Guest Post by Landon Saunders
Everyone needs a champion. Don’t you think?
When we’re struggling, or our friends are struggling, or our communities are struggling we need some champions! If I will be a champion of others, the likelihood is greater for others to champion me.
As we pass through this world, there are lots of ups and downs. Along with some good times, we make mistakes. We fail. We get depressed.
How happy it is when you know one human being who, no matter how deep you fall, no matter how high you rise, no matter how tangled your life gets, there is one thing of which you’re absolutely sure—that this person will be there for you, there to hold up your hands, there to champion you.
Who am I that champion for today?
Kabir was a celebrated artist, musician and religious reformer in India 600 years ago. And speaking of tolerance and inclusiveness, as we often do today, Kabir achieved a marvelous synthesis of Hindu, Muslim and Christian ideas. Here is a poem of his entitled, Stay With Me A While.
I lived with her night and day—
I don’t mean my wife or mother-in-law,
they are both angels.
I am talking about that voice in me that would not
let me hold each moment
as I did my son when
he was born.
How to slay the Nag?
I am afraid I have become fond of you,
if I spoke the answer
Oh yes, I recognize that Nag. Do you? I know some ways She has polluted my life with anxious thoughts; a preoccupied mind; busy-busy-busy-ness; the feeling of living in the past or future but not in the now; and other forms of noise pollution of the soul.
Slay the Nag! says Kabir. Quiet the noisy, anxious voices! No matter what has happened in your life or what might happen, seek to quietly cradle today, cradle this present moment the way you would cradle a newborn child.
It’s a beautiful challenge, is it not?
I think Kabir is trying to help us overcome the universal problem of unlivedness. The playwright William Saroyan put it like this:
“In the time of your life, live—so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed.”
Guest Post by Landon Saunders
Why would anyone want to hold onto something that clearly diminishes one’s humanity? Makes one smaller? Shrinks character? Steals joy?
But that’s what happens when one holds onto slights, disappointments, hurt feelings, mistreatment by others.
The awful truth is civilization is littered with lives wasted by these emotional diseases. What might have been if all that life that had not been wasted?
And yet, we all know how hard it is to let go of insults and injuries. You’ve been wronged! Somebody ought to pay! Or at least acknowledge it. But alas.
So, the question becomes, not how I’m going to get an apology from the one who wronged me (which could take years), but what is good for me now (in these wonderful years), for my well-being, for my joyfulness, for my being the great person I was designed to be.
How to do this is the challenge. Perhaps we should begin with the awareness that others, even your friends and family members, are not perfect. They make mistakes, sometimes at your peril. But you make mistakes, too. Probably.
Next, we should think about pulling out that possibly old under-used, neglected, dusty, maybe even rusty tool of forgiveness. Oh, how we should cherish this great and powerful resource that is always right there at our fingertips!
Give that old tool of forgiveness a few turns. On the hard cases, give it a few more turns. Then claim your freedom.
When you forgive, you are free. You are free to be the person you most are, and the person those around you need you to be.
It’s said that Hafiz (c. 1320-1389) is the most beloved poet of Persia and is considered to be one of history’s greatest lyrical geniuses. He is one of my favorite of the mystic poets. Here is one of his smaller poems:
THE SUN NEVER SAYS
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”
with a love like that—
It lights the whole
This is about relationships, right? It’s about how I treat my spouse, children, parents, relatives, neighbors, co-workers…and why.
The poem raises the question: Why do I do what I do? Why do I treat others the way I would want to be treated? Do I do it hoping it will be appreciated? Or hoping for some kind of response?
Hafiz is suggesting that we’re better off striving to be like the sun: that we do what we do because that is our true nature. We give our gifts of love because that’s who we are. We do right by others because it’s the right thing to do, even if nothing happens.
Sometimes what we do won’t be appreciated. Sometimes it will be taken for granted. We won’t always get the response we would wish for. And that can be disappointing.
Does that mean we call it quits? Or think, “You owe me?” Or become bitter?
Hafiz says, No. That’s when we need to remember that there are deeper reasons to love freely, deeper reasons to keep doing the right thing by people even when nothing happens. There are deep reasons to keep reaching up to that.
For one thing: that is our higher, truer, better self.
For another: that’s how light gets into the world.
As we continue to reflect on poems of some of the mystics, here’s a very short poem from the ever-popular Rumi (1207-1273). This one is just for fun.
Here is a relationship booster
that is guaranteed to
Every time your spouse or lover says something stupid
make your eyes light up as if you
just heard something
Not much to say here. I will only add this:
Someone has said that in life we really only use about 10% of our brains, fulfill only 10% of our potential, experience only 10% of the music and magic and mystery of life.
