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Friday, December 31, 2010

connect, only

disclaimer (one): i am not sure i've ever--and i mean ever--followed through on a new year's resolution; that said, here is my vow for 2011.

i take yoga a few times a week, and always from the same instructor. donna teaches in a grassy park at the foot of Runyon Canyon, and her classes feel like an extension of the environs--open, relaxed, bright, powerful. she often closes class with a quote, a word, a piece of music performed live. sometimes donna ends class with the following line: how you treat others is a direct reflection of how you treat yourself.

disclaimer (two): i think that's the quote. it very well might be the reverse: how you treat yourself is a direct reflection of how you treat others.

no matter which direction the quote runs, however, i think the point remains the same. at least for me. but only recently did this aphorism make sense. the first dozen times i heard it, i simply smiled and trusted that some part of my inner-self grasped the quote's meaning, even if my cerebral side was left bereft.

lately, though, i seem to understand that quote. and i have decided it will be my new year's resolution.

the quote--to me--makes the point that since we all are human, since we all are alive and have hopes and fears and feel love and pain, and since that which binds us in common is far richer than that which can sometimes seem to separate us, and since we all have been given the divinity of life, well then the idea of a Self, a thing inside us that is only ours and therefore unconnected to anyone or anything is a fiction, an illusion.

rather, if we must speak of a Self, we will be better served by seeing it as the core part of who we are when we grasp the totality of interconnectedness among us, the power that animates all of our hearts, the qi that courses through all of our souls.

i think the quote is saying that you are everyone and everyone is you. you are both nothing (in the sense that your Self/ego does not really exist) and everything (you are a dynamic thread among innumerable threads in the great tapestry of Life).

i think the quote is saying if you treat others with respect and compassion, you will treat yourself with respect and compassion. why? because the more you see others as deserving of your heart, the more you notice that the line that separates them from you (and you from them) is artificial. and thus, you will begin to treat all people (which, as it happens, includes yourself) with as much regard and truth as you possibly can.

the reason this quote will be my 2011 new year's resolution? i don't treat others the way i treat myself. i treat others with kindness (at least i believe i do), but i don't always treat myself with the same honor and compassion. when i make mistakes, i scream at myself (using my inner voice); when i fail, i often mentally berate myself for my blunders; when i don't accomplish what i set out to, i heap blame upon myself and wallow in discouragement. and so on and so forth.

but i would never speak this way nor even think this way about a friend. so why do i speak and think this way to and about myself? i guess it's because--somewhere along the line--i started seeing myself, my Self, as separate from humanity, from the human condition, from the collective Soul which pulses through every human heart. and, as a result of this binary distinction, i no longer treated myself as a friend, a partner, a divine spirit worthy of respect and honor.

but if i am not--first and foremost--my own best friend, my own soul mate, then i will find it difficult to treat others as friends and fellow souls. or if somehow do manage to treat others with veneration and regard, but fail to extend the same respect to myself, then i am a planet orbiting a hollow star.

my job, my intention in 2011 is to fill that star. to love that star. to generate compassion for that star. to honor that star. to be that star.

to find the humble light inside and radiate with loving-kindness.

to glow.

to burn.

one modest candle. lit by a sea of flames.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"this is the first day of my life," by Bright Eyes

this song came out around 2005. i've always loved this record, yet never had a moment where i stopped everything in my life, put my world on hold and said, i command you, ari, to feel every bit of the miracle of this music's existence.

today was that day.

somewhat frighteningly, the video might be better than the song.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

either, the world isn't mean and you aren't

[photo credit: Steven Harper]

today i attended a dharma talk at green gulch zen center.
norman fischer was the speaker.

he spoke for maybe an hour.

after a short break for tea and muffins, many returned to the Zendo (meditation hall) for Q + A.

i had the chance to ask the following question:

"when people are mean, my natural inclination is to be mean back to them...because i feel if i don't, i am only encouraging their meanness. and yet, i also know that my intention is to live life with a sense of kindness and mindfulness and compassion for everyone, and so i feel conflicted. and i don't know what to do."

best i can recall, here is some of what he said in response.

norman fischer:

a number of years ago i made the resolution to no longer act on aggression. i might feel and experience aggression--i can't control that; but i made the resolution to no longer act on it.

when people treat others meanly, they usually believe that the world is a mean place. and so they believe they must use their weapon of meanness to survive. and, thus, when you return their meanness, you teach them that, yes, they were right, the world is mean.

when we are treated meanly, we can choose to see what is really happening: someone's heart is broken. what we think of as meanness is really, at root, a broken heart, someone who believes that they must mistreat others before they are mistreated themselves.

and i think what you will find is that if you want to stop people from being mean, you should try and show them kindness. because, as mentioned, such a person is being mean out of the expectation that the world and the people in it are mean. what you can do is show that the world isn't mean. that you aren't mean. you can show this person that the world is kind. that you are kind. and in this way, you can help to heal a broken heart.

through, souls surging

i am trying to bring more stillness into my life, trying to quiet my mind and search for the truth inside.

i am trying to listen to my soul.

for me, the soul is that place where i am pure and free and only want to bloom for the world.
where i become one with the force which beings peace to the planet.

but a lot of the time, i have no idea what the soul is.
i might feel it, sense its presence, yet it all seems so far away, distant, dim, impracticable.

how precious, then, are those moments when we feel our souls surging though us.
moments when we are not competing against anyone, assigning value judgements on anything, yearning for less or more, yesterday or tomorrow.
we stop guarding our flame and seek to share light with others.

we feel pristinely good-intentioned.

it is in these times, we feel patient, hopeful, grateful.
we notice the absence of criticism--for ourselves, for others.

we simply allow ourselves to be a force for good, for the practice of peaceful and humble flourishing.

that is our soul.

i find it an infrequent guest.
the more i invite it in, however, the longer it visits.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

anonymity, vapors of my own unwanted


i woke up late and sleepbiked to school. pedaling in a fog.
trying to make it on time for my tutoring session with a seventh grader.

on a side street between melrose and santa monica blvd, a cherry red ferrari thundered by. i peered in through the tinted glass, trying to glimpse the kind of person who drives such a thing, trying to confirm my own bias, my own preset archetype.

i felt a thud of something landing inside me. a math equation pointing to an answer i didnt like: winner vs. loser...good vs. bad...power vs. weakness...success vs. failure.

the driver might as well have been riding on a ocean of million dollar bills, and i might have been trickling along the vapors of my own unwanted anonymity.

and then i told myself...ari, what do you truly WANT, do you really WANT attention for owning a sports that how you want to be read in the world?

the answer, of course, is no.

what i truly want, more than anything else, is to wage peace.
i want to strengthen my mind so it can accept--with equal enthusiasm--the ups and downs of life, the vagaries of being alive.

i want to begin each morning with a prayer for the gift of life, and spend my waking hours living that benediction.
and i know that it is only through a peaceful mind, a calm constitution that i can hear what nourishes my soul. everything else is the noise of ego. and the ego is never satisfied.

the soul doesn't need satisfaction. it only wants to be set free, to enjoy the art of living, the process of being alive.

my soul is art. not the thing we create on a canvas or something for a CV or museum.

my soul is art. and my life must be the artist. for the two to become one, i must get out of the way.