Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Only One Left! Beautiful Double Doodle Girl!

This is a beautiful girl, big, incredibly soft, curious and gentle with kids.  She is an athletic and happy puppy.  We start delivering to new homes on the 30th of December.  Remember, our dogs all are vet checked, have dew claws removed, have their first shots and worming completed, paperwork ready registered, will come with a pedigree, blanket, food sample, Well Puppy Guarantee, and puppy care book. We ship to the continental US free of charge.  Please message me here or email me at iantotobali@gmail.com for more information.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Double Doodle Puppies going FAST!

I have been so thankful--we have had the most lovely families coming to select a puppy to be a part of their lives.  Our litter of seven has only three more left (and one is currently pending--new owners are figuring out which one!).  I've put the three picture below. I'm offering $100 off for agreement to spay or neuter and an additional $100.00 off for an agreement to do Puppy Obedience, advanced obedience, agility, service dog or 4-H.  Look at my previous post to get a sense of what comes with our puppies, our guarantees and free delivery program.  Message me here, or go to Facebook and look up Family Wild North American Retrievers to message me.

SOLD! Pink girl is still available--she is highly intelligent, high energy, smaller framed but with a no-shed deeper Apricot coat and sunny, curious disposition. She is my Pick of Litter girl.  She will make an incredible agility dog.  She actually climbs fences with her feet...I mean three feet up!  Unbelievable.  But she sooo wants someone to play with and who she can please.

Orange girl is more laid-back and sometimes shy girl, although when feeding, she will choose human contact over the food, which is interesting. She sports a very soft lighter apricot coat, but has black and pink paw pads and some white toe-nails, which means she sports a parti gene (primary color and white markings)

Yellow boy is actually one of my favorites.  He has white on his paws (again, mostly invisible because of white nails and paw pad colors), a soft lighter apricot coat and lots of size--easily the biggest in the litter right now. Although curious and active, he's fairly verbally quiet compared to his litter mates.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Double Doodle Puppies Available January 6 2017!

This litter is the produce of Family Wild Jigger, an F2B Apricot Goldendoodle and Alexander's Jumping Jasper, an F1B Labradoodle, which means the pups are roughly 1/4 Lab, 1/4 Golden Retriever and 1/2 Standard Poodle. $1200.00, free delivery in Michigan, can ship to continental US. Dew claws removed, well puppy written guarantee, shots, vet check and wormed, CKC registration papers, pedigree, microchip kit, blanket, starter amount of food included. If shipping, you will keep the crate. We used Early Canine Neurological Stimulation routines with the pups from Day 6 forward, as tested by the US Military. Born 11/6/2016 and ready to go home on January 6, 2017. Accepting $200 non-refundable deposits. Non-chipped credit card on site, cash and money order and PayPal accepted. You can find us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FamilyWildAmericanRetrievers/  Please message me if you see a pup you are interested in.

Check out this site: http://www.breedingbetterdogs.com/article/early-neurological-stimulation

Yellow Collar Boy has white on each paw, is very curious and verbally quiet; light parti-apricot, flatter coat with a very heavy body and bone structure, largest of litter.

Purple Collar Boy is very quiet and shy—he stays still to consider new situations, and I expect will bond tightly with a family or individual. He is definitely a thinking pup.

Pink Collar Girl is a deeper apricot, inquisitive and athletic, a superb agility prospect, with a very curly coat. She is my  Female Pick of Litter for coat and type and disposition

Orange Collar Girl sports a very light parti-apricot almost crème coat, some white on paws. She's a good “listener”; I would label her an obedience prospect.  She will voice slightly when surprised or worried.  Slightly flatter coat, but incredibly soft.

Tan Collar Boy is a parti-apricot with white on chest and tip of tail. He's energetic, inquisitive, and very interactive and curious—moves toward unusual sounds. He really likes men’s beards! J

Black Collar Boy is an lovely parti-apricot with white on top of his head, chest, paws and tip of tail—most “chrome” of the litter.  And the most curl. He is my Pick of litter boy for best coat, best type.  Very quiet personality, “thoughtful” and cuddly. He will also be a smaller dog--around 35 lbs.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Deep Communion Radio Show, December 21 2016

December 21, 2016 I hope you can join me for the advent of my new international radio program.  It will be called Deep Communion and will feature writers, ministers, thinkers, artists, gardeners and teachers who are doing deep spiritual work in their fields. Sometimes we'll be looking at Emerging and Progressive Christianity, sometimes talking about how nature can heal a sick soul.  Other times, we'll explore the Way of the artist and writer, or consider the magic of making of music.  The touchstone throughout will be ways to access Mystery or Spirit, not just inside the walls of a church, mosque or temple, but also in the embrace of the woods and water.  We'll play with color, sound, the written word, meditation, contemplation, mindfulness, yoga and walking--the pallet is endless and exciting.

