Sometimes you hear someone speak and their words ingrain themselves into the creases on your palms and the blood in your veins. They settle into your bones and stay there, rattling around in your thoughts and refusing to let you hear anything else.
“There is something called peace,” the man before me promised, and in that moment, I knew these words would become a part of me—present in the mist of my breath on cold mornings and the salt of my tears when I cried—for the rest of my life.
Miles from the Syrian/Jordanian border on a chilly evening in the fall of 2014, my study abroad classmates and I were huddled together in a dusty patch of dirt between expansive crop fields and a small farmhouse, speaking with a Syrian woman, a Jordanian farmer who was allowing her and her daughters to stay on his land, and a translator who interpreted their words from rapid, tearful Arabic for us. The woman had recently fled war-torn Syria with her two daughters after the Islamic State (ISIS) had taken control of her neighborhood. The threats had become too stifling, too real, to ignore.
Once again the world is infused with a sense of horror and shock by the heinous attacks on innocent Parisians enjoying a Friday night in the City of Lights. And our collective response sensationalized by the media leads us where? The facts leading up to this attack should in no way be received as a surprise, for the endless stream of human barbarism and war has not receded in millennia. Our contemporary world order looks strikingly similar to many civilizations of the past.
What is an alternative response to terrorism? Merriam Webster defines terrorism as, “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” The heart of terrorism is to get under your skin, churning a sense of dis-ease and fear.
Any response powered by fear demonstrates low frequency, low vibration and has an internal destructive nature that ripples across the collective unconscious. Let us find a better solution than more killing, more savagery and attending to the lowest human frequency.
Much has been said about the attacks on Paris over the weekend.
Who is responsible? Are more attacks around the corner? Are those attacks likely in places beyond Paris? How does Syria tie into this? Should we be mad or sad or scared?
Conversations include so much conjecture, much sympathy and some ugliness but without a doubt, the world is in shock at yet another senseless act of violence claiming so many innocent people.
In the wake of all those voices, one we have appreciated hearing was that of a father teaching his son why he didn’t have to be afraid at the site of Bataclan attacks:
French father and son have the most precious conversation in i…A father and son have the most precious conversation during an interview by french media at the scene of the Bataclan attacks. I saw that it hadn’t been subtitled in english yet, so I made a quick edit to show the rest of the world how freakin awesome some of our citizens are. They’re my heros. I feel better too now! (Courtesy of Le Petit Journal) #paris #bataclan #parisattacks
Original Segment: http://bit.ly/1Lix9L2
Original Video (without subtitles): https://www.facebook.com/PetitJournalYannBarthes/videos/1013093998733798/
One day this week I was sitting on an LA subway (translate: no internet) without emails or text messages to distract me from the growing anxiety and worry over to-do lists and conquering of constantly looming life questions.
“Am I making enough money?”
“Am I wasting time/my life?”
“Should I go home for Christmas or would it be wiser to stay in town?”
“Did I email so-and-so about the time change for the coffee meeting in two weeks?”
“Is marriage in the cards for me?”
“Do I already have a padded envelope to do that mailing or do I need to pick one up?”
Questions were coming at me like I was sitting at the base of a waterfall.
All mixed together. No theme or particular problem to unite them.
My whole life was starting to suffocate me at the Pershing Square station and that part that felt most suffocating was that it was so easy to answer every question with negativity.
A few weeks ago I had the honor of being a panelist at The Parliament of World Religions conference in Salt Lake City. The Parliament of World Religions held its first conference in 1893, and since this date has attracted such remarkable speakers including: His Holiness The Dalai Lama, former president Jimmy Carter, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Vandana Shiva, and Dr. Eboo Patel.
In September, I was in New York City when a professor asked me in person if I would be willing to join a Parliament panel and talk about my book, A Widow’s Guide to Healing, and immediately my heart was in my throat. It was not one of my finer professional moments as I couldn’t even muster up the words, “Thank you.” I didn’t answer “yes”. I said I had to think about it and this was partly true. I would need to make travel and work arrangements to get coverage at my day job, where I am a clinical social worker. The other part that I did not share was that I was scared. I was intimidated by the nature of such a large conference, attracting 10k people from 80 different nations and 50 different faiths, and the other panelists I knew had doctoral degrees from fancy ivy- league schools. I flew home and thought long and hard about this amazing opportunity and why I was so reluctant to accept it. Deep down I knew that it was my own insecurity because I had never have spoken in a panel format and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially since I realized that the professor was taking a risk in even asking me to participate.
