Monday, March 9, 2015

We Hold On.

"We hold on to that which is not really ours in the first place because we are afraid." - Rolf Gates

In life, I try to create things to hold onto at times. Daily, weekly, monthly rituals that make me feel like I have some grander purpose or calling (this blog is a terrific example of that). People choose all sorts of things to fulfill this need for purpose, to not feel lost or empty, alone or afraid. We obviously also do this with people and situations, getting comfortable with someone or something and then making the fool decision that it is somehow a guarantee in our lives, or that we truly need it to be happy or contented.

We own nothing in our lives, no matter how much we own, and that's a fact. Our lives are just short little blips in the grand scheme of the world and that alone can be afraid and make us want to hold on. I think it's possible though to let go and to still work hard, to still have goals, and still want to create a world for yourself, however short it is going to last. In order to do that though, you not only have to let go of the idea of ownership of things and friendships and relationships, you have to let go of just about everything, and just live to the best of your ability for no reason other than just doing it.

So, when I let go of this blog, or when I let go of something else, know that it was never really mine in the first place, so it's not the biggest loss, it just is.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Clutter Of Our Lives.

"Oftentimes when we believe that we've been holding on to something we need, we find that the reverse is actually true." - Rolf Gates

It can be quite a challenge to discern what we do and do not need in our lives amidst our minds constant clutter of thoughts trying to tell us what we 'want' (in quotes because we don't even seem to know that much a great deal of the time). Sometimes the relationships we hold on to, or put our energies into, those aren't actually the ones we truly need, sometimes they are. Figuring out which ones are healthy, instead of just assuming they are is incredibly valuable.

We hold onto things for fear a great deal of the time - we hold on to relationships and friendships for fear of what life will be like without those things, when sometimes, what we really need to grow is to be without those things.

Clutter isn't just about owning things, but it is about stuff. The stuff that occupies our mind, the experiences and people that take up negative space, our memories, our fears. As much as it may be a frightening thing to let go of those things, when we realize that they aren't actually helping us in the way that we thought they might be, we must let go. We may not know what we need to get rid of though until we actually do away with it, and that can be a scary prospect, letting go of something that you think you might actually need.

There's no other choice though, if you want to grow, you must let go of the attachment, and you must be willing to take a step forward, whether the path looks light or dark, as you have no other choice but to move forward.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Better Shared Or Let Go.

"We hold onto concepts and objects that would be better shared or let go." - Rolf Gates

Last night we attended Tristan and Yseult (a re-make of Tristan and Isolde by Kneehigh) in Boston. It was not at all what I was expecting (I guess I didn't read the description well enough beforehand....) The show, a Wagner opera, was re-done with 'contemporary music' (mostly from the 50's and 60's but also some current era stuff), and was fairly wacky. I was put off initially because it was so glaringly different than what I expected, I was there to see an opera, not what I ended up seeing. In the grand scheme of my life, this isn't a big deal (although I've heard folks make a big deal out of not getting exactly what they expect from a situation), but it shares something that is a big deal. The idea that I would hold on to any concept about the way things should be seems fairly absurd when you step back and take an objective look at it.

Lots of things that I find myself 'believing' are things that I should completely let go of, and the grand majority of objects I own I could clearly do without (and sharing would be the right thing to do). I recently started cleaning out the remaining 'stuff' that I have collected over the years and tried to pare it down to the bare minimum of what I actually use and need (which is next to nothing) - that mind trick of making you believe that some day you might need some random thing even though you've never needed it before or haven't in an incredibly long time, is more powerful than you might think it to be upon first glance.

And it's noticeably easier to do away with those objects for me than some of my concepts about the world. The concepts color the whole of my world view, the objects just go along with that (and I've always been prone to having attachments to ideas over objects anyhow). It's a challenge to let go, but holding on proves time and time again to be unhealthy and unhelpful, so it seems pretty silly, when objectively viewed, to continue holding on out of fear.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Forgiveness Frees Us.

"Forgiveness, therefore, is an act of self-love, and by loving ourselves we love the whole of humanity." - Rolf Gates

I spent the majority of my 20's holding grudges against the ghosts of my life. People who had once mattered, who I either perceived to have done me wrong, or who had truly done me wrong. I spent my time and energy on these people, on my anger towards them. I wished them ill will, and that wish translated into a mindset that was all encompassing in my life. It ended otherwise healthy relationships, it cause problems with my family, it did me not a lick of good. As I aged/matured/whatever you want to call it, I started to notice that these things weren't actually helping me. Intentionally, I attempted to just go ahead and forgive people, both in my head and in person. Now, it doesn't always go over well to just contact an ex-friend and say, 'Hey, I forgive you for all those wrong you're guilty of.' Not going to go over so well. The reality is that in every situation (from my adult life), I was just as involved in the wrongs that were happening as the person I perceived to be on the 'other side'. There is no other side, as Rolf says, there is just we.

