El Paso

I called El Paso, Texas my home for many years. I visited Cielo Vista Mall as a child with my family. When I read the news of the shooting, my heart sank yet again. My family personally knew one of the lives the killer claimed—a woman who stopped at WalMart on her way to pick up her daughter form the airport.

A quote from one of my favorite thinkers comes to mind:

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
— J. Krishnamurti

There is sickness in our society—in all of us. Indeed, no human is without fault. And when it comes to acts of violence, such as El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, we can refuse to become adjusted to them—refuse them with all our might and choose not to respond in kind.

Photo by  Abraham Osorio  on  Unsplash

The only things that matter

Recently I've caught a few episodes of a show in which the main character—who was alive during the American Revolutionary War—is brought back to life in present day. Various movies and books play with the same theme, but I found this show to have decent writing and a clever way of juxtaposing past and present so it reminds us just how fortunate we are to be alive—how much we have, yet take for granted.

Photo by  Damian Markutt  on  Unsplash

Make it gold

Photo by  Johnny McClung  on  Unsplash

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

It's a few minutes before New Year's.

I remember one year I celebrated with my father and my cousin Charlie, who was several years older than I was (thirteen at the time). Minutes after the clock struck 12, I asked my cousin, "What does it feel like to live in the 90's?" He paused for a second and said, "Exactly the same as it did in the 80's."

As little as it was, my bubble burst. I was clinging to some illusion that time could change something. But time doesn't change anything. We do.

Here's to a new year. Here's to making it golden.

Time to choose

I have a soft spot for duality, for opposites, contrast. Invariably, regardless of the art or mode of expression, I'm drawn in.

There's a part in Neale Donald Walsch's book, Conversations with God, that talks about every choice coming down to love or fear—nothing in between. It's not the first time I've heard this, but the manner in which it was delivered stirred up experiences past.

Language can be boiled down to its most essential building blocks. Take the most basic computer language: nothing but zeros and ones. If there were a language behind the universe—creating, morphing, dissolving it—it would be this. At least as humans are concerned, may be that's all there is: love or fear. 

We choose all the time. It's time to choose differently.

The mirror

A number of years ago, I had one of the most profound experiences driving down the interstate. It was well into the fall in upstate New York, the leaves ablaze with crimsons and oranges against a pale, grey sky. Through the clouds off in the distance broke the most beautiful sunset I’d ever beheld—it completely robbed me of breath. Every part of me was consumed by this delicate explosion of color—I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t even imagine how something so exquisite could ever exist.

But it did, and I was there bearing witness to it. Then, in the quiet, intruded the subtlest recognition: It wasn’t the “sunset” I was seeing.

Faster than awareness itself, I shut down: batten down the hatches! It pained me, terrified me to acknowledge the source of this indescribable experience.

I’ve spoken about this time and time again, as if attempting to keep the experience alive but always at a safe distance. Today, that safety was broken.

I was out for a walk in the early evening, and found myself staring off into another sunset. It was, again, beautiful. Moments before losing myself in the experience, the same memory rushed in. A tender vulnerability marked a palpable threshold I realized I could choose to cross.

I can’t recall the exact decisions I made, but I finally surrendered: There, the sunset serving as a backdrop, a gracious mirror against which I could briefly glimpse the vastness of the universe within. There, with the gift of the physical world and this physical existence, I found my place in earnest gratitude. There, magnificent.

Photo by  Steven Feldman  on  Unsplash

Tools to remember

Tools to remember

I’ve been thinking a lot about tools. Every once in a while, I look back and notice how much my relationship to them has changed. 

As a child, the only family outings I remember dreading were visits to the hardware store. To a seven- or eight-year-old girl, a warehouse full of tools didn’t just pale in comparison to the toy store or the candy store; for some odd reason, I found them painfully boring. (Never mind that practically everything around me—including toy and candy stores—existed in part because of tools!) The closest I ever came to enjoying these visits was the day I discovered an isle packed with rolls of pink fiberglass insulation. Maybe it was the Pink Panther on the label, or layer upon layer of fluffy goodness inviting me to dive right in; whatever it was, my delight was but momentary: I learned the hard, itchy way that fiberglass insulation is not cotton candy.

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There’s a story I read several years ago; it comes and goes like a familiar ghost, but lately it’s more and more present. To me, it’s one of the simplest, most poignant allegories on the human condition—as long as you’re willing to look beyond theological constructs. Sometimes, when I bump up against labels and the like, I find approaching any information as one would a fable or a childhood story yields a refreshing flexibility of mind.

This excerpt is from How To Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. If you’re unfamiliar with Eastern Philosophy, as I am, the only term that’s helpful to know beforehand, ahem, is “Atman.” Simply put: it means the real Self.  

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Set the heart aflame

Two years ago a friend of mine gave me her copy of Irina Tweedie’s The Chasm of Fire: A Woman's Experience with the Teachings of a Sufi Master. The title is self-explanatory, and it’s a great read—it’s actually a portion of her larger work, Daughter of Fire, which I haven’t read. There are a couple lines in the first chapter that moved me; they were the first of many. 

It is the task of the Teacher to set the heart aflame with an unquenchable fire of longing; it is his duty to keep it burning until it is reduced to ashes. For only a heart which has burned itself empty is capable of love.

Photo by  JERRY  on  Unsplash

Photo by JERRY on Unsplash