KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE:  The Real News Beyond The Terror  by Jeff Foster

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‘Blood flowing on the streets of another European city.

People killing people in the name of gods and ideologies and age-old grudges.

Torture, rape, murder, shocking violations of basic human rights. All over the world.

Just another day on this ancient planet.

So, is now the time to give up?

Is now the time to sing more loudly our songs of bitterness, defeat and rage? Is the world a meaningless mistake, an aberration of consciousness, a waste of everyone’s time? Was the philosophy of nihilism correct in the end?

When confronted with news like today’s we can feel so powerless, so frightened, so disappointed, so unstable, like we are living in a world that’s gone mad, insane, out of control. It all seems like a nightmare, like some evil or dark force must be taking over.

Some start talking about the nearing of the Apocalypse. Certainly it can feel like the end of the fairytale world we once believed in.

In the midst of the devastation we seek answers, causes, someone or something to blame, a scapegoat, a way to diffuse our tension, an outlet for all this anger, grief and confusion, this unprocessed life energy. Why is there such evil in this world? Do we blame the killers? Their parents? Society as a whole? The human brain? The food we ingest? Chemicals? The stars? Our governments? Religions? Do we objectify the killers as sick, twisted, deluded, evil madmen? Do we go to war with them as they have gone to war with us, wishing more death and destruction and evil upon them and their children, their mothers, their lovers, their ancestors? Do we enter into the age-old story of good versus evil, us versus them? Do we further solidify our identification with a mind-made sense of self? Do we deepen the divisions? In the name of world peace, do we become terrorists ourselves?

Do we curse God and the Universe and wish we hadn’t been born? Do we try to numb ourselves, distract ourselves from the ‘news’, with alcohol, drugs, sex, work, shopping, worldly comforts? Do we dismiss the horrors, detach our hearts from the hearts of our brothers and sisters in other regions of the planet, turn our backs on their plight, mumbling to ourselves as we read the newspaper on our morning commute about how “awful” things are, then turning a blind eye and doing nothing to bring about change and healing?

Do we broadcast the problem, yet give up on being part of the solution?

Do we turn to spiritual teachers who comfort us with talk about the illusory nature of life and the unreality of all we witness? Do we regurgitate empty phrases like ‘nothing matters’, ‘it’s all just a play upon the screen of Awareness’, and ‘nobody has any choice anyway’? Do we call what we see ‘unreal’ or ‘illusion’, sparing ourselves from the pain of having to confront the messiness and seeming uncontrollability of this relative and impermanent manifestation? Do we pretend that world events have nothing to do with us, that everything is disconnected and we are islands unto ourselves? Do we descend into solipsism? Anarchy? Do we close our hearts even more tightly than they are already closed, build our walls even higher and live in a protected state of fear? Do we reject this world and dream of a perfect afterlife?

Do we use the ‘reality’ of the news as an excuse to give up, to shut down, to forget who we truly are? Do we let the ‘terrorists’ win by leaving our path and living in terror ourselves, and terrorising others who we label as ‘evil’? Do we add to the problems that we see?

Or do we use the appearance of problems to look deeply at ourselves and the way we live and treat others? Do we see the madness as a call to clarity? The violence as a call to love? The pain as a call to compassion? The terror as a call to remember and express more deeply and with more conviction that infinite intelligence that we are?

Do we condone the killings? Absolutely not. Do we feel the pain of the victims, and the victims’ loved ones? Of course, for we are not separate. Would we do everything we could to prevent this kind of thing happening again? Certainly. Do we work for justice? Yes. Do we sit back and simply ‘accept’? If acceptance means detachment and passivity and toleration, no. If it means coming into profound alignment with life, knowing that intelligent change and healing always emerges from a fearless plunge into the mystery of the moment, then yes. True acceptance and creative change are lovers.

In the Middle East, a Jew donates a kidney to a sick Palestinian, saving her precious life. In India, a woman feeds and washes those with leprosy, because she sees that we are all expressions of the very same consciousness and it brings her joy to live in this way, despite the names that others call her. In San Francisco, a son holds his elderly father’s hand, and suddenly forgiveness happens as if by magic, unexpectedly, the weight and violence and resentment of a lifetime falling away, as if it never happened at all.

