Posted in Essay, General Interest, Priscilla Galasso

Wise or Otherwise

Editor’s note: This lovely piece was originally posted by Priscilla on her personal blog and is a part of her Advent series. Like a spiritual box of Advent chocolates, each day she unwrapped one of the free gifts life gives us.
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The free gift for today is something that can be acquired, but cannot be bought.  I don’t think that it can be given, either.  The gift is Wisdom.  According to Wikipedia, “Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding.”  In other words, “To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)  However, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”  (George Bernard Shaw)  And finally, “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”  (Mohandas K. Gandhi)
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It would seem, then, that wisdom is something that can be acquired in living with awareness and engaging humbly with experiences.  It seems to me, though, that you can’t give someone the benefit of this process.  You might point out the process and talk about its benefit, you might set up the beginning of the process, but you can’t impart the journey or the result.  It has to be lived.  I’m a mother; trust me on this.  I wanted to give my children wisdom more than anything, probably for selfish reasons.  I wanted to be spared the pain.  I wanted to spare them the pain.  I asked God to give them wisdom…like on a magic platter descending from heaven…but spare them the pain.  Can’t be done.  Wisdom is born of pain and suffering and effort and failure.  You have to be awake through it all as well.  You can’t gain wisdom while you’re anesthetized.  I’ve made a great discovery, though.  This process is a great equalizer.  Keeping Gandhi’s wisdom in mind, my children and I are fellow travelers on this path.  We share our stories as friends, we perhaps contribute insights to this process, but we cannot assume the roles of provider and receiver.  I try to remember that as I talk to them.  It is too easy for me to slip into the “teacher” role and begin to spew language about what they “should” do and what is the “right” way to do something.  I often issue too many reminders and begin to sound like I’m micro-managing them.   They notice.  They mention it.  I have to challenge myself to be wiser and trust them to be wise.

I remember the day my father told me that something I said was wise.  It felt like a great victory for me.  I was 19 or 20.  I had been talking to my oldest sister about some article I had read in an evangelical Christian newsletter taking issue with science and carbon dating.  My father was eavesdropping from the breakfast room and jumped on the subject by voicing some objection to the fact that the money he was paying for my college education hadn’t stopped me from discoursing like an ignoramus.  I was scared of his strong emotion, ashamed of myself, and angry at his insult.  Embarrassed and hurt, I fled.  We didn’t speak for 3 days.  I realized that he wasn’t going to apologize to me or mention the event on his own, so I decided I needed to take the initiative to talk to him about my emotions, clear the air, and try to restore our relationship.  I’d never talked to my father about our relationship very much before.  He was always right, often angry, and anything that was amiss was my fault.  I also knew that he would not show his emotions, that it would be a “formal discussion” on his part, but that I would probably not be able to contain my tears, making me feel foolish and not his equal.  I decided to brave the consequences and approach him with Kleenex in hand.  I began to talk, and cry, and tell him how I felt.  Then he asked me if I wanted an apology.  “What do you want me to say?”  I told him that part was up to him.  My dictating an apology to him would be meaningless.  That’s when he said, “That is very wise.”   Suddenly, I felt I had grown up and been respected as an equal to my father in some way.   What I understood or didn’t understand about evolution and carbon dating and creation didn’t matter to me any more.  That I had been able to navigate emotions with my father and repair a broken relationship was far more significant.

Dad & me in 1992. Photo by my 8 year old daughter.

Wisdom isn’t easy to get, but it is available.  If you pursue it, you’ll probably get it eventually.  It’s completely avoidable, though, if you so choose.   I know which way I want to go, so I’ll keep paddling my canoe and checking the horizon.   For those of you heading the same way, STEADY ON!  I salute you.

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in Essay, Michael Watson

To Err is Human

Window ViewThis morning I was driving home from one of our favorite bakeries via a well trodden, quietly residential route, one I have walked and driven for more than thirty years. I was lost in thought and focused on the many speed bumps that inhabit that street. I was thinking that the latte had been suburb, and the new pastry way too sweet and most likely going to suppress my immune system for hours. Suddenly I was aware I had run a stop light; seemingly the light had sprung up overnight in the middle of a block.

The light is long overdue and should aid elementary school students cross the sometimes busy street in route to their school. Yet, motorists are not warned of a new light, and the light itself is partially obscured by overhanging branches. (Often the city puts up warning signs for motorists approaching new stop signs and lights.) The light seems an excellent example of a well conceived project inadequately implemented.

