helpers

LOVE ALWAYS WINS

Denise Robert
Denise Robert

When I was at my hair appointment on Tuesday - I read a story on FaceBook about a 62 year old, local woman, Denise Robert - who was out for a walk on Sunday night in a "safe" Manchester neighborhood and was randomly shot and killed. I said out loud, "What the f*ck is wrong with people? The world is going f*cking mad!" My friend who was cutting my hair, told me that Denise Robert was the Auntie of the fiancée of one of the other hair stylists at the salon. She was working that day, so she came over and we talked about it for a bit. I found out later that evening that Denise is also the sister-in-law of one of my old, beloved students (who recently lost her 14 year old daughter just two years ago.) All of this, it hurts my heart.

Here's the thing about murder - it has an explosive, exponential effect - way beyond what people untouched by the vicious act can fathom. One person's life might be taken but this entire family (Denise was the oldest of 12 children) and all of those that love her - will never be the same.

This kind of insane shit right here - this senseless, cowardly, brutal violence - is one of the MAIN reasons why I teach yoga.

For those of you not in the know, the first foundation of yoga is NONVIOLENCE. Which, you can imagine, as the kid of a murdered mother, really appeals to me. Now, as an adult, I teach and share yoga - as a way to bring the light of love to the darkness of this insane world that we've created. Yoga is one of my ways of rallying back against the tyranny of violence. Only my "weapon" of choice is LOVE.

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my spiritual heroes, the great Mahatma Gandhi, who said:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall - think of it, always. " 

And so this is what I do. When the world seems to have gone completely crazy, when I see brutality, war, rape, slaughters, shootings and violence all around me, I keep my mind on God. When my mind shifts to all the suffering, I do my best to come back to sanity, where Spirit dwells and keep my thoughts, words and actions aligned with the ways of the Divine. I remind myself again and again that in the end - Love always win.

In Chapter 11 of A Course In Miracles - God or The Ego there's a great passage that says:

"You make by projection, but God creates by extension. The cornerstone of God's creation is you, for His thought system is light. Remember the Rays that are there unseen. The more you approach the center of His thought system, the clearer the light becomes. The closer you come to the foundation of the ego's thought system, the darker and more obscure becomes the way. Yet even the little spark in your mind is enough to lighten it. Bring this light fearlessly with you, and bravely hold it up to the foundation of the ego's thought system. Be willing to judge it with perfect honesty. Open the dark cornerstone of terror on which it rests, and bring it out into the light. There you will see that it rested on meaninglessness, and that everything of which you have been afraid was based on nothing."

That little spark of love in your mind is enough to lighten the darkness that we often find ourselves in. We must bring this light FEARLESSLY with us and bravely hold it up so that we can shine the light of the Divine on everything we see. This is how I try to make my way in the world. 

I hope the person who killed Denise Robert is caught. I hope that he/she is held 100% accountable for their unthinkable actions. And I hope that we don't just let Denise's tragic story be another blip on our media screens - a hot topic for one minute and then quickly forgotten the next. 

Please, let's not "get used to" this kind of stuff. Let's not go numb to violence and mentally check out whenever we see a horrific story. Let's consciously choose Love instead of Fear. Let's do our best to eradicate every ounce of violence that lives within our own hearts and minds - because changing the world is an inside job.

TURN ON THE LIGHT

Bapuji - Swami K
Bapuji - Swami K

Open a newspaper, go on FB or read your Yahoo News Feed and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the frightening stories that appear. Beheadings, mass murders, water droughts, factory farming, starving children, people burning down churches and arguing over flags! Yikes! It's enough to make you feel like we're moving backwards and living in crazy dark times.

So when students and mentoring clients ask me, "I'm just one person, what kind of difference can I make? What can I really do to change the world?" I often tell them what my teacher Marianne Williamson once told me, "We are the lamps, God/Spirit is the electricity - but the light only works if you plug it in first."

What she was passing on to me, is what both Yoga and A Course In Miracles also teach in their own way - that our job is not to fight the darkness, our job is to simply TURN ON THE LIGHT. In order to be a force for good in the world - you have to first learn how to be a receptive conduit to the Divine.

One of the ways that you can do that is first thing, every morning (before you go out an inflict yourself on other unsuspecting people) - take some time to do your spiritual work and consciously connect to Source.

