The Late N Train

homeless_platform

The N train into Brooklyn was running late. I wasn’t rushing anywhere important, only running errands.  Nothing notably spectacular was going on.

I had just come from yoga and my head was clear. My mood was a very perceptive one and I was ready to share the good feelings. The train pulled up and I stood in front of the closed doors. I felt a slight breeze as they parted and I walked in. I gazed to my left and saw a homeless man sprawled out with his belongings; a few large rocks, torn magazine pages, and a couple half-smoked cigarettes. He took up the entire side of the cab. No one dared sit near.

I took a seat across the aisle, between two very doubtful subway riders. They gave up their positions as soon as the subway approached the next stop. I watched this man organize his belongings over and over. His eyes drooped with fatigued and his pupils dilated with inebriation. Every few moments he’d fumble his feet and slur some words, grabbing random railings to steady himself. He was contained in his solitude, not looking to escape. He was of no harm, nor meant any ill will. He was in pain. He was hurt.

The rest of the train scowled. As we approached new stops, passengers entered only to exit, leaving this car for the next. Some held their nose, others held back their stomachs. The man was filthy, but he was still a man. I kept my gaze on him, trying to see myself in his eyes, but the only thing I could see was the separation between myself and the crowd.

This man was on trial, for crimes he’d already commit and the verdict was guilty. He had no home, no job, no money. He smelled like trash and urine, looked like he rolled around in garbage all morning, and sounded like a madman. His actions were unfamiliar and made others uncomfortable. He was homeless. Less than human.

I started to feel bad. My sympathy was overwhelming, so much so that a deep valley of compassion was carved in me. I hoped there would be help to uplift the despair on this train. I sent love to the depths of the ignorant. I asked how I could help change the reality of it all. How could I be a beacon, an example of kindness, love, and empathy? And amidst the glares, judgements, and beckons of the other passengers, I sat firmly in my seat, smiling at this gentle, homeless man.

The people on the 2:34 N Train into Atlantic Avenue made my heart sink. Their disdain and utter disregard for another human being was so cold, so unyielding, that this man never had a chance to change. His position in this world was sealed by the reactions of his peers. His peers—yes, because we are all living on this Earth together—who were going about their days running from work to home, home to work, store to store, place to place, could not afford to give him a simple gesture of kindness. Not even a smile.

Not even an empathetic thought.

I felt bad for that people on that train. For each and every one of them. The only soul that escaped that late N train without an ounce of my worry, was that homeless man clutching his bag of half-smoked cigarettes and absurdly large rocks. He was safe in depths of his solitude from the follies of mankind.

But then again I wondered, how could I love the others? They were me, too.

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An Amazing Display of Love

I read this story yesterday and it really moved me. It is the quintessential exemplar of the dawning of a new age, an age filled with love.

I’ve reposted the article below. Here is the link to the original post. It was written by Kirsten Wolfe, a 20 year-old student and retail manager.

Dear Customer who stuck up for his little brother, you thought I didn’t really notice. But I did. I wanted to high-five you.

Yesterday I had a pair of brothers in my store. One was maybe between 15-17. He was a wrestler at the local high school. Kind of tall, stocky and handsome. He had a younger brother, who was maybe about 10-12 years old. The only way to describe him was scrawny, neat, and very clean for a boy his age. They were talking about finding a game for the younger one, and he was absolutely insisting it be one with a female character. I don’t know how many of y’all play games, but that isn’t exactly easy. Eventually, I helped the brothers pick a game called Mirror’s Edge. The youngest was pretty excited about the game, and then he specifically asked me.. “Do you have any girl color controllers?” I directed him to the only colored controllers we have which includes pink and purple ones. He grabbed the purple one, and informed me purple was his FAVORITE.

The boys had been taking awhile, so their father eventually comes in. He see’s the game, and the controller, and starts in on the youngest about how he needs to pick something different. Something more manly. Something with guns and fighting, and certainly not a purple controller. He tries to convince him to get the new Zombie game “Dead Island.” and the little boy just stands there repeating “Dad, this is what I want, ok?” Eventually it turns into a full blown argument complete with Dad threatening to whoop his son if he doesn’t choose different items.

That’s when big brother stepped in. He said to his Dad “It’s my money, it’s my gift to him, if it’s what he wants I’m getting it for him, and if your going to hit anyone for it, it’s going to be me.” Dad just gives his oldest son a strong stern stare down, and then leaves the store. Little brother is crying quietly, I walk over and ruffle his hair (yes this happened all in front of me.) I say “I’m a girl, and I like the color blue, and I like shooting games. There’s nothing wrong with what you like. Even if it’s different than what people think you should.” I smile, he smiles back (my heart melts!) Big brother then leans down, kisses little brother on the head, and says “Don’t worry dude.” They check out and leave, and all I can think is how awesome big brother is, how sweet little brother is, and how Dad ought to be ashamed for trying to make his son any other way.

