I have a lot of new and exciting adventures in place. First up is my new "virtual studio." This is an online studio where you can take live online classes -- either a group class or private lesson -- from your home, office, or wherever you are. If the times don't suit you, you can download a video lesson to take at any time. While it may be difficult to imagine what an online class is like, once you try it you'll realize that the barrier of computers seems to disappear almost immediately and it really does feel like we're together in a room. If you have a webcam, I can see you, too, for an even better experience.
Here's a comment from a student: "My session with Sandy was so healing, empowering and joyful. She helped me release pain and tension in my right shoulder and hand. . . Amazing work!"
I'm offering 4 20-minute classes for those who need a quick yoga break, as well as a full 75-minute class complete with deep relaxation. Private lessons are available by appointment. I have a free yoga breathing video that anyone can download, and a 20-minute video that is available for $10. More videos will be added to the library soon. To sign up for classes or download videos, visit my virtual studio on powhow and share this link with your friends: http://www.powhow.com/classes/joyful-heart-yoga-with-sandy-pradas
It's heartbreaking to see innocent lives shattered by someone intent on hurting others. People are going about their business, enjoying the day. For some surely the marathon was a quest -- a chance to gain victory over a setback in life, or to realize a hard-fought goal. How can we be safe in a world where there are people who want to hurt us?
Unfortunately, there is no safety. We can do what we can to make the world a better place. We can hold our elected officials accountable for enacting our wishes to make our country more safe. We can be a good example by treating others with loving kindness, and we can raise our children to do the same. But still there is no safety. We cannot control everything and everyone.
At times like this many people ask, "How can God let this happen?" Well, it seems obvious to me that God is not focused on making our lives free of pain. That doesn't seem to be his job. From the beginning of time all living creatures have had to suffer pain, illness, hunger, etc. Somehow we got to thinking that if we prayed enough and were good enough we would be protected from these things, but it doesn't work that way. No one is immune from suffering in this life. I suppose if we did live pain-free, perfect lives we would have no need to look deeper into spirituality. We would not have lessons to learn from … to grow from.
Happy New Year! This is naturally a good time for reflection. We look back on our lives and think about what was good, not so good … what worked, what didn’t. And we look forward to how we’d like to see ourselves in the new year.
When I think about all the beautiful souls I’ve seen over the year, what strikes me is how many of us are suffering from stress. Many of us can’t sleep, feel anxious most of the time, and are so overwhelmed that we sometimes become paralyzed with inaction. Or we spend so much time being busy that we’ve lost connection with ourselves and others. We are often fearful, angry, and sad and feel unfulfilled. We can spend a lot of time in our heads and have little or no connection with our center – our source of innate wisdom and creativity. We simply react to a chain of events rather than being the driving force in our own lives, and that never feels right.
The good news is that there is something that can help with all of these problems. The bad news is that we have to do it ourselves. No one can do it for us. If we want to feel better we have to take action.
I read a poem today that I think is a perfect ending to the article I wrote yesterday about the school shooting. Those of us who are "light bearers" should not lose heart. We have work to do!
We are light bearers, stewards
of a truth that insists on being
shared despite doubt or fear or
imagined limitation. We spread
the flame by teaching or by growing
still, by daring to be outrageous
and dancing beneath the full moon,
or by holding a friend in need
and taking part in life's normal
routines. This is our message--
there is hope encoded in each
cell, each loving thought, each
time we reach out to one another.
There's truth that won't be stopped
by toppling buildings, snipers'
bullets, war clouds on the horizon,
or the inner storms of grief, despair
and insecurity. We are the peace we've
been seeking, the peace that stretches
beyond the mind's need for form or
understanding, the peace for which
each human heart longs. Now is
the time for the light bearers to
We've all seen how this works: Jane Doe is working so hard that there's no balance in her life. She sacrifices sleep and healthy meals so she can do more. As she continues with her unbalanced lifestyle and constant state of stress, she starts to get frequent colds. This is a little tap on the shoulder -- a request from Jane's body, mind, and spirit to wake up and start taking better care of herself. But she ignores it and continues to do the same thing. Desperate for change, the body moves from a tap on the shoulder to a thunk on the head: chronic inflammation sets in, causing a host of symptoms. Still Jane ignores what's right in front of her and continues living her life as usual. Eventually the body breaks down, full-on disease sets in, and Jane is finally forced to stop and rest because she is in the hospital.
