A Tribute to the Courageous and Beautifully Spiritual John Lewis

“Walk with the winds brothers and sisters and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide”

John Lewis –

           Representative John Lewis died July 17, 2020 at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer serving more than three decades in Congress. A civil rights icon who began his life as the son of sharecroppers was by all accounts an ordinary man who because of his bravery, his acts of courage and commitment to making this world a better, more just place,  has changed this world. Almost losing his life during bloody Sunday’s march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and being on the frontlines of a bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, Lewis never gave up hope for making this country a better nation.

Lewis reminded us to answer the highest calling of one’s heart. He spent his life demonstrating that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the best way if we want to achieve that peace. What Lewis was describing are principles of political forgiveness. Political forgiveness triumphs over violence, aggression, and war. It is a healing force that unites us instead of that which divides us. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It is a healing force that helps us understand one another instead of hating one another. What John Lewis stood for was political forgiveness in action. His attitude and philosophy in life was based on love. He regarded everyone with dignity and respect. His civil rights activism and his views on nonviolence were based in restoring relationships. And his greatest dedication to his life was changing political structures from those that supported structural violence to those that reflected justice and equality. The Voting Act of 1965 reflected that. As former president Barack Obama said about Mr. Lewis, “he as much as anyone in our history brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals.” Political forgiveness is one of those highest ideals.

We are a work in progress. Much healing needs to take place on all levels of society. This is where the power lies in a political forgiveness process. It addresses all levels of society in a coordinated and healing capacity. Lewis demonstrated moral courage and has asked us to do the same. Forgiveness requires moral courage. Lewis stood for unity not division, love not hatred and embraced taking responsibility to create a better society. These are some of the principles of forgiveness on a political level. Lewis never gave up and persevered against all odds. These are the qualities for us to emulate especially in a political forgiveness process.

John Lewis will be profoundly missed. Let us never forget the light that he shined upon this world. The greatest tribute we can pay to John Lewis is to keep fighting for what he stood for and in the way he led his life. He was truly a most spiritual human being.

Father Cries for Help and Gets a Life changing Surprise

There is a lot one can say about social media and for all the negatives there is also a lot of good. The other day my husband was surfing YouTube when he came across a story of a 24-year-old Tibetan who walks the streets of Majnu Ka Tila, a poor Tibetan Community in Delhi and finds people who are in desperate need of help. We both began to watch what this young man Tenzin Kunchok (also known as Ted) was doing, and before I knew it my husband was talking to Ted on what’s app! Being touched by this Tibetans compassion we found out that he wanted to help a man by the name of Karan. Karan used to do photography but due to the pandemic and rise of the smartphone industry he lost his job. He is the only breadwinner of his family of six and was living in abject poverty. He tried working in manual labor but would not always get work. The most he could earn was about 200 rupees ($2.70) a day. Because of that he was not able to buy food and the necessities for his family to survive. His four children are home because of the lockdown but once school reopens, he needs to pay school fees which he doesn’t have. If the children cannot go to school, they will never be able to get out of poverty. Because of the hard time his family was going through Karan felt there was no where to turn and feared for his family.

When Ted heard about the plight of this family, he wanted to do something about it. He went home and reached out to us. I offered my help to get this family get back on their feet. The next day Ted went back to Karan and told him he need not worry any more. The dream of making a livelihood by opening a pani-puri stall for Karan and a small shop of snacks, drinks and tobacco outside their home for his wife so she could earn some money was now becoming a reality. And his children will also be able go back to school.

Even when there is so much suffering going on in this world there are also people who care such as Ted who saw the need to help Karan. This inspiring and emotional story of one person reaching out to others who in turn could help can be found on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UMf-ZAHpW0. It is a story of what an act of kindness and compassion can do and change someone’s life forever.

What Kind of Americans Do We Want to Be?

All of us are facing difficult situations and crises which involves free choice, wise thinking and important decision making, based on our values and the kind of America we can be proud of and feel good about. Yet our country more than ever is extremely polarized. Decisions that seem to be made feel as though we are more obsessed with material wealth than we care about one another. We seem to be caught up in hate speech which continues to polarize this nation and we appear to live blindly, not thinking about the effects of our actions on others. Are we going to live so caught up in ourselves that we do not make room for self-reflection?

We are becoming a new country. Will this country be based on materialistic wealth and the power of privilege or will it be based on our understanding of our interconnectiveness? Our greatest times as a country is when we showed concern for others such as after the second world war when we cared about the well-being of others. We created the Marshal plan to aid the recovery of West Germany and Japan. We experienced wealth and abundance during that time. We welcomed immigrants which led to a stronger economy and stronger cultural diversity. These were positive actions taken upholding certain values which included generosity, compassion and inclusiveness. We were the way shower for the rest of the world – a beacon of light for humanity.

