It’s Not About Saving the World

A lot of people turn away from activism because who can save the world, anyway? Maybe the better question is who would even want to try? I’m not sure activism has ever been about saving anyone or anything.

What seems more likely is that effecting change is equated with saving or being saved, especially in times like these. Yet, life is and always has been impermanent so change is our one constant. There is no saving from that.

We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder

how other people are doing and to reflect on how

our actions affect other people’s hearts.

 Pema Chödrön

Every morning before I begin my yoga practice, I pause. I pray that I meet each moment with compassion, joy, loving-kindness, and equanimity in all things, in all ways. I open myself.

On so many days—sometimes in a seemingly long succession—I am so unsuccessful but in failure, I return to my breath. Once again, I open myself to the moment, in search of hearts.

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I do not have to have anything in common with another’s heart but it is easier if I do. Even so, I struggle not to offer answers but sometimes, my head seizes the moment, and I fall into world-saving.

This can have quite the boomerang effect, especially if I have been clever at another’s expense.  And it will return to me, this boomerang, often on a day when I am already low.

Less and less do I even think of world saving. It takes too much energy, something of which I have in short supply. In the least, it seems a lesson in futility.

Rather, I open myself to each moment that is offered, wondering how other people are and how my action may affect a heart. It lifts me, this reflection, and keeps me clear-eyed.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Every Day is a Protest

To have peace, you can begin

by walking peacefully.

Everything depends on your steps.

(Thich Nhat Hanh)

I miss writing a weekly letter to my mother for many reasons. When I wrote to her, I walked peacefully. How much or how little I wrote were the colors of her world.

I like to think we both appreciated that world as a place where we could sit and pause, away from the reality that marked our everyday lives.

In our bubble, the unexpected played a lesser role for it was only revealed as an afterward and never in the now.  Such is the life of a bubble, brief but shiny.

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I have lived in more than one bubble. And I am not alone in this. Like so many, I walked away from the everyday, seeking peace where it never is. In ignorance, I trampled on the life I have.

Yet, time has not yet run out but it grows short for all of us. Our planet is out of balance, tipping one way and then the other. The unexpected comes in daily doses.

Every day seems a protest because it is. A wake-up call to walk peacefully, to remember everything depends upon our steps.

Everything.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

A Drop in the Bucket

Who knew that feeling significant begins with imagining a bucket?

We’re just a drop in the bucket, and that’s meaningless.

But we say, “No, wait a minute. If you have a bucket,

those raindrops fill it up very fast.

Being a drop in the bucket is magnificent.”

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It is now obvious that significance is a collective rather than solitary project.

There are all these people all over the world

who are creating this bucket of hope.

And so our drops are incredibly significant.

(Studs Terkel, Hope Dies Last).

Being a drop in the bucket is doable on any day. And it matters that we do. In fact, it is magnificent.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

It Only Takes a Moment

I only looked away for a moment. I got up from my seat of mindfulness, no longer confident in just being. I wanted control.

There were complications with my latest hip replacement surgery–a fracture that became my only focus, my only reason for being. Physically, it is some of the most demanding pain I have ever experienced.

I wanted to confine life, keep it within a frame, like the x-ray that revealed both fracture and hip-joint solidly secured, some 14 days after the surgery. That is good news but it is only one scene in a much larger picture.

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Nerves, muscles, and tendons must rearrange themselves, adapting to hardware rigid in its lack of both flesh and bone. It is an attachment, and the body works to adapt.

This adapting is a series of attempts with no deadline, it seems. Sometimes, the signals interrupt all else in the body. It is taking me some time to “cultivate nonjudgmental openness” as Pema Chödrön calls it.

And I will not do it with such a narrow focus for to practice equanimity is to accept, again, that life is not mine to control nor to confine. It is for me to experience no matter how surprising. Life has many lenses.

My fracture is a surprise to the surgeon and to me but less so to the body, I suspect. For years, I have not had ball joints in either of my hips for my pelvic area is riddled with osteoarthritis. Perhaps the body welcomes both the hip-joint replacement and the plate for the fracture, relieving stress so the body can adapt to other areas of weakness.

