Radical Love

Caring Hands

“I believe in love. Not just getting it, but giving it. I think that if you’re able to love someone, even if they don’t know it, even if they can’t love you back, then it’s worth it.” ~ Dorothy in Gosford Park

“… Now I know she’ll never leave me, even as she fades from view. She will still inspire me, be a part of everything I do. Wasting in my lonely tower, waiting by an open door. I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in, and as the long, long nights begin, I’ll think of all that might have been, waiting here forevermore.” ~ Beast singing “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” ~ Maya Angelou

Many years ago I read an amazing book, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. That book helped me change my perspective about life and love. Until I read that book I thought that something was terribly wrong with me because I was miserable while everyone else around me seemed to be so happy. I thought their lives were easy. That bothered me because mine was not. Oh, how wrong I was. We all struggle, we all want to live a meaningful life and most especially we all want to be loved.

Peck’s book opened my eyes to a new concept about love. He wrote, “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth … Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

Reading that was like a slap in the face. I was so used to trying to get people to love me that I never considered that choosing to love was my responsibility. If I loved myself, loving other people would be easy, and my life would be enriched whether they loved me back or not. But more than that, I understood that I had access to a well of love that I could rely upon whenever I needed it. All the love that has been shared throughout the history of the human race still exists. We can add to it and access it to help us through any challenges we might face.

Many people read The Road Less Traveled. It was on The New York Times Best Seller list for a very long time. I think perhaps Peck’s assertions about love have affected not just spiritual seekers, but artists as well. The kind of love M. Scott Peck talks about in his book permeate movies, books and television shows. Look at some of the latest crop of Disney movies, to name just a few. Maleficent, Tangled, Frozen, Cinderella, and the new Beauty and the Beast. They all have sweet, seemingly innocent, weak characters who are unwavering in their love for someone who needs it, or they are sustained by the love when they need it most. Because of love characters are transformed. But the endings aren’t the artificial, “And they lived happily ever after kind.” In each case, the characters learned important lessons from their trials that will help them the next time challenges come.

And radical love is not a major theme only in Disney movies. It shows up in lots of places in popular culture. One of my favorite places it shows up is in, Gosford Park, written by Julian Follows. He’s one of my favorite screen writers because he conveys important concepts with so few words. The quote above by Dorothy, one of the maids in the country house, Gosford Park, rang so true for me, and reminded me of what Peck had written in his book. Love isn’t a prize. It’s something you cultivate within yourself and give freely to others without expecting anything in return.

The song “Evermore” that I quote above, from the live action Beauty and the Beast has the same sentiment. The Beast is changed because he allows another person into his life. Something about Belle helps him venture to love enough to let her go to do what she needs to do. And as the quote above tells, he will never be the same even if she never returns to him. He has made a decision to uncover the loving person who got buried by an uncaring father. If you haven’t seen this latest version, I highly recommend it. It’s an extremely beautiful movie.

I didn’t realize that love was such an important theme in my own life until I wrote my book, The Space Between Time, I didn’t intend to have a deeply wounded character be transformed by love, at least not consciously. It just kind of happened that way. But when I was writing a pivotal scene, all the things I’ve learned about love since reading The Road Less Traveled, kind of coalesced. Here is a bit of what came out of the computer key board:

“Aris waited a moment or two to see if he would continue. When Seth was quiet, he asked, ‘Do you think you’ll ever tell her what you’ve told me?’

Seth took a deep breath. ‘I have to don’t I? Even if she can’t love me, I must tell her how much loving her has changed my life.’”

It feels like we human beings are waking up to the fact that to have a loving world, we must not SEEK love, but BE love. To me that means to be there for the people who need us, or to leave people who are toxic. We can’t share love if we hate ourselves. Love has to begin within us. I believe it’s the lack of self-love that has caused all the conflicts throughout history.

