Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Parliament of the World's Religions

I recently attended The Parliament of the World’s Religions. It’s been an amazing trip. There were 80 countries and 50 religions or paths represented. Ten thousand people melted into one compassionate human family. There were no strangers. Speakers included Jane Goodall, Marianne Williamson, Michael Beckwith, Nobel Peace Prize winners, youth, and indigenous people. There were prayers, meditations, dances, art, and music.

The Sikhs (They pronounces it sicks, which was news to me) served us a free lunch each day. One day I ate lunch with a Nigerian princess. I asked her if she was a princess like Queen Latifa and she laughed and said, “No” and I said, “Are you a princess like Princess Diana.” She replied, “Oh no, Princess Diana married into the royal family. I was born into the royal family.” Side by side we sat, conversing about her role as the head of an international NGO that is affiliated with the UN. She was a gracious young woman living her dharma and helping the youth of the world.

I ran into several people I knew and miracle and synchronicity were the norm. We were called into action, inspired, and challenged. It was a time of community, playfulness, and empathy.
One of my favorite quotes from the conference: “If white Christians were more Christian and less white, black mothers wouldn’t have to teach their children how to act when confronted by a policeman.”

Another zinger came from a Swiss Muslim who talked about how the western media portrays Muslims. He said if he wasn’t a Muslim and all he knew about Muslims was what heard in the news, he would be afraid of Muslims too.” He realizes, of course, that most Muslims are peaceful and that Isis is a result of American intervention. We heard statistics that showed that when the U.S. occupies another country, our safety declines.

One person said when the past Pope fed the hungry, they called him a saint; when he asked why the people were hungry, they called him a communist.

I will be ever grateful that I was able to attend the parliament. My heart is bursting with the impassioned drive to protect our earth, champion social justice, and to love my neighbor.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How Do You React When You Are Cold?

Have you ever noticed that when people are cold, they don’t look relaxed? They pull in and cross their arms. I was very thin most of my adult life and had a strange relationship with the cold. The cold seemed to stop me in my tracks.

In the mid-eighties I went to Lenard Orr’s hot springs retreat center in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The snow was deep. It was an incredible sight to this southerner. I spent 9 hours in the snow, alone on the side of a mountain, hosted by a roaring fire. The fire was my friend and savior; it seemed to talk to me – not in words, but it offered a deep comforting wordless solitude. Snow fell and the white covered world with its profound stillness was magic. I had never considered staying outside in a snow storm for nine hours. This was a fire initiation, but for me, it was an initiation into the cold. 

Later during my stay I attended a traditional sweat lodge. We entered the lodge naked (no shoes either) and perched on towel covered frozen ground. It was warm in the lodge but between rounds we went out in the cold. Rather than go into my normal dialogue about the cold, I decided to see what I had avoided all these years – the direct experience of cold. In the past, I let my aversion to the cold run me. Now I wanted to face it. It was amazing that when I experienced the feel of the ice on my feet, and the cold on my skin, I was okay. It was not even unpleasant. It was a mystical experience to be fully present in the cold, directly experiencing it without out my mind dominating the experience. What freedom.

Even though it is wise to dress appropriately for cold weather, and the cold signals a time for more of an inner experience, it also offers a training. If you live in a cold climate, you may have to take the coldness training every day. My suggestion is that that you determine and define your relationship to the cold. We’ve all trained to complain about the cold and to avoid the cold, but if you find yourself in the cold  - just try the direct experience of it. You can go into the warmth of your home, I’m not suggesting you hang around in the cold for fun, but you will be in the cold. For once, face it without your mind working on how to fix it – even for a few seconds. Everyone will find something different, but if you directly experience this physical discomfort, you will find something that you didn’t know you had. And when you face the cold, rather than running from it, you will find that your life can be easier and easier.