What can I contribute?

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future.  I live now.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
 There is much going on in the world today.  It can be overwhelming sometimes the amount of tragedy and injustice that people are experiencing.  It can seem at times that there’s a bad side and that the bad side is winning.
I can’t conjecture the reasons behind if any for some of the problems.  What I mean by that is that I can’t say that Mother Nature is having her wrath or that people are filling their karma or the evil of prior governments and decisions are making life miserable now. The blame game has gone on for as long as I’ve been alive and even before then.  Whether it’s the devil or karma, “wrong actions” or choices, there’s always a searching for some reasoning, some answers.  And sometimes there is none. 

Now is the time that matters.  Now is the time to stay in the present moment.  What is it that I can do?  What can I contribute?  What can I do to help now?  My opinion, my thoughts, the reasoning, the answers, all are irrelevant now.  This is the only time I have to do something.  Whether that something is different or necessary, those are judgments.  Am I contributing to a greater good?  Again, a judgment.  Are my actions helping someone, that is the important one.  And if I am aware, awake and alive in the present moment, I will be able to answer all according to the circumstances and reasoning of the moment.  

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.  ~James Thurber


I’m not sure how to start this one.  I have been on my spiritual enlightenment quest for a really long time.  Looking here and there.  Finding this and that.  Practicing my yoga on and off the mat.  And I have been guilty of becoming very preachy in my “enlightened positive thinking.”  What I mean by that is when someone is going through a difficult time is giving a “boost” to their “mood” by encouraging (replace this word with overwhelming, reaffirming, reiterating) some sort of “think on the bright side” or “I’m there for you” or “find some gratitude” or “things will get better.”  And while yes, sometimes people need to remember that or do those things, most of the time, what they need is to be listened to.   For a long time, I didn’t get that.  I thought that my “wisdom” should be shared, especially if you were having a tough time with this life. 
Doesn’t it tell us that life doesn’t give you more than you can handle?  The universe is there for you, you just need to connect to it?  If we change the way we think we can change everything?

I do believe all of these things to be true.  Yes, we can change our lives by changing our thoughts and the power of the universe, the creative energy that created each of us is based in love and wisdom.  There have been really terrible times that I have made it through. 

But what I don’t believe anymore is that a person in the middle of a crisis, let’s say, a child who has been molested by a friend, a car accident leaving them with life altering injuries, a long and painful death of someone from a deadly disease, needs me to blow sunshine up their you know what.  They are in the middle of what I believe is FIRE.  Yes, we can call it the fire of transformation, the alchemy of changing one to the other, etc but it is essentially fire.  Oversimplifying is dangerous.  It leaves the person who is in the middle of fire feeling as though their thoughts and feelings are falling on deaf ears. 
And alone. 
Listening is something that I have been working on for a long time. 
When I had my house flood and become unsellable, my Grandmother have a stroke that would lead to the end of her life and “the one” tell me he wanted to end our relationship and quitting my job before I had another one in place in the span of a two week period of time, I was on fire.  And I was on fire because I had been telling myself that the universe would give me everything I wanted and then this happened. 
My experience has only given me the ability to see that what you walk through is fire. 
What I’ve seen sometimes in the yoga community and other spiritual communities is that we still have a tendency to grasp onto those “religious” ideas of blame and guilt:  “Well, they must have been holding some negative thought patterns;  She must have powerful samskaras; The universe must have something else for them in mind; They must be grasping on for so little when the Universe/God has everything to give them.”

People walking through fire need fire extinguishers.  Those are listening ears.  Those are people saying “feel your feelings, call anytime you want to talk, I can’t imagine what that feelings like and I am so sorry but I am here to listen, is there anything I can do for you today to help you out in anyway.”  There’s still going to be on fire, they’re still going to burn, but understanding this comes a long way.  I didn’t need someone telling me of all the mistakes I had made that led me to this point.  I didn’t need to hear that things would get better.  How was my Grandmother dying going to get better?  It was a life experience that was painful.  Yes, she had a good long life, she was loved and loving, but really, she was dying and it was sad and it sucked.  I didn’t need a metaphor for life interjected or a “this too shall pass.”  I did, however, have a lot of people around who also were following the same path who attentively listened, gave affirmative prayer and acknowledged the truth of my feelings and my situation. 

Listen…..it’s the most important practice that can be done.

Someone else’s shoes

“I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: ‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

I can get really caught up in my own stuff sometimes.  Little occurrences, missteps, changes in plans can sometimes become the focal point of my day.  Today someone was supposed to do the dishes and didn’t which led to a chain of events that really didn’t destroy the planet or end an endangered species.  But it interfered with my day and the events that were supposed to happen.  But then I run into someone who has something real happening.  Those “little earthquakes” that take you to your core.  Life stopped and then took a radically different direction.  Wasn’t  a part of the plan that someone got sick or died, but they did and what is left is the rumbled remains of life as it once was but never will be again.  

I am reminded of the idea that you never know what kind of pain someone is walking around with.  That woman who was pushy in the grocery line, the guy who cut you off and yelled at you for it, the kid who trampled your rose bush, whatever it is.  The person who gives you a smile sometimes and their insides are dying but you’d never know it.  

I am reminded to treat others better.  Not about turn the other cheek or “let it go” but just treat others better.   No matter how it is or what I do, just better.  I am reminded to quit judging.  Someone may have an ocean full mind of a burden that I can’t comprehend or begin to think of how to deal with it.    Is it important that I label it, dismiss their behavior or condone it?  Can I be less interested in the wrongs I’m dealt and more interested in the things I can do right? 

Last night in class I set the intention to cultivate and share more love.  That’s an intention.  The action, is when I put it into action.  Maybe I can dedicate my practice to someone who might need that extra energy? Someone who needs some extra strength.  Maybe I can smile at someone and make their day?  Maybe I can just smile more. 

Someone lost their best friend.  Someone didn’t wake up this morning.  Someone took the box to their car, the last one that was in that house that is no longer theirs.   Someone can’t call their mother anymore.  Someone had to explain to a child that mom or dad isn’t coming back.  Someone had to make that phone call.  If I can treat everyone like someone, maybe their burden may get a little lighter.