And a few days later, it occurred to me that I needed to revisit my original intent in writing my book. The intent was to be able to share the narratives of other widows so that a widow would be able to find herself in one of these stories and feel less alone.Before writing my book, the words that C.S. Lewis wrote “We read to know that we are not alone” rang true to me.And I know first- hand how lonely and scared grief can leave a person. I was 33 in 2007 when my husband, Roy, died from advanced adrenal cancer nearly eight weeks after being diagnosed with bronchitis at his family doctor’s office. Continue reading →
Yesterday, when my daughters and I came home after school, I put on the live stream of Hillary Clinton testifying before the Benghazi hearings.
I’m not sure if they were 6, 7 or 8 hours into grilling Hillary Clinton yet, but at that particular moment, a Republican congressman was shouting at her. My girls watched, first with horror and then laughing – who is that man? (Actually, my 11 year old daughter asked “Who is that crazy man?”) As he continued to give his own theory on Hillary Clinton’s actions around Benghazi, my 8th grader, who has done mock trials in Elementary and Middle School, asked if that is how a hearing is supposed to go – are you supposed to make up someone else’s story? Or, are you supposed to ask questions, listen, and gather information, facts?
But it was Hillary’s demeanor – calm, collected, in control – that made the most dramatic impression on my daughters and me.
She listened. She reviewed her notes. She didn’t attack.
She smiled as a panel in front of her berated her with nonsensical questions. She acted like a seasoned world leader.
Here are a few life lessons that my girls and I talked about after the debate:Continue reading →
“Every two seconds around the world another girl is forced into marriage.”
Upworthy shared this post about child marriage across the globe. Girls as young as 8 years old are being forced into arranged marriages as a result of issues like poverty, culture, and religious pressures. Continue reading →
Today marks the tragic anniversary of the terrorist attacks that saw the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City, the damage of the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. and the loss of four planes filled with American civilians. Even 14 years later, we grieve the unnecessary loss of so many.
In memory, Nasa shared this image taken by a satellite over the city shortly after the event:
At the same time, American astronaut Frank Culbertson was watching from the International Space Station. A letter he penned that day said,
“It’s difficult to describe how it feels to be the only American completely off the planet at a time such as this. The feeling that I should be there with all of you, dealing with this, helping in some way, is overwhelming. I know that we are on the threshold (or beyond) of a terrible shift in the history of the world. Many things will never be the same again after September 11, 2001.”
Author David Foster Wallace spoke at the 2005 graduation ceremony for Kenyon College. His message was directed at students who were about to venture into the world as independent, functional humans but his message on thinking is important for everyone to hear even ten years later. In our current global state, perhaps it’s time to relearn how to think.
“Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe. The realest, most vivid and important person in existence.
We rarely talk about this sort of natural basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive but it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you were not at the absolute center of.
The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU. Or behind YOU. To the left or right of YOU on YOUR tv or YOUR monitor and so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.Continue reading →
I believe that spiritual growth under the right conditions is as natural as breathing…and the conditions of our world are the perfect conditions for spiritual growth. The person you are right now, with all of your challenges and strengths, pain and joys, failures and victories, is exactly the perfect person for the journey ahead. And your life, exactly as it is, is offering you the exact conditions to stimulate growth.
My intention for this essay is to share with you why I believe that existence is an unending emergence of pure love, a perfect and continuous homecoming, in spite of and in a sense because of, all the tragedy, pain and the unnecessary suffering that is endured by so many of us. I would start by asserting that the degree to which we recognize that suffering is unnecessary is evidence that somewhere we already know that love is the ground of existence.
This universe was born out of love and our desire for spiritual fulfillment is an expression of that love, an extension of that love, and the fulfillment of that love. Human life is challenging. We find ourselves caught in the middle between the Reality of Love and the actuality of suffering. I feel certain that suffering is actual, but not real. Only Love is Real.
What is Love? Love is what we feel when we recognize something that is worth devoting our life to. The things we love are the things that make life worth living. They allow us to feel at home in the world and relax deeply and completely into the experience of being.Continue reading →