Tuesday, November 03, 2009
At last Friday's weekly gathering in the women's maximum security prison where I volunteer, we introduced this gift-giving program, telling about the founder and explaining how the program works. At the end of the evening, we told the women to sign up as they left if they wanted to participate in the program, that we would enter their information online and track it for them. Their response was enthusiastic and infectious. I was so touched by this idea that I also signed up to particpate in this practice, derived from an African ritual given to Cami Walker by Mbali Creazzo, a South African Medicine Woman, www.ubuntuhumanity.org/ that has profound contemporary ramifications.
I see this as affecting my body-mind-spirit health in a very significant way and I look forward to the ways it will impact my life!
www.29gifts.org/ is a global giving movement with several thousand members in 38 countries. The collective mission at 29 Gifts is to revive the giving spirit in the world. Change lives—and change the world—one gift at a time.
The founder, Cami Walker, saw her life change as she embraced and reflected on the naturally reciprocal process of giving and receiving. By Day 29, not only had Cami’s health and happiness improved, but she had created a worldwide giving movement. Here's a video by Cami that explains the project (just click on the video, "Welcome to the 29-Day Giving Challenge"):
Sign up and then give away 29 gifts in 29 days. Your 29 Gifts can be anything given to anyone... money, food, old sweaters, smiles, your time, kind words or thoughts. You can start your own personal 29-Day Giving Challenge at any time—there’s no official begin or end date. To complete the challenge, submit a story, post a piece of your original artwork, create a short film or write a song. Tell us about your favorite gives and the impact it made on your life to focus on giving.
To sign up for the Challenge:
A FEW HELPFUL TIPS:
1. Be mindful. The Challenge is intended to be a sacred ritual—it is your opportunity to cultivate a mindful practice of stepping outside your own story for a few seconds each day by serving others.
2. Don’t quit. If you have a day that you feel unmotivated to give, it’s ok. Just go for the simple give. Call a friend and give some kind words. Write someone a nice note. Or exchange smiles with a stranger. Every give doesn't need to be monumental. You might even notice that the “simple gives” feel more powerful than the grand gestures.
3. Don't worry if you don't do it perfectly. If you forget your give one day, be gentle with yourself. This ritual is about progress, not perfection. Sit down and quietly reflect on your day. Review the entire day mindfully and find the times you unconsciously gave so you can bring it into your consciousness. Don’t forget that there is never a day that you don't give. There are only days that you don't acknowledge and remember you did.
4. Be receptive and have fun. Enjoy your 29 days. And remember to stay open to receiving. Giving can't happen without the receptors of our gifts.
Monday, November 02, 2009
There's no way I can resist sharing this amazing *ode to life* -- it grabbed me this morning and took me out of my mundane reality, transporting me to the river, where I nestled in beside Mary and was awed by the simple exquisite pleasure of simply being ALIVE! All of the daily exigencies pale beside it.
"Just what IS a computer?"
ALMOST A CONVERSATION
I have not really, not yet, talked with otter
about his life.
He has so many teeth, he has trouble
Wherefore our understanding
is all body expression
he swims like the sleekest fish,
he dives and exhales and lifts a trail of bubbles.
Little by little he trusts my eyes
and my curious body sitting on the shore.
Sometimes he comes close.
I admire his whiskers
and his dark fur which I would rather die than wear.
He has no words, still what he tells about his life
He does not own a computer.
He imagines the river will last forever.
He does not envy the dry house I live in.
He does not wonder who or what it is that I worship.
He wonders, morning after morning, that the river
is so cold and fresh and alive, and still
I don't jump in.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Sunday, November 01, 2009
It is indeed an interesting paradox -- to be truly spontaneous takes training and sustained effort.
The effort to change a lifetime of habitual, unhealthy eating, of taking time daily for sitting practice, of using the moments of each day wisely does require "sustained effort." Sometimes I wonder if I am equal to the task for these, and other difficult challenges.
But I look at other momentous tasks I have completed through the years and know that yes, I can do it because yes, I am worth it. Thanks to Sri Easwaran for this potent reminder.
The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains
Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man
Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,
Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley
None of us wants to be artificial. We all want to be natural and spontaneous. But true spontaneity is not simply doing what we feel like doing and not doing what we don't feel like doing. That is simply reacting as we have been conditioned to react. It is really no more spontaneous than a rubber ball which bounces when we drop it on the sidewalk.
We are being truly spontaneous when we can change the habits of a lifetime. We are being truly spontaneous when we are able to drop our pet project and work for the welfare of those around us without a ripple of protest in the mind. We are being truly spontaneous when we can respond calmly, constructively, and compassionately to a difficult situation. The secret of spontaneity is training. We cannot just decide to be spontaneous overnight; but we can all make these marvelous transformations in our lives if we are prepared to put in the sustained effort they require.
-- Sri Eknath Easwaran
Friday, October 30, 2009
Ay yay yay! I was talking with a friend this morning who is sooooooooo negative. He was saying things like "I even tried to *off* myself, but failed at that too." I said to him, "Quit it! We've heard the Teachings over-and-over. (Swami Satchidananda is his teacher too.) We know it's up to us to grab hold of our thoughts and turn them around when they're negative and betraying us. It's up to us!" And then I read this morning's Thought for the Day from Sri Easwaran which, as usual, meets me exactly where I am!
I have another blog semi-ready to post, but it's so depressing...more negativity...about the FDA's bombardment of natural remedies (and spokesmen like Andrew Weil, M.D., who was bombarded by them) while supporting the vile pharmaceutical industry in this whole *flu scam thang.* But I don't have the heart right now to finish it and I realized, after reading Easwaran, that THIS is what I need to focus on right now. There's SO MUCH negativity in the world. But we can control the negativity within ourselves through meditation practice and other consistent disciplines.
Hip hip hooray for the path to freedom from compulsive thinking and acting!!!
Thoughts of themselves have no substance; let them arise and pass away unheeded. Thoughts will not take form of themselves, unless they are grasped by the attention; if they are ignored, there will be no appearing and no disappearing.
Life is a kind of play in which we are called upon to play our part with skill. But in meditation we are sometimes more like the audience, while our thoughts are the actors. If we could go backstage, we could see all the actor-thoughts getting made up. Anger is there putting on his long fangs. Fear is rattling his chains. Jealousy is admiring herself in the mirror and smearing on green mascara.
Now, these thought-actors are like actors and actresses everywhere: they thrive on a responsive audience. When Jealousy comes out on stage and we sit forward on our seats, she really puts on a show. But on the other hand, what happens if nobody comes to see the performance?
No actor likes to play to an empty house. If they’re real professionals, they might give their best for a couple of nights, but after that they’re bound to get a little slack. Jealousy doesn’t bother with her makeup any more; who’s going to admire it? Anger throws away his fangs. Fear puts away his chains. Whom can they impress? Finally, the whole cast gives it up as a bad job and goes home.
In other words, when you can direct attention, your thinking will never be compulsive again.
-- Sri Eknath Easwaran
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