December 15, 2011
It's often the case that we reflect on ways to help each other during the Holidays, whether it's donating some time to help serve meals to those in need, running errands for someone who is homebound, or simply donating our time to be with people who could use some company, such as those in retirement homes or hospitals.
Giving the gift of support, through physical or personal donations is a wonderful way to create a sense of connectedness with others and foster community on all levels. Gifts of this kind can take the form of specific events, such as making a special trip to a senior center to sing holiday songs with the residents, or helping to collect and distribute gifts through your community organization.
Gifts of Peace can also take a much smaller, more subtle form. They can be given in very small packets of attention, listening, and validating others. When someone approaches you with a worried look on their face, tension in their voice, and anxiety in their mind, listening with attention and compassion might be all that is needed to open up their hearts. This simple act can be one form of mindfulness-based meditation. When those around us are nurtured, we feel nurtured as well.
Embodying tenderness in all that you do, can have ripple effects that extend into the world, well beyond the physical limits of your immediate world. Walking through the world with a smile on your lips and openness in your eyes can affect everyone you touch in ways that are profound. Giving this kind of peace is not something that is usually noticed, but it is felt.
As you drive to your appointments this holiday season, think of every driver as your dear friend. Perhaps they need to get somewhere quickly, which is why they need to speed around you or get into that parking spot. Let them. Create space for peace by allowing others to flow around you. See them as members of your family who might need more understanding and support at this time. Give them the peace you carry in your heart. You will never run out!
One of the best ways to give peace, is to not take things personally when something unexpected or undesirable happens. Keep in mind that you have expectations. (We all do). But it is only when you compare your expectations with what actually happens that you might become frustrated and upset. When we accept the world as it is, we will never be upset - because we are always starting from the situation that is. This does not mean that we do not strive to improve, only that we are not caught up in comparing what we wanted to have happen with what is happening, which is pointless and often stressful.
Give peace by listening to someone talk without judging their circumstances or trying to 'fix' their problems. Listen with an open heart and mind, making eye contact and finding the bright spots in what the share. Often, people focus on their problems, but it is impossible for someone to know what his problems are unless he also has some idea of that the solutions! (otherwise he would simply accept the situation as normal).
Give peace by not engaging in positions of tension. Someone might say something with which you disagree. That's OK. Is it important to defend the opposite position at that time? What is more important, to be 'right' or to be at peace? If you can, allow others to have their opinions and focus on what you both enjoy. Celebrate the good that you both see in the world. Often, when we remove our 'problems' we find love - for love is at the core of creation. Love is the heartbeat of the universe - the 'one song' that we all sing each day.
Give peace to yourself by having compassion for the child inside you that is doing the best he/she can. Allow yourself to make mistakes and laugh at yourself -because you know that life is about trying things, making discoveries, and exploring the boundaries of the imagination. Life is not a performance. It is an adventure - and adventures are marked by surprises. Enjoy them and be grateful.
Give peace to the planet by being a stuart of all your relations. Take care of every being you encounter, every form of life, and every phase of life. See the stages of the manifested world as one dance, moving in harmony, you with your place and everything else with its place, interconnected and interdependent. Know that, by offering peace, you are creating peace for yourself. Be peaceful and the world will reciprocate.
Blessings to you this holiday season.
May you be peace!
December 11, 2011
The dictionary defines 'Sorrow' as: 1) deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved and 2) resultant unhappy or unpleasant state.
In an earlier post called 'The Functional Mind,' I talked about how the primary functions of the mind is to identify, categorize, associate, store and retrieve data (information about the world, both external and internal).
Looking at the feeling of sorrow through the lens of the Thoughtfulness Practice, we can immediately see that a state of sorrow depends on us first categorizing something as a 'loss,' secondly as associated with something 'loved,' and most importantly - the thoughts that lead to this state must be retrieved over and over again.
We've all felt the deep sadness that comes from experiencing the loss of something we hold dear. It might have been a friend, family member or a pet. It could have been a quality that was 'lost' such as tenderness or innocence.
Whatever it was, the 'loss' is experienced as an emotion that often manifests throughout the body as a feeling of both emptiness and heaviness. We might experience sensations of tension coupled with feelings of helplessness. Sorrow is a powerful feeling and it can weigh us down and drain us of energy.
Clearly, there are times when it is appropriate and, some might argue, necessary to allow one's self to enter into a state of sorrow. In times of great loss, sorrow serves to slow us down, provide a space for mourning, reflection, and the healing process to begin. This is normal and when appropriate, sorrow can be exactly what we need to process an event in our lives.
