Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Exploring difficult moments as our path to freedom. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 6/11/13.

Exploring how our energy is depleted and can be restored through our practice and an introduction to chakra meditation. A talk by Lyndon at Cenla Meditation Group on 6/4/13.

Exploring the Third Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering and the realization of well-being. A talk by Lyndon Marcotte at Cenla Meditation Group on 3/19/13.

  1. Recognizing that I am not separate from all that is.
  2. Being satisfied with what I have.
  3. Encountering all creations with respect and dignity.
  4. Listening and speaking from the heart.
  5. Cultivating a mind that sees clearly.
  6. Unconditionally accepting what each moment has to offer.
  7. Speaking what I perceive to be the truth without guilt or blame.
  8. Using all of the ingredients of my life.
  9. Transforming suffering into wisdom.
  10. Honoring my life as an instrument of peacemaking.

Taken from Jean Smith’s The Beginner’s Guide to Zen Buddhism

At this moment Iran is erupting in waves of violence from protestors who support and oppose the declared victory of Ahmadinejad in this week’s Presidential election. Students at Tehran University are pleading with U.S. President Obama not to accept the election results and to stand with them.

Students rescue injured riot police officer

Students rescue injured riot police officer

I thought this photo was compelling. Students are rescuing an injured riot police officer who was attacked by protestors. This is the kind of action that will start a real revolution. Violence won’t. From Ghandi to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jesus non-violent resistance and courageous acts of selfless love have turned the tides of history.

While Iran and the larger Middle East does not want to be Western nor should they, they do want to be free. There have long been stories about the changes among younger Iranians and the break with the powers that be. I’ve long thought that within my lifetime a revolution would ensue. Whether or not that revolution is crushed or turns the hearts and minds of all Iranians will depend on whether more students choose to emulate this act of selflessness or swing bats and burn buildings. Choose peace. Choose love. Start a fire that consumes hatred and oppression, and it will never burn out.

“People are People” has been playing in my head the last few days and sort of sums up my experiences out on the road working this week. I’m in sales by the way, in case you haven’t deducted that from following this blog any length of time. I’ve found that in sales, in particular, your attitude has a tremendous influence on the outcome. I think that’s true with many things in life. It’s not simply that having a better mindset improves your own outlook and makes you more effective, but I’ve also found that it has a tremendous impact on those you encounter.

Despite having several days in a row of bad news and being generally disgusted with my job and the current economic plight we find ourselves in, I woke up feeling pretty good yesterday morning. (Thanks to the extra-long good morning hug from a four year old.) I had a few stops in South Louisiana which were really pleasant conversations. Yesterday evening when I got to the hotel on the North Shore where I was staying, there was a guy talking to the front desk clerk who seemed rather frustrated. As I waited in line, I heard that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to check in now or go into New Orleans and come back later that night. The clerk was growing impatient and didn’t want to answer his questions.  I talk to strangers all day long everywhere I go and interjected myself into the conversation. I learned that he was a farmer from Illinois and his landlord recommended he stay on the North Shore while he was in the area rather than New Orleans.

He asked me very nervously, “what’s it like?”

I said, “Well, today is Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras ended last night and most of the tourists are clearing out today. I just came from New Orleans this afternoon and the traffic was fine. You won’t have a problem getting a hotel there if that’s what you’re worried about. I’m staying in New Orleans tomorrow night and had no problem making a reservation, so you should be fine.”

He still looked frustrated and told me his landlord recommended he stay here but he and his wife were thinking about going into New Orleans but wasn’t sure if they should.

“Oh, are you worried about whether it’s safe?”

He said, “Yeah, I mean I don’t know where to go, and I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.”

“I work down here two to three months a year since Katrina. It’s fine. The French Quarter is a tourist trap and one of the safer areas you can visit. I took my wife and kids to New Orleans last summer. They had so much fun my kids are begging to go back. I think you’ll be fine.”

So he left the hotel and headed to his car where his wife look exasperated from waiting in the car, waiting on her husband to make up his mind, or both.

