as the coffee brewed, i stood at my kitchen window, drinking my morning glass of water and watching a bird bathe.
i watched him land beside a puddle just outside my wrought iron gate. he took a few tiny sips of the water, then waded in. i was melting from the his cuteness, turning into my own kind of puddle from behind my open kitchen window. he dipped his head into the puddle and threw the water back onto himself. he splashed + chirped, and chirped + splashed. clearly enjoying it, but also just getting done what needed to be done.
after a few minutes, he flew up to balance on my little black gate, that much closer to me. totally unaware that i was creeping in on his bath time. as he perched there, he fluffed + primped + dried himself. shaking his feathers, spreading his wings, pecking at himself, and puffing himself up.
by this point, i was entranced by him. and i suddenly found myself thinking about some very familiar words. a saying that pops up in my life time and time again. so, as always, arising from those deep, learned places in my soul came words from the bible. words attributed to jesus.
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your God feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin…
the birds don’t worry. the flowers don’t either. they just are. they just live.
and remembering those words felt all nice + sweet… for a moment.
then, i remembered this fucked up world we lived in. and i caught myself thinking how naive it was for me to want to just exist like the birds + the flowers.
i mean, can i really live like that? can i really just be me? can i really be so into being who i am and staying true to my spirit, as the birds are, that life just flows and everything will be ok? it sounds all nice + hippie + utopian. but, really? i mean, really?
it seems unrealistic. and selfish, honestly. to just live in peaceful bliss, communing with nature, while lives are torn apart and people are suffering all over the world, and it feels like there ain’t a damn thing that anyone can do about it all.
am i not supposed to be doing something? can i really just be like a cute little birdie?
shouldn’t i be running about volunteering or sending money somewhere or bitching about some program or group of people or leader? shouldn’t i constantly be using hashtags that say #prayfor_____ or protesting police or fighting for lgbtq rights or not buying clothes in sweatshops?
there’s so freaking much that i should be doing. am i right? how in the world can i prioritize just being me?!
and, then i think of the bird again.
she is not insignificant in this world. in fact, she (yes, i am calling her a she now) is doing her part in creating this world just by being her little birdie self. she actually is contributing.
this is what i know, dear friends:
i don’t know shit about solving the problems of the world, or how to stop the hurting and aching and fear that makes this place hell on earth for some of us.
but, i do know beauty. and love. and i do recognize messages of hope that simply pop up in everyday life – like a single bird bathing outside my kitchen window at just the same time i take part in my daily morning ritual of gazing out that window + drinking my glass of water.
but, more than knowing all of that, i know me.
you know that phrase, “be the change”? well, that’s the shit. it may be cliché + overused. but, it’s the real deal. that’s where we begin… with ourselves.
that’s what the little bathing birdie reminded me of this morning.
in spite of the horror in nice, france and the attempted military coup in turkey last night… in spite of racism and gun violence and inequalities and injustice and natural disasters and poverty and, yes, even death.
in spite of it all, in the midst of it all, my calling and your calling and the little birdie’s calling, is to simply be who we are. to truly, truly be who we are.
and, i guarantee, that when we are true to ourselves, to our spirit, to the light + love that we are, then everything that we do will be an act of peace. everything we do will be a response to the pain + suffering, and we will be co-creating the world to be the world as it should be. everything we do will align us with the truth, with love and equality and justice. we will, ourselves, become instruments of peace and messengers of love.
just as that little bird was for me this morning.
when we live authentic lives, my friends… mindful, intentional and aware, then peace + love flows naturally out of us.
and that, my friends, is how we change the world. one soul, one bird, at a time.
namaste. xoxo. liz
Such comforting words, thanks so much Liz!
These days I often sit in my computer, paralyzed by indecision about what to write. Isn’t it frivolous to take photos of what I wore for a night out, when people everywhere are suffering, losing their loved ones to terrible attacks, are engulfed by hate, fear, and injustice? Shouldn’t I try to do something more worthwhile?
But what? And how?
“i don’t know shit about solving the problems of the world, or how to stop the hurting and aching and fear that makes this place hell on earth for some of us.” That really spoke to me, because that’s exactly how I feel.
Your solution to this conundrum is so simple, yet so elegant and filled with truth: Spread love and light. Be who you are.
I love it. Thank you!!