My first guest on December 21, 2016 will be Sue Sutherland-Hanson (pictured below). To tune in, visit Artist First Radio on the internet, or check by later and download the free MP3 of the show at that site!  Do you have a person who you think would be a great fit with my show?  Message me and we'll get connected.

Sue Sutherland-Hanson grew up in a commercial fishing family in Port Townsend, a small town in the Northwest corner of the nation on the Straits of Juan de Fuca that open to the Pacific. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature, a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Students of other Languages (ESL) and a Masters of Divinity.  Sue taught internationals English as a Second Language at Edmonds Community College for over thirty years. In her Quaker seminary, Sue focused on writing as ministry, sacred texts, stories, practices and the arts that explored questions about the mystery and mystical in life and how we relate to ourselves, each other, the ancients, the earth, the universe, and the Divine.

Sue has a brand new chap book of poetry called Stars and Strangers available through Finishing Line Press and Amazon.  Besides her collection, co-authored with Kim Nunneley of Michigan, a book of poems entitled, Invitation to Openness,  her poems have been published in a variety of publications.  

In addition to writing, Sue, now working towards ordination through the United Church of Christ, teaches workshops on writing as a listening practice, sacred creativity, the wisdom of the body, labyrinths, meditation, and Celtic spirituality. When not writing or teaching, she enjoys walking, leading groups on Celtic pilgrimage to Scotland and Ireland, playing with her grand-children, or officiating weddings.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Non-Dual Gospel of Matthew: Matthew 11:12-15

“From the days of Yohannan The Baptizer until this hour the Kingdom of Heaven is led by force and the violent are seizing it. All The Prophets and The Written Law have prophesied until Yohannan. And if you will, he is Elijah who was to come. Whoever has an ear to hear, let him hear.”

whose name means
Yahweh is my God,
who defeated enemy and idol
and who whined in despair
thinking you were the only one
who could hear and obey God--
Who were you
after the earthquakes and storms of your life
passed by
when you finally
had ears to hear
the still small voice?

And Jesus asks, pointing beyond
Scripture and Law-

Who are you, dear listener?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Donate Your Gently Used or New Yoga Mat!

The Alpena Warriors Girls Ice Hockey Team has committed to conditioning and pre-game Hatha Yoga practices this year, but they need your help.  As the Alpena Lady Wildcats assistant golf coach for the past two years, I’ve seen so many previous and PREVENTABLE game-related injuries that I started teaching yoga to better condition and prepare our golf team for play.  By introducing a comprehensive yoga for athletes program to our U19 girls (ages 14-19) hockey team, I am hoping to send these young women out onto the ice and into the world with sound bodies, clear minds and a different way to move in the world. As you all know, Yoga will not only minimize sport injuries, and indeed, make for a better player, it will surprise them with a lifetime physical practice.

Your gift of a yoga mat will go a long way to support this amazing and talented group (did you know there is no other hockey team in Northeast Michigan this year, yet it has put four girls on college teams over the past few years?)  Let’s give them the gift that the pros use—Hatha Yoga.

You can bring your mats to the ice rink (attach a piece of paper with attention to Kim or Mike Nunneley), drop them by the Team One office across from the OWL or message Kim or Mike to pick them up. Be sure to include your name and address and we’ll get a thank you card out to you asap!

Thanks so much! And Namaste!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Non-Dual Gospel of Matthew: Matthew 11:10-11

Matthew 11:10-11

“For this is he about whom it is written: 'Behold, I am sending my messenger before your presence that he may prepare the road before you.' “Amen, I say to you, that among them born of women there has not arisen a greater than Yohannan (John) The Baptizer, but a little one in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.”

Open your eyes, dripping from the river,
and smell how sweet the raw, dry air.
Bird calls, the sigh of others on the bank,
the way your clothes undulate with the current,
steady, the hand on your shoulder ushering in the newborn,
blinking in surprise that the Kingdom has been


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Non-Dual Gospel of Matthew: Matthew 11:7-9

Matthew 11:7-9   

 7As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8“But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9“But what did you go out to see?