To me, the numerous mass shootings we've experienced in the U.S. are a spiritual wake-up call to our nation. We keep getting nudged, tapped on the shoulder, thunked on the head, kicked in the gut, and still we go on as usual. Yesterday 26 people were killed in an elementary school -- 20 of them were children between the ages of 5 and 10. My heart is breaking -- for the victims and the families, but also for our country and all of the future victims of gun violence. How much horror do we have to experience before we wake up and decide to do something different?
I recently found out that some of my students don't know that I have a few videos on this website, so I'll put them here for you to see. The first is a short lesson on yoga breathing, and the second is a practice that I designed to help bring the mind to sharper focus so you can carry on with whatever you need to do during the day. It may help you stay focused at work or in school, or before a performance. I've also included one of the videos from our Costa Rica retreats as well. Enjoy! (If the website music interferes, you can scroll down to the bottom left-hand side of the page and turn off the music.)
My Grandfather died yesterday. He was 94, and I loved him very much, so I'd like to share this story that I wrote about him:
THE MAGIC CARPET
Sandra L. Pradas
The memories of vacations spent at my grandparents’ home in Pittsburgh are so deeply imbedded in my mind that 40 years later, the smallest details resurface in my dreams. I see the sprigs of mint that grew on the hillside, the cheery red and white wallpaper in the kitchen, the delicate tea cups in the dining room, and the spitting, sputtering monster of a water heater in the bathroom. With the exception of the water heater, I loved everything in that house – especially my grandparents.
My favorite memory is of me and Grandpa Flodine cuddling in the dark, flying on our “magic carpet.” I was probably only four years old when Grandpa came up with this new pretend game. He would put his arm around me, and as we closed our eyes, our magic carpet would soar into the sky. We traveled all over the world on our imaginary carpet, stopping to sleep on a mat with a small, hard pillow in Japan one night, and then in an igloo in Alaska on another night. My grandfather showed me the Northern Lights, the Norwegian fjords, the koalas in Australia, and many other fascinating sights throughout the world. He taught me that the people in these other lands spoke a different language and ate different foods. He explained how they dressed, what their houses looked like, and what they might be doing.
All suffering is caused by the difference between what is actually happening and the way you want it to happen. This can involve other people’s behavior or situations such as jobs, finances, family dynamics/relationships, health, and aging.
Learning acceptance is a wonderful healing gift that you can give to yourself.
Everything you experience is part of your journey through life. It’s an opportunity or a teaching experience. Maybe a wake-up call. Whatever it is, embrace it because it can put you further ahead on the path. Surely you have all experienced something that you initially thought was bad only to discover later that it turned out for the best or lead to personal growth.
Acceptance isn’t giving in or being passive. I once heard acceptance compared to aikido. Aikido works with the energies of push and pull. When someone pulls you towards them, instead of resisting and trying to pull away, you move toward them, using their momentum so they have no power over you. Likewise, acceptance means going with the flow, rolling with the changes, and using the energy in a situation for healing.
It seems that most people I know are trying to lose weight and would especially like to lose a few pounds before modeling their bathing suits on the beaches this summer. As we get older, our metabolism slows and it gets more and more difficult to shed those pounds. The abundance of readily available food and our over-scheduled lives makes it all the more difficult to take the time to eat properly. But it can be done, and with the variety of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables available now, summertime might be the best time to shape up your eating habits.
Here are a few tips that have been helpful to me:
1. If you have a smart phone, get "Lose It," a free app that keeps track of your calorie intake and output. (You can also do this online at loseit.com) A recent article in The Atlantic Monthly states that these types of tools have been very successful in helping people to achieve and maintain weight loss. I've found this to be very easy to use, and for some reason, I really don't want to go over that calorie budget bar, so it keeps me on track. And I love adding exercise and watching my calorie budget increase!
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says that the cause of suffering is not seeing things as they are. We don’t recognize the impermanence of life, so we cling and crave rather than savor and enjoy. Nothing is permanent: health comes and goes, circumstances change, one day we have money and the next day we don’t, people come in and out of our lives. Change is constant, yet we persist in trying to avoid the unpleasant and cling to the pleasant. We make a really big deal out of things that aren’t that important on a grand scale. We delude ourselves. We try to control others. Our fears, our beliefs, and our biases color all of our thoughts, all of our decisions.
