Vol. 2, March 2003
* Column The Red Cardinal
* Meditative Writing The Earth's Blossoming
* 10 Easy Ways To Sow Peace Terrific tips on keeping your kool
* Feature Article Lobsang's Sand Mandala: Pictures of War and Peace
* Endquotes A Brief Russian Soliloquy on Compassion
Last November, when the red cardinal laid siege to my house, I was amused to learn that he was caught up in the same illusion as so many people: seeing his own reflection in the window, he felt threatened by the "other" bird and attacked a mirror image of himself, bashing his beak and body against the glass every two or three seconds from dawn into the night. Thwack! Plop! Thunk!
From the start, I felt that the cardinal was an object lesson: if I could not be peaceful about the bird's attack on my house, then how could I expect President Bush to ignore the potentially invasive presence of Saddam Hussein? This notion amused me further, until the cardinal disturbed the sleep of our house guests over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
I began to question his presence, and in a meditative writing, my still, small voice claimed that the cardinal, a gift of nature, would call me to beauty and deepen my understanding of peace and what comes to awaken one and all. My daughters laughed at this, but I tested it and noticed that one daughter had merely been amused by the bird's bizarre behavior, while the other daughter, now admonished to peacefulness, was calming her fury at the cardinal.
A better test came in early February, when I, desperately busy with work and family, suspended my meditation practice, lost my balance and soon wanted to wring the bird's scrawny little neck. Where before I'd appreciated being awakened to the glory of red-streaked skies at dawn, now I caught myself banging my fist against the window glass and wanting to exterminate him with cheap perfume. A kind of chemical warfare, I ducked guiltily, thinking of George Bush and Saddam Hussein.
I know that the only road to peace is peace, yet just like the cardinal, I'd allowed fear and frustration to entangle me in the illusion of an enemy. I got the deeper message: could I not only tolerate but also love another soul who, as I'd just done, looked into this mirror of life, glimpsed an image of himself and attacked what was really an enemy within?
All winter, snowy weather has been our only respite from the cardinal. But a few days ago, despite a wailing blizzard, there he was again. I looked outside, called to nature by this persistent little apostle, and watched billowy, wind-blown snowflakes spiral in every direction to become even more beautiful, and I was reminded that our greatest lesson is to be peaceful and serene no matter how many storms blow our way. For it is only in this stillpoint of consciousness, free of anger, judgment and separation, that we are open to higher wisdom and able to perceive the truth of who we are and what we are becoming, as an ever-evolving collection of souls.
My joy in music and meditation shifted my energies back to their intuitive flow, and I soon followed an inner urge to travel to Philadelphia and watch the gentle Lobsang Samten, a Tibetan monk, create a magnificent Wheel of Life mandala. It was a perfect case of synchronicity. Patiently trickling out a few grains of sand at a time, Lobsang depicted the Buddhist philosopy of the three enemies within (fear, greed and anger) and how we and, by extension, our government and our planet, can suffer terrible consequences time after time, or release these inner poisons through prayer and meditation to reach the peace of enlightenment.
We know this is not easy to do: the red cardinal, accustomed to violence, plunges against our windows day and night. Yet we also know that each thought of love lessens the cardinal's hold on our reality and he comes less often to our windows. Love forms a protective field and no outer force can disturb this field of love, which grows and extends outward to encompass any disturbance and heal it.
On Feb. 9, this was proved by hundreds of thousands of Americans praying with author and peace troubadour James Twyman and 70 others in Israel to build peace in the Middle East. During this prayer vigil, a scientist using a biometer measured a baseline 6500 units of light emitted by people and physical places and watched it surge to a remarkable 9500 angstroms of light. The next day, according to statisticians, violence and crime in Israel decreased by 50 to 100 percent.
I see more clearly now than ever before, as my still, small voice instructs, that the only healer is love. If we can be loving, no matter what comes, we will watch as peace rolls across the land like waves in the sea, washing one and all until all are One and healed and whole and free.
We will do this if we wish to cultivate the earth's blossoming, and if the cardinal is to recognize that his only enemy is within.
