Monday, June 30, 2014

Celebrating Freedom and Independence

Independence. It has so many meanings and conotations.

There's independence from our parents that we forge as teens. There's independence from foreign rule, which is what the holiday is all about. And then there's the independence that comes from not wanting to be vulnerable to other people.

The USSR Taught Me What Freedom Means

 In 1988, before the wall fell in Berlin, I took a trip to Moscow, USSR. I was part of a group of 30 Aikidoists who went to bring Aikido to the Soviet Union. Unlike the USA, I was told that over there, it was illegal to practice martial arts because there was no specific law allowing it.

I had a fun trip to Moscow, and two cities in the south near Afghanistan. The people were wonderful. The scenery and experiences will stay with me a lifetime. But it was the flight home that really shifted big something in me. About 45 minutes after departing Moscow, I suddenly took a huge breath, and felt as if I were coming up from under water. I knew that we had just left Soviet air space. In that moment, I knew
what freedom meant. And a deep appreciation for what I have as an American was born in me.

Even though communism failed and the USSR is no more, I doubt that they enjoy the same freedoms we have. I think from time to time about going back to see how it's changed, but the more than 12 hour flight is quite a barrier. And it isn't necessary for me. I carry that knowledge of freedom with me.

Family Values Self-Reliance

I grew up in a family that prized self-reliance and independence. So much so, that when I had a problem, it didn't occur to me until decades later that I could have asked for advice from my mother.

Growing up in that environment made it easy for me to strike out on my own after high school, to move to the West Coast, to hitchhike with my partner from Oregon to San Francisco with only $100 and a dream between us, to get a place to live and jobs within two weeks of arriving, and to try so many more things in my life.

But it also put a wall between me and others. That core belief that I had to do everything by myself. That I couldn't ask for help.

From Independence to InterDependence

I see it in my siblings, but perhaps it was stronger in me? I was told stories like this one:
I was three years old, and was screaming in the front yard. Mom ran out to discover that I was frustrated that I couldn't open the gate to the back yard. She started to open it, only to hear my protest, "Me do myself!" So she lifted me up so I could reach the latch and open the gate myself.

And a similar story about when I was 4 years old, and unable to undo my seat belt in a small plane. That is, until the handsome (I'm told) captain walked back and grinned at me. I became silent and let him help.

This belief was so embedded, that at about 30 years old, I was assembling a desk from a kit at my teacher's dojo, and someone offered to help. I sat for a moment, realizing that I had no idea how someone could help me with it. I just didn't know what that would look like. How would that work? Two people working on one thing? That moment set me on a path to open myself to interacting more, allowing more, opening more.

The Heart Beat Goes On

It's a journey that continues. As I open more to help and support form others, I also open to warmth and camaraderie with others. I also find that I am more open to who I am at my depth. I love being more accessible to myself and others. With discernment of course. I have a fabulous group of friends and enjoy their diverse and beautiful expression of the One. And I look forward to more and more, deeper and deeper, sweeter and sweeter. This is a new kind of freedom for me. A heart freedom that brings richness and Joy and gratitude into my life like never before!

You may also like:
How Dancing in the Dark Taught Me Not to Be a Victim
Dancing with Chaos
First Do No Harm

How About You?

Do you find yourself thinking you have to do it all alone?
Do you ask for help when you need it?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Spare Change

Sometimes change is a good thing. Like diapers, coins back from your dollar spent, spare change found in the bottom of your purse or pocket, a promotion or raise.

Sometimes it's good but stressful, like marriage, birth of a child, even divorce if it provides relief from an untenable partnering.

Sometimes change is inconvenient, like a detour or a traffic jam. And sometimes change is just plain hard, like losing a loved one, a job, a home.

Change Is Necessary

Change is necessary for growth. If trees and flowers didn't change, they could not grow. If change
couldn't happen, houses couldn't be built. And if change couldn't happen, we might be stuck in a job or relationship that just isn't working for us.

So we tend to look at changes that are our choice as good ones, and many changes that we have no control over as not as welcome. Whatever your thoughts about change, things just don't stay the same.

Change Is Inevitable

Have you ever had a change in your life that at first seemed unwelcome, but later - maybe years later - turned out to be a positive turning point in your life? I know that I have had that experience.

I've also had changes that I had no choice in that seemed impossible to overcome. Like moving with my family from the East Coast to the Midwest in the sixth grade. I didn't want to go. And it was a major culture shock. But as soon as I was old enough, it brought me to the West Coast, which has been my home ever since. I still miss my rural New York home, but I love it here. And I may not have moved to California if I lived happily in New York. And I love it here. This is home for almost 40 years now.

Change Is Constant

Change. Love it. Hate it. Avoid it. Deny it. Argue with it. It's going to happen anyway.