What ‘news’ are we teaching our children? Are we teaching them that they have been born into an essentially scary and bad and sick world, and they should live in fear and hate? Do we teach them that violence is inevitable and ‘built into’ to their nature? Do we give in to terror and use it as an excuse to abandon our true calling? Or do we teach our children that the murder and torture we see in the news every day stems from a deep forgetting of who we are, a false and misguided belief in separation?

What is the true news of today?

Are we teaching our children to give up on their dreams because there are bad people out there intent on stopping them? Are we teaching them to give up on love, and give up on compassion, and give up on change, and give up on humanity, and give up on joy, because of all the ‘news’? Are we teaching them to focus on what is wrong with the world, to cling to the ‘negative’, to sing songs of defeat and disillusionment? Or are we blinding them to the ‘negative’ by focussing only on the ‘positive’? Are we teaching them to acknowledge the violence of the world, the pain of it, but to see that all this sorrow is part of an infinitely vaster picture, a picture where everything is interconnected and everything makes a difference and everything is in balance and nothing is set in stone?

Don’t use the ‘news’ as an excuse to stop living your truth, even for a moment. Don’t believe for a second that there is a force called ‘evil’ in the world with any power whatsoever to win out over love.

Terror cannot win, for it emerges from a gross misunderstanding of our nature. We are only hurting ourselves, stabbing ourselves, blowing ourselves up, and deep down, we know this and have always known. A wave can never be separated from the ocean, or from any other wave, and beyond our differences in opinion and belief, we are all movements of the One Life, the true Power, beyond the worldly ‘power’ of guns and meat cleavers dripping with blood and trucks ploughing into crowds of innocents.

Teach your children the realities of the world, yes, but, more importantly, teach them the realities of their hearts and the hearts of those they call ‘others’. Let the current play of violence actually serve to deepen your conviction in that timeless and unshakeable gift of Presence that you have always known, and reconfirm your intention to end all violence in yourself, to live as you know you can live. Don’t allow the ‘news’, or at least the stories selectively presented to you as the ‘news’, to distract you from Truth.

Honour the victims.
Walk your path with courage.
Speak out. Create. Organize.
Switch off your fucking television.
Keep your eyes on the prize.’

-Jeff Foster

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“Just as life is made up of day and night, and song is made up of music and silence, friendships, because they are of this world, are also made up of times of being in touch and spaces in-between. Being human, we sometimes fill these spaces with worry, or we imagine the silence is some form of punishment, or we internalize the time we are not in touch with a loved one as some unexpressed change of heart. Our minds work very hard to make something out of nothing. We can perceive silence as rejection in an instant, and then build a cold castle on that tiny imagined brick. The only release from the tensions we weave around nothing is to remain a creature of the heart. By giving voice to the river of feelings as they flow through and through, we can stay clear and open. In daily terms, we call this checking in with each other, though most of us reduce this to a grocery list: How are you today? Do you need any milk? Eggs? Juice? Toilet paper? Though we can help each other survive with such outer kindnesses, we help each other thrive when the checking in with each other comes from a list of inner kindnesses: How are you today? Do you need any affirmation? Clarity? Support? Understanding? When we ask these deeper questions directly, we wipe the mind clean of its misperceptions. Just as we must dust our belongings from time to time, we must wipe away what covers us when we are apart.”

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Surreal drawing by Alfred Basha

‘Please don’t think that because you are unhappy, because there is pain in your heart, that you cannot go to the Buddha. It is exactly because there is pain in your heart that communication is possible. Your suffering and my suffering are the basic condition for us to enter the Buddha’s heart, and for the Buddha to enter our hearts.’

– Thich Nhat Hanh, in “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”.

Gratitude

 

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When you’re damaged, you learn to take what’s given to you and be grateful for it. You learn that love is not a game, and cherish it. You learn how to appreciate the smallest things people do for you.

Because when people have gone through wars that have left them broken, they understand how fragile life is. They understand how they must make the most of it. And most of all, they understand how important it is to always be kind.

Nikita Gill, Lessons I Have Learned From My Damage

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“If peace comes from seeing the whole,
then misery stems from a loss of perspective.

