The Washington Square Park Puppeteer

13 Oct. 2013 – New York City, New York – Doris Diether, 85, holds her mini marionette after performing for an audience in Washington Square Park. Diether, who was once unable to speak due to an injury, found her voice and passion in the performance art of puppeteeringPhotos by Sara Hylton

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Love, are you somewhere out there?

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There is one universal commonality among all people on earth, perhaps the only thing that crosses every border and connects us all, and that is the power of love. How we express love and rituals around the idea of love may vary depending on cultural practices and traditions. But at the end of the day, most humans would cease to exist without some form of love and connection to other humans.

I have spent much time reminiscing over the idea of love and what it actually means. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my childhood was spent watching romantic comedies, enjoying Valentine’s day celebrations, and hearing of love stories with only happy endings. The boy always seemed to get the girl and the girl always somehow got the boy. The ideas of soul mate, the one, a life partner, fate, destiny, etc etc became truths that were securely planted in my brain.

Love, one often believes, is something that comes in a form, is something we go out in the world and find in someone or something else. That is if we are lucky. Jealousy, passion, envy, attachment, and possessiveness are all considered natural human emotions in the love department. One must begin to wonder, is that really what love is?

Love defined by dictionary.com is “a profoundly tender, passionate emotion for another person” or “a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person, sweetheart.” But wait. What about the people who don’t have a passionate emotion for another person, boyfriend, girlfriend, sweetheart, parent etc etc? Do they not have love? Are they not just as human as those who apparently have love? Is love so dependent on another person?

Personally, I was not able to answer these questions for a long time. As time went on parents were divorced, tears were shed, hearts were broken, and crushes and boyfriends came and went. Life, and my attachments, somehow continued on as usual and I survived. But then I had my first heartbreak and I lost someone very close to me. I admit, I thought life as I knew it was over.

This experience acted as the impetus for my discovering a new truth. And that is the following: love is not a man or a woman who broke your heart or someone you lost. LOVE IS YOU. Love is your core, your heart, your ultimate truest being and that love never disappears. Another person, a form, can allow us to feel a love that we already have within us, but they cannot give us love and they cannot take it away.

Humans need love and care to survive, there is no question. But the ideas and definitions we have created around love – and what it should look like – is something to be questioned. The more one comes to understand that compassion, kindness, and spirit are love itself, the more one can experience the love that manifests universally, at all times and in all forms. When we cease to look on the exterior for a “soul mate” or the one to give us love, we realize that we always have the love we are looking for.

What do you think about love? Do you believe someone can give you love? How do you experience the feelings and emotions of love?

Self-reflection: what’s the big deal?

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Over the past few weeks I have seen a famous Oscar Wilde quote more times than I can count – “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” This quote seems to be somewhat of a universal reminder during the times I question, or more appropriately others help me to question, my life path.

Through efforts of being a more compassionate, loving, and open human being, it seems the floodgates have also opened to the human emotions I am attempting to keep at bay – emotions like judgment and condemnation. These emotions manifest in different ways and at different times, but lately seem to be most present in the themes of lifestyle choices and vegetarianism.

I have been a vegetarian for ten years, since the age of 18 after reading a Moby insert to an album in which he poetically discussed the harmful and ethical impacts of eating and wearing animals. I was so profoundly moved that I instantly gave up meat. Over this time, I have done my best to remain open to other’s lifestyle choices should they choose to live differently and to be aware of dogmatic tendencies – which we are all capable of. The guide in which I try to follow is what today, now, makes me feel morally okay to exist on the planet and that today means my efforts to do no harm against my brothers and sisters – which in my mind includes much more than the human species. Others feel okay about living on the planet in different ways.

Over ten years of being vegetarian, I have faced many questions, curiosities, and judgments, particularly in places like Africa where meat is the main staple and it is an elite thing to be something like a “vegetarian”! I am more than conscious of this and have questioned my own motives for the choices I have made, particularly in places where food is a daily struggle. Conversely, I have faced praise from Asian people “oh you are a good girl, pure vegetarian.”