The Earth's Blossoming
Q. I try to write of peace and teach it, yet I vacillate between outrage and heartbreak at what is happening in the world. My fear is great and my sorrow over the killing ahead. Please help me. What can I do?
A. Allow each shard of glass to fall out of thy heart and bring the Father's love to each hole. Return to peace and higher vision, for this is needed more than anything else by thee and by the world.
How else may its opposite be stopped but by holding the heart and mind in peace and emitting it? Protest creates more resentment and gives strength to defiance. More articulate powers have argued the same arguments as thine. Hearts have bled and tempers have exploded, yet none of these help the situation and only add to the chaos.
The heart placed fully in the soul's vision sees more than the limited mind of man and calms his easily disturbed thinking.
In each heart is the capacity for greatness and the hope of it. None can tell the moment when promise flares into potential and potential into actuality. But all can perceive it when it blossoms into what it was meant to be, for the fragrance fills the air and beauty abounds. The field of flowers sways in admiration and the weeds fade in the light of the new flower's freshly petaled beauty.
How does one prepare for a blossoming? By being as beautiful as one may be and by radiating the love beckoning the Greater Love and its blessings. One can only be patient and create vast amounts of radiant love, hoping and expecting to blossom and never knowing when until the moment comes.
Will you be ready, dear one, to be born into the Light? Let this answer be yes and begin now to pray for love and light to fill and anoint thee. In this preparation is the peace that is sought and the peace that is needed to bring about the world's blossoming as well.
See how to help the world? Only in this way, for all else fails in the moment and brings grief to self and others. Allow goodness and goodness alone to spring forth from thee now and fill the cup of the world with all that is good and holy.
No greater force exists. Here is All That Is.
10 Easy Ways To Sow Peace
Here are some ways to open the heart to Truth and curb our own aggression in order to sow and cultivate peace.
1. Listen to the higher voice of love. Peace, joy and an attitude of gratitude say we're doing so; gnawing pangs of discontent say we're not.
2. Make wise choices based on love. When we are doing this, we grow happier. When our choices disappoint us, we simply pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try, try again.
3. Spend as much time as possible growing our seeds of peace in the medium of love. The possibilities include prayer, meditation, and spending time with our friends and families and in healthy pursuits that stir up laughter and joy. If you spend hours at your computer, for example, dial up peacechime.org, click on Breathe for Peace, and enjoy this beautiful musical meditation for world peace. It takes only two minutes, but you may want to linger there.
4. Steer clear of thoughts, people and situations that feed anger and fear in you and your loved ones. If you do tune in to a thought, feeling or news that hurts or angers you, close your eyes, focus on the light around your head, breathe its peace and bring it into your body and mind. Do it for a couple of minutes if you need to. It works!
5. Eat balanced meals of living, high-energy foods to build inner and outer strength.
6. Respect feelings of fatigue and rest your body as needed.
7. Forgive someone an injury and contact this person to communicate your love.
8. Practice a wonderful James Twyman meditation from the Spoonbenders Course: Breathe in, see white light moving from above your head toward your heart and say silently, "Light be in me." At the end of the inhalation, hold this light in your heart for two or three seconds and envision your heart afire with this Light. While exhaling, say out loud "Light be as me" and send this heart light out to bless all beings in the universe. Send this light to your loved ones and to President Bush, world leaders and the United Nations.
9. Envision President Bush surrounded by light, happy and joyous, and Planet Earth healed by your love and the love of others planting peace to bring this future about. Ask divine helpers to increase the peace in you, that yours might be stronger as you send it out.
10. Spend time on March 3 (03-03-03) sending the light of your prayers to loved ones and world leaders. Tell everyone you know about these efforts and forward this e-newsletter on to anyone who might be interested in or need these articles. Together we are building a critical mass of peace and it is rippling across the planet right now.
Watching Lobsang Samten trickle grains of sand out of a silver funnel into his beautiful mandala is a meditation in itself. He has used solid paints to tint ordinary sand just the right color, and each rich hue sits in little bowls clustered beside this ancient and magnificent Wheel of Life.