I’m not sure this post has an end. We are sustained by the love left behind, and If we tend our love, it will only grow larger and stronger. We’ll continue to be transformed by it.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Rejoice for the Truth

Earth from the Moon

Earth from the Moon

“We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” –Plato

“When negative feelings move upon you, reflect, and recognize the danger of feeding those feelings and keeping them alive.” –Bryant McGill

“Owning your own feelings, rather than blaming them on someone else, is the mark of a person who has moved from contracted to expanded awareness.” –Deepak Chopra

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learn here.” –Marianne Williamson

In recent days I’ve been sick to my stomach about current events like, the decisions of the two Grand Juries made regarding the deaths of two black men, and the reports of torture that our government carried out in the years after 9/11. In fact, almost everyday there is some news story that makes my skin crawl. Maybe you feel the same way. It’s so easy to get discouraged about all the bad news. Yet, I have to rejoice. The truth is coming out!

In a way it’s like we’re doing an intervention for ourselves. A large number of people in this country are waking up to the fact that we had slid down that slippery slope toward evil with justifications that this police officer, or that official was only trying to protect the public, or the national interest. A growing number of everyday citizens aren’t buying that old excuse. They’re saying, “This isn’t right!” Other governments, regimes and groups down the ages have tried to cover up their misdeeds, all in the name of protecting the populace, or their business. We’re in a new era now, and those old shenanigans won’t work anymore.

A few days ago I finished reading I am Malala, our latest book club group selection. In my opinion it is a must read for everyone in the Western world. Most of us, and I mean mostly white people, have no idea what it’s like to live in fear for our lives every single moment, to have our freedoms restricted, and to witness terrible atrocities day after day. In the book Malala describes in compelling detail how the Taliban used insidious tactics to gain a foothold and then spread terror. While I was reading, it was almost as if I were living in her village, feeling the fear that my school would be bombed, or my friends and family killed. I dreaded reading the parts when she described walking to school and seeing the bodies of those the Taliban killed during the night piled among the rubble of bombed out buildings. We in this country haven’t had to face that amount of devastation, unless we’ve fought in a war.

While I was reading the book, it occurred to me that people who fear will go to the greatest of lengths to make themselves feel safe. And when they are steeped in the largest amount of fear, like the Taliban, or the ultra-conservatives in this country, there is no reasoning with them. Their minds and hearts are closed. They think that obstructing anything they see as threatening is going to make them feel better. Mistakenly, they think their fear comes at them from the outside so they try to make the fear go away by controlling events and people within their influence. So anyone who’s stuck in fear will do all they can to make themselves feel better. This is not a conscious decision you understand. It’s part of the fight-or-flight response.

We say that it’s human nature to react this way. But studies are showing that we can change that nature. We can change our feelings, and our ingrained patterns of thinking. People like Bruce Lipton, Nick Ortner, and organizations like the Heart Math Institute, have written about how we can turn away from fear toward love. It takes commitment and willingness to look into the dark places we’ve been avoiding. That’s why I’m grateful that the truth is coming out about the actions of corporation and our government. More and more people are willing to examine the situations that devalue human beings, and to speak up and call for accountability.

When we act out of fear, we’re not acting out of strength. Violence, external power, and the misuse of money show weakness. So how do we change the minds of those who are so gripped by fear? Their minds and ears are closed and their hearts are hardened. How do change that? We pray for them and send them love. The Dalai Lama says it better than I can. “Being concerned about other people is especially relevant in today’s world. If we consider the complex inter-connectedness of our modern lives, how we depend on others and others depend on us, our outlook will change. We’ll begin to see ‘others’ not as somehow distant from us, but as people we are in touch with, people close to us; we will no longer feel indifferent to them.” In other words, we are them, and they are us.

Today, as I write this, The Master Shift World Peace Meditation, narrated by Julian Lennon, is being launched. I hope they keep it on YouTube long enough for you to go experience this beautiful meditation. It can be the beginning of letting go of fear and realizing that we’re all connected. We can be instruments of a powerful shift from greed, hatred and terror, to peace. That’s part of my mission. To spread peace and love. Working to accept myself and find inner peace has been one of the most profound and exciting journeys of my life. Will you join me?

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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She Writes

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

IMG_0013

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.

Attacking Others is Attacking Ourselves

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.
Bernard Meltzer

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi

George Zimmerman is found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin and the country goes into attack mode. He’s characterized as evil incarnate. It’s a tragedy that Trayvon Martin was killed in a senseless way. We all feel angry and helpless about what happened to him. But aren’t we killing ourselves to hate George Zimmerman?

