Posts Tagged ‘virtues’

Practicing Patience

January 13, 2018

The winter storms keep missing us. We get the wind and the cold but not the moisture that is being dumped so plentifully to our north and across the midwest. I remember reading a projection that north would be exceptionally cold and we in the southwest would be noticeably warm across this winter. So far it’s been an accurate forecast.

In some previous similar years, the consequence of this weather pattern has been particularly heavy spring snows, the kind that leave us without power and snowed in for several days, but which then also melt off quickly so that once we can get out, we can drive without the hassles of icy roads. For now, it’s wait and see.

I wouldn’t be concerned at all one way or the other, but my job has me on the road for 50-90 mile one way trips with sufficient frequency that I have to be aware of weather risks – especially in February when the combination of an exceptionally short work month and a markedly heavy workload intersect and make scheduling my travel a critical component of meeting all the deadlines. A day or two unable to get out to my appointments may well mean I don’t get the month’s work completed. Reminding myself I’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, it’s cold enough (or the daylight hours are reduced enough, I’m not sure which is the determinant) that the hens have stopped laying, but not so cold that I have to wear my heavy winter coat. Concerns about renewed drought do not prevent me from enjoying the mild and sunny afternoons that entice me to go walking. For how much longer? Yes, you know the refrain now – we’ll have to wait and see.

Mini-mind

January 6, 2018

It’s another one of those evenings when I find myself playing solitaire, alternating with reading. One of those evenings I have identified as better spent writing (and reading) so that when I look back I will feel I’ve been productive rather than mind-numbed, zoned out, and wasting time.

When the book is particularly engaging, I just read. If I’m not reading steadily, why don’t I just put the book away and find another? Old habit, I suspect, and that internal voice lecturing about finishing what has been started. You’d think I’m old enough to disregard the habit and the voice, but apparently not. Hmm, another pattern to review and see why I am still controlled by it.

That is, in fact, what most of my reflection periods seem to be about these days – reviewing the whys and wherefores of any number of habits of behavior or thought, to consciously decide if they are worth maintaining or if it is time to be freed from them. In many cases, the final outcome is not really either option, but rather a choice to maintain the behavior or way of thinking as a tool to be used at times and ignored at others. In essence I transform the unconscious habit into a chosen action for those situations where it will be truly beneficial.

Follow this lovely road to freedom from the tyranny of mental constructs.

This way to freedom from the tyranny of mental constructs.

Giving Oneself Permission

December 23, 2017

Today was nothing out of the ordinary by way of work demands, but somehow the juxtaposition of those demands and the expectation of three days off for the Christmas holiday made the emotional drain of the day salient in a way I have not previously recognized. Yes I know that my work pulls hard on my energy. It also gives energy rewards in the form of appreciation and thanks for the help I am at least occasionally able to offer. I’ve not sat down to try to put the outflow and the inflow onto any sort of balance scale. I rather doubt I am capable of such an assessment, and not sure that there is any real benefit to be had from the effort. I won’t be changing my employment any time soon and I have no control over, and no way to predict the arrival of, expressions of appreciation for what I do. Those are simply givens of my daily life.

What I do have some control over is my ability to recognize when an energy drain is more severe than usual. I can also, usually, identify what makes the drain more severe or more noticeable. And I can, if I practice what I know to be effective, consistently make an effort to re-balance myself. The “catch” lies in those seemingly simple few words, “consistently making the effort.”

Nothing seems harder, when I feel drained, than making an effort of any sort. Sporadic, halfhearted, minimal are as much a challenge as consistent or purposeful.

Moment of clarity! This problem needs redefinition. Activities to recharge my energies must not be categorized as achieved through effort, but rather as the result of desire. I must not be telling myself I should do what I know I will find refreshing. Instead I wish to hear the voice in my head saying “go on and enjoy … “ (whatever the activity may be), “you need and deserve this time for yourself.”

How is it that we so easily slip into making have to’s of what began as want to’s? I enjoy stringing beads into jewelry, yet I seem to only sit down to create when I have a gift to give someone, and a limited timeline for completion of the project. I equally rather enjoy writing these blog essays, but rarely do so simply to relax and focus my attention. For awhile now, I’ve thought that I’d like to return to piano lessons, and see how much I’ve retained from my childhood instruction. What stops me is the voice in my head saying that I will then “have to” make time to practice, and I already drown in too many have to’s. Why isn’t that voice saying “If you think you’ll enjoy the activity, try it” since, if it doesn’t provide me a pleasurable relaxation, I can always stop?

Some twenty years ago I wrote a long letter to my spiritual teacher that included a discussion of my understanding of responsibility and how that quality developed in me, as well as how deeply embedded it had become. I identified how limited, by contrast, was my experience with spontaneity, with love and with simple pleasure. Over the decades since I have learned to be much more present in the moment, and to enjoy many of those moments purely for what they are: this morning’s colorful sunrise, for example. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to love and be loved, and have become overall a much happier person. I apparently have not, however, yet freed myself from that deeply ingrained orientation of being responsible, as though to do so would turn me into someone less worthy.

The most loving people I know are also the most responsible to others in their lives. The most responsible people I know are (were) among the most difficult to live with, for others in their lives. As frequently as we are exhorted to think more of others than of ourselves, one could believe that selfishness rules the world and sadly, seeing the actions of government in the U.S of late, one would be correct. But I do not think the appropriate response to the sort of greed dominating political life is to be angrily, stridently demanding change. Yes I am concerned for the loss of integrity being manifested, for the furtherance of what to me are ugly values best buried in history. And yes I will do my part in speaking up in protest, but mostly I need to do my part by living my day to day life as best I can from an expansive place of happiness rather than from within the restrictive atmosphere of responsibility and “must do” that drains energy and leaves me snappish and deeply dissatisfied.

