Dearest friends,

There are few human beings on this planet who walk with the unbridled enthusiasm of a child while radiating joy and love in every moment. There are even fewer whose compassion is so complete, that there is nothing that can dissuade, discourage or prevent them from uplifting all those who surround them no matter how dire the circumstances. Father Charles Ogada is one of those rare souls. What a tremendous pleasure it was to have him visiting from Nigeria over the past month.  For those of you who had the chance to meet him, you will know why I say this. For those who did not, I thought I would write about some of the teachings he shared with us during his visit in my next few newsletters. These teachings shine through all of the different faith traditions and capture the essence of the awakened state. I’m so grateful to all of you who came together sharing your time, skills, and resources to help make his visit happen!

Lesson #1: Acceptance

The essence of mindfulness, of compassion, of peace at home, and peace in the world, is the practice of acceptance. This practice, which applies to every dimension of life, starts with the practice of accepting our self. From self-acceptance we can expand to acceptance of other people, other traditions, and of life’s circumstances (the so called “good” and “bad”).  Deep acceptance leads us straight into the now and allows us to respond to situations that arise with awareness, humour, and clarity rather than in trapped and habitual patterns of the mind.

Let’s look at how self-acceptance works to start off. How many of us can look inwards at all dimensions of our being and personality and give each and every part a loving embrace that says “I’m ok.”?   We all have parts of our body-mind that we don’t like and that we try to push away. Sometimes it is our neediness and vulnerability, sometimes it is our jealousy, our stubbornness, our capacity for anger and cruelty, our sexual desire or even the brightness of our inner light. For others there is rejection of the body itself (especially if we live in physical pain or with a differently abled body/mind).

Now Read Carefully: When we reject these “troublesome” parts of ourself, we are actually creating the very schism of separation that we seek to heal by telling ourself we should be different. Such irony! Let me repeat that. When we tell our self we are not good enough, we separate ourself from our inherent goodness. We are actually creating the pain we seek to resolve. How unfortunate we are to have these well intentioned but misguided monkey minds!

Conversely, when we accept ourselves fully with an open heart, we open to our goodness and our capacity for love and compassion and this opening IS the fundamental connection we are seeking!

Note: The monkey mind may also start to say things like, “Won’t accepting myself make me self-indulgent, lazy, and weak?” The answer is No! We still try to notice when we are engaged in harmful behaviours (egs. cheating, lying, gossiping, hoarding, back-stabbing, front-stabbing etc.) and make efforts to do things differently.   But, we also have compassion for the misguided parts of ourself that are responsible for these behaviours.  We gently hold our fears and needs for love with care so that we start to feel safe and connected from within rather through outward seeking.

Eventually we start to see that there is no difference between self-acceptance and acceptance of others. If there is someone who deeply irritates us, it is because We are irritable. If we see someone as being beautiful it is because of our inner beauty. It is a reflection of us not them. Every dimension of life is a perfect mirror. If we see love all around us it is because we are loving. If we accept ourself we can accept all others and start to exist in a river flowing with compassion and understanding. How beautiful!!

FCO collage 2

To make a donation to Father Charles’ “Biarienu Food Program” and/or to learn more about it click here.

We also learn to accept other faiths, religions, traditions, and peoples. We see that they are seeking safety and security, connection and love in their community just as we seek the same through our own. On the surface we may look different but at the root, all humans have the same drives and needs.  Beneath all of the layers of misunderstanding, we are all the same essential loving presence that we seek to find (through our misguided behaviours).  When we deeply understand this, acceptance is possible.

After accepting our self and others, we can also bring acceptance to other dimensions of life. So often we are caught in desire and expectations (especially of other people). We want life right now to be different than it is. We may want our spouse to be more considerate, our job to pay more, and our car to be faster. Our mind gets absorbed in these thoughts and we lose contact with beautiful essence of the present moment. The practice of acceptance does not mean we won’t have those things (we may or we may not), it just means that we don’t get lost in disappointment when things are not as we’d like them to be and we don’t waste precious life energy ruminating in worry about them. We bring an open mind to each moment, whatever it brings. We know that the next moment is ever fresh, brand new, and ripe with possibility!

Through acceptance we find connection with all of life and all of existence. This very moment, as you read, is a compilation of all past actions of all of life on earth. And this moment can only be exactly as it is. With acceptance of this we find peace. When we resist the present moment we find suffering. This does not mean we sit passively. There may be full movement and activity while practicing acceptance but we act with the awareness that the outcome of our actions is not in our control. We act spontaneously now because we know, in this moment, what needs to be done for the greater good from a place of understanding and compassion.

Father Charles is such a great example of this. In a country so fraught with corruption, violence, lack of education, severe poverty, and low morale, he continues to shine his love and joy. Not discouraged by lack of funds, lack of time, lack of support, or lack of resources (all of which are the case), he continues day by day, one step at a time in complete acceptance.

May we each walk one step at a time in joy, peace, and love!

Shira

To make a donation to Father Charles’ “Biarienu Food Program” and/or to learn more about it click here.

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