On this holiday when we remember the price of war, let it remind us of the value of peace.
On this holiday when we remember the price of war, let it remind us of the value of peace.
In meditation class once, I remarked that I was perceived as too intense at work. People had told me that I made them nervous by running too fast, asking too many questions and being too demanding.
“I guess I should drink a little less coffee,” I joked.
“Yes,” my instructor replied, “and there are other things you can do to tone that down.”
Funny, but before he said that, I’d always thought it was just a personality thing and that was that. After that insight, I realized that when people perceive me as too intense, I can take that as constructive criticism and act to moderate that.
To live lightly is to be able to turn down our own intensity level so we can enjoy life and each other. “Live lightly” is a motto we can benefit from in all areas of our life. We can live lightly by:
By keeping it light, we don’t get distracted by the details of the current situation. Instead, we can stay deeply in love with other, with ourselves, and with life!
To live lightly is to stay deeply in love with each other, with ourselves and with life!
I just had a refreshing simple salad and some watermelon. In the crock pot, garbanzo beans, fresh spinach, with sauteed carrots, onions and garlic are melding with tomatoes …minestrone is on the way. Aww… wonderful.
Eating is part of my spiritual path. Choosing, preparing and eating mindfully bring me in balance. When I ignore this, I swing out of balance. And the internal bickering begins, throwing my inner peace out.
When I was in Ghana, there were times we didn’t have a lot of food or money. I was amazed that my friends there would wait for several hours for good food, rather than eat cheap cookies and crappy food. This taught me something about patience and valuing the food we eat.
Eating junk food creates a junk body and a junk mind. Is there any other way it could be?
If you can’t see that about yourself, whatever you do, do NOT look in the mirror. Look deeper.
(And if you feel like poopoo, you probably invited the party pooper, perfectionism to the party!)
Now, I hope you can see that Inner Peace is always within grasp. And for each of us, maintaining it is our individual responsibility.
So, the obvious questions, is How? The answer is that there are as many paths as there are people.
Many, Many Paths to Peace
I was brainwashed, oops, I mean raised, Catholic. I liked a lot of the teachings, but I grew up worrying that our neighbor and my best friend was going to burn in hell because she was the only non-Catholic friend I had. No, silly, I was reassured. She’ll probably just be in purgatory for awhile.
And all the people from other countries and other religions, will they be there too? I never saw anything in the bible that supported this kind of thinking. Jesus was not a card-carrying anything. He preached Love and Forgiveness, but never Membership.
There is no name brand on love.
When we do make some spiritual progress, it’s our nature to go a bit hog-nutty about it. We think everyone around us should do it too, and that our way is the best, or maybe only way. Thus, the ideologue is born.
But, there is no one way to peace. There are many, many ways. For me, when someone starts trying to sell me a ticket to the “My Way or the Highway” approach to spirituality, my Inner Peace starts rattling and clanking, and urges me to speed off the other way.
Stopping to Pray
When I went home after being in Saudi Arabia for two months, the thing I missed most was the sound of Prayer Calls. Five times a day, Muslims bow down and pray. The air is filled with the sound, as different mosques start the calls at slightly different times, making a familiar but unique symphony every day, five times a day.
I think this is a funny commentary on just how short our attention span really is! We humans start the day with the best intentions, but within a couple hours get completely distracted. Thus, the need for the call to stop what you are doing and pray.
I’m not much of an organized-religion-kinda gal, and I may not call it praying, but, I do pause often to notice I’m alive!
What is a Practice?
Whether you operate within an organized religion or without one, you’ll want to develop your own Practice. This is a set of guidelines, rituals and community you put in place to support you.
When I first started a weight loss program, I did some informal research. In talking with my slender, fit friends, I found out that they each had a system. “I don’t eat after 8 pm.” “I always eat fruit before going to a party.” “I weigh myself every Saturday to make sure I haven’t overeaten that week.”
What? And all this time, I thought they ate crap all day and were just lucky! That may have been the case when they were 14, but 50-year olds don’t continue that trend and stay fit and slim.
In that same way, you can manage your Inner Peace easily, by developing a set of rules to live by.
This is your Spiritual Practice. You can tailor design your peace management system to fit you, and adjust it over time. It’s likely to encompass some or all of these characteristics:
Designing Your Practice
Having someone prescribe exactly what you must do to achieve Inner Peace is like asking someone to order for you at a restaurant. It’s better for you to decide. Do you like it mild or spicy? Vegan or BBQ? A little hungry or ravenous? Kid’s meal, salad bar or the special of the day?
So, in designing your own practice, be creative. Choose what suits you. Learn from others. Ask those that you admire about theirs.
