Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No Thanksgiving

I know this is the season for giving thanks, but I’m of the frame of mind to suggest that we also need a season of not giving thanks. How often do we say “thank you” not because we are really grateful for the life sustaining actions of others and a desire to celebrate that appreciation with others, but instead say thank you from a place of politeness or wanting to make sure that others accept us? Sometimes when we say “thank you” I imagine that we do so to manipulate the other – to get them to keep on meeting our needs with their actions or words. Others do the same to us, and with every “thank you” heard it’s as if it is a demand to get us to do what some one else wants and not what we want. We oblige because we wish to stay in relationship, never questioning shared practices that do not strengthen relationships and can foster resentment. Often these practices are subtle and we don’t realize how we are like an army recruit at basic training that after being punished by the drill sergeant, we are trained to say, “thank you sir, may I have another?” To the practices of oppression and violence that induce individual and societal suffering, isn’t it time to say, “no thanks?”

How do we say, “no thanks?” I believe we can do this by telling others how we feel based on life sustaining needs met (or not). We don’t mindlessly offer up thanks or ignore chances to share gratitude, but honestly and courageously express the true desire of our hearts and minds, which are based on a dream of loving and empowering relationships, and equality.

It can be challenging to express our disappointment with others in an empathetic way. So start small and practice with easy things. Perhaps when offered this week a second helping of candied sweet potatoes, which you don’t really like you can say “no thanks, I’m quite satisfied with the wonderful meal we’ve already shared.” With practice we can from candied yams to saying no thanks to poverty, to lack of health care, to domestic violence, and to anything that does not say yes to life for all beings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mighty Mouse


The mouse soul is nothing but a nibbler.

To the mouse is given a mind proportionate to its need,

for without need, the Almighty god

doesn't give anything to anyone.

Need, then, is the net for all things that exist;

man has tools in proportion to his need.

So, quickly, increase your need, needy one,

that the sea of abundance may surge up in loving kindness.

Rumi, Mathnawi, II 3279-80: 3292

Perhaps one of the kindest, most compassionate gifts we can offer ourselves and others is to recognize the great need in each of us. We all are needy - we long for love, community, health, beauty, safety, and peace. If we recognize the greet need in our species, and indeed of life on this planet, I believe that we open up the doors of love and power to flow through us. It is not us who own the needs, but interconnected life. To deny our needs, then, is to deny life. I believe that if we can make friends with the needs pressing around us, we ease up with the exact strategy to fulfill these needs, and this brings compassion, empathy, and healing into our relationships.

Where in your life, perhaps as parent or teacher, do you deny that you have needs and that life is inviting you to open to this so that you may fully live?