Dipping his silver instrument into a bowl of ochre sand, the Tibetan monk deftly tilts the funnel toward the base of the circle and strokes a second instrument across the first one to control the sand's rate of flow. He outlines in ochre the jagged edge of a cliff above a river, one of 12 subdivided pictorials in the outermost ring of the mandala: It shows a monkey grabbing for fruit, a symbol of grasping and the outcome of the previous eight pictures in the circle. Here are the stages of man's suffering, each one leading to the next: a blind person holds a cane to symbolize ignorance; a man creates pottery to represent conceptual action; a monkey grabs food to illustrate consciousness or mind, and so on, past depictions of feeling, attachment and grasping to the eventual death and endless rebirths that are circumvented, in Buddhist teachings, only by a life of meditation and compassion.
Otherwise, we are at the mercy of the three negative qualities pictured in the center circle of the mandala: the pig, representing ignorance or fear; the rooster, greed or attachment; and the snake, the anger and hatred that destroy our peace. At best, we can use meditation and the art of compassion to evolve into enlightened gods or demi-gods. At worst, we become "hell beings" tormented by life or "hungry ghosts" seeking ways to satisfy our gnawing hungers.
Pigs and ghosts
I have driven here with a friend not only to see this mandala, but also because my inner pig has turned me into a hungry ghost. I am upset about the U.S. war on Iraq and need some answers. On one Sunday night each month, a Buddhist friend picks up Lobsang in Philadelphia and brings him back to my Unity church in Emmaus, where he leads meditations and teaches loving kindness and compassion. He does the same with his Wheel of Life sand mandalas, which won a $10,000 fellowship last year from the National Endowment for the Arts.
I was present one evening when Lobsang taught a chief tenet of Buddhism: to be aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life. This struck a resounding chord in me: "I am not to kill or condone killing in my thinking, my heart and my way of life. I will personally try to protect all that I can so that I am not separated from kindness, love, compassion and God."
I believe this implicitly, yet it brought up some questions in my mind: how will we, and to what extent, defend the people of Iraq? should we use violence to protect ourselves in life-threatening situations? is killing ever justified, and if so, might the American president be absolved for killing to protect whatever it is that he is defending?
I am really in Philadelphia to ask these questions and am pleased that Lobsang is credentialed to answer them. He has been at the center of war and peace.
In 1959, at age six, he escaped the Chinese invasion of Tibet and grew up near the exiled Dalai Lama in Dharmsala, India, where he studied at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, became a Buddhist monk and served as ritual dance master at the Dalai Lama's personal monastery. He had the honor and joy of being the Dalai Lama's personal attendant and later on played that role in the Disney film, "Kundun." He was also the movie's master sand painter and religious advisor.
Lobsang is a thoughtful and sensitive person, as I discover over lunch in the clattering cafeteria of the Community College of Philadelphia. He has won notoriety by being the first Tibetan monk to paint a sand mandala in America, a story covered in New York City by Time Magazine. The next year, in 1989, he painted another mandala for the University of Pennsylvania Museum and was asked to return to Philadelphia to establish a meditation center (tibetanbuddhist.org). He did so and has since founded Buddhist meditation centers in New York City, Reno, El Paso and Hartford, Conn.
Solutions to War
I am spilling over with questions, so I give voice to them: "What do you think about the U.S. war on Iraq?"
Lobsang, over soup and crackers, answers from the heart. "People in the United States are like a role model to me and to the world," he says. "It is important for us to make changes in this country, rather than anywhere else. If the role model is shaky, everything is shaky."
Becoming a better "role model" means spending U.S. dollars to remedy poverty and racism in America, rather than reconstructing a war-torn Iraq, he explains. "We have to learn to live together peacefully and respectfully, not looking at skin color. In the same way, Tibet has to live peacefully with the Chinese, side by side, even if Tibet becomes a free country in the future. So anger is no good at all."