A daily practice allows you to enjoy your life and become that powerful presence you were meant to be.
A daily practice is a system for managing your Inner Peace, and making all of life a joy!
Don’t confuse words with the truth. It’s like confusing a map with the earth. Words are a map. The truth is the ground we are standing on, that always supports us fully. And the truth is love.
It was during a meditation class that I first heard the concept, “Thinking is limited.” It hit me as both impossible and obvious, throwing my mind (thinking!) into immediate gridlock. I was 47 years old at that time. In the meditation class I was taking, they went on to teach about “thoughtless awareness”, and how to trust this over rational thinking alone.
Blasphemy, I thought! But, in the coming days, dozens of examples of exactly this principle flooded my mind.
I studied engineering in college. Engineering is nothing, if not thinking. I took semester after semester crammed with various math and science classes. As the coursework progressed, I knew less and less what it all meant. “If a 5-volt DC power source is located at grid location x1,y5 and a 87 v, 60Hz AC power source is located at x3, y4, what is the strength of the field at x1,y1?”A question like this would take me a few pages of equations to get the answer. I was happy to get the right number, but had no sense of what the heck we were doing or why.
But, class after class, I honed my thinking skills so I could get the right answer, more often than not. And over time, I figured out how to do it with less and less effort. As long as I ignored the feelings of discomfort about not understanding, I was okay. Using this strategy, I succeeded and graduated from college.
I worked in various engineering positions. At one point, I was doing research and writing. In that position, I was tasked with identifying the advantages and disadvantages of new energy-efficient technologies. My job was to complete a 20 to 40-page report complete with dozens of footnotes. That’s what it looked like from the outside.
From the inside, though, it was a mess. I often took on subjects I had no background in, so learned as I went. I would do research, interview some folks, work with my editor and cobble together a draft. I’d then send that out for review. My reviewers all had their own take on reality, as product manufacturers, users or program managers. What followed would be trying to wade through their written comments and long telephone conversations trying to get to my version of ‘truth’.
And at times, things got really contentious and crazy. At that time, I thought that the only way to solve things was more writing and talking. Sometimes, that really did make things worse. Seemingly minor issues would spiral into big issues, with no apparent logical basis. I would find myself in heated discussions but not understand why the heck we weren’t cool.
I knew in my gut that there was something else happening on some other level. But, engineers aren’t known as the touchy-feely type so if there was another level, we were not going to let on.
So, like a blind juggler, I would toss around knives, oranges, and watermelons until I got cut or tired. And I would call my report ‘done’.
Not once did “thinking is limited” or “thoughtless awareness” ever come up.
Allowing Solutions to Show Up
I had heard in our meditation class that Einstein had a sudden flash of inspiration one day when he was outside playing with bubbles. He often advised that to figure something out, you had to stop consciously thinking about it and let the answer come to you.
A few weeks later, I’d been working on a database project for work. It was almost ready to go, except there was one sticky point that I couldn’t resolve. I’d called tech support and talked about it a few times. I’d tried a few workarounds but couldn’t solve it. It was urgent that I complete the project but I was stuck.
I was constantly picking the problem up mentally, turning it around, looking at it from every aspect. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I was driving myself crazy!
Out of desperation, I tried meditating. No, you can’t even call it that. I was driving, so I just tried to silence my mind..
When I do, it feels like the power going off on a spaceship. The flashing lights and beeping stop quickly. Whooooooosh. Only a dim glow, the heartbeat of the power supply is evident. A bit too dramatic? Maybe, but this is what’s happening in there when I can turn off the manic thinking.
Anywho… as I drove, I felt this sudden state of peace. I accepted the fact that either I could figure it out or I couldn’t. …. …. …. Yep, that’s about it. … … silence …
A few minutes later, I arrived at work, refreshed. Peaceful.
I sat down at my computer and opened the program. I suddenly knew exactly what to do.
This was a situation in life that parallels what we do in meditation when we sit with our hands open. When my hands are closed tight, I am grasping, holding to the past, rigid, inflexible, panicked. Open …a solution just falls onto my palm.
“Logic will get you from A to Z.
Imagination will get you everywhere.” – Einstein
Deeply Moving: No Words are Needed
As alluded to, our meditation class taught me about something called “thoughtless awareness.” This is a tough one to grasp for those of us in the West. But, once I got a glimpse of this concept, I realized it explained a lot.
Newly single and without kids, I went to Ghana for a drumming and dance workshop. We started every day with a one hour dance class and a second hour of drumming. Both included singing. The healing power of this experience was profound and not something I could name or easily explain to others.
But, once I knew about thoughtless awareness, I realized Aha! This was a time that I was not thinking. It was my first regular break from thinking. I noticed that if I did think during these classes, my thoughts were unhelpful: You’ll never learn this. You can’t do this. Why are you even trying?
