3P Random Reflections Blog
It's crazy, isn't it?
In our consumer society, we are so distanced and disconnected from the origin and production/processing and delivery of the products and services we buy, that we don't have any inkling of the upstream and downstream
effects (including the potential damage) of each purchase we make... with each effect then rippling out in an infinite number of directions.
We see something that looks useful to us, and buy it... and whatever we can't see or experience
or don't know about, never crosses our minds, as we simply move onto the next mostly unconscious purchase.
And since there is sooooooooo much shiny product that is sooooooooo easily purchased, and since the whole of our society is continually
buying (including me), we rarely question the insanity of it all... it's just more more more for me me me without any awareness of what we're doing, why we're doing it, or what is the impact.
And trying to figure out the potential effects
of any one purchased product could be overwhelming with all the information (and conflicting information) available... let alone considering all of that for every single thing we consume. And I haven't even touched on all the mostly hidden personal beliefs
and perceptions and insecure thoughts that unknowingly skew my views on what and how much I buy.
Instead, lately I've just been reflecting on this simple idea whenever it occurs to me...
"If I truly loved and felt
connected to everyone and everything, would I buy this product, or this service, or this (fill in the blank here)?"
Sometimes I say no and don't buy it. Sometimes I do a little research on it before purchasing. Sometimes I consider looking
for a more "loving" option (upcycled, recycled, repurposed, borrowed, shared, traded, eco-friendlier, alternate solution, smaller, less, etc.). Sometimes I still buy it.
And whatever the answer, I neither laud any choice as right (I'm
good) nor suffer any choice as wrong (I'm bad)... I've realized enough over the last few years not to get lost in either version of my insecure thought. For me, it's mostly just a growing mindfulness in what and why I buy, and my place within this incredibly
complex, interconnected world.
Right now, in truth, I'm still mostly a little turtle caught in the river rapids of consumerism. But this question is appearing in my mind more often, and having some influence on my less mindful purchasing
For me, at least it's a start.
And, it naturally leads into asking, "If I truly loved and felt connected to everyone and everything (including my sense of self), would I be doing what I'm doing right now?"
Hmmmmm... I wonder?
Six years ago, on May 24th 2013 to be precise, I somehow had a profound epiphany.
I don't really know why or how it happened, but in no small measure, I saw that I was my community and they were me. I realized the intrinsic divinity
in life, and in myself, and in everyone else. I saw clearly how everyone's negative behaviours were simply coming from their internal suffering, including my own... no exception.
Some things in my experience of life changed immediately,
but most other things have been on a slow, wildly up and down, but ultimately graceful and progressive path, even in the MANY moments when it hasn't seemed like it. And with that type of insight, how could it be otherwise?
And so the path
has brought me closer to LIVING more of what I had realized... moving away from giving significance to the personal me (all the stories my personal ego still loves to make up about myself, about life, about others, whether good or bad) and moving toward giving
significance to the impersonal me, the unconditional me, the community me, the connected me, the me that is actually not me at all... the me that is you and everyone and everything else.
This epiphany led to a significant change in the
focus of my work... leaving a big company full of those who are "the not-so-obvious, but socially accepted suffering", to work in a community full of those who are "the very obvious and socially unaccepted suffering".
Since then I've been
figuring out "how on earth" to navigate this new understanding in my own life and how to share it in ways for others to gain a glimpse of it too. And of that, I have been learning.
At the same time, by all the accepted measures of our
socially accepted version of society, my 6 years of "learning success" would be considered pretty dismal, and my personal ego LOVES to spend time pointing out all the stories to support it... not much money (although my tax refunds are fabulous! LOL!), not
many "obvious" souls saved, and not a significant flock of adoring fans reminding me of my personal brilliance. Poor me.
And so the biggest part of my path has been the agonizing and yet wonderful learning process of letting all that go...
remembering, realizing, and KNOWING again and again and again, that all these measures have been made up by the personal me and have absolutely nothing to do with the community me and nothing to do with the deep, profound truth to be found in the simple grace
of each moment of life itself, however the personal me and the community me happens to live it.
