A Walk back from the Theater

Last night, walking back from the theater in the middle of the night, I found great strength in the peace sign.  I felt empowered, fully capable, and confident.

A few times, however, I would come to an overpass and walk under a bridge, or walk in a part of town that was unlit.  At these moments, I found that the peace sign was not necessarily enough to cast away my fears, and so I began to sing.  “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” according to the rhythm of the Hallelujah song I learned from Shrek.  I was thinking through in my mind how I perceived the message of Hallelujah, and interpreted it as “Praise be to God.”  Even greater than Peace is God.  And great is God who gave us voices to sing, even if it might be one of the most tone-deaf voices on the planet.

In addition to singing Hallelujah, I found courage in the marine motto, “Semper Fi!”  I occasionally chanted “Semperi Fi – Always Faithful!” and could hear it echo across the trees.

I’ve been searching for a source of energy, vitality, vigor, vim – whatever you’d like to call it – that allows me to cast out fears and act upon what I believe is right.  Often times I will meditate on Peace and experience a closeness to a greater power during those times.  Last night too I found great energy in Peace.  Even then, though, I came back to the looming realization, “I do not know what Peace is.” Just as I do not understand the nature of God or the nature of the universe or really the nature of anything – I do not completely understand Peace.  I have notions of what Peace is and what Peace looks like, a vision which currently consists of people meditating together, but other than that – Peace is ambiguous to me.

Before I began meditating on Peace, which started shortly after I came across Thich Nhat Hon’s book, “Peace is Every Step,” I found the concept of Agape particularly powerful.  Agape, as I understand it, is a love in the incredible potential for goodness that resides in all people.  Rather than loving someone for particular behaviors, even if such behaviors are unjust, such as theft, Agape allows us to love all people, no matter what they are doing, because we know that deep down inside of all of us rests an infinite source of potential to love, give, and serve – to act completely just.  This notion of the ever-present great potential of all individuals is how I understand the Spirit that flows through each one of us.

Before Agape, who knows what I meditated on, or if I meditated at all.  Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer in meditation and the notion that we become what we think about.  Therefore, meditating on ideals allows us to more fully manifest those ideals in our daily lives.

Last night, I found myself in a greater state of ignorance than ever before, especially in the darkness, and found that singing “Hallelujah” and chanting “Semper Fi” were the most invigorating words I possessed.  Praise be to God, whoever and however God works, and let me remain always faithful to just action as I come to understand it more and more.

Love the Family

Imagine every action of yours aligned with achieving the greater good for humanity Wouldn’t that be a wonderful life affirmed by a sense of higher purpose?  Sometimes I think we limit ourselves by thinking we are lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes we think that one in seven billion is pretty bad odds to make an impact in this world, yet the very notion that any of us are here to begin with is truly miraculous, so why should we disempower ourselves by thinking that we are just one fish in a pond?

To expand upon the Goldfish metaphor of earlier, I really do believe we select our community.  Whether or not we choose to perceive ourselves simply as local citizens or as citizens of the world are entirely up to us. Whether or not we choose to think our family only consists of our parents, immediate siblings and children, or if instead we see all the world as our family, is entirely up to us.  Depending upon the environment we choose to associate with, we will experience that reality.  Our world is only as big as we make it, and as soon as we choose to accept ourselves as global citizens responsible for the wellbeing of all mankind, only then will we move into greater planes of love and freedom.

I say freedom because it expands the possibilities for how we may serve those that we love.  When the whole world becomes our family, we unlock new levels of love that we might likely not have experienced before if we think that only our immediate family loves us.  However, with one big family, you receive love from every member of your family.  Family loves family for no reason other than simply being!  It is a beautiful, pure love, much as I understand God’s love for us.  No strings attached, unconditional love.

When we realize not only that we are loved by everyone at all times, but also that our family is in need and we can always be helping them, then we will cease with lazy activities and ineffective behavior.  When we identify with the oneness of mankind, only then do we rise to greater levels of service, loving all of our family with our actions.  If we only feel responsible for ourselves or a select group of people close to us, then we likely will fall well short of achieving our potential.  Only when we grow to accepting responsibility for the world as global citizens can we self-actualize.  So long as we think we are only taking care of a few people, we will exhibit behavior of greed.  However, if we identify with the oneness of humanity and perceive all as our brothers and sisters, we will soon realize the absurdity of selfish behavior and we will achieve and give more than ever before.

We are all in this together!  A trite expression, but it rings true.  There is something about proverbs that never gets old.  Imagine the great shift of achievement that would occur if we identified with the world as one family.  We would soon cut out our lazy behavior as well as our selfish consumption of television and food.  We would become healthier, more giving, and more loving.  Our world would suddenly be filled with love, peace, joy, and justice.  Taking care of one’s immediate family is not enough to say that one lives justly, but striving to give everything we’ve got for the welfare of our fellow brothers and sisters – that sounds like a good way to live.

Think about behaviors you currently do that you know you would cease doing if your son, daughter, brother, or sister was suffering from malnutrition.  How would you change your life so that you could provide for them?  The situation described above is a real situation that is happening right now.  Ending poverty might sound like a daunting task, but it simply comes down to crafting global citizens.  As soon as we realize that we are empowered to save others and to be the change we want to see in the world, then we will really begin to shine, relentlessly pursue justice, and put our great love into action.


