Evolution

Great Buddha, Kamakura, Japan

“The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life.” ~ Gary Zukav

“Only choices made in love are compassionate. There are no exceptions. Do you have the courage to act with an empowered heart without attachment to the outcome? If not, you have no ability to give or experience compassion. That is the shocking truth.” ~ Gary Zukav

The Sunday morning ritual in our house is to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. Last Sunday there was a segment on Kellyanne Conway. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch but I’m glad I did.

My first impressions were that her life has changed in ways she had not anticipated. That she gets attacked, like lots of public people do, for things that don’t matter like what she’s wearing. I don’t agree with her politics, but seeing that interview, which I admit is the first time I’ve seen her talk, made me feel sorry for her. She seems afraid and out of her depth. But what she said about being hounded for everything she does is a reflection of our hunger for “the dirt” on people. That’s not fair no matter who is in the public eye. I think we judge others when we feel out of balance and helpless. We think it’s a way we can control the outside world.

Watching the interview caused me to do a great deal of thinking about the discourse among the various political factions in this country. I’ve struggled since the election with the best way to help the evolution of our country, culture and myself. And for some reason seeing this woman trying to express herself clearly during the interview, helped me see that the great divide has more to do with our evolution as a species, and not for any other reason. And what does the evolution have to do with politics?

Not long ago I found a link on Facebook to an interesting article by Edward Morgan. It was on the site Prepare For Change about scientific evidence that the human race is waking up. The earth vibrates, as does every living thing on the planet. These vibrations are connected and have an effect on all the others. The very first sentences of the article states, “On 1/31/17, for the first time in recorded history, the Schumann Resonance has reached frequencies of 36+. This is a big deal. In 2014, it was considered anomalous for the frequency to have risen from it’s usual 7.83 frequency to somewhere in the 15-25 levels.” The article goes on to say that the spike in the Schumann Resonance is not returning to it’s usual 7.83 Hz. Why is this significant? Because, “These emerging resonances are naturally correlated to human brainwave activity.”

It seems to me that if the earth’s frequency has been raised by the elevation in human brainwave activity, then perhaps there are people who feel the change and are deeply frightened by this unseen vibration that they sense but can not define.

Years ago, in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, when I was going through a significant spiritual upheaval, I read the book The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. It was not only eye opening, but comforting as well. In it Gary Zukav says, “We are evolving from five-sensory humans into multi-sensory humans. … The perceptions of a multi sensory human extend beyond physical reality to the larger dynamical systems of which our physical reality is part. The multisensory human is able to receive, and to appreciate, the role that our physical reality plays in a larger picture of evolution, and the dynamics by which our physical reality is created and sustained. This realm is invisible to the five-sensory human.” pg. 27.

We’re struggling all over the world with what it means to be human and whether to continue on in the same old patterns, or to embrace new ways of being. The political climate has forced us to take a good look at ourselves and examine what we’ve created. If the article published by Prepare For Change is right, most of us are choosing to evolve and become multi-sensory. If that’s true, then we have to show compassion to those who are not yet ready to evolve.

I have to say that I have struggled a great deal about how to do that. We can’t let the people who are asleep run the world. That is proving to be counter productive. So, I have considered marching. I do sign petitions and send massages to my elected officials. But for some reason the words resist and protest seem wrong to me.

A local friend of mine posted her thoughts on this issue in a very long essay. She may have borrowed it from someone else, but the gist of it was that we should use the word persist instead of resist. I loved that because as a writer, I’m a big fan of using words carefully. They can be like daggers, or they can heal. We can be like the drops of water that eventually split the rock in two through persistent dripping. So, to help humanity continue to evolve, I will persist in my own awakening, in being kind and compassionate, in listening, in working to help others become successful. I will persist in urging our elected officials to think of every one of their constituents instead of lining the pockets of the wealthy and in turn getting rich themselves. But most of all, I will trust that even though it looks like everything is falling apart, it is really falling together. Sometimes you have to tear down the old to reconfigure it into something new.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Empathy and Mean Memes

Hands of different races
Hands of different races

“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” ~ Stephen Covey

“The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

“I always think that if you look at anyone in detail, you will have empathy for them because you recognize them as a human being, no matter what they’ve done.” ~ Andrea Arnold

About a week ago I saw this meme on Facebook. “Unpopular opinion: We are not all equal. I worked my ass off to get where I am, I deserve what I have, I shouldn’t have to give up what I’ve worked for to make things equal.” ~ Whisper. When I read this meme, I found it disturbing on several different levels. First of all, it shows a lack of empathy, which I believe to be extremely important in human relations. Second of all, the writer assumes there is not enough abundance to go around which I believe to be completely untrue. We just need to spread the abundance around so everyone has enough.

