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Archive for January, 2014

Practicing Peace

001I wrote that I was looking forward to practicing peace with those with whom I strongly disagree, yet I haven’t had a single discussion with any of them yet. I’m still avoiding it. I’m avoiding it because I know my emotions get involved very quickly, and I don’t have real control over my emotions at the moment. So I need to change that last line in the post (“I’m looking forward to putting this into practice”) to read: I wonder if I can put this into practice.

I’ve been able to pursue peace in other areas. For one, my driving has improved. I no longer get upset at how other drivers cut me off, tailgate, drive below the speed limit, etc. etc. I just take deep breaths, accept what has happened, and, if an opportunity arises to mitigate the matter, I take it. If not, I remain in the situation. This is a big deal for me. I’m very happy for my growth in this area.

My photo is of the Go! game I’m playing blind. I close my eyes when I choose the disc and place it on the board. I want the Universe to determine the outcome of the game. In this way I’m learning to accept how the Universe operates. This refers back to my previous statement regarding driving: the Universe moves the cars just as it moves the black and white discs. Learning to accept this brings about practical peace.

So maybe I’m not quite ready to confront my opponents. But I’m building readiness. And when I attain it, maybe I’ll help them achieve some peace as well.

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Balance

Multnomah Falls

I’m what used to be called manic-depressive. In my manic phases, I’m incredibly productive and creative. I’ve painted pictures in six hours, written thousands of words, stayed up until 2 in the morning without realizing it. It’s an unbelievable energy, unlike anything else I know.

But the backside is the depression. It drags me into a lethargy in which I don’t want to do anything. And in its darkness there is no motivation for doing anything whatsoever. Why bother when you’re only going to die anyway?

So I’m on medication to alleviate the darkness. Cymbalta. It works wonders. But it also removes the mania. So now I have to push myself to find my creativity. It no longer arises on its own. The words come more slowly, the images fail to inspire. I wonder whether this is really the way I want to live.

Various religions speak of the “middle path”, of seeking balance in all things. Having experienced such balance through the drugs, I’m not so sure it’s what I want. I miss the creativity.

So maybe I should ignore the hundreds of dollars’ worth of pills in my cabinet. Maybe I should face that 1000-foot drop, and take the plunge again. At least once. Just to feel what it’s like once more.

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Absurdity

Moon

And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?      –Ecclesiastes 5:16

This is something that has troubled me my entire life. What is the point of doing or learning anything, if it is all going to be lost in 70 years anyway? Such a situation makes this life utterly absurd.

So what would motivate a person in an absurd life? Some postulate a heaven and a hell, which they hope to attain and avoid, respectively, by means of their actions here on Earth. But when I observe these people, by and large their actions don’t seem to reflect this hope. Instead they are trapped in the absurdity, rather than freed by the possibility.

Others are motivated by their own sense of right and wrong, a positing of morality. But by what standard is this morality to be judged? Again they are trapped in the absurdity, not having an outside source to compare against their own internal compass, and thus no way of calibrating that compass.

Still others prefer to do nothing at all. Accepting the absurdity of life, they choose not to act from belief or internal conscription. Instead, they allow the occasion to arise of its own accord, and respond to it as it presents itself to them. They act absurdly.

I place myself in this last category. I don’t do things because they are right or wrong, or because I hope to achieve a reward after this life. Rather, I do things as the impulse arises within me to do them. In this way, I follow Jesus’ teaching to “let not the right hand know what the left hand doeth”. This is the only appropriate response to an absurd world.

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Practical Peace

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“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies” – Archbishop Tutu 

This goes totally against the grain for me. When I decided to pursue peace this year, I figured I would have to stop talking to those people who brought out the worst in me, those who made me angry and caused me to lose my sense of tranquility. But this quote stopped me in my tracks. Of course it’s easy to find peace with those with whom I am at peace. But what about those with whom I am not? That is the real trick. So I cannot ignore those with whom I am in disagreement. I must meet with them and have discourse with them. But I must not become angry or cast aspersion upon them. I must maintain my peace and offer it to them. Otherwise it is not really peace. 

I look forward to putting this into practice.

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Resolution

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Just over a mile along the trail up Hamilton Mountain in Washington State is a waterfall called Pool of the Winds. Here Hardy Creek drops 20 feet inside a cave, where it gathers before falling another 45 feet as the Rodney Falls. A steady wind blows out of this cave as the water thunders in your ears. There is a deep spiritual quality to this pool, drawing you in and enticing you to bathe yourself in its cleansing waters. It is a place of new beginnings. 

I see this year, 2014, as a place of new beginnings. I have resolved to seek more peace in my life over the next 12 months. I have very specific and practical ideas in mind as to how to do this; not only do they involve a change in behavior, but a change in mental outlook as well. One of my favorite passages from A Course in Miracles states, “If I defend myself, I am attacked.” What this tells me is that the attitude with which I confront the world is the attitude I’m going to receive in return. If I project fear, anger, or defensiveness, I’m going to find a world of danger, meanness and offense. If I project a state of loneliness, I will find a world of strangers. And of course, the contrary is true as well: project a world of peace, and I will find peace. 

So that is my New Year’s Resolution. To encompass, embrace, and project peace. I’ve already begun; and I’m already reaping rewards.

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