The practice of yoga – postures, pranayama, and meditation – shines the light of awareness on the inner workings of the mind. As we are able to increase our focus and concentration and delve deeper inside we start to clearly see this delusion – this ignorance – and we come to understand that the world isn’t at all the way we thought it was.
Dear Yogis & Yoginis,
I want to share something that I read last night in Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence:
It was an unbearably steamy August afternoon in New York City, the kind of sweaty day that makes people sullen with discomfort. I was heading back to a hotel, and as I stepped onto a bus on Madison Avenue I was startled by the driver, a middle-aged black man with an enthusiastic smile, who welcomed me with a friendly, "Hi! How you doing?"... a greeting he proffered to everyone else who entered as the bus wormed through the thick midtown traffic. Each passenger was as startled as I, and locked into the morose mood of the day, few returned his greeting.
But as the bus crawled uptown through the gridlock, a slow, rather magical transformation occurred. The driver gave a running monologue for our benefit, a lively commentary on the passing scene around us: There was a terrific sale at that store, a wonderful exhibit at this museum, did you hear about the new movie that just opened up at that cinema? His delight in the rich possibilities the city offered was infectious. By the time people got off the bus, each in turn had shaken off the sullen shell they had entered with, and when the driver shouted out a "So long, have a great day!" each gave a smiling response.
The tagline of Joyful Heart Yoga is "Live Wide Open!" What does this mean? It means dismantling our defenses and habitual patterns of reacting from fear -- fear of the unknown, fear of loss -- and opening ourselves to all of life's wonders and mysteries. We find that sense of awe and enchantment that we had as children. We open ourselves to love even though that means opening ourselves to sorrow and loss. We allow ourselves to live in the flow of life even though we have no idea of where it will take us. Instead of sleepwalking through life, we become fully awake and alive.
The best way I know to live wide open is through the regular practice of yoga, pranayama, and meditation. These practices slowly peel away layers of resistance and help to loosen our old "stuff," sending it bubbling up to the surface so we can look at it and learn from it as it dissipates into the ether, leaving us feeling more free, more clear, more clean. In otherwords, wide open!
While cleaning up my files, I ran across some notes that I scribbled in the year 2000. It was a list of the benefits that I had gained from my daily yoga practice. These benefits came automatically, without any conscious decision to change:
Benefits I've noticed from my daily yoga practice:
· I feel better.
· I have better posture.
· I have more body awareness, especially in my spine. I am always comfortable now.
· I go to bed earlier. I used to go to bed at 2:00am, and now it’s around 11:30.
· I drink less alcohol, and never have it to relax or because I’ve had a hard day.
· I drink less coffee.
· I have no problems with eating or digestion. I know how much to eat and when to stop. I seem to know what my body wants.
· I am more compassionate.
· I’m less judgmental.
· I’m more accepting and try to see other viewpoints.
· I’m more comfortable with my place in life. I don’t fear the unknown.
· I want what I have – I’m content!
· I can adjust my energy, moving it through the chakras as needed.
The seed cannot know what is going to happen. The seed cannot even believe that he has the potential to become a beautiful flower. Long is the journey, and it is always safer not to go on that journey because unknown is the path, and nothing is guaranteed. Thousand and one are the hazards of the journey, many are the pitfalls. But the seed tries, it makes an effort; it drops the hard shell which is its security, and starts moving. Immediately the fight starts: the struggle with the soil, the stones, the rocks. The seed was hard, but the sprout will be very, very soft and dangers will be many.
But the sprout starts towards the unknown, towards the sun, towards the source of light, not knowing where, not knowing why. Great is the cross to be carried, but a dream possesses the seed and the seed moves. The same is the path for man. It is arduous. Much courage will be needed. -Osho
Dear Yogis & Yoginis,
When I meditated on what my New Year's message should be about, the word "courage" immediately came to mind. Maybe it's because my son is moving to the other side of the country tomorrow. It takes courage to leave the known for the unknown. But like Osho's seed, the voice within is strong and he's willing to put aside his fears and doubts and move forward anyway.
Life has been extremely busy for me this year: I've attended several out-of-town trainings, led retreats in Costa Rica and Spain, taught numerous classes and workshops, and my private yoga therapy practice has really picked up steam. And that's just work -- I've had a whole slew of activities and travel for family and friends as well. Which is why I was taken by surprise when I realized that I was soon to host Thanksgiving dinner even though my calendar was booked up to the very last minute.