As of late, the phrase I quoted above has been acting as somewhat of a test. For example, a close family member – upon my statement that I would be happy to sit down to a lovely prepared meal but that I would not eat a chicken dish – told me I was not welcome at the dinner table. My choices of “do no harm” seemed to have done harm to someone else’s way of being. Furthermore, I saw a naturopath who mentioned I may have low cholesterol due to my years of vegetarianism. She suggested I just go right ahead and eat ethically prepared liver to boost that cholesterol right up. Of course, why had I not considered that alternative?

The point is, the moment we attach ourselves to a fixed idea or a certain way of being, no matter how noble or worthy we think it is, the moment the universe will challenge our philosophies. The key, I have learned along the way, is to believe in the quote “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” but to be open and willing to learn from the messages others bring, no matter how wild or judgmental they may seem. To be self-reflective is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Here is a quote that I thought very appropriate to the theme I am discussing. Do my fellow seekers out there have any thoughts or comments on this theme?

“We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.”

Blog Tag

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Thank you to Jae Lei Nyght for tagging me in the Blog tag game.  http://www.jaeleinyght.wordpress.com

1. Here is how it works:

  1. Post rules.
  2. Answer the questions set for you in their post.
  3. Then it’s your turn to “tag” 11 people with a link to your post.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.
  5. Create 11 new questions or use the same ones to ask the people you’ve tagged.

2. My Answers to Jae Lei Nyght are:

What are five things you love most about yourself?

My inquisitiveness, my sense of compassion, my open-mindedness, my sense of humor, my reflective nature.

What is your fondest memory?

There are two that compete. The first is when I went on a trek in Nepal with my best friend Tanya and woke up to watch the sun rise over the beautiful Himalayas. The second is when I was nine years old, I was on a ferry from Spain to Northern Africa and I remember looking up at the stars in amazement and wonder and twirling around the ferry deck. In both of those moments I felt alive and connected to the entire universe!

When you think of home, what do you see, taste, feel?

When I think of home I see the ocean and clear blue skies surrounded by people and animals; I smell fresh air and sea water and freshly brewing coffee. I taste freedom. I feel content and vibrant and the happiness that comes from unconditional love. I feel safely held by the people around me and by the universe.

Pretend you’re a stranger reading your blog. What is one word you would use to describe it?

Wise or reflective.

“To be or not to be, that is the question?” by William Shakespeare What does this quote mean to you?

This quote signifies to me whether one chooses to be – to exist in the now and surrender to what is, to simply exist – or not to be, whether one chooses to live unconsciously. But I think the quote overall speaks to a greater scale of humanity, are we awake or are we asleep?

If you could go back in time, where would you go? And why?

If I could go back in time I would go back to when my father was still alive so I could tell him how much I love him and appreciate him before he died. So I could say goodbye to him and have some closure, mostly so I could just give him a hug and tell him I am proud of him.

If you could undo one thing from your past, what would it be?

When I was a teenager I was a swimmer and a dancer but I had to choose one activity because they were taking up too much of my time. I loved dancing more than anything, I have always been a dancer, but my sister chose swimming and I was too afraid to go my own way, so I followed her. If I could go back in time I would have been the dancer! At the same time, that decision allowed me to discover my dancer later in life, so in reality I believe there are no mistakes.

What’s your favorite color and why?

My favorite color is turquoise because it is bright yet serene, it is foreign yet familiar, it is mysterious and beautiful and sometimes flawed. I identify with the color turquoise because it is not necessarily easy to categorize. It reminds me of foreign lands.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. What is one attribute about your best friend or spouse that is most similar to you?

The one attribute about my best friend that is most similar to me is her creativity and wildness. She is the most spunky, neat, authentic, wild being and is unlike anyone I know. She is a gift from god.

If you could have one power in the world what would it be and why?

To fly, so I could sweep high above the world and look down in amazement and wonder, so I could visit every country in the world, so I could rise above it all!

Imagine one loving message you could give to the world, right now. What would it be?

Love yourself no matter what you believe the world and its people think of you, embrace yourself and know that you are loved and safely held by the universe. Be free.

3. Tag, you’re it! My 11 nominees for blog tag are:

1. Self-awareness for change

2. Savasana addict

3. cruzdelsur

4. S Wave

5. Fashion Style Guru

6. Travelola

7. cancer killing recipe

8. Nishanth Gowda

9. Awakening

10. Live simply, travel lightly, love passionately & don’t forget to breathe

11. Parashar’s tales

5. My 11 Questions for you are:

1. What is your dream?

2. Are you living your dream? If not, why?

3. Who are your 3 biggest inspirations?

4. Who/what/where makes you feel most at peace?

5. Who is your biggest support and why?

6. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

7. If you could go back in time, would you?

8. What are 5 things you love about yourself?

9. If you could change one thing about your life right now what would it be?

10. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?

