Kindness

Today, a wise friend read this poem to a group I was with, unaware that she was actually reading it just for me.  As she read the poignant lines, I felt my heart-strings pull before tears I could not control, spilled out of my eyes, subsequently ruining my mascara.  Poet Naomi Shihab Nye has a message of kindness that perhaps will resonate with you too.  For this reason, I feel compelled to share it here.  For you.

Kindness  By Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing
inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

 

 

Sympathy.

Its easier to think about death, write about death, imagine it even, when you aren’t in the throws of grief and loss.  The mind can noodle ideas and theories around about what happens after we die all day long, as long as it isn’t your loved one who just transitioned.  Even though on a conscious level we know that death is perhaps the only sure part of everyone’s life, when it arrives, I find there is still an element of surprise, disbelief, and resentment that comes along with it, even when its expected and mixed in with a little relief.  The questions come.  Why her?  Why him?  Why now?  Why in this way?  I sort of did this when one of my dearest family members was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer last year.  He is cancer free today, but at time, it was an impossibly hard diagnosis to accept, as was the idea of his possible death, which for the record, I never even allowed in my conscious thoughts.  Even though I knew it was a possibility, I didn’t sit with the idea, feel the weight of it or let it pass through me.  I focused on manifesting his health and wellness and didn’t indulge in the dark side of the what if’s.  I don’t know if this was wise, or the right thing to do in these cases, I’m just sharing my experience and level of denial.  Even in the middle of his chemo treatments which cruelly transformed him from a strong man with enough swagger to go around to a thin and constantly nauseous shell of his former self, I remember telling my crumbling family members,  “that is what chemo looks like” or “that is what recovering from cancer looks like”.  It turns out I was right (as usual), but had it gone the other way, you can bet I would be a different person today. (FYI: in the minute it took you to read that paragraph, 108 people around the world have died.  Source: CIA World Factbook)

Last week, two friends of mine lost parents.  One lost mom, one lost dad.  In addition, this summer, a dear friend lost her sister to ALS and my best friend lost her dog of 13 years. There are really no words when a catastrophe like this hits.  I find myself lamely saying one word.  Sorry.   But here’s the thing, I really am sorry.  I wish there was something I could do, but there isn’t.  I can only stand by and feel the loss along with them.  Jodi Picoult wrote in her novel Change of Heart, “words are like nets – we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.” In my opinion, no wants to hear cliches about them being angels now, this being God’s will, or them being in a better place.  Even if these “words of comfort” are true, I’m pretty sure if I had lost my loved one to cancer last year, I would have socked anyone who tried to comfort me with that bullshit.  Grief leaves you brokenhearted.  Or just broken.  J.K. Rowling wrote in Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”  True that.  My point is, when comforting others, less is always more.  Trust.

I do have a small collection of ideas and thoughts on the matter.  I will share a few of them now, and hope it comforts those who are searching for answers, mourning, or needing to hear words beyond the typical condolences.  If you aren’t grieving, great!  Perhaps this post will inspire you think about life’s big questions like, What is the purpose of your life?  Do you want to know the exact moment you are going to die? If you only had one hour to live, what would you do?  How do you want die?  What do you think happens when we die?  What things in life should always remain a mystery? (questions taken from  Rainn Wilson‘s book, Soulpancake )

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief.  But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” ~Hilary Stanton Zunin

This one comes from my friend who lost her sister.  She heard this in her spiritual group.  When she shared it, I wrote it down.  I feels like truth to me:                                                “In the end, you will find no sin, no guilt, no retribution.  Only life in it’s endless transformations, with the desolation of the personal I.  All suffering disappears and all that remains is the great sadness of compassion and the horror of unnecessary suffering.”

“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” ~John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars.  The deeper the grief, the closer is God.”         ~Foyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.”                                                                                                                                     ~Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha 

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.” Jose N. Harris, Mi Vida

“See, as much as you want to hold on to the bitter sore memory that someone has left this world, you are still in it. And the very act of living is a tide: at first it seems to make no difference at all, and then one day you look down and see how much pain has eroded.”    ~Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope”               ~Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”                                                              ~Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere

Love Thought

You carry away with you
a reflection of me,
a part of me.

I dreamed you;
I wished for your existence.
You will always be a part of my life.

If I love you,
It must be because we shared,
at some moment,
the same imaginings,
the same madness,
the same stage.

~Anais Nin

 Max Wanger photography

Dear Friend,

Upon seeing a recent picture of an ex you loved dearly, (and still miss although you would never admit it), you were saddened to see him after all this time.  You realized that although you knew him so intimately once, he is a stranger now; someone you don’t know any more.  He felt far away from you, which makes sense because he is…  I’m sorry you are hurting.  I hope this post consoles you of this revelation.  Know that whatever is true for him now, you were true for him once too.  Close your eyes and see his face.  Remember when you were happy together and send him love.  Realize he isn’t far away at all.  He is part of you and you are part of him too.  Come back to the present moment and think of all the love you currently have in gratitude.  Remember I love you too.

Love and Light,

Dre

Lovers and Friendships

Tonight I was playing on Pinterest to distract myself from the very painful Laker game I was watching. I started a new board I titled Lovers, that I later renamed Oh L’Amour because I’m romantic like that. Anyway, I began pinning love themed quotes and various pictures depicting love, passion and lovers. It got me thinking of some great advice I’d like to pass on: be wise about lovers and friendships.