Nor are fear and greed, respectively the pig and the rooster at the center of Lobsang's spiritual truth. "I see these as the real terrorists, the atomic bomb in our minds," he comments. "Peace comes only out of dealing with our negative thoughts."
Patient negotiation is his solution to the Iraq crisis: "If our (U.S.) government is sincere about peace," he says simply, "then discussion makes sense. If there are economic reasons, then that's terrible. If what we really want is peace, then we must sit down and talk.
"There is always a peaceable solution," he adds. "From the Buddhist point of view, if somebody is treating you very badly, you must be patient and sooner or later, the person will treat you more nicely."
I agreed, but there are still harder questions. So I press on relentlessly: What if your very life is threatened by a terrorist gathering forces to bomb your country and kill your citizens? What about Hitler?
"That was different," Lobsang replies. "My religion says no killing, but that doesn't mean no one is angry. It just means that we don't pick up a gun."
He thinks about the question again, studies me for a long moment and adds, "I don't know."
I was disappointed, as I'd wanted some kind of clearcut principle, some absolute answers to make me feel safe, to give me a semblance of control over a conflict that could reel us all into catastrophe. But Lobsang bows goodbye and walks back to his sand mandala, just as my friend Bette explodes with sudden insights of her own.
"Christ on the cross!" she exclaims. "It would take that great of a spirit, manifesting right now, to settle this situation. Where is that Christ power right now?
"It has to build within us to manifest," she muses, answering herself, "so maybe that's why this is happening, because this is where humankind is at this point. So is this all a part of our education, a repetitive pattern occurring because of our trying to settle things in a hurry?"
It's an excellent transcendent view, but I am looking for a practical solution. "Well, Jesus isn't here at the moment," I tell Bette, "but if we could get the Pope and the Dalai Lama to go to Iraq, that would stop the war! Bush wouldn't dare bomb them!"
The Only Answer
The idea is good comic relief, and I am feeling so desperate that I actually entertain the thought of contacting the Pope and Dalai Lama as we walk back to the tall, domed rotunda of the college's historic Mint Building. Here, Lobsang is nearing the end of his two-week exhibition and the next day will disperse the mandala to illustrate non-attachment and the impermanence of life.
For the next three hours, Bette and I watch an extraordinary picture spring to life. The peaceful sound of Tibetan singing bowls echoes around the marble room as Lobsang drizzles his colored sands into the mandala. He is like a prayer wheel himself, framed by a kiosk decorated with colorful sacred hangings made by Tibetans keeping their culture alive.
If I were asked to conjure up a holy man, I couldn't come closer than Lobsang. His shiny bald head turns slowly toward people inquiring about his pictures and, if the group is especially intent, he turns around, opens the belted gate separating his kiosk from the onlookers, bows and motions for people to come closer to see the painting's fine details. For photographers, he walks over to a hooded lamp, flips a switch and smiles gently at the "Ohhhh" rising from the crowd: The illumination reveals the awesome three-dimensional aspect of his work.
Bette and I grow more peaceful in watching Lobsang's meditative artistry and we derive lessons of our own: how there are really no mistakes in the sands of creation, because if we make a mistake, we are able to layer new sands upon it until we get exactly the picture that is wanted and needed, as in life and in life after life.
"It's like a map," Lobsang adds, hearing us. And so is everything in this world a map of human consciousness demonstrating where we've been and where we need to go.
I realize gradually that Lobsang really does know the answer to my question, which is right here in his mandala. In the spirit of peaceful non-attachment, he had been gracious and wise enough to allow me to discover the answer for myself.
This is the kindest way to teach, as I know from experience and the words of Galileo Galilei hung above my desk: "We cannot teach people anything. We can only help them discover it within themselves."
I'd known all along, as it's the very answer that I spend my life teaching, but in my anguish over the coming deaths of people and culture, I'd lost sight of the big picture.
The truth is, there's nothing at all we can do to stop this war on Iraq. The only thing we can do, at this point, is to stay as calm as possible, steep our minds in love, prayer and meditation, and envision the peace that exists on our planet. We must look through the eyes of transcendence to see beyond the veil of appearances to the peace that is the real truth.
