The Matter of Hope

“Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us — to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Master, in his book Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.

Dear readers, during this strange time it seems that most of us need hope to lighten the load of our global hardships. And, even while we cling to hope for the future, we can simultaneously try to remain focused on the present moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh continues, “I do not mean that you should not have hope, but that hope is not enough. Hope can create an obstacle for you, and if you dwell in the energy of hope, you will not bring yourself back entirely into the present moment. If you re-channel those energies into being aware of what is going on in the present moment, you will be able to make a breakthrough and discover joy and peace right in the present moment, inside of yourself and all around you.”

Are you able to enjoy the present moment now? During this time of quarantines, do you feel hopeful or hopeless?

Before my Dad died suddenly in January, I had been struggling for some time with feelings of hopelessness regarding my health and financial issues. Now, suddenly millions of people are homebound and worried about money like I was! I never would have dreamed this could happen.

Strangely, I am actually feeling more hope now than I did before… And even if hope is not enough, right now it is very important. If you feel hopeless, consider these strong words by Christian Mihai, in his post “Life in The Time of Coronavirus”:

“I encourage each and every single one of you to not become hopeless. It’s a sin not to hope. Truly. If you are hopeless, you think of yourself as helpless, and then you’re really screwed. Maintain a positive attitude, make the best out of an awful situation, and keep working towards your goals. One way or another.”

May you be blessed with hope, courage, and strength. May you take delight in small joys and find peace dwelling in the energies of each sacred moment.

With much love and hope,
StarFire Teja

 

Photo by CHIRAG K on Unsplash.

Monday Morning Musings on Whatever Is Next

“Well, I guess we won’t see Grandpa anymore,” my little nephew said a few days after my Dad died on January 25th

Dear living, breathing, reading humans,

As my nephew so aptly put it, once someone dies we no longer see them in the physical world… but I am still hoping to “see” my Dad with my spiritual eyes, to somehow feel the presence of his spirit… And this desire (as described in my previous post “Be With Me”) has me searching for the truth about what happens after we die… Thus I am writing these musings from the bird’s nest in my treehouse temple on this rainy morning…

No one really knows what happens after we die… And yet, many have made claims to know! Do you have a sense, strong or subtle, about the afterlife?

At different times in my life, I thought that I knew what happens after we die, but now I’m sitting in the “don’t know mind” exploring what others believe and watching myself for thoughts or feelings of resonance… For example, recently I shared with an older woman that my Dad had been showing signs of mental decline; he was having a hard time tracking things. I wondered if perhaps he was developing Alzheimer’s, which his mother had died from. Her answer: some people say that the soul decides when to go, so if my Dad was developing Alzheimer’s, then on some level he may have decided to spare himself and his family of that very painful way to die, and so that’s why he died the way he died, unable to recover from double bypass surgery.

Perhaps. But I’m not so sure we humans have that much power over fate or destiny… But then I muse, what is fate? What is destiny? What the *bleep* is this whole experience on planet Earth really about? Why are we here???

I tend to resonate the most with what Swami Muktananda wrote in his book, Does Death Really Exist? Maybe this seems like truth because it brings the most comfort: “It does not come early and it does not come late. The moment of departure is set at the time of birth, and it does not change by even a minute. Death is the one thing in this world that is always on time.”

I used to wholeheartedly believe those words, and I still find them to be very calming. If those words are true, then my Dad had to die exactly when he died, because that moment was already set when he was born. On this musing, I enjoy a Star Wars image that brings me peace: my Dad had to die when he died because it was time for him to join the Force!

And then there are the teachings of the Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who says that there is “no birth, no death.” In his book, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, he writes, “When you lose a loved one, you suffer. But if you know how to look deeply, you have a chance to realize that his or her nature is truly the nature of no-birth, no-death…. You have to be alert to recognize the new manifestations of one person. But with practice and effort, you can do it. Pay attention to the world around you, to the leaves and the flowers, to the birds and the rain. If you can stop and look deeply, you will recognize your beloved manifesting again and again in many forms. You will release your fear and pain and again embrace the joy of life.”

Well, that sounds nice, but honestly, I’m not feeling it. In some ways and in some moments, I have to admit that I can be more of a realist like my Dad. The reality is, my Dad was born of a human mother, and now he is no longer here in the physical realm. So, there was birth and death!! And even if I can figure out how to train myself to see his essence in the birds and rain, that does not take away the pain of never being able to talk to him again here in the physical realm.

