May All Beings Have Happiness and the Causes of Happiness

MAY ALL BEINGS HAVE HAPPINESS AND THE CAUSES OF HAPPINESS.

MAY ALL BEINGS BE FREE FROM SUFFERING AND THE CAUSES OF SUFFERING.

MAY ALL BEINGS DWELL IN EQUANIMITY, FREE FROM ATTACHMENT AND AVERSION.

MAY ALL BEINGS NEVER BE PARTED FROM FREEDOM’S TRUE JOY.”

~from David Nichtern’s “In Praise of…”  lyrics based on Metta practice in the Buddhist tradition

These words that form the practice of Metta also known as Lovingkindness practice in the Buddhist tradition are a great comfort to many when focused on as part of a daily practice of training the mind.

I was thinking of how much suffering I put myself through by worrying and stressing about all the ills of my life and in the lives of animals and the environment. While meditation on Metta is a great way to release some of that worry, I think another great thing is when we can turn worrying into action, and then let go of the results.

I recently heard a conversation about one of the more sensational and horrifying news stories here in the US, and the people I was with assuring each other that it was the karma of the people involved to be part of this horrific act of torture and violence. While I trust that the people speaking were well-meaning and kind people, I have to disagree with this outlook, or at least the result it seems to have, which is to then dismiss the entire situation as out of our hands and not our responsibility.  Instead of the tendency to generalize pain out of our awareness, because it hurts too much to think about, we do have a responsibility to look at suffering and see what we each can change in our lives or ways we can help in individual ways to relieve this suffering. This is one reason I went to Thailand and volunteered with the Elephants, why I contribute to environmental and animal rescue groups, why I admire people who walk their talk every day in their work and personal life. I wondered if the only way that people who abuse animals for instance can do so, is to see them not as individuals, but as objects or groups over which people  have control. So would it help to see some individuals in the animal world? I’m going to include a few pictures of individuals at Elephant Nature Park, which I find very beautiful, and I hope you do too. These have been saved from a life of suffering and are some of the lucky ones. Each of us can take small and big actions to help more individuals become free of suffering, especially ourselves. Because would you ever hurt another unless you were suffering yourself? Each time we help heal another, we help heal ourselves. And if you are now in too much pain to help another, hopefully someone will reach out to help you out of your darkness.  This is what we can do to make the world a better place, one step at a time. We help each other, even when we don’t understand why the world is the way it is. In this way we help ourselves out of our own pain and misery.

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babyeleNew life, new hopes, new dreams in this little one, baby Dok Mai was born a week before I arrived at Elephant Nature Park, born into a free life.

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all beings dwell in equanimity, free of attachment and aversion.

May all beings never be parted from freedoms true joy.

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Green Goodness in our own backyards

The plants in my life have always had a strong and clear voice, especially when I put my focus on listening.

I was beginning to prepare my modest raised bed garden this week for the growing season. Which is always a tricky proposal for me, because there are so many nourishing and delicious plants already growing there.

Any gardener has to decide, do I let this one keep growing and harvest it responsibly over the season, or do I pull it out by its delicate little roots? Often it becomes a dance of blending everyone’s gifts and needs. For instance, this year so far I “weeded” the first raised bed by pulling up all the volunteer grass and feeding the greens to my happy hens, who were quite pleased with that development. But when I got to the 2nd bed, there was this gorgeous patch of grass and chickweed (Latin =Stellaria media) which clearly was having a great time growing here.

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So, I trimmed the tops of the grass for my cat and dog to munch on and cut a big bunch of cooling tasty chickweed to have for my fresh salad tonight. You could not get a fresher, more nutritious, more packed full of minerals and vitamins plant then this one… unless you turned around and looked at my friends the Stinging Nettles, which I brought to plant here when we moved here, and who was kind enough to come in for dinner tonight. Yum yum yum. I haven’t felt this totally nourished after any store bought or restaurant meal I can remember. There is so much goodness free right outside our back door, especially if we commit to never poisoning the plants (and ourselves) with herbicides and pesticides, which are also often hidden in lawn care products – another reason to grow food not lawns on your quarter acre.

