A Universal Plea

A Universal Appeal

Detours in Life

Pentecost 37

 

Prayer was our topic for a series of discussions during Advent 2015.   While we may think of prayer as a purely religious thing, history bears witness that it really is something else.  In its simplest definition, prayer is an entreaty, a plea, a request.  What makes it different from any other request is that a prayer has a level of earnestness associated with it.  Earnestness is not a word used much these days and yet, it is a word that is changing the course of history and has for thousands of years.

 

I remember getting a question just two days into that series:  Why discuss prayer during Advent?  The answer, like my decision on this topic, was not as easy as one might deduce.  After all, this blog is about thinking of ways we can better our living.  While I use the seasons of the liturgical calendar to organize these posts, this blog is not merely theological content nor does it eschew not support any one specific spirituality.

 

Calendars are organizational tools and the liturgical calendar is no different.  The Roman calendar eventually had twelve months in it, an evolution of other calendars tried throughout the history of the Roman Empire.  The Hebrew calendar has thirteen months in it.  The difference between the two is that the Roman calendar was based on the sun while the Hebrew calendar was based on the moon.  If one assumes a month is four weeks long, then a year of 52 weeks divides into thirteen months very easily.  Of course, the year being 365 days means that those 52 weeks are not going to encompass all the days.  That is why some months on the Roman calendar were longer than others and the decision of which months were longer was often based on politics.

 

The calendar I use for divisions of topics for this blog is based upon both the Roman and Hebrew calendars.  It relies on changes in both the moon and the sun.  Christmas, the date of December 25th, was determined based on the Winter Solstice.  During the earliest years of the Church, it occurred on December 25th.  It was considered the birth of the sun because, after the Winter Solstice, the days grow longer and the sun would appear to ancient man to grow.  For the early Christian Church, a group of Jewish believers who recognized the man known as Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah and Christ, the son of God, the symbolism between the natural “sun” and the religious “son” was too good to ignore.  In more modern times the date of the Winter Solstice occurs between December 21-23 but is now beginning to move earlier to include December 20th.  Christmas, however, has remained a fixed date on December 25th.

 

There are remnants of the Hebrew calendar still evident in the modern calendar, however.  Easter is not a fixed date and changes every year.  The date for Easter is based upon the phases of the moon.  Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Vernal Equinox or Spring Solstice.  The Jewish festival of Passover is also celebrated during this time.

 

We all have our own uniqueness but we also all have a great deal in common.  I think we can all think of some time in our life where we needed help; maybe even a time when we really, really needed help.  It is those moments of request, earnest and heartfelt requesting that unite us.  We all get hungry, cold, scared, and even sick.  We also all are born with the ability to experience happiness and joy.  Regretfully, while we all experience the conditions of need, not everyone gets a chance to experience the conditions of positive emotion.

 

A prayer is not just a question for aid.  A prayer is not always in the form of a question at all.  At times, a prayer is a cry for help, earnest and immediate.  It can also be an exclamation of gratitude, although some would say such prayers are accompanied by hidden requests that such good times continue.  There are also prayers of remembrance and again one might say they carry a subconscious hope that the person praying is also remembered by the deity to whom the prayer is offered.

 

Prayer is the first reaction for most in those situations.  It is a universal response mankind has engaged in since the beginning of time.  We need to watch because we do not know what tomorrow holds, or even twelve hours from now.  We need to live goodness and mercy because we all at some point in our life feel we are stuck in a wilderness of sorts. 

 

Hurricane season is in full swing in the USA.  With Hurricane Harvey just having left, Hurrican Irma is in the new.  Next week we will be discussing Hurricanes Jose, Katia, and Lee, storm systems that have already formed with their own projections.  It is a time of great need – need for action, wise thinking, and prayer. 

 

Prayers are those earnest yearnings and the requests of our hearts.  Prayer is a universal plea, a universal need.  When fully recognized, prayer has universal appeal.   We all have hopes.  We all have dreams.  Far too often we go through life thinking about what we do not have instead of what we do.  Prayer is also about gratitude, a gratitude that lets us recognize our own potential.    It is something we have in common, the fact that we all have a time in which we will utter a universal plea to that which we feel but cannot fully see, something that we can feel but cannot create on our own.  This time of natural emergency created by the effects of nature coming together in a storm system threatening and affecting millions of people recognizes the human in all of us and the need for humanity in the world.

