|There are 84,000 Dharma doors and they are all number one! --Ron Epstein|
Nuggets of Wisdom from 10 Everyday Heroes--by Gayathri Ramachandran, syndicated from servicespace.org, Jan 21, 2019
As this year winds to a close, volunteers suggested that it might be fun for me to do a post with excerpts/nuggets from 10 memorable Awakin Calls of this past year. The idea resonated, so here is my list.
Needless to say, these 10 were rather difficult to choose since there is something resonant or meaningful in almost every call we’ve had. And as all members of the Awakin Calls scribe and editing team can attest -- as we spend a lot of time soaking in these calls, even the calls that first seem to be at the outer limits of our sphere of interest unveil some talisman, that we then hold on to, for nourishment. So with that caveat in place (and the invitation to please spend some time at the site browsing randomly till something calls to you) -- here is a list, from my lens :)
Sarah Peyton: The Riddle of Self-Esteem
Sarah is a certified trainer of the Center for Nonviolent Communication who has a passion for weaving together neuroscience knowledge and experiences of healing that unify people with their brains and bodies.
“Trying to turn toward myself with warmth was a little bit like being Edward Scissorhands -- so that was my starting point -- a kind of self-lacerating, a capacity for criticism, and just a real longing for the invulnerability that I thought perfection would bring-- undoable though that request was, to myself.
So I stumbled across non-violent communication when Marshall Rosenberg was still alive and still traveling and teaching. And I had the extraordinary experience of bringing something very difficult, very entrenched -- we had adopted a son, and I was having a really hard time hugging him. And it just seemed like I was going to be doomed to living with the shame and horror of my own limitations for the rest of my life, and letting down this beautiful soul who'd come to live in our family.
And as I sat in a circle of people who were practicing non-violent communication with me, which is a modality of language use, where we're not giving anybody advice -- which is quite extraordinary in North America. The tendency to tell other people how to live their lives when they are in some sort of emotional pain is really overwhelmingly tempting here. You know? So for the first time in my life, I was being received by people who were genuinely wondering -- what was happening for me? How did this make sense? This is the beautiful question I think that nonviolent communication asks and answers: How do our un-understood behaviors and words make sense? What are the deep messages? Yeah, so people were touching me in that way and I experienced a complete transformation. I had an actual kind of visceral and physical memory of reaching out towards my mother and feeling her body recoil. And it was in that moment my inability to hug my beautiful child fell away from me, and I was able after that to hug him.”
Clare Dubois: Toward a New Nature-Based Feminine Consciousness
Claire is the founder of TreeSisters.org, a quickly-growing women’s crowd-funding and consciousness-shift campaign to inspire and direct the brilliance, creativity and generosity of women towards the reforestation of the tropics and shared leadership around ecological restoration
On the cyclical nature of the feminine: “The feminine intelligence is equally cyclical because our hormones change throughout the months. We have all four of nature seasons happen every month, but nobody wants to talk about the fact that menstruality or a woman's womb is the source of her intelligence and her ability to understand her unique capacity, as they change through the month. So we have suppressed that and we've become linear just like everything else -- where [as] women, we've been taught to be men essentially, but just doing women's roles, mothering, tending, not deeply listening to the cycle of life and bringing through what I call the Nature-based feminine consciousness that can bring solutions that are life-based, and a more balanced feminine nature.”
On the right relationship between the masculine and the feminine: “That's the right relationship between the masculine and the feminine. We feel, therefore we know what to do. If the feeling side of our nature is down we can burn our planet out. If we feel our indivisibility, we will act in accordance – that’s the reinstated feminine consciousness.”
Myron Eshowsky: A Deeper Listening
Myron embodies many roles – among them, that of mediator, shamanic healer and co-director of the Social Health Care Program for Syrian Refugees based in Jordan, which provides direct services and training in trauma treatment for Syrian families displaced by the conflicts.
