Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

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via flickr

I have heart family. Brothers who have grown into their places, sisters who do not need similar faces to be part of my heart’s family. Once I even had almost-mothers, and almost-aunts, each now lost to time and distance.

This weekend, one of my brothers is here to visit his own father (no kin – real or otherwise – to me). His father is elderly, and fragile. Although sometimes I wonder if that ‘Greatest Generation’ isn’t stronger than all their children!

My brother’s unexpected visit reminds me that I have lost touch w/ other friends, from other times: friends I now have nothing in common with. Men & women who were once almost as dear to me as my family now – real & otherwise. 🙁

my heart nieces (the author's)

my heart nieces

Why do some friendships last lifetimes? What feeds that kind of love, where other loves wither & fall away from us? Is it like values? Shared experiences? Random luck? My brother lives a day’s journey from me, and he & his wife had their children much later than we had ours, although all four of us adults are about the same age. Their youngest is 14 – mine is more than twice that. So yes, we both have children. But so do people I have let go of, people I have watched slip past me into a that was then time.But G’s children — his three intelligent, sensitive, amazing daughters — call me ‘Aunt.’ They email me sometimes, send me a paper draft to look at. Share their lives with me. They too are family.

When G & his beloved A & the three girls come to town, they always get in touch. A & one of the girls & I  also connect through FB. And when they come, like most families, we have traditions: a visit to our favourite museum restaurant & garden, a walk across the river bridge. I give them trinkets, sometimes. They gift me with origami cranes & frogs & boxes.

My brother & sister-in-law shares my values, sure. But so, once, did others. I suppose part of today’s relationship is that my brother & I – and our beloveds – have grown into similar values as we’ve aged. That isn’t true of many of my once-upon-a-time friends, who now espouse political positions I find heartbreaking.

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via pixabay

So here I am, beyond grateful for what is, in some ways, random luck. Wondering – believer in magic that I am – if there is intent to the universe. If my brother & his wife – closer to me than some blood family – are ‘meant’ to be part of my life. The usual ties that bind do not tie us: we live far from each other; we have different time lines; we work in different fields. And still? We are family. But because we don’t share blood ties, I am the more grateful that we continue together. It does, indeed, seem magical.

If you’re lucky enough to have heart family, you know exactly what I mean. And I’m sure you treasure them as much as I do, knowing well what they bring to your beginner’s heart. Today? Drop a line to one of your heart family. Let them know you love them. It will be a gift to both of you.

 

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the author's

the author’s

I read a blog post yesterday that resonated with me. It began: Sometimes I wonder why I write a blog…

Me too.

It’s not like I change lives. Or even really make a huge difference. It’s not like I have a zillion followers. I’ve spent this past month thinking about my blog. Thinking about the five years I’ve spent on it: planning, writing, revising, responding. And I have to agree w/ the man who asked the question: why do I write this blog? What’s my point? What’s THE point?

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via flickr

As a non-Christian – an animistic Unitarian Buddhist – I’m certainly out of sync w/ the majority of Beliefnet bloggers (& readers). Initially, when my old friend & colleague recruited me, I was not only glad to have a home (still am!): I was also glad to be a minority voice, someone to counteract the bloggers on the site who called for extremist (to me) reactions to various groups & actions. And while this still applies, it’s no longer enough.

Besides ~ I wonder if anyone who disagrees with me would bother to read me. I’m never been more than a very quiet voice in the mainstream wilderness. The one time I swore, I was reprimanded (rightly so: my grandmother used to say that profanity showed a limited imagination!). And as I watch the liberal side of politics fragment the way the conservative side already has, I’m growing tired of advocating for reason. Sometimes I too want to just rant & rail. Even though I know it’s not the path to beginner’s heart.

What do you do, gentle readers, when you feel impotent to effect change? When you feel like a solitary voice swallowed in the great booming confusion? How do you go beyond that sense of futility? Just wondering, as I sit at my desk typing…

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I am, far too often, a judge-y shrew. Seriously: I frequently think that my advanced years, coupled w/ too much education, not to mention a boatload of books read, entitles me to offer comment to complete strangers. We won’t even go in to how often I say things to sons, nieces, nevvies, etc.

