Love Based Living

Fear can seem a big part of living on this planet. And living from fear is not fun, joyful nor can it lead us to genuine happiness. There are a million theories and gurus to follow, to seek answers, to research and delve yet there seems a common theme running through all of them. Acting from love or fear are really our only choices as humans. Either we are afraid, and if we notice our thoughts that will help inform us. Are we anxious? Jealous? Envious? Greedy? Needy? Abusive? Hungry for power over others? Those are fear based feelings that come from our thoughts, and lead us to act, behave, and think in fear based ways. We even might convince ourselves it is love. That might be our trance? Ever notice our thoughts? How fast they are and can squirm around into a kind of familiar mindset or default position to blame or feel a victim or being right? Are we flexible or inflexible in those moments? It isn’t easy to just notice them and not act on it, because we think what we think is real.

As humans we have the capacity to change our own minds. Watching a Netflix documentary “Stutz” provided some interesting life contemplations. The documentary is produced by and about a 40-something actor’s lessons learned from his therapist Philip Stutz. The tools discussed are a positive life line because they can be immediately understood and used if we are ready and willing.

Part of moving forward in our lives seems to be about letting go of being right. Lots of what can hold us back is the idea that life is fair or supposed to be just. Many times we are right yet no one acknowledges it, and what we seek in that rightness never materializes. It is hard to move forward or keep moving, yet waiting for others to acknowledge we are right may never happen, and may keep us stuck and unhappy. That is a fear based place to be.

Love, of oneself and love of others is about being in this world with an open heart. That seems to require being vulnerable (which yes is courageous). And choosing every day to bring our positive life force to the table. Having a healthy life force, according to Stutz, is when we pay attention to 3 things like a pyramid starting at the base with our relationship to our bodies (eating, exercising), then our relationship to the people in our lives/having good social connections, and the relationship to ourselves (our inner workings, emotions, thoughts, words etc)

Being awake at the wheel while being willing do the constant work of being a better human is our challenge. Are we up for it? Ultimately it seems we are on this earth to live a love based life as the only way to have the joy and contentment many of us seek. The Stoics speak of it in terms of living a life of virtue is essential to having real happiness and meaning.

Love based living is a daily practice.

https://www.netflix.com/tudum/articles/stutz-the-tools

Link to Netflix article on Stutz documentary

Drop Fear

What does that mean to “drop fear”? With more years on this earth under our belt, fear seems a common hindrance to most of the good things most of us say we want, like love, laughter, even curiosity, joy, acceptance, enjoyment, creativity, innovation….There seems so much fear, and that can be dark to carry around, be it in our hearts or brains, hanging around us like a heavy cloud. We show it in our actions, words and deeds whether we are motivated by our fear or our love.

The pandemic was like a dense, dark cloud that hung over us all. We each responded in different ways no doubt. Based on some of the Netflix comedy specials, the comedians were trapped alone for months, and now finally can be in front of live audiences. As humorists, their professional issues were unique because their living depended on sharing relatable situations in front of real people in real time. Each comedian has a different take on the covid lock down and experience, yet because they are returning to their craft, addressing their experience is part of reconnecting with the audience. Uniting around laughter and the power of laughter seems to be an emerging theme. And laughing, true letting go and laughing happens when we are relaxed and can drop fear. Fear like inability laugh at ourselves, or with others, even if only for the length of a comedy special!

Fear can permeate everything. Most of us have empathy for someone afraid for their safety, or health, or children’s safety, or paying their bills, or being drafted. So many big scary real things exist. And the history of the world shows us it is made up of the good things and the calamities, all happening at once and throughout all of our lifetimes. So crap happens. There is no true way to stop it all, even if we do a good job to halt crap within ourselves or our own household, there is still crap “out there”.

Our challenge, in order to age deliciously each step of the way, is to do our best to DROP FEAR. Approach our concerns and life moments with curiosity and trust in ourselves, no matter the diagnosis or forks in the road. History shows us the ups and downs of life are inevitable no matter what century or part of the world lived. We can choose to ride the waves by being our best in the face of whatever, still get to laugh sometimes, to be lighthearted while being present to our micro and macro worlds. The same circumstances may face us, yet when we drop fear, more of oneself may be freed to cope, show up and respond positively.

Renaissance

Are we in another Renaissance time? In times of great life changes and challenges we are called on to show our true colors. To practice and be who we most want to be, no matter who is noticing. Many have called these last few decades on earth as the huge quickening, where life as we had known it, and how it worked, no longer does. With fast changing technologies, viruses, leaders, disasters and ways of living happening all at once, including new levels of human strife and attitudes, it boggles the mind. And hearts.

One practice in times of challenge is to know we need one another. Humans heal through having others to lean on and learn from. So, particularly in challenging times, we need to call in every resource, ask for help, tell people what we need. And if they’re not going to be there for us, then they’re not our people. We need to be vulnerable to reach out, and courageous to not settle for what doesn’t support us.