The Inner Salt March

There are very few people who enjoy being sad. There are many less who will welcome its arrival. There are even fewer who will marvel at its perfection. Yet, with all those opposed to sadness, there is a great wealth to be found in learning to love the “negative”. And as today is the anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, there is no better teacher than the powerful and compassionate Mahatma Gandhi.

We tend to undervalue the role negativity plays in our lives. Negative experiences are truly only as negative as we make them. In fact, all emotions are only the product of the assigned value we attach to them. It is in our minds that we create the perception of good or bad.

We perceive what feels good and what feels bad by our decision to adhere to these declarations. This does not mean that a punch to the face feels any different from what it actually feels like. Instead, it reveals that the mind’s reaction to that feeling is what creates our judgment, our perception. Experience is placed on a human-emotional narrative; where judgment is made, creating a system of likes and dislikes.

Doesn't look like that felt too good.

And although the punch always feels like a punch, it does not need to invoke a negative response. Imagine getting punched in the face and feeling nothing but compassion for your assailant.  Without doubt, the amount of emotional pain needed to make one person punch another is quite unbearable. This understanding paves a path to feeling an overwhelming sense of love in the midst of conflict.  From this perspective, we can see how there is always a choice.

It is this concept that has driven the peaceful protests of millions across the world. Gandhi’s famous satyagraha, loosely translated as truth force, is based on the principle that universal truth rather than passive resistance will conquer opposition. In this regard, we can relate the idea of satyagraha to our personal lives. It is an inward pressure that accepts “negative” emotion and reacts with love. And although Gandhi’s movement had a very obvious and directed purpose, his philosophy of the force of the soul was that the opponent must not be attacked or ignored, but showered with compassion and patience.

Are we not all opposed to ourselves? A battle of the mind contra the heart. The positive versus the negative. There is a constant inner battle in each of us that assigns biased judgments, which labels emotions and feelings as something more than what they truly are. In applying this definition of satyagraha to our personal battle we use compassion and patience in dealing with all emotions. It is here that the secret nature of emotions is revealed.

All emotions serve but one purpose, and that is to experience. Life is one great, unfathomable experience, constantly unfolding and evolving. Our minds are our vehicles for transmitting and decoding experience. We choose to create a world of good and bad, but in the same breath with the same amount of energy, we can choose to see every experience as an expansion of our universal awareness. Be it ecstatic or terrible, enlightening or ignorant, every possible occurrence that takes place is solely manifested to show us the extent of our creative possibility.

Life is an ocean. When we choose to experience life sailing on the waves, out boat sails smoothly and also rocks violently. When we choose to experience life from the bottom of the ocean floor, the waves cannot leave their impression. Instead, in the calmness we are able to watch our boat rock without attachment. We are able to ascertain, experience, and enjoy everything without judgment. Action is revealed as experience—not better or worse than any other emotion.

And in this stripping of judgment and value, one can truly experience the beauty of all aspects of life.

We are here for our enjoyment.

The Beauty of Pain

Photo: soulbounce

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, instead of buying flowers and making dinner reservations, I find myself feeling the pangs of a broken relationship. But even with this heartbreak, I’ve found more love than I could imagine. And it is all because of pain.

Sometimes, pain is the most important teacher in life.

It takes on many forms: physical, emotional, existential, spiritual, the list goes on. Yet regardless of the different shapes it takes, pain is always the same. It eats at the core and it sinks down low. It is blue and hollow, victimized and regretful. Pain is a horrible feeling that is relaying a message to the inflicted. At the most basic level it yells “STOP!” Take your hand off the kettle, take pressure off your ankle, release your grip of the thumbtack. It alerts us to safety when we are in danger. In physical form, the tangibility clearly denotes the necessity of pain. But what about the less palpable pains?

What about heartbreak? What about depression? What about fear and failure? These are all forms of pain and they all hurt—sometimes more than physical pain. What are the messages of these non-material sufferings? What is pain telling me when my heart is broken?

It is telling me the same message: “Stop!” Something in my life is causing me harm and I need to pay attention to it. This stress is taxing my energy and causing friction, so much friction that pain must speak up.

In all honesty, I am going through a lot of pain. Break ups are never easy, nor the ones you wish did not happen. As easy as some make it seem, separation is always tough. However, it is nothing new and the outcome will always be positive because, as they say, life goes on. What I would rather discuss is not the details of my situation, but the process of pain.  I find that too often I speed through the painful moments in order to reach happiness. This neglect of hurt has denied me valuable lessons. Lessons that one can only receive in true moments of despair.

Click here to see the full article on elephantjournal.com