Saturday, August 27, 2005

It's Saturday

It's Saturday and time for a break.

Just a thoughtful quote for the day from the Dalai Lama, taken from Words of Wisdom

"If an individual has a calm state of Mind, that person's attitudes and views will be calm and tranquil even in the presence of great agitation."

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Shadow

We can’t make peace with others if we don’t first make peace with our shadow. Jung used the term a lot, to relate to those parts of ourselves that we disown and don’t like. We often project our shadow onto other people. Debbie Ford uses the same terminology a great deal and offers workshops on getting in touch with your shadow.

At any rate, our shadow develops throughout our life. We learn certain traits are good and others are bad. We try and display only those good traits and attempt to disown the bad ones. For instance, we often learn that it’s good to be hardworking and bad to be lazy. In our country we have a myriad of people who are workaholics because they are so afraid of being lazy. They look down upon those with less, believing that they have less because they are lazy, though in fact that may not be the case at all.

The more we disown our shadow the larger it grows. The more we disown our shadow, the less of our true nature is allowed to come out. Women may find that it’s okay to be nice and caring and helpful but not okay to be assertive. So their assertiveness gets hidden but comes out now and again as a bitch. This is the shadow. Those women who have the most trouble with assertiveness often become the victims of other bitches and don’t know why.

There are many places that can help people find their inner shadow. Here it is important enough that someone understand the concept and realize that those things we hate most may be the very things that are in our shadows. We may hate judgmental people, only to find that deep down, we ourselves are judgmental. It can be very disconcerting when that happens. Yet we must open to that. We must realize that we are judgmental before we can find true compassion for those that we have found to be judgmental.

We have all traits, not just the good ones we like to see. We also have their opposites. For those who judge themselves harshly, they need to realize they do have good traits as well. We must realize that each one of us encompasses good and bad. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses and abilities. We must realize that we all have potentials. Then we must embrace the worst our potentials (although this does not mean to act on them) with compassion in order to see the best of our enemies. It is then that we can offer true compassion to others. It is only then that we can really see how interrelated and alike we all are.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Time to Slow Down

In today’s world it is easy to run around doing things. We forget to stop and just be. We have thousands of errands. We wake with lists of what must be done and go to sleep with lists of things left undone to start our lists for tomorrow. We never take time to just be.

What a distraction this is from what’s really important. We forget that some of the most marvelous and worthwhile moments of our lives come from the relaxed time we spend with family and friends. We forget that sometimes we need to take a bit of time to get back in touch with ourselves so we can know what it is we really want. Without that time we can be seduced by the advertising that requires that we need this wonderful item or that useful item that can save us so much time. Instead those items become another burden we carry with the new responsibilities we have to pay for them, clean them and repair them. Even the best time savers can actually end up costing us time if we have to spend so many more hours of work in order to benefit.

It is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of our world. There is a lot to do and things seem to happen at the speed of light. It is only by applying our willful and conscious mind to the task of insisting upon taking a moment to slow down and let things that we can create an oasis of time in our lives. Perhaps it is time to take some time this week. We can do this just for ourselves, not for anyone else. No errands. No shopping, just time to be. Sit in the sun. Read words that fill our souls. Let’s spend some time with ourselves to see what it is that we really want. What will really bring us peace? If we don’t know the answer, then how can we ever hope to find it?

If we can’t find it within ourselves, how can we hope to find it in the world?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Letting Go

I was reading about letting go last night. There are so many things we hang on to and in so many ways. We hang on to favorite possessions or those that remind us fondly of others. We often choose odd possessions to keep but they are filled with meaning that only our subconscious can discern. We hold onto photographs to remind us of old times and old friends.

We also hold on to emotional baggage. We want to hold on to the joy we had one day. But it fades and we reluctantly let it move on or we chase that feeling for many other days, no allowing the joy of each of them to fill our souls and so we miss out. We hang on to arguments and anger. We hang on to things that we don't even want to hang on to but we don't know how to let go.

Lama Surya Das' book Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be describes how we hold on to things. He describes in this book about the idea of mindfulness to keep us in the moment and allowing that moment to die as we exhale our breath and move on to the next moment with the in breath. It is difficult to train out minds to follow the breath and be in the moment but for those that can sit, we find the deepest peace of all and perhaps even find ourselves.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Letting Go of Control

We all have our moments of needing to believe we are in control. For some of us, this can be problematical in our relationships as we insist upon controlling everything that happens and the other person. For others of us, we think we have no need to control the outcome and go along with whatever life has to offer, but blaming ourselves for our lack when things go wrong.

I am reminded of this because a friend lost her dog this past weekend. I listened to her as she said many times that if only she had done something different her dog might be alive. She cried saying she just felt like she had failed this creature because ultimately the dog had died. It was apparent in the story that the dog had had cancer and that there was little to be done, no matter what choices she had made. Yet my friend insisted upon blaming herself. I had been in that position recently with a beloved cat and as I sat with my grief and self blame, another wise friend told me that we often find it easier to blame ourselves than to allow the reality that we are not in control of everything seep in.

We can control only ourselves. We often find even this difficult. If we sit in meditation, we may find it difficult to control even our thoughts when they race from here to there. We act and react in ways that can embarrass ourselves later on when we look back at what we did. We realize that we really weren't in control.

Our society reveres control. We expect people to always be in control (which means to keep our emotions tightly reined so others don't have to see them). We expect people to some how master and control their destiny when it may not be up to each of us.

Perhaps for a moment we can each sit with the knowledge that we are not necessarily in control and reflect on who and what may be. Perhaps we can then offer ourselves compassion for those moments when we fly off the handle at our mate after a trying day or end up blubbering on the shoulder of a kindly friend at the wrong moment. Life happens and it typically happens outside of our control. All we can do is meet it with compassion.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Alone and Connected

People today have become very polarized in their thinking. In the United States the us versus them has changed. It is no longer us, the people of a particular color, but us, the people of the blue state or red state versus them, the people of the other state. We can’t see how we are different, as in the color of our skin, so we must be on guard all the time because we might be different and we might be talking to a “them’ that we would rather not speak with.

It’s a sad place to be as this type of thinking binds us to our islands where we can't reach out and where we trust no one because they may not be like us. Yet we are all exactly a like. We are all on our islands about various issues. These are the ery things which make us feel different from others. We think we are alone, yet everyone has those times, those issues, those moments that come to feel that this is what life is about, where we are alone. So although we feel alone, our very aloneness connects us to others.

It is like the tao. The tao is made up of yin and yang, yet there is never really a moment when it is all yin or all yang, for at the moments of most yang and most yin, there is always a bit of the opposite polarity involved. There is always yin within yang and yang within yin. In our aloneness, there is a connection with others. In our most connected moments, there are bits of aloneness.

If we can share common ground and our common humanity, we can come together to exist more peacefully. If we can remember that each of us has our moments of aloneness and our own fears that prey upon our minds that haunt us in those moments, perhaps we can come together in greater peace.

How can we create peace? I like the bumper stickers that suggest practicing random acts of kindness. Perhaps we can promote just a little peace by allowing one driver who wants to cut us off, to get in front of us without annoyance. Maybe we can allow that person turning left to do so before we inch up in traffic. These are small acts, but if we can act on them with mercy and compassion, then we lay a foundation for greater acts of kindness and compassion and bring us closer to real peace, within and without ourselves.