Every single religion teaches us that we must forgive our enemies. They don’t teach that so that the person we hate benefits, they teach that so that we benefit. I know from personal experience that when I hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, it hurts me a lot more than it does the other person. In fact, the other person might not even know they hurt me, or that I’m holding a grudge. They may feel perfectly justified in what they did. My hatred and the desire for revenge holds me back, makes me ill and cuts me off from the divine goodness that could come to me. To forgive is the ultimate act of self-love. We can’t love others if we don’t love ourselves.

We need to forgive George Zimmerman not for him, but for ourselves. If you think about it, can we really know what happened on that terrible day? I mean, were you there when Trayvon got shot? Did you see it happen? Were you there in the courtroom? Did you hear every piece of evidence? We can never know what goes on inside another person’s mind. We can’t possibly know what was going on in George Zimmerman’s mind when he shot Trayvon Martin. And we can’t know what was going on in Trayvon’s mind in his last moments. We don’t know the larger purpose of that event.

I wrote last week that we need to give up fear and trust God, or whatever you call God. I need to say here that I call God, Divine Oneness. I chose that name because we’re all connected. Everything in the universe, everything that exists is connected. That’s not just my opinion. Science has proven that we are all made of the same elements as what’s out in the cosmos. So, if we’re going to trust Divine Oneness to manage things for us, we have to let Her/Him take care of George Zimmerman’s fate too. We’re not God. Our teeny little brains can’t manage our own lives, much less all that exists. Nor can we understand the bigger picture of the plan Divine Oneness has in store for us. So we’ve got to stop buying into the idea that revenge is sexy, cool, protects us and balances the books. It doesn’t. It eats away our humanity.

I had two experiences that I think relate to George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. When my husband and I took our trip around the world in 1996, I broke down in almost uncontrollable tears at two different sites. The first was in Notre Dame in Paris. It was a lovely spring day and the Cathedral was full of tourists. The choir was practicing in the choir loft. We entered the Cathedral and began walking the tourist path. To the right just inside the entrance was a life size statue of Joan of Arc. I saw the statue and began to weep. Barry was very concerned. He didn’t know why I was reacting in such a way. I stood there blocking the path while other tourists tried to get around me. Finally, Barry said, “Do you want to pray?” There was an area cordoned off with chairs for those who wanted to pray. We sat there for about twenty minutes while I wept. To this day I’m not sure what made me weep at the sight of Joan’s statue, but I think it had to do with the fact that she was sacrificed in a senseless grab for power. She had a pure understanding of her purpose and she was willing to follow her guidance no matter where it led her. We remember her, not so much the men who burned her at the stake.

The other time I broke into tears, was when we were in Delhi, India at the Raj Ghat where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. In the midst of the city, which is crammed with buildings, is a lovely large parklike area. The moment we entered the gates, I felt we were walking on sacred ground. Our Sikh guide was telling us about the grounds and about Gandhi’s life. One of the other tourists asked, “Gandhi was a Hindu wasn’t he? Then why was he killed by a Hindu man?” The guide, who was very tall and elegant said, “It is often the case that men of great vision are misunderstood.” At that moment I was filled with the importance of Gandhi’s message and the meaning his life held for the world. I began to weep. We haven’t learned yet to let go of violence, and Trayvon Martin is just the latest example of the accepted viewpoint that guns protect us. I wept for the loss of Trayvon Martin just like I did for Joan of Arc and Gandhi and all the other victims of senseless violence.

I have a friend who says, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” Both Joan of Arc and Gandhi volunteered to be examples of love, purpose and peace. They left us a great legacy. We need to contemplate the legacy Trayvon Martin leaves, not nurse the hatred we feel for George Zimmerman. As my father used to say, “People who hurt others are in pain themselves.” George Zimmerman most certainly acted out of fear when he shot Trayvon Martin. He’s living in his own kind of hell. I refuse to join him there by hating him, because as A Course in Miracles says, “Attacking others is attacking yourself.”