Friday, December 24, 2010

Personal Business


Last night I was writing an email, and my husband suddenly had another attack. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. My son and I rode with him.

I'm glad to say that he is all right. But we have a lot to do. And I'm at a loss.

I used to get all these comments that I was searching for pity, that I'm a drama queen--tons of stuff. Now I'm started to get it here, when my focus is to destroy my ego and see how I can be a vessel for the Divine. My friend told me that God is doing some major clearing in our lives. Maybe. Times like these I cannot intuit anything.. My husband is getting sick for a reason. Stress is a major factor. Stress kills people; I've seen it. I don't want my husband to die. I want my son to know his father.

My last post was about clearing hatred, not owning it. Anyone who thinks otherwise should read it again or just go somewhere else, because the internet is one big department store. The last time my husband got sick, it was in March--he had a stroke. The two people who helped make sure his life remained miserable are the ones I discuss in the previous post. Ironic that I write a post about them and the same thing happens, except this wasn't a stroke, but an insane spike in his BP, which caused unpleasant symptoms.

Right now I just can't deal with people who don't get what I'm trying to say. I'm too raw. I cannot handle feeling it. Simply by blogging, I put my emotions at risk. And I'm not going to do that. It's not worth it.

  This year has been so hard. I have nothing to give anyone. I'm empty. I got to get back to the garden.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hatred: A Spiritual Lesson in Human Fallibility

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”  Jonathan Swift



I've been thinking about hatred lately. What is it? What makes us hate? What can stop us from this destructive emotion?


I wish I knew. Actually, I do know, but it is an intellectual process and hatred has nothing to do with the intellect. It is primal. It's a war between the superego and the id. It grabs you by the throat and won't let go. Hatred is obsession, deadly and pervasive.


I looked up hatred in the dictionary. I will list a few gems: Hatred-a very strong feeling of dislike, Hatred-intense dislike or extreme aversion or hostility, Hatred--the emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action. None of them are great, but I do like the last one, as hatred screams for release. Call it vengeance, call it scapegoating, call it justice, but hatred wants us to get back at the ---what do we call them, the hated?


There is a belief that hatred comes from love. After all, why put all that energy into someone who doesn't matter? We hate the person who rejects us. We hate the person who takes away love. We hate the person who once claimed our devotion. How many divorced couples hate each other? How many ex-lovers stalk and punish their former beloved? So hatred is a twisted version of love in the cruelest form.


But if there are different kinds of love, surely there must be different kinds of hate. The KKK who screams out: "I hate Jews because they exist"--did he ever love Jews? The gaybashers who think homosexuality is an abomination--are they possibly gay themselves and hate that part of their repressed nature? Did Mark David Chapman hate John Lennon as he shot him point blank in front of his wife? Right now in Philly, there is a serial killer on the loose--he preys upon young women. Some females are buying guns; they think the police aren't doing enough, so they are ready to kill the guy themselves. Is that hate? This guy rapes the victims before killing them. Who shows more hate--the women who wonder if they will be next, or the sociopath who punishes women he doesn't know? 

 Leo Tolstoy writes: "To cast aside your hostility, remind yourself that if someone does a bad thing without shame, he is blind and he cannot tell good from evil. In this way,  people are innocent." I understand the first part, but not the second. Hatred will always hurt the innocent. Even if you attack the one who may deserve it, he may have loved ones who have nothing to do with this "intense dislike". They may not even know what is going on.


So some forms of hate have no relation to love. Perhaps they demonstrate shame. Perhaps the hater has been wronged in some way. Perhaps hate expresses fear more than love. Tolstoy asks that we show compassion to those who do evil. The one who hates suffers more than the hated. He is probably correct. But some people cannot control their hate: they are powerless. What can they do so that they no longer live in such animosity?

Intellectually, I know the answer. It is part of the 12 step program--I've never been good with that one, but the first two steps make sense. Step 1: I am powerless over my hatred. Step 2: I need a Higher Power to restore me to sanity. When we hate, we are temporarily insane. We think thoughts that seep blood and violence. We want to punish, as we were punished. It's all too human to hate. But hate is more than a thought. It is raw emotion, and just like so many of us would rather not be in love, we have to learn to change our feelings--very, very difficult.

I won't utter platitudes. I understand hate all too well. It is the ultimate attachment to things of this world. Hate not only led Anakin to the Dark Side; it made him strong for many years.To stop hate, we have to want the emotion to dissipate. We have to find the source of this emotional charge. We have to understand our underlying experience that led us to this emotional prison. And we have to  let it go. So hard, but so necessary--we cannot have peace in this world if we aren't at peace with ourselves.

I find myself caught in hate right now. It is not based on love--I never loved these people. By hurting me, they hurt my husband and son. I cannot follow my own prescription. I cannot stop hating these people. I feel lost and possessed. If I don't change my perspective, I will be consumed.

Dear God:  Deliver me from this hatred. Don't let these people live inside my head. If you will not change the circumstances that caused me to hate them, then please change me. Let me learn how to separate myself from rage. Let me stop playing the judge. I tell you, God--I really hate these people and I don't want to feel this way. Have mercy on me. Show me your grace. I cannot be a vessel if I still remain unclean. Cleanse me of this hate--please.

