READING: There is nothing softer or more yielding than water but none is superior to it in overcoming the hard; it has no equal. Weakness overcomes strength and gentleness overcomes rigidity. Everyone knows this, yet no one puts it into practice. Tao Te Ching

Small Steps
Talk presented by Rich Hayes
Feb. 26, 2012 at
Unitarian Universalist Church, Pittsfield, MA

Awhile ago  Jane & I went over to Saratoga to the Dance Flurry. This has become an annual event for us-we look forward to the great variety of music and dancing and workshops offered. Jane is a big dancer-not so  with me. Not that I don’t enjoy dancing, but in a less structured way than the contras, so Jane does those without me. 

The first event we attended was for the “Lindy” and the thing that attracted me to this was: 
             A-I’m pretty OK with the Lindy, and 
             B-There was an 8 piece swing band that was supposed to be great.

So Jane and I showed up at the ballroom and the place was packed with hundreds of people! A man stepped out on the stage and began talking-he was the dance instructor. I quickly learned that we would all be lining up and we would be switching partners. He proceeded to give instructions that seemed more involved than my basic Lindy abilities. 

This had not been my expectation and I felt myself begin to tense up as he continued talking. I found myself unable to concentrate on what he was saying.  I began to feel afraid of not knowing what to do, afraid of dancing with people I didn’t know. Fear that I would look foolish and  would really annoy the partners that would not understand that I didn’t do this sort of thing very well began to overwhelm me. 

As the instructor continued talking I went through a range of worst-case scenarios at the speed of light in my mind. 

In the meantime, standing across from me as my first partner is my wife Jane. Jane who knows me so well, and seeing the feelings I think I’m concealing so well, reaches out and takes my hand and smiles at me. I look up at her and our eyes meet and I see complete love and kindness. I can only imagine what she’s seeing in my eyes! But that doesn’t deter her. She is calm, loving, accepting. I’m terrified. 

But seeing her has interrupted what’s been going on in my mind. And in that interruption I “see”(realize) what’s happening to me.
FEAR-false evidence appearing real-my emotion is not based in reality. These feelings are from long ago and far away. 

Few of us get out of childhood unscathed from some sort of awful incident or humiliation, but viewing the world through this wound blinds us.
Until this “interruption” I was being blinded. I was not in reality as
it was (people gathered together to enjoy themselves and have fun)-I was in reality AS I WAS (Fearful and miserable).

I took a deep breath. I remembered that this was my choice! I didn’t have to continue down this path. I could pause, refocus-tap into that love my wife was sending my way-tap into the general goodwill and nervous energy around me, and simply have fun.  
Well, it wasn’t
that easy, but I was able to make a shift in my feelings and not have the day ruined. 

Love saved me.

Loves' opposite is not hate, it is fear.
Think about it: hate is simply a byproduct of fear. 
Why do people hate? If you drill down far enough-past retaliations for harms & wrongs done, or injustices or different politics, or whatever you can come up with, at some point you will come to fear. Fear of loss, fear of lack or not having enough, fear of “different”, “Alien”, not like “Us”, fear that in some way “I” may not be good enough-or worse, fear that I may actually not be as good as I think I am!
There is a saying: we love to hate in the world what we hate to love in our self. Now substitute the word “FEAR” for hate.

ALL potentials-both good and bad-exist within all human beings. The greatest acts of love and worst acts imaginable are possible. It’s a fact of being human and we all share this commonality whether we wish to admit it or not. I once heard Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross say that everyone has an “inner Hitler” and an “inner Mother Theresa”.  She said that if you didn’t deal with this and face your inner Hitler during your life, then as you die it will deal with you. She recommended not waiting until the end. 

That’s because  admitting this (or its possibility) can actually free us from the unconscious bondage of our own denial which projects these things we hate and fear out on to others and out on to our world. And it may even cause us to behave in the very same way!

Jesus tells us very clearly: Love your enemies. 
In the Tao it’s written: Love the world as your own self.
The Buddha says, “Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an eternal rule.”

An eternal rule: rule as in law. As basic as the law of gravity, whose effects are also evident whether you chose to believe it or not. What you put out, comes back to you.

A personal confession. One night on the news John Boehner  is being interviewed and I find myself talking to the TV and I'm not using kind words. I began to feel anger and I take issue with what he’s saying. I ask out loud, how can anyone believe this guy? Things can escalate from there. OK, clearly he is wrong in what he is saying (at least according to me). 

But what is happening here???
I’m engaged-enraged-reeled-in! I’m feeling not good and positive feelings toward a person I view as a “problem”. He would probably feel the same way about me…
if he were aware of me. But he’s not!! He doesn’t know there’s some guy ranting at a TV in Massachusetts (probably wouldn’t care either). 

So, who is suffering???  Me! 

What is being accomplished here? Very little, other than an amplification of fear disguised as anger. BUT that has an
effect…and it does affect (infect)the world. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things it seems small potatoes, but begin multiplying it by thousands and then millions of other people doing similar and what have you got???

Well, you’re looking at it.

But if I am able to see what’s happening as I start to engage in this, I can choose to remind myself of what I
know intellectually, but in the moment don’t “feel”. It's that Jesus is right, Buddha is right, Lao Tzu is right: Love is the answer.
Wish your enemy well - love those who persecute you.
So, I can turn off the TV, or at least stop yelling at it. I can wish John well. I can turn my focus away from politics and beliefs and disagreement and I simply wish him blessings and peace.

Does he know this? Does that matter? No. 

You see, here’s the thing: something shifts
in me. I’m better. And in my little corner of the world I take this “better-ness” (as opposed to bitterness) with me as I interact with people, who interact with other people, and so on and so on, and eventually it connects with John Boehner in some form or way totally beyond my ability to imagine. And change occurs- as it has from the outset and all along the way from that moment I changed what I was doing. And change happens.

We are all connected-every last one of us-in ways that we cannot fully comprehend or fathom. 

This is what is at the heart of this spiritual teaching-why every tradition speaks of it- and it is the answer to the troubles, suffering and dilemmas we continue to perpetuate when we fail to practice it.

And it is always about practice. And practice is NOT about perfect-it’s about practice, imperfectly and to the best of our ability whenever we can remember, and that calls us to mindfulness and paying attention. It is putting one foot in front of the other and taking small steps as you set out on this spiritual path of Love.

In the Tao we’re reminded that a Journey of 10,000 miles begins with one step.

In the April 2012 edition of Spirituality & Health magazine there’s an  interview with Wayne Dyer in which he was asked how people  make this shift in awareness. He quotes Swami Vivekananda who said: “In the springtime go out and observe the blossoms on the fruit trees. The blossoms vanish of themselves as the fruit grows. So to will the lower self vanish as the Divine grows within you”.

He then goes on to say, "The Divine growing within you is nothing more than allowing love to replace fear. There is nothing to fear. People say, “I’m anxious”.  No,  you’re afraid.  People say, "I’m depressed”.  Your not depressed, you’re afraid. You’re afraid of life. Substitute. Turn that fear, that depression, that anxiety, that worry, that hatred that revenge, that bitterness-just turn it into love."

He concluded by saying that when enough of us do this the consciousness of the planet will shift. 

I agree completely. Small steps, changes in awareness and intentions that take place everyday in more and more of us are happening. Don’t lose heart. This is a 10,000 mile journey. And we have begun.
Thank You.