 

Today the universal pleas of those in Irma’s path are matched by those undergoing persecution for beliefs, their gender, their race or color.  The need for better living, for life itself is a universal plea.  It should not be determined by race, color, creed or socio-economic status.  May we all do our best to live productively, efficiently, wisely without harming others who are attempting to do the same.

 

The past several days have required a detour of life for many.  Evacuating one’s home is difficult; electing to remain is gut-wrenching and scary.  Life is not for the cowardly.  With faith, effort, and wise decisions, we can navigate the detours of life.  All it takes is one breathe, one prayers, one positive step.  Best of luck to all affected by life’s storms, whether they be natural or self-made.  We can do this thing called life!

 

 

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Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

Detours in Life

Pentecost 35-36

 

Campers are on the road, hotel rooms are booked to capacity, and cities across an arc cutting through the mid-section of the USA are preparing for the total eclipse of the sun today beginning at 1715 hours GMT.  That is during mid-morning coffee break time for the west coast and at the just after the noon hour for east coast residents.

 

For the 1,200,000 people living in the 70-mile-wide (113-km-wide), 2,500-mile-long (4,000-km-long) zone life will be chaotic, if it already isn’t.   The last time the USA witnessed such an event stretching from coast to coast was in 1918.  The last total solar eclipse able to be seen in the USA occurred in 1979.  The fact that this one is happening during one of the busiest vacation months of the year is fueling the desire for families to travel to a spot in the viewing zone.  An estimated seven and a half million people will witness this total solar eclipse in person.

 

A predictive map issued on Sunday by Weather Decision Technologies Inc. shows clear skies in the West, clouds in Nebraska and northwest Missouri, and partly cloudy conditions farther east.  Regardless of the weather, all observers must wear specially designed eyewear to avoid damage to their eyes.  For wildlife, it will seem as though there was a very short day.  As the shadows on the ground increase and the sky appears to be experiencing a very early sunset, birds will go to their roosts in the trees to settle down to sleep.

 

For a brief two minutes on Monday, there will be a safe time to view the eclipse with the naked eye but the timing is to critical to risk it.  During the totality or blackout, only the aura of the sun will be visible, the corona or atmosphere of the sun surrounding the circumference of the moon.  Please, do not attempt to see this without protective eyewear.  It is simply too risky.

 

It will be possible to capture the eclipse on one’s iPhone or tablet but these also will require special filters so as to not damage some or all of the pixels of the screen.  Various websites can provide directions on how to do this.  NASA Sun and Space or @NASASun will provide a great viewing for Twitter followers and other outlets will have live feeds.

 

Where will you be when this eclipse occurs?  What effect do you think it will have?  The myths surrounding eclipse are plentiful and date back to the earliest of times.  In Italy it is believed that flowers planted during a solar eclipse will grow brighter and more plentiful that flowers planted at other times.  In parts of India, it is believed that food prepared during an eclipse will be poisoned.  In ancient Greece, it was believed that an eclipse was a sign of the gods’ anger.  In some ancient cultures, pots and pans were banged to ward off the evil spirits believed to cause the blackout.

 

Today we know that the path of celestial bodies is what causes eclipses.  Except for damage from looking at today’s event without protective eyewear, it should not poison any food, cause miscarriages, or even give positive assistance to horticulture.

 

Today we have the location of wisdom, scientific fact, and history to allow us to have a better understanding and detour from these ancient and incorrect myths about eclipses.  Today we know that when our minds and brains are in a location of wisdom we will see the big picture correctly.  Today our perspective comes from a location that has led to better understanding.

 

Ursus Wehrli once said “I like to turn things upside down, to watch pictures and situations from another perspective.”  One simple way to view a total solar eclipse requires nothing more than a salad colander and some space.  If you can resist the temptation to look up, you can place the colander upside on the ground or concrete and watch it instead of the sky.  The pinholes will illustrate what the sky is experiencing.

 

This eclipse will last less than three hours today but for that time, many will come together.  Denis Waitley reminds us that “You must look within for value but must look beyond for perspective.”  I hope that today we will look beyond the skies and envision a world that can come together for peace.  I hope that during those three hours in which our lives are taking a detour to experience this total eclipse we can celebrate each other – the value within and the potential beyond.

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

Detours in Life

Pentecost – 22

 

One year ago over two thousand flights were cancelled as a fier and power outage at a Delta Air Lines control center affected air travel worldwide.   Many people found themselves facing changes in plans, delays, and certainly detours in their everyday living.  These were temporary detours to be sure but they still created a type of chaos that many saw as avoidable evil.  Eventually, though, people did get to their destinations and life resumed again.  It did not seem like it at the time but those affected by these flight cancellations were luckier than many.