In the period B.Y. (before yoga), I would have started spinning my wheels and wasting a lot of time with "how am I going to do this" thinking. My panic about how much I had to do in so little time would have caused me to be unfocused and unclear, and I would have been completely exhausted before my guests arrived.
But living with yoga day to day has taught me how to warp time. The method is simple, yet takes lots of practice: Stay in the Present Moment. At first, this is hard to do. When we are in class, we can watch how quickly the mind jumps back to the past or forward into the future. But if you keep practicing, you'll find yourself more and more in the present -- the only place we should be. In the present moment, you have all the time you need. You are focused, clear, and efficient because you are fully present. Your brain isn't scanning through time, dredging up old stuff and imagining things that haven't happened.
Photo of Michael J. Lindell, Inventor & President of MyPillow, Inc.
As many yogis know, once you start walking around with good posture, you start noticing how uncomfortable a lot of furniture is. Chairs, car seats, sofas, etc., just don't seem to be designed for holding yourself up properly with an elongated and well-aligned spine. And then there's our beds: A place where we spend 8 hours a night rejuvenating our bodies and minds is the most important piece of furniture in the house.
A comfortable mattress and pillow are of supreme importance. A mattress needs to have enough give for your shoulders and hips to sink in without putting your spine out of alignment if you're a side-sleeper, and enough give for your rear to settle in without throwing off your alignment if you sleep on your back. If your tailbone is tilted up or down, or if your shoulders and hips are high and everything else is sinking, you're going to wake up with a sore back.
And then there's the pillow. If you sleep on your back, you need support under your neck that doesn't lift your head so much that your chin points down to your chest. And it can't be so thin that your chin points up to the ceiling. If you're a side sleeper it's even more tricky finding the right pillow. The pillow needs to support all of that space between your neck and shoulders. When the pillow is right you should feel supported and comfortable and your neck should be aligned -- not raised up or down. Since we all come in different shapes and sizes, it's not easy to create a pillow that would suit everyone.
It's nearly the end of August -- summer is almost over and once again time seems to have raced by me. Since it was a beautiful morning, I went out for a walk in the woods. I sat by a creek and watched the water -- in some places it was swirling and busy, and just a little downstream it was still and quiet. It reminded me of a meditation that I did once in Sedona, so I thought I'd write it down so you can do it yourself. It can bring peace, calm, and clarity.
If you have a creek, stream, or river nearby, go visit it and carefully choose an inviting place to sit along the bank that offers a good view of the water. If you don't have a body of running water nearby, you can visualize one: See yourself sitting on the bank of a moving stream. You are surrounded by trees. You hear the light song of birds. The water is clear and clean, and it flows over moss-covered rocks. Settle in, take a few cleansing breaths with big, long exhales, and then sit quietly. Close your eyes or create a soft gaze, and absorb the surroundings. Take time to simply sit and feel connected to nature.
It's no secret that many people in the U.S. have a dysfunctional relationship with food. We eat on the run, we eat what's easiest and fastest, we often eat alone under stressful conditions such as cramming down a sandwich at our desks while working, or we eat mindlessly in front of the television.
Contrast this eating style to what I've observed in Spain. Of course, I'm generalizing, just as I did in the above examples, but after several visits, including our recent Joyful Heart Yoga Retreat in Spain, I've noticed some big differences between the way they eat and the way we eat, and I am trying to adopt some of their habits.
For breakfast it's typical to eat a roll and coffee. (I'm not adopting this habit -- I need a little protein in the morning, so I prefer my yogurt and flaxseed or a whole grain cereal.) But I am picking up the habit of keeping the portion small, and that goes for coffee too. In Spain, coffee and tea are served in small cups rather than large mugs. I found that my stomach enjoys the smaller size because it's less filling, and I don't feel bloated. I bought smaller cups and bowls to help me with portion control, and I make sure to eat mindfully so I enjoy the taste of my breakfast.
My husband and I went to a local jewelry store this weekend to get a new battery for his watch. While there, the owner offered to clean my wedding ring. When she brought it back, we were amazed at how it shined and sparkled. I hadn't realized that over time the ring had collected a film that dulled it's beauty.
