Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Time For Reflection

(I will be on sabbatical until further notice)

Every once in awhile it seems to be necessary to take some time off from whatever we have been doing so that we might assess those things and re-evaluate how they contribute to our lives. There is a cumulative effect of events in our lives like the rolling waves of the ocean hitting the shore. Slowly, wave-by-wave, the shoreline is changed. In quieter times the sands are built up, the beach becomes softer and enjoyable. In stormy times the beach erodes exposing buried rocks and logs and all sorts of things formerly unseen. Life is like that. Every day the waves of events crash upon the shores of our being and we discover the changes that are occurring. We cannot, do not, fight the onslaught of the waves because we understand the natural process. However, we often do attempt to fight the onslaught of events in our lives that begin to expose aspects of our selves that have been covered by the quieter times. That fight is often futile.

I have come to a point where I am beginning to observe my life differently. I am raising new questions about who I am and how I got to where I am. I am trying to assess and re-evaluate the events of my life for any new insights I might find as the waves first build and then erode the features that I consider to be the shores of my being. This review includes not only the examination of my beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions, but also what I have observed in the character and behaviors of others in my life who have also contributed in some way to my view of self.

This might be a major effort on my part, at least it seems that way to me from my current perspective. Because I firmly believe that I need this time of reflection and introspection, I intend to drop out for awhile and go back to some physical places that have served as a source of energy and insight in the past. I expect to spend time on the beaches where I have over the years watched the tides bring dramatic change to the shores. I hope to let those tides bring a fresh vision of who I am and what I am here to do in my remaining time in this life experience.

I have no idea of how much time I need. It may be a day. It may be a month. It may even be forever! All I know is that until I can wrap my mind and heart around this thing I call my life I am in no condition to be offering supposed insights to others. So, this will be my last posting until the lightening strikes in such a way that it is clear to me that I have learned something worth talking about.

I appreciate the interest of those of you who have followed LifeCentering. I hope to be back with a renewed view of life and maybe more certainty regarding what it is all about!

Before I even posted this article, I decided to check out from the library a book that has come to my attention through two different sources recently: Women Who Run With Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I had barely read the cover notes and introduction when I realized my journey had begun! The deep sense of emotional disorientation and the search of singing over the bones has revealed a beginning point that resonated with an inner search that has been tickling my attention for some time. I immediately ordered a copy of the book for myself. I think you will hear much more about this when I return!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dealing With Anger

(This article originally appeared in my former ezine: Whole Life Development, July 2006. It is reprinted at this time because 25% of new contacts to my blog have been the result of searches for information on the subject of anger. This blog can be searched by using the box in the header to find other articles related to the subject.)

I have discovered that I have within me a deep anger. It is so deep that I did not realize until recently that it was lurking within my subconscious mind. This anger has been disguised increasingly through the years as sadness, sympathy, suffering and frustration because these were acceptable feelings whereas anger was not. We are not supposed to be angry because it is considered a destructive trait.

What is likely to happen after years of suppressing our anger is that some assumed slight or a cross word will trigger an explosion in us and we blurt out an undeserved destructive barrage upon the unfortunate person we consider to be the reason for our anger. In fact, the anger released is similar to a steam pressure cooker that builds almost unnoticed as it sits upon the burner. It reaches its maximum capacity and releases the excess through the pressure valve. When we deal with anger as an emotion to be suppressed, it builds pressure until it finally explodes.

When we feel angry it is important to step back and ask our self, “Where is this coming from? Why is this situation appearing to trigger so much energy?” The sooner we can learn to do this the less pressure will build up within us. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to know the answer to the question we ask. But, even if we do not discover a satisfactory answer immediately, by taking time to consider the question we remove much of the energy from the situation, just like the steam valve vents the excess pressure.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, (Riverhead Books) says this about embracing our anger.

The Buddha never advised us to suppress our anger. He taught us to go back to ourselves and take good care of it. When something is physically wrong with us, in our intestines, our stomach, or our liver, we have to stop and take good care of them. We do some massage, we use a hot-water bottle, we do everything possible in order to take care of them.

