The Grace in Aging

Kathleen Dowling Singh’s The Grace in Aging is a wakeup call for elders.  It tells them how they could make the best of their lives through mindfulness and meditation.  The author examined many aspects of aging, virtues, and the benefits of seniors that persevere in doing these spiritual goals.

Singh looked at elders’ habits, problems of aging, dying, and death, while exploring the intricacies of what it means to be alive.  At the end of the book there’s a questionnaire that could be answered by readers to find out their views on the aging process.  The author referred to Eastern and Western faith traditions in determining the phases of elderly living.     

Looking at Mindfulness

Christopher André’s Looking at Mindfulness is a primer of twenty-five lessons on mindfulness.  With pictures to supplement the text he explained how people could be more aware of their bodies and their environment and not be like robots.  Advice is given concerning how to turn off and adjust to the multiple stimuli of film, television, radio, and the Internet.  These media were seen as corrupting minds and causing people to be unable to concentrate on what really matters in life.

By breathing and being silent people will become aware of their true selves and savor the precious moments of life.  With stillness and reflection they will be alive in the world.  These practices they should make as part of their daily lives.  Meditational  benefits will give them a sense of purpose, release stress, and help them to live compassionately.

However, these goals have to be persued consistently.  They could start at anytime in one’s life, even if it’s just waking up in the morning, preparing for work, being at your job throughout the day, while at home, or before going to bed at night.  So when people are faced with difficulties like having problems at work, conflicts with their boss, marital quarrels, or are suffering from stress, being mindful could well bring release, and ease the pain.

Mindfulness isn’t a panacea for every situation.  It will only allow an individual to live sensibly  with good and bad experiences.  They will be able to deal with their problems realistically.  With breathing and stillness they will learn to minimize conflicts.  It wasn’t known if they will eventually feel better, but they would understand their challenges.  André wrote that hurtful situations might last only for a time with mindful practice.  The tenets of his teachings are descriptive, easy to follow, and were supported with quotes from pyscho-analysts, and thinkers of religious traditions.          

Aloe Vera God’s Angel

O behold the green aloe with succulent stems

It’s a Godsend

And people see this plant as an angel

Strangers – ordinary folk, gardeners,

And farmers do their part to grow this plant

They are sure to care and nurture it in the right way

And that’s the love they share with nature

Aloe Vera must be watered infrequently to discourage rot

So, its caretakers have to be sure the soil is dry before watering it

The aloe needs six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily

And there must be sandy soil if the plant is grown in-or-outdoors

If the tips of the aloes become brown

It’s a problem with too much watering

This plant even grows well indoors with indirect sunlight

But still growers must check the soil

And remove roots that rot

Aloe Vera is an angel because of its life-generating properties

And it’s a popular ingredient in Indian and South Asian dishes

It can be eaten cooked or raw

But what else is this plant good for?

For centuries it has been used as a tropical skin cream

It’s a laxative that helps with constipation.

The meat inside its leaves is used for treating skin conditions like psoriasis

And aloe creams have a calming effect by reducing itchiness, and inflammation of the skin

“God, thank you for Aloe Vera – the flourishing angelic plant that provides us with many health benefits.”

Amen

Compassionate Living

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

—Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

An Appeal to the World

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World was a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and neuroscience.  His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he had become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisioned no peace unless its among religions; 3) uniqueness of religions; 4) the meaning of religion—the Dalai Lama saw a believer as one who collaborated in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness was working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—of which he had no clue what was going to happen.

Still the Dalai Lama presented the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He put his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who were Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps

Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life was also pertinent for the 21st century. Armstrong used the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it meant to live compassionately. She envisioned twelve steps, but thought that such an approach could take a life time. In the introduction to the text readers were introduced to the major faith traditions, and concepts based on compassion.  Later, Armstrong weaved these steps carefully by explaining what people should do to benefit from them. At each step they were presented with a discussion about how to use these teachings. These compassionate goals were carefully calibrated and based on the major religions of the world. Although every goal could stand alone, she was able to integrate each one with an affirmation and explanation.

This book related every topic to contemporary issues. Armstrong recognized all of us have had problems with which we were struggling. She explained how important it was for us to transcend the thinking of ourselves, and that people should reach out to the good aspects of life itself. They should treat others the way they would like to be treated. This dictum must also include our enemies that were suffering like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her 2008 TED talk on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus on the promulgation of the Golden Rule, and compassionate living in the world.

How do we influence other people?

In many ways we change people’s lives.

Basically, we could do so by talking with them.

And, show video clips, films, and documentaries.

During our presentations explain our points of view.

People will listen and make decisions.

These are popular ways we reach audiences.

Scientifically, there are other means to impact lives.

All of us and everything consist of molecules

That are constantly in motion

These interact with people and things in our presence.

This is a deeper way by which we impact our world.

No one knows for sure what this actually means.

Nevertheless, it happens spontaneously.

So, if we’re in the presence of a doctor

We’re interacting with him or her at a deeper level.

We’re actually functioning as conduits of our own healing.

In the final analysis we’re all one with nature.

But we’re a combination of many particles.

This oneness is God, the Divine Entity.

So don’t underestimate your presence in the world.

You’re actually a source of healing and wellness.

Everyone is interrelated in substantial ways.

This was the crux of my dream on Christmas Night.

“God help us to understand more about ourselves. Let us realize that we are interconnected and influence others in unique ways.”

Amen

Key to Happiness

Oh! What does it mean to be happy?

Is it having good health?

Is it being rich?

Is it having all the toys in this world?

Is it having a purpose in life?

Or, is it knowing one’s role in society?