“There’s the core belief that everything is alive and everything has a spirit. So if I sat with a tree and I just listened, I will hear something. And if I sat with a rock and I just listened, I will hear something. All these are things to me that we can do to practice just listening. But listening requires that we suspend judgment; suspend the idea that we're making it up. Just being curious.”
“When we know a place, when we are in relationship with a place, if we take care of it, if we are in relationship with that place, if we sing to it, if we play to it, and if we listen to the place -- it can come back, it can come back.”
Greg Tehven: Business, Local Community, and Love
Thought leader, storyteller, and advocate for the creative class, Greg Tehven is turning the world of conventional economic development on its head, and inviting people to build the communities they want to live in.
“I think in my experiences as a student leader, I lost myself. I was more interested in the metrics of how big we were, how much money we had raised, how much staff...And it was during a labyrinth exercise, an inner journey exercise, where I realized I just needed to leave. And so I took a year to work with my co-founders to remove myself from the organization and had a beautiful transition. I wandered around the world for a year and I wish I could tell you I went to go see the great sights and meet people from all over the world. But I was actually just leaving my life. I went overseas so that my cell phone wouldn't work, so I wouldn't have great internet reception, because I had kind of lost myself. I didn't have hobbies. I didn't have friends outside the organization and I really spent a year on an inner journey.”
A lesson on building community in Fargo, North Dakota: “The lesson being having a long-term view generally wins. And so it's been said, if you want to build community, it takes ten years, and that ten-year clock starts over, every single day! And so we've tried to set our vision twenty years out, with a core group of us, and it goes into that idea – ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together’. And so trying to build togetherness with a longer journey to support the people in our community.”
Terry Patten: A New Republic of Heart
Terry is a philosopher, teacher, activist, consultant, social entrepreneur, and author. Over the last fifteen years he has devoted his efforts to the evolution of consciousness by facing, examining, and aiming to heal our global crisis through the marriage of spirit and activism.
“We're experiencing crises in the United States, where I'm most familiar with things, in the educational system, in the agricultural system, in the food system, in the healthcare system, you know, on and on. There's nowhere that isn't in crisis. So to understand it as having one bottom line, and one aspect of this is causative of all the others -- it confuses us. But if we see the fact that everything is in crisis at once, and yet, all the wisdom traditions of all of humanity's history are in conversation with each other, as never before. And communities, heart-based communities of sincere people are coming together in a spirit of love and care and curiosity and humility, like this community, as never before. All of this is happening at once. It gives me goosebumps!”
“We're living in a moment. This is game time on planet. Wow. What a privilege to be here. Somehow our souls called us to be here. Now. There's this really wonderful German word. The German word for 'contemporaries' is 'Zeitgenossen’ which translates as 'time comrades'. We're all comrades, in that, somehow, our souls consented to be here now, have chosen, in some sense, to be here, in this time. This is our time. This crazy, very wild time. This is our time! And what happens in our lifetimes will have impacts on all the forms of life on the planet. So in some sense, we're all here at game time. Wow, what a privilege and what a moral opportunity and responsibility! So I hope we can respond to it with a sense of inspiration, rather than merely fear.”
Emma Slade: From Global Banking to Monasticism to Compassion in Action
How does a jet-setting financial analyst from London end up a Buddhist nun in Bhutan? Emma Slade (ordained as Ani Pema Deki) is a yoga and meditation teacher and author who left a successful career in finance in her thirties to find peace and meaning in the mountains of Bhutan.
On how spiritual growth helps one to be in relationship: “I found that in a relationship, I became very needy. I didn't become very patient. I became kind of impatient. I didn't become generous. I became kind of nit-picking. Actually, the structure of relationship with somebody just brought out the worst in me, for whatever reason. At the same time, I was developing my Buddhist practice and what I was finding was some feeling of a lack of integrity, because I was reading all this Buddhist stuff about loving everybody and being kind, and yet in the form of the relationship, I just didn't seem to be able to do it. This was quite a dilemma for me, I have to say!