Three times, he asked them to “see”.
What lies beneath the outer form?
Look too low, and you observe what is commonplace.
Gaze too high, and you create false majesty.
Stare too much and you do not hear
 the message
the shared heart-beat.
Is this not like reading scripture?


Monday, September 19, 2016

High Schoolers Taking College Classes--Not a Fan

Sometimes progress isn't.

Image result for image of a studying teen

I help coach a high school girl's golf team and these past couple of years I've been watching something very disturbing.  Kids at the senior high have the option of taking college level classes while they are still in school.  At first glance, this sounds like a great idea--a few classes to challenge bright students, tuition free if they pass the class, and shortening their expensive college curriculum when they graduate.  What's not to love?

Well, a lot actually.  I decided to make just a short list:

1. College classes take priority over life and extracurricular activities.

Now, I can hear parents scratching their heads.  Shouldn't education come first?  Well--yes and no. You see, these are formative years, when hormones and societal pressures are at their peaks, when learning to work with teams as well as by yourself is the best indicator for a successful adult life, and a time when most teens are still trying to figure out what they want to do in terms of careers.  I have watched so many of our young women writhe with the pressure of too-difficult classes while they attempt to work, play instruments in the school band and practice their sports.  Adding college level course work has made this trend ever more pronounced.

2. College professors aren't trained to understand the time constraints and needs of students 16-18 years of age.

Several of our girls have missed not only practices but actual tournaments because college professors believed their test or class was more important that the young woman's sport.  I just want parents to consider--what will the girls remember more?  Chemistry or the medal they won, the team plaque they helped bring home? The team-based learning is just as important for kids this age--creating good sportsmanship, self-esteem, physical health, on and on.  And it is only available for a fleeting period of time. Professors do not factor in the very real complexity of a young woman's life at this age--that her life is more than her college class.

3. It's the "Race to Nowhere"!

If you want to view a film that is a real wake-up call, I suggest the documentary film called the Race to Nowhere.  It examines the pressure cooker of too much, too soon, faster and better culture on high school students.  When teens are driven by adults, society or themselves to perform many activities perfectly, with an eye on getting into the best schools, the result is often tragic levels of anxiety and burnout.  Teens desperately need down time--it's when their bodies grow and rebuild, their minds expand and dream and they get to know the play of their emotional selves.  They may be teenagers but they need time to "hang out" and "play".  If they don't take the time to do this when they are young, the cost when they are older will far outweigh saving a few hundred bucks on a college course.

4. Keeping up with their friends

Sadly, some girls I've watched are really more worried about copying what their friends are doing, regarding college classes in high school.  These girls are really avoiding being true to themselves and their own needs and time constraints.  This is the age when conformity hits a high note, and to me, taking college classes while losing out on the opportunities of sport, theater, and service clubs because "all my friends are doing it" is not much different than drinking or smoking because "all my friends do it." The cost can be just as high.

5. Failing now, fearing later

The young person who struggles with college content (designed for a more emotionally mature and experienced young adult) is learning an anti-lesson. Much like children who are double-promoted in elementary school, these children will find themselves as emotionally and socially behind when they do go on to real colleges and universities. Their very youth will be their disadvantage.  And if they fail? The message they tend to tell themselves is that they aren't smart enough to do college when really, they just were not ready on so many levels. It's a failure that may deeply affect the rest of their lives.

If you have a child who values sport, works as well as goes to school, or has other extracurricular activities that bring them joy and self-esteem, please, please, please dialogue with your child about these points.  The programs are so new, we are just now beginning to consider the fall-out.

And you don't want that fall-out to be your beloved teen.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Non-Dual Gospel of Matthew: 11:4-6

Matthew 11:4-6
Jesus answered, 'Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, those suffering from virulent skin-diseases are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the good news is proclaimed to the poor; and blessed is anyone who does not find me a cause of falling.'

Tell John
What you see and hear—
Not what you believe,
Not what you wish,
Not wild ideations
Or wishes for a rescue-bent messiah.
It’s so simple, the answer given,
As long as you are not looking for God,
You can experience his Already Here-ness--
But not in the title or the role.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Non-Dual Gospel of Matthew: 11:1-3

Matthew 11:1-3

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of Christ he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is come or shall we look for another?”

