Half Full, Half Empty, or…?

Most of us are familiar with the saying “Is the glass half full or half empty?”, which points out how perspective affects our experience of life. In other words, do you count your blessings or tally up your grievances? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you feel life is a gift or a burden, joy or tragedy? On any given day, you may feel one of these extremes and then extrapolate to a world view that sets you up for future experiences. You may keep an inner tally sheet of the “good” and “bad.” It seems to be a human tendency to divide up life events in this way. Yet life is made up of many emotions, many experiences. None of them permanent. What if the greater wisdom is to be inclusive of it all?

I grew up seeing the “half empty, half full” view played out in aspects of my parents’ personalities. My dad noticed poison ivy and quickly acted to get rid of it. My mother noticed lilacs in bloom and picked a bouquet for the house. Still, neither one of them embodied only one of these behaviors or life views. They both were so much more. So are we all. What if either/or options like full/empty limit us and keep us from seeing the complete spectrum of possible experiences in our lives? What if the glass of life is always full, and it is only human perception that polarizes it into half and half? Or what if it is always empty, in a receptive state, just waiting for our visions and potential to fill it?

More and more, these days I remind myself of this wisdom. It is very easy to fall into gloom and doom if I focus too much on world events. Even the weather extremes that are now occurring with climate change can trigger fears about the future. Where is the human race headed? Apocalypse or utopia? Heaven or hell? But once again these are polarized views, each one excluding the other. The longer I live, the more I learn to shift into neutral as much as possible, which is the soul’s vision of life. The soul has no opinions; it is just experiencing. We incarnated in human form to experience, to see and feel all of life’s variations and wonders without limitation. Judgment about good or bad stalls us in one viewpoint, which translates to one experience. Is it possible to let go of those opposites and live in neutrality, which includes everything?

Neutrality doesn’t mean boring sameness. It means an open heart and mind. It means inclusivity—of events and people and every single detail of daily life. Nature gives us the best example of this. There is an overall harmony to the natural world: trees, plants, birds, animals, insects, stones, soil, fungi all living intertwined and connected lives. Of course, birth and death take place, but in the natural flow of life on Earth, not artificially imposed or manipulated. Perhaps this is our greatest lesson, we humans: to flow, not try to control. Because in truth, we can’t control, anything. At a deeper level, all is unfolding as part of a greater universal tapestry of being and light.

So if we are meant to flow and not control, why not relax into accepting all of life as a gift of infinite possibilities? Which is the soul’s view. The soul sees glasses stretched to the horizon, in a rainbow of colors, all of them both empty and full. All of them perfect as is. This is a bit like what Buddhists call “the middle way,” between attachment and aversion, form and emptiness. You walk life’s path inclusive of every experience that unfolds before you, without categorizing or judging. Just being fully present. In this is peace, which my life has continuously guided me towards. And it was within me all along.

Hope, Love, and the Web of Life

“I don’t know about hope, but I know about love…. Our job is to learn to love.”
—Robin Wall Kimmerer

In this time of heartbreaking political tumult and ecological grief, where do we turn for wisdom or comfort? For a reason to continue, in spite of how the world looks? This past weekend, I had the great honor and blessing of attending a program with Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. She is a botanist, professor, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and beyond all else, a wise and caring soul. Repeatedly, during those three days, she asked the question: What does Mother Earth ask of us? Not what can we get, but what can we give? We are living in a time of shifting focus: from taking to giving, from self to community. Earth herself teaches reciprocity and connection. This is our heritage and our guidepost, if we pay attention, if we drop the cloak of self-centeredness and don the cloth of humility.

We are One, we Earth beings. All of us, plant, animal, human, bird, insect, stone, soil. Our lives and our destiny are interconnected. The web of life that holds us can be torn, but it can also be mended. Mother Earth is a gentle and forgiving presence in our lives; she is also a fierce protector of all of life. We cannot continue to destroy the environment and our living connections to one another. So many of our hearts are filled with grief now, for the visible and invisible ways the planet appears to be falling apart. “Grief is the measure of our love,” Robin said. “We can be the rain on one another’s grief and dryness.”

