10 October 2017      

Hello, and welcome to our newest week!  We're glad that you're
here sharing the planet with us this week, and we hope that you
enjoy the positive words that we've shared with you this issue!

Finding Stillness in the Storms
Christina Feldman

Actualizing One's Ideals
Ralph Waldo Trine

What Do I Believe?
tom walsh

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Be assured that if you knew all, you would pardon all.

Thomas a Kempis

Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

The best way to be more free is
to grant more freedom to others.

Carlo Dossi

  
Finding Stillness in the Storms
Christina Feldman

We are emotional beings living in an emotional world.  Stillness is rarely our first response to the waves of emotion that sweep through us.  Feeling helpless within emotional storms, we come to believe that expression and action are the only means to alleviate the tensions of anger, fear, and panic.  Even happiness and love appear to require action or expression for us to believe in their validity.  The many forms of rage that scar our communities--road rage, supermarket rage, surf rage, institutional rage--all bear witness to the compelling power of our emotions.  In the grip of an emotional storm, we feel we must do something to express it, but we are just seeking to rid ourselves of the tension surrounding the emotion.  Catharsis is effective in alleviating this tension, but it is a poor substitute for freedom.  We honk our car horns, shout at our colleagues, feud with our neighbors, and then feel a welcome relief, yet we must also live with the consequences of our actions.  We feel despair as the temporary relief wears off and we revisit the familiar patterns of tension and conflict.

Is it possible for us to find that quality of unshakeable balance in the complexity of our emotional landscape?  Can we question the assumption we carry that the world and the ten thousand things in it hold the power to enrage and depress us, or make us happy, and acknowledge that all our emotional waves begin in our own hearts and minds?  If we do not question this belief, then we are a prisoner of those ten thousand things.  We delegate to them the authority to govern our emotional life and freedom.

Someone told me the story of the gamut of emotions he experienced in the aftermath of being mugged.  Rage, anxiety, feelings of powerlessness, and the desire for vengeance arose in a crescendo of intensity.  After a time he realized that the mugger was in charge of his life.  He thought about him, obsessed about him, feared him, and opened the door for the mugger to govern his heart.  As he began to explore the depth of those feelings, to accept them and befriend them, he began to reclaim his heart and freedom.  Vaclav Havel, the poet and statesman, wrote, "Hatred has much in common with desire.  With both comes fixation on others, dependence on them, and, in fact, a delegation of a piece of our own identity to them.  The hater longs for the object of his hatred, just as the lover longs for the object of his love."

Probing beneath the Surface

The second step in discovering emotional integrity and freedom lies in our willingness to probe beneath the concepts we use to define the emotional process.  We use the words "angry," "sad," "happy," "jealous," and "fearful" to describe a many-textured experience that is impossible to describe by a single word.  It is akin to describing a painting by its title.  Our concepts, imposed upon a fluid, unfolding process, refer to the past and serve to interrupt the quality of attention we bring to that process in the present.  We are tempted to define our identity by the concepts we impose upon our emotional life.  We might refer to ourselves as an "angry" person, a "fearful" or "anxious" type, and come to believe these definitions to be the truth.

Probing beneath our concepts and descriptions, we come to understand that emotion is not a fixed preordained state arising from nowhere.  All our emotions involve our bodies, feelings, memories, associations, and thoughts in an unfolding interaction that is so rapid it takes remarkable attention to perceive.  Some time ago, I was about to get into a taxi, when another cab roared up.  The driver jumped out and began berating my cabdriver for stealing his fare.  Within moments the two men were shoving each other fighting for my suitcase, and throwing racial insults, and ended up grappling on the ground.  After the fight had broken up and I was installed in the taxi, the driver began to pour out the story of his life; the endless injustices he'd been exposed to, the insults he'd endured, his struggles to support himself.  He told me, "I am an angry man."  Where was the beginning of his anger?  It probably began before he was even born, an inherited legacy.  Where did his anger live--in his body, in the feelings provoked by the encounter in his thoughts and perceptions?  The anger passed and another wave of emotion began--hurt, fear, and anxiety--another unfolding process.