The personal me and all it's personal-crazy still has many hurdles ahead. It still has a lifetime full of lessons yet to arrive, teaching it
how to let go of the personal, how to "just play", and how to BE my community instead of judging it, or thinking I am above it, or unknowingly (and inevitably unsuccessfully) attempting to keep myself separate and protected from the parts of it that I don't
The real truth is that I AM my community, I AM ALL of it, and for better or worse, so are each of you, even in every moment when we forget it or don't know it at all. But whenever we are somehow given the grace to know it, to truly
know it, we are immediately better just for the knowing. We’re given the grace of love and understanding.
Before gaining insight into this spiritual mystery of life after coming across the Three Principles, I didn't yet know that there was such a thing as a spiritual truth to life. I thought
I was simply a human being, left all on my own to navigate my life with my inherent circumstances and the ways of the world... the rights, the wrongs, the good, the bad, the way things should be, and the way things shouldn't be.
Through my insight however, I realized the spiritual nature of life and the spiritual neutrality in EVERYTHING, including people and money. I saw that although there was this apparent concrete world
of rights and wrongs, there was also always at the spiritual level, a divinity and perfection in everything that can be experienced.
Now, in my human "Jonelle-ness",
I don't live in the 100% 24/7 felt awareness of the spiritual nature of life... seeing and feeling all as divine, revelling in the game of life, and resting in peaceful acceptance of all as it is.
Instead, I live most of the time with the experience of my personal needs, expectations, and perceptions, as if they are truth. I still navigate my life with ideas of right, wrong, good, bad, should, and should not, including my
ideas and experience regarding people and money.
But, there's always a part of me that knows and remembers the deeper spiritual truth. It reminds me that although
I'm playing this game of life with all sorts of securities and insecurities about money, and about the world, and about others, and about myself, and having those thoughts and feelings changing from moment to moment... I have the potential in any moment to
see any of it and all of it from the perspective of the divine. I now have a very clear understanding of how limited my view often is, because I've experienced something infinitely different, infinitely expansive, and infinitely, unconditionally, impersonally
Prior to this understanding, I really thought there were people who selfishly charged outrageous fees for their goods or services and didn't have compassion
for the less fortunate, and I really thought there were people who were unfairly overly compensated for the "work" they did compared to others, and I really thought there were people who were being incongruent in their apparent beliefs and values versus their
actions in financial matters, and I gave all of it all sorts of meaning and significance and permanence.
And, in the limited world of temporary, continually changing
form, there can be grains of truth to be found in all of these thoughts, but...
How does hanging on to any of this thinking make me feel in the moment?
If it comes with a feeling of tightness or discomfort or some sort of physical tension, I can guess that my insecure ego is the current limited story teller appearing in my mind,
and that it's giving me a very limited, one-sided picture.
If instead, it comes with a feeling of relaxed curiosity or humour or neutral observation without much thinking
around it, I can guess that I have a bit more clarity... that I'm closer to truth.
The difference for me is that I still think many of those things, but now there's
a part of me that more often tends to catch how I'm feeling, which helps me see how clear or unclear I am in the moment. And, at some level, I always know or remember the "practical applications" of this understanding of the spiritual nature of thought and
...that the situation involving people or money isn't ever only the way I THINK it is in this moment
...that I can see (and feel) anything regarding people or money, including an infinite number of different perspectives than I'm seeing/feeling right now
...that everyone is always doing their best with their believed limited thinking in each changing moment (including me)
...that any icky
feeling I may have from my personal judgment of unfairness regarding people and money (what is wrong, what should be different, etc.) is simply the experience of my insecure ego (my illusory sense of separate self)
...and that in any moment, I truly could see any of it and all of it as perfect... as divine.
All of this doesn't stop me from
believing or acting out of my personal, made up, beloved (and sometimes not so beloved) craziness, including attempting to right apparent wrongs, and probably more often just being judgy and righteous, but...
Whenever I somehow remember (and feel) again the spiritual truth of life...