We begin so aware and grateful. The sun somehow hangs there in the sky. The little bird sings. The miracle of life just happens. Then we stub our toe, and in that moment of pain, the whole world is reduced to our poor little toe. Now, for a day or two, it is difficult to walk. With every step, we are reminded of our poor little toe.

Our vigilance becomes: Which defines our day—the pinch we feel in walking on a bruised toe, or the miracle still happening?

It is the giving over to smallness that opens us to misery. In truth, we begin taking nothing for granted, grateful that we have enough to eat, that we are well enough to eat. But somehow, through the living of our days, our focus narrows like a camera that shutters down, cropping out the horizon, and one day we’re miffed at a diner because the eggs are runny or the hash isn’t seasoned just the way we like.

When we narrow our focus, the problem seems everything. We forget when we were lonely, dreaming of a partner. We forget first beholding the beauty of another. We forget the comfort of first being seen and held and heard. When our view shuts down, we’re up in the night annoyed by the way our lover pulls the covers or leaves the dishes in the sink without soaking them first.

In actuality, misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything. So, when feeling miserable, we must look wider than what hurts. When feeling a splinter, we must, while trying to remove it, remember there is a body that is not splinter, and a spirit that is not splinter, and a world that is not splinter.”
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have

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“We often move away from pain, which is helpful only before being hurt. Once in pain, it seems the only way out is through. Like someone falling off a boat, struggling to stay above the water only makes things worse. We must accept we are there and settle enough so we can be carried by the deep. The willingness to do this is the genesis of faith, the giving over to currents larger than us. Even fallen leaves float in lakes, demonstrating how surrender can hold us up.” 


― Mark NepoThe Book of Awakening Quotes by Mark Nepo

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‘Never be afraid of pain.⠀
We live in a society that has made us run for tablets or to doctors to fix our pain.⠀
Pain is a great teacher.⠀
It teaches us that when pain happens, we go and find the source of the pain.⠀
We sit with the pain and ask it what it is shouting at us for?⠀
What is the lesson we are not getting, nor acknowledging?⠀
What are we holding onto for dear life, when we should let go?⠀
What are we not digesting?⠀
What are we not expressing?⠀
Where is anger?⠀
Where is resentment?⠀
Where is fear?⠀
Where is unforgiveness?⠀
Where is holding onto grudges?⠀
Where is holding onto pain – because there is a payoff somewhere, like it earns us sympathy or we can use it as an excuse, or as “look at poor me?”⠀
Pain teaches us to take responsibility.⠀
Pain teaches us to let go of all that old baggage, that emotional clogging, that intense holding onto what no longer serves our highest soul growth and good.⠀
I went through excruciating pain in the last few years, in order to delve deeply into myself, and to release whatever I was holding onto in the form of emotional baggage, false beliefs, low self-worth issues, etc. one by one. ⠀
Yes, it take guts to delve ever deeper inside yourself for healing and answers.⠀
Yes, it take guts to delve into that pain and ask it what it is trying to tell you.⠀
But, let me tell you, once I shed all that baggage, and worked through the pain, my whole life changed, and a deep inner peace, contentment, equilibrium and immense love filled up all all of me.⠀
It is infinitely worthwhile and healing comes, healing balm is spread, and love opens up and expands, as the walls around the heart come tumbling down, and love is freed up and expands, ever expands and to be free to roam where it wills.’

-Judith Kusel

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‘From time to time, sit close to the one you love, hold his or her hand, and ask, “Darling, do I understand you enough? Or am I making you suffer? Please tell me so that I can learn to love you properly. I don’t want to make you suffer, and if I do so because of my ignorance, please tell me so that I can love you better, so that you can be happy.” If you say this in a voice that communicates your real openness to understand, the other person may cry. That is a good sign, because it means the door of understanding is opening and everything will be possible again.’

– Thich Nhat Hanh, in “Peace Is Every Step”.

Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life

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‘You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.

After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.

That’s what I believe.

The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. People get in wrecks and get crippled. People lose their way, for one reason or another. It’s not hard to do, in this world of crazy mazes. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel you’ve lost something but you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you “sir.” It just happens.

These memories of who I was and where I lived are important to me. They make up a large part of who I’m going to be when my journey winds down. I need the memory of magic if I am ever going to conjure magic again. I need to know and remember, and I want to tell you.’