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Archive for the category “Attaining peace”

Freedom in the popularity of Mindfulness

When I was first exposed to mindfulness practice it was Buddhist in nature.  Theravada Buddhism to be exact; as there  are many different traditions in Buddhism.  As someone who was raised Catholic, I felt I had a choice to make, and working in a Catholic school I felt I needed to be careful how I spoke about my new practice (not that you have to be Catholic to work in  a Catholic school). Even though my Buddhist mentor consistently advised me that there was no need to choose, I was rigid and content on doing this right!

I eventually had a group of likeminded people coming to my house on Sunday mornings to “sit.” Sitting involved just that – sitting. We would sit and meditate mindfully for 20 – 40 minutes. We would then break for tea or coffee and return to listen to a Dharma (teacher) talk for another hour or so. It was. . .enlightening. Unfortunately, I never let go of my struggle of choosing.

In 2009, my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia, and the next couple of years were filled with her extreme illness, and eventually her death, and the illness and death of other people in my family of origin.  I was busy planning Catholic funerals and had lost the ability to “sit.”  My sister actually said at one point in her illness that she didn’t really want a Catholic funeral, but this was early on, and I could never really get her to engage in actual plans of her passing (she really thought it wasn’t going to kill her). So I did what any good Catholic daughter would have done – I planned a Catholic funeral knowing this is what our mom needed.  I have said often that I love the way Catholics do death.  There is hope and peace present in a Catholic funeral.

I finally felt the veil of grief lift slightly in the late summer of 2013. The intense waves finally subsided to dull pangs. I once again was called to “sit.”  Death and life does something to you (if you are lucky); there are lessons in all of it. I wasn’t so rigid anymore. I didn’t feel called to one particular Tradition. In fact I discovered American Buddhism and a Mindfulness Practice that had gained much popularity since I had last practiced. These practices were less spiritual – more psychological.  I didn’t feel defensive, upset, or rigid about it.

Once again on Sundays, a group of folks gathers at my home to “sit.” Some are Christians, some are Buddhists, some simply know there is a God and they aren’t it. We all believe that slowing down, creating space between our feelings and others’ feelings,  and not taking things so personally helps us grow emotionally and spiritually.

Even though I am not suffering from the intense waves of grief, sitting is not easy.  Life is still difficult, so sitting with it can be difficult too. Even though it’s difficult, I’m surprised to hear people say they can’t do it. It is just sitting. Mindful sitting, however, allows me to watch my thoughts. In watching my thoughts I see the vulnerabilities in me and how they can be stirred by people I encounter in my life. When this happens I become angry, sad, proud, frustrated, etc. My first reaction is to blame the person that stirred me, but in sitting, I see it is me being stirred. By sitting and seeing this mindfully, I can usually stop acting out in the ways I used to.

After all of these years, I still don’t do it right, but I now know that doing it right isn’t at all the point.  Doing it is the point. That is progress. Living mindfully brings peace to myself. . .and to those I encounter.  I’m still Catholic although I do enjoy going on silent Buddhist retreats.  I think Jesus would be a big fan of mindfulness.

Peace.

Cartoon Amazing Race to Enlightenment

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Daily Ground- – -February 27

“Life inside our skin and our skin and outside our skin are forever different” – – Mark Nepo

I’m grateful I’ve been given the gifts to discern the above.  What happens inside of me – my thoughts, feelings, opinions, and emotions – have little connection to what is going on outside of me in the world.  There are times I forget this and believe that everything is happening to me, when mostly it is just happening.

Often when I feel the crisis mode arising and it truly isn’t a matter of life or death, I realize that what I’m feeling is not a crisis – just a feeling.  I can simply pause, breathe, pray, and then determine if an action is even necessary.

Peace.

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Daily Ground – – – February 16

What brings a person to the spiritual life?

I’d say suffering usually brings a person to the spiritual life. That’s what brought me. I was raised in a Catholic family. I always believed in God. There were rituals and devotions and prayers.  This, however, was not a spiritual life. My parents tried to teach me religion, but our household was chaotic and scary.

You can’t teach Spirit. You must practice it. You must live it. I am convinced my family – my parents – did the best they could. I needed more. I went to the desert of Utah in my 20’s. I discovered Spirit.  It was in a Catholic Church, but much different than what I was used to. It ways mystical, quiet, meditative, and accepting.

As the years have passed, I go in and out of different spiritual practices. I don’t leave one because I am angry or resentful. I pass on to other practices because I am called. I’m not afraid. God – Higher Power – Creator – is too big to be kept to just one practice. I feel comfortable in churches and church basements. I expereince God at the beach and the mountains and certainly in the inner cities.

Suffering brought me to seek. Suffering brought me to my knees.  Suffering taught me gratitude. Suffering brought me to the spiritual life. I will not run from suffering. I will see it, and I will accept the lessons in it.

Peace.

Daily Ground – – – February 15

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

I read the above poem and I nod, and nod, and nod in agreement with each line. Knowing in my head, my heart, my soul that this is the way.  That fighting being human doesn’t work.  With each new day comes a different challenge or joy or surprise. This is life; this is learning.