The other day I was at Target before going to teach my evening class at the college. I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between the man in front of me and the cashier. The customer said that he hoped the cashier’s shift was nearly over, to which the cashier replied, “Nope. I don’t get off until 9:00 tonight … four more hours. And I’m tired. I just came from my other job.” Of course the customer commiserated with the cashier which affected me deeply. I nearly cried. What must that young man’s life be like? Does he have any down time at all? Or is his life going from one job to the next just so he can survive. How horrible. It’s like he’s condemned to a living hell.

We often make the assumption that people who are poor are lazy. I don’t believe that’s true as evidenced by the cashier at Target. It takes a great deal of effort for the less fortunate to make ends meet, which leaves little time for additional education, or looking for a better job, or having fun with family and friends.

When I overheard the conversation in Target, I thought again of the above meme. The writer assumes that some people are more deserving than others. I don’t believe that to be true. We all come from the same place and our country is founded on that very idea. In the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I think what Thomas Jefferson meant was that every single person born on this planet is seen by the Creator as having the same value to every other person, and that VALUE has nothing to do with what we own, the job we have, how hard we work, or anything else which is visible. Our value is something intangible, known to God and only minimally to ourselves.

Most of us are incapable of seeing another person’s or even our own true self. We have no idea who they or we are beyond the tangible things we associate with personhood. That’s the tragedy humans have been trying to overcome since we became the human race. The have nots feel their worth instinctively, while the haves sometimes arrogantly assume they have more worth than anyone else. We hold so tightly onto what we have because we’re afraid of losing it. But our country was founded on the idea that if we share what we have with each other, we all become richer. It has been one attempt to give everyone a chance to be free to navigate their own path and to fulfill their personal destiny. It hasn’t been a perfect experiment as we all know. However, I think, perhaps, we are in a new era of attempting to reset the balance so that everyone can thrive and find their perfect life. It seems to be happening in various ways all over the planet, people standing up for their rights and doing things that change our perspective of what it means to be a person of worth.

In my opinion the solution to our current financial, political, and religious imbalance is to share what abundance we have with each other, to be open and try to understand one another. Compassion and empathy are things each of us can learn. Now when the world is in such turmoil it seems a particularly good time to dedicate ourselves to cultivating both empathy and compassion. It doesn’t take much, just do what Harper Lee wrote in To Kill A Mockingbird. “You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

On Strength and Weakness

It's a Wonderful Life Village
It’s a Wonderful Life Village

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” ~ Bill Bullard

“We think that forgiveness is weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive.” ~ T. D. Jakes

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been thinking a great deal about strength and weakness as we approach this most sacred time of the year. We often think that a show of force is strength, as in military retaliation, or getting revenge on our enemies. To me that’s the weakest kind of human interaction. I think strength is having the courage to accept and feel all our emotions. To cry and not be ashamed, to love with abandon, to be kind and compassionate, to feel another’s pain. When we can do that we can effect real change.

While revising my novel, I came to a section where Jenna, one of the main characters, is fired from a position that she thinks is her dream job. That and other life shattering events force her to face herself and who she is meant to become. If her life hadn’t been shaken up in such a cruel way, she would have continued to follow the path she was on and not reached her full potential.

Though the circumstances are different, the situation I wrote for Jenna came from an experience in my own life. I was fired from a much beloved teaching position. It was a political thing. Shortly after I lost that job, I was having breakfast with a friend of mine from the school and I was stunned when she said, “I hate to say this but you were weak and they took advantage of that.” I’ve thought a great deal about that statement over the years because I think my friend is dead wrong.

One of the major lessons I learned from that experience is that we each live in our own little worlds with a set of goals we want to accomplish. We see anybody who stands in the way of achieving those goals as our enemy. In fact one day as I was driving by the turn off to the school I remembered something an actor, I don’t remember who, said when asked why he played so many villains. He squinched up his eyebrows and said, “Well, you know, the villain is the hero of his own story”. I had a huge aha in that moment. I was the villain to my school enemies and they were the villain to me. We had opposing goals and stood in each other’s way to accomplishing them. All of a sudden I thought of those two people differently. They weren’t evil, they were just righting a situation they thought was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to be hired for the job, you see, the daughter was. Someone was going to lose the fight and it was me.

