“Let people live in your heart. When people really listen, they live in your heart forever.”-Toshiro Kanamori
What difference can one man make in the lives of so many? This morning, while watching a portion of a video of a remarkable elementary school teacher in Japan, I was reminded of a vibrant truth; that with love and compassion, full presence and guidance, empathy can be cultivated among children. Toshiro Kanamori is the 4th grade instructor who tells them that the purpose of this year’s work is “how to live a happy life, how to care for other people.” In the opening scene, the children are cheering, clapping and hugging him. This documentary called Children Full of Life explains a class assignment in which each day, three of the children share the feelings expressed in their daily notebook writings. One day, a classmate returns following the death of his grandmother. He reads his story of her passing and cremation. As he does so, his friends are moved to tears by his vulnerability and invite them to share their own tales of loss and pain, including that of a girl whose father died when she was three. She has, according to the narrator, been “holding down her memories for more than half her life. She had been afraid to talk about her father. She didn’t want to seem different. She paid a price.” My. Kanamori created an environment in which she was able to free herself. While comforting her, he also praised the young man who read from his journal since it gave her the courage to express her repressed emotions. Remarkably, he held space for the entire class to feel. He also seemed to know how to ‘close them back up’ in what might have felt like emotional surgery. I have seen a precious few workshop facilitators who teach adults these concepts exhibit the ability to do so.
I appreciated the emphasis on learning from life events, such as the death of loved ones as well as the importance of expression of a full range of human experience in the written and spoken form. What touched me most of all,were the ways in which the children bonded over their mutual joys and sorrows. Imagine the ripple effect that this will have in their lives and that of those with whom they relate. This film was released in 2003 and these students are now 19 or 20 years old; young men and women out in the working world or in college. In the interceding decade, they will have faced challenges and triumphs. I am certain that with the influence of their beloved teacher, they will more than likely have blossomed into remarkable adults.
One of the wondrous souls I have welcomed into my life, Candace Smolowe always brings a smile to my face and lights up my heart when our paths cross. It seems I have known her forever. Yesterday, she was the speaker/spark at my Sunday gathering place called Circle of Miracles. Her topic was SpiritYOUality: Putting You First. What she meant by that had nothing to do with selfishness or neglect of the needs of others. It seems to me that if I apply Candace’s ideas, I will be better able to support and encourage others since I am simultaneously doing that for myself. She began by speaking about the concept that God is constant with us and asked if we were constant with God. She asked about the difference between being religious and being spiritual. I raised my hand and gave her my own standard definition. For me, religion is about doctrine, dogma, rules and framework and spirituality is about the direct connection between my heart and (to use a 12 Step recovery term) ‘The God of my understanding’, which changes (my perception of what God is, not God Him/Her/Itself) from moment to moment sometimes. She then queried who we wanted to be in the Presence of God. Hmmmm….naturally, I want to be in integrity, true to who I was created to be, loving, compassionate, welcoming, using the gifts I was given at birth, that I continue to hone and polish. She sprinkled in the guidance to be ” a better expression of God.” What would that look like? Probably the same thing.
One of the most challenging concepts she offered had to do with an ongoing issue in my life. Although I claim to have a constant and enduring connection with the One who created me, there is still not total trust and knowing that all is well. When I turn issues over to the Divine, there is still this sense of holding on, not completely surrendering, as if I know best. Candace offered “The Divine knows what It’s doing.” I am so busy DOING, taking action steps, being a whirlind of activity at times, since I have been carrying a fear that I won’t get it all done, won’t be able to support myself, when I have forgotten that I need not do it alone. I sense that they energy that is God, is waiting for me to simply ask for help. It’s kind of like when I was bringing grocery bags in the from the car last night and I was tempted to carry them AND my backback AND my brief case at the same time, to avoid making a second trip. The last time I attempted to carry too many things at once, I dropped a paint can onto the driveway. The lid had not been secured at the stoor where I bought it and it splattered all over the driveway, on me, on the side of the Jeep…YIKES! My life feels like that sometimes. How arrogant to believe that I could do this all on my own. Do I really think on some level that I am more capable of managing my life solo? Daily I engage in a practice of celestial communication that I sometimes call dialogues and at others, refer to as monologues. I see each of us as a God-spark, inextricably woven into the One. They are comical at times, seeming like no brainers, sometimes they are poignant and powerful, sad and with a tinge of feeling lost. Always informative with new grains of wisdom gleaned from them.