It can be all of these things.

But understanding one’s role

In having a peaceful mind

And being contented

Should be our goal

It’s knowing how to act.

It’s discovering one’s place in life.

It’s making sure you help others.

These virtues lead to happiness

By doing what you can

You realize some things can’t be changed.

You understand only certain situations

Are in your sphere of influence

Regardless how hard you try

But you can size up any social problem.

Take the necessary steps to resolve it.

See where you fit in.

And act to the best of your ability

By doing what you can reasonably do

“God, give us the wisdom to know what is best. Help us to understand our limitations, live within our means, and act accordingly for the general good.”

Amen   

Peace at Christmas

Don’t let peace die

Breathe life into it this season

It’s too precious to perish

So let the whole earth rejoice!

Peace has to be embraced

In the streets and valleys of life

It’s a vital essence to keep alive

Mankind’s future depends on it

Without peace there’s chaos

So sound the trumpets from roof tops

And let their blasts be heard around the world

Peace is alive and well!

As demonstrated as good will

Let peace reign!

A noble peace loving people seek

That must be based on understanding

With golden hearts everyone reaches out

For this is the season of the true light

So let peace reign!

“Almighty God, show us how to resolve our differences.  Guide our hearts and minds to embrace what is beautiful this season.”

Amen

Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful when people do the right thing.

Then the fragrance of happiness

Will flow to every corner of the world

That’s when they act compassionately to others

And are motivated on making their lives wonderful

People must embrace humanity’s gifts.

Some might not be rich or have halos

The poor might be seen as the dregs of the earth

But they still embody the promise of a bright future

These rejected ones could be refugees,

The unfortunate and suffering,

That are looking out for a helping hand,

A home, job, and a place to rest their weary heads

Why can’t we love these afflicted ones?

It’s the way people act that makes them virtuous.

God’s love is all-encompassing,   

And involves showing compassion

Life is beautiful when people help others.

“Merciful Provider you have made us all – rich and poor, immigrants and refugees alike.  Help us to be sensitive to the needs of others.  Let us remember that their lives are just as important as ours.”

Amen

Living with Imperfections

Life isn’t perfect. But people aim for perfection. Sometimes, they come close to this reality. Nevertheless, they fall short. It doesn’t matter what they do. They might try their best to be careful, take meticulous steps, and make important decisions. Still, perfection evades them. This is the reason why most live with imperfections.

Parents delight when a child is born. They are happy, rejoice, and give thanks for having a healthy baby. This little infant will bond with them. However, from birth this precious gift has come into this world with genes inherited from their family. These manifestations play a role in what a Black or White child will become. He or she could be healthy, handicapped, or afflicted with some awful health problem. But parents would do their best to raise them to have a balanced life in spite of these predispositions.

The age of adolescence presents other challenges. This is a time of discovery and experimentation. Some young adults have challenges adjusting to different social environments. They might belong to some group that their family thinks unwise. Their behavior might appear erratic as they are buffeted by emotional upheavals. Yet, they could become well-rounded students, that are able to adjust in society. Whether White or Black, it’s a time of imperfections. Psychologists view such behavior as a vital stage in an adolescent’s life.

Soon afterwards adulthood arrives and are laced with an abundance of trials. By now, it’s time to put one’s education to good use. Being gifted some people find this transition easier than others. There are those who struggle because of poverty. It’s a stage to be independent, marry, and those who are fortunate go on to enjoy the comforts of life. But such goals are often tarnished for many minorities that have experienced a history of slavery. Freedom is a far cry to some of them as racial problems become more pronounced. Learning to navigate this landscape, and keep one’s head above water is challenging. Yet, these years will reflect the great social divisions between Whites, and Blacks.

The senior years for middle-class Whites might mean something altogether different from those of Blacks, as life’s imperfections continue to strive. For the poor, problems abound. They might grow old, but they do so while suffering hardships. There is housing discrimination, some Blacks work in low-end jobs, and live with chronic ailments. These are treated by doctors who are often insensitive to their plight because of a lack of adequate health care provisions. Racism in the medical field is known, and there aren’t adequate options for coping. Despite these conditions the poor is still with us. Inequities exist, and compassionate workers wonder when there will be justice and peace in society.

In spite of these dilemmas many good-natured people hope for better days. The activists keep fighting, praying, and have dedicated their lives to social change. These individuals often witness victories and setbacks. Yet, they persist with their causes. But well-wishers soon realize Americans live in an imperfect world. They continue to work for change. Still, opposing forces stand in the way of those who insist on challenging the status quo. But, the struggle for perfection persists. It seems that with all that these well-meaning people do, it’s still not enough. It’s just the reality of living with imperfections while trying to make life better.           

The Truth of Life

Layers of rocks reveal stories of our past

They are like books to be read

With pages that show how life evolved

Still some well-known people

Have doubts about mankind’s beginnings

Christians might hold the story in Genesis to be true

About how God created mankind

And they like to tell the story of Adam and Eve

About how God took a rib from him to create her

But does this make sense? Isn’t this an allegory?

Scientists discovered a different story

They have explained how over thousands of years life forms evolved

And this reality doesn’t seem surprising

Since all beings and non-beings are intricately interrelated

So some Bible stories are nothing more than myths

Still creationists believe in the literal meaning of Scripture

Learning the truth about religious texts is important

Scripture was written eons ago

When belief systems were in an embryonic stage

It’ll therefore take thinkers of all sorts to make sense of life

“Divine Creator, open our eyes and help us see what’s true.  Give us the insight to know what’s right.  And guide us in our quest to understand the mysteries of life.”

Amen