...I get to let go of the significance of whatever
I think is "wrong"
...or I get to be humanly OK with temporarily feeling judgmental and righteous
...or I get to drop my judgments and all the stress they bring
...or I get to drop the need to figure it out so I can feel better
...or I get to fall back into a state of internal peace and acceptance
...or I get to see a neutral
situation for which I can apply personal actions of common sense as needed
...or I get to remember
that my sense of security can never come from money
...or I get to be kinder to myself and others, no matter my sense of their incongruent financial abundance, and
no matter how I happen to judge myself or others in comparison.
I get to lean more toward love and understanding for myself and everyone else, and that's a wonderfully
graceful perspective of life to more often get to live in.
I worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years, and was so fortunate to travel to many incredible places around
the world. Paris was one of them.
When I heard that Notre Dame was burning, I was initially shocked about the potential loss of such a grand and historic landmark.
I found myself immediately fascinated by the mesmerizing photos, trying to remember what I had seen in person compared to what I was seeing now. My memories brought forth vivid colours, smells, sounds, visuals, senses, thoughts, and feelings.
Despite the initial shock, I eventually fell back into the feeling and understanding of my insight from a few years ago. Instead of continuing to feel surprise and loss, I moved into the deeper
knowing of life that remains solid and unbroken and impersonal and unconditional... a tangible foundation to stand on, no matter the apparent loss or chaos of our human lives.
This knowing is simply the awareness of the inexplicable spiritual "part" of life that can't be touched by the changing world of form, no matter what form it takes. A foundation that once realized or glimpsed, can be felt and held and leaned into.
And so quickly enough, my emotions settled from the personal to the impersonal... from a personal emotional shock to an impersonal reflective understanding of the event and of
I thought about the inevitable impermanence of everything in form. I remembered that the significance of any object comes only from the continually changing
perceptions and emotions I attach to it, arising and falling with each moment of my changing attention and changing thought.
From the space of this deeper understanding
of life, I can see that the cathedral will be built again, or it won't. Architects and artisans will get new work, or they won't. Events and ceremonies will be celebrated there again, or they won't. Visitors will come to see the ruins or the rebuild, or they
won't. Money will be spent to clean up, or repurpose, or rebuild, or it won't. And without exception, every single one of us will have the creative power of thought flowing through us, forming our uniquely personal experience of whatever happens in each subsequent
The richness and complexity of the form of life will continue, while the formless foundation of life will still hold true, no matter what passes on and what
appears anew. A piece of the form of life is now permanently and irrevocably lost, and yet that simple movement is foundational to all of life itself... the passing of one form to allow the appearance of another form.
When I heard how people and businesses were immediately pledging hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild this object, it gave me another pause for reflection. I was wondering what I would do if I had millions of dollars,
and what events would spark strong enough emotions in me to immediately part with something that previously seemed more important to hold on to, and perhaps less important to apply to any of the unlimited number of other burning causes.
I then reflected on the relatively LIMITED feelings of shock that I felt as the recent series of Red Cross posts passed through my social media feeds, detailing the loss and suffering of human
life after Cyclone Idai impacted Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
How is it that my emotions come out so strongly for the loss of an object, while they rest somewhat in indifference
to the suffering and loss of those very human lives? Why is a familiar object more emotion-sparking for me than an unfamiliar life?
In a way, I know the answer.
My human mind naturally chooses preferences in order to navigate life. The likes and dislikes, the attentions and dismissals give me a direction to go in, and a preference to
choose. I can't choose everything, so my preferences offer me a guide. The familiar... from my memories, my experiences, my connections, my culture, my beliefs... they all offer up emotions when some sort of personal connection is made. And from there, my
actions tend to follow.
From the perspective of the formless, of the impersonal and unconditional, no direction or preference that arises within me, is right or wrong.
I respond to the energy of thought that flows through me in each moment, in forms both secure and insecure.
At the same time, I do participate in this human world
of form. My preferences and choices contribute to the community and world that I live in. And with a little glimpse of the illusory nature of thought and emotion, I'm learning to navigate whatever arises with a bit more grace and with a little less collateral
damage... with a bit more love and a little less fear... with a bit more security and a little less insecurity.
I know that I will never be able to offer my service
or my money for EVERY event that causes suffering or loss. But having some awareness of the variable and often illogical nature of my personal thought, does give me enough pause to notice myself experiencing more emotion over an object than a life.