Because this is bigger than Baghdad and Iraq and the Middle East and even this planet. This is about who we want to be as a civilization and a universe. Now is our opportunity to cultivate peace in ourselves, project it outward to resonate with all thoughts of peace and shift the consciousness of war to the consciousness of peace.
The I of the Storm
I didn't yet believe all of this on that cold, snowy day in Philadelphia. I just saw it in the mandala and remembered the truth of it.
In the mandala's second circle, just beyond the three animal poisons residing within us, are only two choices, each composing half the ring. We can meditate and purge the poisons within, a choice flowing into calm, loving pictures of peace and compassion in the third circle; or we can choose not to meditate and be driven by the enemies within, which lead to chaos and the path of suffering depicted in the outermost circle of the mandala.
Back at home, I returned to daily meditation and its outcomes of inner peace, mental clarity and higher perspectives. This was an enormous relief, and sure enough, entering the silence dissolved ("spiritualizes," as Edgar Cayce calls it) the fear, anger and attachment which had made me a sad, hungry ghost for two lonely weeks. Max Lafser, a Unity minister visiting our church, reminded me that if I were supposed to do something else to help stave off this war with Iraq, my Higher Self would let me know. That was the missing peace.
Now I could consign my inner pig, snake and rooster to the Cosmic Corral, where the whole barnyard is getting along quite well, thank you. Since I'd begun to listen again, my intuition urged me to read a book I'd felt compelled to buy, "The I of the Storm" by Gary Simmons, and in it I saw why I'd come so undone: besides being so intensely empathetic as to feel the world's feelings, I was conditioned by my childhood to need to feel safe and to avoid conflict. The result was a fight-or-flight response in me that had shattered my peace, separated me from soul and put me into a conflicted state of resistance to the very peace I seek personally and want for the world.
If your intense empathy and/or sympathy is destabilizing your attempts to be peaceful, here's a conflict-resolver offered by Simmons, going beyond the calm "I" of the meditative Self found at the center of the storm. It is to "embrace tiger/return to mountain," a Chinese teaching that calls us to face our fears and thus come back into the present moment. In embracing the tiger, we are emboldened by the knowledge that conflict, the tiger, the abyss are really gifts calling us to release our fears and awaken to our own potentiality-just as the world is doing right now.
"Resist not," Jesus urged, so that the currents of divine energy can flow powerfully and without obstruction through All That Is. Just as I let go of my fear, anger and separation and I surrender to peacefulness, my hopes and dreams of peace are fulfilled by the millions of people standing up all over the world to be authentic and live in the light of their peace-filled convictions.
Ironically, it is global conflict which opens our potential for peace. The magnitude of this is enormous: Whether we become a peaceful planet now or later, we are planting peace for all time.
These are the answers that I needed, and I hope they help you, too. It takes enormous willpower to turn one's back on the screams of the world and go calmly into the silence of meditation to be guided by soul, perceive the Divine Order in all things and build peace in self, others and the world. Maybe that's not your way right now, but mine is to breathe deeply and contribute to these new manifestations of peace in the world.
In this, I keep the critters in the Cosmic Corral and become a demi-god in Lobsang's mandala. For I am nurturing that Christ Spirit in myself and in others and enabling it to manifest in us, as the real Second Coming.
This healing peace rolls across our planet in the beauty of Lobsang's mandala, and you can hear it in the rippling sound of a Tibetan singing bowl: how the steady, gentle movement of the wood mallet around the rim of the silver vessel entices waves of sound singing itself into the world like some magical birth. This mystical song, like prayer, flows out to call any discord into harmony and peace.
There are many ways to help save Tibet, from donations to sponsoring a monk for a year. Go to drepung.org/Fund.cfm to contribute to the Dalai Lama's efforts to preserve Tibetan culture and the sacred knowledge in its music, art and dance.
A Russian Soliloquy on Compassion
"...have no fear of human sin. Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love."
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "The Brothers Karamazov"