Perhaps the best present you can give anyone is your presence. Just showing up is at least half of what it takes. The other half is fully being there with them in that moment. NO cell phones (or at least put it on airplane mode), no side conversations. Give full attention to those that you are gifting your presence. You don’t have to be perfect and say just the right thing, just pay full attention to what the other person is saying. Smile or frown when appropriate or nod if you can’t think of exactly the right words.
It may be disarming to them at first. It is a rare thing and always has been. We would like to, but can’t blame technology. People have always been distracted and giving someone this gift of your presence does put a bit of you on the line for approval or not. You will probably find, if you persist, that this is really what is wanted. Perhaps even more than that big screen TV.
If you don’t quite have the bravery required for this (it does take a bit), try at least putting the cell phone away and pay better attention to the moment. For those people that always seem to get you irritated but you really want to try, go to a movie or participate in an activity they like. Maybe bowling, hiking, snorkeling or even sitting together and reading would be good. You could try reading out loud to each other.
If even this is tough give them a gift of your time by doing something for them, paint a door, pull some weeds, cook something or fix that drippy faucet.
The surprise is that when you give this gift of presence you receive a whole lot more than you give.
Until I am the Buddha herself I will occasionally feel anger. And that’s OK.
The practice of opening the heart with Sheng Zhen Gong will overcome that anger every time.
I was at an event where the theme was love, unconditional love. After a day or so there was a question/answer session with the main speaker during which a woman expressed that she didn’t feel loved or loving. I had a hard time imagining how that could be at this point in the event. I was feeling all the love at that moment. Later on in an informal conversation with a small group of participants I noted that when I heard her say this I didn’t know whether to feel sad or angry. Someone replied with some force “Oh! Never angry!” I was a little taken aback. She seemed to be angry at my anger or at least judgmental about my being judgmental. There didn’t seem to be any recognition about the inconsistency of this. I was aware that, at an event about unconditional love, anger was an inappropriate response. I was acknowledging this. I was confused at my own feelings. There was no further discussion and the subject quickly changed.
There is a difference between feeling anger, expressing anger and acting on anger. We need to acknowledge when we feel anger. We should probably even examine from where that anger comes. That is how we change and grow. My short lived feeling of anger at the unloving/unloved woman came from a feeling that she was being manipulative in order to receive more attention. Since I know I can’t be manipulated like that against my will, it makes it easier to let go of the anger. Holding onto anger doesn’t hurt the person we are angry at, it only hurts ourselves. But denying or repressing feelings of anger is not the answer. Forgiveness liberates us.
I did get to know the woman who expressed her feelings about love and I realized she was as conflicted as I was about her statement. She just felt safe to express her feelings and isn’t that what unconditional love is supposed to do – make us feel safe? She was feeling the love but maybe she just didn’t recognize it.
The picture is of a Buddha Guardian head that I took at the Buddhist Temple in Nara Japan in 2010.
A full moon at Waihe’e Coastal Dunes & Wetlands Refuge is magical. Maybe it’s because the spirit world becomes seamless with the temporal world. Maybe it is always special because of everything that has happened there. Or maybe it’s just me and the times I’ve been there. The moonlight is bright, so everything seems more alive, more real. Scott Fisher of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is an extraordinary storyteller. On a recent visit there with my family he told “chicken skin” stories about the spirits that are attached to this place. My nephew really felt the stories.
I’ve been to this place a few times, once as a volunteer with Scott when he was doing a walk with ecology students from the University of Hawaii, once for a Kupu dinner and again for this Full Moon Hike.
The early Hawaiians believed that during a full moon the membrane between the spirit world and ours was thinned or more permeable. Movement from world to world was easier, so spirits could pass into our world. Night marchers with lights in the distance were seen more frequently on nights with a full moon. This site has many Heiau, sacred sites or places for worship. The Ali’i or royalty lived here and the people produced food in managed fish ponds and kalo or taro fields. This place was full of life and apparently is still full of spirits.
I have spent a lot of my life protecting places like this on the mainland with nonprofits and local governments. Our hike in Waihe’e refuge reminds me why.
I am grateful for organizations like the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust for protecting lands like this so that we can get out in nature, get close to historic and sacred sites to feel that connection that sustains us. The connections that fill our hearts.
Language is important. Negative language can have a powerful effect on who we are talking to. And probably an effect that we really don’t want.
Let me start with a real life example.
I was practicing qigong with a new teacher. We didn’t really know each other and it was just practice, not a class. I was following his movements and when we got to one of the movements he said “Don’t bend your wrists like that.” All qi flow stopped. What should I do? Fortunately, I remembered another teacher that when making a similar movement had suggested in a gentle and general way to “relax the joints and flex the wrists just slightly.” What a difference the two approaches had on me. In the latter I was given a better way. In my head I was saying “Yes, that is nice. It feels good.”
Negative statements frequently leave us with nothing to do. There is no action to take. It leaves us feeling powerless. Positive statements that suggest an action give us something to do. When we are about to make a negative statement we can take an extra second and think of a way to say what we want positively, in a gentle and encouraging way. Instead of telling a child not to run around, we can tell them to please walk. I heard a mother tell a group of rowdy teenagers in a grocery store to please be mindful of the people around them and behave in a courteous manner. Using positive statements make us feel better as well. It’s a kinder way. Using positive words opens our hearts.
Next we need to apply this to the way we talk to ourselves. Be positive and kind. Tell yourself what you want to do, how you want to act.
I started thinking about this subject a long time ago, but recently at TEDx Maui 2013 there were two talks related in some way to this idea.