Last week Beth had purchased some groceries at the store and brought them home. I went outside to help her bring them in when she arrived home. One of the bags I grabbed was a carton of milk and as I carried it inside somehow the milk fell out and bounced off the floor. Then milk began to shoot out everywhere. I picked it up and put it over the sink and observed there was a two-inch crack that resulted from the fall in the plastic container. I called to Beth and she came and found something else to pour the milk into before it had all of it was wasted in the sink.
There are times when I feel like that container of milk. It’s like; “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up or stop leaking!” Life has a way of bouncing us around, cracking us up and before we know it the good stuff; emotional stability, mental acuity and healthy spirituality are wasted away. Thankfully most of us have others we can depend on to help us through these difficult times. They help keep negative attitudes from filling what is empty and enable us to still remain useful no matter what life may bring our way.
Secrets can destroy lives. Secrets can make enemies of friends. Secrets have a way of eating at us, not giving us any peace and taking over all we say and do. Yet, most of us still hold on to them for fear the secret being found out is worse than the misery it causes each day.
Several years ago I had a friend who was ready to leave his current job for a “better” one. We went out to eat and he laid all his grievances out about his current job. He disliked his occupation, didn’t agree with his boss about the direction of the company and was sick to his gut every day he came to work. To others, he was the model employee but secretly he desperately wanted to go somewhere else. After he finished making his case he took a breath and we talked about the new opportunity and I told him I would be happy to give him a recommendation.
A few hours after our lunch my cell phone rang and it was my friend. We chit chatted a few moments and then he said; “I forgot to ask you, what do you think about me leaving?” I told him it sounded like a good job, the move on his family would be disruptive but manageable and to remember wherever he went he was taking himself with him. I went on to explain that some of his unease and difficulty with his present position was not just the job but were the secrets and burdens he carried with him. “No matter where you go,’ I said quoting one of my favorite wisdom teachers, ‘there you are. “
Don’t carry your secrets and burdens with you.
One of the images I like to use with the men I work with is an illustration about a sponge soaked in water.
If I were to go to a store, find the kitchen aisle, and buy a pack of sponges, I could take them home to use as I see fit. If I opened the packaging, took out one sponge and if my kitchen sink was clean I could fill it up with water, take the sponge which had never been used, ball it up in my hand, plunge it in the water, let it go and it would soak up clean water. If I then retrieved another sponge from the packaging, took it outside, found a mud puddle, balled up the sponge in my hand, plunged it in the murky water, let it go, it would soak up dirty water. The sponge isn’t the difference, it’s the water.
It’s similar to our lives. We are mostly products of where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. If our intentions are good and our hearts are pure most likely we will produce good results and our minds and spirits will be at peace. If, however, our hearts and intentions are selfish we will have no peace and wreak havoc on the lives of others.
Listening is Not Agreeing –
Late last week someone said something about me and that I didn’t agree. At first, the emotion was to respond, defend myself, dig in my heels, push back against the criticism. It wasn’t something overwhelmingly harsh but it did rub me the wrong way.
Instead of responding right away I sat with it for a bit and reflected on it. Oftentimes critiques are met with resistance. We want to defend ourselves. However, if we are too quick to jump our own defense we might miss something constructive. There’s an old wisdom saying; “Both criticism and compliments should be taken with the same weight.” Receiving compliments and praise can be easier but they have a way of pumping up our ego and sense of self. Criticisms, if held on to, can create bitterness, rivalry, and ruptured relationships.
One of the greatest disciplines of contemplative listening is found in the truth; “Listening is not agreeing.” When someone speaks to us a compliment or criticism we do not have to own it, take it inside of us, let it mingle with our minds, emotions, and spirits. We can examine it, turn it over in our minds and, if we have self-awareness, can decide if it is meant for us, to grow, to learn, to let it become a part of us. Perhaps its simply another’s opinion and through insight and stillness, we discover that we can let it go. It’s not for us.
“The mark of a wise mind is the ability to hold a thought in our heads
and not necessarily believe it to be true.” #Aristotle
Thursday night I got lost. I was in Paris, TN, a place I’ve never been before, and ventured out to find dinner. I thought I knew where I was going because when I arrived in the afternoon I made mental notes of a few landmarks and restaurants. However, that was in the day time and now it was night. Somewhere I made a wrong turn and the more adjustments I made the more lost I became. Finally, after admitting to myself I had no idea where I was or how to get where I was going, I opened the map app on my phone and it showed me the way.
Wisdom tells us that knowing we don’t know is the key to understanding, gaining knowledge and insight. The difficulty is our ego doesn’t like admitting powerlessness, weakness and not knowing. It is only when we’ve let go of our pride and embrace humility that we can be shown the way.