There has been a shift in recent years which has led us to where we are today. We have become more aggressive, polarized and have unfair economic policies creating a wider gap between the have’s and have nots. Covid 19 is showing us in no uncertain terms the inequities in our society. We have seen how this pandemic has accentuated the sharp divisions between those who care for others first and those who think it is ok to lose Americans in the name of economic well-being. What may not be so clear is that if we keep losing Americans there will be no economic well-being.

We have choices to make. Who do we really want to be and what are we willing to do to get there? We are at a crossroads. It is up to us as to what direction we want to take and how we chose to relate to the rest of the world. What this pandemic is doing is making us stop, stop the feverish pace we are so used to, stop to hear the suffering of others, stop to recognize that if we want to be healthy, we have an obligation to each other. We are being forced to stop, hopefully to sit in silence and to listen and to really understand what is most important in this world.

Can We Truly Become Great Again?

I read an article the other day on “The coronavirus is an opportunity for people with privilege, and American society as a whole, to broaden their empathy for others.” The article spoke of the threat of death from an unseen virus which affects all of us regardless of class or race, and of the deep interconnectedness which unites us by globally crossing all color, economic and national lines. There are many lessons we are learning because of the circumstances we are finding ourselves in. If we do not take the necessary precautions and find a way to eliminate the virus we could die. We are also seeing that if we stop abusing our planet our water and skies become blue again as earth’s ecology becomes healthier.

 

But what about other aspects of our world we live in, the social aspects where we are seeing such injustice and inequality especially to those less fortunate, those more vulnerable, to people of color. This pandemic is shining a light on the unfairness that exists within our society. We see it in the numbers in which the pandemic disproportionately is affecting African Americans. We see it in society’s lack of concern on the toll of the elderly especially in nursing homes. What kind of collusion course are we on if we do not look at the divisions and if we do not correct the increasingly polarized, increasingly violent course we are on? How much longer can we go on ignoring how we are exploiting people within our own society, and how racism is running rampant because of the inherent superiority that feeds into racism, and the “right” to ignore laws at the expense of others. What kind of world are we creating within our own county whose foundation and glory was based in caring for others? This pandemic is showing us how far off from this ideal we have become.

 

The pandemic starkly reminds us that we are all in this together, that  we need not  just a medical vaccine but a vaccine against a larger and more insidious pandemic of racism and global injustice where 1% own and exploit more assets than everyone else combined. What is desperately needed is deep soul searching and a recognition of the complicity we all play in perpetuating an unjust society. Understanding and healing can come if we can develop within ourselves compassion and empathy. It is deep empathy that will ultimately lead us to making different choices and to the necessary breakthroughs that can serve humanity in a healing capacity. It is the lack of empathy that will keep us in the darkness that we find ourselves in today. Can we rise to the occasion and through acts of kindness and concern for one another truly become great again? This is our challenge, and this is also where our healing lies. What do you think?

 

What does it mean for Forgiveness to be Political?

With all the bitterness and divisiveness which has taken hold in our political world today what we urgently need to heal these divides is “the politics of forgiveness.” But you may ask: What does forgiveness in politics mean, and are politics and forgiveness related? And why is forgiveness so crucial?

I have been thinking long and hard as to what it means for forgiveness to be political. Our political world which is the public realm of our existence is fraught with conflicts, violence and all the “isms” one can imagine. How can we stop this violence and the many attacks on one another and live in a more peaceful society? When we think about forgiveness, we recognize that it is about how we choose to express ourselves and the kind of actions we will take against a perceived wrong, our choice being to choose to respond to this world with understanding, tolerance and compassion. It is tapping into the essence of who we are, what we think and what we believe in. It reveals something about us and what we hold to be true. Forgiveness becomes political when we apply this kind of thinking to our actions in the public realm. Forgiveness becomes political insofar as it is an individual political action that expresses itself first in revealing something of oneself and in the narratives that emerges and finally in how it becomes the basis in establishing new relationships.

Forgiveness is not just a personal or individual act that is limited to the private sphere. Increasingly today there is the realization that forgiveness is also necessary in the public sphere, thus also in the political realm. The politics of forgiveness is urgently needed in the United States, where the polarization is so great that it has virtually become two nations as the rhetoric surrounding our politics illustrates. The only way that equally polarized Republicans and Democrats can live together and stop their partisan sniping is through the politics of forgiveness. That may not happen any time soon but is a willingness to forgive others too much to expect from politicians, many of whom call themselves Christians?

The politics of forgiveness does work, even if it does so imperfectly. We have seen forgiveness in politics carried out in many countries especially where truth and reconciliation commissions have been established. Imperfect as these processes may have been it does not negate the healing power the politics of forgiveness can bring.

