In my lifetime the idea and image of father has changed. I’m of that generation in which Daddy was the feared disciplinarian, a mysterious but strong and dependable source of stability and safety. He wasn’t my confidant or comfort. So, the memories of my dads that I treasure the most are those as an adult which happened just months before their deaths.
First, I am one of those special people who was an only child but had two dads – a situation more common now than when I was a child. I am the only child of the union of Ann Elizabeth Glenn and Tommie Walker. Even though Tommie had proposed to Ann and gave her an engagement ring, he was not yet divorced. Despite his separation, he visited his wife, after Mama was pregnant with me, and as a result of that visit I have a half sister just six months younger than me. My mother could not handle that betrayal and ended up marrying her high school sweetheart, Willie Alexander. I grew up calling him Daddy and was raised with my three sisters, the daughters of Mama and Daddy.
When I was in third grade, my mother asked me if I wanted to change my last name from Walker to Alexander. Not only did that name change move me from sitting in the back of the classroom to the front of the class, it also meant that my sisters did not know my father was different from theirs . They did not find out until we were all grown and had left home. When I was 24 years old my other sister and three brothers, Tommie Walker’s other children, met me for the first time.
My two fathers had two things in common, both loved Ann Glenn and both were attractive light skinned black men. Growing up, my mother always thought it was funny when people said I looked like Willie, solely because I was light skinned compared to his daughters. But, I look like my father and even though not raised with him, inherited a lot of his characteristics.Tommie Walker was a creative, athletic, and reserved man. He was a lifelong photographer, worked at TV stations, and was a mechanical engineer. His last career was as a teacher. He was athletic, playing tennis into his early eighties with a wall full of trophies. Willie Alexander was very different. He was a partier, drinker, storyteller, womanizer, career Air Force sergeant, and retired from a job in juvenile detention.
Tommie was active, vibrant, and healthy until he got shingles. After that he had one medical problem after another and suffered from a traffic accident. The last time I saw him, he still was not speaking, but he was up, alert, and aware of my presence. Before he went to bed he looked directly into my eyes and I felt a lifetime of love.
I visited Willie after he had recovered from a bad illness. He was up and about, driving, talking, the man I had known all of my life but with a softer edge. We visited my mother’s grave. There, I asked him about the wedding and engagement ring I wore. They were in the box of photos and papers Mama had left for me. I did not receive the box until after she died. Daddy told me Tommie had given the rings to Mama. After that visit I talked to Daddy more often on the phone and we grew closer. He died, unexpectedly, about six months later.
Now, I hold equal fondness in my heart’s memory for both of my dads, Tommie Walker and Willie Alexander.
Every Friday I will post either an audio or written story. This year my audio stories are podcasts from my Website Series, The Ultimate Wonder. This week’s story offers answers to three questions that have baffled many minds. Just click onto the link below. Listen, ponder, and Enjoy.
I’ve entered the above photo in a yoga pose photo contest in the magazine Yoga Journal. Just click on the following link and you can “like” the pose as many times a day you are able. Your “like” is a vote for my photo.
Yoga inspires me to consistently engage in spiritual practice. Almost two decades have passed since I was initiated into Babaji’s Kriya Yoga. This complete yoga encompasses kriya hatha yoga, kundalina pranayama (breathing practices), kriya dhyana yoga (meditation), kriya mantra yoga (chants), and kriya bhakti yoga (devotion and service).
Babaji’s Kriya Hatha Yoga provides a full body massage externally and internally. These poses quiet my mind and relax my spirit to experience my work and relationships with equanimity and patience.
Although I am not an athletic hatha yoga practitioner, I can attest to the enduring benefits of continuous and consistent hatha yoga practice. Babaji’s kriya hatha yoga has given me a healthy body, purified my heart, and stabilized my mind for meditation.
Hatha yoga poses unite me with earth’s grounding energy that flows through my chakras like an invisible pulse connecting me to the eternal emptiness that binds us all.
Click on Poster to enlarge.
Exactly three years ago, February 27, 2009, a young Tibetan monk named Tapey left Kirti Monastery and walked to the crossroads of the market in the town of Amdo. He had showered his body in oil, lit a match, and set himself aflame as he waved the Tibetan flag with a photo of the Dalai Lama on it. His was the first Tibetan sacrifice – an expression of spiritual courage, a cry against decades of unendurable oppression, a plea for recognition and assistance from the world. The Chinese call these brave souls terrorists.
Buddhism emphasizes the preciousness of human life and the karmic weight the destruction of life carries in future rebirths. However, sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of others is also acknowledged as an act of compassion. I recently watched the movie “Joan of Arc,” with Ingrid Bergman, and immediately thought of these Tibetan martyrs. Below is the poem that came from these juxtapositions in my mind.