And in a Renaissance what has been hidden or swept under the carpet must be seen and addressed for good change to result. Maybe in our generation of families, or our relationships, communities, organizations, or countries we did not want to admit or look at things. But we are hearing that sunshine is the best disinfectant. We want to shine a light on what is no longer working or what has been in the dark. To see, know and take responsibility for our actions, to own it, that is liberating, and full of light.

And in those challenges and life shifts, as tough as it can be, when we shine the light on the dark, it can feel like a rebirth, a renaissance.

Zen Story

For some reason, in these crazy times, with many of us longing for some wisdom, goodness and guidance to hang onto, this Zen story came to mind. As some look for hope and a dollop of lightheartedness, it seemed timely to share and maybe consider: Do we know what is bad? Do we know what is good? Do we know how things will unfold? Are events linear and obvious ? We might feel overwhelmed and under-experienced to figure out what is happening in our lives sometimes, but history is full of not knowing, calamities, and things out of our control. In the face of fortune or misfortune, what are we to do? It all is in the story and storytelling. So here is the zen farmer story.

The Farmer

Once upon a time, on a fine fall morning, an old farmer went out to tend his animals and crops.

At first light, the farmer was dismayed to see his fence had been crushed by a falling tree during the night. All three of the farmer’s prized horses had disappeared.

The other villagers moaned in sympathy: “Whatever will you do?” they asked the farmer. “This is terrible,” they all cried, shaking their heads sadly, “and right before harvest time, too.”

“Your harvest will rot in the field. What will your family eat this winter? How will you get your crop in without horses?” one of the villagers asked the old farmer.

“We’ll see,” was the farmer’s only reply as he returned to his chores.

Later on that morning, the farmer heard the sound of hooves and, looking up, saw his three horses had returned! What was more, the three horses had two wild horses running with them.

Soon, the villagers were heard to express their delight at the farmer’s good fortune.

“What a wonderful thing to have happen!” the other villagers cried. “What a wealthy man you will be with this new stock of animals!”

“We’ll see,” was all the old farmer would reply.

After lunch that day, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the wild horses to the saddle. Suddenly, the wild horse threw the son to the ground. Running to his injured son, the farmer found his son’s leg badly broken.

The neighbors were soon around to give their opinions.

“What a terrible calamity,” the villagers said. “What a disaster.”

“Now you really won’t be able to get your crop in, without a strong son to help you. He will take months to heal. Whatever will you do now?” the other villagers asked the farmer in despair.

The farmer would only shrug and say: “We’ll see.”

Later that afternoon, military officials rode into the tiny village, with a great clattering of weapons and jostling of horses. Looking grim and serious, the soldiers announced an official conscription. Every young and able man was to be drafted into service that very day.

The farmers son, having just been injured, was left behind, even as other sons and husbands were taken.

No one in the village could believe the old farmer’s good fortune. And not everyone was entirely happy about it.

“Surely the most tremendous good fortune has smiled upon you today,” the villagers grumbled. “How can anyone be so lucky?”

But the old farmer would only reply, “We’ll see.”

How are we to know what is good, what is bad, especially when things can spin so quickly these days? Maybe we choose to LIVE, and do our best in each moment, participate, be involved and have the farmer’s zen approach of “We’ll see.”

Dating Bill of Rights

Where do we learn or teach our rights and reasonable expectations when we date or are in relationship with another person? It seems our young people may be especially at need right now, to have a sense of their bodies, and the consequences of not listening to one another, and oneself. Particularly girls, as now in this historic moment, more seems at stake for a female body.

No doubt tons of energy is being tossed around right now, depending on where someone sits on the issues, and their idea of the preciousness of sharing one’s love and body. The idea of a Dating Bill of Rights exists in many forms online and has been distributed for years by organizations educating us all on the rights of one another.

From babies up through one’s entire life, to fully understand and respect that our body is our own isn’t often a shared concept. To feel clear and strong that no one has the right to touch our body or make us do something we don’t want to, and vice versa, that is a healthy knowledge and practice to have.

May we appreciate, understand and help protect one another’s Personal Bill of Rights.

https://safedatesmatter.org/portfolio/teen-dating-bill-of-rights/

Over The Rainbow

Hearing Eva Cassidy sing her bluesy, jazzy acoustic version of Over The Rainbow can move the listener to tears. In this black and white video, recorded in early 1996, on a night she was getting a cold, Eva sings with friends, making an audio collection of her covers and favorites. Her story includes being true to herself, wanting to sing what inspired her, and that meant she had no clear cut genre for a record label to sign her. And she wasn’t willing to pick a genre or change her look or style. She was herself. Sadly she died the same year this was recorded which can make her performance and interpretation more poignant.

