Our planet’s surface is about 70% water. That means that water is in a lot of different places, in different climates, in different habitats, making an impact in a lot of different ways, catching the light in different ways, and creating a lot of different scenes. Water is a universal solution for a million different situations and can be a mirror for any expression. It seems to be found in any landscape, big or small.
…or enigmatically abstract.
Reflecting shadow and light, stillness and movement, water carries the dynamic play of life.
There’s so much to appreciate about water. And maybe the time to be aware of that is every time you take a healthy sip. Then you can also reflect on how the water you drink got to you and how that process is impacting the planet. But that’s another post…
A “satisfying pairing” you say? Oh, so many come to mind…
There are, obviously, the many combinations of happily mated people:
As well as deliciously married flavors, like cheese and truffles or herbs:
And then there are the natural cooperations of plants and animals, like the monarch butterfly that feeds on milkweed in the larval stage and then benefits from that toxin as an adult that is distasteful to predators and pollinates wildflowers:
Sometimes, though, it’s just as satisfying to put two things together that don’t seem to have much in common – just for the hell of it:
Even if you never liked all those essay questions you answered in High School that started with “Compare and contrast….”, you probably learned something by thinking about them. What I hope to learn in the Match Games I play is appreciation — because the world is full of fascinating examples of A Good Match.
This article is featured in this month’s issue of The Be Zine. The theme is Overcoming Hate. You can read the entire issue HERE.
I grew up with three older sisters. At times when I felt picked on, I would shout out my hurt feelings, “I hate you!” My mother was often right there contradicting me. “You don’t hate her. Come now, settle down…” Consequently, I have long convinced myself that I do not hate anyone, and I’m never angry. I am completely reasonable and can explain exactly why I am disappointed or frustrated. I will cry, but I am never angry. Except that…when I grew up, I yelled at my kids. I punished them. I rejected their behavior. I sometimes got physical, restraining them and even spanking them. But I do not get angry. And I do not hate anyone.
“That’s not fair!”…“How dare they!” I yelled at the television set, which was uncharacteristically out of its closet and in operation in the living room. “Hush now. We’re trying to listen,” whispered my mother. The story of Kunta Kinte set my 14-year old indignation afire. Injustice is wrong – even I knew that! How could grown-ups in leadership be so obviously abusive? How could I undo the damage that was done before I was even born? How in the world could the balance of power be corrected? “I hate authorities!”
My 31-year old husband was having chest pains. The doctor figured it was probably heart burn, but he finally did some blood tests and cardiac diagnostics. It turns out the father of my four young children had diabetes and arterial blockages and needed bypass surgery. I couldn’t understand why this evil, incurable disease had afflicted my family. “I hate diabetes!” I raged. But a metabolic disorder doesn’t choose a target out of malice. What I couldn’t admit was that I was mortally terrified.
These three snapshots into my awareness of hatefulness show me that I can’t overcome the underlying feelings of anger, injustice, or fear by rejecting or opposing them. Neither can I grow in compassion by being intolerant. I can only transcend hatefulness and grow in compassion by practicing understanding. That includes understanding myself – not passing judgment on my emotions, not avoiding uncomfortable feelings, but engaging with them head on. How can I practice this? I slow down and ask myself: What is it I feel? What triggered those feelings? Where am I hurting? What is it that I want that I’m not getting? I want to be kind to the little girl inside me giving voice to her felt needs. I sit with this idea for a while. I thank those feelings for bringing me awareness. I will use that in my decision-making. Then I look at my desires more critically. Is being attached to that thing, that outcome, causing me pain? What if I let go of it?
The more I work with my own feelings and come to understand myself, the more I can begin to understand others. When I see someone who is angry and hateful, I understand that he is suffering. Can I be present with him in this place of frustration? Can I be kind to that little child in his temper? Can I engage him in a discussion about the real causes of his anger, his feelings of powerlessness, his fear? Can my presence and interaction help him realize that attachment to uncontrollable outcomes may be causing some of his suffering? And finally, can I invite him to let it go?
The Thich Nhat Hahn Foundation blog motto is “planting seeds of compassion”. For the Lunar New Year of the Rooster, 2017, they suggested a practice phrase in the form of two parallel verses: “Awakening the Source of Understanding” and “Opening the Path of Love”. The Plum Village practice is to contemplate the first verse as you breathe in and the second as you exhale, “not (as) a declaration, but a living aspiration we wish to nurture”. Overcoming hate with a practice of understanding and love is a beautiful way to transform the world, I believe. I invite everyone to try it with me.
As a positive-thinking person, I am sad to hear so many people saying that 2016 was a bad year. So, I decided to go back through my photos of the year and pick just one from each month to remind myself what I was focusing on and maybe get an idea why it wasn’t so terrible, horrible, no-good and very bad after all. Here are my monthly picks:
I don’t want to say that the year was without disappointment. At the beginning of 2016, I was also campaigning for Bernie Sanders by phone and door-to-door.
On the last day of November, I suffered two losses that hit me very hard: my boss resigned and a dear pet died. I guess my point is that perspective is still up to me. Where I give my heart, where I direct my eyes, where I train my efforts and thoughts is still up to me. And no system can take that away.
May all beings be happy in 2017; may all beings be free from suffering in 2017. Thank you for visiting my blog!
I can totally relate to Cheri’s picture of taking a boardwalk path through a fragile eco-system.
I can also relate to my personal path changing dramatically in 2016. I, too, moved to a new place – to be closer to my job – and then experienced an abrupt twist in the path when my boss resigned. Paths can always lead to the unexpected, even a path you’ve traveled many times before.
Humans have a strong tendency to try to control and predict, to make crooked paths straight, to eliminate as much random chaos as possible. And that means we can often be frustrated, disappointed, or anxious on the path we’re traveling. But we don’t have to be. We can be delighted, wonder-filled and accepting. The path is what it is. How you travel and with what baggage is up to you.
Back in 1997, I self-published a book of poetry called The King’s Gift: Poems and Parables. It contained this one that I titled “Change”:
In autumn, the trees start to sing once again
of the bittersweet mystery of change.
Is it beauty or pain
now attached to my soul?
Is it grief…
In the scarlet and gold,
the blood-red of life’s hold on my heart
and the warmth of its love
mingles memories and years
into afternoon tears
…to the ground.
I feel this way every fall. The change in light makes everything seem altered and thrown back into the past — until my eyes adjust and my brain catches up. Then the brilliance of the season kicks in. I really love Fall for its ability to draw out a range of emotion and hold it, fully aware and unashamed, in its transient environment.
Text and photographs © 2016, Priscilla Galasso. Poetry © 1997, Priscilla Galasso. All rights reserved.