Now I can’t say I forgave them that very day. Oh, no. I wanted to hang on to my anger a while longer. I wanted the situation made right, which meant I wanted them to apologize for wounding me so deeply. I wanted them to see that I was really the better teacher for that position. I wanted my job back. It wasn’t until I gave up wanting a different outcome that I was able to look for what I could learn from the situation. Once I did that I began to make the steps toward forgiveness and toward finding my true purpose in life. In fact it was only a few weeks ago as I was meditating that I saw myself hugging them and telling them they had done me a huge favor and I thanked them for helping me find the most happy and fulfilling life that I now enjoy.

Over those several years when I was struggling to make sense of why my perfect life was shattered, I’ve learned that real power is wielded by the compassionate, the loving, and the empathetic because they are the ones who see the true souls of others. They are the ones who know that who we really are is not the things we own, our bank account, our jobs, our belief systems, or our behaviors. Most of us are completely unaware that we are beautiful light beings connected to each other and to the Divine.

One of the reasons I love this time of year is because almost all of us celebrate the sacred. Instinctively we know that light is more powerful than darkness for it is easy to dispel darkness by lighting one candle. Spiritual light shining from within is much the same. It can lead us to peace and happiness if we commit to loving those who are drenched in the darkest of places.

I know it’s a little early for making resolutions, but this is mine for the new year. To be one light that helps dispel darkness by embodying love, empathy and peace as much as I possibly can. If we band together in our intention to be the peace we wish to see, it can’t help but happen one day soon.

I hope you have a blessed holiday season.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Nothing Matters

Tarantula Nebula
Tarantula Nebula

“Bad news is: You can’t make people like, love, understand, validate, accept, or be nice to you. You can’t control them either. Good news is: It doesn’t matter.” ~ Daily Vibes on Facebook

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.” ~ Wayne Dyer

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.” ~ Wayne Dyer

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.” ~ The ManKind Project on Facebook

“Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you.” ~ A Course in Miracles, pg. 728

Years ago when Neale Donald Walsch said to me, “Contemplate these words: Nothing matters and you think it does.” I was appalled at his attitude. How could he say such a thing when there was so much suffering in the world! Yet on some level, I already knew that there was much more going on behind the scene of the world I was living in than was readily visible. I asked myself, “Do I trust God or not?” Though on one level I thought Neale was daft, I did as he said. It took me several years of contemplation to understand what he meant by those words.

Finally, in the early nineties I had a huge aha moment. My experience was so profound that I began to talk about what I’d learned and immediately was met with resistance and condemnation. People said to me exactly what I had thought when Neale had given me the assignment. “How dare you say nothing matters. Look at all the suffering in the world. Look at the injustice.” Well that shut me down pretty quickly. I didn’t know how to make others understand what I knew to be true. God’s reality is something you must experience for yourself. Some people just don’t want to change their perspective. However, I didn’t give up what I’d learned.

Fast forward to these last couple of weeks. In the interim, I’d been very selective about sharing my huge aha. Some people get it, others look at me as if I have two heads. But I knew that whenever anything rocked my personal life, or the lives of millions around the world, that there was a much larger purpose to those events. I knew that what my friend John Berger says is true, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” What I’ve come to realize is that the world is as we choose to see it. If we see a dangerous world, that’s what we experience. If we see a friendly, supportive world that’s what we experience. It’s our choice while we’re in this physical form. The thing is once we leave this physical body, we’re back with God and part of the real reality once more. However, we can live in God’s reality while in our physical bodies. We can that is if enough of us choose to let go of our old ways of thinking and being.

Last week I wrote about seeing the movie Judgment at Nuremberg again and how what I’d been studying in A Course in Miracles affected my viewpoint of the movie. History tells us that the Allies thought they were so superior to the Nazis, as if we haven’t committed our own atrocities, that they put the Nazi leaders on trial for crimes to humanity. They condemned many Nazi leaders to death or life imprisonment. I was reminded of just how sacred and profound a change forgiveness can make in the life of a person, or in a society. While withholding forgiveness can devastate and perpetuate suffering.

A week later my husband and I were watching CBS Sunday Morning. On it was a segment about Dick Cheney and the new book he and his daughter have written together. I was appalled when Cheney’s daughter said, with such love in her eyes, that her father had more integrity than anyone she’d ever known. My reaction was not kind or forgiving. Oh how I wanted to blame him for the Iraq war, for his warmongering and greed. I wanted to see him get punished for all the lives lost, and proliferation of the war machine under his watch just like the Nazi’s had been. Then I stopped. Here was my opportunity to learn a new part of that old lesson.