Forgiveness is a long process that requires daily reinforcement whether practiced in the personal or political realm. Political forgiveness is even messier because of the many people involved, but it is imperative that this form of politics takes root in every country of the world and especially now in the United States. Conflicts will never cease, but how people handle them is crucial. Forgiveness in politics is imperative if we want to stop doing business as usual, creating more conflict and violence and want to chose to live in a more peaceful world.

What does it mean for forgiveness to be political? I am interested in hearing about what you think. Please share your thoughts on what it means for forgiveness to be political. It is worth a conversation.

There Is Always Good!

 

I was reading a poem this morning which touched me deeply and wanted to share it with all of you. It came to me by way of the Meadows.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated,some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people oiving in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and greamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

I know these are stressful times and if you need to seek help of a professional I am available through telehealth. All be well and stay safe.

The Darker the Times the Greater the Opportunity for Transformation – Milarepa

For many of us dealing with uncertainty the times we are living through can be very difficult. We don’t like feeling powerless and it is tempting to remain passive. Going within ourselves is one way to empower ourselves. If we don’t feel empowered, we can’t stand together. If we can’t stand together, we can’t take meaningful action concerning the difficult circumstances we are facing and we miss a vital opportunity to connect with this most critical moment. How can we create spiritual meaning of this unfolding experience for ourselves? How are we taking responsibility for our part in this chaos?

What we believe about this situation influences how we will act in response. How we respond co-creates the results. We are living answers to the question. The exact same situation can cause one to respond with fear while someone else will respond with compassion. How we choose to respond impacts how we feel and live our lives.

What purpose are we sharing with our words, actions and responses to our family, friends and neighbors? The act of creating meaning begins with interacting with others. Our feelings, words and actions have significant impact on those around us.

Of course, we need to take responsibility and self-isolate as much as possible and that doesn’t mean we can’t ask for support from family and friends. Remember to take time each day to reach out to loved ones and remember we are all in this together.

When you do need to leave your home remember to smile at others, it will help everyone feel better. Thank the people who are working so you can get what you need and turn to strangers and ask how they are doing.

This is our time to think about our values and to remember to align them with our actions. If we can embrace our own feelings of vulnerability and share love with all those around us this will give us meaning and purpose and help us deal with anything with dignity and grace.

Love, Not Fear During These Challenging Times

We are going through some trying times which is creating a lot of uncertainty, lots of challenges and yes, opportunities. We are the ones who will make the choice of how much fear or how much love we will experience at this point in time.

As a psychologist I have been asked by many of my clients how to weather this event. Having to change our patterns gives us the greatest opportunity to rethink our lives. We are forced to focus on what our lives are really about. What do we really want to live for?  What gives our life meaning? This is a chance to let the healing energy of love permeate our lives. We can’t be consumed by fear or deny the reality of the pandemic, but we also need to allow ourselves to feel the love that surrounds us.

Whatever physical and social actions we must take to ensure moving successfully through this challenge, we should do so as acts of love and mutual caring, not acts of fear. We need to stand in love, cooperation and connection with each other and see this as an opportunity to feel a sense of our interconnectiveness. When we can stand together, we break the chains of fear and ultimately strengthen the bonds of community which will sustain all of us.

Here are some things we can do to help ourselves feel better during these challenging times.

  1. Remember to Breathe. This will calm your nervous system and lessen feelings of anxiety.
  2. Take one day at a time and focus on being calm
  3. Create meaning in your life.
  4. Do things that help you feel normal. This can have a positive impact on how you feel.
  5. Have a plan for the day. Organizing will give you a sense of security and control.
  6. Nurture your relationships – Connect with people but don’t focus on the coronavirus!
  7. Live a healthy lifestyle – Exercise, eat well and get plenty of sleep.
  8. Meditate – You may want to begin your day with an inspiring thought and meditate on that for a few minutes.
  9. Remember to be grateful throughout your day and appreciate what you do have. That will also give your day meaning.
  10. Create rituals. This too will give you a sense of stability.
  11. Watch your thoughts. During times of stress we may engage in more negative thinking. Thoughts will affect how you feel. The more positive you can be the less stress you will experience.
  12. Develop a positive philosophy as to what we are really dealing with. This is an important time to get in touch with your personal spiritual beliefs and to deepen your spiritual practice.
  13. Remember to be joyful. There is always something to be joyful about!
  14. Appreciate yourself!

You may want to put some of these tips on your refrigerator door or a place where you can readily see them to remind yourself of the things you can do. If you can follow these tips, cut down watching the news and stop following social media you will have far less anxiety, be much more resilient and feel a lot better. For those of you who feel you need extra help feel free to contact me. I am available for telehealth sessions over the phone. I can be reached at erborris@cox.net. Together we will all be fine.

