You and I

DSCF9215

Imagine, for a small moment,
that it is not you here, them there,
that every time you meet the world
and find its lovely mosaic of beings,
you are coming upon yourself
in a new way, for the first time,
 
Imagine how haunted they are
by a past etched on their faces
and imagine caressing them,
saying, “It’s okay, I’m here
to tell you it’s not your fault,
you are worthy of forgiveness.”
 
Imagine saying, “I love you,”
to all those you come across,
and imagine how much you mean it
from the bottom of your heart,
and now, imagine: every single
one of these beings, is you.
 
– tammy takahashi

On Ending Violence with (Inner) Peace: Quotes from the Dalai Lama.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Words are a bridge between us and the world.

Sometimes words help us express ourselves, and then sometimes they fail or desert us completely as we confront something wondrous, inexplicable or, in the face of the events in Paris and so many other parts of the world these days, downright horrifying.

Sometimes it’s okay to be at a loss for words, to not know how to be, or act, or express oneself in the wake of tragedy and the feeling of hopelessness that can follow.

We are struggling to be better humans. We should never forget this. Every single one of us, without exception.

This is how we, and the world, move forward together, in one piece. Even when it looks like that piece is shattering into a million smaller, more jagged ones, and we don’t understand the hows and whys of it all.

Instead of finding my own words (they were definitely in hiding), today I went looking for a bundle of cards bought in Dharamsala, India, a couple of years ago; on each is a quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They’re sold all over the place there, colourful, paper jewels lining the hilly streets leading down the mountainside to Kalachakra Temple in this thin-aired, sacred space. They positively emanate peace, goodwill and compassion to visitors and to the rest of the world below.

I needed to read these words today, to have them filter gently and slowly into my being, and hoped they might be of benefit.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Another powerful thing to do when there are no words is meditation.

Let’s take a comfortable, upright seated posture and be silent, and really attend to the moment: the present moment of our thoughts, feelings, fears and bodily sensations (our body is truly the map of our past and ongoing mental processes).

Simply watching the breath and gently guiding ourselves back to the breath when the mind wanders is an astounding tool for grounding, heart-opening and stress-reduction.

Tonglen Meditation, from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, is also an extremely powerful, cathartic and effective meditation to help us generate compassion and contribute to a state of inner and outer peace. I’ve described this meditation here, and there are many fantastic guides to Tonglen on these pages (for example, here) and elsewhere.

It can be as simple as this (though I encourage you to read more about Tonglen):

Find a place where you can be quiet and still, and then proceed to slowly breathe in the suffering of the world (or any particular people you’d like to imagine, who are suffering), imagine it transforming into a bright white light of peace and goodwill, and breathe that goodness out onto the suffering parties.

In between the words, and in all the dark spaces, are the seeds of promise, and a reminder of the inevitability of—and potential for—change.

Please share this message of peace!

 

Change your Mood, Change your Life

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

It’s going to rain again.

I know this because it feels like the sky is a wet blanket about to fall over my head and all my groceries.

I just biked along a busy, industrial street. Fumes of all kinds sprayed the thick, heavy air. I passed by a dismal concrete slab of a wall decorated with the loneliest rendition of palm trees and ocean spray I have ever seen.

I wanted to cry for it.

And more than anything, I wanted to go (back) to where these things shine and thrive for real. How I miss those places, and the people I met there.

Earlier today, my mother-in-law came over to drop off something my husband left in her car by accident. We don’t speak the same language (literally, not figuratively), and fear prevented me from inviting her in for tea like I was longing to do. She is such a lovely, gentle woman. The guilt over her coming all this way—something she was happy to do, I know—has been consuming me all day.

And the writing. I’ve been frantic at it, for weeks now, and sometimes the words flow and other times I’m sure I have nothing of value to say at all, or any decent way of saying it; what kind of inane mind got me thinking writing was a thing I could or should do, anyway? So I start to blame the writing itself, or whatever invisible, insipid forces conspired to make me do it.

It can be lonely, writing the days away, living side by side, day in and day out with a transmutation of self that can be, while sublime, also the ugliest of mirrors.

I’m tempted to throw in the towel. This day is just going to continue sucking. I forget the ginger I wanted to get for tea, and the house is kind of a mess due to my own negligence (guilt) and the painting I’m working on needs something and I can’t figure it out (insipid, rude muse forces). The hours are going by too quickly.

Wait.

Let’s try the other filter. Whatever is spinning me in this direction can surely go the other way. Let’s shift focus and think about all the things I’m grateful for. My health, my opportunity to live in far-flung places of the globe, love, the myriad privileges …

This isn’t working.

It’s too far away, too abstract. I need to come closer. To see, touch and feel the big beauty in little things.

The canopy of leaves overhead, teeming with the cicadas who live for seven years underground, only to come up for one week of life. The poetry in this. There must be hundreds of them here, and I get to be a witness to their tiny, brief life, and carry their intoxicating sound with me long after they’re gone.

The trees, that have held island secrets for hundreds of years.

The time I can carve out to walk among the trees, and strike up a conversation.

The weird kiwi lassi drink I just bought, that tastes like the travels I have and will continue to embrace.

And I like rain.

I want it to rain, and smatter and then pelt me until I’m soaked in the hot, grey air, and I want to dance like this, in the middle of the park, and maybe sing a little. A lot.

The guilt, that old friend, I’m no stranger anymore to its pervasiveness in my life’s history. The fabric of me is woven with guilt that digs deep into my bones, suffocates my lungs and goes back, it seems, to the very origin of all things.

I catch it a lot faster than I used to. I used to prefer rationalizing my guilt and letting it ride the inglorious coattails of blame.

Now I can take a moment with the guilt, let it be felt, and (almost) let it disappear until the next time. I can remind myself that Rome was almost certainly not built upon the pillars of guilt, which still doesn’t mean the guilt doesn’t have a right to exist (or that the Romans did everything right).

I’ve never compared myself to an ancient civilization before, and even this is interesting.

How can we turn the suck around? Make one little decision. Look for something pretty. Not in the abstract. Right here.

Now. The world will work with you, wants to work with you to make it better.

Not a word of a lie, the sun just came out through the thicket of cloud.

 

*This article was first published in elephant journal – take a look!