This is kind of how it is with us. Over time, living in the world and going through our day-to-day lives can leave us covered with a grimy film that masks our inner light. If left unchecked, this grimy film can turn into a hard shell that makes it difficult for other people to see our sparkle, but also makes it difficult to feel it ourselves.
Think about the average adult American's life: The alarm goes off way before we've received enough rest. We gulp down whatever is quickest and easiest to eat, then run out the door to sit in a traffic jam so we can spend the next 8 hours or more doing something that we would not be doing if only we could win the lottery. We come home tired, exhausted, hungry -- not just for food but for fulfillment that we don't know how to get.
My heart goes out to all of the people in Japan, to the creatures and plants, and to the earth itself. This disaster is particularly heart-breaking because on top of the earthquake and tsunami, there is now radiation leaking from the nuclear facilities. It's devastating.
On the day of the earthquake, one of my students sent me a poem called "The Peace of Wild Things," by Wendell Berry.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
It's true that most wild things live in the moment, and there is great peace in that. It's also true that we are wild things -- we are part of nature. And as a natural species, we are subject to the laws of nature, to the cycle of birth and death. No matter how much we fill our lives with busyness, no matter how technologically advanced we become, we still do not have control. There is no safety; there is no security in worldly things. Our jobs, our bank accounts, our homes, buildings and monuments, our electronic gadgets, our relationships, our loved ones, and even our own bodies are all here on a temporary basis. We can lose them at any time, so if we base our sense of peace, happiness, and security on any of those things, what will happen to us when we lose them?
What do hummingbirds have to do with yoga? I'm not quite sure, but I know there's something to it. I've been thinking about these little flying jewels a lot since our recent Joyful Heart Yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I've always liked hummingbirds, but right now I feel especially connected to them. The winter at home has been so long and cold, and by the time we arrived in Costa Rica I was longing not only to feel warmth but to see color. And the hummingbirds provided!
On our second day, 14 of us planted ourselves in front of a group of hummingbird feeders in the cloud forest. I don't know how long we sat there, but it was a very long time. The hummingbirds flitted in and out, and we sat there with complete presence and awe and enjoyed them ... respected them ... and at least for me, felt very connected to them.
Even now that I'm back at home, I still think of them. I made the top photo my screensaver, and that little guy brings me great joy whenever I go to the computer. Look at his wide open wings and wide open heart!
This has been an odd day -- nothing really came out as planned, but it was all fine because I was able to stay in the present moment. I had to cancel my morning class and a trip to see my son in a play -- the only chance I had to see it in this run. Right now I have a heating pad on my back trying to prevent a backache after shoveling some very heavy snow (despite all the hard work, I still can't get my car out of the driveway), and I've got ice on my bruised and bloody finger, which got pinched in a closet door. Although the pinched finger hurt like heck and was the last in a line of insults, I was actually able to laugh when it happened. Even though I would have preferred to have things turn out differently, I was able to stay on an even keel all day. None of these things upset me, which was good since there wasn't anything I could do to change the circumstances. What good would fussing and complaining do? Or feeling guilty? It was what it was.
And it wasn't all bad. Being snowed in gave me some extra time to pack for my retreat to Costa Rica, which starts in just three days. A day that was supposed to be jam-packed with busyness turned out to be somewhat relaxing (except for the snow-shoveling, back ache, and bloody finger). Learning to stay calm and centered in all circumstances is a recurring theme in my classes, but we did extra work on that topic this week -- perhaps better preparing me for this day. When we're in a pose that really challenges our bodies and minds, we have a chance to work at creating greater equanimity. We can use our breath to stay in the moment and not be overwhelmed by physical sensations or the fearful chatter of the mind. We don't have to get involved in any stories that the mind wants to spin. We can stay present and open to fully experience whatever comes. Then we can use those same skills in our lives.
Happy New Year! I hope that you receive many blessings, much happiness, and good health in 2011.
If there’s one thing that I heard over and over again this past year, it’s “I don’t have enough time.” Many of our days pass like this: We wake up, grab a quick breakfast, sit in traffic jams, and spend the majority of the day at work. We often work through our lunch breaks or spend that time running errands. Then we sit in more traffic, and arrive home tired, hungry, and low on patience and energy for our loved ones. Weekends are spent on more errands, catching up with bills, household chores, etc., and then it’s time to start the work week all over. Even those who are retired can find themselves over-booked and short on time.