As you might imagine, I’ve had to take some time to think and reconnect with the idea that nothing matters. Fortunately this morning as I was again studying A Course in Miracles, I understood that I’m no better than Dick Cheney and I have no right to judge him. The old part of me wants to punish him for seeing a dangerous world and for condemning all of us who strive to see a world filled with God’s love. But condemnation is not love. I can’t return attack for attack and make the world a better place. If I condemn Mr. Cheney, then I put myself right back into that dangerous world we see on the nightly news.

The problem with condemnation is that it ignores the spiritual beings underneath all of our attitudes and actions. We are more than our physical bodies and our lives continue after our bodies deteriorate. We don’t have to suffer pain and strife. We can choose to see the world differently. We must be willing to let go of what we were taught about the world and how it works. We need to get a new vision of who God is and who we are in relation to Her/Him.

When I’m confronted with someone like Dick Cheney, I’ll have to remind myself that he doesn’t know his own connection to the Divine. Eventually it will become second nature for me. That’s when I will live in love and peace completely. Until that time, I’ll continue to write and speak about what I’m learning. If I’m not understood, if I’m condemned as a Pollyanna, if I’m told I don’t understand the real world, that’s okay. The world I see is a much more loving and peaceful place in which to live and all I can do is to hold that vision so that, hopefully, others will join me there. Eventually enough of us will make the shift and the old world of struggle and strife will fade away.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to make a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Compassion Can Change Lives

SOO-wreath - Creative Commons.org“Freedom cannot be learned by tyranny of any kind, and the perfect equality of all God’s Sons cannot be recognized through the dominion of one mind over another.” – A Course in Miracles

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama

“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” – Maya Angelou

What if you made a huge mistake? I mean a really big one that society says is unforgivable? How would you feel? I don’t know about you but when I make even little mistakes, I beat myself up over it. If I made a huge mistake, I’d feel so much shame, I’d never want to show may face out in the world again. But if someone showed me compassion and forgave me, I’d be able to feel better about myself.

Last Sunday my husband and I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, one of my favorite shows. My husband and I watch it faithfully every Sunday morning. Almost every Sunday I cry during at least one of the segments.

Last Sunday there was a story that made me think again about compassion and forgiveness, and how it can transform someone’s life. The title of the story we saw was “The Gainesville Tornadoes Thank Their Unexpected Fans” filed by Steve Hartman. Click Steve’s name to go to the CBS Sunday Morning page and watch the segment. I was touched by the story because it’s about the Gainesville Tornadoes who are young men serving time for felony offenses at the Gainesville, Texas Juvenile Correctional facility. The team is made up of students who have been on their very best behavior. When they get to play, they play teams from private schools like Vanguard College Prep in Waco, TX. The remarkable thing about this story is that the Gainesville Tornadoes rarely, if ever, have any fans. They are, after all, from a correctional institution, so none of their classmates can attend the games and most of the time their parents aren’t able, or don’t want to attend their games either. So not long ago, two Vanguard basketball players cooked up a scheme. They asked half their fan base to cheer for the Gainesville team, because as one student put it, “It’s no fun playing when the other team has no fans.” The thing is, by the end of the game, all the fans were rooting for the Gainesville players, and that was just fine with the Vanguard team. When Steve Hartman said, “This is not what I’ve ever seen sports be.” One of the students responded, “I think in a way this is kind of how sports should be and kind of showing you the real impact that encouragement and support for anybody can make.” Go watch the segment and if it doesn’t touch your heart, then you won’t understand the point I’m trying to make in this post.

We all need to be shown compassion when we make mistakes. It shows us that someone understands us. I know it’s hard sometimes to show compassion when we’ve been wounded by another. When that happens, we put on our armor and think that we’ll be safe inside it. But what retreating inside our armor does, is separates us from others.

Most of us are wounded people lashing out at other wounded people thinking we’re going to feel better by being the first to attack. This sets up a vicious cycle. The only way to stop the cycle is to do what Atticus Finch tells Scout to do in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You’ve got to put on another man’s shoes and walk around in them for awhile; see things from his point of view.” That’s how you cultivate compassion. If each of us stays inside our armor, we’ll never change the world for the better.

When I see a story like the ones Steve Hartman files on Sunday Morning, I rejoice. His stories always make me cry, because they are so hopeful. He tells about people in the world who are willing to set aside their personal goals of winning or being successful to help another person feel like there is someone who cares about them. Isn’t that what we all want? We want to feel needed and heard. We want to feel useful and we want to feel like we’re not the only ones who make mistakes. And on the other side, we want to feel like we’re making the world a better place in which to live. To do that we have to shed our armor and be the person who makes a difference in someone else’s life.