11. What is your greatest fear and why?

Thanks again to Jae Lei Nyght for including me in this fun game!

The power of intention, do you believe in it?

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My reflections these days draw me to a book that came out years ago, a book called “the Secret.” We had two copies of this book in my household, probably an indication of my mother’s latest self-help book infatuation. This book was everywhere, it seemed to be some kind of “secret” code to a universe I had yet to tap into. Miracles had happened, I was told.

Years later, I reflect back on this book and though I don’t have a success story, I can share my own experience with the “secret” I found through listening to my internal voice, the voice that knows the ultimate “secret” and direction of life.

I can’t count the number of times I have had people tell me what to do and give advice through the phrases: “you SHOULD do this, well I WOULD do this, if I were in your situation this is what I WOULD do…etc etc.” Along the path of life, not so many people tell us to trust ourselves and listen to our core; we are told to do what we are told! Unfortunately, this isn’t much help.

I don’t know about you, but I became tired of listening to the voices of others and their judgments, though of course they all come with love and the best of intentions. So I sought quiet and solitude for a long time, and I was forced to listen to my own voice, SCARY. I asked myself: what are your biggest dreams? What do you love? What makes you happy on a daily basis? What is standing in the way of your dreams? Is it fear? Who is supportive of your dreams? Who is clouding your dreams?

I had to ask these questions for a long time before things became clear, but when they did, I knew they were coming from my own voice. I knew that my dreams to practice yoga, to write, and to take pictures were not coming from ego or my attempt to listen to others or “be” something, but rather they were coming from the source of my passion to understand and explore the world around me.

I set out my intentions to pursue these passions and I wrote my intentions down on a piece of paper when they were clear to me. I read them each day to myself, over and over and still do. They became my mantra. I didn’t say the mantra to gain anything, I said it because it was my truth, my conversation with God. Over a period of time, I noticed things begin to shift, in my career direction, in my relationships, and in my daily artistic expression. My days became filled with synchronicity, curiosity, and things I love and they continue this way. Of course I am not famous, I am not written up in the papers, but that is not the point is it?!

So, for those of you still reading this post, perhaps you have discovered this secret already. However, if you haven’t, here is the very simple formula I have found to be of use while discovering my creative dreams and yearnings and moving towards them:

–       Find time and space each day to be alone and to express yourself, even if it is five minutes sitting under a tree drawing, finding a silent space in your house to read a poem, or dancing to your favorite song. Whatever you feel like doing, do it and do it alone. Have happy time each day just for you!

–       Continue to ask yourself questions because it is fun and you are curious, not because you are attempting to find something. What is it that brings you the most joy? What makes you tick? What connects you to the universe? It doesn’t matter what it is, it can only be yours!

–       Surround yourself with inspiring people, people you look up to, people who believe in you and who are supportive of your aspirations. Nobody needs a downer or a critic as a friend or family member during this search, we already have enough of that in ourselves.

–       When your voice becomes clear, take a small sheet of paper and write your own mantra, your own prayer. If you need some ideas they can start with something like:

  • My intention is to express myself through…
  • My intention is to explore my…
  • My dream is to…

Paste it on your wall or put it somewhere special and sacred and read it to yourself each day when it’s convenient for you.

I share this post not because I am some kind of guru or self-help teacher, but because it is my own creative expression that has brought me here. I can’t give you any guarantees or refund policies, but I can say that the synchronicity that has unfolded for me has been pretty amazing.

Again, I leave you with a quote and some questions:

“Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.”

Do you believe in the power of intention? Do you have any stories you want to share? Opposing views?

Do our actions have consequences?

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Most of us are familiar with the term karma and likely have a general understanding of what it means. Perhaps we use it in our vocabulary – “oh yes, well that’s just karma” – referring generally to a negative or positive situation. I can only speak for myself here, but my use of the word was no indication that I had any idea about the laws of karma or why such a thing would matter to me.