One of her props was a teddy bear, wrapped up in a straitjacket, with a little red heart on the front of it. Although the image of someone in such a fixture, brings with it negative connotation, I saw it as way of saying that we are often bound up in fear and limitation when love is the force that can free us.
She then spoke about her Y.O.U. process outlined below:
Y stands for Yearning. We each Yearn for love, peace, the feeling of Home. We have a sense of the feeling of Home as a baby in the womb, in the embrace of our beloved, in deep meditation and prayer, in the presence of a Master’s work. It is inherent in each human being. When we want to be loved, or heard, or known, or valued, or appreciated, or feel connected, we can feel that wanting as something even more than a desire. It becomes a Yearning, from a place deep inside, that we cannot describe with words. It is so strong because we have already had an experience of it. And we want it back.
Our Yearning is Divine Grace reaching for us.
O stands for Orientation. Because the Yearning is so strong and deep, we continually strive to satisfy it. We Orient ourselves in a way that we hope will bring the connection and peace we seek. But, because we were taught that life is hard, that if we do what we are told we will be acceptable, that we mustn’t ask for too much, we concentrate our efforts in ways that are often in direct opposition to what we want, like a compass needle pointing due South when we are trying to go North. We think that peace is achieved through war. That being acceptable means starving ourselves. That Love is conditional.
The anxiety of being so removed from the Source of our peace becomes intolerable. We seek first to find relief. We fill up the empty space with addictions, anger, jealousy, frustration, greed and pride to name only a few. It is from fear, not love, that we choose our actions of war and deprivation.
Fear will not create peace. Peace creates peace.
Awareness of how our orientation is based on our human effort to recapture our connection with the Divine is a crucial step in allowing peace and love into our lives.
Our Orientation is our reaching for Divine Grace.
U stands for Union. When we combine the awareness of the Yearning (Divine Grace) and a loving Orientation (Human effort), we create the opportunity to become fully aligned with our Higher Self and experience the peace we seek. This is only possible when our human efforts are aligned with the qualities of Love, Gratitude and Service. Faith in the Divine is the path.
Although it is grammatically incorrect, I am going to ask “Where is YOU in all of this, in your life?”
Earlier today, I was speaking with someone about a concept that came to me a few years ago, that rings as true in this moment as it did back then. I was in a newly minted relationship with someone after a series of relationship roller coaster rides that brought with it exhilirating highs and nearly crashing lows, peaks and valleys that had me fastening my seat belt and holding on for dear life. During a phone call that I made as I was taking an afternoon walk, the words “I hold your heart sacred,” came waltzing through my brain in a gender neutral voice. As I shared it with this man, I could hear his smile through the telephone wire, as I remember him responding “I like that.” All these years later, I do hold his heart and our friendship sacred, even as we are no longer in a romantic relationship.
Wikipedia defines the word sacred in this way: Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy (perceived by religious individuals as associated with the divine or sacred (considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers in a given set of spiritual ideas).
In my perception, everything can be painted with the feather touch of the Divine, and raised up to lofty heights; even, and perhaps, especially with people and situations that feel as if they might be lacking that element. In the case of relationships, the question could be posed: What if we held them sacred? My answer would be that we would honor each person in them and accept the core essence of who they are, beyond behavior, as Love incarnate. Now having said that, it doesn’t mean accepting inappropriate or abusive behavior. It does mean looking beyond the surface and seeing, as A Course In Miracles states: “Every loving thought is true. Everything else is an appeal for healing and help.”~
What does it mean to hold someone’s heart sacred? To me it translates to respect, honor and compassion. TLC in times of challenge to help ease the pain. Deep listening rather than hurrying to a conclusion about what they are saying. Embracing their view for themselves, even if I can’t quite see it or make sense of it. Being mindful that hearts and lives are fragile and need to be handled with care.
Can we hold the hearts of everyone we encounter, as sacred, even if we disagree with them, even if their choices fly in the face of our deepest convictions, even if they leave a mess in the kitchen, or in our lives? Even as relationships have shifted, can we beam that devotional light in their direction and wish them well? Can we hold our own hearts sacred and keep our own fire burning?
http://youtu.be/EC9YDZZcfY4 Takes My Breath Away by Tuck and Patti