This morning I was up early and loading my stuff before heading off to a meeting. As always in south Louisiana, there are a lot of laborers leaving for a job in the morning loading their gear into trucks next to mine. I went back to the room to steal a phone book and left the door open. An older weathered hispanic worker stopped by the room and asked, “Hey, are you staying another night?”

Thinking he was one of the guys doing the remodeling on the hotel I said, “No, I’ll be out of here in just a minute.”

“Do you have any coffee left?” he asked.

“Well, I drank both regular packs, but I got some decaf left. You want it.”

“Oh yeah, if you don’t mind, I’d love to have some more,” he said gratefully with a smile as I handed him the coffee.

As I followed him out to the parking lot he said, “We’re headin’ up to Seattle, and this will come in handy,” he explained as he stuffed the decaf coffee into a black garbage bag in the back of a small pickup and climbed in the cab with three other guys.

I could tell those same stories about the waiter today, the cashier at the drive thru, the hotel clerk tonight, and on and on. I finished the day eating chargrilled oysters with my supervisor. We talked for an hour and a half about just how screwed up things have gotten with our company and how fed up I was with all of it. We talked about how each of us and the powers that be see things differently but also about how we can work to make the necessary changes to improve things for everyone. I appreciate that he listened and that we found common ground to move forward on, even though many things have yet to be resolved. If you look people in the eye, listen to them, and talk to them like they matter, their entire disposition changes, including mine. We can even disagree with one another without destroying one another. Whenever we encounter people in different places or people who are different from us, too often we do so with the baggage of suspicions and sterotypes.

So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people
Have different needs
Its obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you
So what could I have done
I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully

Since January I’ve worked in some pretty rough neighborhoods in a few cities. I’m a fish out of water in a big urban town with all the traffic and the one way, no u-turn, four lane roads, but I’m naive enough to be the only white guy in a McDonalds and make small talk with the cashier. I’m brass enough to ask a stranger if he needs help with directions. I’m also considerate enough to realize that a migratory hispanic laborer enjoys a good cup of coffee just as much as I do, whether he’s legal or not. I also realize that a young gay black guy working a drive-thru window is working just as hard as I am to make it in this world.

Coincidentally enough, I just watched Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine film on tv this past weekend. I’ve heard all the trash talk about him and his movies, but I was curious. I actually enjoyed the movie. It’s just clips of Michael talking to people. Yeah, just talking and asking simple questions. No brain washing. No arm twisting. He actually asked a lot of the same questions that I would have. He stood on a street corner in South Central Los Angeles with an expert talking about actual crime statistics versus our misconceptions. Which I thought about when I met the farmer worried about going to New Orleans for a night on the town. What I realized most from watching it was just how much people are being manipulated by fear in this country. Fear of terrorism, of aids, of crime, of young black men, someone taking your money, of being sick, and on and on. Worst of all is that we’ve been conditioned to be afraid of each other. That same fear drove the last election cycle and cost John McCain the presidency. (That point was driven home again by an HBO documentary that I stayed up too late to finish last night called Right America: Feeling Wronged | Some Voices from the Campaign Trail, which I highly recommend you watch if you can.)

Worst yet, that same fear could cost us our very way of life and all that is decent and right in this country… each other. I hope that if any good can come out of this economic depression we are facing, it will make us realize, like after September 11, 2001, that we are all in this together. We rise or fall together.

I say all that to say this. People are people wherever you go. I refuse to be afraid. I refuse to be manipulated. I choose to hope. I choose to listen. Will you?

Wow! Leann Rimes has really come into her own. Her latest song “What I Cannot Change” shows the depth and maturity of her voice with rich and delicate reflections on life. Her voice is as tender as the lyrics are profound.

It is a tremendous step forward in life to recognize the truth that “all the rest is out of my hands.” We cannot fix everything, nor do I believe everything is meant to be fixed. Some things just are. The sooner we stop trying to resist the “divine flow” (to borrow from Chopra) and learn to embrace complexity, mystery, and wonder, we will find an enormous source of peace.

