Friday, February 15, 2019

Our Capacity For Change


“Change is great. You go first.” A Friend

One of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism is the intrinsic inevitability of Change. Change is ongoing from the moment of an object’s creation, through its continuing existence, stopping only at its ending/“death.” Change applies to tangible things: e.g. humans, animals, birds, plants, mountains, oceans, automobiles, kitchen utensils. It applies to intangibles that we treat as tangibles: e.g. nations, borders, institutions, religions, cultures, races, time itself. It applies to purely intangible concepts: e.g. ideas, philosophies, laws, science, logic.

As human beings, we change physically at the micro level and at our surface appearance. Changes occur due to our preordained growth cycle, or by internal disease, or by external acts forced upon us (e.g. wars, accidents, criminal acts). It can be subtle change; gradual over passing days; sudden, as with a head-on automobile accident.

We change mentally. Changes in our thinking come from the teachings of our parents; the lessons of the classroom; the guidance of our mentors; the result of our self-study. We learn a moral code, shaped by our culture and religion. We factor in our personal experiences, “successes” and “failures,” fears, aspirations, and definition of a “life well lived.” Most of our beliefs are set in place by the end of adolescence, ingrained deeply and rigidly having come from “authoritative sources” and therefore are not easily changed. We then venture out into the Real World with our baseline thinking regarding what life is about and how to interact with it.

With a great rapidity, that Real World comes knocking at our door with a loud shout, a tidal wave of new ideas and experiences that may bare little resemblance to our pre-adult world. The further we drift away from the familiar and protective cocoon of our youth, the more we expose ourselves to – and invite – personal upheaval. Upheaval can come from the challenges of a multitude of sources, and can disrupt any part of our overall existence.

Typically, we prefer to ignore these disruptions and go on with our already busy life. Even within conflict, it certainly feels safer and easier to stay with what we already know. But such avoidance can last only so long. The disruption likely came about in the first place because we have been living in opposition to some greater truth that we are not seeing or acknowledging. So the disruption will continue to plague us, returning time after time in various disguised forms, each time with increasing intensity. Ultimately, we either give it the attention it demands, or we hide ourselves within a life deadened of creative thoughts and honest emotions.

Disruption is the genesis force of Change. When it comes, our first step is to determine if this is just a minor blip on our radar, or the tip of a more meaningful iceberg in our life path. If the latter, we are called to a time of personal reflection to fully understand what new turn is being presented to us. As our reflection gradually unfolds, ideally we begin to change accordingly – opinions, beliefs, circumstances, life roles, personal directions. Appropriately. Deliberately. Without negative judgment or self-criticism for where we have been before. We simply leave behind what was, and allow Life to help guide us through our journey to our next intended place.

Disruption will present itself to us throughout our lifetime, always conflicting with our desire to stay in our status quo. Some Changes we will choose to explore and accept. Some Changes we will let go by, either because we feel they will be too hard; or will take too much time and energy; or because we are simply burned out from having undergone too much upheaval too often.

Over the course of my single lifetime, I have witnessed a remarkable sea change in lifestyles and thinking in American society. Changes in equality of legal rights; racial integration into all segments of society; mixed-race marriage; redefined nuclear families; multiple marriages and single parenthood; women into the workplace; openness of LGBT relationships; new forms of religious / spiritual belief and expression; advancements in technology and communications; exposure to, and interactions with, people from across the globe. These Changes in fundamental, bedrock grounded beliefs have created a modern world with little resemblance to my boyhood society. Keeping up with so many changes, across so many overlapping fronts, occurring in such  a relatively short time (versus the glacial pace of change in centuries past), is almost impossible. That is why we see periodic backlashes and resistance to Changes that have occurred – often from older citizens who may simply feel that they are being asked to accept just one Change too many.

Individually, there is only so much Change we are able make in our one short lifetime, although each of us has a different capacity. That difference is usually based upon our differing degrees of adaptability. The more deeply our life is anchored in “the current,” the less adaptable we are. The more lightly we walk our life’s path, the more adaptable we are able to be.

Our capacity for Change, i.e. our ability to be receptive and adaptable to Life’s disruptions and lessons, is our choice to make, our skill to develop. While it behooves each of us to be sympathetic and compassionate to those whose capacity has been exhausted, we nevertheless recognize that disruptions, and their consequential Change, will still continue. And over the long narrative of human history, the overriding direction of these Changes seems predominately clear – however many side trips are taken along the way. Change comes to us – even as we may think we are warding it away – until comes that greatest disruption of all: our death.

©   2019   Randy Bell             www.OurSpiritualWay.blogspot.com


Monday, January 14, 2019

Joy In The Midst Of Suffering


We are living through very difficult times throughout the world today. Our goal during this period is to remain positive about the state of humankind, and energized regarding our ability to make some difference in its future. Nevertheless, trying to keep an appropriate balance in our life, and not succumbing to despair or stagnation about the state of things, requires a focused effort on our part. The following is an excerpt from “The Book Of Joy,” a series of moderated dialogs between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Perhaps the perspectives of these two highly recognized leaders, who have carried a lifetime of burdens on their shoulders, will give us some guidance in our efforts. Indeed, perhaps even some form of joy in the midst of the suffering we see everywhere?

*****
[Moderator Question:] This question is for people who feel interdependence [among people] profoundly and are so compassionate that it makes them world-sick and heartsick. [A] person wants to know how she can find joy in her life while there are so many who are suffering.

“Yes. Very good,” [Archbishop Tutu] said, looking down and reflecting on the question. “As an old man, I can say: start where you are, and realize that you are not meant on your own to resolve all of these massive problems. Do what you can. It seems so obvious. And you will be surprised, actually, at how it can get to be catching.

There are very many, many people – I mean, my heart leaps with joy at discovering the number of people – who care. How many people walked in New York City for the environment? I mean, it was incredible. Nobody was going to pay them anything. But they were there in droves. There are many, many people who care. And you will be surprised when you begin to say, well, I would like to do something relating to the aged. You will be surprised at the number of people who come forward and want to help. Why are there so many NGOs (Non-Governmental  Organizations)? I mean, it is people who say, We want to make a better world. We don’t have to be so negative.

Hey, remember you are not alone, and you do not need to finish the work. It takes time, but we are learning, we are growing, we are becoming the people we want to be. It helps no one if you sacrifice your joy because others are suffering. We people who care must be attractive, must be filled with joy, so that others recognize that caring, that helping and being generous are not a burden, they are a joy. Give the world your love, your service, your healing, but you can also give it your joy. This, too, is a great gift.”

[Moderator Observation:] The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama were describing a special kind of generosity: the generosity of the spirit.  The quality they both have, perhaps more than any other, is this generosity of the spirit. They are big-hearted, magnanimous, tolerant, broad-minded, patient, forgiving, and kind. Maybe this generosity of spirit is the truest expression of spiritual development, of what the Archbishop had said it takes time to become.

The Archbishop had used a beautiful phrase to describe this way of being in the world: “becoming an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that ripples out to all of those around us.” … 

In generosity, there is a wider perspective, in which we see our connection to all others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at any other time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we do not take ourselves too seriously. There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what might have otherwise been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is “wise selfish,” a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves. As the Dalai Lama put it, “In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.”

*****

Sometimes, even if the water may be a bit cloudy, nevertheless the glass really is half full.

www.OurSpiritualWay.blogspot.com