I'll keep you posted.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

College and Students

I want to take this opportunity to sum up what I have learned this fall semester, which is still in session. These points are generalizations; they don't pertain to every student. .

1. Most of my students are really good people, who just want a chance to make a living.
2. Colleges may be under the non-profit by-line, but higher education is all about the benjamins.
3. Some textbooks cost $200. No, these are not law books, but textbooks for general education courses. The students are lucky if they can sell them back for $20. Each year there is a new edition, so the students have no choice but to buy their textbooks new--each book becomes obsolete after the school year ends.

4. Students now are able to rent books for the semester. It's a bit cheaper than buying the book.
5. Students are generally passive and bored. It isn't personal; they have been beaten down into submission by a society that doesn't give a damn.
6. But wait! Who creates society? People. So people don't give a damn. This has a snowball effect. The new work force is learning obedience through general apathy.
7. I teach books that show great historical figures: students are especially impressed by Dr. King. Yet we have no such leaders right now. Why is that?
8. I teach about epic heroes like Achilles and Gilgamesh. Students have been trained to think that sports figures are heroes. They need to develop a healthy relationship to heroism because they rarely see it among individuals. This means they cannot recognize excellence in another human being.
9. Many of my students belong to fraternities or sororities. They do this for networking in the job market. But they also join because they don't know how to make friends. So they inherit them.
10. If parents knew how much alcohol is consumed by their dear sons and daughters, they would be...surprised.. Other kids drink, not their child. Sorry--your child came drunk to my class. He came drunk to my office hours. Your little girl doesn't even like beer, but she drinks it in order to attract certain male companionship.

 11. It is not uncommon for a male and female to begin making out once they have noticed each other at a party. Often, they don't know each other's name. Yet they think nothing of exchanging bodily fluids with a stranger. Alcohol is a big culprit in these situations. This is called hooking up.
12. We are turning our college students into alcoholics..

13. Many students suffer from depression and anxiety disorders.Many consider suicide as a realistic option. 
14.  College students may have a thousand friends on Facebook, but they are among the loneliest people I have ever known. They wish they could get to know their classmates, but they have to listen to boring lectures and take notes. The classroom has become a place of alienation, not community.
15. Many think a romantic relationship will solve all of their problems.
16. Many students don't understand love, because they have been encouraged to focus on their needs, not the needs of others.
17. Texting is ruining writing skills. I get papers with u for you, b/c for because, and IDK for I don't know. Intellectually, they know this is incorrect, but writing papers has become another form of texting.

18. Many students have either been raped, molested, or exposed to sexually inappropriate situations at a young age. This transcends race, social and economic status.
19. Students know instinctively that this is not how life should be. But they don't know what to do.
20. I pray for my students every time I go to class. I worry about them. I really do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog For a Special Report

My sweet lord! Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies! Someone pinch me. Wow, no one saw that coming. Cliff Lee does business just like he pitches: unpredictably. I'm so happy to share this city with the Zen Master of pitching.
 Hail Cliff Lee! We now have the best pitching staff in the major leagues. Go Phillies!

 This is an example of the Taoist path--nothing will ever phase you. My hero.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Empaths or Just Plain Nuts

We are energetic beings. We are surrounded by energy with assorted realms of vibrations. I believe that. I also believe that some of us are empaths; we feel the energy of others very deeply--almost too much. We feel weighed down by all the collective pain that envelopes us.

Not everyone is an empath--in fact, things become easier in this material life when we feel next to nothing. When I was a college student, I could literally program my reactions to various stimuli so that my studies would remain intact. I was hell-bent on becoming the world's greatest academic. Self-discipline meant very little emotional interaction.

But feelings don't go away. They go underground. Refusing to feel is a swipe against acknowledging pain. Those feelings will find you. Suddenly you go from functional to dysfunctional. You don't know what went wrong. You can't read. You don't want to be around people. You can't concentrate. You start crying for no reason. It's as though many layers of skin simply melted away. Now you are feeling everything--from your pain to the pain of strangers. You are overwhelmed.

What am I describing? I call it awakening. You begin to see that life is very complicated. Bad things happen for no apparent reason; life becomes unfair to the good while the bad triumph. You notice that some folks are sad around the holidays. You see the rich get bonuses while the working poor get laid off from their jobs. Just like Bruce Almighty, you begin to hear the prayers of everyone--begging, pleading, asking God to take away this terrible burden. As the Buddha teaches, life is suffering.

When I feel like this, it's hard to leave the house. I don't know where these emotions originate, but they plague me---is it that I am miserable or am I in touch with misery itself? I've seen other people go through these experiences. They wonder if they are losing their mind.

Our society would have us chase those feelings away with Prozac. Some may turn to illegal substances or the corner bar. Why are we so afraid of emotion? Does every emotion cause pain? Isn't joy as real as suffering?