It is the very speed with which our emotions rise and overwhelm us that makes them so daunting.  Feelings, memories and associations, thoughts, reactions, and words cascade upon each other, leaving us stunned and helpless.  Into this process we learn to introduce interest, investigation, and mindful awareness.  The closer we can come to the beginning of an emotional wave, the greater the degree of balance and understanding we will discover.  We learn to bring an alert, calm presence to the sounds, sights, thoughts, and sensations that touch us, to sense the feelings that are evoked.  We notice that small feelings lead to small thoughts that arise and fade away without effort.  The intense feelings we describe as loneliness, fear, anger, and excitement lead to an equal intensity in our thoughts and the degree of imprisonment we experience.

The feelings we experience determine how we feel about the world, other people, and ourselves.  In the same way that we insist on being "someone" through our self-definition, we are also prone to categorizing the world in terms of "friends" and "fiends."  If we feel isolated from the world we will tend to be hostile or suspicious.  If we feel happy and secure within ourselves there is little that threatens us and we tend to touch the world with kindness.  In freeing ourselves from the burden of self-definition, we also liberate others from the images we have formed about them.  There is the possibility of seeing anew, approaching each moment of feeling as if for the first time, and each encounter with the willingness to learn.  When we cease to conceptualize ourselves or others, healing can begin.  Letting go of the concepts through which we attempt to define our experience, we can explore the interwoven threads of an emotion.  Sensing the changing nature of our feelings, we have the possibility of stepping away from the extremes of succumbing and overcoming to a simpler relationship of exploration and connection.
  
  

As a mother, a layperson and an internationally renowned teacher, Feldman knows the stresses and strains of modern life. In this book she shows how to harmonize and achieve balance and how to apply Buddhist wisdom to the here and now. She addresses subjects of compassion, speech, effort, intention, mindfulness and awakening. The path to peace, she suggests, is not necessarily complex or arduous. If we simply turn our attention to this moment, it will speak to us of wonder, mystery, harmony and peace. She demonstrates that there is no better moment in which to awaken and discover everything our heart longs for than this very moment.

   

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Actualizing One's Ideals
Ralph Waldo Trine


There is nothing more true in connection with human life than that we grow into the likeness of those things we contemplate.  Literally and scientifically and necessarily true is it that, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."  The "is" part is his character.  His character is the sum total of his habits.  His habits have been formed by his conscious acts; but every conscious act is, as we have found, preceded by a thought.  And so we have it -- thought on the one hand, character, life, destiny on the other.  And simple it becomes when we bear in mind that it is simply the thought of the present moment, and the next moment when it is upon us, and then the next, and so on through all time.

One can in this way attain to whatever ideals he would attain to.  Two steps are necessary:  first, as the days pass, to form one's ideals; and second, to follow them continually whatever may arise, wherever they may lead us.  Always remember that the great and strong character is the one who is ever ready to sacrifice the present pleasure for the future good.  He who will thus follow his highest ideals as they present themselves to him day after day, year after year, will find that as Dante, following his beloved from world to world, finally found her at the gates of Paradise, so he will find himself eventually at the same gates.  Life is not, we may say, for mere passing pleasure, but for the highest unfoldment that one can attain to, the noblest character that one can grow, and for the greatest service that one can render to all mankind.  In this, however, we will find the highest pleasure, for in this the only real pleasure lies.

The question is not, What are the conditions in our lives? but, How do we meet the conditions that we find there?  And whatever the conditions are, it is unwise and profitless to look upon them, even if they are conditions that we would have otherwise, in the attitude of complaint, for complaint will bring depression, and depression will weaken and possibly even kill the spirit that would engender the power that would enable us to bring into our lives an entirely new set of conditions.

Each one is so apt to think that his own conditions, his own trials or troubles or sorrows, or his own struggles, as the case may be, are greater than those of the great mass of mankind, or possibly greater than those of any one else in the world.  He forgets that each one has his own peculiar trials or troubles or sorrows to bear, or struggles in habits to overcome, and that his is but the common lot of all the human race.  We are apt to make the mistake in this -- in that we see and feel keenly our own trials, or adverse conditions, or characteristics to be overcome, while those of others we do not see so clearly, and hence we are apt to think that they are not at all equal to our own.