From the echoing prison,
the shade of the bars
striping his face,
This is not faith—
it is the raw cry,
the corporate “we” padding,
the terrible blade and end.
when life turns iron and cold and

takes away our power to See.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Paths to Understanding, Essay 4: Beyond Tunnel Vision

Image result for public domain image of tunnel

“The meaning of scripture is shaped by social relations.”
                                                                Robert Wright
                                                (As quoted in Religion Gone Astray, p. 155)

Our opening quote today could equally be applied to countless topics far beyond the scope of religious literature-- from music and art to diet and exercise tracts. As I have pointed out in previous blog entries, we see the world as WE ARE. To help clarify what I mean, here is a great teaching story I heard from my father at a very early age:

A man walks into a bar, orders a drink and starts chatting with the bar tender.  “I just moved here for a new job. How do you find the people in this town?” he asks.

The bartender wipes at a wet spot on the wood.  “How were they in your town?”

“Rotten.  Stab you in the back in a heartbeat.  Cold.  Not good people at all.”

“Yup, same thing here.”  The bartender excuses himself to serve a man sitting a couple of seats down the bar.

The first man watches him go and then hears the other diner ask a similar question to the one he had posed.  And again, the bartender asks how people were in his own town.

The diner replies, “Oh, they were great.  Easy going, always willing to help in a pinch.  Good solid folks.”

“Yup, same thing here,” the bartender replied.

“What!” the first man cried, leaping to his feet.  “You just told me the folks here were rotten, and then you go and tell this fellow just the opposite.  Watcha doin’, fishing for tips?”

“Nah,” the bartender replies with a grin.  “I just find people are pretty much what you expect them to be.”

Part of learning to understand who we are, so we can see others as they are, is identifying our own form of tunnel vision.  Now this very human "narrowing" of the mind sometimes gets a bad name for itself, implying that we are not “educated” or “fully informed” or that we are stuck in our own little corner of reality.  The hard truth is, most of us do not possess ears that hear or eyes that see the whole picture of the faith we practice or even the entire truth of the world around us.  However, What we place in our tunnel deeply affects the relationships we have with others and even with the unconscious parts of ourselves.

If we choose to hold that Muslims and Jews are in the “wrong” religion, that homosexuals are not equally the children of God, that violence is a perfectly acceptable tool to “get our way” and is sanctioned by our scripture, on and on, we lock out our ability to meet and see the human being our labels and judgments obscure. And sadly, we limit our own ability to work on positive traits within ourselves like unconditional love, compassion, and kindness. In the end, the people we choose not to know are not injured by such tunnel vision—we are.

It’s entirely possible for tunnel vision to be loving, non-judgmental and filled with light.  
And I would say it is a positive place to start because it encourages healthy relationships with others.  Robert Wright, in his New York Times editorial about reading and studying the entirety of scripture goes on to say:

“Devoted Bible readers who aren’t hateful ignore or downplay all these (violent or homophobic) passages rather than take them as guidance. They put to good use the tunnel vision that is part of human nature.”

At some point, however, the tunnel must widen. How can we say we “know” music if we have never allowed ourselves to experience the whole spectrum of this art?  Notice, I didn’t say “like the whole spectrum”.   Think about what you listen to, day in and day out.  Have you ever tried to listen to different kinds of music? How did that feel? When we say we “hate Polka” or “dislike Country Western”, what does that mean? How often have we actually just sat and listened to these forms with an open mind and heart? And here is the very interesting part: do you know someone who loves kinds of music you don’t? How interested are you in their hobbies, their work, their favorite sports team? What are their children like? What gives them hope for the future?  What do they most fear? Are you able to stay open to them, even love and enjoy them, though you don’t share musical tastes? This is what interfaith dialogue is like sometimes—we have to sit and hear the entire spectrum of religious experience long enough to be in relationship with another, even when that spectrum introduces us to ideas never glimpsed in our own tunnels.

When topics like homophobia, the role of women in religion, the dark side of institutionalism, elitism and what-not arise, we may be pushed well outside of our particular tunnel. I am advocating that the relationship we have with other PEOPLE is always more important than the tunnels we all inevitably create as part of being human.  Are we able to stay in dialogue, listening deeply? Are we able to see the comfortable and uncomfortable issues that arise without objectifying the person or people we are speaking with? In other words, can we place our shared humanity first and our own opinions and viewpoints second?

