Friday, June 22, 2018

Post Traumatic Stress

Last night over a candlelight dinner with friends in a peaceful, upscale neighborhood, we reminisced about the day we met walking our 5-year-old girls into kindergarten on their first day of school. How sweet that over the years those little girls have grown into wonderful thirty-something women with grace, intelligence, and beauty. How heartening that they love to be with us, the parents, instead of seeing us a necessary chore. How special that our families have remained close and intact.

And then, of course, the conversation turned to the inhumane crisis as immigrant families from south of the border are torn apart when they reach "America," land of opportunity. How cruel this myth and even more devastating the reality.

Ten-twenty-thirty years from now we will have a population of thousands upon thousands of deeply traumatized children grown up to be adults with terrible scars. Like all dehumanized populations, many will thrive nonetheless, but the majority will live with nightmares of all varieties, coping as best they can with deeply inflicted wounds on the psyche. Families will also suffer the horrors thrust upon them as they experience the worst possible nightmare...losing their children at the hands of a fascistic police force called ICE.

Post-traumatic stress is a real and debilitating factor that makes this current state of affairs a toxic brew. Unless the evil doers -  45 and his minions - are stopped, we will have a failed experiment called the United States of America.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dreams and Reality

My spectacular husband Michael died four years ago this month. We were together 24/7 for 30 years, working at home offices next to each other, always within earshot. I have dreamt about him a number of times but the one I had early this morning was the most fascinating of all.

In my dream, I dreamt that I was in bed asleep and dreaming. In my dream within a dream, I was imaging the presence of my husband sleeping next to me. In my dream within a dream, I thought to myself, I am only dreaming that he is here. He's not really here, he died. Then, in my dream within a dream, I woke up and realized that he wasn't just in my dream but he was really there and I was so delighted that he was actually still alive. Remember, this is when I woke up from the dream within the dream so my perception that he was really there was still what I was dreaming.

In that dream within a dream Michael and I had a typical good morning conversation about plans for the day when we were to get up, and indeed the dream continued throughout the day as we hurried through a busy life.

And then it all ended. I opened my eyes and was back in what we call reality; in this case, a sunny bedroom in Los Angeles with a large picture window looking out on a landscape that promised to heat up as the morning fog lifted.

A mystic or psychologist might be able to explain this clearly than me. Perhaps the dream was a longing for me to wake up and realize he is still here. And maybe it is so.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Anger and Compassion

I am facing a conundrum. When confronted with a situation that angers me, I default to my training as a Buddhist, mediator, and advocate of reconciliation versus retaliation. Thus, my voice remains in the range of normal speaking decibels, I try to put myself in the other person's shoes even if they aren't my size, and not express my dismay at the other's actions, words or perceptions.

This is all good if one does not want to start a family feud, lose a business partner, or on a grand scale start a snowball effect that creates chaos and unrest in every corner.

But herein lies the problem. Being rational with others does not address the irrational, subconscious aspect of myself that buries the anger. Apparently, buried or unreleased anger is not good for one's health. So how to let out the toxic steam that builds up and festers on the inside?

Of course, there are methods for exorcizing anger; having psychological tools is a good idea. Yet, in the end, the only workable solution is having compassion for self and others.

The proverbial words from the cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," gets to the heart of the matter. If we were all steeped in sublime awareness and love, we would not hurt each other. We could not speak or act from a paranoid, ego-centered worldview. The problem is that we are not aware. We are not awake. And herein lies the rub.

Are we to hate each other or ourselves for our ignorance? That chastisement creates and perpetuates the cycle of doom. Can we force others or ourselves to wake up faster than the process would allow?

So while waiting for the light to illuminate the dark shadows, a little patience and compassion would go along way.

Have a better day.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Courage to Live

Normally, one thinks of courage in terms of facing a battle head on. It could be a soldier leading his men through known enemy territory; an explorer sailing off to prove the earth is round; a schoolmate stepping in to prevent a bully from victimizing another on the playground.

At the most basic level, it takes courage to live life. Every second of the 24-hour cycle we humans, birds, animals and all manner of beings wake up to face "time" with no guarantee that all will go well. In most cases, people who commit suicide have lost all courage to endure the vicissitudes of life and can't see a way forward to keep on keeping on. Blame it on Prozac, haywire brain chemistry or severe trauma, nonetheless the conclusion is, "Get me out of here."