 

Bombings worldwide have become less once-in-a-lifetime events and are on the verge of becoming more common.  Recently in a southern town a gun battle ended a discussion between two teenagers out for a movie on a Saturday night at a popular shopping open air mall.  The mall has a strict curfew – no one under the age of eighteen allowed after 8 PM without a parent or guardian.  The movie theatre had a line outside of over hundred teens, most without an adult present and shoppers mentioned this to the security standing outside the theatre.  Security took a “What can we do?” attitude and nothing was said to the teens violating the curfew nor was any law enforcement called.  That is, not until a few minutes later when a fifteen-year-old pulled out a gun and shot a sixteen-year-old.

 

Weapons have been around ever since man decided to eat something larger than himself.  Sitting on a shelf, that weapon will most likely do no harm to anyone.  With proper training and usage, it might even one day be practical.  When weapons are used to illustrate a point, however, they become deadly and innocent victims will most likely suffer.

 

The simply answer to get rid of all weapons is not the answer but what we do in the aftermath of such events is.  When faced with detours we need to focus less on the detour and more on how we handle it and what we do afterwards.

 

Acts of terrorism are detours but they can be avoided if we remain calm and take proactive approaches.  We cannot let radical evil alter the course of our lives and yet, we should and must confront the grief of so many lives lost due to evil.  Make no mistake:  terrorism is not about religion.  This is about greed and power.  It is easy to point fingers but we each are responsible for our own actions.  As the Anishinabek Indians, of the Algonquin Nation and located in Ontario, would say – “No one else can represent your conscience.”  Even the Apache, considered a southwest US American Indian tribe with a warring history knew that “It makes no difference as to the name of the God, since love is the real God of all the world.”

 

It is very hard to look in our hearts when dealing with those who have committed these egregious acts.  We would rather react with anger.  It is at such times we need the wisdom of the Arapaho:  “When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.”  I know what you might be thinking.  “They showed us no respect.”  That is true.  However, as an old Cherokee proverb points out, “The weakness of the enemy makes our strength.”  Their weakness is their need to strike out against innocents.  They know they cannot win by using logic and reason for their course of actions do not have any.  They must battle and they do not battle fairly.  They cannot win a fair fight so they battle the unprepared, the untrained.  They are cowards.

 

A Cheyenne saying advises us to “Judge not by the eye but by the heart.”  We cannot let the images of tragedy be our compass.  We must use our heart in determining our future paths.  We cannot think to honor those who have died by causing more death. The Delaware Indians believed “Good and evil cannot dwell together in the same heart, so a good man ought not to go into evil company.”  The Hopi agreed: “Do not allow anger to poison you.”

 

The Iroquois believed “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decision on the next seven generations.”  The Lakota a tribe that was the merger of the Sioux and Teton tribes of the US northwestern area said that “true peace between nations will only happen when there is true peace within people’s souls.”  John Lennon asked us to imagine a world where people lived to ether in peace.  Days after the Paris scenes of terrorism someone played his melody on a piano outside the concert hall of great carnage, the music soothing the pain.

 

Today many will face detours in their living, serious alterations in the life they had planned.  Whether from violence or illness or changing life situations, many will attempt to pick up the pieces of lives broken.  We need to let our faith anchor us as we offer goodness to the world.  The Pawnee Indians believed “all religions are but stepping stones back to God” and the Osage taught that “we must assist each other to bear our burdens.”  Let us use our energy to help our fellow neighbors to bear their burdens.  Let us remember to be that which we would like to see in others and cast aside thought of retaliation and further killings.  As the Shenandoah Indians proclaimed, “It is no longer good enough to cry peace; we must act peace, live peace, and live in peace.”

 

I have thus far taken somewhat a light-hearted approach to the various detours we face in our lives but some are deeply serious and life-changing.  How we handle the aftermath of these detours will determine what comes next.  Some detours are avoidable while others are not.  A driver crashed through a construction zone because he failed to be alert and take a different route.  A school bus slid off a roadway due to needing to turn around because its normal route was flooded by a sudden storm.   Both were detours of travel.  One was avoidable and the other not so much.  There were injuries in one and none in the other but both serve to remind us that even a simple trip home or school can result in a sudden detour.