Just like our organs, our anger is part of us. When we are angry, we have to go back to ourselves and take good care of our anger. We cannot say, “Go away anger, you have to go away. I don’t want you.” When you have a stomachache, you don’t say, “I don’t want you stomach, go away.” No, you take care of it. In the same way, we have to embrace and take good care of our anger. We recognize it as it is, embrace it, and smile. The energy that helps us do these things is mindfulness, mindfulness of walking and mindfulness of breathing.

Mindfulness is another way of meditation. It is bringing your attention fully to the moment. When we are fully in the moment there is a sense of peace, a sense of stability and understanding. It is beyond the blast of emotional steam that may vent as anger has built up. If you carry the simile to its end with the steam cooker, you have a satisfying meal. Of course that is only true if the steam cooker is tended to as Thich Nhat Hahn suggests in his book. You do not throw the pot away. You turn down the heat (mindfulness), let it cool to relieve the last of the pressure (allow inner wisdom to be present), then you open it to discover your meal (the potential resolution). I say “potential” because the meal still has to be eaten.

It is true of any potential resolution to our anger that we discover in our mindfulness. It is up to us to examine what it is possible for us to do regarding the situation that has grown into the pressure that we are experiencing. One thing I discovered through my own mindfulness about anger was that through the years there had been situations that I had not finished. There were loose ends in terms of some relationships and actions that I had taken, or not taken. Interestingly, these things did not seem connected to my anger. They simply appeared to me as unfinished business. I know they came to mind because I had made room for them by being willing to look into my anger and care for it. Where it was possible for me to do so I communicated my apologies to those persons I felt I had treated poorly. For the most part those persons seemed surprised, but I was not. Sometimes we have so convinced ourselves that everything is okay that others are convinced as well. Mindfulness, quiet attention given to our higher Self, will open the path to resolution and satisfying results.

When there are specific people with whom there is difficulty that has resulted in deep anger, every effort must be expended to bring resolution. This is for your own health if for no other reason. Of course, ultimately we are only as healthy as our relationships, so it is important to give the other person every opportunity to find healing as well.

Everything is possible when the door of communication is open. So we must invest ourselves in the practice of opening up and restoring communication. You have to express your willingness, your desire to make peace with the other person. . . You have to start negotiating a strategy. No matter how much the other person can do, you have to do all that you are capable of doing yourself. . .Don’t put forth conditions, saying ‘If you don’t make an effort to reconcile, then I won’t either.’ This will not work. Peace, reconciliation, and happiness begin with you. Ibid, page 50, 51

Beginning with ourselves is perhaps the greatest stumbling block we have to restoring harmony in our relationships. If we feel we have been slighted or misunderstood, if we feel we have been lied to or abused verbally, it seems only natural that the other person should begin the process of healing. If we attempt resolution by requiring someone else to take some action, resolution is unlikely to take place. Take care of your anger through mindfulness, open your heart and mind to the Wisdom greater than self and make room for it to bring right action into your life.

Finally, there may be those situations that are truly out of your control. You cannot make others change or “see the light.” You can take care of your own thoughts, feelings and actions. In so doing your life will experience the peace and inner harmony that you seek. Do not delay that positive outcome by waiting around for others to change. Get on with taking care of you!
In case you are interested in the blog articles that came up in my search, they are listed below. Click on the title to go to the article.

Jan. 28, 2009 On The Occasion Following the Inauguration of Barack Obama As President of the United States of America
Dec. 4, 2008 Promises
Nov. 15, 2008 Unresolved Anger
Oct. 15, 2007 It Would Be Good For You To Hear This
Jul. 25, 2007 I Have Broken My Own Rules!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Rest of the Story

In my last blog entry I lamented the “dark spaces” of the Internet in regard to the various social networks and the potential for anonymously spreading hurtful, hateful messages about others. Now, for the rest of the story.

After the previous post I remembered that I recently had a flurry of Facebook “friend” requests. Several of these were from former co-workers and even a former manager from where I worked prior to retiring. I responded with, “Hi! How are you? It is good to touch base again!” I thought to myself, “Gee, it is nice to be remembered!” Then I thought of the special friends with whom I carry on a frequent exchange of emails. All of these positive experiences came through the same Internet that has offered up some of the less satisfying content.

For me, just reviewing the past friendships with co-workers was richly satisfying. I hadn’t heard from them for six years and suddenly I am a “friend” again. I also had the opportunity to see who some of their other friends are. This is one of those simple acts of kindness that it is so easy to gloss over as just ordinary. I am very fortunate to have people in my life who show caring for one another and include me in that circle of sharing.