Thanks to my new and old followers. Please leave a comment below and connect with me on one or all of my social networks.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Compassion and Generosity Never Go Out of Style

It's A Wonderful Life Village
It’s A Wonderful Life Village

“Instead of judging people by their past, stand by them and help repair their future.” –Heidie Diasanta

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” –Abigail Van Buren

This week’s blog post is a difficult one to write, because this past week my family was split in two. I won’t recite every detail, except to say that my brother and the older of my sisters felt it necessary to accuse my youngest sister of abusing our mother and their children. Harsh words have been exchanged with plenty of blame to go around. This incident has made me think long and hard about forgiveness, compassion and generosity.

My youngest sister and brother-in-law have been struggling financially for about six months. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never been in their position, but being poor takes a lot of effort. I’ve done what I can to support them along the way. I think they are amazing, because they have never given up. From my perspective, they’ve been on an amazing spiritual journey, learning about themselves and trusting that the trials they’re going through are leading them to their purpose. I’m amazed that their relationship with each other has grown stronger, and their children continue to thrive, even with all the chaos going on around them. Both my sister and her husband have finally found jobs that are both meaningful, and that will help them build the life they want.

What distresses me the most is that from my point of view, my brother and sister lack compassion for my youngest sister’s situation. Oh I understand my brother and sister think they are protecting our Mother. At least that’s what I hope motivates them. The thing is, they’ve been off living their own lives, and not really engaged with the rest of us for many years. They don’t understand how the relationships among the rest of us have grown over the time they’ve been away. So why my siblings feel the need to kick my youngest sister and her husband just when they’re picking themselves up, I can’t fathom.

On the one hand I’m shocked and hurt by what has occurred. On the other, I know that the only way I can help heal the rift is to send love and light to the situation every single day. Miracles can happen. This miracle may take some time to manifest, but I know from experience that relationships can be healed. My youngest sister and I were estranged from each other for some years, but after much forgiveness work on both sides, we’ve built a stronger relationship than we had previously.

As you probably understand, this fracas has caused me to think deeply about compassion, generosity, and forgiveness all of which I learned from my parents. As I struggle to try to understand what’s happened in my family, today I found two things that helped me recommit to follow my parents lead of being generous and compassionate.

The first was a video published in Nick Ortner’s The Tapping Solution newsletter. It was originally a TEDx talk by Michael Norton at Harvard University in 2011. The title of the talk is: “How to buy happiness.” The point of the video is that money CAN buy you happiness, if you give some away to help others. The study the talk is based on gives amazing evidence to support Michael Norton’s premise. As I listened, I was struck with the fact that the reason Christmas is such a joy-filled season, is because we’re spending money on the perfect gifts to give others. The amazing thing is, the amount of money you give away doesn’t have to be large to make you feel better about your life. The reverse is true if you hoard money, your life is not any happier, and possibly less happy. Hum, I couldn’t help but think of my sister and brother.

The second inspirational piece was an article posted by A Mighty Girl, a group I follow on Facebook. The article was about a young woman, Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who is a college student in Preston, England. She’d lost her ATM card, and was stranded after an evening out with friends. She had no money for a taxi. A homeless man, Robbie, offered her all the money he had, about $5 so she could get home. She was able to find her way home without using the money he so generously offered. However, she so touched by his gesture, that she started a fund raising page on Facebook so she could raise enough money to pay for an apartment for him. Well, of course, much more money than was needed for the apartment came in and she was able to give the money to other charities in the area that provide for the homeless. Needless to say, her story went viral and she’s starting a new campaign on Facebook to help others.

Both those stories inspired me. First off, compassion and caring not only makes us happier, it’s also big news. We want to hear inspirational stories like these. Forgiveness, compassion and caring are what’s going to change the world. If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you know I’m continually writing about turning away from negative thoughts and feelings and embracing the positive. In the past I’ve apologized for that, but not any longer.

I’ll end this post with a quote from A Course In Miracles which I found just after the blow up in my family. It has helped me put my feelings into perspective. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” I know that my youngest sister, her husband, my husband and I have been seeking the barriers within ourselves that keep us from accepting love. I write from experience, when you go inside and break down those barriers, your life will become messy for a while. You have to go though a time of what I call cosmic closet cleaning. However, when things in our lives fall apart, we’ve got a golden opportunity to build something new. That’s what I celebrate, because the alternative is to stagnate, which, in my opinion, is a very dark place in which to live.