When we come head to head with what we cannot change, we have a choice to let it go, to forgive, or to love. Perhaps the latter is the hardest for most to understand. I think it’s wise of the songwriter to say “I will learn [to let go, to forgive, to love] what I cannot change.” It is not easy. It is a process, and one that we may not fully understand until we’ve been there and come out on the other side. It is possible to love what you cannot change, to embrace it, and to find beauty and truth in even the smallest of joys and heartaches. Read on »

So what happens when a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian get together in the South? It sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but it’s really happening in Central Louisiana. Tonight was the first night of the second series of Interfaith Dialogues hosted by Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim, The Islamic Society, and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Alexandria, LA. The speakers were Rabbi Arnold Task, Imam Yaser al Khooly, and Dr. Lee Weems. The first meeting tonight was held at Emmanuel, and the topic was “Our Distinctive Holy Days.” The topic of the next meeting will be “What My Faith Means To Me (A Woman’s View)” held at the Jewish Synagogue, and the last meeting of the year will be “Sacred Scripture” held at the Islamic Center.

In the South ecumenism is a rarity, but when it does surface, it usually means that either a black church and white church came together for some occasion or a few Protestants got together with some Catholics for something. Although more known for being the second notch of the Bible Belt, Central Louisiana has had a very visible and very respected Jewish community for years and has a steadily growing Islamic community most notably among healthcare professionals and business owners. My friend and I really had hoped to attend the first series of Dialogues held in the Spring, but they weren’t very well publicized, plus we were off working all over the state. I’m glad that I was able to make it tonight and look forward to the rest of the conversation.

I appreciate the spirit in which the conversations took place. I would characterize it as one of respect and genuine interest. This afternoon while weighing what I had to do versus making the effort to attend tonight, I kept thinking about why this was so important, although seemingly insignificant. If more people around the world would take the time to get together and talk, there would be far less violence and animosity in the world. Having just recently watched CNN’s three-part series God’s Warriors also freshly impressed upon me the importance of working to overcome ignorance and barriers to peace. One of the greatest delusions is that the absence of conflict is the equivalent to the presence of peace. It may be a cease-fire kind of peace, but it is not a peace based on unity and understanding without effort.

I noticed a lot of similarities in the basic underlying tenets or objectives of each faith tradition, as well as many “distinctives.” I noticed most the focus of right relationship to our Creator and the imperatives of service to others. There were a few things that stuck out most to me from each speaker.

It stuck with me most that Rabbi Task summarized Judaism as a religion of “ethical monotheism.” While speaking about charity during Ramadan, Iman al Khooly quoted a prophet that said you cannot be a believer and go to sleep at night with a full belly while your neighbor’s is empty (paraphrase mine). I also appreciated how he described everything done between prayer times as acts of worship and the various signifigances of observing the month of Ramadan. Dr. Weems emphasized the importance of Advent and Lent leading up to Christmas and Easter, which in my opinion is almost never mentioned in most Protestant circles I’ve ran in most of my life. It made me think of why that is. I think Baptists have a knee-jerk reaction against Advent and Lent as “Catholic” observances, but I think Anglicans and other Protestants have placed a higher importance on the seasons as well as the holidays.

Anyway, that’s my take on the conversation. Rabbi Task and Iman al Khooly invited everyone to attend their services some time. I told a friend of mine he’ll have to go with me to the Islamic Center one day. I have much to learn.

“All relationship is a mirror to the self. Those whom you are deeply attracted to or repelled by are both mirrors of you. You are attracted to those in whom you find traits that you already have but want more of, and you are repelled by those in whom you find traits that you deny in yourself.”Deepak Chopra, Power, Freedom, and Grace

I didn’t agree with this when I first read it. I thought about the people who “repel” me, to be polite. No way, I’m not like them. After I continued reading and began thinking about specific traits in people that attract and repel me, I think he’s right.

  • What are some of those traits in people that attract me to them?  I enjoy being around people who are inquisitive, creative, independent, humble, selfless, positive, and enjoyable.
  • Those traits in others that repel me? I loathe people who are judgemental, narrow-minded, critical, elitist, negative, and sour in disposition.