And still because I am human, I struggle. I still fight it. I still try to control. I am still delusional that I can get my way if I try hard enough. If I throw a bigger tantrum.

Today, I will journey with those I love and those who love me. I will be with them and let them be with me – – – in the challenge, the joy and the surprise.  For it is only with others that I can do this thing called – being human. I will be open. I will have the intention to meet what ever feelings or thoughts come my way “at the door laughing, and invite them in.”

Peace.

Daily Ground – – -February 13

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” ~Erica Jong

Recently a dear, dear friend asked me what to do.  There was just a long silence between us; not the silence that is awkward, but the silence of knowing.  I knew I had nothing to offer her.  She knew in her heart what she must do.

I’m so happy to be okay with the silence. I’m grateful to have friends I’m so connected to that at times there are no need for words.  This doesn’t come from being polite. This comes from living out loud – speaking the truth – not being afraid  to say the wrong thing. I take risks with friendships.  I am real and vulnerable. When friendships like these last – there is such freedom and ease that I wonder why people would ever want to hide their true self.

Peace.

Daily Ground – – – February 12

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!

That is if we allow ourselves to hear the truth.  For so long I stuffed my negative emotions – afraid that if I didn’t like someone or was angry that I was a bad person.  It was as if being on a spiritual journey meant always being compassionate and always being kind and loving.  It took me many years and a lot of pain to realize that I am human, and I have likes and dislikes.

There are people I just don’t enjoy being around.  There are some people I like being around for small doses, but do not want to live with them. I’ve learned it is okay to set boundaries. I try my best to set these boundaries with kindness, but at times others may feel as though I’ve hurt them.  Learning to live with the fact that I will not always be liked (or loved) by all has been a difficult, yet humbling lesson. It is a hard truth to swallow.  Sometimes my truth does indeed piss me off, and sometimes I’m the one doing the pissing off.  It’s all part of the journey.  Still – I’ll take truth.

Peace.

 

Daily Ground – – – February 7

Your life is a result of the choices you make . . .if you don’t like your life, it is time to start making different choices.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I would waddle into daycare to drop the baby off and at times the other mom’s would be complaining about their husbands.  Whenever I was there, they would say how lucky I was to have my husband. He was so helpful and good with the baby, he made my lunch everyday, and he was so laid back about everything. I would say, “Lucky? I made a choice to marry my husband. I wasn’t forced to marry him. Didn’t you have a choice?”

Sometimes I have to sit still until I can make a different choice – if I don’t like my job – simply quitting isn’t the right thing to do. However, if my job is no longer life giving or if it is simply too unhealthy, I can begin to make choices in which I can make a job change.  We all have choices.  Sometimes I choose to accept that I don’t have a choice right now.

Peace.

Daily Ground – – – February 6

Surrender to win!

Surrender! Lean into life with its ups and downs. Don’t tighten against the feelings and thoughts that come at you – observe and learn from them. Definitely don’t simply act on all of your thoughts and feelings, but there is no need to fear them.

Letting go and leaning in will bring peace. Just try it. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes practice. Thoughts aren’t bad – we learn from them. Watching them and defining them for what they are instead of letting them stir up emotions that make no sense in the present.

Recently I received a call from a friend that she wasn’t going to be able to keep her plans with me. I got so hurt and shaken. The feelings didn’t make sense. I felt angry and like I was going to cry. I wanted to yell at her and tell her how she disappointed me. Instead I stopped. I sat down. I took some deep breaths and realized I just loved this person. I love her spirit and her energy. I simply wanted to be around her. I simply wanted something I couldn’t have.

Once I stripped down the thoughts and feelings like that, I smiled. I knew it wouldn’t be too long before we planned something else together. Instead of wanting and desiring, I just surrendered to the present moment.

Peace.

Daily Ground- – -February 3

“The ingredients of both darkness and light are equally present in all of us,…The madness of this planet is largely a result of the human being’s difficulty in coming to viruous balance with himself. ”
― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love

I’ve lived at least half of my life, and I am still trying to find balance. It’s difficult to attain and difficult to keep. There are times in life when things seem out of balance. Sudden death causes us unexpected grief. Joy surprises us when we are at our lowest. Life keeps happening and bringing with it the full range of emotions.

No matter how content and peaceful I feel, I will not remain there. No matter how dark and afraid I feel, I will not remain there. Life takes us to these places.  If I am blessed enough to truly walk the path with others, then when I’m in darkness, my spiritual friends show me the light. When I am living in the light, I will walk with others through their darkness.

Peace.

Daily Ground – – – January 30

Look for common ground; relate, don’t compare.

Terminal uniqueness is awful.  It causes such loneliness. When I have thoughts of not being enough – not feminine enough, or masculine enough, or young enough, or old enough, or not a good enough employee, or spouse or friend, or mother, I will ask God to remind me that most human beings have these same thoughts.  I will remember that I am enough. My thoughts don’t define me.

If I can’t remember that I am enough, I will listen to my trusted, spiritual friends to hear the truth about me. I am loved, I am enough. I am similar to most other human beings in my doubting. Some days it’s best to listen to friends.

You are loved, you are enough, you are similar to most other human beings in your doubting.

Peace.

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