Compassion creates understanding

I’m a fan of Yogi Tea. Every tea bag comes with a quote. They are always calming and zen-like. Tonight, my quote was “Compassion creates understanding.” It brought to mind something I learned this past year.

Sipping my Chardonnay one evening on the deck at Anthony’s Homeport in Des Moines with my friend Melinda, she asked me if I had a personal mission statement. “No. What’s that?” I asked. She shared three words that described how she wanted to live her life with a brief description for each. They had to do with integrity and honesty.  I started thinking about what mine would be. About a week later I had them.

Passion – I live my life with passion, fully engaged and present in the moment.

Forgiveness – I strive to forgive others and ask for forgiveness for my own hurtful actions. Dale Carnegie wrote “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

Courage – I face each day with courage and resilience. That is how we learn and grow, by facing our fears and trials, not running from them.

I wrote these words on my bathroom mirror and looked at them every morning. One day, it dawned on me.

The sum of all three – passion + forgiveness + courage = compassion.

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching    

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Loss is Spiritual

In meditation, I look for the energy of Fred’s spirit, but it isn’t there, at least not in the way that I expect it to be. I expect to feel  him still beside me, heeling – or healing – at my ankle like he did in his physical form.

That’s what we do when we grieve. We try to hold onto something that gives us hope. The Rainbow Bridge poem is a perfect example. Written by an unknown author, it talks about a meadow where pets run free, waiting for their owners to join them before crossing over the Rainbow Bridge … to where? Heaven?

I don’t claim to be a theologian or even a very good Christian but isn’t the promise of going to heaven at the center of Christian belief? Don’t we strive to follow God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings so that we, too, can pass through the pearly gates? I believe in God’s grace and forgiveness. But, I’m not sure that it is only about an afterlife in heaven.  I believe that creation is bigger than just our world, that there is more than one right way to believe, that oneness transcends a single lifetime.

Last night my teacher, Michael Baugh, quoted Gangaji asking “When a body dies, is awareness any smaller?” Contemplating this, feeling into this, I concluded that awareness doesn’t change. It is still complete.

A day after Fred passed, Ethel and I were sitting on the couch watching our favorite show. On the bookshelf next to me, I had created an altar for Fred with his photo, paw print and fur clipping. There was a candle on the shelf that had been given to me for Christmas. I’d moved it over to be part of the memorial. As I stroked Ethel’s ears, her head in my lap, I started smelling that candle for the first time. It was a clean, fresh scent, like warm clothes straight from the dryer. At first, I didn’t know what the smell was. I smelled my sleeve. I buried my nose in Ethel’s neck. The odor was coming at us in powerful waves. Then, I looked at the photo of Fred. His eyes imploring me to understand. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m still here.”

Love Dogs ( a Rumi poem)063

One night a man was crying
Allah Allah His lips grew sweet with the praising

Until a cynic, said so!
I have heard you calling out
but have you ever gotten any response?

The man had no answer for that
He quit praying
and fell into a confused sleep

He dreamed he saw Hitter
The guide of souls
in a thick green foliage

“Why did you stop praising”

“Because I’ve never heard anything back”

This longing you express
is the return message

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union
your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup

Listen to the moan of a dog for it’s master
that whining is the connection

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of
Give you life
to be one of them.

My Inspiration

Last year, I attended a special dinner with a local writer, Nancy Horan. She writes historical fiction and has received acclaim for Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky.  It was an intimate gathering at a bookstore in north Seattle and everyone had a great time asking Nancy how she started writing and how she found her material. She told the story of a writing class she took. The teacher was tough, not fully complimentary of her work but she encouraged her to keep looking for the right material. When Nancy learned about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah (pronounced may-ma) Borthwick Cheney, she knew she found her first story. It’s a wonderful book of historical fiction with a surprise ending.

Nancy was autographing my book that evening when she said to me, “You’re a writer. You just haven’t written anything yet.” Wow! I left that evening on cloud nine and feeling more inspired than ever. It’s been almost a year since the dinner. I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right time to begin. When things started happening with Fred, I couldn’t keep myself from writing about it. It gave me the reason to create my first blog.

The name of my blog, Living in a Bigger World, came out of wanting to explore life in a new way. The “status quo” life I had has been shaken up and tossed to the side. As a result, I’m learning to approach life’s challenges with greater acceptance. Resisting only feeds suffering.  In a way, it’s fitting that the end of Fred’s life, as my protector and loving companion, would bring me to the beginning of my first blog.

Please join me on a journey of discovery as I say goodbye to Fred in his physical state and learn to recognize the energy of him that lives on with me. We’ll learn together through spiritual exploration, the inspirational wisdom of elders and lessons from my remaining canine companion, the ever sweet, ever loving, Ethel M.

This will be fun…