I missed the light, in part, because, as I drove down the empty street  I was thinking about writing a post for this blog. Familiarity with the way, and a downward sighted focus on the speed bumps added to the problem. Yet, ultimately, I was a distracted driver and I drove through a red light. Clearly, my responsibility.

I imagine that most of us are doing our best to be kind and attentive to the needs and demands of life. We imagine we have things under control, forgetting our attention is divided, and the ease with which mistakes occur. How often our attention fails and we miss whatever might be important in the moment. How frequently do we become angry with others for doing the same?

Here is a paradox: maybe we take ourselves too seriously. Perhaps we would be happier were we to substitute humor for anger, playful reconsideration for aggression. Humor and playfulness support our presence in the moment and encourage us to forgive one another and ourselves for our misses.  Yes, driving is crucial business, requiring all our facilities and best judgement. Many other tasks are also decidedly important, demanding seriousness of purpose and focus. Yet, we are going to err. Most of the time a bit of laughter is more supportive of learning than is self criticism. A light heart seems to aid the brain in becoming more skillful.

The fretful side of me wonders what other hazards lurk in the midst of well trodden, usually safe paths. Those voices urge focus and attention, reminding me of the real consequences of grave mistakes. Other voices remind me few mistakes are truly harmful. They encourage breath and play, humor as well as focus. Both points of view are important in a world of hazards. I’m wondering where the balance between them lies. What do you think?

– Michael Watson

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes portrait below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer, Shakti Ghosal

Connecticut, Delhi and HO’OPONONO

Connecticut, Delhi and HO’OPONONO

by

Shakti Ghosal (ESGEE musings)

What we feel and think and are is to a great extent determined by the state of our ductless glands and viscera.” ~Aldous Huxley, English author, 20th century

Over the last month the media streams have remained clogged with two events. First,the horrific massacre of school children and teachers in Connecticut, USA. Second, the barbaric rape and “murder” of an Indian medical student in Delhi.

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delhi_gangrape_protest_new_pti

As part of an increasingly aware and connected society, we remain quick to rationalise into the underlying reasons and ascribe blame. The flickering screens become full with debates and sermons as questions and suggestions fly thick and fast.

• Why does the U.S. Government not take up with the National Rifle Association and amend the gun ownership laws?
• What makes the Indian police so insensitive and ill equipped to take care of women safety on the roads?
• If, as it now emerges, gunman Adam Lanza displayed worrisome and awkward behaviour, why did his mother not do something about it?
• What was the trigger for the gang of rapists to have conducted themselves in such a brutal and violent manner?

…and so on, the list goes on and on.

delhi-rape

We may sit in judgement and hold holier than thou perceptions. As we take time out to show our solidarity with the cause and impatience and distrust with the ‘powers that be’. Or we may choose to get involved with our hearts, indulge in emotional outpourings and feel we are doing our bit. Either way we do not take responsibility for what happened.

But could it be that as we come across such evil and darkness in the world, there lies a seed of responsibility within us? When we accept the status quo of injustice on the plea that this is how it has been? When we prefer to remain an onlooker to a crime perpetrated on someone else? When we spend our energy to protect our own cocoon only? When we expect the Government and the police to follow standards of morality and behaviour higher than our own?

My thoughts flit to Joe Vitale and his book “Zero Limits”. About therapist Dr.Hew Len and his handling of a ward of criminally insane patients. Dr. Len never saw patients but only reviewed their files. As he looked at the files, he would work on himself by repeating the following universal mantras.
• I am sorry.
• Please forgive me.
• I thank you
• I love you.

And as he worked and improved himself, the patients started to improve and heal!

Dr. Hew Len was following the concept of HO’OPONONO, a Hawaiian word dealing with “extreme responsibility” which requires the person to take total responsibility of his life including all people and situations coming into it. A ‘tough to swallow’ and bizarre concept on first sight!

hooponopono-hula-rye-optimiced

But as I muse on the need to take responsibility of anything that shows up in our life, absolutely everything, I start seeing a continuum. Between extreme responsibility and that of reconciliation and forgiveness. I also come face to face with my Karma in that I must be willing to experience myself what I have allowed to happen to others, either by my inaction or inability.

