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I pose that question because I think it’s worthy of consideration in every conversation I  have.  I have tried over the past few years to let those words guide me when sharing my opinions with others.  It’s simply so natural for me to think I have all the answers; that my assessment of any situation is the correct one.  However, what may be right for me is not necessarily right for some one else.  This is true whether we are talking about the action a person is considering or the opinion one is harboring.  It’s not my right, or any one else’s either, to assume control over what another person chooses to think or do.

Learning to remain quiet when the urge to correct some one calls, takes a herculean effort in some instances.  I know full well how hard it is to back away from situations and people when I think I know best.  The need to control is insidious.  I marvel at those men and women who appear to be truly unconcerned with the behavior and the opinions of others.  I hope to imitate them one day.  In the meantime, it’s a daily goal for me.

There are some very simple questions that need to be asked.  Is what I am about to say going to be helpful?  Will my words add value to the moment?  Will they harm or help heal the other people present?  If I can’t say yes to all of these questions, remaining quiet is the best contribution I can make.

Learning to be quiet is an art I think.  And it’s one that begins to feel empowering when practiced.  It’s one that can begun a new every day.

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I was in a great conversation with some women friends this morning.  In fact, we talk every morning about the spiritual journey we share.  It’s not only a wonderful way to begin the day but it’s a great opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the world we share with so many others.  Our conversations always center on leaving the world a more peaceful place than we may found it when first arising.  This morning our discussion boiled down to doing no harm, even for a minute, when in an encounter with a friend or a stranger.

Making the decision to live “from this mindset” guarantees a peaceful unfolding of the day.  It also is a great gift we are offering to every one else too.  Deciding how to interpret some one else’s actions so we can calibrate our own can be dispensed with.  Interpreting what others are thinking or even saying isn’t the job we are here to do.  Our job is to respond to those who have “been sent to us” with love.

The next time you wander into a meeting or a party or even the grocery; look around.  Every person you see is your next opportunity to do no harm.  To express love, in fact, through a smile, a warm gesture, even a silent prayer.  there are as many ways to do no harm as our heart can possibly imagine.

The first time I heard that the definition of insanity was repeating the same behavior, over and over again, expecting different results; I knew my name had been called.  I simply had never known I could make an entirely new choice in how I interpreted what others were doing or saying.  Nor did I understand that I could choose a decidedly different response to the data presented to me.  My learning curve was steep, I must say.  How lucky I feel that my journey was to include the 12 step path.

It’s nice to be able to acknowledge that I have grown with the help of thousands of 12 step meetings over the last 35 years.  Thank goodness I have grown.  But the work is never done. And I actually cherish the idea that the work is never done.  Were it ever done, many of us would quit showing up to help others on this journey that saved our lives.  Giving back that which we “acquired” from others is what keeps the insanity at bay.

There are so many simple tools I have learned in the “rooms” that have changed my understanding about the possibilities for seeing life and the many people encountered in a new way; thus responding in a new way too.  Learning, as I have, that anger is always masking fear has allowed me to look at so many others differently.  Learning, as I have, that the expression of love is always the pathway to peace has changed my life immeasurably.   Learning, as I have, that doing an inventory of my past and making restitution where and when appropriate, removes the barriers that keep us isolated.  The list goes on.  And on.  The tools are simple but the changes in one’s life, if the tools are used, are profound.

I am committed to continuing on this path because I want sanity.  I want peace.  I want connection with others.  And I want to be the best example for change that I can be.  Are you content with the example you are setting?

And it’s from

The title of this blog is a quote by Aristotle, likely written about 350 BC.  It’s an amazingly meaningful quote, I think, and if lived by, would be world changing.  I was on the phone this morning with a group of business folks discussing the application of this thought in our work lives and for certain, it could play a big role there.  It would allow brain-storming to go to a whole new level.  And conflict resolution would be greatly advanced too.  But I think our personal lives would vastly improve also if we allowed for the differing opinions of others.  We can agree to disagree.  But even better,  we can even seek to see the other person’s perspective with clarity.  Respecting another person’s perspective is mind changing and mood altering too.  We simply are not right all of the time.  And it frees us of an awful burden when we understand this.