My husband used to tell me that he cried almost every day for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I thought he was exaggerating. Now I know he was telling the literal truth. He knows what it is like to be a soldier, and he puts himself in their place. He takes a metaphysical bullet for them.

People tell me that I'm too sensitive. But I'm okay with that. I would rather know that I am fully alive. So much of what our society deems as happiness is just the absence of suffering. It is not life itself, but our perceptions that become an illusion. It's the old Jedi "point of view". Look what it did to Anakin. But look again at what it did for his son, Luke.

As bad as it may be, I encourage all of us to "search our feelings". I often wonder how many bi-polar diagnoses serve as a label for those who are starting to understand the truth within life. If we are existence, consciousness and bliss, then we are subject to all sorts of moods. Which of us is more sick, the empath or the society that wants to wipe all unpleasant emotions away?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What Is A Friend?

Thanks to the internet, some of us have over a thousand "friends." It's such bullshit. We use the term friendship as if it were toilet paper. Why has friendship become so cheap?

It all boils down to attachment and fear. We want to think people like us. If they don't, then we become unimportant. We become afraid that we don't matter to anyone. Some of us like to be alone, but nobody likes loneliness.Yet so many of us are so damn lonely. And it grows worse.

We attach our validity to how people view us. It's Friday night--hey, whatcha doing? Let's chill. We go to a party that is filled with people looking for something they haven't got. It's easy to go out with people. But a genuine friend is the person that will stay home with you. Maybe you will watch a movie or share a meal. When you invite that friend into your home, you are showing them your identity. That friend knows what you treasure through your CDs and your books. That friend understands how you choose to live by the furniture you own.  Your home is your inner sanctuary, your sacred space. Why invite someone who cannot appreciate who you are?

I like how Chaim Potok described friendship in his novel, The Chosen.  A friend comes into your life like an accident. Before you know it, you are talking about everything in the world. Then one of you decides to share something--a secret, a habit, a belief--something no one knows. When the friends nods and accepts this revelation, you both have that gift of friendship. Your friend comes into your life when you are desperate to share something real. A friend understands. A friend gives back that same gift. You are no longer alone because there is one person out there who knows you aren't crazy. You are simply you. And that person wants your friendship.

We need to take friendship more seriously. A friend tells you the truth. A friend will listen to you. A friend may make mistakes, but if the friendship is honest, you learn to forgive. A friend is a teacher. A friend helps you learn who you are. For a while, all darkness is lifted, because your friend becomes your agent of light. No one is perfect, but with a friend, you are never alone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Be A Man

Enter the cavern with its 
Walls of tanged strands.
Find the living flame
That burns on blood.
From Tao Daily Meditations

I hear this one a lot. You must hear it as well. I've talked to men who say things like: "When is he going to be a man?, I'm a full-grown man,  Be a man about it, I have to show him how to be a man"--blah, blah, blah. I know some men consult the bible because it gives clear instructions on manhood--from independent behavior, to marriage, to child rearing and caring for loved ones in distress. There are motivational speakers (I have to give Tom Cruise kudos for his depiction of the man motivational speaker in Magnolia). There is community that defines social characteristics of manhood. There are self-help books, weekend warrior gatherings--I don't know--but manning up is a perennial concern.

Since I am female, I don't have this pressure. But lately, I've grown tired of men who claim to be this archetypal he-man image. They may be real men, but there aren't always nice people.  So I figured I would make a list of characteristics that sum up manhood for me. Please note that some of these traits can apply to women as well.
                                                 How to Be A Man

1. Recognize that your body and your mind are masculine. Your soul and spirit have no gender.

2. God and/or natural selection made you physically stronger than women and children. Don't use that strength to harm those who are weaker than you.

3. You don't become a man because society gives you the right to vote, join the military and buy liquor. You are just getting some social privileges.

4. According to the Tao, the best weapon is one we never have to use. Don't use your manhood as a weapon.

5. Since men have certain gifts, they should be used to bolster the community. Protect the women, children
and elderly who depend on you.

6. Having lots of sex with different partners doesn't make you a man. It makes you a human who fears intimacy and lives for his needs.

7. Drinking alcohol until you pass out does not make you a man. As you probably have more body mass than most women, you can handle chemical toxins better than us.

8. Consider the consequences of your actions. Don't think you live above natural and divine law just because you have a penis. You are not a god.

9. Society may tell you that anger is the privileged emotion of men. That is a lie. Men have all sorts of emotions. There is nothing wrong about feeling them.

10. If you end a relationship, be gentle.

11. Your car does not make you a man.

12. Money does not make you a man.

13. Strength and meanness are two different things. Often, it takes more strength to be kind than mean.

14. Men who abuse others are not men. They aren't even human.

15. If you hate women, deal with those feelings. Don't punish us with your rage.

16. You are not a man because you have the most beautiful woman at your side.

17. Don't run away.

18. When you feel weak, reach out to someone. Don't keep it inside.

19. Learn about love. Learn that love means giving as well as receiving. Don't love a person because of what he or she can do for you. Love that person for what he or she is.

20. Finally, don't keep telling us that you are a man. If you have to mention it so much, you are probably having doubts.