I didn't think at that stage I'd become a nun, but I could see that, somehow, the dots weren't joining up between spiritual practice and everyday life. In the end, that relationship finished and that was a bit of a turning point. Ironically enough, I'm fully ordained now. I've taken my vows for life. I'm totally celibate. But right now, I'd be better at a relationship than ever before because I've gone far enough in my spiritual practice now to be a decent partner for somebody. I just hadn't gone far enough back then, to know how to use my spiritual development to be a good person with somebody else. Of course, now, it's too late!”
Ron Epstein: Responsible Living
Ron Epstein, Ph.D., is a Buddhist scholar and practitioner who has spent decades as a professor of Buddhist studies.
On meditating with Master Hua: “I was a typical American. I didn't really know anything about Buddhism, but I knew experientially that the meditation path was a way of exploring stuff that was not really available in the contemporary American culture. And so, I really, not even sincerely, tried to open up my mind during these hourly meditation sessions. And it became very, very clear that I'm getting a lot of psychic help from him and support from him, and really helping me to go deeper and deeper into my mind, until I had some really, really profound experiences, that were clearly because I was meditating with him.
And then when I was at my clearest in my own mind, I could look, to try to use all my energy to walk into him and see who he was, and I thought I could go, and go, and go inwardly into him, and all I would encounter was the light of compassion, and no other person. ‘No other person’ experience was something that I hadn’t encountered prior to that. At that point, I realized that he was a special being!
And after I realized this, I remember sitting on the step of this one big building and thinking here is this great enlightened master living in this building and nobody's paying any attention to him -- and what does that say about our culture?”
“There's a lot of talk about mindfulness, and mindfulness is obviously a prerequisite for a lot of stuff. But we have to see the context in which mindfulness is discussed. So just becoming mindful is not enough. You have to do it within the context of the precepts. We have to do it with right intention, which has to do with the karma of what we're dealing with, with mindfulness. What do we want to use the mindfulness for? The mindfulness is, as I mentioned before, is the foundation for the next step of making the kind of conscious choices that I was talking about.It's through the mindfulness, precept-based conscious choices, in every moment that we live along the Buddhist path and end our own suffering, and help to end the suffering of all sentient beings.”
On choosing a meditation practice that works: “I think each person has to find out for themselves which method is best for them. All of the methods have the same goal and work according to the same principles. In traditional Buddhism, there's a saying, “There are 84,000 Dharma doors and they are all number one!” So many entrances to get to Awakening, to Dharma! There are an infinite number of ways of doing this and some are better known than others, but they all get you to enlightenment. And you just have to find the one that you have the most affinities with, and keep at it, and keep at it, and persevere, and not bleed all over the place, and never get anywhere.”
Phuoc Le: HEAL-ing Others and Paying Forward the Blessings
Dr. Phuoc Le has long been an advocate for equitable healthcare worldwide. These days, Dr. Le wears many hats, from physician to professor to researcher to director to co-founder of the HEAL (Health, Equity, Action, and Leadership) Initiative, which trains front-line health professionals in order to build a community dedicated to serving the underserved.
Between Two Worlds: “We moved from Kansas to Sacramento -- a one way ticket on Amtrak. My tenth birthday was on that train. Our culture at home was wholly Vietnamese -- we lived by values and rules that were common in the rural countryside of Vietnam. What that meant was that discipline was carried out with the whip, or with the back of a metal fly swatter. And constant reminders of how blessed I was. My name, Phuoc, actually means 'blessed' or 'good fortune'. At school, any cultural diversity was shunned. I remember one time a Caucasian boy called me a derogatory term for Asian and I was so upset, all this anger boiled up inside me at this racial slur. It tipped me over the edge. I was 11 at the time. His name was Eugene and I said, "Eugene, meet me after school out in the yard." And we met each other and were wrestling and throwing random punches. Fortunately we were quickly seen by our music teacher and figuratively pulled up by the ears and taken to the principal's office. I felt so proud for sticking up for myself. But when I came home with a black eye and pride in myself for standing up against discrimination, my mother said, "Phuoc, why did you do such a stupid thing? What you really should do is just put your head down. You're lucky to be here. America has already given you so much." My intense pride was deflated. And that's representative of many of the feelings of immigrants who have left arduous circumstances or violence. Their sense of gratitude is paramount and leaves no room to stand up for equality or justice.”