One of the greatest thoughts I heard when I got involved in Al-Anon was that I didn’t have to join every fight I was invited to.  That bit of wisdom was not practiced in my family of origin.  At least not by me.  So I took what I had learned when I left home into every relationship, whether they were in the workplace or with friends or relationship partners.  It goes without saying that my life was filled with tension.  Always.

But the tension that haunted me for decades visits me very seldom now.  Knowing that there is another way to experience life, knowing that we can appreciate the words of others freely and not be bound by them is a significant awareness.  The words of Aristotle, though written long ago are not less true today. Having the chance to remember him and practice what he professed makes each one of us a better person.  What a great day today can be.

Because of a piece I have been writing for a workshop, I have been thinking about the importance of having an open heart if we want to heal and help others heal too. Only very recently I found myself in a downward spiral emotionally, a spiral not unfamiliar to me.  I have suffered from chronic depression for much of my life.  I am happy to say I have received help for it, but I can still wander into the shadowy places if I turn away from the people and experiences God has sent to help me grow.

What makes me withdraw, emotionally, remains a mystery but every few months I do and then I have to remember all over again how the spiritual life works.  I have to remember that there are no coincidences.  I have to remember that God is as close as my very breath.  I have to remember that allowing the wall that I erected between me and others to come down, will entirely change my perspective of what life means.  I have to remember that I am seeing Spirit or the ego every time I look into the eyes of some one else.  And I have to remember that the choice of what I see is being made by me, my Spirit or my ego, moment by moment.  Putting ourselves in charge of our own healing and our willingness to help others heal too is empowering, but more than that, it’s an affirmation of the spiritual principles we have discerned from the “teachers” we walk among.

Opening one’s heart to a friend or a stranger is evidence that we are fulfilling the purpose for which we live.  It’s not to write lofty books or give erudite lectures or make great scientific discoveries that we live, although all of those accomplishments may be worthy.  But we live to help one another live more peacefully. It takes an open and willing heart to do that. The choice is ours.

I don’t know if you favor the health care reform bill or not.  That’s none of my business and this blog is not intended to be political.  However, whatever side of this particular issue, or any issue any of us happen to favor, our thoughts can and should be expressed in terms that are not hateful toward one group of citizens or another. What we all saw on cable news over the week end, the mean-spirited placards at the rallies, the spitting on an individual congressman, the extremely vile name calling, are all examples of behavior that’s shameful.

A democracy allows for differences in opinion; that’s the good news.  But when the attacks become as vitriolic as those we all observed, it’s time to take stock of who we are as a nation.  The yelling and name-calling sets a really bad example for our young people too.  We wonder what could ever drive kids to set a classmate on fire, (as happened not so long ago), or what could possess a fifteen year old boy to nearly kill a young girl he didn’t even know.  She may well not survive.

Does seeing their parents, or other adults the same age as their parents, behave obnoxiously on the street corners of myriad cities around the country convince them that they can do whatever they want to do with no thought of the consequences?  One can’t know what’s in the heads and hearts of others.  But we certainly aren’t seeing the expressions of kindness, tolerance, and hope that’s so necessary if we are to ever have a peaceful world, one that benefits all human-kind.

I was talking with a friend the other evening about “attachment issues” and how common they are to so many of us.  Codependency has gotten a bit of a bad name over the years because it is thrown around and used to describe myriad reactions to people, places and things.  My friend shared with me a new term: Independency.  Her therapist talked to her about strengthening her independency rather than trying to eliminate her codependency.

Independency resonates with me.  It’s empowering and hopeful and achievable, I think, one action at a time.  Too many simply chalk up their “bad behavior” to their codependency with no real plan for changing the behavior.  Independency invites you to think of yourself in a new way, I believe.  It rather reminds me of saying “I am a nonsmoker now” rather than being a disgruntled ex-smoker.