Each has his own problems to work out.  Each must work out his own problems.  Each must grow the insight that will enable him to see what the causes are that have brought the unfavorable conditions into his life; each must grow the strength that will enable him to face these conditions, and to set into operation forces that will bring about a different set of conditions.  We may be of aid to one another by way of suggestion, by way of bringing to one another a knowledge of certain higher laws and forces, -- laws and forces that will make it easier to do that which we would do.  The doing, however, must be done by each one for himself.
   

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We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect;
we apprehend it just as much by feeling.  Therefore, the judgment of
the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must,
if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy.

Carl Jung

   

 

What Do I Believe?

All through life, my beliefs have been changing.  I've met many people who say that's a good thing, and I've met many people who say that it's bad--that we should hold on to our beliefs because they're important to us.  I tend to agree with the former group, though, because I know that very often in life, my beliefs have held me back and kept me from doing some very good things, and I haven't even noticed it until it was too late.

Many of my beliefs have to do with myself, of course.  I may believe that I deserve certain things and don't deserve others; I may find that I believe that I'm incapable of something that I actually end up being able to do well; perhaps I've believed that a particular  relationship is good for me because I need that type of person in my life.  Many of my beliefs have been developed as the result of things happening to me or around me that made me think a certain way--and the creation of those beliefs depended on my perspective at the time.  And even if my perspective has changed because I've learned more or grown a bit, the belief created as a result of the old perspective has stayed the same.

Examining our personal beliefs is one of the most important things that we can do if we want to improve our lives--and by improve our lives, I mean to make ourselves happier, healthier, and better adjusted.  I mean to reach a place in life where we can take what life gives us with equanimity and not be devastated by things that we should be able to cope with--they may harm us, of course, but they shouldn't debilitate us.

   

All belief that does not make us more happy,
more free, more loving, more active, more calm, is,
I fear, a mistaken and superstitious belief.

John K. Lavater

   
For example, many people enter into and stay in relationships with harmful people because they believe that they deserve to be treated poorly, usually on a subconscious level, but often on a conscious level.  Their belief causes them to settle for a relationship that lowers the quality of their life significantly, raising their stress levels and making them feel even worse than they ever did before the relationship.

I may stay in my current job because I believe that it's the best I can do--that I'm lucky to be earning any wages at all, and that finding another job would be very difficult if not impossible.

I may not be willing to get to know that person at work or in the group I belong to because I believe that he or she is not a good person to get to know for whatever reason--social status, national origin, race, family status, etc.  Or perhaps we're more concerned because that person doesn't believe the same things we do--he or she is a different religion or belongs to a different political party.

These beliefs keep us trapped in our current situations.  Perhaps we're okay with that--we like where we are and we're okay with not growing or learning anything new.  We just want to maintain the status quo and be comfortable because we believe that's okay.  The truth is, though, that we will be left behind by life if we allow ourselves to stagnate and don't expect ourselves to grow.  Can you imagine how difficult life would be today if we had allowed ourselves to stop learning about computers and phones fifteen years ago because we believed that we already knew enough and that it wasn't necessary to learn more?  We would be completely unable to function on many different levels that have become completely normal, and our lives would be in many ways much more difficult.
    

The biggest addiction, and one we least often talk
about, is being addicted to beliefs.  We really get
hooked into thinking what we believe is true and right.

Martha Boesing

    
Eventually, of course, we must take responsibility for our beliefs.  We also have to take responsibility for the degree to which we've allowed those beliefs to control our lives, for if we don't do so, we remain completely unaware of one of the most important contributors to our current life situations.  Personally, I'm addicted to certain beliefs that I'm not fond of, and I am trying to change them.  It's difficult and it's been a rather slow process, but I think I'm getting there.

You see, it's often not as simple as simply saying, "I don't believe that any more."  I may believe that people are inherently untrustworthy, and I may realize that that belief is keeping me from trusting--and getting to know and work well with--other people.  When I decide that I want to change that belief, though, I may continue to see evidence that supports that belief.  Someone may promise me something, and then not follow through on it.  Someone may take the food that I left in the refrigerator at work.  We see on the news that there are people stealing and hurting others all the time.

That particular belief, we believe, keeps us safe because we don't let others so close to us that they can hurt us.  And we believe that this belief is helpful, not hurtful.