Trying to schedule time out with friends and family can be almost ridiculously difficult, as everyone has such busy schedules. Advanced technology, which was supposed to make our lives more simple, has actually taken more time out of our days, as we now feel compelled to spend a lot of time catching up on e-mail, Facebook, and surfing the web.
Over the last few weeks I've felt a surge in energy. A lot of creativity has sprung up, and I've started several projects in addition to my regular work, family duties, and trying to get ready for Christmas. I have so many things going on that I'm not really making much headway on any of them -- it feels like I'm flitting about from one thing to another, almost bouncing around like a ping pong ball. So I feel a little frustrated that I don't have enough spare time to sit down and do what I want to do. Sometimes this frustration turns into restlessness or aggravation. This is unbalanced vata dosha at work.
When the weather turns cold, there is increased vata in the air. This energy can affect us all, and can be especially strong in anyone who already has vata tendencies. Restlessness, high energy, frustration, aggravation, sleeplessness ... if you are experiencing these symptoms, it's time to bring yourself back into balance:
1. Yoga. This is no time to let your practice slide. Although you may be attracted to vigorous workouts at this time, what you really need is slow, deep breathing like dirgha, ujjayi, and nadi shodhana; slow, deep posture flows where you stay firmly connected to breath; and meditation. Do whatever other exercise you want, but don't skip your yoga, breathing, and meditation as it will be most effective in bringing you back to balance.
Imagine my delight this morning to hear NPR doing a story about the benefits of breathing. You can listen to the story, or read it, here: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever
I love to hear cases of western medicine using ancient wisdom! Merging the two disciplines can bring so much more healing power to the world. In my yoga therapy practice, I find it beneficial to combine medical science with the science of yoga. Most of my clients are working with their doctors, and I need to be sure that what I'm doing is working with their treatment -- enhancing it and not taking away from it. Medical knowledge has even changed the practice of yoga. As we've learned more about the body, we've realized that some of the old ways of doing yoga postures is not ideal, or not really safe. Yoga is evolving all the time, as it should. And in some circles, doctors are opening up to the wisdom that yoga brings. Let's hope it continues so that more people can live vital, healthy lives with less medications and less surgery!
According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, cold air can aggravate Vata dosha. We might find ourselves feeling agitated or flighty. We may start to become more dry from the inside out -- creaky joints, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, etc. To pacify Vata dosha, we should move away from eating cold, raw foods and eat warm, nourishing, foods as fall and winter approach. This is especially important for the first meal of the day, so I've listed three warm breakfasts that you can make on a weekend and have lots of leftovers to heat and serve during the week. All of the recipes are user-friendly, so you can adjust the ingredients to your liking.
But before you eat or drink anything else, start your day with a glass of room-temperature water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to hydrate your cells and flush the digestive tract. If you eat fruit in the morning, eat it next -- after your water and before your warm breakfast. Buen provecho!
This traditional Costa Rican breakfast is tasty, hearty, and will give you energy for hours. It's important to use rice that has already been cooked and thoroughly chilled, so you might want to make the rice one day before. A key ingredient is Salsa Lizano -- a unique sauce made from vegetables that is produced in Costa Rica. It is available online, but if you join us on our Joyful Heart Yoga in Costa Rica retreat this winter, you can stock up on Lizano! In the meantime, you can substitute Worcestershire sauce -- it is not the same but will still make a tasty recipe.
There is no other happiness here in this world
Than to be free of the thought
That I am different from you.
What other happiness is there?
A recurring theme in the news these days is hatred. One group of people lashes out at another group because their race, religion, sexuality, or some other characteristic is "different." It seems especially ironic to me that many of the people in this country who are acting in a hateful way are calling themselves Christians. The term Christian implies that they are followers of Jesus Christ, who by all accounts was a peaceful man whose message was "Love one another as I have loved you." In other countries, it's the same -- much of the fighting is done in the name of religion. If your religious leader is preaching intolerance, don't follow blindly. Find a new leader.
Much of this hatred comes from fear. Fear keeps us from being loving, and we are afraid of what we don't know. Mark Twain said that "travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." It's true. Once we get to know people who appear different from us, we can understand them. We can see that they are actually just like us. We can love them rather than fear them. So if you find yourself afraid of a group of people, get to know them. Learn about their culture, read their literature, find out about their struggles and dreams. With the internet, this is not difficult.