As such, we need to work together to make our lives healthier and happier. We need to take responsibility for our actions (every single one of us), we need to work towards being right here, right now instead of stuck in a past that doesn't serve us, and doesn't serve the world.

I would like to say this now then, to anyone who has ever wronged me - I forgive you, wholly. If I can do anything to right the wrongs that I have done, please let me know, but please know that I am sorry and I apologize for wronging you.

I'm ready for a we over a me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Truly Free.

"Let go and be free." - Rolf Gates

I let go this morning, thanks to a group of five really wonderful young people. For the last several months I've been fretting about the lack of successful fundraising that I've been able to do with The Penn. I figured that a lack of fundraising was somehow holding me back from the program existing right now to it's full potential. It's not really true. Yes, it would be nice to be paid a decent salary, and to have a little more room to go to slightly more extravagant events, and to afford to pay more tutors to come in to work on other topics, but in general, the program is a total democracy, with a supportive group of families, and is able to do exactly what it intends to do.

That's pretty wonderful, and I was missing it to an extent.

We choose what we hold onto, and I'd been holding onto the idea that we needed some sort of funding, some sort of very vocal support from outside, when, really, we already have an unbelievable network of supportive people. What's even more important is the group - a terrific group of dedicated young people are already here, we're already doing what we hoped to do.

Freedom comes from letting go of any specific expectation of result. It doesn't mean giving up trying, not at all. It means working hard, in all that you do, intelligently growing through the process, improving, but not expecting anything more than that growth, that learning. If something else happens, if we're spontaneously funded, super, if not, hey, that's fine, we're still going to do great things, learn, grow - that's something we've been doing this whole time. Thanks to the children, it's something that I have been able to keep doing to, and it's a freeing feeling to realize that what you have is exactly what you need.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Leap Of Faith.

"The point is, we have all been programmed, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, to an extent that most of us are only vaguely aware of. Of equal power are our own beliefs, carried over from previous periods of our lives, previous life situations. Collectively, these old thoughts and ideas are an energy in our lives that rob us of the moment." - Rolf Gates

I received a letter from an old friend yesterday that touched on something incredibly sad that happened in their life a few years ago. They wrote saying that it was something they just couldn't move past, that it effectively had trapped them in a place, in a mindset. There isn't much worse a feeling than feeling powerless and believing that there is truly nothing you can do about it. To see pain, to feel pain, and somehow believe that it's what we need or deserve, that is a challenging place to be. And I've been there. My experiences, my 'previous life situations' could easily trick me into believing this, but that's all it would be, a trick.

Those experiences which created my beliefs are not me, and neither are my beliefs. As much as I'd like to comfortably hold onto them (even if they're negative, that can be more comforting than not having anything concrete to hold onto), I needn't do that. I am nothing more than a series of collected ideas, but it's only possible to realize that if I'm engaged only in the moment. The over-used phrase which tells us to 'live in the moment' may sound silly, but it's surprisingly valuable. Our tendency to live almost entirely in the past through memories and ideas creates a situation where growth is near impossible. Without growth, there is only stagnation, and eventually death - that's just nature talking. The point of living is growth - individual growth, the ability to learn from your experiences but not let those experiences define you, to let them guide you to a better version of you without having any control over you.

We have all been programmed, but we aren't computers, we can pay closer attention, identify our programming, and then re-program ourselves - we just have to stop being so defeatist, so lazy about it, we just need to get started.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Letting Go.

"The energy we expend defending unhealthy attachments could be spent making the world a better place." - Rolf Gates

The most consistent battle in my mind is related to purpose and meaning. I believe that a life lived without purpose and meaning (which directly benefits the world) isn't much of a life lived. I have an increasingly difficult time figuring out what that meaning is or should be. I have focused huge amounts of time and energy over extended periods of time on education and on helping young people and I'm still finding myself unable to garner enough interest in a public education shift that would help make what I'm trying to do sustainable. So if I can't do that successfully, what's the point, right?

I've written about attachment and the need for letting go of results (all of which I have learned from Rolf over the years), it's easier said than done though. Even though my attachment is healthy (it's a selfless endeavor that helps young people - although sometimes I do focus too much energy on it), it is hard to see how what I'm doing is actually making the world a better place. This doesn't mean that it isn't, but it does highlight something important - if we are working towards putting our energy towards healthy attachments, and we are not yielding noticeable results, how are we possibly supposed to expect to want to put our energy there? We can receive the same lack of results on unhealthy attachments, which often times feel like less work in the moment (there's a reason why people live their lives through television and drama they create in their own lives, a reason why people drink too much and eat the way they do).

Maybe the whole point of life is just to try to come to the realization that we have X amount of energy and that when we dedicate that energy to positive endeavors, we will, more often than not, feel better mentally and physically, and choosing to do that will make the world a better place, which was the whole point in the first place.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Do The Right Thing.

