Redemption

I’ve been thinking a lot today about redemption, especially about the many, many times in my life I have personally been forgiven for things I have carelessly, or sometimes purposely, done that have brought unnecessary pain or troubles to others. In the whole course of life, there have been far too many. The experience of grace is a cleansing of soul and spirit.

Redemption comes in many places. In my life I have experienced it from my wife and daughter, my mother and siblings, and from friends who continue to bless me with simple kindnesses and warm relationships. I become aware of these redemptive moments in the quiet spaces I have created for myself while reading, gardening, cooking, driving, writing, or simply chilling with my hands petting a dog on each side where I am sitting. Grace is truly amazing!

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Serenity

Over against the world with all its turbulence, distraction and worry,
one should cultivate a style of mind that can reach through to an inner
stillness and calm.  The world cannot ruffle the dignity of a soul that dwells
in its own tranquility.  Gradually, this serenity will begin to pervade our
seeing and change the way we look at things.

John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

Beauty in the garden and in the spirit

“Our deepest self-knowledge unfolds as we are embraced by Beauty.”

John O’Donohue, from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

Looking at some old garden pictures, these massive sunflowers are from my summer of 2011 seedings.  Caught up in the warm and wonderful memories of my childhood, when these grew wild in back of our suburban home in Dallas, in 2011 I tried to recreate the warmth and beauty of the fondest of my childhood memories of home.  These grew to about 80 inches tall and were loaded with seeds for the birds to eat.

Spirituality and gardening have a superior connection in my life.  Reading from John O’Donohue’s books assures me that I’m not alone in this experience.

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Certainty and uncertainty…finding a sweet spot

I like to think of myself as being spontaneous, even a bit compulsive, when it comes to living every day.  Those who know me well think quite the opposite of me.  To a large degree, they are right!

Rigidity

The more rigid side of me wants to know the rules to play by, whether it is at work, at home, or hard at play.  Along with my own willingness to play by the rules, I expect others to respect the fact that rules are rules, especially when it comes to things that matter, like the workplace, or in relationships.  I believe a certain amount of rigidity enhances trust, that it does not detract from it.  By trusting others to follow the same rules to which we oblige ourselves, we can gradually learn to rely upon our coworkers and friends, that they will not betray our trust.  With practice and experience, it deepens the level of friendship we can have.

Spontaneity and new relationships

On the other hand, rigidity can stifle opportunity for discovery, for relationships which our “safer” side won’t allow, for learning we can swim in the deep end of the pool after all.  When we open our lives to spontaneity, we open ourselves up to new and exciting adventures and motivation for living joyfully.  We discover the beauty of diversity, and we learn that people are people, not enemies vs. friends.

Taking risks

So, what’s the problem?

Whether we can see it clearly or not, allowing or creating new opportunity by stepping out of our comfort zones, involves fear.  We are afraid of risks.  Things like rejection, embarrassment, feeling “stupid”, looking too “fat, ugly, tall, thin… (fill in the blank)” are small, though overwhelming, fears that tell us risks are treacherous and can lead to bad things, and humbling thoughts.

Finding the sweet spot

The way of greater joy and peace, I believe, is to find comfort in those things that we truly trust and upon which we can rely.  Once we are sure of those things, which, by the way, has a lot to do with finding comfort in ourselves, we can gain the confidence that new risks won’t kill us after all.

By taking small steps into this scary new world, we find interesting people, richer relationships, and lots of new things to think about, talk about, and relax about.  This, I believe, is the right path for anyone finding themselves entrapped in a cocoon of safety, and often, boredom.

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Good morning, world!

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It’s easier to face each day when the beauty of natural things greets you like this!

On my way out the door to get a few groceries this morning, I turned around to see how my roses looked today.  I had to stop and take a picture.  The breathtaking beauty was enough to put a smile on my face and a reminder in my heart that we are but a small part of a world that strives to show itself off, like a little girl playing “princess” in her mommy’s high heels, red lipstick, and sequined gown.

How precious are the days in which we do nothing but enjoy what nature brings at our doorstep.

Yoga, a journey within

It is the aim of all spiritual seeking to bring us home, home to the understanding that we already have everything we need.

~Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, Meditations From the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga

“Contentment” has been in my vocabulary a lot lately.  Perhaps, the life-changing diet and my new yoga practice has opened my eyes and my spirit to the peace within.  Maybe, it’s just my time, finally, to accept the fact that “more” is not “better” or “richer.”

I look within and I see a person who has spent much of his life in competition with himself and others.  I see ambition, drama, contests, places and positions that have been my dreams and hopes.

Always being taught that ambition and drive are very good things, I recognize now that they have always had a narcotic effect on me.  They have deadened moments that should have been celebrated, dulled the joy that would have come naturally otherwise.

But, regretting the loss of those moments of joy only perpetuates it.  Finding acceptance of who we have been is just as important to happiness as becoming who can can be.

Coming home is not a long journey.

Winning against negativity

Never is discipline more important in living a healthy life than when we have suffered some disappointment or conflict that wants to dominate our thoughts and spirit.

It is always a challenge to develop disciplinary practices such as meditation, exercise, diet, or any other life-changing routine, but it’s especially tough when we mix in some bad days at work, a conflict with a spouse, a financial setback, or even an untimely, nagging illness.  These normal life events present challenges to our fledgling disciplinary practices, and yet they are the very reasons why the work of discipline is so crucial to life-change.

Without some established disciplined responses, we subject ourselves to the whims of our emotions and our old customary preferences.  For many of us, the lack of a disciplined response results in overeating, wasting days in front of a television, or creating chaos elsewhere in our lives, and in the lives of others, so that we can expel the energy somewhere and on someone besides ourselves.  These negative patterns only serve to dig us a deeper hole to retreat into when we finally face the shame that is, for many, inevitable.

If a life-change is truly what we seek, we must get a handle on our disappointments, our pain, and our anger.

Five simple things to counter negativity:

  1. Breathe — When something happens for which your internal response is one of anger or hurt, simply take a deep breath, several of them, if necessary, until you can gather your peace of mind.  Caution: be careful not to sigh as a way of showing your displeasure nonverbally.  Simply breathe before speaking.
  2. Be mindful of the relationship involved, if any.  If it is a momentary one, like a bad driver cutting you off, just take a deep breath and let the other person get on out of your life.  If it involves a person with whom you have a professional or personal relationship, simply be mindful of the relationship in the broader context of this momentary precipitating event.  Just stop and think.
  3. Distract yourself with something neutral, or even positive, before the negative stimulus has a chance to embed itself into your spiritual being.  This changes the balance of your thoughts and your emotions and gives the positive side a better chance of succeeding.
  4. Get to your physical exercise as soon as possible.  This article, “13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise“, is a great list of the many benefits that exercise brings to your mental health.
  5. Move on to another subject entirely.  If you let the moment pass without allowing it to open up a wound, it will heal quickly and without regret or shame.

Negative events are simply inevitable; it’s Life.  These are growing experiences, and they provide us with opportunities to strengthen our discipline, our resolve to change our lives for the better.