Droopy

My wife has a green thumb. No. I take that back. Her entire body is green. She can magically transform any space — like our balcony — into a haven of wondrous sights and smells.

I don’t know much about flowers. But I know she does. So I watched her care for them, and I took mental notes. Eventually, when I realized that I wasn’t likely to break anything, I joined in. Mostly, I just water the flowers and plants. I let her pluck off the dead flower heads, rid the plants of Japanese Beetles and aphids, and add food to the water from time to time.

My job is to give the flowers a drink.

If I do say so myself, I’ve gotten good at it. I can tell at a glance that the flowers are thirsty.

They look droopy.

Like in the picture, above.

I know what healthy, satisfied pansies look like. And the flowers in the picture ain’t it.

But I wouldn’t have known that unless I paid attention to the flowers, both when they’re vibrant and when they’re lacking something.

People are the same way.

Example: One Saturday, late afternoon, we were in a local grocery store (one of Michigan’s major chains of grocery/clothing/pharmacy/sporting goods/audio & video stores) buying our food for the upcoming week. As we approached an empty check-out lane, I noticed the cashier Continue reading

Bede

A dear friend of mine recently introduced me to Bede Griffiths, the Benedictine monk who moved to India and opened a dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. He became known as the “Christian Yogi” and was part of the Christian Ashram Movement.

Here’s a one-hour documentary on the life of Bede Griffiths:

The Life of Father Bede Griffiths

If you don’t have an hour, here’s a very brief history of Bede from the Wikipedia article about him:

In November 1931, Griffiths went to stay at the Benedictine monastery of Prinknash Abbey where he was impressed by the life. Despite the strong anti-Roman Catholic sentiments of his mother, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and made his First Communion at Christmas Eve Mass at the abbey.

Griffiths was received by the abbey as a postulant a month after his reception into the Catholic Church. On 29 December 1932, he entered the novitiate and was given the monastic name of “Bede”. He made his solemn profession in 1937 (a year before the death of his mother in a car accident) and was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1940.

In 1947 the abbey sent a group of 25 monks to give support to two monasteries in the United Kingdom which had been founded by monks from France. Griffiths was chosen to be the obedientiary prior for the monastery at Farnborough in Hampshire. He led that house for four years, but was unable to generate sufficient financial support to keep the community going. The abbot then sent him to the other monastery, Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. It was there that he wrote his autobiography.

During Griffiths’ time at Farnborough, he had come to know Father Benedict Alapatt, a European-born monk of Indian descent who was greatly interested in establishing a monastery in his homeland. Griffiths had already been introduced to Eastern thought, yoga and the Vedas and took interest in this proposed project. The abbot at first refused permission. Later, however, he changed his mind and authorised Griffiths to go to India with the Indian member of the community. There was one condition, though, Griffiths was not to be there as a member of the abbey, but as a priest subject to a local bishop, which meant that he would be giving up his vows.
Christian yogi

After some painful inner debate, Griffith agreed to this and, in 1955, he embarked for India with Alapatt.

In today’s world, with divisions among race, gender, economic status, and even religion so profoundly delineated, possessing the wisdom and compassion of Bede Griffiths seems like it would be an “only-love” answer. Opening one’s heart, extending one’s hand, to another religion is undoubtedly tough. One could face ridicule, even outright shunning. Or worse. But unless we begin to make the effort to understand one another — and, more, to love one another — we may not see too many more generations on our planet.

Perhaps one way to make The Only Love Project work in one’s community is to seek out those in another religion and spend time in their shoes. Or temple. Or sangha. Or ashram. Or synagogue. Or church. Until we can worship (or sit contemplatively, quietly) beside a fellow human being, we will never truly know the depths of his soul — or our own.

Caring

We have Dilbert checks that consist of four different pictures from the famous cartoon strip by Scott Adams.

Today, when I opened the checkbook to pay another bill, I noticed this quote from Dogbert: “Did you know that pretending to care looks just like caring?”

It made me think.

Is there a difference between pretending to care and actually caring? And does it really matter?

Religious traditions differ in many ways, sometimes significantly. But there’s a common thread that runs through them: intention, change from the inside out, that leads to “good works” (in the Christian tradition) and loving-kindness, which leads to Right Action (in the Buddhist tradition).

In Buddhism, this is addressed in the second of the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Intention (also known as Right Thinking, Right Thought, or Right Aspiration).

Right Intention precedes right action, an idea expressed in the first three lines of the Dhammapada (translation: Thomas Byrom):

We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.

The idea that outside changes are proceeded by inside changes is a thread that runs throughout the New Testament of the Bible, the result of which appears most notably in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (ESV)

To embody and exemplify the fruit of the Spirit, according to the Christian tradition, Continue reading

Moments

“Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others…we need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh (Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, p. 5)

Have you ever noticed when you’re out on the trail, people heading in the opposite direction — be they fellow biker, walker, or runner — smile and say “Hi”?

That’s because, as Mother Theresa wrote (No Greater Love, p. 93), “Poverty doesn’t only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity. We need to love and to be somebody for someone else.”

For whatever reason, when people are out doing similar things they’re more receptive to the greeting of a stranger. It’s like there’s some unspoken camaraderie shared between them — but it’s a camaraderie, whether they realize it or not, that runs far deeper than merely wearing the same running outfits or riding the same Diamondback bikes.

The Dalai Lama (The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings, pages 7, 8) wrote:

For my part, meeting innumerable others from all over the world and from every walk of life reminds me of our basic sameness as human beings. Indeed, the more I see of the world, the clearer it becomes that no matter what our situation, whether we are rich or poor, educated or not, of one race, gender, religion or another, we all desire to be happy and to avoid suffering.

I believe that — which is why a smile, a nod, or a simple wave of the hand can sometimes be a powerful way to help someone be happy. It only takes a moment, maybe even a split second. But it may be the most beneficial few seconds in someone’s day.