Her words carried such poignancy and power because she has dedicated her life to Earth wisdom, and she is also a descendant of those who walked the Trail of Tears, which forced native nations to leave their homelands and walk endless miles to reservations (in her family’s case, from Wisconsin to Kansas to Oklahoma). All ties to their specific sacred place on Mother Earth were broken. The grief of that severance continues to this day as indigenous peoples work to regain their ancestral lands. Earth herself was violated by similar cruelty as colonists took what they wanted from the land. We inherit that terrible history and are living with the consequences, that lack of reciprocity between human and human, between humans and Earth.

Reciprocity arises from love, and in spite of the violence that has torn, and continues to tear, the world asunder, love persists. When all hope is lost, love persists. When grief breaks our hearts, love persists. Love and grief together can heal the brokenness. Whether or not we believe that healing is possible, our job is to love. We came here at this specific time, on this specific planet, to be the love that persists, in spite of everything. Injustice and inhumanity exist, but so do compassion and kindness.

We are at a choice point in our tattered past, unsettling present, and uncertain future. We can choose despair, or we can choose love. Ask yourself, “What does Mother Earth ask of me?” As I stood on a wooded hillside at dusk in Western Massachusetts this weekend, listening to the sweet song of the wood thrush, I heard the answer in my heart: Remember your place in the web of life; choose love.

Say It Loud—Now!

With the passage of legislation in Florida restricting discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, the “Don’t Say Gay” movement is gaining national momentum. Similar legislation is in progress in multiple states. Those of us in the LGBTQ community who marched for our rights in the 1970s­–1990s can hear echoing in our ears the rallying cry we chanted then: “Say It Loud: I’m Gay and I’m Proud!” The right to be who we are without fear or shame; the end of hatred and violence directed at us.

In 1975, a group of teenagers sprayed mace in my eyes for holding hands with my girlfriend in public in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2014, almost 40 years later—also in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in public—my partner Anne and I were married after 31 years together. Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Huge changes in those years; huge shifts in the collective consciousness. Even rainbow lights on the White House when same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states in 2015. And now this frightening backlash. But we cannot allow ourselves to be silenced again.

Human rights are in jeopardy world-wide. In the United States, immigrants and Asians have also become targets for hatred and attack, along with Jews, Muslims, and people of color from diverse cultures. Hard-won women’s rights are threatened as well. ”Make America great again” translates as the desire to erase from existence anyone who doesn’t fit into the dominant patriarchal paradigm (white, Christian, heterosexual). This is the face of fear of difference, growing stronger and more widespread. I am reminded of the oft-repeated quote by Martin Niemoller regarding the systematic purging of groups in Nazi Germany: “First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.” He continues naming group after group and finally ends with: “Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” Chilling history lesson. It’s on each of us now, at this time, to speak—to “say it loud.” Don’t wait until you are left standing alone.

So here we are, witnessing threats to the growing universal acceptance of all peoples. What we thought we had moved beyond is once again at our front doors. Anita Bryant was not the last antigay vigilante. The Klan still exists. But giving up and living in denial is not an option. We were born for these times, like it or not. And we came here to do it differently. Not with fighting and aggression but with peace and kindness. The individuals who act from hatred are filled with pain themselves. In our hearts we have to hold empathy for all.

So I urge you to “Say Gay,” to say “Black Lives Matter,” to say “Stop Asian Hate.” Say it with conviction but not hostility. I encourage you to speak with truth, love, and compassion to everyone you encounter in your life, whatever they may believe. And to live that truth every day. We must continue to remind ourselves that love is stronger than hate, and fear is an illusion that can dissolve in the presence of a courageously peaceful open heart.

Where Do You Want to Live?

Some people live in the same place most of their lives; others move frequently over the years. Wherever you choose to go, your soul remains with you, as does your identity. The soul travels lightly, no passport, no possessions. The identity or ego, however, usually has a lot of “baggage” to declare. That baggage can take the form of either physical objects or nonphysical opinions and beliefs. Both can weigh you down, but the latter actually constricts your future experience. What you plan on, what you think should happen, places a limit on possibilities. It also limits whom you allow into your experience. The soul, without the opinions of the ego, would live life open-endedly, open-heartedly, inclusive of many kinds of experiences and people. An expansive circle instead of a small box.

This circle of soul energy is a place, or rather an empty space, where there are no limits to what is possible and no barriers between people. There is unity within your heart and unity among all those in the ever-expanding circle. Another word for it is oneness, the oneness of the spirit within which we all are sourced or born, and to which we return at the end of our lives. The question becomes why not live there now?