In a few weeks, the Three Amigos will visit Alpena, Michigan.  The challenge I make to all my readers is this: can you see the men more than their roles? What questions might you ask if you were making friends with them, rather than just evaluating them as “Priest, Rabbi or Iman? Because if you can challenge yourself to think in this way, you open yourself to others in your community who are not exactly like yourself, and in so doing, you make your tunnel a great deal more spacious and delightful to live within.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Paths to Understanding, Essay 3: Triggers of Violence

Image result for image of two people yelling at each other
In this blog entry, I’ll be starting an exploration of what triggers violence between religions. I say “starting” because this is a field that is forever evolving.

Triggers of Violence—a Beginning List

Projections vs Truth:  Do you really know if you want to be “right” or if you wish to live a life free of violence?

When faced with choosing between being “right” or achieving peaceful and non-violent societies, I think most of us would choose peace, but that is often another example of a conditioned response. 

Consider the following questions:
How do we achieve what you consider to be “real peace” and what does that look like? Be concrete!

What exactly does “nonviolence” mean to you?  Be concrete.

Give examples of a kind of peace that does not, in some way, impinge upon the rights, cultural mores or religious convictions of others.  Is this possible? If so, how can you and others work toward it?

What would you do to have peace (as you define it) and how far would you go to make your definition of peace a reality? Take a moment and consider that question and write down your answer. Do you see any seeds of violence in this reply?  How does that make you feel?

Richard Rohr, a modern contemplative thinker in the Franciscan tradition of Christianity makes this observation:

“Good religion is always about seeing rightly.  “The lamp of body is the eye; if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light” as Jesus says in Matthew 6:22. How you see is what you see.  And to see rightly is to be able to be fully present—without fear, without bias, and without judgement.  It is such hard work for the ego, for the emotions and for the body that I think most of us would simply prefer to go to church services.”
-The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, Pg. 62-62
Richard Rohr

If we consider “peace” as one of the central aims of “good religion” and a non-violent culture, then we are once again in a position to do the uncomfortable work with ourselves, our fears, our biases and judgments.  Until we undertake this work of gently understanding ourselves, we will not be able to create peace within ourselves or our institutions.  It truly begins within each of us.  As the Three Amigos (Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman) share, “One can only get to true peace peacefully” (Mackenzie et al, p. 76)    

Tunnel vision: picking and choosing scriptural passages to support violence

As Imam Jamal Rahman points out, Rumi, one of the finest of the Sufi poets from the 13th century wrote: “A Bee and a Wasp both drink from the same flower.  One produces honey, the other a sting.” Why? Because it is in their nature to be what they are, no matter that the material comprising their reality is the same. This observation can also be applied to us:  How we read scripture tells us more about ourselves than it does about any absolutes. Or as Richard Rohr said above, “How you see is what you see.” Scripture is beautiful because it is a mirror—in the words we chose and use from this vast resource, we have the perfect image of who and what WE are internally, and using that reflection skillfully, we can begin to work toward transforming ourselves. However, if we have a bias, like thinking all Muslims are violent, that is the only thing we shall see in the Qur’an, and we will likely take the passages we find out of the historical, literary and cultural contexts to which they belong. To make matters worse, we often do so while ignoring the violence in our own scriptures. The scriptures of all faiths are neither wholly violent nor wholly peaceful—they are, as my previous blog entry shared, merely snapshots of a once-lived reality, captured in a language often not our own, translated, commented upon, codified, mystified and simplified as needed.  Scripture is a lens through which we view our current lives, a lens which we often sadly craft to protect and defend ourselves, our egos and our institutional personas. Using scripture to encourage violence tells the world more about the violence in yourself than in your professed religion. And it tells us almost nothing about the nature of God. That should be a sobering wake-up call indeed. But it is also the good news—if we find ourselves horrified by that violence, we are now aware of it and can work toward a change of heart (repentance or metanoia).
      Media caters to OUR tastes

On page 79 of Religion Gone Astray, the authors point out an incredibly important facet of understanding media’s part in promoting violence: MEDIA CATERS TO OUR TASTES AS A CULTURE. If we did not, as a culture, possess a taste for violence, then our news reporting, talk shows, books, movies, music, games, etc. would not mirror this back to us because it would not be economically attractive to do. These industries are driven by our tastes and expectations as much as they, in turn, feed this basic craving for violent content. Once again, we are forced to see that the work of the individual is critical in setting up the conditions for violence to end. One by one, we can make choices that begin to influence the larger culture. Changing the human heart is the first step toward changing the world. In fact, most religious systems would agree it is the only way.
      Conditional love