After spending a fair amount of time in Asia, I became more familiar with the term and it’s profound importance in Eastern philosophies and religions. Karma is defined as “any kind of intentional action whether mental, verbal, or physical,” which creates the cycle of cause and effect. All good and bad action constitutes karma and involves both past and present actions. Karmic reactions (or vipaka, meaning the result of Karma) at present can even be from actions in past lifetimes according to Buddhists.

For most of us, we would often view our present situations as strictly negative or positive, that we have been dealt a bad hand by Almighty God or are unlucky. “I just can’t believe my wife left me” for instance, or “wow I’m so lucky I won the lottery.” Yet, with the laws of karma, our present situation can be viewed as a consequence of past actions that we must work through. Even if we see our present situation as crap, we still have the power to create fresh karma which can lead to our own progress or downfall in this life.

Eastern philosophy has obviously made its way into Western societies – being a “Buddhist” and taking up meditation has become somewhat of a trend. However, we continue to be deeply influenced by our capitalist system of productivity and our Catholic conditioning of an almighty God controlling our destinies. As a consequence, we often behave in ways that benefit us individually but may not benefit the individuals or communities around us. In other words, karma isn’t really something that is deeply rooted in Western culture or our daily thoughts and actions.

Learning about karma and Eastern philosophies has helped me to view things a little differently than I previously have. For instance, two days ago I found a five dollar bill on the ground. For a moment I thought about selfishly keeping this five dollar bill for myself, as I previously would have. I could use that for groceries or coffee I thought to myself. But then I decided to donate it to a park that I frequently visit instead without thinking much of it.

The following day I was walking down a busy street on a Friday night and noticed a twenty dollar bill that others had obviously walked past. I looked at the twenty dollar bill and began to laugh to myself. Though this little situation may seem incredibly coincidental, it was a very powerful reminder that our actions strongly influence our lives – we are our thoughts, actions, and intentions.

Perhaps this little event was not some huge karmic lesson, but it reminded me that what we give comes back to us when done without selfishness, craving, expectation, or delusion. When we act with our hearts, with kindness, and with selflessness, the world presents us with a joyful picture, as that is what we are giving out. When we do not, and I have experienced both aspects, the world presents us with a dark, unfriendly, and lonely reality.

It is this very simple formula that one tends to easily forget: we are the life we choose to live and we are the energy we choose to put out.

So friends, which kind of karma would you like to create? Do you even believe in karma?

A small colorful piece in a large puzzle

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For those of us living by the dance of our own tune, the world and its ways may seem like an entirely different beat. Perhaps we feel as though we have to compromise our own rhythm to fit with the rhythm of the common. In a world that appears to embrace uniformity, those of us who are a little different – be in it life philosophies, traditions, appearances – may feel the need to tone down our differences. We don’t necessarily know where we fit, but we know we have to fit somewhere.

So we conform for a little while, because we observe what it means to behave acceptably and what it means to be a “success” and we have also experienced how lonely it can be when we venture outside of the realm of what is considered acceptable. We listen to the beat of others.

Eventually, when we realize that we are not truly alive when we spend even a moment living a lie, we know being our authentic individual selves is the only way. We know that conforming and living someone else’s life will never work for us, we are too colorful, too vibrant, too hungry for something different.

I have been reflecting on this and have come to understand the world and my place in it in this way:

The universe is connected like one big massive puzzle, each piece relying on the other to make a whole. Though each piece of the puzzle may appear similar to another piece, there are no two pieces that are the same. Some pieces are more colorful and vibrant, some pieces are bland and dull, some pieces dark and mysterious, but each piece is ultimately connected to every other piece. Regardless of the look of each piece of the puzzle, each piece is equally important in making the whole.

Some pieces are older than others, having shifted in form and withered. They have seen things that only wisdom and experience can bring; other pieces, though they might be just as old in age, look new because they do not recognise their connection to the whole, they have remained protected and believe they control the whole picture of the puzzle. These are the pieces that easily fit – they look new, squarer, with less defects, less cracks, less color, less originality.

The puzzle keeps adding more pieces and keeps losing pieces, the picture shifts, and each piece of the puzzle shifts in different ways and at different times. The square pieces often remain in the same place because there are many other square pieces that can fit with them and beside them. However, the more colorful, vibrant, original pieces have a specific place and at times it can be hard to find where they fit in the vast big puzzle because of their uniqueness.