Oh, I am so touched that they touched you. But, doll, you do make a difference. In everything you write and share. Your words are life-filling and deep and beautiful… And whatever you are writing, you are sharing your message of love, of learning to believe in ourselves and love ourselves exactly was we are. So, thank you for inspiring so many of us and for showing us what it means to be strong, confident, weak, confused, and at peace. What a contribution you bring to this world simply by being you! xo
Your posts always get me thinking in three directions at once, Liz, and I wanted to make some disjointed comments: I absolutely believe that Being our authentic selves, true to our beliefs is a fundamental basis for creating a better world. In some sense though it sounds as if you thinking/struggling with the idea that this is mutually exclusive with certain types of action – protesting, volunteering, etc.; but at the same time recognizing that without being true to yourself – “mindful, intentional, and aware” – you cannot effect any change. It is entirely possible that I am projecting or reading into your words, and the point is NOT that I’m trying to figure out what you believe, but that I wanted to emphasize (and agree with you) that Being is an active response, an embodiment of beliefs that stem from consideration and intent. I think we can agree that without living our callings and being aware that we just become unconscious beings, and that THAT passivity is the real opposite of action and creating a more just world. Prioritizing just being ourselves sets us up for making change whether it’s marching in the streets or reaching hundreds of people through our words. The latter vehicle brings me to my other point in that there is a systemic undervaluation of the power of words and art, that too many people think that publicly protesting inherently has more value than swaying opinions and getting people to question and examine their beliefs. I don’t think this is true (I suspect you don’t either) for every situation; I personally believe that BOTH direct action and publicizing injustice/addressing ignorance are needed in order to effect a change. One cannot force change without the other.
Finally, I wanted to address your statement about not “knowing shit about solving problems of the world,” and feeling at a loss to address the problems that are tearing peoples’ lives apart. I think most people are struggling and feeling overwhelmed by the violence that seems to be accelerating in the world right now. Some are turning away from it, but it appears to me anyway that more and more people are engaging with it- recognizing it, facing it, feeling helpless at times for sure but still trying to engage with it somehow; just the fact that the institutional racism that has existed for centuries in the US has become a headline, a movement, and a (albeit, limited) conversation brings me great hope. This to me in itself is progress. It is NOT a solution, it is certainly not the goal, and we should not rest on the laurels but the mainstream recognition of the issue is a step. The same as the beginnings of recognition of the rights of LGBTQ people to marry whomever they please and to be protected by anti-discrimination laws. Of course the fight isn’t over for these (or other) things, but it’s too easy to become disheartened; too easy to lose sight of the changes that have occurred, to adapt to them as the new normal without being aware of progress. And so those moments when we ask ourselves in exasperation, “what the fuck can be done about this? What the fuck am I going to do about this?” I think we should remember that we all are doing something because change is happening. And also that those changes that we are all making – whether in direct action or through making the conversation heard – are going to inspire and create the next round of changes, even if we fail to make immediate progress. We ARE changing the world – though not in progression that can be measured linearly – but we can’t do it unless we live our own authentic lives and follow our own paths as you so beautifully said.
Oh how I wish we were sitting sipping on a beer and talking about this in real time! Thank you so very much for this insanely thoughtful response. I could write an essay in return, but I will keep it short. Otherwise we will just go on and on forever, back and forth. 🙂
My main point, and belief you might say, is that, for me, being coming first. Having a strong sense of who I am, of being grounded. And, when I begin with me, then the action is a natural fruit of my being. And, yes, being (and by being I mean both like meditation and simply being who I truly am) is a form of action in itself. For me, the important piece to remember, coming from my spiritual lens on life, is that it all begins with being. With that connection.
I’ve known too many people, in my years of working in a church, who want want to help out and spend their days running about trying to do this and that and volunteer here and there, and that is all well and good. But, there was always an emptiness to it all. There was no soul behind what they did. They did it because they were “supposed to”, or because it was their duty, or heaven forbid, it was to get good checkmarks so they could get into heaven. I know I am judging here, but more people than not in the congregation in which I served, did “good deeds” and helped out because they thought they were supposed to. They gave no thought or consideration to who they were, or why they were wanting to help. They had no desire to grow and transform themselves. But they sure did want to change and transform and help the world.