There seem a few themes in this bare bones story…of a woman’s passion to stay true to herself in a male run industry, her evident skill as a musician and the love of the songs she covered making them her own. Now almost 30 years later her songs and videos hold up. She connected strongly with each song she chose, hence no genre per se. Yet now in 2022 that probably wouldn’t be a concern?

To watch and listen to a talented artist who is authentic, takes her time, and touches our hearts is a gift at any time, but particularly in challenging times it can be a balm.

Eva Cassidy singing “Over the Rainbow” 1996

Being Reasonable

It can feel like we don’t hear enough reasonable voices, voices of people able to think through and share complicated dynamics and issues. And in a quiet, confident way. Emotions like anger and verbal tools like hammers seem to be the public media discourse we are exposed. Do those voices help us learn, better understand, or have a sense of how to help? To witness a reasonable, informed person who is also serving at the USA Federal level, oh my, what a treat. It can feel like a mini oasis to find a reasonable voice in the sea of noise, debris and clutter.

We post this because it seems important. Listening to the first part of this link, of Peter Buttigieg’s speaking, for us it provided a way to rein in our emotions and powerlessness. He speaks to history, context, the bigger picture, what justice of all kinds might look like and where we find ourselves right now. We are grateful for this reasonable voice at this time.

Friendship Musings

 This Blogger respects the Stoic Philosophy and continues to learn. The idea of friendship, and how it is practiced and defined by Stoics is fascinating to consider. And as we age deliciously, new friendships can still be found, grown and blossom to be meaningful. Many of us witnessed our parents, in their 80s and 90s start new friendships that were mutually enjoyable, supportive and life changing. Perhaps we see friendships we have made and are making that vary, and serve us differently and at different times?

Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Stoic Blog (April 12, 2022) that we thought worth sharing:

“….from what we do know, we can gather Seneca was social and had a large circle of friends and acquaintances with whom he spent a lot of time.

Which begs the question: How did he choose these friends? We can hope—and expect—that Seneca’s many friendships adhered to the rule he put down to Lucilius in one of those famous letters:

“Associate with those who will make a better person of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.”

Seneca

It’s an impossible thing to know really—even for ourselves—how we came to know most of the people in our lives. But how they stayed in our lives? How our acquaintances evolved into friendships, that should be easier to figure out. And Seneca’s rule is a wonderful guide, because what he’s describing is what friendship is about. A process of mutual improvement, benefit and enjoyment.

We become like the people we spend the most time with…so we should choose wisely. And we should choose widely, because life is too short to live lonely or narrowly—even for a Stoic.”

Getting Along

The idea and practice of getting along can sound simple. Many of us heard it often growing up, especially in families with kids. Yet telling children or anyone to just get along might not actually help them know how to get along. It might “teach” us we have to stop yelling, or wanting something, or clam up, but what really is at the core of getting along?

What does it feel like to come through a small friction or larger conflict, and actually be getting along with yourself and those involved? Sometimes, to get along or keep the peace in a family, or at a dinner or some tense situation, might we submerge what we want or need in an effort to have the appearance of getting along? And what happens over time if we never really are dealing with the issues, but keep smoothing or covering them over so that a “moment” looks good? What is the cost to all involved over time? We bite our tongue? We dumb down? We avoid or stay away? We make jokes? Much gets swept under the carpet. We might become aware of the “land mines” we need to avoid if we want to “get along” ? Then are we really getting along?

Has conflict or difference of opinion become scary for most of us westerners? What is the worst that can happen? Are we trying to get along or scared to really try? Do many of us skim the surface and have a life with less true feeling, vibrancy and connection because we want to keep the peace? Do we deny ourselves the full palette of color and emotion in an effort to “protect” others and to get along? Can we have peace AND listen AND be curious AND not feel attacked but rather find a new way through based on the different points of view, be it in our family, relationships, community or this world? Who are our role models for getting along while being their best selves and shining their light?

Getting along can sound simple. There are of course times to not rock the boat, to listen, to consider, and do what needs doing in that moment or period of time. Yet then once that situation or crisis is averted, can we not go back and revisit what happened especially if some involved gave up what they might have needed or wanted for the common good at that time? Do some of us expect others in our orbit to go along to get along, at a cost to themselves we rarely inquire about in order for us to feel okay?

In these large world moments of observing, it can look like few of us on the world stage get along. What are we really fighting for? And what happens if we get it? Does the world (meaning us) really want to get along if we’d have to change some aspect of ourselves? What does peace and getting along and working together really feel and look like? How many of us have that feeling in our micro world? How do we help plant those seeds if peace and getting along is what we truly want more of? What happens when some want it and others don’t want to get along?

Guess this entry is just a bunch of questions to noodle on.

Social Justice

“In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world. I believe this is the genius of humankind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed.”
– Anne Braden, anti-racist activist (1924-2006)