And it's how we view it that makes it stressful or not. The trick is to be mentally flexible and to remember that in the grand scheme of things, it's all working out OK. And that in this moment, I am OK. I am breathing, I have food in my stomach, I am well. And if I don't have that in the moment, like when I am ill, I have the memory of being well and the Faith that I am Whole in spite of appearances.

If you've been around the new thought movement at all, you've heard the phrase, "Change your thinking, change your life." That's a topic for another blog article. But if you've tried this, you know that your attitude about something can change how you approach it, which can have a ripple effect on the person or situation.

How Do You Think About Change?

Some time ago, our Reverend Edward did a class about change. He asked us some thought-provoking questions about change. I offer them here for your consideration:

  • How do you cope with change?
  • Why do we resist it?
  • What changes are universal?
  • How have you changed over the years?

What About You?

Do you enjoy change? Hate it? Tolerate it? What was the best change so far in your life? The hardest?
The one that seemed impossible but that turned out to be good for you?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Revenge Is Futile

I've often wondered what revenge actually is. You know, where it comes from. Why people do it.

Perhaps because I have 4 brothers, and even the younger ones were larger than me early on, but I never got into revenge. And it didn't make sense to me. I mean, if you "get even" with someone, what exactly have you gained? What's in it for you? Maybe you even feel better for a few minutes, but it didn't really accomplish anything. Except maybe start or continue a vendetta.

I don't usually go to the dictionary for understanding, but I looked this one up for some more insight.

From revenge means to 1) exact punishment or expiation for a wrong on behalf of, especially in a resentful or vindictive spirit. 2) to take vengeance for; inflict punishment for; avenge.
and vengeance means: 1) infliction of injury, harm,  humiliation, or the like, on a person by another who has been harmed by that person.

Then, not long ago, I had a weird dream that involved grabbing someone after they hurt a loved one, and woke up and understood something about revenge.

Revenge is a futile attempt to change the past.

So it's like self defense in retrospect.
Like defending yourself after-the-fact.
Or defending a loved one after-the-fact.
Except it's kind of too late.
Which is kind of empty for me.

Well, that sort of makes sense. But it isn't effective at defending yourself or changing the facts.

I'm not saying that I'm against justice. I'm all for justice, fairness, and equanimity. I just don't see vengeance fitting into that scenario.

For me it's more about learning that the world is a friendly place, and letting that prevailing thought color my world. I keep my eyes and ears open, and when possible, my spider sense, and just know that people are generally doing the best they can every moment.

Sometimes their best isn't great.

Hey, sometimes my best isn't great either. But it's the best I can do in that moment.

Like when my password isn't working for the umpteenth time this year. I don't take it out on my computer. Well, at least not physically. But I have been known to swear like a truck driver at my computer. I would never do that to a person, so why does a computer get to me so? Well, I can't ask it what's wrong. So I feel completely and utterly stone-walled. Stuck.

And sometimes life is like that. So I'm learning to be kind to myself and my computer when it's not behaving as expected. Because every word I say to it, I am hearing
myself. I am feeling it, running that energy through my body. And it doesn't feel good. And it isn't good for me. I'd much rather see it as a puzzle, and take a breath, and maybe step away for a moment.

And sometimes when the software's Help isn't helpful, all you can do is pray to the computer gods. And not take it out on a poo defenseless computer that is only doing what it knows how to do to the best of its ability.

Which sometimes, isn't so great.

How About You?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Life Is Not What Happens To You

Life is not the stuff that happens to you.

In Science of Mind, we say life happens through you. Well, once you get over feeling like a victim, which just means feeling like you are at the effect rather than the cause of the stuff in your life.

But whether it happens to you, through you, that still isn't life.

You are life. Stuff happens. Life is happening AS you.


Take a deep breath. Let it go.
Close your eyes. Feel your toes without wiggling them. How do you know where your toes are?

There's an inner energy body inside your body that tells you where you are in space. Call it your autonomic nervous system, call it your energy body, call it your awareness. Whatever you call it, there is something that knows where you are in space, where your hands and feet are. It knows THAT you are, that you exist. That's feeling life.

So life isn't the stuff that happens.

The stuff that happens is like the clouds in the sky. You are the sky.

When we lose something important - a loved one, a job, a home - it feels more like a thunderstorm. But as we realize with time and experience, that feeling will pass.

So the more we can be like the sky, the more room there is in our experience of life to allow those
clouds to roll through, knowing that they are clouds, and you are the sky. The ever-present, unchanging sky in which clouds appear and disappear.

A great way to practice this is meditation. There are lots of ways to meditate, and lots of classes and resources on the subject. Here's one great book on meditation.

That's a much nicer way to live.

That's life.