 

“Love and Compassion are necessities, Not Luxuries. Without them Humanity Cannot Survive.”

Picture of the Dalai Lama

Source: https://www.gazettenet.com/Tibetan-events-26685261

“Love and Compassion are necessities, Not Luxuries. Without them Humanity Cannot Survive.”
HH The Dalai Lama

I was talking to a dear friend of mine, Father Leonel Narváez who has been very involved with the issues of political forgiveness especially in Colombia, his home. I asked him what was his inspiration for his tireless work in forgiveness. What he said was no surprise.

“The importance of forgiveness came to me when riding my bike through a cemetery. I was thinking about death and our finite life. If you are able to understand that your life will end you would understand why you should not hold on to hate and realize that anger and hate are such a burden.”

As he shared these words it reminded me of something else. I remembered reading a book written by a hospice doctor, Dr. John Lerma. In his book Dr. Lerma shared stories from people nearing death. Their messages where all very similar. They talked in depth about the importance for self-love and self-forgiveness and to have loving relationships while here on earth. They too reminded us that everyone here has a purpose – which is to learn how to love unconditionally and to forgive – and that unconditional love and random acts of kindness raise the vibrational level of humanity and spiritual growth for all of us here on earth. These stories were not only mystifying, but very healing and uplifting. Dr. Lerma’s conversation with his hospice patients, at the border between life and death, gives us all something to contemplate.

Abstract photo of compassion

Gregg Braden in his book “Walking Between the Worlds: Science of Compassion,” describes the opportunity forgiveness brings to all of us.

“We are the ones who determine how much anger and hatred we will experience in our lives, as well as how much compassion and forgiveness we will extend to others. We have been given opportunities to hate and the wisdom to transcend our hate. Think of the personal power we must have to move beyond old choices and to respond to life from a place of spiritual wisdom. Our pain and suffering provide us with the chance to learn how to forgive and to know our truest, most beautiful nature. Forgiveness is the gift given to us to transcend our darkness and like alchemy, turn darkness into gold.”

In a world filled with pain and suffering where blood drips from the hands of many people we need to find ways to stop the violence in this world. We have learned that the military or putting people away in prisons does not stop violence from repeating itself. What is truly called for is forgiveness, not only the personal kind but in politics as well. Forgiveness at the end has everything to do with mercy and compassion as very important practices for any person in any situation. Forgiveness becomes a powerful answer to the most important questions of life. And at the end of our lives, for those of us who have been able to practice forgiveness and live our lives from a place of love, our days will be rich and our lives will end peacefully.

Peace, Justice and Forgiveness

If I were to ask you what do we mean by peace, most people would speak of it as the absence of war. Peace is more than that. It is a state of mind, a way of being that can only happen when we are centered within ourselves. It happens when we are in touch with the essence of who we are, our spiritual essence. When people have a committed spiritual practice such as meditation and/or prayer, we see a calmness about them, a peacefulness of sorts. And when people come from a place of inner peace, that exudes outwardly in this world.

We can also ask ourselves what do we mean by justice. I am not talking about criminal justice we hear about in the courts but a higher justice. It is the kind of justice that recognizes all people are accorded basic human rights and transcends divisions of class, race, nationality and the many “isms” that can separate us. The virtue of justice requires not only that we judge others fairly but also that we judge ourselves fairly. Our sense of justice is formed by our beliefs. Just people are wise in the ways of fairness, equality and mercy. People who believe in justice question themselves, are aware of their own mistakes and so they are forgiving of others.

Working for justice is a spiritual practice. It increases our awareness of the interrelatedness of all people and the interdependence of life. Only a quest for justice can awaken our spiritual perception. A commitment to justice may foster a renewed perception of this spiritual reality – as we feel the suffering of others who we regard as strangers with our own selves. It is this kind of empathy which helps us be able to forgive.

This brings me to the work of forgiveness. Social transformation is brought about when individuals and groups are willing to be changed, even as they strive to change the world. Forgiveness, our inner healer is about change. To forgive on a transformational level we have to look within ourselves and shine a light on our darkness to be healed at a deep level. When we truly can forgive, we are given the gift of the experience of inexplicable love which changes us so as though there has been an interior renovation which has taken place and has no need for outer instruction. We have experienced the power of unconditional love and of the knowing or our spiritual connectiveness. The way we cultivate peace in our own hearts that is so powerful that we can weather any storm is through our connection with our spiritual self. The path that gets us there is through forgiveness. This is how forgiveness changes us and transforms us. The way this happens is as we shine a light on ourselves, we also recognize the light in others. It is through this lens that we view justice and know peace. This is where our greatest transformation lies.