Just like we train and work out our physical muscles, we also have to take time each day to build our spiritual muscles too. It's this daily discipline of yoga, sitting for meditation, doing the Lessons of ACIM, forgiving, reading the great books of the faith traditions, chanting mantra, praying, counting your rosary (or whatever YOUR pathway to the Divine is) that will teach you how, in times of darkness, to turn on your own inner light.

It won't be easy and nobody else can do the work for you - but if you want to be the light, if you want to be liberated - from your suffering, from your fear, from the tyranny of your own ego mind - if you want to be an instrument of peace, then you must show up consistently for your LOVE practice. You have to be fiercely determined, disciplined, dedicated and and devoted to shifting your mind from Fear to Love. 

No more playing small, no more blaming everyone else, no more waiting for the other guys to fix things. This changing the "outer world" is actually an "inside job". We do not fight the darkness OUT THERE - we simply turn on the light IN HERE!

As Swami Kripalu gently tells us:

"My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Every time you judge yourself you break your own heart. You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality. The time has come. Your time. To live, to celebrate, and to see the goodness that you are. You, my child, are divine. You are pure. You are sublimely free. You are God in disguise, and you are always perfectly safe. Do not fight the dark, just turn on the light, and breathe into the goodness that you are.”

Keep turning on your light and shining bright!

LOOK FOR THE HELPERS

Fred
Fred

(Graphic Credit: EmilysQuotes.com)

I've always been a sensitive person. Ever since I was little, I've been really aware of other people's (and animal's) emotions. Able to feel subtle shifts in their moods and changes in their vibe/energy and whether I liked it or not, I could also sense their suffering.

My mother, who I believe also had this "sensitivity", nurtured and held dear this part of me. I learned rather quickly however, that my step-dad wasn't a big fan of all that touchy-feely shit. A master of "sucking it up and stuffing it down" - I figured he either didn't see or appreciate that sweet part of my nature or he wasn't interested in cultivating it in any way. Point in fact, this guy just didn't allow any room for weakness. So, to survive it all, I learned to put on a pretty good tough act. I never completely shut down that feeling part of me - but I didn't allow myself to show it much either.

I remember when my step-dad used to come home from his Fall weekend hunting trips in VT. He'd proudly pull into our narrow, cracked driveway with a honk, announcing not only his return but the arrival of a dead deer tied to the roof of his Buick. In our small garage, he'd slide the body of this beautiful animal he'd killed down off the top and onto the hood of his car. Then he'd wrap course rope around it's long hind legs and he'd string it up over a rusty metal S hook suspended from the ceiling. It would hang upside down with it's pink tongue protruding from it's mouth and it's front legs stretching limply toward the cold, concrete slab of floor.

Over the course of a few days, when he'd get home from his shift at Wonder Bread, he'd go to work on that deer. First, he'd slice it open from shoulder to groin with a shiny 8" Buck knife that he always kept sharp. He'd gut that gentle, harmless creature, removing it's innards and dumping them into a plastic pail on the floor. I'd hear the slop of intestines and other vital organs fill the bucket and then he'd begin to methodically skin the deer. Slowly cutting and peeling back it's thick coat of fur off it's body, inch by inch, away from the meaty muscle below.

Sometimes, he'd have me hold the body still to keep it from swaying side to side as he cut the deer apart, piece, by piece, by piece. He'd crack jokes and talk about the venison stew we were going to have later for dinner. I hated venison stew. I hated venison anything.

And the truth is, as much as it all scared me, as much as it broke my 8-year old heart, I would still stand by like a good little helper and hand him whatever tool he needed or doing whatever thing he asked me to do, to get the job done.

But after he would leave the garage, to go inside and wash the blood off his hands, I would crouch down and stroke the soft head of the deer and I'd whisper in it's ear, "I'm so sorry". Most times I'd cry, but I'd always make sure to wipe away my tears before going back in the house.

Years later, after my mother's murder, when I discovered Yoga, ACIM (A Course in Miracles), Veganism (Compassionate Eating) and other Love centered practices that expanded not just my mind but also my heart - I gave myself permission to return to and honor my true, empathic nature. This decision to drop the "tough act" - meant that I would now allow myself to feel it all. Which means that a lot of days, I feel way more than I'd like to. Which also means (if I'm being totally blunt) that I sometimes momentarily get truly fucking horrified, outraged and crazed by the insane amount of greed, voluntary ignorance and cruelty that I see happening in the world.

