Our True Heritage

By Thich Nhat Hanh

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.

I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.

Each moment you are alive is a gem, shining and containing earth and sky, water and clouds.

It needs you to breathe gently for the miracles to be displayed.

Suddenly you hear the birds singing, the pines chanting, see the flowers blooming, the blue sky, the white clouds, the smile and marvelous look of your beloved.

You, the richest person on Earth, who have been going around begging for a living, stop being the destitute child.

Come back and claim your heritage.

We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone.

Cherish this very moment.

Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms.

 

Growing Older

I think I’m already old and there are so many things about my age I was not prepared for. Like the fact that it hurts to get out of bed in the morning.  Or the need for eve-increasing eyeglass prescriptions.  Or the fact that I now tip over so easily, kind of like a Weeble.

I’m not sure when this all happened.  Just sort of gradually over the years.  I know I don’t walk as fast as I used to and I certainly don’t run anymore.  I have arthritis in a couple of my fingers and my eyesight is definitely not what it used to be.  I forget more things but I am still able to learn new things.

My body has declined as I have aged.  That is a fact.  But I am still mobile and am still able to do my hand sewing.  Those are big gifts I have been given.

I am definitely a lot smarter and wiser than I’ve ever been.  Over the many years of experience, I have gained knowledge that is indispensable to me now.  It was earned, it was paid for, it is mine.

As I age, I gain wisdom and grace to deal with life in all its forms – the good and the difficult. Decisions become easier because I’ve tried many options in the past.  I’m now the one that passes that learning to the younger ones in the family.

So it seems to be a real balancing act.  As part of me is losing strength, another part is gaining.  I remember past days when I could do something that I no longer can do, but I also look forward to tomorrow when I will be better than I am today.

Which means every day is my best day.

What I’m Really Afraid Of

In these trying times, the TV is constantly telling us what we should fear – closeness, touching, disease, crowds, people, coughs, germs, viruses.  These things may be of concern to me, but I’m not really afraid.  There are other things that truly frighten me.

Allowing people, especially children, to live in hunger frightens me.  People are so damaged physically and psychologically by the effects of poor nutrition or no nutrition. That, in turn, damages our whole world.  We all become less by the loss of potential in others.   Leaders, teachers, thinkers and artists are lost because of poverty and hunger.

Allowing hate and bigotry to exist frightens me.  Judging people unfairly by their religion or skin color is so divisive.  Teaching children to hate others is so wicked as to be absolutely sinful.  Our world can’t abide any more division and war.

Allowing and participating in greed frightens me.  Greed leads to the oppression and subjugation of people.  There’s enough for everyone but not enough for everyone’s greed. To meet the needs of someone’s greed, someone else will always have to do without. Hence more poverty and hunger.

Abiding violence frightens me.  Our violent selves are our lesser selves and should not be tolerated.  What comes of violence is more violence, not peace.  And that really scares me.

These are the true dangers of our world, I believe.  These are the things we need be aware of and mindful of.

Even while we are quarantined, we can be aware of the needs of others.  We can be fair and kind to all people.  We can share the wealth with everyone.  We can be calm and gentle in all our interactions.

The treatment of the whole world starts with our treatment of every person in our small world.  How we act in every little situation will affect the entire universe.  We can do healing or harm with every spoken word.

Make every action count.  It will become your habit and your character.

Am I Still My Brother’s Keeper?

Well, the Coronavirus certainly has made itself known and recognized in our world.  Events cancelled and/or postponed.  Travel stopped.  Schools and businesses closed.  Vacations extended.  People quarantined.  A country under a State of National Emergency.

And, of course, the panic buying of emergency goods and stockpiling of all manner of products.  It’s all scary stuff!  What is a person to do?

First, I refuse to live in fear.  I am a person who always sees the glass not only half-full but full to overflowing.  No matter what, my world is abundant and full and positive – always. No virus can take that from me.

I’m also going to be cautious, so as not to harm myself or anyone else.  I have an obligation to everyone to be sensible and reasonable with my health and theirs.  There is no reason to take unnecessary risks that would potentially harm anyone.

Therefore, I will follow standard guidelines and common sense in dealing with this contagious disease, as I have with every other contagious disease I have confronted.

My convenience and whim should not scare or endanger anyone I care about.  So I will be thoughtful and caring in my actions.  But I will not be afraid.

