Letter to My Enemy Within

Dear Kozo,

Your arrogance and lack of compassion have made more enemies for us than friends.

Your selfishness and lack of empathy have sunk our career, nearly ruined our marriage, and destroyed our reputation.

Despite these failings, I forgive you. I forgive your sharp tongue, your lack of impulse control, and your insecurities. I forgive because I don’t want to be like you–lacking empathy. I forgive because by accepting you, I engulf you. I make your need to be special unnecessary.

I don’t just forgive you; I love you. I love you because by loving you I love all my enemies. I love you because I understand how all your trespasses were a desperate search for love. All your attacks were a cry for help. All your hostility stemmed from a desire to be held.

I will always love you because you are not just a part of me; you are a part of humanity. You are Godliness, Christ Consciousness, and Buddha Nature all at once. You deserve my love like a baby deserves a mother’s love. You will always be my baby. I try to lead by example, so that one day you will be a compassionate man.

With All My Heart,

Kozo

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This post is part of the Bloggers for Peace Monthly Peace Challenge: Love Thy Enemy.

For more information on Bloggers for Peace click on the logo in the right hand menu.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Label Me A Loving Abuser

My 6 year old son would not get out of bed until 7:45 this morning. We have to leave for school at 8:15. Then he wouldn’t eat his eggs since he was distracted by his Pokemon cards, so I threw the cards in the garbage. This is when his meltdown started. It was 8 AM, so I asked him to put some clothes on which he threw back in my face. This is when my meltdown started. I grabbed him and put him in the car in his pajamas. Then I dragged him without shoes or a jacket in front of the whole school to his classroom. He was kicking and screaming the whole way, which is why I couldn’t put his shoes or jacket on.

The whole time I was seeing tunnel vision. I did not notice all the other kids laughing at my son or all the parents aghast at me dragging him across the rain drenched pavement without shoes. When we got to the classroom, I awoke from my sleep state and realized how much my son was suffering.

Onelove photoIt is International Label Day at Rarasaur’s house, so it only seems appropriate that I wear the label of abuser or bad father which is quite different from the photo I sent Rara with “LUV” scribbled across my forehead. But like I told Rara in the comments, “Labels like the ego are neither good nor bad. They are a necessary step in claiming our identities so that we can give them up to reach a higher consciousness or what Fr. Richard Rohr would call the Second Half of Life.”

One way I’m breaking the label of abuser is by how I treated my son after I realized that I was being irrational. As the survivor of physical abuse, I speak from experience when I say that although the beatings hurt, they were not the cause of the deepest emotional scars. What really tore me up as a child was the lack of compassion from my step-father and mother AFTER the beatings. No one ever comforted me and explained to me why I was beaten. No one put an arm around my shoulder and told me that the beatings were done out of love.

Jett at school

Photo of Jett Post-Meltdown

So I told the teacher that Jett would be late and we went back home. At home, I let my son pick out his favorite shirt. I washed his feet, fully aware of the religious connotations of this action, and warmed up his half-eaten breakfast. I explained to him how sorry I was for taking him to school in his pajamas, but also how sad I was that he refused to listen to me. I told him that I loved him, but I needed his cooperation if we were going to get to school on time. I also told him how to handle any teasing that the other kids might dish out today. I will make sure to check in with him after school and honor any shame he felt in front of the other kids at school.

Being a compassionate man is hard. Raising compassionate boys is even harder. Social conditioning and past scars take constant vigilance to overcome. The good news is that compassion is a skill that can be learned over time. We can heal ourselves and heal others in the process.

Although I am not proud of my actions today, I am thankful for the growth I displayed and the hug my son gave me when he finally got to his classroom.

Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.

Have you transcended your labels? How? Please share.

 

 

Beautiful Blogger Quotation: Rarasaur

quotation from Rarasaur

I’ve been wanting to use quotations from Rarasaur ever since I started BBQ. Today, I read one of her posts (http://rarasaur.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/did-the-captain-of-the-titanic-cry/) that floored me. It changed my view of love, relationships, and life.

I’m asking anyone who reads this to try to be the person Rara is talking about–be someone who believes in others regardless of all their worst moments. If we can do that, world peace is a piece of cake.

This post is part of BBQ—Beautiful Blog Quotations.

Feel free to join the fun.