But, if I turned my thinking off or at least down, I was fine.
I realized, too, that experiences in my life that were profound were not defined by words. And, the most profound experiences were times without words: dancing, drumming, having sex, holding a baby, walking in nature, doing sports, making art, or playing with a child.
Words cannot convey the depth of my feelings …sounds like a greeting card cliché (and like most cliché’s, it’s true.)
Defintion: Profound (noun): deep, bottomless, vast
“Don’t believe everything you think.”
- Byron Katie
Let’s be honest. As a kid, Mother’s Day feels like a big, splatty serving of guilt pudding. Thank your mom for …everything. Your mom works so hard for you. She cooks and cleans and does your laundry. She packs your lunch and fixes your hair.
It’s not so much about thanking her, as apologizing to her for ruining her life. Did it feel like this to you? You must ask forgiveness for being such a burden, to someone who does everything you can’t do for yourself.
I bristled at this. I felt like, Hey, I didn’t ask to be born!
When we brought home a puppy, we didn’t expect her to thank us for feeding and walking her, or picking up her poop in the yard. It was our choice. We picked her out at the pet store and brought her home. So, directly or indirectly, we chose to care for her too.
I approached Mother’s Day like that bewildered puppy, head tilted to one side. I tried to impress my mom by appearing thankful. I think I pulled it off. I mean, what Mom isn’t a sucker for a handmade card with doilies and glitter. But at that tender age, I began to feel the authentic guilt, but not gratitude for my mom. So, I continued my puppy-like ways of jumping up, running around and pooping, and cute, but in my heart the authentic gratitude was nowhere to be found.
But, when I became a mom, Mother’s Day took on a whole new meaning.
You’re guessing that after experiencing the hard work and sacrifice of being a mom, I suddenly understood, and instantly became thankful to my mom. Nope. Wrong. (That is a more recent, and very important development. I can’t brag about this pace. In that respect, I’ve been a very slow student.)
But, but, but!!! But, when I was a new mom, I suddenly felt the bliss of Mother’s Day! Aha, this is what the fuss is about. I felt that I was so, so, so lucky to be a mom. I was struck to the core with the miracle of being a mom.
And that awe-struck feeling continues to this day.
If we limit the discussion to simple biology, it is the parents that choose to have a baby. I always felt this responsibility. So, I never felt like they owed me any ‘thanks for your sacrifice’ vow. So, in that respect, they didn’t ask to be born.
But on a more celestial level, maybe they did. In the past several years, I’ve come to accept the idea that before a child is your child, she is pure spirit. And that she chooses her parents. I’ve read that a kid picks their parents based on what the kid needs to learn. Yeah, okay, I have no idea if that’s true.
From the other direction though, I do see something. I see that the kids might be choosing the parents based on what the parents need to know.
That makes so much sense to me!
My kids have been my most constant and brilliant teachers. They have taught me things that I have not learned anywhere else.
Their sayings are engraved in my mind, like “Mom, you don’t have to apologize or make excuses, if you are simply saying what is true.” “It’s okay to say No, mommy.” What?! Nuggets like this were news to me.
And in answer to how often should I call you now that you’re in college, “Call me however often you want Mom. I have caller ID.” Guilt-free living, stress-free relationships like I never knew before.
How did my kids teach me about sweetness and sassiness? They taught me how to have confidence in how I expressed myself, in my looks and in my fashion. They taught me how to organize my things and my life. They taught me about forgiveness and humor. They taught me how to love, and laugh; to hold on and let go. They taught me how to love without guilt.
To me the miracle of motherhood is that as a mom, you get to have a teacher. Maybe a custom-selected teacher that you have unequaled access to: a teacher that is there for you in a crash course 24/7 to begin with, and eventually as a limited access, distance course. There are few relationships in your life where you can spend as much time together as a parent and child, and especially have the physical closeness of mother and child. Really, how many other times do you have someone climb on your lap and be happy to just be there? Puppies yes, but people?
So, on Mother’s Day, whether or not a kid ever asks to be born, who knows? For me though, I continually feel grateful for these pint-size teachers that arrived on the scene and rocked my world. And I still have lots to learn, and lessons to look forward to.
Certainly, Mother’s Day is a day to appreciate our moms. As we grow older, we can let down our defenses and do this with a more open heart. I am learning to do this better, year by year.
But, toward my daughters, and all the kids in the world that are helping their parents learn, grow and evolve, I feel the guilt-free, Hallmark-card-free zest and zing of Mother’s Day.
It is my chance to say without guilt or hesitation, Thank You. Happy Mother’s Day!