So, I am certain that these years of these experiences with people have given me my perspectives and thoughts when it comes to being vs doing, or being and doing, or being leads to doing. I led a small group of women for about 2 years, though, who really dug deep and studied together this idea of being comes before doing, of putting our internal, spiritual development and growth first, of choosing a contemplative life, and then knowing that the fruits of this way of living is what leads to deep action and service and makes a lasting impact on the world.
Of course, protesting and all of those things I listed are important. But, for me, it is more important to ground and focus myself first, and then those other actions of justice and peace just naturally happen… because when we start with grounding ourselves, with being, then it can only lead us in one direction… to become peacemakers and justice seekers and revolutionaries. MLK, Jr made history because of his words and actions, but it was all grounded from his spiritual life. The Dali Lama also affects great change that stems from his spiritual groundings. The list goes on and on…
Of course I am not saying that one has to be spiritual in the way I define it, but to be constantly seeking a deeper meaning, I do believe is important. Am I making any sense?
And, YES, dear Meghan! Progress has been made. And it is being made every single day. Sometimes I just want to write about the shit and then remind myself (and whoever else reads my words), that even in the midst of the shit, there is still hope. There has always been hope. And there always will be hope. The world is changing, and as a trained theologian, I am tuned in to acknowledging the pain and then speaking the grace, holding up the paradox in which we live. But, always, always believing that we are ever moving forward.
Ok. This was not at all short. Ha!! Still, wish we were sitting and talking with each other!! Thanks, again, for this conversation!!
Over to you. xoxo
Exchanging essays via the Internet is indeed time-consuming and so you’re right that we should save the rest for a conversation over beer. Thank YOU for such a thoughtful response; I so wish I could have been involved in a discussion group like the one you led because that sounds amazing. But in brief: YES! I too strongly feel that spontaneous and genuine action can only arise when you are fully yourself, grounded and completely connected with yourself and thus with some facet of all humanity. I too also have known/do know people who act without reflection, as if trying to fulfill some externally-set criteria and while these people mean well, action without thought and intent may have (often limited, but still) effect/meaning. Your story of what you witnessed in your church reminds me of David Steindl-Rast’s concept of the “do-gooder:” the person who seeks to insert themselves into a situation to fill a perceived need rather than the person who is grounded in Being, as we’ve been referring to it, who acts upon an opportunity with gratitude, and from a place of what he calls (I think) radiance. I definitely believe that it is easier to act than to consciously choose to sit with intent and motive and thus delve into a whole bunch of self-reflection; it’s a refusal to deal with reality because reality is not just what needs to be fixed but why it’s broken in the first place, and why we feel compelled to act rather than just making ourselves busy. It’s the feeling of (I had to look this up because I forget what the concept is called) anava mala- the feeling on incompleteness that we struggle to fill by attaching ourselves to anything or anyone that we think can complete us, yeah?
In essence, I totally agree with you that action comes from being grounded, from being connected, from thoughtful examination that has created intent. You put it way better than I. Finally, I brought up thread about trying to solve the worlds’ problems and not always following a narrative of despair only because it’s waaaaay to easy to do, particularly as the frequency and tragedy of problems increases. As you said, you are trained to look at both the pain and the grace, and I believe you do so from a balance, grounded place and with acceptance that this is the way things are, but I personally find it difficult as tragedy after tragedy occurs to not be at least temporarily overwhelmed and to then think about each individual thing as part of a narrative… and so perhaps I was just talking to myself there.
Ok, this turned into an essay, sorry. I know you’re busy getting ready to leave for the states (eeeeee!!!) so please don’t feel obligated to respond. We can pick this up over a beer sometime! 🙂 Have a wonderful trip! xoxo
I love this. If we all started by being true to ourselves, and not being jerks.. the world would be a better place.
What that little bird knows is the joy of being free — animals, unlike humans, do not spend as much time beating on each other, teaching their offspring how to hate, condemn, kill, destroy one another. They teach them survival — but do not teach them how to maim, cripple, limit another’s path.
We can learn so much from nature — and when we stop hurting our children and teaching them how to hate, we will become more free.
Thank you for this inspiring message this morning (here at the foot of the Canadian Rockies) Liz.
Thank you so much for reading, Louise, and for sharing your thoughts and musings. You are always such an inspiration! Hugs and love to you. xx