My last musing for this post is about near-death experiences (NDEs). The majority of stories from people who have almost died are so similar. Most see a tunnel or a light and feel a presence that they are drawn to, but then they “decide” to come back and live longer on Earth. And, after their NDEs, they claim to live more peacefully, with no fear of death. Years ago, when I first read those accounts, I felt so peaceful about Whatever Is Next…

But, I recently read how science explains the NDEs: As the physical body is dying, the brain secretes chemicals that create pleasant hallucinations… If that is true, then those stories don’t really offer us beautiful spiritual information about the afterlife, but rather they show us a phenomenal capacity of the human brain.

What do you think of all these musings? What do you believe? What resonates as truth for you?

With curiosity and high vibes,
StarFire Teja

 

Photo by Kaz (Karen Arnold) on Pixabay.

 

Kissing the Earth

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
~ Rumi

Similarly, Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

Dear reader, what ways do you kneel and kiss the ground? Do you walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet? What is the most beautiful place on Earth for you?

Photo of red rocks in Sedona, Arizona taken by me, StarFire Teja. The theme for Sedona is “the most beautiful place on Earth” and I certainly agree. In my mind I am ever kissing the ground of that holy red earth!

 

Yoda, Thich Nhat Hanh, & Winnie-the-Pooh

Is anyone else getting excited about the next Star Wars movie coming out on December 20th?! (Trailer here: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be the final episode of the nine-part “Skywalker saga” and it is the third installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017), both of which I totally loved! Did you see them? Did you also love them?!

Are you surprised to hear that I love Star Wars?

Perhaps it goes back to that very first movie in the Summer of 1977, when I was a little seven-year-old and my parents took us to the drive-in theatre to see Star Wars on a big screen under the stars…

I can’t say that I have seen every single Star Wars movie… Nor can I say that I remember much from the early episodes… But what I can tell you is that these last two movies made me feel so “woke” as the young folks say today… After seeing The Force Awakens, I felt sure that all of humanity could be enlightened by watching that movie! The power of the Light winning over the darkness felt so tangible to me, as if I could hold that power in my hands!

One scene from The Last Jedi particularly touches me. I have watched this scene countless times. (You can view it here: The Last Jedi Yoda’s Force Ghost Scene.) Yoda, who had died at 900 years old in The Return of the Jedi, appears as a ghost right as Luke Skywalker is about to burn down the tree and the Jedi texts. Luke holds up the torch of fire, but then he cannot go through with it, so Yoda closes his eyes and summons the power of lightening to strike the tree and burn it all down. He laughs (oh, that laugh!), while Luke is horrified that the sacred texts are burning…

Yoda says calmly, “Wisdom they held, but that library contained nothing that the girl Rey does not already possess. Skywalker, still looking to the horizon. Never here, now, hmm?” Luke replies, “I was weak. Unwise.” Yoda says, “Lost Ben Solo you did. Lose Rey we must not.” To that, Luke crumbles in his despair: “I can’t be what she needs me to be.”

Yoda’s answer is profound: “Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”

And the punchline… “Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

So, I am super excited to see how Luke is going to rise above his feelings of failure. I can really relate to him hanging out alone on an island and giving up on life… It will be very interesting to watch how he interacts with Rey in this final episode… And will the Light finally conquer the darkness?!

Dear reader, if you’ve been following my blog for a while then you know that this Summer I began studying the mindfulness teachings of Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh… Well, in the trailer for the movie about him (you can watch the trailer here: Walk With Me), one of his young monks says, “You know Yoda in Star Wars? He’s a little bit like that.”

Indeed, in his teachings, Thich Nhat Hanh does not focus merely on cultivating the positive, but rather, he also stresses the importance of working with our negative feelings… Yoda advised Luke to embrace his failures… And in his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

“We embrace our feelings with tenderness, with nonviolence, and we soothe those feelings…. After some minutes of being recognized and embraced, that painful feeling’s zone of energy will recede, and you will feel a welcome relief from the grip of fear or pain. A seed from the depths of consciousness manifests, it stays for a while as a zone of energy, and then it goes back down to its original place as a seed. But after being recognized and embraced with mindfulness, it loses some of its strength. The seed is a bit weaker than before it manifested…. Every time the pain manifests, we have to let it manifest; we should not push it down. We shouldn’t try to suppress it. We have to let it come and take good care of it.”