There’s a fine line, I’m figuring out, between caring deeply what happens to those I love. Or even to the world around me — a child stuck in a hot stroller, parked in the sun. A teenage girl being reprimanded insultingly in a public place by a parent who should know better. A politician who hands out racial & sexist slurs as if they were bumper stickers.

Lately — in large part, I acknowledge, because of the vitriol swirling around election year — I’ve been over the line. More often than once. For which I am heartily, deeply, apologetically sorry. But it keeps happening. (This is what happens when you let your meditation practice lapse!)

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via flickr

So I’m getting ready — yet again — to stop pretending that breathing slowly while I watch the birds cavort in this amazing spring we’re enjoying is the same as sitting. Or walking mindfully. Or even drawing. My beloved & I end up discussing (re: yelling about) the newest idiocy that masquerades as politics in today’s election arena, and I’m apoplectic again. Sheesh.

And the next thing I know? I’m not only judging some politician, but everyone who walks into my purview. NOT good beginner’s heart, I’m telling ya!

Does this happen to you? Do you find yourself upset about A, only to fly off the handle — or be less than loving/ compassionate/ open to R? Want to share what you do to unravel the snarl? In the meantime? It’s back to the chair, to sit patiently. And maybe learn some patience…

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My son made the most observant comment yesterday. He said he was glad to be out of the US for election year. And you know what? I wish I was.

I am heartily sick of racism & jingoism masquerading as patriotism, of sexist slurs pretending to be valid critique, and of just plain mean-spiritedness. My beginner’s heart hurts, for all of us.

Interesting: I finally blew up (in an articulate, mild-mannered way, I hope) on my FB page. Trying hard to keep in mind my Buddhist beginner’s heart, I pointed out that slamming my candidate would not make me change my mind in support. I’m not changing my mind at this late date; I’ve studied my candidate for some time, and as a scholar, I’m pretty certain I haven’t been misled by (the admittedly unobjective, on both sides) media.

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via google

No one seems willing to discuss (remember discussion? not ‘debate,’ or ‘harangue,’ or ‘argue’; and certainly not ‘yell loudly at whoever disagrees’) issues. If I want to talk about how a candidate will pay for his or her platform promises, people accuse me of all manner of unpleasantries. Mostly just not buying in to their candidate…sigh.

I wish there was a Buddhist political party. A party where everyone agreed that war is terrible, horrible, and rarely necessary. A party of inclusion, not exclusion. No walls to keep people out, but helping hands to enable people to work for new & better lives. Not handouts, but hands up. I’m dreaming of a world where men & women could run for office and women wouldn’t be asked about their clothes, or hammered over how they look. In a Buddhist party, candidates would work towards peace — local/regional/national/global. And not think it overly idealistic or unrealistic. But they would work: not make pronouncements. Nor would they threaten to make countries glow in the dark, or throw racist epithets about like celebratory confetti.

I suppose my idealistic youth is obvious in this dream, even as I acknowledge the utter impossibility of it coming to pass. In my own benighted state, we have defunded education to the point that schools are closing early. Rural hospitals have already closed, in response to our refusal to accept Medicaid $$. We have let teachers go and are enlarging classrooms to the point that many teachers have retired early, sick of the heartbreak innate to an overcrowded classroom. We’re closing down assistance to area child abuse investigating authorities in order to continue tax cuts to the very wealthy. But we insist that we are a Christian state, even as we do away with health care access for poor and rural women.

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via google

I wish I was ‘down under,’ like my younger son. Wish I was somewhere people understood that all we have is each other, and to hate difference is both pointless & ultimately tragic. Someone will always be different: race, gender, class, birth place, religion… There are more things to ‘separate’ us than, apparently, there is love to remind us of all we share. Buddhist politics would change that, I swear. A politics based in compassion, and the recognition that we are all human together. A deeply held belief in the power of love to transform us. I’m voting this fall for that — for changes  based in love, not power. In the meantime? I’m going to ignore politics. I’m going to watch cat videos & garden. It’s going to be hard, I realise. But I can’t move to Australia, so it will just have to do.

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