When I wrote, IF ONLY I COULD QUIT: BECOMING A NONSMOKER, in 1985, I was attempting to give the reader a new persona, one that was powerful in a healthy way.  Because I had recently become a nonsmoker too, I knew the power of the word.  Words can define us.  They can and do strengthen us, and they propel us to new heights.  Watching the words we use, monitoring them closely, will reveal many things to us, I think.

Hearing the words others use to describe themselves is quite revealing, likewise.  Have you tried on any new words lately?  Exploring this idea may be transforming.  In fact, I think I’d say it will be transforming.  Go for it!

It’s said that football is the great national pastime.  For sure, it’s a good excuse for parties, for waging bets, for eating chips and chili.  Many who don’t much like the game gather in the living rooms of friends any way.  Being part of a group feels good to most of us.  And many of us lived outside “the group” for far too many years.

I can well remember the early decades of my life when I stood outside the circle, hoping to be invited in and then when I was, I felt conspicuous and insecure.  I simple didn’t feel comfortable any where.  How good the passage of time has been for me.  How good recovery has been for me too.  I feel comfortable, now, in every setting.  I have learned from the very wise I walk among that any group I am drawn into has a special lesson or two for me to learn.

I have grown accustomed to the fact that no one is on my path accidentally.  And all conversations that include me are a like a form of music to my ears and I have a special verse to sing that’s necessary for the completion of the song.   Life is full of mystery and yet it’s pre-orchestrated, a conundrum for sure.

That’s really the joy of the experience for all of us, isn’t it?  We are where we need to be  but seldom did we realize where we were headed until we got there.  How glad I am that my destination, for now, is here on this recovery path doing the work I currently do.  It wasn’t on my radar screen a few decades ago but it’s where I belong.  I wake up every day certain of this.

Detachment is taking responsibility for our own life.

Not blaming others for anything that has happened to us in this life is the mark of spiritual maturity. It’s also a goal that most of us have to spend years striving to attain. It’s not unusual to want to make others responsible for our failures or for our insufficiencies.  Being told that the circumstances of our birth, the unloving parent or spouse, or the inability to master the educational system can’t be blamed aren’t easy pills for us to swallow. But until we say to ourselves and others, “I am wholly responsible for all that has occurred in my life,” we will not be able to move out of the prison we have built for ourselves.

Being fully responsible may feel daunting initially. But taking the responsibility in small “bites” makes it more digestible. Believing that we did the best we could with the information we had available is a good place to begin. This is also a good place to begin when we think of the supposed failings of our parents. They too did the best they could. Until we can come to terms with that, most of us won’t be very willing to take responsibility for what later followed in our own lives. A great analogy is to think of ourselves as toddlers trying to learn how to walk: we fall a lot. And that’s okay. Getting up again is what’s important.

Not looking to someone else to pick us up is the mark of maturity. We are on the path of emotional and spiritual maturity right now. Moving forward a step at a time is all that’s suggested.

I don’t know about you but I feel a bit discombobulated during the holiday week.  I wake up wondering what day it is.  I plug in the indoor lights because I love them but it feels somewhat anticlimactic to do so.  I feel like it’s appropriate to give myself some time “to vacation” from the work that calls to me and yet I am more comfortable in my structured existence.  I seem to go through the motions of living rather than getting down to the nitty-gritty.

Lunches with friends, dinner parties too, give this time a special quality, of course, but I feel like I am simply in a waiting room, knowing some thing else is on the horizon.  Feeling this way makes me realize how crucial it is to pay special attention to every moment as it comes; to every person who passes my way; to every situation that draws my attention.

I must, at times like these, connect wholly and intentionally to what God has sent me in each moment as it comes.  Moments don’t repeat themselves.  They come and they go and if we miss their specific message, we can only hope we will notice it when it comes again in another form.

There is nothing wrong with wiling away the time.  We are not in a race.  But we are being given opportunities every day, every minute and if we want to grow fully into the next phase of our lives, we have to face, straight on, each moment as it presents itself.

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