Nothing is Lacking–
I was a part of a conversation this week where a group of people was giving a person advice. The advice was based on what the person had shared; a story of love and betrayal. On the wrong side of a bad choice is a terrible place to be and the person was fixated on how to either get over on the person who hurt him or get over it period. Two choices were staring him the face and he was going to choose either one or the other.
Decisions based on pain are almost always bad ones. We make these in times of stress, confusion, doubt, and loneliness. We feel as though we have lost something, had it taken away from us, and we want it back or rather life back the way it was or the way it should be.
Wisdom teaches us that suffering is the gap between how life is, reality, and how we think life ought to be. The greater the gap the more suffering. It is why learning to let go and acceptance are two of the greatest life lessons we can learn and practice. Life is rarely if ever, the way we want. Even if for a while it seems to be sooner or later it changes and we have no control over this truth. To live with open hand, to not try to grasp, force life to stay the same and allow for the inevitable change is to know and live in peace.
Enemy Within –
I had a meeting with my talk therapist yesterday. It went well. She is professional, a good listener and has a way of pointing out things I miss in life experiences. We were talking about a certain subject, one I struggle with mightily at times, and asked a question that made me think in a completely different way. She didn’t say; “Think this way.” Like a good therapist should do, she allowed me to look inside and find my way out of dark corners.
As someone with a Chronic Severe Depression disorder the battle with ruminating thoughts, anger, doubt, confusion, and fear cover my mind, emotions, and spirit like a wet blanket. Some days I can shake the blanket off of me, other days it’s like a chill in my bones and I can’t get warm. Therapy helps remind me that many of the feelings, and non-feelings, which come with depression may not be gotten rid of completely but a new thought, a burst of light, a letting go of some of the negative, can make room for hope and a willingness to continue the journey.
The River –
“Imagine yourself sitting on the bank of a river. The river is your stream of consciousness. Observe each of your thoughts coming along as if they’re saying, “Think me, think me.” Watch your feelings come by saying, “Feel me, feel me.” Acknowledge that you’re having the feeling or thought. Don’t hate it, judge it, critique it, or move against it. Simply name it: “resentment toward so and so,” “a thought about such and such.” Then place it on a boat and let it go down the river. When another thought arises—as no doubt it will—welcome it and let it go, returning to your inner watch place on the bank of the river.”
#ThomasKeating, “Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel”
One of the greatest and most difficult realizations is the truth that we are not our thoughts. We are not our actions. We are not our egos. True, each of these can reveal things about us and to the world but we are not these things.
The problem is we’ve been taught the opposite most of our lives. The famous quote; “Reap a thought, a word, an action, then a destiny,” seems right but our thoughts do not have to lead us to who we ultimately become. We can choose to go deeper, change paths, refuse to be captive to our thoughts by breaking free of them.
It happened several weeks ago but has happened before many times and chances are will happen again. A stranger, someone we don’t know and not sure we want to, approaches us and asks us for assistance. This last time it was at a gas station when a long, matted hair, holes in his shirt and pants man, with a gas can in his hand asked me to buy him some gas. I always feel vulnerable and suspicious when anything similar to this happens and try to take a look around without being obvious. I was almost finished filling my tank and told him to set his canister down and proceeded to give him enough to almost fill it. When I finished he said; “Thank you,” took the container and went back to where he and another person were sitting. I opened the front door, sat in the driver’s seat and told the story to Beth who had watched from inside our car.
It’s been a rule of mine for as long as I can remember to not ask or demand from someone what they will do with money, gas or whatever when I give it to them. I understand some people take advantage of others and use people’s generosity for nefarious purposes. I know others need genuine help. I also believe in serving angels unaware and there’s no doubt I can’t tell the difference between the three. When I give it is a letting go of the abundance I sometimes have and allow others to use it as they deem necessary.
Assisting another in need is often vague. However, giving to another isn’t about how they use the gift but having a heart that’s willing to help.
Last night I took the dogs out for their last opportunity to do some business for the day. I was about to release them when a shadow caught my eye, then another. I grabbed both dog’s leashes and strained to see what was running through the yard. I couldn’t quite tell but it was either stray dogs or coyotes. I kept the dogs close to me to be on the safe side. This morning, when I let the dogs out again, our Siberian Husky began chasing scents all over the area where the other animals had been. He was so preoccupied with tracking the shadow’s trail he forgot to do what needed to be done.
I watched him dart to and fro and thought how sometimes we are like my crazy dog. We chase after shadows of the unknown, things that scare us or bring confusion and doubt. We allow these distractions to take our focus away from the present and from our purpose.
Don’t dwell in the past or be obsessed with the future. Live in the now.
Some things simply don’t go together. Tea without sugar, the beach and rain, the DMV and expediency, mowing grass in a sweatshirt, coat and wearing earmuffs. Yet, the latter is exactly what I did today.
This last week we’ve had a lot of rain and even though it’s October the grass is still growing. I was hoping to mow on Thursday and Friday but the ground was too wet. This morning I decided to take the chance and cut the yard. I put on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, walked outside and immediately came back in. It was more than chilly, it was cold made even worse by a stiff wind. So, I bundled up, went out, hopped on the mower and completed the chore.
Other events happened this week that shouldn’t go together either. Schools and guns, young people and death. I can’t imagine the terror and trauma in that classroom in Oregon as those students, teachers, faculty realized what was occurring. My mind reels and heart breaks to think of the final moments and last breaths of the victims and the shooter.
The questions; “Where was God? Why didn’t he stop it? How could he allow such a horrible incident?” are valid and need to be asked. More things which don’t seem to go together; a good, loving, powerful God and senseless acts of violence. Unfortunately we live in a world where they do.
I’ve heard most of the arguments which attempt to answer the divine dilemma tragedies such as the school shooting in Oregon bring. Few of them pass the scrutiny of logic and theology, none of them ease the pain of loss and despair.
In times and seasons such as these two additional things which don’t seem to go together but often do; faith and doubt. The journey of wisdom is not toward absolute certainty. It is learning how faith and doubt, conviction and confusion, comfort and questioning, presence and apparent absence are held together in our spirits without separating us from a God we’ll never fully understand.