The upside of this kind of spiritual work is that your heart opens up - the difficult side of this kind of spiritual work is that - yep, you got it - your friggen' heart opens up and occasionally it also gets broken. And when you make the choice to move through the world with a sensitive heart and a more aware mind, you start to see, way more clearly, the suffering of others - both humans and animals - and some days the weight of it all can feel like it's almost unbearable. 

But here's what I learned, if I choose to focus only on all the bad things that happen, like the murders, rapes, genocides, wars, sexual slavery, mass shootings, bombings, bullying, beheadings, racism, factory farming, animal testing, global warming, endangered species, OMFG - I would not only become totally overwhelmed by despair, but also completely paralyzed by Fear. I would buy into the insane illusion that this world that we have self-created is REAL (and kind of a nightmare) and I would in turn be rendered useless. 

So, what do I do instead? First things first, I remind myself, as many times as I need to, what ACIM has taught me to be true: "ONLY LOVE IS REAL". Which means, I try to keep my mind focused on the Light, the Good, the Sacred, the Holy. That doesn't mean I'm not aware of the Dark. Trust me, I get it, I've seen that shit in action. But I just don't buy into it. I don't give it my power. I choose to Forgive My Humanity and Stand In My Divinity. I hold firm to my belief that the way we overcome it all is through LOVE. So that's where I put my attention.

One of the other practical things I do, is follow the advice of one of our beloved childhood pals and teachers, Mr. Fred Rogers, who so brilliantly once told us,"

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in the world."

So when I start to feel like I just can't bear one more negative newscast, whiny FB post, gossipy video or picture of what some horrible human being did to some poor helpless animal - I make sure to turn to the LIGHT. I head as fast as I can in the direction of the helpers. Knowing that there, in the midst of the do-gooders, the peace makers, the compassionate, fierce souls that dedicate themselves to Love - I will find the courage, tenacity and inspiration that I need to keep going. I make sure to spend some time and be in their presence and borrow some of the fire that drives them, to rekindle within myself that bright torch of Love. 

love&rescue
love&rescue

As you guys may know, some of my favorite "helpers" are my friends over at PEACE AND PAWS DOG RESCUE in Hillsboro, NH. It's founders, Melissa and Bo Hannon are not only wonderful, funny people, they've also dedicated their lives to helping dogs in need. Their mission and motto is, "To match the world's best dogs, with the world's best people." So far, through their tireless dedication and devotion, they've rescued more than 2,300 dogs that would otherwise have been euthanized. The magazine Modern Dog just did an awesome feature on Peace and Paws called "Love & Rescue" - you can read it by clicking HERE.

unnamed-6
unnamed-6

We got two of our own furry kids, Scooter and Peanut ("The Littles", aka: The Boondock Saints) from Peace and Paws a couple of years ago and we recently started spending a few hours there on Sundays whenever we can. It's funny, because as "volunteers", it might look on the outside like we're helping them - but the truth is, those hours sitting on the floor, petting and playing with pups, talking with my fellow dog-adoring friends - I' really clear that they're actually helping me!! Those visits are one of the ways that I restore myself to sanity, and remember all the Good/God in the world, and get to honor that sensitive, animal loving kid from my childhood.

If you want to be a helper yourself, consider becoming a volunteer at an organization that calls to your heart, or speak up about something in your community that needs to change, or donate some time or money to a good cause. If you'd like, you can make a donation to support some of the sweet pups in need at Peace and Paws by using this direct link:http://peaceandpaws.org/site/get-involved/donate/

They also have a Wish List of things that are needed at their Ruff House Retreat Adoption Center (like doggie beds, blankets, towels, paper towels, dog toys, etc.) that you can give to me at class and I'll take it with me when I go to visit!

PS - I also have to say that looking back as an adult, I realize that my step-dad was loving me in the only way that he knew how. And maybe he did see that sensitive kid and maybe he wanted to protect me - to prepare me for this difficult life. So he taught me how to be tough. And the truth is, that toughness did serve me. And some days, when it's needed, it still does. So maybe in his own "unique" way - my Dad was trying to be a helper too.

I hope you all know that you've all been such wonderful helpers for me too. I'm blessed and grateful for your presence in my life. Thank you. xo