On Birthdays and Intentions


On Birthdays and Intentions

I’ve always been a list-maker. It makes me feel safe – all those things that must/should/could be done chase away any doubts, for a while at least, that there is no purpose to this earthly experience. Then I think, so what? Just take each day, each hour, and be grateful for every blessing, whomever or whatever bestows it.

But each year, on my birthday, which conveniently nearly coincides with Yom Kippur, I take time to consider, to reflect on, my year, my life, and, always, commit my intentions for the next year to writing. I keep this in my “to do” file, sometimes tucked away, but always near-at-hand. Sometimes it makes me feel secure; most times it brings close the realization of my indolence about making real change. Oh yes, there is always the proverbial “eat less, exercise more,” but also some deeper, and thus more radical, intentions, propelled primarily by my Buddhist readings.

Letting go. I’ve been working on this for a long time, and when I find that I’ve made progress on one issue, several more arise – those that have lain fallow, yet festering in their own ways. No one said Buddhism was easy.

Being kind. Easiest with strangers and acquaintances, don’t you think? Those closest to us, those we know, really know, and love, how difficult it is to accept philosophies, behaviors that we would run from in others. And acting kind seems much easier than having that gentleness enter my soul. To sit, to listen, to accept without judging, even in my thoughts – that’s surely a multi-year, perhaps multi-life, intention.

Being authentically interested in others. This goes way beyond politeness, past making sure that we have eye contact and not glancing at our cell phones. I’ve found that one of the advantages (perhaps the only advantage) in having a hearing problem, is that I am forced to listen, to give my full attention to whomever is speaking to me so that I can figure out just what they’re saying. It takes all my energies, all my concentration.  And I realize that I am the one who is rewarded by this – at least most of the time.

So, there you have my intentions for the coming year. They are not new ones; they are not easy ones; but they’re mine, and I’m sticking with them!

Another Sunday, www. cynthiastrauff.com

On Seeing Both Sides



Facebook – what can I say? I love it and I hate it. I love it because it keeps me in touch with what is going on in the world. I hate it because it keeps me in touch with what is going on in the world. Comments, mostly from strangers, I read a lot of them. I read them until I can’t stand it any longer. Does each of us know exactly what is right? Our side, and only our side? Abortion, gun control, politics. So many sanctimonious posts and re-posts, always of sites and data that support our specific beliefs, regardless of authenticity or truthiness. And, oh, how we like to make fun of anyone who disagrees with us. Ridicule, mockery, caricature, satire, irony, and invective, we gleefully type, look, laugh, and share, all the while congratulating ourselves for upholding the moral imperative. How stupid are those who do not see this and who do not join our bandwagon of ridicule for the other guy? Just ask us and we’ll devise an image to tell you.

What is it that makes us feel better, more informed, more liberal, more conservative, more, more, more, when we denigrate those who think differently from us? Dr. Seuss, where are you when we need you? We are the star-bellied Sneetches, sure that our mark shows us as smarter, holier, always on the side of righteousness. And I’m right there, shaking my head, laughing at the ignorance of those who disagree with me. Even in this post.

Sometimes, when I read those comments, I am taken aback. Vitriol, hatred, contempt, maliciousness (I have now run out of synonyms) that transcend the bounds of decency, even when those on “my side” are the ones posting. And I think of my morning Buddhist readings….”but maybe I’m wrong,” they say. Just “maybe I’m wrong.” Who would we be without our Sneetch stars? Do you think, just maybe, we could be wrong?

Suppose that, for a day, for an hour, when we are in high dudgeon about an issue where we are sure that only we, and those who agree with us, have the answer for, we stopped, took a breath and saw the issue from the point of view of another. We may not change our minds;  chances are that we won’t. But considering, respecting, that opinion, and that person, might just lead to an authentic connection, a real communication, some actual dialogue, and perhaps the realization of a third, more efficacious solution. Holding two opposing opinions, sitting with them, and thinking, respecting, and talking, caring. Recognizing that we are, after all, connected.

But then, maybe I’m wrong.