In the language of my Teacher, I am saying simply that I will continue to move toward living my life as pure Soul, unclouded by dualist mental considerations of right/wrong, selfish/generous, open/closed, responsible/careless, etc. Since Soul is a happy entity and happiness spreads naturally and effortlessly from one to another, there is no more effective way to re-balance both my own energy and that of everyone/thing in quite a wide sphere, than for me to keep my attention firmly focused on Being. That focus is both necessary and sufficient for responsibilities to be met, energy to be in balance, joy to replace exhaustion, and all that is meant to occur taking place as it is meant to do.

Baraka Bashad – May these Blessings Be.

 

Odd One Out

November 19, 2017

I’m vacillating between two topics, Michelle Obama’s recent concise advice to “focus on what you can control”, and a rather more controversial reflection on color discrimination across species. I sense there’s a linkage underlying the two subjects which may emerge as I write. We’ll see.

We have two mother goats of the Boer breed (white with brown and black markings around the head and neck) who were each impregnated by a handsome white billy and each produced twins. One set of a male and a female are shades of brown, the other of two males are opposites, one all white like his daddy, the other all black like none of the rest.

Knowing nothing more, if you were required to bet on which kid is the odd one out, how would you place your money?

Years ago when there was only one main prison facility in the state and I was teaching psychology in the New Mexico Penitentiary, an albino Black man in my classes wrote a paper about the unique discrimination of being an “oddity” within his culture. I’ve read that in some African cultures, albinos are considered to be evil, and are persecuted and driven out, if not killed shortly after birth. Albino individuals in Caucasian society are also at risk of suffering from humanity’s’ general intolerance for differences.

Have you now concluded that, as is the case, the pure white kid is the one who is pushed away from food, isolated and scorned, and the only one whom our dog actively harasses? Was the white one also your first bet?

I can discipline my dog to refrain from attacking and harming the white goat. I can do little about its isolation by the rest of the herd, beyond assuring that it gets enough food which, given the large pasture they all inhabit, is fairly well guaranteed.

By extension, does that mean I am right to focus my energies these days within my own world where I can have some influence, perhaps make small changes for the better without wasting energy on much of the larger political scene? I sign the petitions to those I think will listen, or who may be influenced by sheer numbers; I don’t bother with the ones I am certain will fall on deaf ears.

And I continue to wonder about the evident cross-species tendency to exclude, ostracize, put down and otherwise do harm to those perceived as “different”. Have we any hope, as thoughtful human beings, of altering on a large scale what appears to be a fundamental biological motivation? Is the current atmosphere of intolerance and defensive anger perceived in many countries around the world, simply a resurgence of basic human nature rather than a “swing to the right” or some other philosophical trend?

I have no answers. I do take comfort from following Mrs. Obama’s advice to “focus on what you can control”. Anything else is just a waste of energy.

The challenge, of course, is discerning what one can – and one one can never – succeed in controlling!20170727_092225

Adapting

May 4, 2014

Today, I started my day before the sun came up, chatting with a friend in Lebanon via Facebook.

A simple statement about an activity that is far from extraordinary in today’s connected world.

But this is me – who remembers not having a telephone when I first moved to New Mexico, because there weren’t enough lines in Lamy to connect everyone.

I’m grateful for having experienced that sort of unconnected living; I learned patience and trust and self-reliance and a number of other qualities important to building and sustaining relationships.

None of which negates my current pleasure at connecting over huge distances, easily, now.

I’m equally glad the contact today was via written word; I would have had a hard time dealing with spoken conversation in the attenuated form likely to occur at such a distance. This past week I’ve been dealing with clogged ears – not sure if it’s allergies or an infection that has caused blockage, noticeably worse on the left side.

How limiting it is, to be obliged to hold a phone to my right ear and therefore not be free to use my right, dominant, hand during the conversation. Oh, I’ve tried holding the phone across my body, with my left hand, in order to write down information being given to me. It’s possible, but remarkably uncomfortable!

I’ve also had to alter my eating habits. Why, you ask? Because crunchy foods are now painfully loud inside my head. If my condition were to become permanent, would I adapt, learn to tune out the chewing noise? Probably, in the same way I learned, shortly after arrival in Saigon, to tune out the persistent noise of the cicada-like insects that created a permanent background concert in the trees. We kids enjoyed tormenting new arrivals (as I was tormented) by calling attention to the persistent chittering, just at the time that the newbie’s brain was beginning to accommodate, and thus cease to notice, the sounds.

In the Trees

In the Trees

We humans are marvels of accommodation. We live in the most diverse environments, we survive extremes of privation, we come in such a variety of sizes, colors and skill sets. . . No wonder accommodating to one another is considered to be such a virtue.

No wonder, either, that learning when to draw the line, when to limit adaptation, when to say enough, I want/need/seek to stand apart – no wonder learning how to express one’s integrity can be a challenge. Especially, it seems, for women. Even today’s emancipated, modern women. My Lebanese correspondent was writing me on her smart phone, waiting in the Beirut airport to fly to Dubai for a work day. And questioning her right to step away from a relationship because she’s not yet ready to “settle” for. . .

Accommodate, adapt, be flexible, accept what is.
Go for it, “be all you can be”, make the most of your time, your talents, your opportunities.
Conflicting imperatives, challenging us to know which one to apply in which situations.

Is it yet another sign of our adaptability that we can implement both types of behaviors? Or is it a sign of our integrity that we manage to achieve a balance between seeming contradictions?

I have my own answer to that question. I’ll let you find yours.


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