Contentment, Life & Roller Coasters

fireworksI remember years ago taking my younger brother to the amusement park. His goal was to ride the roller coaster, one of the most daunting rides that existed at that time. I swallowed, bought the tickets, and soon we were strapped in our car.  But as the ride began, my brother said, “Keep your arms straight up in the air and no screaming.” Not to be outdone, I obeyed, releasing my arms from their grip on the bar and hesitantly raising them overhead.

When the ride ended, my little brother had an exuberant smile on his face; his arms had unwaveringly kept their overhead position. I, on the other hand, was gripping the safety bar, realizing that somewhere along the ride I had forgotten to keep breathing. In stark contrast to my brother’s exhilaration, I was exhausted. We had been on the same ride with its extreme ups and downs and sudden jerks, but one of us was smiling; the other was not.

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If Trees Could Think

©MartaGertiser2015

©MartaGertiser2015

I have always in my seeming affinity with trees, been curious about them. I have even felt a certain communion with them from time to time. To me, they seem so magnificent, content, bold, and courageous as they stand solidly on one foot. When the storms come, the trees sway with the wind, open to the rain, stay steady in the cold. They flourish where they are. They seem to have discovered a secret about living.

But what if trees could think like we can? Would they begin to complain constantly about their lack of mobility? About who they are stuck standing by? Would they become proud as others gawked at their magnificent display of fall colors? Would they feel envy as they looked around at other trees? Would they be constantly trying to fix themselves so they could be new, improved trees? Would they become anxious as the storms came, anxious as they aged, afraid of what awaited them?

Or perhaps trees can think, and they have somehow managed to master their thoughts, to find tranquility and a sense of wellbeing amidst the barrage of information and feelings that flow on the waves of thoughts. Perhaps trees weep as they watch us humans caught in conflict, slaves to a state of disturbance that sends us on missions of misery and destruction. Perhaps trees feel compassion for us as they watch our dysfunctional relationship with thoughts keep us unavailable to the full gift of existence.

Perhaps we humans could learn something from trees. Perhaps…

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Violence Ends Here – A Response to Charleston

“There is no more important part to play in life than enabling children to grow up in a peaceful world, young people to grow up with a selfless goal in view, and nations and races and countries to live together in peace and harmony.” –Eknath Easwaran

©MartaGertiser2015

©MartaGertiser2015

These words express what we all hunger for. And yet, in the midst of our longing for a peaceful world, we receive yet another report of humanity gone awry. The recent shootings in South Carolina stand not only in their own singular horror, but among a cascade of violent and hateful deeds, both told and untold, that are repeatedly occurring at home and around the world.

What is it in us humans that precipitates such violence? We seem to be such odd creatures capable of insidious, violent deeds; a capacity to be shocked and saddened, yet strangely indifferent; and an ability to believe we are not part of the problem.

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No One Else is Me

©MartaGertiser2015

©MartaGertiser2015

“Mom, do you know what I love about life? Nobody can tell me what to do because no one else is me so they don’t know what I’m capable of.” These words were recently spoken by my 7-year-old niece to her mother. Wow!

We now know that small seeds contain the blueprint for what they are to fully become; an oak seed becomes a giant oak tree and provides shade, a peach seed becomes a peach tree and bears fruit. This is true not only of plants, but for all living things; even a caterpillar’s spine outlines the blueprint for the butterfly it will someday become.

Only humans seem to get confused in their becoming. Only humans believe the limiting conditioning put on them. Only humans believe the messages of advertisers: that there is something missing, something wrong with them. Only humans spend money on “experts” to help them get “fixed”. Only humans forget that there is a unique blueprint within them that comes with a full set of instructions.

Yes, we need the support of others and healing from our trauma. Yes, we need the inspiration of great women and men and the advice of experts. Yes, we need the support of our friends and loved ones. Yes, we need the wisdom of great souls and the teachings of sacred traditions.

But ultimately, only the blueprint inside knows what we are capable of becoming. Whether we know this blueprint as the Holy Spirit or the inner Guru, this guidance is a constant gentle nudging to keep on becoming, if only we will leave ourselves alone long enough to listen.

Do you know what you are capable of?

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Friends?

©MartaGertiser2015

©MartaGertiser2015

2014 marked the 10th anniversary of Facebook, so the Pew Research Center did a survey. The survey found that half of all Facebook users have more than 200 friends in their network and 15% have more than 500 friends.

Everyone likes to feel popular. That’s why Facebookers, especially in the site’s early days, hoarded friends like poker chips (never mind that most of these friends were rarely seen coworkers, distant relatives, vaguely remembered classmates, or unknown friends of a friend).

Until Facebook came along, nobody used the word “friend” as a verb. Now it’s not uncommon to ask a new acquaintance to spell their name so you can “friend” them on Facebook.  But is friendship such an easy thing?

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Our Practice is Our Prayer

©MartaGertiser2015

©MartaGertiser2015

The story is told in the Devimahatmyam of a dark time in history. It seems two evil kings came to power, wreaking havoc on a kingdom that had once been peaceful. As the darkness of their new power spread, life shriveled up, and all the things that allow life to flourish disappeared. The result was great pain and suffering throughout the kingdom.

In their despair, the people gathered to pray for deliverance. Out of the earth God appeared in the form of Devi, who took compassion on the people and went to battle against the evil forces. The battle was fierce and long; as we know evil has many resources and is quick and fierce with surprise attacks. But Devi was steady and enduring and eventually prevailed against the evil kings. Rightness was restored to the kingdom, and the people once again flourished.

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Pardon the Mess; Transformation in Process

©MartaGertiser2015

©MartaGertiser2015

I was once given a handout by a teacher that said in big bold letters: Pardon the Mess; Transformation in Process. We students chuckled and then dutifully put the handout in our binder along with our notes. As I sit in the chaos and mess of my home while it is being gutted for something new to take its place, I see the truth of these words. The question is, do I see the truth of this process in my own life?

The great teachers tell us there is something major that wants to happen to us; we are blueprinted to be transformed. Not the ego’s idea of transformation, but a transformation that is beyond our current understanding. This is why so often it seems we are regressing, not progressing as we engage our yoga practice. From the view of the ego, things are not moving along as planned or hoped for. But from the soul’s perspective, the process is perfect.

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Gutting the Mind

gutted bathroomWhen my spouse and I chose to buy a home, we settled on an older home, knowing that inevitably repairs would need to happen, especially in the bathroom. As things worsened, we could no longer deny that our bathroom had to be totally gutted. Water could barely trickle through the old plumbing. Mold, in spite of our attempts, continued to peek through the ceiling and spread at will. The crack in the bottom of the bathtub threatened to break through at an inopportune time. There was nothing salvageable. We had to do something drastic; this bathroom had to be totally gutted and re-made.

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