Watching Television…

Can anything good ever come of it?  Of course!  Seek and ye shall find.  Just the other night I happened to sit down with a friend in front of a grandiose 42’ screen to watch Game of Thrones.  I had never seen the show before, but it seems like whenever people talk about TV, that show usually pops up in the conversation.

So there I was, watching this epic Game of Thrones show I’d heard so much about but never watched before, and this was one of the first time watching an actual show (not sports) on television in months.

Once the show started, I was immediately overcome with a sense of waste and lack of fulfillment.  Certainly, I could be doing better than things than watching a television.  Alas, I sat resolute in the comfortable seat and explored my friend’s lifestyle with him.

Okay – that didn’t last long.  I stood up and walked outside.  After venting some stress with a couple pseudo-karate/yoga moves, I went back inside to see if I could derive some value and meaning from the show.

Much to my surprise, boom!  It hit me.  All I needed was a single sentence, maybe even just a word to tantalize my thought and provide me with an anchor to appreciate the show.  Suddenly, a kinglike figure began to speak to his presumed son, “What is it you really want in life?”  That was all I needed to hear.  Faith in humanity had been in restored.

As much as I’m severely against watching television, to the extent that it leads to us withering away into our sofas and puts us in eerie states of forgetfulness and indifference to the world, I have not doubted that the people who make television shows have good intentions.  Or, at least, they realize that to make a compelling television show, they have to not only relate to the human condition, but also help people understand it.  By posing the question, “What is it you really want in life?” the writer gave the audience a supreme opportunity to turn off the television and pause.  Reflect.

Only shortly after the Street Retreat finished did I ever consider what it is that I really want in life.  After a lot of thought, which still continues on today, I have articulated and re-articulated what exactly it is I want in life.  To answer the question requires not only time, but also a desire to live a fulfilled life.  Answering the question might lead to some pretty severe questioning of one’s current position, so approach the loaded question with caution.  And, as dangerous as the question might be to answer, I highly encourage everyone to give it a shot.  Give it a thought.  Take the time to get to know yourself and understand what is it you want in life.

Matty L. and the Power of Seeing

On day nine of the seven day Street Retreat – I felt compelled to continue the homelessness for an extra couple of days because it was such an eye-opening experience – I started walking in the direction of St. Bartholomew’s, a place for breakfast, around 2 AM.  Doing my best to live in the moment, I had no idea how long it might take me to arrive at St. Bart’s for a 7 AM breakfast.  Equipped with nothing other than the peace sign in my left hand and an epic cardboard sign in my right, I strolled through the streets of NYC, wishing peace to everyone who crossed my path.

About two hours into my peace-spreading adventure, a man of 20 years old named Matty L. joined me on my walk.  As it turns out, Matty was a foster child, kicked out of the house by his foster parents at 18.  He’s been homeless ever since.  He told me that he stole food and clothes to sustain himself, probably because he did not know about some of the tremendous resources available to the homeless of NYC.

One of the most striking things about Matty was how he generally perceived other people.  “People are scumbags,” he said. “They are savages. We’re just a bunch of animals looking to do good for ourselves and hurt others.”  Then I asked him if he thought I was a savage, and he said no, “But for the most part, people are just beasts.”  Being in New York City, a place famous for its immense amount people, seeing others as scumbags would make living pretty miserable. Also, it seems like Matty’s lens for viewing the world helped justify his acts of theft as well as his alcoholism.  Heck – I would want to escape the world and destroy society if I thought I was living in a world full of scumbags.

What Matty helped me realize, along with a few other people along the homeless journey, was how powerful our language is for determining how we perceive the world.  Matty, seeing people as scumbags, inevitably was not content with NYC and loathed it in many ways. On the other hand, when Brother and I meditated in Times Square, I would do what I called a Smiling Meditation, where I would keep my eyes open and tune in to the joy, the Spirit of the people, and the Love all around, so to smile as brightly as I could.  The energy in Times Square and in NYC is incredibly powerful, but unless we take the time to focus and tune in, we will miss out on its beauty.

While sitting and meditating, I would think along the lines of, “I love you and am grateful for you,” when I made eye contact with each person (a thought courtesy of www.zenhabits.net). Or I would just think of the miracle of life all around me, of God’s complete love, or of the inherent goodness of each and every person.  Basically, I would attempt to “see” people in such a way that would allow me have such a positive experience that I would be overcome with joy and have a smile flood across my face. At some points during such meditations, I even cried from the beauty of it all.

We see much more than the objective, tangible objects around us.  Whenever we see, we apply language to explain what exactly we are seeing, so depending on what language we choose to apply to seeing people, we can either greatly enjoy the presence of another, loathe them, or of course – be neutral!  During my time in NYC, Brother and I did a lot of people watching and a lot of meditating, and there is nothing like sitting and watching people, consciously choosing to think something positive about every person that passes you like, “Look at the beautiful child of God,” or “What a miraculous person that is.”  Try it out!  We have the ability to choose whether we see people as loving spirits or as scumbags.  It is your choice!  How do you want to perceive the world?  Let your language construct an uplifting lens to bask in the amazing world moving all around you.