And of course, it's not always that way. I've chosen life over object on an innumerable number of other events and occasions. Perhaps this latest bit of awareness is just a reminder
to me to continue to make that choice, in whatever way the form of life happens to fall or arise before me next?
At the homeless shelter where I volunteer, they offer an occasional “snack and learn” session where volunteers and staff can come to listen to a leader (from a particular department at the shelter) share about their work. It’s a great
way of learning more about the various areas of the organization and the community it serves.
This week’s session was facilitated by the leader of Spiritual Care Services, a lovely, caring woman of Christian faith,
and of an open mind and heart supporting the full range of physical, mental, and spiritual needs of the community, no matter the personal faith, belief, culture, race, history, or sexual orientation of any individual. The homeless and suffering community at
the shelter come in every human form, and her mission is simply to provide room for all of it with safety, love, respect, compassion, and understanding.
At the same time, a significant part of her focus includes fostering
reconciliation for the harm done by Christianity toward the Indigenous community, since they make up a significant portion of those suffering; a direct result of their history of colonization and marginalization, and the cascading effects on each subsequent
generation for the last 200 years or so.
Overall, the feeling she was coming from as she spoke was soft and kind.
At the session there was a wide range of volunteers and staff workers from
various faiths including at least two volunteers who’s view of Christianity was primarily of winning the fight between good and evil and doing so by bringing individuals to their specific understanding of Christ and the Bible’s teachings. One of
them was a “not-yet-started-volunteer-and-checking-it-out-first” person who explained his own faith, and then seemed genuinely curious in asking how the shelter manages the balance between helping the suffering but not accepting or supporting their
non-Christian faiths or evil behaviours. Where does the shelter draw the line?
The other one had come to the shelter over a year ago, helping out in the facility that sorts and distributes clothing. She talked about her sense
that the homeless shelter was being intentionally misleading, purporting a Christian faith, but only under the guise of getting more financial help and services from the surrounding Christian community. She seemed somewhat tense and unhappy, but advised that
she continued to volunteer despite eventually discovering that the organization did not hold or administer to her Christian beliefs.
As I listened to everyone’s sharing, some of them pointing to the universal nature
of God, and many giving their advice and sharing their own beliefs, I noticed the feeling in the room. The tension in word and tone would rise and fall based on wherever each person was coming from, and how they were engaging with others. There wasn’t
much asking out of genuine curiosity. There was more just telling… sometimes in a more neutral or lighthearted way, and sometimes in a subtle or not-so-subtle judgmental way.
The Spiritual Care leader and several other
shelter employees did her best to calmly and pleasantly navigate the conversation and share their own understanding of the shelter’s mission.
Initially I was feeling pretty uncomfortable and judgmental about the two
individuals with their fundamental beliefs. At the same time, I felt that I knew enough to NOT jump into the middle of the discussion, sharing yet another version of what appears to be “right”. Instead I just sat, attempting to listen as best as
I could, and in an odd way, enjoying the observation of the feelings in me and in the room. I was aware that at the most fundamental level of life, I was simply experiencing the richness of humanity in all its forms (me included), just as I experience it with
the guests I get to meet at the shelter.
After the meeting, with time to reflect, I got a little clearer. I realized that although I had some level of understanding of what was happening in the room and happening within myself
(which is already something I’m incredibly grateful for), I hadn’t been at all curious about those who were sharing their fundamental beliefs. I wasn’t considering being in their shoes, feeling the struggle of fighting against evil and working
with a genuine and heartfelt desire toward the salvation of mankind. It didn’t occur to me to ask them questions to learn more about what they see and how they see it, and to give them the same love and understanding that I offer to the guests that come
to the shelter.
It’s not uncommon for me to go in this direction. It easily occurs to me to offer love and understanding to “those on the front lines of vulnerability and injustice”, but rarely to offer
the same love and understanding to those I deem as “should know better”, either because of their apparent privilege or their apparent status.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered enough about life and love to continue
to receive little nudges from the universe about which direction to look in. I eventually somehow fall out of my head and into my heart, fall out of my disconnect and back into my connection to our common humanity, and remember again that my only job is to
love with understanding and without condition. From that place, everything easily and beautifully takes care of itself.