But in such a case, we have to keep in mind the concept of motivated reasoning, which causes us to look for and see only the evidence that supports our belief--while ignoring any evidence that contradicts it.  I may see two people do things that are dishonest, thus supporting my belief, while completely ignoring the twenty other people who didn't do anything dishonest at all.  My motivated reasoning tells me that the evidence of the two people is enough to prove that it's only a matter of time before the other twenty show their lack of trustworthiness, thus supporting my original belief, also.
   

Our beliefs are so powerful that they color our entire world.
We literally see what we believe, but we can--and most of us do--fail
to take responsibility for what we see, especially what we see within.

Hugh Prather

   
So what do we do about all this?  How do we change our beliefs if we're so strongly inclined to defend them, no matter how much damage they may be doing to ourselves or our families or our loved ones?  First of all, of course, it's important that we recognize them for what they are--our beliefs aren't truths that apply to everyone all the time.  They're simply beliefs, and the fact that everyone else in the world doesn't share them pretty much proves that they are not universal truths that apply to everyone on the planet.  Once we realize that, we can start to consider the sources of those beliefs and the effects they have on us.  Perhaps I have a certain belief because my father taught it to me as the truth--and now that I think about it, that particular belief didn't help him much at all, either.

Once we know them for what they are, we can actually start to change them--or perhaps simply banish some of them from our lives.  I used to believe that people should act in certain ways in certain places until I realized that that particular belief was simply a desire to control other people's actions so that they fit in with my ideas of how things should be.  Now that I realize that people are going to act as they act no matter what I believe, it's easier not to feel frustrated and annoyed when people's actions don't meet my preconceived notions of what their actions should be in certain situations.  (And don't worry--I still don't believe that life's a free-for-all and that it's appropriate that anyone act any way they want at any time.)

One of my personal beliefs is that we should do all that we can to make ourselves the best people we can be while we're here on this planet.  I don't know why I believe this, but I do.  And one of the most important things that I've learned is that this is a belief that actually helps me to grow, to learn, to change, and to evolve.  It's not a belief that harms me (at least, I'm pretty sure it isn't!), so I don't feel any need to change it.  I do examine it from time to time, because it would be very easy to get caught up in learning information, for example, which I believe has little long-term benefit, versus learning about life and living and about how to help other people, which I believe has significant long-term benefits.  If I spend my learning and growing time memorizing batting averages, I believe that my time is poorly spent, whereas if I spend it learning ways to help other people learn to communicate effectively with others, I believe that my time is well spent.

And you may believe that I'm wrong--and that's fine.  Because another thing that I believe is that we all have every right in the world to hold our own beliefs and live by them.  My only hope is that your beliefs lead you to a fulfilling and enjoyable life.

   
More on beliefs.

   

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A workable and effective way to meet and overcome difficulties is to take on someone else's problems.  It is a strange fact but you can often handle two difficulties--your own and somebody else's--better than you can handle your own alone.  That truth is based on a subtle law of self-giving or outgoingness whereby you develop a self-strengthening in the process.

Norman Vincent Peale

  
As children, we are not jaded by the sophistication of the world.  We're real.  We're humble.  We're willing to admit our needs and trust that others can help us.  We're unpretentious and adventurous.  We're lighthearted and imaginative.  And we're fearless, willing to take a risk--a juvenile version of what the early twentieth-century Bible teacher Oswald Chambers calls "reckless joy."
   And then, of course, we grow up.  And what happens?  In many cases, we get jaded by the world.  Instead of being real, we rationalize behaviors.  We learn to put our personal spin on our shortcomings rather than deal with them.  We become pretentious.  We throw ourselves into all sorts of physical adventure but are cowardly regarding relationships, flitting from one person to the next, lacking the courage to commit.

Bob Welch
52 Little Lessons from It's a Wonderful Life
   

  

Happiness does not come quickly. It is not conferred by any single
event, however exciting or comforting or satisfying the event may be.
It cannot be purchased, whatever the allure of the next, the newest,
the brightest, the best. Happiness, like Carl Sandburg’s fog, “comes
on little cat feet,” often silently, often without our knowing it, too
often without our noticing.

Joan Chittister

    

  

   

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