Now, we humans have been given an incredibly rich and powerful resource called Joy (along with its first-cousin, Humor)—a resource that can grease the wheels of our relationships, smooth out rough patches at work, help us reduce tensions and make connections and make the day feel more fully lived.
And yet, is it possible that we only utilize about 10% of this rich resource?
Consider this: research shows that a little child laughs about 300 times a day. Adults? Only about fifteen times a day.
How do we begin to reverse this downward trend?
Rumi is suggesting one way: to be creative about injecting joy and humor into even the small moments of our day.
Guest Post by Landon Saunders
Forgiveness unburdens the future.
No matter how you look, no matter how many times you’ve performed badly in the past, this is a new day. Forgiveness is the key to that new day because it releases us from the burdens that weigh us down and make us unhappy.
And it applies in some unexpected places.
For example, you might look in the mirror, and decide you don’t like your nose. You must forgive it! It can’t help it, and there’s little you can do about it. The greatest “nose job” is probably nonsurgical. It’s forgiveness. And it’s less expensive.
I’m forgiving myself for losing my hair. What else can I do? Forgive yourself if you think you’re “too short,” “too tall,” or whatever gets between you and feeling better about yourself.
And this applies to parents too. You may feel like you didn’t do your best job as a parent. The truth is, there are no perfect parents. And, if you’ll forgive yourself of any such feelings, your chances of improving the relationship with your children will increase significantly. Forgiveness gets rid of the guilt which makes more room for love.
The psychologist Carl Rogers said, “When we accept ourselves, then we can change.”
Forgiveness is key to that acceptance. You can use it as much as you like as forgiveness has no limits. So, make it the friend you welcome freely into your life. And one thing is for sure: you’ll have more joy!
We continue our look at mystic poets with Hafiz, a beloved poet of Persia (1320-1389 C.E.) who wrote this little poem, How Did The Rose:
did the rose
ever open its heart
and give to the world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
otherwise we all remain too
This strikes me as a simple, powerful statement about what it means to be a human being—both as one who needs encouragement and one who seeks to encourage.
Why do we feel dissatisfied? Why does it sometimes seem so hard to fulfill our lives?
Hafiz suggests that the problem is fear.
For example, fear can cause us to hold back on our love and joy and generosity and warmth and presence. Fear can keep us from giving our best gifts. And the world is poorer when this happens.
Fear makes us close up inside ourselves as opposed to opening up to share our warmth and encouragement and humor and humanity with those around us.
That’s why we need courage, (a word that comes from the French word for “heart”).
It takes courage to be encouraged—to be vulnerable, to forgive ourselves, to change and grow.
And it takes courage to encourage—to really listen and move in with warmth and gentleness and learn how to encourage others to be what they can be.
Now, I’m not great at this kind of work, but I’m learning. Because I think it’s important.
I think Hafiz is right: We are all closed-up roses; we all need encouragement to open up and be what we can be and to give what we can give.
But we are also light. We can find the courage to be an encouraging presence. We can encourage the good in people around us—starting with those we care most about and reaching out to some we may find a little difficult. (It helps me to remember that they may be the ones who need encouragement the most!)
Guest Post by Landon Saunders
According to an old Greek legend, a Sphinx lived by the side of the road. As people passed by, she would ask them this riddle: “What goes on four feet in the morning: two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening?” When they couldn’t answer, she would kill them.
The answer, according to that old legend, was a human being. In the morning of life, the little baby is crawling on all fours. The baby then becomes an adult and walks on two legs during the noontime of life. Finally, in the evening of life, with the assistance of a cane, the human being hobbles along on three.
Human beings—what a riddle we are. Maybe Neil Young’s song, “Old Man,” has a key. He sings, “Old man, take a look at yourself, I’m a lot like you. I need someone to love me the whole day through.” The key to having “someone to love you the whole day through”—your whole life through—begins with loving yourself.
Years ago, I was talking to an audience on how to feel good about yourself. Afterward, a woman came up to me and said, “You know, I’m seventy-six years old, and tonight’s the first time anyone ever told me it was ok to like yourself. I always thought I was supposed to hate myself.” Then she got a gleam in her eyes and said, “Do you know what I’m going to do in the morning? I’m gonna get up and look in that mirror and say, ‘Hey, gal, you’re something else!’”
Today, why not try something different? Instead of looking in the mirror and saying, “That’s the same old slept-on thing I saw yesterday,” why don’t you say, “You know, you’re really something.” Keep that thought in your mind all day. See what it does to your relationships with others, because the truth is, the better you like yourself, the more people will enjoy being with you.
Human beings—what a riddle we are! Love gets us to the best answer.