For continuous information on the continual struggle of the people of Tibet and to contribute to easing their suffering, join the International Campaign for Tibet – http://savetibet.org
Offerings of Light
Flames flood flesh
She cried out “Jesus”
they shout “Dalai Lama.”
Centuries separate martyrs.
She burned on a pyre.
They burn in squares, at crossroads.
An executioner lashed her to a cross
set the wood aflame.
They anoint their bodies in oil
light the matches themselves.
Their bodies tantric offerings.
Towers of fire
blaze with defiance
suffering of spirt
cannot be endured.
St. Joan, French young woman
responded to voices she alone heard.
Fought oppressors of her people
refused to deny her spiritual guides.
Tapey, Tibetan young man
waved his country’s flag
with the Dalai Lama’s photo
first to set himself aflame.
Near 20 human candles
lit in three years.
January 2012 Sobha Tulku,
“I give my body
an offering of light
to chase away darkness
to free all beings
Light offerings of death
to terminate tortured humiliation
to stop sacred sites’ desecration
to end environmental decimation.
Will worlds remain silent
while sons and daughters of the land
take the ultimate stand?
Remember their names
Tapey, Tengyi Phuntsog, Lobsang Kalsong
Dawa Tsering, Kayang
Tsewang Norbu, Sobhu Tulku
Lobsang Kachok, Kelsang Wangchuk
Choepel, Norbu Damdrul
Tenzin Wangmo, Palden Choetso
Tenzin Phuntson, Tsultrim.
Joan’s body became a beacon of hope
for the French against English dominion.
Now Tibetan monks and nuns
light a path through the
darkness of China’s nefarious night.
With bodhicitta motivation
to relieve pain
of sentient beings
their flames are alchemy
into freedom’s equanimity
One summer day, when I was ten years old, I thought, “I always was and always will be.” I found comfort and support in that thought, but immediately remembered the Catholic Church teaches that only God has no beginning and no end. Although I could not resolve what appeared to be a contradiction to Catholic doctrine, and at that time I was a devout Catholic, I KNEW I always was and always will be.
Many decades passed before I found validation of my realization in the teachings of Buddhism. The concept of continuity of consciousness reveals that which is the essential element of being always was and always will be. The error in my thought was the “I” for according to Buddhism no “I” truly exists. But, that’s a topic this I cannot tackle in a brief story.
So, today I celebrate another birthday. I’ve reached the age where how old I am doesn’t matter because as the saying goes, “You’re as young as you feel.” Yes, I’m one of millions of Americans called “baby boomers.” We range from those born immediately after World War II to those born at the beginning of the sixties revolution, 1946 to 1964. Many of us continue to cling to those beliefs, life styles, and ideals that we held as youth. Many of us continue to grow finding new beliefs, ideals, and life styles to keep us healthy and youthful in body, mind, and spirit.
I see myself belonging to both groups. I’ve been blessed to continue to believe, as Ann Franks wrote, that “people are really good at heart.” True many propagate ignorant, racist, bigotry and millions around the world suffer unnecessary poverty and inhuman genocide. But, I do believe that when people conquer the poisons within themselves all of these evils disappear. And today, on my birthday, I cannot attempt to offer all of the solutions that are being provided to end these abuses.
This year, however, through this blog, I plan to share, not only my creative writings, not only to tell stories, but also to provide information and links to the many organizations and individuals that let me know that the balance of good vs evil will prevail, though the struggle is longer than most realize.
To illustrate, I will now end with the story of Tara. The Tibetans tell us two stories of Tara’s origination. The first is that in the most ancient of times she was a princess named Yeshe Dawa, “Moon of Primordial Wisdom.” She was devoted to the Buddha, developed the great compassion known as bodhichitta, and vowed to become enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings. But, the lamas at that time believed that enlightenment was possible only in a male body and advised her to pray to be reincarnated in her next life as a man. Princess Yeshe Dawa knew they were wrong and vowed to conduct enlightened activities in the past, present, and future in female form. So, she became the fully enlightened buddha known as Tara who bestows blessings in 21 forms.
Going back many more eons, when Chenrezig, the Compassionate One, worked for eon after eon to liberate sentient beings from suffering, to the point of developing thousands of hands and eyes. When he finally felt that he had succeeded in leading all beings to enlightenment he looked around and saw countless beings still suffering. Overwhelmed, Chenrezig fell to the ground blinded by tears of love and compassion. One of the tears from his left eye became the female bodhisattva White Tara, one from his right eye manifested as Green Tara, and both said, “Don’t worry! We two will help you.” (From, Tara’s Enlightened Activity, by Khenchen Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal).
Knowing that consciousness can continue endlessly moving toward enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is good reason to celebrate another birthday.