Honestly, I probably won’t have an active exchange with some of the folks out of the past, since I do not spend much time in the social networks, but that is not the point for me. What I gained from these contacts is something I too often forget about myself: I am a person some other people are happy to know! For a few brief moments I got away from thinking I am alone out here. Then there is the whole blogasphere of contacts that I have. Some of these I initiated and some came to me. And what about such sites as Wikipedia? Good heavens, there isn’t anything you cannot find out about there from an old quote you cannot source to the meaning of words you never heard of before. If all else fails, there is Google!

So, the rest of the story is about how rich our environment has become thanks to the Internet. I would not want my readers to think my head is in the sand, unaware of that tremendous resource. Happy hunting and may all your contacts be powerful reminders of your value to yourself and others.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Social(ly Responsible) Networks

Several years ago I wrote an article expressing my feelings about social networks, specifically in response to a MySpace posting. It was my first look into MySpace and I had just stumbled upon a particularly hurtful entry that the writer did not know how to make private so it was on the network for all to see. It was a personal family matter, yet here it was for anyone to see, even the people it was about, but whom the writer had not intended them to see.

Time heals all wounds we are told and time allowed this event to fade and for hurts to be forgotten, at least for the time being. Since that first adventure I have cared little to explore the various social networks. Like most everyone with a computer, I am registered on several, but I am dismayed by the continuing tragedies hidden among the contributors, the deeply hurt young people and others unable to cope with the insults, humiliation and hateful intent. Lives are literally lost as a result.

I understand that there is also much positive content that truly provides support, fun, knowledge and many other useful forms of connection. It is, by far, the predominant content. I simply would hope that we could show some level of respect for one another and ownership of our contribution in all mediums of relationship. Personal insult and accusations may best be resolved face to face rather than in the anonymity of the dark spaces of the Internet. If one cannot deal with that, maybe it is best to forget it altogether!

After posting the article written earlier, I decided to withdraw it because it really was a personal experience. The fact that it recently came up for me did not make it necessary to share the details again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Expectations Too High?

It seems to be happening again. We are caught in the trap of expectations that may be unrealistic. I am not just talking about political issues, though certainly we have a scenario developing there that tends to confirm past history—no matter how honest you try to be your efforts can be scuttled by old time politics as usual.

Maybe this article IS just about politics! I sure am disgusted and saddened by a lot of what is happening in Washington, DC. I think there is enough criticism to cover all aspects of our political problem. For example:

THE PRESS s always ready to pounce on the slightest indication that someone or something is off course, or maybe will become off course, or they suppose it is possible for someone to get off course. So, of course, they start the pot boiling. The stew that is cooking depends on what network you get your news from. At different periods I have tended to get most of my news from one network, that is, my views tended to be more in line with one than others. This changes from time to time because my own views change. Bottom line: Take the news—from whatever source—with a grain of salt. They all have their ratings axes to grind.

CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS just don’t get it! They never have, at least in my lifetime span of nearly 75 years, and it doesn’t look like they will. It is not simply a matter of each party having a different philosophical base. There really are differences, particularly on economic policy and foreign policy (what else is there?). The last election seemed to clearly voice the public’s determination as to which side of the philosophical coin they preferred. I am all for each party holding to their basic philosophy because that allows for choice. The winner leads the process from that point on. For the losing party to simply provide an obstructionist role will never result in anything truly practical and efficient getting done. Compromise is an important tool in negotiation as it brings out the most important aspects of each party’s philosophy. But, there comes a time to vote, to arrive at an answer and to begin a course of action. Bottom line: Get over it and get moving!

THE PRESIDENT had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish and has made an effort to reach across the aisle to involve the Republicans in the process. I am not sure that Congress and the advisors around him have given him the support and kind of advice he needs. If the President is willing to work with all parties where is the honest cooperation? He has never said he had the ONLY answer. It is too bad that an idealist and pragmatic President has to try to deal with the minority whose philosophy has been thoroughly demonstrated as catastrophic.

FINALLY, Mr. Former Vice-President Cheney, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! You are not driving any longer. Do us all a favor and disappear! And take your grumpy, negative cohorts with you.