In this book Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches about generating joy and happiness, as well as “gladdening the mind” in which he says there is “an added element of reinvigorating and energizing the mind”… (What I like to call “Happy-ing Up”!)… And in the last section of the book, he advises, “Do whatever you can to bring happiness to the air, the water, the rocks, the trees, the birds, and the humans.”

Winnie-the-Pooh, that lovable bear from the stories by A.A. Milne, brings a simpleminded sort of happiness wherever he goes… Recently I re-read a book from my shelf called The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff, in which he explains Taoism through the characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. I highly recommend this fun little book!

Hoff also stresses the importance of working with difficult emotions: “Instead of struggling to erase what are referred to as negative emotions, we can learn to use them in positive ways…. So rather than work against ourselves, all we need to do in many cases is to point our weaknesses or unpleasant tendencies in a different direction than we have been.”

Throughout the book, Hoff explains how Pooh Bear’s natural positivity makes him the ideal Taoist, who lives in harmony with “Things As They Are” in the present moment. He says, “The Wise are Who They Are. They work with what they’ve got and do what they can do.”

Very similar to Yoda’s advice to Luke, eh?!

And here’s another paragraph by Hoff that reminded me of Yoda’s talk with Luke: “A way of life that keeps saying, “Around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place — Happy and Good — and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way.”

I am really ready to see Luke come into his power in the here and now, as advised by Yoda, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Winnie-the-Pooh!

As Hoff puts it, “In order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to Believe. We don’t need to shift our responsibilities onto the shoulders of some deified Spiritual Superman, or sit around and wait for Fate to come knocking at the door. We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it.” (bold lettering added)

Dear readers, I really hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it for you!

May the Force of Happiness and Goodness Be With You!

With much love,
StarFire Teja

 

Image of Yoda from Star Wars: The Last Jedi… Image credit unknown, this image is on many websites… Background SunStar image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. (If you are reading this post in an email, please click on the title of this article and you will be taken to the StarFire Teja Blog where you can see Yoda. He is such a love!)

 

Monday Morning Musings on Transformation

In my recent post “Transformation Is Always Possible” I shared the following passage from Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm:

“Sorrow, fear, and depression are like a kind of garbage. But these bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. We can practice so as to turn these bits of garbage into flowers. We should not throw anything out. All we have to do is learn the art of composting, of transforming our garbage into flowers. In the practice of Buddhism, we see that all mental formations — including compassion, love, fear, sorrow, and despair — are organic in nature. We don’t need to be afraid of any of them, because transformation is always possible. With just a smile and mindful breathing, we can start to transform them.”

Well, my first musing this morning is about my review of November in my journal and calendar… Even though in the midst of my challenges I feel as though I am failing miserably, when I read through my journal I could see how much progress I am actually making, in working more skillfully with reactions, and in transforming negative thinking into positive thinking. And, I could see my strength, perseverance, grit, and mettle.

When I finished the review, I wrote, “I am feeling the flowers growing up out of the garbage! Even though it was still hard, November had so much goodness and it was much better than the previous three months!”

Dear reader, how was the month of November for you? Do you regularly take notes in a journal or calendar? Do you take time to reflect on your intentions, and celebrate your successes along the way?

My next musing is about how Gratitude is a potent tool for transformation… I really stepped up my gratitude practices in November, and I could really feel the results in a very tangible way. With each hardship that appeared, I consciously practiced feeling grateful for all the blessings in my life, and I came to the realization that for me, all roads lead to Gratitude!

As December begins, I intend to continue practicing the art of transformation… So my last musing for today is about my keywords for this new month. I pray that my “garbage” can be transformed into the flowers of Happiness, Holiness, Peace, and Joy! ~

~ Happiness ~ One of my current affirmations is “I am choosing to be happy, even when I feel tired or sick.”

~ Holiness ~ In this winter holiday season, I intend to look even more deeply into everything, so as to see the hidden holiness and to feel the absolute sacredness of life.

~ Peace ~ Imagining a very quiet place in nature, covered with pure white snow, I intend to generate the energy of Peace in myself and to send that energy of Peace out into the Universe.

~ Joy! ~ In his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh draws this slight distinction between happiness and joy: “In the joy there’s still a little bit of excitement. Happiness is a more peaceful feeling, like contentment.” ~ So, in addition to choosing to be happy, I am also choosing to be joyful!

Beloved readers… May your December be Happy and Joyful!

Do you have any keywords for December?

With hope, positivity, and joy,
Sister Teja

 

Dahlia photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter on Pixabay.