Be Wise About Lovers and Friendships, is chapter 36 in a book I adore called, If the Buddha Got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path, by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D. In this chapter she discusses the importance of mutuality and flow in relationships. She explains, “Sometimes friendships are instantaneous, similar to falling in love, we meet a kindred spirit and feel a strong liking that continues for years. Sometimes those instantaneous feelings can mislead us. Other times, friendships evolve over time…” Her basic advice is that one should seek people who are reliable, responsive, and interested in knowing you and supporting your best self. She reminds the reader that you too should be same for the other person. Seems like common sense right?

Actually, it’s easier said than done. Believe me, I know this from personal experience, as does the good doctor. She cautions, “It is important to be aware of self-deception. Making excuses about someone’s behavior and hoping he or she will change signals that you are not living in current time. You need to bring yourself into reality and ask yourself, ‘What’s true right now about this person?’ If you find yourself rationalizing about a relationship, stop and explore your underlying feelings.” Kasl gives some common rationalizations people use to avoid honesty in a relationship. Remember, truth is the starting point for affection, connection, and love.

  • She has a cold exterior but I know deep down she has the potential for loving.
  • I feel sorry for her, she really needs my help.
  • He’s had a hard life.
  • I’ll be taken care of if we’re together.
  • She has so much potential.
  • We’re soul mates.
  • You can’t just walk away from people.
  • The sex was so magical
  • I’m not perfect either.
  • I don’t know what I’d do alone.
  • He doesn’t hit me.
  • It’s not so bad.

I will be the first to admit that I have used more than three of those examples! How many have you used? How many are you using now?

To stay in reality, Kasl recommends asking yourself, “What’s true today? Notice mushy sentimental feelings of wanting to be the rescuing angel. This is not a good basis for a relationship, and rescuers usually find themselves being left eventually.” Damn. She got that right. Sometimes they get left and their shit gets stolen too. Just saying. Sorry. Moving on.

She goes on to say that no one wants to feel indebted to another forever. Avoid deluding yourself by thinking that if you are kind enough, sweet enough, good enough or smart enough you can change another person. In other words, a weasel is a weasel, and your generosity, love and light isn’t going to change them. TRUST.

To Quote the Sufi poet Hafiz,

We have not come here to take prisoners,
but to surrender ever more deeply to freedom and joy…
Run my dear,
from anything
that may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings…

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and Light!

Goodluck lovers. xo Dre

Happiness Floats

Oh to be a poet… I love poets. I always have. I’m pretty sure it all started with Dr. Seuss, who made books and language fun for me. Although I still adore Dr. Seuss, my tastes have evolved from the days I would beg my Daddy to please please please read me Green Eggs and Ham just one more time. In my budding adolescence I recall discovering Edgar Allen Poe. His beautiful Annabell Lee, his raven, and his ever creepy tell-tale heart had me thinking that he was the coolest most clever writer ever! Even then I had a thing for the dark, shadow side of humanity. In high school, I came to appreciate Shakespeare’s stories of love, betrayal and life lessons though comedy and tragedy, which I can say mirror my own experiences in love and life. In college there was the whole coffee house scene complete with complaint rock and emo spoken word performances describing harrowing anguish and the ever calamitous state of our world as only youth from the 90’s could tell it. I found validation, solace, and amusement in Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Maya Angelou, ee cummings, T.S. Elliot, John Keats, Pablo Neruda, Rumi and others. But not all poets are from a time long before my own. Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Steven Patrick Morrissey, Jill Scott, Tori Amos, and Prince are a few more of my favorite word magicians. Profound, prolific, thought provoking and inspiring… This is why I love poets. They use words to translate love, pain, loss, joy, apathy and every sentiment really. They mix language and emotion and string together sentences that can deeply touch the human spirit.  Poets help us understand life the way only art can. To be a poet is to be able to experience life, and then write about it so that the rest of us can feel it.

This week I was given a poem written by Naomi Shihab Nye. I drank in this poem with a writer’s thrist. Its been with me since I read it a few days ago. I feel compelled to share it here. If I were a poet, I’d wish to write like Nye.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I expect you will.  Oh, and to all the poets out there, thank you for writing.

So Much Happiness by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.

With Sadness there is something to rub against, a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.

When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up, something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.

It doesn’t need you to hold it down.

It doesn’t need anything.

Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing, and disappears when it wants to.

You are happy either way.

Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house, and now live over a quarry of voice and dust, cannot make you unhappy.

Everything has a life of its own.

It too could wake up filled with possibilities of coffee cake and ripe peaches, and love even the floor which needs to be swept, the soiled linens and scratched records…

Since there is no place large enough to contain so much happiness, you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you, into everything you touch.

You are not responsible.

You take no credit,

as the night sky takes no credit for the moon, but continues to hold it,

and to share it, and in that way, be known.

;

Love Post #2

The following poem is a personal favorite of mine.  In 2006 I read it at my best friend’s wedding.  I had offered to sing an acoustic version of “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthew’s Band, but I think she was afraid it would steal show,  understandably.  It was her wedding after all.  So I lent my spoken word talents on a scenic Northern California autumn afternoon, at one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve attended to this day.  Today we are anxiously waiting for the arrival of her second child, a baby girl she plans to name Andrea.  Ok, that’s not for sure, but I’m just putting it out there.  Please enjoy my second installment of love inspired poetry, and have a beautiful weekend, lovers.  xo Dre

Touched By An Angel by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.