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This above is Mugwort. A lovely and magical plant that volunteers many places and is one of the plants resistant to Roundup- ugh- so you will see it many places where people have been foolish enough to spray.  Mugwort, called Cronewort by herbalist Susun Weed, is a main ingredient in moxibustion, a technique used in the ancient art of Acupuncture for deep and soulful healing-one of my favorite techniques! I also have been really loving making Smudge bundles to burn and use for purification of one’s energy and living spaces. This is a wonderful deep plant to spend time with and learn from – she is called Cronewort for a reason!

Well, that’s enough plant lore for one post – go out and love a wild plant today!

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Communications with Jack the Dog

Jack in the dog park long valley 2008jpgRecently I had the great good fortune to help an old client and friend with the painful grief she was feeling at having to assist her dog Jack in crossing over onto the Rainbow Bridge. I was given permission by both human and canine to write about the essence of what Jack said that day.

Jack had a difficult life. In addition to being a rescue dog who had some trouble finding one forever home (until Kathy decided she was in love and hers would be it no matter where she went) he routinely had a large range of emotions, as he called it, waves, that would wash over and often overwhelm him and everyone around him. He also had a number of physical ailments including a long battle with cancer, which complicated life.

On his last night, as his breathing slowed, and Kathy rushed him once again to the hospital, where they informed her that his lungs were filling with fluid, one more phase of the sarcoma that had attacked him long ago. She made the decision to allow the Vet to put him to sleep, unable to find a better solution, but filled with pain at having to say good bye to an old friend.Jack shaved in Kathys car 2009

As we asked Jack for his perspective, he described what a relief it was to be released,  not only from an old body that wasn’t working properly, but especially from the lifelong waves of emotions that he’d had to ride up, down, sideways, and often just chaotically all over, all his life. What a grand relief. Such a bright happiness and contentment permeated his every word now.

He began to describe, as Kathy and I listened in rapt attention, what the Purpose of Life really is. I’ll try to reproduce it here, and please forgive me if I don’t do complete justice to these deepest of musings.

Jack said “Life is not about getting it right or achieving this status or that job, this or that title or property, these people liking you or not liking you.

It is about the waking up each day, going to bed each night, setting a goal and then living that journey as far as it takes you. It’s that simple. Then doing it again with another goal or focus.  That that is what is important, right there, living the journey to the goal. Not whether it was the “right” goal, not how you performed or if you thought it didn’t turn out the way you had hoped it would, or the way others had predicted or you had prayed it would.

That there is nothing wrong with, and everything right with, picking something, anything, to focus on and seeing what that brings. If that isn’t pleasant or desirable, then picking a new goal to journey toward and immersing yourself in all the highs and lows and in-betweens as all equally valid and good and valuable. You can decide to step back and relax about it all, no problem. There is no badge to be earned for suffering, or conversely for appearing successful to the outside world and living a life seemingly free of angst. Suffering is ok to do if that is what happens. To grieve the existence of suffering as lost opportunities or grave mistakes we think we made is to miss the point. To coin an old phrase “it’s all good”.  However, Jack had more to add to that thought. He was showing that we benefit from all of it that is part of it.  Immerse yourself fully in the experience, as so many dogs (and cats!) are so good at doing. Fully experiencing exactly what they are feeling at the moment. Barking lustily, staring intently at what they don’t know(or what they do know), diving into the same food they’ve eaten every day for years with gusto and enthusiasm, well you know the list is just endless. Just pick something and lean into the experience. Leaning forward into the ride toward the (random?) goals you set. These “goals” are anything that you pick to move toward – there is no right and wrong. And even if you are thinking while you are living it ‘this is so wrong’ or ‘this is so right’ that doesn’t really mean anything. That the greatest fun comes after all the rights and wrongs are over and you are just floating on the biggest wave of all – heaven from a dogs eyes. The failed attempts and faux pas’ are all equally valid with the victories and accolades, neither better or worse, all good to experience and live. Jack on front sidewalk Oct 2012

We may never really know all Jack is saying here, but just to get a taste of it, coming from one who’s life was rarely if ever easy because even when there weren’t outside pressures, he had his inside pressure cooker bubbling, well it makes it that much easier to accept. You don’t have to live a perfect life to live life perfectly. In fact its better if you don’t.