I hope your holidays with family and friends are rich and happy, though I know that sometimes they are quite stressful. There can be a blessing in that for you. And remember, being generous, sharing money and compassion to others makes you feel better about yourself, and makes you happier.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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We Need Compassion

 

Grace Cathedral Window
Grace Cathedral Window

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” –Dalai Lama

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” –Ellen DeGeneres

Recent events in my family have made me wonder why some people are filled with caring and compassion for their fellow human beings and why others aren’t. I guess it’s not only that. The political climate is so volatile right now, not just in our country but almost everywhere in the world that there are times when I wonder if we’re going to make it as a species.

Then I remember that there are lots of individuals and organizations that are working to make this world a better place to live. Some do it the way I do, on a one-to-one basis, and others are working on a global scale. That gives me hope, because just lately, I’ve been feeling down about the whole situation in the world. Sometimes it’s difficult being a very sensitive empath.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve picked up the feelings of others. For many years I didn’t understand why my mood would suddenly change from happy to sad, or anxious and fearful. Then I realized, it was because I was like a magnet, picking up the feelings of others. Even after learning how to shield myself from the feelings of others, I struggle with being extremely sensitive.

Some mornings I wake up feeling anxious and I don’t know why. For the most part my life is running smoothly. I’ve learned to accept that challenges happen, and though I may temporarily be thrown off balance, I’m able to right myself and move forward knowing all is well.

However, that’s not the case for everyone. Some people are so full of fear they do and say hurtful things to those around them.

So what can we do to change the situation in which we find ourselves besides work on finding our own inner peace? I think practicing compassion is something we can do to help move the evolutionary process along.

Right after I graduated from high school, I took a job at a Montessori school as a teacher’s aide. I’d decided that I wanted to work for a few years before attending college. One day something happened in the classroom, and I was dealing with an angry little boy. The specifics of the incident have faded over the years, but I remember saying to him, “It’s okay, you can be mad at me. I can take it.” I’ll never forget the look of relief on that boys face. So many conflicting emotions had been fighting for supremacy. I could see them reflected in his body language. That’s when I told him it was okay to feel anger. I don’t know what made me tell him it was okay, but I remember feeling compassion for him. He was a powerless child confronted by an adult who had power over him. Then I’d given him permission to feel his feelings.

I know that the people I’m angry with have more money and external power than I do. But, their world is crumbling and they have no idea how to stop it. They are resisting the tidal wave of change that they didn’t see coming. That makes me feel sad for them. Some instinct tells me that the one way we can speed up the awakening process is to practice compassion in every interaction in which we participate. Calling the bully names, and treating them the way they treat us doesn’t make them back down. It makes them dig in their heels and put up more resistance. So, I propose trying a different tack. Show them compassion.

Here’s a site where you can get some tips about how to do that, or even begin to participate in building a compassionate world. Karen Armstrong, author of many books including,  A History of God, and Twelve Steps for a Compassionate Life, has begun the organization Charter for Compassion which is a world wide project to educate people and inspire a change in the way we live our lives on all levels. This is just one of many organizations with whom I’m connected.

When I read the emails of groups like this that are trying to help us turn from fear, close-mindedness and hatred, to love and compassion, I’m encouraged. Maybe we can evolve. Maybe I can let go of my anger and help make the world a better place to live.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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A Season of Compassion

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” –Henry Ward Beecher

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” –Stevie Wonder

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Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holy Days.

Last night I watched a wonderful Frank Capra movie which embodies the idea of compassion. It’s Meet John Doe (1941). Hah! Fooled you. You thought I was going to write about his most famous of movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. Actually most of his movies that I’ve seen have similar themes. The little guy perseveres and changes the world, or at least his or her little part of it, through sharing compassion and love.

In Meet John Doe, times are bad. It’s during the Great Depression. At the beginning of the movie Barbara Stanwyck’s character Ann Mitchell, loses her job as a newspaper columnist. She’s supported her mother and two younger sisters, since her father’s death and needs the job desperately. So, she writes her last column including a fake letter from a man fed up with the politics of the day and with the incivility of regular people toward each other. Her fake John Doe vows to jump off the City Hall building on Christmas Eve in protest. This of course, she hopes will increase circulation of the paper and save her job. You might think from that description that Barbara Stanwyck’s character is mercenary. Well, yes she is, but for a very good reason which you find out as the movie goes along. Of course, eventually the paper has to hire a “John Doe”, played by Gary Cooper, because of accusations from another paper that the John Doe letter is fake, and it’s all been a publicity stunt.

