human birth. It’s precious for all of us, it has the most exquisite balance of dukkha (challenging situations) & easefulness. We’re not so overwhelmed by suffering that we’re lost and drowning, or we’re not so lost in the pleasure, either. It’s got this balance that keeps us needing to find a deeper happiness and having the resources to look.
    This birth the Buddha talked about as the precious human birth is rare and it’s precious. And it’s precious for all of us, even those of us who don’t have the conditions in our lives to go on many or any retreats.
    There’s something about practicing with the chaos of life, & the realities of our difficult, complicated relationships & situations that we’re faced with in day-to-day life that can move us very deeply and force us to feel things we might not otherwise feel. It also helps us see that it’s good to be alive and in the world and feel it and really land in this human experience fully and recognize it as a shared thing.”
 Cara Lai

     Four wise teachers & authors immediately come to mind when I think of inspiring survivors of major trauma. I've quoted them all in my quickly searchable blogs:
    Amoda Maa : “Embodied Enlightenment. Living Your Awakening in Every Moment.” Reveal Press, 2017.
    Isira : "Buddha on the Dance Floor." ‎ Living Awareness, 2014.
    Gabor Matte“The Myth of Normal. Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture.” Alfred A. Knopf, 2022.
    James Finley : “The Healing Path. A Memoir and an Invitation.” Orbis, 2023.
    James Finley on the alchemy of transforming the lead of trauma into spiritual gold:
    “(After graduating from high school, I escaped from a lifetime of psychological & physical abuse by my alcoholic father by entering a monastery. But there) I was sexually abused by one of the monks – a priest, my confessor, who Merton thought very highly of - everyone thought very highly of this person. And I had a breakdown. I became extremely dissociative, paranoid.
    I worked (looking after the pigs at the monastery). … The boar walked out on the ice, and it fell through the ice of this little lake in the woods, and drowned. I felt as I was walking around, I felt I was unraveling, and that sanity was like thin ice over icy-cold black water, and it was cracking, and if I fell through, because of my trauma history, I might never find my way back again. So I left (the monastery). I didn’t tell the abbot what happened. I didn’t tell Thomas Merton what happened. I didn’t tell John Hughes, who was a psychiatrist. I just left.
    So here’s a lesson. How can we learn to be healed from all that hinders us from experiencing the steady strong currents of divinity that flow on & on in the bitter-sweet alchemy of our lives? The alchemy is just not how phases of happiness can unexpectedly become precipitously sad – it was frightening. Nor is it something so sad that can suddenly break wide open with liberation, like an unexpected gift, or love, or presence, or a child. It isn’t just the rhythm of darkness and light, or birth and death, or the rhythms of your life, the rhythms of my life. Rather, the alchemist of old were trying to turn lead into gold. And lead into gold is how do we turn the unrelenting, unforeseeableness of life, how can we learn to experience the steady strong currents of divinity that flow on and on and on so unexplainably, that brought me and brought all of you up to this very moment that I’m talking right now? How has this come to pass? And how can I learn to find my way to this groundedness that’s always there? And finding my way to it, how can I abide in it? And how can I learn to share it with others?
    So I’d like to end with a story. … This hermit heard a knock at his door, and when he opened it, it was a mother and a father with their little girl. And the parents apologized for intruding on his solitude, but said to the hermit, ‘As you can plainly see, an evil wizard has turned our daughter into a donkey. And we would like you to pray over her, so we can have our daughter back.’
    The hermit said, ‘I see. Come in, come in, come in.’ And he had them sit off to the side, and he asked the little girl if she was hungry and would like something to eat. She said she would like that. And so he was talking to her while he prepared a meal for both of them, and they sat down. And he asked her about herself – about things about her life and so on. 
    And as the parents were watching how lovingly he spoke to the little girl, and how attentive he was to her, they suddenly realized the evil wizard did not cast a spell on their daughter, turning their daughter into a donkey, the evil wizard cast a spell on them to believe that their daughter was a donkey. 
    And so when they left, they were so relieved and grateful, having their daughter back, and the little girl was so relieved because it’s very hard to be a little girl when your parents think you’re a donkey, especially if because you’re a child, and to avoid the confusion, you start believing it yourself. There’s like a shame-based, traumatized place within yourself, that you don’t know what to do about it. 
    The deep healing that that little girl and her parents experienced in this story bears witness to the deep healing that I hope we are exploring together here today.
    James Finley "Becoming a Healing Presence in a Traumatized World" :
Another glorious morning shines down on us ...