"We grow in our capacity to do the right thing each time we do the right thing." - Rolf Gates

Last night I went and saw Krishna Das perform at a church in Boston. His voice is really quite beautiful (and possibly even better live), the music was wonderful, and it was an interesting experience, seeing how varied the response was from the audience. During the show, there was a period of time where he was speaking on the idea of religious figures and was talking about what he believed made Jesus special. His assertion was that Christ was consumed by love. Seemingly meaning that every fiber of his being was focused on the idea of good for all creatures. This is a pretty right thing to be living by, no? It doesn't get much more right than wanting good for all I wouldn't imagine. So, why don't more of us do just that?

In general, folks are nice, kind, considerate, and very much distracted by the minutiae of life. So, when Rolf says that we grow each time we do the right thing, he's definitely right. The problem is that we opt to focus so much of our energy on things that aren't the right thing, that we don't grow nearly as much as we're capable of.

Our lives are short, our time precious. If we choose to use that time to do the right thing, as often as we are able (which means nearly all the time), if we intentionally live our lives going out of our way to do well by others and the natural world, than we have the opportunity to grow far past what we probably believe is actually possible. The problem I've run into of late is trying to figure out how to do the right thing by other people - is it something you can go out of your way to do or does it have to be organic? If the former, why does it seem so difficult at times to offer other people help and support? And if the latter, how are we all supposed to grow as much as our potential offers if we have to wait for situations to arise to respond to them?

I guess that this question isn't one I'm currently able to answer succinctly, so all I can do is pay attention to everything I'm doing, decide what right action would be, and then go out of my way to try to do that at all times, hoping that I'm creating the most good possible.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Accommodate Real Life.

"But we can do it. And we will do it beautifully." - Rolf Gates

This week I hadn't planned for any specific adventure for my week vacation from the program, but suddenly on Saturday I was a bit worried that my lack of plans would mean a fairly boring and not enlightening week in any meaningful way. Not to say I wouldn't be able to find things to do around home that I'd enjoy, and that would be relaxing, but I wanted to get away, and really wanted to get away to sun. As such, I searched on Sunday for what would be the most affordable ticket to a place with warm weather, and that is how I ended up spending the last five days in sunny, eighty degree Florida sunshine.

It was a wonderful week - really wonderful - and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to get away from my daily routine (even if the majority of each day just followed my daily routine - coffee shops and reading outside, which wouldn't have been quite as fun had I been doing it in Boston's weather). The trip was something that I needed, and it was something that I am grateful I was able to take. It's so clear how much light and sunshine and fresh air matters to happiness, and that's so obvious when you get yourself outside.

Maybe this is all we need to do as individuals in order to start moving towards a more meaningful life. Maybe I only have a few small things that I need to do and those few things will totally change every other facet of my life. So, in addition to spending at least two hours outside every day from now on (regardless of weather - no excuses), I am going to limit my online time to only and hour a day (well, computer time, but most is spent online), and am going to do away with my Smart phone. These things won't immediately change me necessarily, but they will immediately change how I use my time, and, over time, that will change me.

I'd like to live all aspects of my life beautifully, and I have a whole lot of control over that which I intend to exercise - no waiting around for someone else to make my life what I want it to be, it's up to me.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Something Larger Than Life.

"We transcend our suffering to the degree that we are able to passionately employ our gifts in the service of others." - Rolf Gates (paraphrasing the Bhagavad Gita)

The suffering that I've had in my life has been a direct result of the suffering that I have caused - whether you want to call that karma or something else, that doesn't matter to me. The joy in my life, that has been a direct result of the joy that I've been able to help foster in other people's lives. This is a pretty simple formula. Do well by other people, feel joy. Harm other people, feel pain. So why would any of us, ever, choose to allow suffering? I think it's a bit more complicated than I currently would like it to seem when I chat with other people about it. I'm at a point now where I can intelligently look at my actions and, more often than not, only do things that are in the service of others and don't cause pain. And even with this understanding of this phrase, I still occasionally cause pain and create suffering for myself. Unfortunately, this is a lot easier because I believe it. Fifteen years ago, I would have thought there was no way to do away with suffering - I would have argued it was just how life was. I guess I could still say that because I still feel bad at times, but the realization of how interconnected the two are makes it impossible for me to pretend that I have no stake in the matter.

The 'something larger than life' that we want to be a part of inherently as humans doesn't have to be focused around what we expect to get out of life, or what we feel we must have to be happy, that's the misguided aspect of it that Rolf talks about. The something larger just means something larger than our individual lives, a greater good, the desire for good for other people - and this happens when we are in service to others, aiming for good for their lives. This desire to do well by others creates in our lives something larger, something that makes life make a little more sense, and when we have a better understanding of what we're here for (goodness), then we'll certainly be able to live in that fashion with far less suffering, which sounds worthwhile to me.