At the heart of the movie is the groundswell of ordinary everyday people forming John Doe Clubs promoting compassion for their neighbors and making sure everyone in the community is taken care of.

What actually started me thinking about compassion, was Karen Armstrong’s interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday a few weeks ago. Karen, who was at one time a nun, has studied the religions of the world and her new book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, points out that every single religion has compassion as a core tenet. Then a few days after watching the show, I saw Meet John Doe, and the two fit together perfectly.

Compassion is slightly different than love. To me, compassion is an ability to feel another’s pain and suffering; to understand that we all fall down and we all have a dark side. Just having a compassionate person’s presence, is a balm to both the sufferer and the one giving compassion. Therefore, compassion is one component of love. In her interview, Karen Armstrong pointed out that we all have a dark side and once we acknowledge our own ability to harm others, we can show compassion to others even though they may be showing only their dark side in the present moment.

That brings me back to the movie. John Doe is exposed as a fake, by someone who wants to use the clubs as a way to gain the White House. The crowds of people at the John Doe convention turn on him and revert back to their angry, wounded, pessimistic view of the world. That is, until John decides to fulfill the deed set out in the fake letter. One of the groups that we see earlier in the picture, come to the City Hall to stop him. Ann, played by Stanwyck is also there trying to keep him from jumping. It’s the climactic scene and we see that compassion lives on because of John’s message even though the powerful politicians try to crush it.

I know from experience, that compassion is a powerful force. Kind words at a crucial time in my life helped me find new purpose. Showing compassion for others is a way for the recipient to feel seen, heard and understood. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but for 2014, I’m going to work on being more compassionate.

Memories of India

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” – Steven Pressfield

Seventeen years ago this month, Barry and I arrived home from our three month trip circumnavigating the globe. It was a trip of a lifetime. The lessons I learned have been invaluable to my personal growth. I would not have been able to understand some of the things that happened to me without my journal.

Barry and I were reminiscing about our trip the other day, and we both agreed that, it’s India we think of most often. India was the most challenging place for us to be. The contrasts were so stark, modern high rise buildings with cardboard villages at their base, people sleeping on the street, whole families riding on one scooter, the din of traffic, the brilliant colors of the women’s saris, the hands out stretched waiting for baksheesh. To say we experienced culture shock is putting it too mildly. I experienced sensory overload. Thank heaven for my journal to help me organize the chaos of emotions I experienced every day we were there.

Last month at our book club meeting, I related an experience from those days in India that I’m just now understanding. I’ve written many pages in my journal over the years trying to understand my feelings about this incident. Something about the book we’re reading, Women Who Run With the Wolves, and the course of our discussion made me relate the story. Here’s what happened.

Barry and I were walking down the sidewalk in Delhi, headed to the government tour office to arrange our trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. I felt a light brush on my elbow. I’d seen the mother and her small child sitting near the wall that surrounded the lush grounds of a four star hotel. As we passed, the mother sent the child to beg for money. The touch was so delicate. I wanted to turn and look at the tiny girl, but I ignored her. The day before, we’d taken the government sponsored tour of Delhi, and our guide had cautioned all of us to ignore beggars when they approached us. Even to look at them would invite them to press harder for money. If we acknowledged them, or gave them money, we could be mobbed by others wanting money too. Tourists had been seriously injured and even killed in such situations. My heart was broken and I cried. I cry still when I think of that little girl’s light touch.

One of the women asked, “Why do you feel so bad? Was it because you didn’t give her any money, or was it because you have so much and she so little?”

“No. The reason I felt bad was because I wanted to look into her eyes and see her. All I could do was send out a prayer for her.”

“But at least you did that. Most people wouldn’t even do that.” the other woman said.

Yes, at least I did that. Prayer can be a powerful thing. Maybe it helped the girl in some way. All I know is, the brief encounter with that little girl continues to teach me something. I hadn’t been able to articulate what it was about that encounter that still haunted me until that day. Now I know. I wanted to let that girl know, I acknowledged her existence. I think of her often and every time I do, I send up a prayer for her. She must be a grown woman by now. I wonder what her life is like and if she knows that she’s much more than her life circumstances. I think of her as changing the world in some profound way. She certainly changed my world in ways I would never have imagined. I guess I was ready for the lesson she was teaching.