The key to living an enlightened life, is to know when and how to move beyond sorrow and resume the natural state of bliss and gratitude that is the birthright of every living being. As 'universal beings' we are wired for bliss and healthiest when manifesting joy. We are most productive when we are happy and looking forward to the many gifts each day brings.
Let's see how we can use the teachings of the Thoughtfulness Practice to move beyond sorrow, when the time is right.
Sorrow, as a condition, depends largely on the re-experiencing of the feeling of loss. In most cases, the 'loss' is a change from one circumstance to another (i.e., My pet was here and now he/she is gone). In order to experience the sorrow, we must re-mind ourselves of the loss and continue to wish that the current condition was different than it is.
We know that the mind's job is to store and retrieve data, but we also know that it is our perspective and orientation that determines the quality of that information. 'Quality" in this case refers to the relevance and usefulness of the thought as it pertains to our life.
When we take an objective look at a 'sorrow-producing' thought, we can examine it for its quality by asking the questions:
- Is this thought true in its timeliness?
- Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
- Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
Is this thought true in its timeliness?
Sometimes we hold on to an event, thought, or feeling long after the event has past. We continue to re-mind ourselves of it until it becomes almost hard-wired into our daily life. We change our perspective to accommodate the thought and can even change our entire orientation in life. In some cases, our mood suffers, we feel sad, our bodies ache, we're unmotivated and even angry. In extreme cases we might experience depression and feelings of helplessness.
The KEY is to consider the timeline and be realistic about the event, which may have happened months and even years before. Even though we can remember it, is it true in this moment? Are those events happening now? Chances are, if we're being honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We can help move beyond sorrow, by admitting that it is us who are continuing to pull the event into the present, through the use of our mind. This is a mis-use of the mind. The first step is to notice that this is happening.
Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
If you were going to recommend that someone else either use or not use the 'sorrow-producing thought,' what would you tell them? Be honest. Does pulling the thought and feeling into the present serve you in your highest good? Does it help you feel more like yourself or something else? If it is not serving you, then it makes sense to change your perspective and focus on what does. You can do this by simply observing the thought, feeling the feeling, and not reacting negatively to the presence of the thought. (See the article "Feeling the Feeling.)
We can allow a thought without having a reactive experience to it. When we provide compassion to our own sorrow, we begin to heal - we begin to understand that it is not the event that is causing us to suffer, but our resistance to the change in our life situation. We sometimes become bound to a feeling and the orientation around that feeling. We might think that if we are not sad that we are not honoring the person or thing that we loved, but this thinking only hurts ourselves and those who are with us. In fact, we can honor those we loved by living a bright and joyful life.
When a though does not align with your highest good, you have the option of acknowledging that. When you truly acknowledge that you could be spending more time with your quality thoughts, you will reclaim your highest good and use your mind in ways that lead to productively and happiness.
Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
As mentioned above, we sometimes hold on to a thought or feeling for various reasons. We may actually become attached to feelings of sadness and sorrow to the point where they become part of who we are. You can sometimes see this in people who have suffered great loss. They seem to carry the thought and feelings of sorrow with them everywhere, never letting go, always focused on a feeling of loss and suffering. It's not as important to know why people do this as it is to know that it is always a choice.
In order to allow a feeling to move beyond your conscious mind, you must be willing to allow that to happen, which means you must be willing to let the associations go as well. This might feel like abandoning the thing you loved, but in truth, it is honoring all that is good in life. Have you ever met someone who suggested to you that, should they pass on before you, they would want you to feel sorrow for a long time? Of course not.
Once the sorrow has served its purpose, once the appropriate space has been created and rituals for healing have been practiced, once the person, pet or thing has been acknowledged and respects have been paid, the focus can return to the present moment - not to the future, but the here and now.
Letting go of sorrow does not mean forgetting about people or what they meant. It means returning to a state of gratitude and wonderment for each and every moment that is your life. It means allowing yourself to be present in your life and not stuck in the past or future.
We can move beyond sorrow when we acknowledge that our mind is a tool for solving problems - not producing them. When we are able to manage our thoughts in a way that produces quality, we can release feelings of sorrow. By embracing the wonder and joy that is inherent in each moment, we focus on appreciation for the gifts of life, rather than what we think was taken from us.
Each day is a gift. That's why it's called the present. (Anon)
What do you think of this Thoughtfulness Practice?
Have you found ways to move beyond sorrow?
Leave your comments below.