The colorful pieces sometimes want to be the bland square pieces, because it is easier to fit in the puzzle. They have to cross many square pieces before they connect with other, vibrant colorful ones just like them. But when the colorful pieces connect with other vibrant colorful pieces, they often create a beautiful picture that adds more life, more magic and more uniqueness to the whole. They realize there is no point in trying to be any other piece in the puzzle because it’s impossible.

When the vibrant, colorful pieces connect together, they journey through the squares and the massive puzzle as a unit. They seek – they seek for themselves, for each other, for others who are vibrant and different like them, and though they may not know their end destination or their ultimate place of belonging, they know that it is in the seeking that brings them the wisdom and experience of being alive.

Those colorful ones, the ones that are different, the ones with cracks and defects and originality, they will probably find their belonging in the sky, in the flowers or in the sea because that’s where the magic of being alive happens.

Do you know where you fit in the big puzzle? Do you have any idea what i’m talking about? Have you found pieces you connect with?

“Me” time, is it self-indulgence or survival?

Here’s the thing about returning home after traveling or living abroad – there is much more noise! There is not noise in the literal sense of the word,  like the noise in India, this is a different kind of noise I’m talking about. This is the noise of technology, the noise of expectation that you are now supposed to have it all figured out, and the noise of friends and family who think, because you are the same person you were before you went on your journey, that everything will go back to how it was. You will go back to how you were.

But you don’t and you can’t!

Perhaps the biggest lesson about transporting yourself to a place whose language, culture, and rhythm you have never experienced, is the lesson of letting it be, finding your center, and relying on you and you only to trust your instincts. Sitting in silence for hours a day on your own, observing, seeking, growing, expanding, widening, and conquering fears changes a person profoundly. In fact, there is no way a person can’t be changed.

There are few technologies and distractions to escape in, there are few expectations other than the expectation that you are surrendering to whatever it is that is happening at that moment, and there are few responsibilities or routines other than that of caring for yourself and listening to your needs. One becomes very well acquainted with “me”. It is all about “me” time!

When we return to our birthplaces or where we have grown up, there is what some term reverse culture shock, which is often more severe than culture shock itself. The interesting thing about returning to one’s homeland, is being able to maintain that interest, that curiosity, that outsiders perspective to what may have once been familiar.

I have taken this curiosity to my own country and try to view it with the same wonder and intrigue as I do any other place I am visiting, without judgment. I ride the streetcar and observe that everyone is either speaking on the phone or has headphones on, this is with exception to two people – one mother holding her crying baby, and one obese woman eating her extra large submarine. I observe that there is everything available – food, amenities, riches galore – yet there is a type of disconnect from nature and the earth, with what one needs and what is already available. I observe that there are all kinds of unique people and there is a place for each of them, there is a rhythm to life, maybe it’s not one I profoundly connect with, but it’s one I can get to know.

I have learned that the “me” time I take when in a new country, is just as, if not more, important somewhere familiar. The lessons we learn when giving up our phones and attachments, when in silence, when disconnecting from what we know, leads us to a truth that can only be discovered inside. “Me” time might be misunderstood, might be considered selfish or isolating or self-indulgent, but whether it’s for an hour, a day or much longer, getting away from the noise is what lights the spark of life, it is survival!

There is a magic to returning to the places that may have previously felt stagnant. Because they are new to a you who is new. And though loved ones may try to place us into a role that we no longer fit, into a person that we no longer fit, we can know that we have expanded beyond their understanding and that that was the journey – a journey beyond all the noise.

Any similar sentiments? Any experiences with reverse culture shock? What do you think about “me” time?

 

Fly now oh little birdie

Fly now oh little birdie

For there is no place for you here

You had a broken wing

Other birdies told you

You needed to heal

So you stopped, you stayed

You trusted that the other, older, birdies knew

Many tears you shed as you realized

You never did have a broken wing

All along you could have flown

If only you trusted in your own wings

The other older birdies were surprised

They thought you were weak and hurt

But now, your wings, they are stronger than ever

And as you fly, fly, fly away

Into the infinite bliss of the sunshine

You know you will never again

Doubt the strength of your own wings.

 

© Fly now oh little birdie 2012

by Sara Hylton