  • Take a quotation from a favorite blogger
  • Create a BBQ post with the quotation
  • Link back to the blogger you quoted
  • Tag your post BBQLUV
  • Link to other BBQLUV posts (optional)

BBQ logo

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Compassion Can Make You More Attractive–Thich Nhat Hanh Re-load

A week ago, I published an article about a conversation I had with Thich Nhat Hanh. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. James Doty and the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University, I am able to share the video of this short interview with you. To see the whole Conversation on Compassion with Thich Nhat Hanh go to: http://ccare.stanford.edu/videos/conversations-on-compassion-thich-nhat-hanh/

For more interviews with compassionate men visit http://peaceinrelationships.com/offerings/

Accidentally Insulting Adyashanti

This has been quite a month. From getting blindsided by Marianne Williamson to being empowered by Thich Nhat Hanh, I can’t remember a time in my life so full of growth and discomfort. And the hits keep coming…

Last weekend, I attended a day-long retreat with Adyashanti. Of all the spiritual teachers I follow, Adyashanti is one of the only ones that refers to his own Awakening. I never hear the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh talking about “when I became enlightened,” but Adya refers to this moment of clarity all the time. I find this comforting and valuable wisdom.

Here are some jewels of wisdom from Adyashanti:

  • Seeking is not about what we don’t have; it is about what we have forgotten
  • “Make sure you are always your own best student”
  • In regards to serving others, “if you start with the small stuff, the bigger stuff has a way of finding you.”
  • A realization of unity liberates uniqueness and true individuality. Jesus and The Buddha were highly unique individuals.
  • Adya also gave us all a mantra: “Love Well.” He instructed us to ask this mantra as a question. While doing the dishes, “am I loving well?”

As the day drew to a close, I raised my hand to ask a question, and Adyashanti called on me immediately. I asked about Adya’s description of Awakening. After awakening did one have to re-mind oneself daily, moment-by-moment to release arguments with self, other, life, and God?

“It is like being human. Do you have to remind yourself to be human?”

To which I replied, “Sometimes…”

“Bad example. It is like breathing, do you have to remind yourself to breathe?”

“No, but I’m thinking about the story of how Buddha reacted to hearing the news that his former kingdom had been destroyed and everyone was killed. He apologized to his followers for not being himself. I imagine that he must have felt some aversion and craving on this day.”

“It is a nice story, isn’t it? It makes the Buddha more human,” Adyashanti replied.

Then he talked about a zen master who broke down wailing during a dinner with some students when he received a call that his wife had died.

Some students lost faith in the master, but the senior student told them that they had missed one of the master’s deepest lessons.

I liked the story, so I felt the courage to ask Adyashanti about my Vipassana revelation, “I envision that awakening will not erase all our personal suffering, but will rather increase our sensitivity to suffering in general–that all life is suffering. This is where the service comes in. We realize that all beings are suffering, so we want to serve others to end their suffering.”

“Maybe. I felt like that in the beginning, but then it changed. Later, I did my Satsangs for different reasons. Now, I feel like I’m doing them because that is what I do” (these are rough paraphrases of what was actually said).

“Merely doing,” I said. I was trying to equate Adyashanti’s statements with the Buddha’s description of enlightenment as “merely thinking (cognition)” without judgment, attachment, or aversion, but Adya didn’t seem to catch the reference.

Turns out my question was the last of the day. While helping stack the chairs after Adyashanti had left, I felt an odd disconnect with the other participants. No one seemed to want to look me in the eyes.

On the drive home, I realized that some may have taken my statement of “merely doing” as an insult to Adyashanti. One could argue that I degrading all his teachings, retreats, and satsangs as merely doing. This wasn’t my intention, of course, and what was really impressive is that Adyashanti took no offense–not even a flinch or a pause. He embodied what Deepak Chopra claimed changed his life: Don’t be offended ever again.

So it was another lesson learned. Seems like I have a penchant for insulting spiritual leaders. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Perhaps it is merely doing.

Funny enough, after my question, we only had a few minutes left, so Adyashanti suggested we sit in silence. Everyone started rustling around to get ready to sit in silence.

“No not that kind of silence,” Adya stopped us. “Since that happened, the squeaking of chairs, which was the preparing for silence…Every once in a while it is good to look at even the most innocuous kinds of conditioning. Just the suggestion that we might sit in silence, if you notice how the conditioning goes, some special situation must be met to sit in silence. The way I was was was not enough; therefore I have to adjust and move and prepare for silence which as far as I could tell you were all already in…Is it true that any condition need be met for me to recognize the silence that is here now.”

The silence that ensued was palpable. Guess we were merely being silent.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Do you have a mantra? Have you insulted a role model, mentor, teacher, or spiritual leader before? Please share.

Beautiful Blog Quotation—BBQ

While searching for quotations for the Monthly Peace Challenge, I noticed how many wise and inspiring quotations came from blogging friends’ posts and comments. So I’ve started a new series called BBQ—Beautiful Blog Quotations.

Feel free to join the fun.