Maybe, maybe not. It seems reasonable. Such is what Pema Chödrön calls the “never-pin-downable quality-of-life.” On some days, this is more wearying than others but if I persist in trying to pin down life, I attach to a moment already experienced. What is the point in that?

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Mindfulness opens the uncertainty of the unknown as a possibility, maybe even an opportunity. Fractures and hip-joint replacements are experiences, not enemies. They are momentary, however long that may be. Each is a new life lens.

To aim for even is not to experience the easy, eschewing the painful. It is a delicate and ongoing balance of finding the way through, a dose at a time.

It is to trust in the peace of wild things, staying open to whatever arises.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

The Quiet That Is Courage

So often I forget the quiet that is courage, having been deafened by my own roar.

Every particle of creation sings its own song

of what is and what is not.

Hearing what is can make you wise;

hearing what is not can drive you mad.

 (Sufi poet Ghalib)

And so I do drive myself mad, tilting at windmills, believing I am changing the world, although how I could not say.

To stray outside the moment is to engage in such madness, and I do it many times each day. As well, however, I know those moments of being present, of realizing the miracle of life is in its unfolding.  

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It is more than believing in miracles, although that helps. It is trusting in all that I am and am not. Do I choose fear or courage? Do I want to seize upon a grievance, reveal my self-righteousness, and shout it from the rafters?

Or do I want to take a breath and trust in life itself, in me.

Loving [ourselves] requires a courage unlike any other.

 It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something

no one else can see that keeps

us in the world—our own self-worth.

 (Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening).

Every day is an opening night. I take a breath and take the stage. In each moment, I play to applause or catcalls. And with each curtain, I rest.

My next major scene is hip replacement surgery at the beginning of next week so there will be a pause in these posts. I am told the scenes following the surgery will be ones of learning to walk again.

I will have to listen closely, ignore the roar of fear, and settle in to the quiet of courage.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

This One Lifetime

Living in the moment can seem idealistic, an idyll.  It seems impossible and irresponsible for what of all the days to come?

Eberhard Arnold says it’s a “burden” to look too far ahead–“each day is a lifetime.”

I agree.

When I think of living in the moment, I think of the day I have and not much beyond for that is neither guaranteed nor owed me.

And what will I do with this one lifetime?

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Within the frame of a day everything seems possible. I give my all and why not? This is my moment, my lifetime. I immerse myself in what I am given, grateful for experiencing existence.

Every day you may have broken

down in guilt and failure.

Every day may have shown you

your helplessness a thousandfold.

Yet each new day brings

new sun, new air, and new grace.

(Eberhard Arnold)

I no longer consider a day as good or bad, dark or light. Mindfulness is my label.

Grace does not take up much space, a sliver of light is sufficient. Sometimes, that is all the sun I know. Yet, I live and breathe, the very essence of joy.

It is my lifetime, my moment, this experience of existing.

Thank you to Caroline Johnson for today’s moment of equanimity via Eberhard Arnold.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Pause and Repeat: The Monarch Warrior

A week from today I have my second hip replacement surgery. It means tapering off autoimmune disease medication.

It’s always a tricky time.

Physically, my cells shift to adapt to lack. In response, my mind releases words at whim. The challenge of the sentence looms.

I remember the warrior butterfly— bodhisattva— who forsakes the firm ground for walking on air. 

Such dramatic change does not come overnight but over a series of nights.

Each stage from ground to air is fraught with life ending possibilities. From the stillness of the larva, the caterpillar stirs to search for sustenance, consuming one leaf after another.

There is a reward for all this eating, and it is not rest but pupa spinning—the chrysalis—a chamber of tissue, limbs, and organs that once crawled but will one day fly.

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We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,

but rarely admit the changes it has gone

through to achieve that beauty.

 Maya Angelou

Patience, human.

No new life emerges until the old is transformed.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.