And today in this new millennium, as we sit on the explosive powder keg of increasing disparity, isolation of the ‘left behinds’ in fast changing societies and values and technology driven, rapid creation of awareness and beliefs, could HO’OPONONO show us the way forward?

In learning……… Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More by Joe Vitale & Ihaleakala Hew Len, Dec. 2008.

© 2013, Shakti Ghosal, All rights reserved

Shakti Ghosal
Shakti Ghosal

Shakti Ghosal ~ has been blogging (ESGEE musgings)since September 30, 2011. He was born at New Delhi, India. Shakti is an Engineer and  Management Post Graduate from IIM, Bangalore. Apart from Management theory, Shakti remains fascinated with diverse areas ranging from World History, Economic trends to Human Psychology & Development.

A senior Management professional, Shakti has been professionally involved over twenty-five years at both International and India centric levels spanning diverse business areas and verticals. With a strong bias towards action and results, Shakti remains passionate about team empowerment and process improvement.

Shakti currently resides in the beautiful city of Muscat in Oman with wife Sanchita, a doctorate and an Educationist. They are blessed with two lovely daughters, Riya and Piya.

Posted in Guest Writer

SARAH’S RULES …

Recently, while sorting through boxes, Sarah found an old journal with guidelines written long ago for her daughter. These guidelines (rules!) are well-considered and a valued contribution to the work we are collecting on Into the Bardo. We’ve taken them to heart and are pleased to have Sarah’s permission to share them with our valued readers and contributing writers. J.D.

SARAH’S RULES TO LIVE BY

by

Sarah Deen

  1. Take care of your body! You only have one. It’s important to keep it healthy.
  2. Always be actively involved in your own medical care and in the medical care for your family. Never let the doctor have the final decisions that are yours to make.
  3. Take care of yourself and your family FIRST. Never let your work interfere with your family.
  4. Never be intimate with someone you don’t care about. Remember that sex involves responsibility to the other person.
  5. Don’t be wasteful. Waste is wrong. Don’t waste time, money, or resources.
  6. Don’t spend time with people who are unhealthy or destructive. Get away from people who pollute their environment.
  7. Trust yourself. Don’t let others tell you not to follow your own path.
  8. Love and accept yourself for who you are – as you are.
  9. ENJOY LIFE! BE HAPPY!

© 2012, list, Sarah Deen, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Flower and bud of a yellow chamomile by Alvesgaspar via Wikipedia licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 unported

SARA DEEN ~ is a mother, grandmother, and artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a personal friend of ours and much admired for her spirit, humor, and wonderful home cooking.

When Sarah’s daughter was relatively young, Sarah was diagnosed with aortic stenosis. She underwent replacement surgery, but her doctors didn’t offer her much hope. It was during that time that Sarah wrote these guidelines to leave behind.  Fortunately for all of us, Sarah’s doctors were wrong and she survived. We are grateful.
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Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

THE SUN & THE MOON ARE FREE

We cannot rest on the notion of the “innocent civilian.” Morally, when it comes to a free and powerful nation like ours, I believe there are no innocent civilians. If I pay taxes, I am a combatant.” Rick Steves, historian, author, TV Personality in Travel As a Political Act

On Memorial Day: in the hope that the human race will work to find solutions other than war, which is not a solution at all.

THE SUN AND THE MOON ARE FREE

by

Jamie Dedes

Why do I write this in ink so black

it melts the pages of my journey?

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It is a peaceful night here.

The stars are tossed across a

clear, dark velvet sky like the

garden fairies dancing at dusk.

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The moonlight reaches down

to embrace me in its silver light,

its touch delicate as a whisper.

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What of you, dear brother?

And what of you, dear sister?

Are they free by you …

the moon and the stars?

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Is the night sky at peace?

My ink burns to bone and

melts the pages of my journey

for you …

– who were born of violence

– who were born into violence.

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Your pain and your losses are

not mandated by any god.

The murders, the maiming, the

hunger, homelessness, loneliness …

the disenfranchisement: man made.

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Why do I write this in ink so black

it melts the pages of my journey?

Because I fear, because I know

my fragile, cherished kin, I KNOW –

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Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

– for what we have done

– what we have not done

– we are culpable.

PEACE:

IT’S A DECISION

NOT A PRAYER

Photo credit~ Peter Griffin, Public Domain Pictures.net