If someone needs my assistance or help in any way, I am obligated to give aid.  Not just if it’s convenient and not just to the point of discomfort.  But all the way.  I’m supposed to give whatever is needed, for as long as needed, to whoever needs it.  Even if it kills me. Hard words to live by.

So I can’t in good conscience do anything that is only for me and leaves my fellow sister or brother out on their own.  Such as buying all the water in the store and leaving none for anyone else.  It seems selfish to me.

If you have all the water and your neighbor has none, and that neighbor gets sick, are you willing to take water to your neighbor and stay with him until he gets well?  Just asking.

These are hard times.  We have responsibilities to ourselves, our loved ones and everyone around us.  The environment seems to be one of extremes and getting more so. Confusion is all around.  Decisions are being made for us, which makes the world feel out of control.

But we can always decide how we react to anything.  No one can tell us how to do that. That is entirely up to each of us.

We can always choose to be calm, wise and intentional.

That’s my plan.

Words To Live By

Sometimes I read or hear words that make a huge impression on me and change the way I view the world.  Sometimes these words come from a well-spoken professional person and sometimes they come from one of my grandchildren.  Sometimes these words are the result of a glowing spiritual moment and sometimes they come at the end of a tough disagreement.

Sometimes I understand the words and their meaning immediately and sometimes they require days and days of thoughtful study.  Sometimes it even takes years for the full depth of the meaning to become clear.

I love how words affect people.  I love how words can effect change and growth and maturity. I love how language can make things happen – good and bad, negative and positive, constructive and destructive.

Words are powerful.  They have strength and the ability to change the course of history. They should never be used casually or haphazardly.

Words can harm, hurt and scar people.  Once used, they can never be taken back. And they will be remembered for a lifetime.

Words can also heal, mend and save.  They can repair broken relationships, friendships, families and nations.  They can bring hope to those who are in despair, joy to those who are sad, and peace to those who are in distress.  And they will be remembered for a lifetime.

I really love words that make me think and question and keep me on my toes.  I really love words that remind me to be grateful and be humble and think of others.  I really love words that make me laugh.

I especially relate to the words of John F. Kennedy, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”  These words speak to me as an elder, as a woman, as a leader in my family.

I have a commission to teach, by word and by example, the younger generations how to live and die well, how to deal with the good times and hard times with dignity and grace, and how to become a good, productive member of the community.

I have no time left to waste in doing my job as the matriarch of my clan. The right time is always now.

This job is not easy and takes an entire lifetime to accomplish.  You must look for inspiration in the words and actions of others.  You must set the bar high by always looking for the best in the world around you.

And definitely you must fill your head with strong positive words – words that challenge, uplift, lead and strengthen you.

The world is speaking to you – listen carefully.

 

Looking Forward

Everyone has a past. We learn a great deal from the past – positive and negative. In other words, there are things that definitely need to be repeated and there are things that everyone agrees should never be done again. Good lessons all!

Everyone has a present – the right now that we are all living. I’m a strong believer of enjoying the present, taking the joy from each moment and living life as it presents itself to you.

Everyone has a future – the life not yet lived, the life on the horizon, the life dreamed about. The future can be very compelling and enticing. I want to have things to look forward to, plans that promise to be exciting and fun.

In the near future, I have two quilting retreats that I am so excited about attending. Having them on my calendar not only brings me joy, it also keeps me organized.

I have been busy gathering together what I will be working on for the two retreats. That means getting projects started, finding the right fabrics, packing projects together, finding notions I haven’t seen in my sewing room for awhile, planning food, etc. Retreats don’t occur by chance. They require organization and that is good for me.

Thinking about future activities sets me to thinking about past activities too. I’m reminiscing about other quilting retreats and remembering good times, good people, good food and good quilts. Recalling previous fine memories is good for me.

Planning for the future also keeps me active. I cannot sit still all day and get ready for two quilt retreats. I must do something every day to prepare for being on retreat and also for being away from home all those days. Being a doer everyday is good for me.

Looking forward to my retreats keeps me excited about my hobby of quilting. I know I will be seeing new patterns, new skills, new fabrics and new notions. I will be with women who will challenge me, inspire me and uplift me. I will come back with more ideas than I can ever use, more enthusiasm than I can ever channel and more fabric than I can ever process. Looking forward is good for me.

How great it is to have all those wonderful reminders of coming events on my calendar. Those events that keep me so happy, so organized and so active. They are like little carrots always dangling in front of me, keeping me heading in the right direction.

As I said – looking forward is so good for me!