According to the Stoics of ancient times:

“Remember that the door is open. Don’t be more cowardly than children, but just as they say, when the game is no longer fun for them, ‘I won’t play any more,’ you too, when things seem that way to you, say, ‘I won’t play any more,’ and leave, but if you remain, don’t complain.” (Discourses I.24.20)

It is easy to imagine how starving refugees, sex slaves, the severely ill or injured and so on and so forth might wake up having second thoughts about being on the planet. But what about those fortunate sentient beings who have shelter, food, clothing (or fur) and yes, even love, who wake up with dread of the coming day?

This is where the notion of courage enters. To face the unknown, which is one second later than now, a contemplative thought must enter the mind: change is inevitable, a continuum of bad to good - good to bad. Like a surfer riding the waves, the only way to keep one's equilibrium is to maintain balance. The secret is knowing that in between the extremes, there is a center point of neutrality wherein lies equanimity. Whether through meditation, yoga, prayer, therapy or all of the above, the imperative of the human being is to find a balance within a whirlwind of ever-changing circumstances.

If it were easy we would be eternally sunbathing in the oasis of our quiet minds. Since it seems that our inner and outer worlds don't always provide an idyllic picture, it is up to us to keep working on ourselves, always choosing to see clearly rather than allowing a dark shadow to cover our bliss.

is - mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Man and Dog Under Bridge

While driving through a bridge underpass, I spotted a homeless man and his dog taking refuge from the blazing California sun in this fume-filled, gritty resting place. His complexion was grayed by a thin layer of dust, bony limbs crouching next to a bag of rags; most likely all he owned in this world.

Beside him stood his dog, tethered by a leash. This being was mid-size in stature; a mongrel but a pretty one that looked partially blonde lab and an unidentifiable breed that made him more delicate than the run of the mill lab.

The dog was having his dinner, calmly crunching on dry dog food pellets out of a shiny metal dog bowl. He looked as satisfied as any well-loved home pet eating his meal at 5:30 PM, the favored dinner hour of Americans. He looked like all dogs who are treated with care and consideration. not bothered by his unconventional place of dining. Yet, his owner was a homeless man who looked as if he had not eaten much in a number of months or years.

Sobs arose in my throat as I cut a sharp left onto the onramp of the 101 freeway, leaving behind two beings that would continue to live on in my imagination. The man had nothing in this world but his dog, who was eating with elegance, simplicity, and style. The compassion of that man and the kindly demeanor of the dog were more than I could bear.

How people live. How animals live. How we treat each other for better or for worse. An unfathomable riddle.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Looking for Love in War

When one becomes embroiled in a battle, whether it be a personal affair, a lawsuit, or an actual war, what is the cause for this eruption of disharmony?

At the most basic level, one could boil it down to a fear that one's needs are not being met, or that they are being threatened. Along with food, water and shelter, saftey is a key emotional and physical component that us humans -   and all creatures - require for a life well-lived.

While we all strive for harmony, it is conflicting perceptions that make us feel something will be taken from us if we do not fight to justify our position.

At the root of this miserable life-style lies the culprit: ego, that aspect of mind that spins a story and then commands its host (us) to do what the ego deems right and justified. Whatever opposes us also has an ego-driven story, spun from the bowels of deception as well. Thus, phantom fights phantom in an unreal world that appears so real.

Only when we become aware of that which drives the ego - that which can demystify "the story" and uncover the fear and its antidote love that lies hidden below - can we hit the source, the motherload, of all-that-is. Rich beyond all riches, the life source with never-ending solace and love. And then we rest in peace.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Living With the Difference

For many years my life was a bubbling brook, chortling along as it passed tall pines, grass meadows, and thickly wooded forests of cedar. It served all in its path with spontaneous joy, providing drink and hosting creatures seen and unseen in its clear waters.

And then, as nature is wont, it meandered onto broad plain strewn with jagged rocks, torn from their mountain summit by an ancient volcanic event. The little brook widened into a larger bed and grew in power, but as it strengthened, so did the obstacles. For a time it deftly moved around rocks large and small, scarcely skipping a beat and simply raising the decibles of its melodious song.

And then, the waterfall. What was a natural course became an event of daring proportions. With no choice, the stream fell helplessly over a ravine, tossed from side to side by the formations of the tall precipice. As it plunged to the earth below with a great splattering of its resources, a new equilibrium thrust itself upon the once peaceful brook. Henceforth, the path would be steep, fast, and unpredictable.

A wise woman who knew my late husband and loved him dearly recently remarked. "You must learn to live with the difference."

Post Traumatic Stress

Last night over a candlelight dinner with friends in a peaceful, upscale neighborhood, we reminisced about the day we met walking our 5-yea...