A few blocks from where I live is a street called “Unity.” I often pass the street sign and think: That’s where I want to live all the time—in unity of the heart. I feel humanity is gradually moving in that direction. We just have to make the clear decision to deeply desire the free life of our soul instead of the weighed-down life of our identity and the identities of others. Identity is the basis of separation. At the soul level, we are one.

In the framework of opinion/belief, if someone doesn’t agree, it’s a threat to the identity’s existence. Soul doesn’t care. Soul is eternal. Ego wants to believe it is permanent but it is not. At the end of our lives we see this and awaken to the wisdom of impermanence. Why not open to this awareness now and live life in greater unity with everyone and everything? The universe is not made up of single-lane, disconnected highways that lead nowhere. We may each be on different paths, but our lives are divinely intertwined, and we are all moving, imperceptibly, to the same final destination: beingness or oneness in Spirit, or Source. In fact, we are already one now, if we see with the eyes of the soul. From this perspective, life becomes a playground of possibility and connection with others, instead of a solitary burden and place of division.

Unity is a moment-to-moment choice. Your mind, in coherence with your heart, can consciously choose unity instead of separation. Your identity can take a backseat to your soul and not allow beliefs to prevent friendship and community. Hold your opinions lightly or drop them by the roadside. It’s a long life journey—don’t let extra baggage hold you back and keep you from the possibility of a shared future centered in love. Where do you want to live, in Mary Oliver’s words, “your one wild and precious life”?

Seeds of Life

My second chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer took place on 2 Qanil in the Maya calendar. The sacred symbol Qanil stands for “the seed that generates life and creation.” For me, a perfect analogy, because I envisioned life’s seeds of light and love being transmitted to me via the infusions, at the same time that I felt them radiating out from me in my own vibration. This is the circular process of God creating God in the world. We each embody God in our physical forms, and God experiences life through our experiences. As we create, or express our soul selves, God is creating simultaneously. The entire universe is a divinely designed participatory symphony of living light and love. I feel this almost continuously now.

Everything I experience arises from this awareness. During my treatment, the meditations I listened to were Panache Desai’s “Eight Beatitudes.” His words gently carried me along (“You as you have known yourself are dissolving. There is a powerful transformation unfolding within your being….The splendor and magnificence of your soul and the God within revealed.”). The accompanying instrumentals (Pachelbel’s Canon, Ava Maria, Unchained Melody, etc.) had a similar effect. Tears repeatedly filled my eyes as I looked out at the rain and wind blowing leaves from the trees—a choreographed dance of sight and sound. Everything I saw with my physical eyes, heard with my physical ears, and felt with my physical body aligned exactly with my soul’s experience of Life at that moment in time. A blessing—and another blessing just to be aware of that blessing. Gratitude filled my heart and soul.

Later, when I described this experience to a friend of mine, she reminded me that she too has written about the awakening of our souls and the inner guidance that accompanies that,* which explains why I had thought of her during the meditations. We are all here to receive these truths, to bring forward from our past lives and varied traditions the light of awareness and wisdom, sharing with all those we encounter during this bridging time into a future of infinite possibilities. We are a soul family flowing together from and to the source of all being in the multiverse.

This journey I am on with breast cancer is an expansion and opening beyond anything I could have imagined earlier in my life. I was not religious or spiritual growing up, yet I experienced God in Nature in every moment of my childhood in the Illinois countryside. The Spirit within my soul guided me on an ever-widening path to immersion in divine consciousness. We are each on these paths, in our own ways. That is why we are alive at this time. Sooner or later, we all will awaken to cosmic awareness and a sense of oneness with all we see. Even in the midst of challenges or pain, the seeds of life are growing and will eventually flower.

The language you use to express this doesn’t matter. It is the opening of your own heart and soul that will move you forward and ultimately connect you to every form of life you encounter: other humans, animals, plants, insects, trees, rocks, stars, planets. Each part has the whole inside it. You are a sacred imprint of divinity on this planet, in this universe, carrying the seeds of life within you. Awaken to the blessing you are.
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*Laurel Geise, The Jesus Seeds, Igniting Your Soul-Guided Life.