  • Take a quotation from a favorite blogger
  • Create a BBQ post with the quotation
  • Link back to the blogger you quoted
  • Tag your post BBQLUV
  • Link to other BBQLUV posts (optional)

Hurt people hurt people

I love this quotation from Broadblogs.com blogger, Georgia Platts. It took me a few reads to figure out it wasn’t a typo, but when I finally got the message, it hit me like a left hook. As a survivor of abuse, I have definitely hurt people. Part of my drive towards peace and compassion stems from guilt from hurting so many others in my past.  What really strikes me about this quotation is the compassion it cultivates for both those who hurt and those who are hurt.

If you haven’t dropped by Broadblogs.com, treat yourself to some sexy politics that will transform your views towards men, women, sex, beauty, and media.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Have you hurt others due to past hurt? Please share.

I Will Rise

How neuroscience offers hope to survivors of abuse and peacemakers of the future

“What happened to you, then?” my step-father’s booming voice echoed out into the early evening crowd at Outback Steakhouse.

The question was not asked with compassion or caring. It was a jab, an attack, a verbal confirmation that I was a failure in his eyes.

I had been explaining to my extended family how my son was a highly sensitive boy (HSB), when my mom chimed in that I, too, was highly sensitive as a child. She used the term “glass feelings.”

I explained to my sister-in-law how HSBs, if nurtured, could become compassionate artists or peacemakers like Abraham Lincoln, Mozart, and Carl Jung.

That is when my step-father interrupted me with “What happened to you, then?”

What amazed me most was my reaction. In the past, an aggressive comment like this would have sent me to fight or flight mode. As a survivor of abuse, my amygdala and sympathetic nervous system were trained to go into over-drive and flood my system with epinephrine and cortisol. With clenched fists, I would normally either ignore my step-father completely, retaliate with a sarcastic remark, or flee the scene. But this time, I remained calm as I stuttered for words.

“Well, I…um…I…um.” The thought of saying “Someone beat the sensitivity out of me” occurred to me, but the desire to retaliate was absent.

Finally, my wife jumped in to help me, “He wasn’t nurtured.” (Sometimes it is great to have a wife who is a psychologist.)

I still remained calm. In fact, I protected my mother by explaining, “They didn’t know about highly sensitive boys back then.”

Writing about this scene today, I realize that my parent may never realize how damaging 12 years of physical abuse can be on a child. I am almost positive that I will never receive an apology.

But I feel no ill-will towards them at this moment. I’m reminded what of Brene Brown said about her parents instilling shame in her as a child. She said she doesn’t blame them anymore than she blames her grandmother for letting her ride standing in the front seat of the car. They just didn’t know any better.

Armsreach

Armsreach (Photo credit: Awen o greu)

Some of you may argue with this point, but the truth is that I have stopped blaming others for my shortcomings. I am thrilled with the idea of neuroplasticity—that we can change our brains and our lives, just by changing the thoughts we think everyday.

I have seen and felt tremendous changes in how I react to outside stimuli. If we can re-wire our lives with just a few minutes of mindfulness and cultivating compassion practice everyday, then world peace truly is possible.

Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.

Have you seen signs that world peace is possible? Have you felt healing occur in your soul? Please share.

A Peaceful Path through Music

Music carved a peaceful path in my tumultuous history like a lifeline that saved me from the abyss

Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” marks a 15 year journey to find peace through music, film, and poetry. I’ve always had a soft spot for Irish female singers–I know McLachlan is Canadian, but I envision her as Irish descent. In 1984, trying to recover from 12 years of physical abuse, I clung to the lyrics of This Mortal Coil‘s “Song of the Siren.”

“Did I dream you dreamed about me?” offered me an escape from reality in the arms of some nurturing goddess. Continue reading

Getting Off the Poop Train

My 3 year old pooped in the tub, AGAIN.

Doodie: "It's no big deal"

I reacted like I normally do–I screamed bloody murder. What was different this time was that I was conscious of what I was doing.

It was as if I was standing outside of myself watching like a silent bystander. “What an idiot,” I mused as I watched me spiral into more and more anger as the poo contaminated water splashed all over the bathroom floor.

I became painfully aware that the screaming me was running a program without any thought or compassion. The screaming me was angry not because of the situation, but because it seemed like being angry was the proper response. The observer me noted that one of the reasons I was screaming had nothing to do with my son or the poo. I was screaming so that my wife who was in the kitchen could hear. I was screaming because I felt unappreciated for ALWAYS having to clean up the poo. Continue reading

Good Guys and Bad Guys–Teaching My Children About Peace

Fox in Bath

The Lil’ Buddha

“Daddy, are sharks googuys or baaguys?” my three year old son asked while he was taking a bath.

It’s a legitimate question. I don’t want my son to classify all sharks as bad, but I also don’t want him to pet a shark because he thinks it is his friend. I heard a story of some little girls who got mauled by a bear because they ran up to it thinking it was a Care Bear.

My older son rescued me, “Sharks are not guys, right Daddy? Plus, there are no good guys and bad guys.Continue reading