Simon Hampel: A Quest for Visionary Leaders and Change Agents
How do leaders become wise and compassionate stewards? The question has guided Simon Hampel in his work as a Partner of Leaders’ Quest, a London-based organization that trains leaders in business, government and civil society worldwide to become purposeful, conscious, and transformational leaders.
“My sense of purpose is when you connect to something bigger than yourself, there's an energy in that -- that makes it hard not just to get up and move and do. It doesn't mean you go into action. You can certainly be and listen, and be still and allow the right things to come through you, but there's a power in that connection to something bigger than yourself, but then results in action, in a way of service. We often find people asking about purpose -- I don't know what my purpose is, I'm confused; should I have a purpose? I don't have a big purpose. The first place to go is just to think about our values and our way of being, because if we can live who we are across the breadth of our life, not just in one aspect of it with our friends, or in our office environments, then actually we are a more aligned, connected, integrated soul, in my observation. And in that integration, other things open up sometimes because of inspiration around you, sometimes because of inspiration inside of you. And who is to say what that would be or what it would look like -- because it's emergent. It can't be directed or told. But I do recognize that the integration of oneself can be a real help in establishing or finding a sense of purpose beyond self.”
Shabnam Virmani: Transcending Identity Through Poetry and Music
Shabnam is a documentary filmmaker, former journalist, and singer of Kabir folk songs and the chief architect of the ‘Kabir project’.
On her relationship to Kabir before the Kabir project journey: “I believe that these things flow like undercurrents under the surface of one's life, various experiences of life, and death and sorrow and seeking prepare you, you know? In unspoken ways actually. And then there's a trigger, there's a crack and the water comes gushing out upwards, you know, like a stream. But I think the preparation for that happens in subconscious ways much before that.”
On faith: "I really do believe that this is an ‘akath katha' as Kabir says. It is anuntellable tale. And you almost diminish something when you put it into words. And unfortunately the nature of language is so dualistic, that anything you say falls on the left or on the right, of any paradigm. And often the truth is far subtler. It could be both left and right. It could be sometimes left, sometimes right. Sometimes it could be neither. And that's much more the nature of reality than to say left. Or right...So when I even start to try and answer a question like this, to begin with, I feel hesitant to say, "I was agnostic and now I am a believer." That somehow feels wrong. I don't think I would call myself a "believer". The words fail you. I would even hesitate to say "I believe in a nirgun (formless)". Which means do I not believe in a "sagun (form)", a “sagun” part? I won't say that is true at all...
Maybe I would venture only as far as to say, that there is a glimpse, there is a taste for dissolution of your sense of smallness and separateness from people around you, from manifest phenomenon. And I think that, that dissolution of self and that 'fanah’ that Sufis speak about -- or that erasure of separation that Kabir speaks of, when he says "Lali dekhan mein gayi, mein bhi ho gayi lal" - that core taste, or glimpse, or glimmer, whatever you might want to call it -- it is something that these journeys have given me.
I think that is what everybody seeks. Because if you don't taste that, you feel very small, very alone, very separate, very forlorn, very violent, very divisive. That is the source of all the trouble, all the divides, all the violence; all the separation comes from that sense of separateness that we have. So that is the closest I have come to being able to articulate what my understanding of faith or belief, I don't know what you want to call it, is today.”
Happy 2019 to all my ServiceSpace "time-comrades" (as one guest put it)!
Gayathri Ramachandran is a Chennai-based ServiceSpace volunteer who anchors the team that transcribes Awakin Calls. A scientist by training, and a gardener at heart, she nurtures multiple forms of goodness in the world through her volunteer work, and her inner and outer explorations.
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Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.
Norman B. Rice
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