I would like to think that I find some of those positive qualities in myself. I certainly hope that they increase, but I have a hard time confronting those darker qualities in me, “my shadow,” as Chopra calls it. Truthfully, while I have come a long way, I can look back and see many of those darker elements in my life history, and from time to time they try to raise their head and have their way with me again.

How does recognizing these familiar traits in others impact your relationship with them? First of all, it goes a long way to breaking down the walls in “us vs. them.” He may be a sorry, terrible, no good son of a bitch, but he’s really not all that different from me. When I was still pastoring churches, the phrase I used often to keep from judging others was “there for the grace of God go I.” Especially, when I worked with inmates for years in the state prison, I recognized that there was only one wrong decision between where they were and myself. Strangely, I often felt more in common with some of those inmates than the people in the churches that I pastored. That’s the subject for a whole other post, but mostly I identified with the inmates because their weaknesses were on display. There was no pretense about perfection, as there was on Sunday morning at church.

If I recognize those “repulsive” traits in others as being similar to those tendencies in me, I am less likely to judge and more likely to empathize with them. In doing so I come closer to accepting myself with all of my faults and shortcomings. I shared this other quote from Chopra’s book as a comment to a friend’s post earlier today: “Self-acceptance, total self-acceptance, means self-forgiveness. When you forgive yourself and stop judging yourself, then you won’t judge others, and there will be less conflict in the world.”

Now it seems we are digging close to the heart of the matter and must tread softly. Our ego’s are a many fragile thing, to turn a phrase. One of the compulsive reasons we have for judging others is that we do not accept ourselves. Chopra urges us to “embrace your shadow, understand your shadow, forgive your shadow.” I have come to believe that the driving force behind dogmatists that are bent on making everyone agree with them is that they are very insecure and need the agreement of others to reinforce their own shallow ego’s.

If we enlightened moderate types can be honest with ourselves, we too crave the agreement of others. We all need and want affirmation from others. I’d love to have ten comments to this post from people telling me that they relate to what I’m saying and support my opinion, but self-acceptance means that I am at peace within myself whether or not people agree or disagree with me. It means that my self-worth is no longer dependent on winning others over to my side. Dialogue and debate can be good and healthy. There’s nothing wrong with having different opinions, sharing them, or defending them, but there is a huge difference in conceding a point versus picking up a gun and killing your neighbor over it.

The greatest battles today rage inside the heart of man. The secret to peace in the world isn’t that everyone relinquish their positions and embrace uniformity. Perhaps the secret to peace in the world is that we learn to embrace ourselves.

Former U.S. Sailors Shake Hands With Japanese Kamakazi (Reuters)

Sixty-two years ago they were bitter enemies — one a Japanese pilot trained to crash his plane into U.S. ships on a suicide mission, the other two survivors of a ship sunk by one of the pilot’s kamikaze comrades.

But on Friday the three now elderly men shook hands and blinked back tears during a meeting that the former U.S. servicemen said finally helped them come to terms with their traumatic past.

“You feel terrible towards the people who did this to you and as the years go on and we get older, it’s a terrible burden to carry,” said Fred Mitchell, an 81-year-old survivor of the U.S.S. Drexler, a destroyer sunk by kamikaze off Okinawa in 1945. “My dream has come true,” Mitchell said, his voice shaking. “When I go back I can live in peace for the rest of my life.” (read full article)

I was  a 14 year old American walking the streets of Obama, Japan late at night by myself without a fear in the world. Even as a kid the moment was surreal imagining how different it would have been to do so sixty years before. It was easy for me and my exchange student counterparts to become friends. We weren’t there; we only heard stories. It’s encouraging to see those most impacted by the war come to peace with themselves and their enemies. I wonder if it is possible that in my lifetime we will see Palestinians shake hands with Israelis? Will we see Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurds sit down together in peace? Is it really too much to hope? 

John Mayer “Belief” – Live from Abbey Road, March 2007