Another painful cornerstone of any kind of violence is the inability of people to practice, in a practical manner, unconditional love.  As I explored in a previous blog entry, love with conditions often masquerades as unconditional love.  Notice this common statement: “I love you but I don’t like you.”  These words immediately point to a set of expectations and judgments that create parameters around a relationship. The child will tend to hear “I don’t like you” rather than “I love you.” Of course, truly unconditional love may be a Divine trait more than a human one; yet, I personally believe that any religious or social system that actively teaches that God or Mystery engages in human expectations of behavior is showing more about their institution or culture or point in history than they are about the Ground of Our (collective) Being.  Conditional love allows a cultural system to create reward and punishment ideologies based on legalistic wording and concepts that are firmly rooted in specific times and places. I fully believe, as does Richard Rohr, that unless God is better than the very best human being you know, you probably are not really engaged with God.

When we chose to practice unconditional love, we are thrust into yet another opportunity for transformation and growth.  We have to begin to clearly see how our cultural and religious expectations color the judgments we make about other people’s lifestyles, religious preferences, sexuality, and so on. Unconditional means to literally have NO CONDITIONS THAT WOULD PUT ANOTHER BEING OUTSIDE OF GOD’S LOVE and requires us to suspend our judgement—the very deep work of “judge not lest ye be judged”. It does not take much musing to see that this is a much harder undertaking than merely following religious codes and rules or doing things “right” in order to get some hazy sort of other-worldly reward. (By the way, have you ever noticed that promise of heaven or of being “chosen” flies right in the face of unconditional love? These two concepts cannot co-exist!).

Practice the Mind You Want to Inhabit

So, transcending our own taste for violence, as well as the very human predilection to use religion to support violence, requires us to make concrete choices every waking moment.  And these choices must be based on much more than “thought” or “ideas”. We cannot really argue or conceptually think our way out of violent behaviors and thoughts.    Rather, we have to know, on a deep and nonverbal level what unconditional love feels like and find it to be a more enticing experience than violence.  In other words, we have to enter into a state of unconditional love and let become the very ground of our being.

So how do we do this? Certainly, we can monitor the way we use language and gestures.  Certainly, we can forgive and accept forgiveness.  Certainly we read books and teach others ways to live nonviolently.  But if any of this fails to touch us deeply, well below the level of reality where we play with words and concepts, ideas and judgments, then we have not truly entered into a transformed state that ensures a more lasting peace.

Many of us are familiar with a story told by the Dalai Lama.  One day he was greeting monks recently released from prisons where they suffered terrible physical hardships.  One very old monk leaned in and confessed, “I was in great danger.”
“Of losing your life?” the Dalai Lama inquired, his eyes widening in concern.
“Of losing my sense of compassion for my captors,” the monk replied.

So how did the monk, immersed for years in a world of deeply personal violence and deprivation, preserve his ability to not only refrain from violence but actively practice a mind filled with compassion? The answer is incredibly simple and incredibly difficult at the same time. 

Most likely, he practiced meditation. He practiced contemplative prayer.  Not the kind of prayer that asked for release or even for help to keep his sense of compassion.  Not the kind of prayer where he railed at his captors, asking the divine for retribution. Not the kind of prayer that asked for reality to be anything other than what it was, nor for his captors to be anything other than what they were.  Rather, he practiced an open heart, not shutting down or shutting out.  He practiced abiding in what a Christian might call “Presence”, the Holy Present Moment, resisting nothing, wishing for nothing, expecting nothing.

In that kind of contemplative space, the web of cultural bias, religious upbringing, our age and the age we live in, our gender, and a thousand other conditioned strands that make up our personality and mind finally stop vibrating and agitating and short-circuiting our ability to stand unguarded and “naked” in the world.  We are who we are and accept others are who they are without criticism, judgement or the need that they become like us.  Isn’t it telling that Moses was told the name of God:  I AM. Right here, immediate present, awake, open-hearted, a state of being more vast than even the concepts of peace or violence.  Yes, we too can practice this, each within the cradle of our own tradition, and begin to practice the mind, emotions and body that we want to inhabit and so infuse the world with our basic sanity.