That brings me back to my practice of keeping a journal and now this blog. We can learn important lessons without writing about them. But, I think it’s important to do the inner work necessary to understand what we’ve experienced, then share what we’ve learned with others. We never know who we’re going to affect. We never know the change we’re going to bring about. I don’t let anyone read my journal. It’s my private friend a place where I can go to make sense out of confusing situations. However, after I’m gone, my friends and family members may read my complied journals and may gain some insights that will help them with their own challenges. I don’t expect my journals to affect large groups of people. Blogging is different.

Blogging is a more immediate journal. I’d resisted writing a blog for a number of years thinking I didn’t have anything important to share. Or maybe I liked the anonymity of keeping a journal. Once you publish a blog entry, your thoughts are out in the world and they can affect people for good or ill. Not only that, you invite comments back about what’s been written. I’ve hidden my true thoughts for so long that I was surprised when I felt the urge to express ideas that I’ve held inside for most of my life. Like the story about the little beggar girl and what I learned from her.

Now that I’ve been writing a weekly entry for three months, I find blogging helps me do deeper inner work. I feel good about sharing my personal outlook on life with others. I guess at this stage in my life, it’s time to share a little of what I’ve learned. I’m excited to say, I’m still learning.

Word Power

“The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love. Born out of concern for all beings.”

– Buddha, was the central figure of Buddhism.

Words have been on my mind a great deal since I began writing my novel and this blog. That’s not true, I’ve always been fascinated with words. I’m told I spoke clearly before I could walk. None of that baby talk for me. When I was in grade school, my teacher praised me to the class for saying the word “multiplication” clearly, enunciating all the parts of the word. The other kids looked at me with perplexed expressions on their faces as if to say, “What difference does it make”?

My favorite subject in school was English where I learned to love great literature. In college my majors were Religious Studies and Theatre and Speech and my Masters degrees are in Theater Arts and Education. So, as you can see, words and the ideas behind them matter to me.

That’s why I’m concerned. There seems to be a growing trend of speaking before thinking about the consequences of what we’re saying. Is it just me, or are we lashing out at one another more than we used to do? We’re making a habit of using personal invective against one another without realizing that words are made up of energy. When spoken they are sound vibrations that we’re sending out into the world. When read silently, they stir or damage our soul.

Maybe you don’t know what I’m getting at. Okay, let me demonstrate. In the “Declaration of Independence” the line we revere the most is this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” As Americans, aren’t we proud of that document? Would we be as proud if Thomas Jefferson hadn’t been such a good writer? What if it said: “This is what we believe to be the truth, that everyone’s created equal, with rights that can’t be denied. We state that some of those rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It doesn’t have the same ring does it? Here’s another example of a document we hold dear, “The Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” What if Lincoln had started his address with, “One hundred and seven years ago our nation was created.” See what I mean?

My point is that words have power. We continue to study the works of Shakespeare because of the way he stated his ideas through characters in interesting, sometimes desperate situations. It’s the same with all great literature, but our popular entertainment, with a few exceptions, is made up primarily of reality shows where the “real” people are bickering, tearing each other down with their brutal honesty, or using profanity that has to be bleeped out. What kind of negative energy are we saturating the air waves with and how does that affect us? I’m not saying that a good swear word should never be used. Sometimes that’s the best way to express our feelings. What I object to is yelling them in someone else’s face.

In a fantastic book I read last year, Every Word Has Power, Yvonne Oswald writes about the power the words we think and speak have on our lives. If we’ve got the habit of denigrating ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to be successful out in the world. For that reason she helps the reader notice their self-talk. Beginning to change ourselves is the way to change our outer world. For that reason, I don’t watch all those negative reality shows, or the news. However, because I’m sensitive, I feel overwhelmed by the negativity of our dialogue with each other. I can feel it in the ethers and I feel sad that we’ve lost much of our civility.

Now that I’ve written about the negative aspects of our media, I do want to point out that I see glimmers of hope. I think the big wigs at the networks underestimate those of us who are viewers. The popularity of Downton Abbey, on PBS no less, took everybody by surprise. It’s a literate television show. Oh, there are characters who can deliver a cutting remark with flair. But, we get to see them suffer the consequences of their actions. They don’t get away with being nasty for long. Another glimmer of hope is the fact that OWN is doing better than ever, and while I don’t watch all the shows on that network, the programming is heavy on personal growth and healing. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I know this one blog post, which will reach maybe 50 people, isn’t going to change the way we think about each other, or talk to each other over night. My goal is to be one voice added to many others, saying, we need to pay attention to how we treat ourselves and others. We need to think, and not just drift along. We need to wake up and be conscious of our actions. If we’re compassionate with ourselves, it’s easier to show compassion for others.