 

Life gives us detours.  It is unavoidable but our response to such is critical.  All we can do is live justly and act, not react.  I ask that you seek the light and goodness and ask whatever your supreme deity is to shower love upon those who were affected.  We are all neighbors and need to remember that we are all called to be good stewards of our world and all living things.  The Oneida identified how to live with light and goodness:  “To be noble is to give to those who have less.  It is an issue of service and leadership.  Service is a spiritual act.  Service is the rent we pay for living, the anchor to our humanity.”

 

 

 

A Disappearing Act

A Disappearing Act

Detours in Life

Pentecost 8

 

They are one of the oldest legumes known to mankind.  They grow along the Rocky Mountains and were a staple of the tribe for which they are named.  Along with a blue maize or corn, they are all that remains of a most interesting group of indigenous people to live in North America.

 

The tribe is known as the Anasazi Tribe and they lived and then disappeared between 550 and 1300 ACE in an area now called Mesa Verde, Colorado.  IIN 1870 a photographer accidentally discovered remnants of the Anasazi civilization, a most sophisticated culture for its day and time.  Their life was based on agriculture and they invented innovative and creative ways for irrigation as well as constructed hundreds of miles of roads.  They did not have the wheel nor do we believe they had the means to transport animals except by foot.  Their homes literally hung on the hillsides and mountains and even today are accessed only by the most skilled of mountain climbers using modern ropes and pulley systems.

 

The word “Anasazi” exists in the Navajo language and translates as “ancient ones” when spelled Anaasazi.  However, it is also very similar to the Greek “Anasa” and “Zi” which translates as breath lives.  Some believe the name was the name of their queen and literally meant “Long live the Queen!”  Archaeologists have found evidence of the Anasazi in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, the “four corners region” as it is now known.  Many consider the tribe disappeared due to drought and a subsequent lack of food.  However, then the question is asked – Why not simply move elsewhere?  Others believe the tribe became disenchanted with their deities, the gods of their mythology and, once angry with the gods of their culture, they left, disappeared to…?

 

Today the closest neighbors of what would have been the Anasazi lands are the Hopi Indians.  Theirs is a culture very different from the Anasazi and no one believes they are descended from them.  It is very interesting that, while the Anasazi people have disappeared, one of their most prominent deities has not.  The Anasazi were the first to have myths about Kokopelli, the god of harvest, fertility, and plenty.  The Anasazi believed that a visit from Kokopelli would bring a bountiful harvest and good luck.

 

Kokopelli is claimed today by most American Indians and indeed many tribes have myths about him or a similar character.  Most described him in like fashion:  “ . . . everyone in the village would sing and dance throughout the night when they heard Kokopelli play his flute. The next morning, every maiden in the village would be with child.”  In modern times Kokopelli was compared to A Shakespearean character from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, Puck.

 

With these myths from the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, the newest lands of mankind’s living, we can see the similarities between all people.  Whether named for a Greek Queen or being used for a Shakespearean character, the history of myths and cultures follows similar paths.  Sadly, what does not disappear are our less than admirable traits – discrimination, fear, jealousy, and greed, among others.

 

What legacy has remained of the Anasazi includes their beans, a legume similar to the pinto or kidney bean and their blue corn.  What remains of the American Indians, even those extinct tribes are their words and names.  Almost half of the fifty states within the United States of America have American Indian names.  Other words, though create their own mythology.  American Indian words are often used to evoke images of might and strength.  A four-wheel drive vehicle originally created for military use became popular with the general population and one of their first models was named after a southeastern tribe – Cherokee.  Another model used mainly for off-roading was given the name of a southwestern tribe – Apache.  The military also appropriated American Indian names for one of their helicopters, the Chinook, and a missile, the Tomahawk.  Currently sports teams of all levels use American Indian names and the National Football league is embroiled in a dispute of such regarding the Washington Redskins.

 

For many, such appropriation of words from these indigenous peoples ensures that they will not be forgotten.  History sometimes is written for the victor and, in many cases, these indigenous tribes were not victorious in maintaining their lands or the ability to continue their culture.  Colonization sometimes becomes annihilation.

 

We can face that same dilemma when we are confronted with societal pressures ourselves.  Maintaining a lifestyle that adheres to one’s beliefs is not an easy task.  Remembering that faith is the strongest weapon is sometimes forgotten when we see the stories that terrorists create.  Nonetheless, faith is strong and it becomes stronger when we live it.

 

Life offers us a chance to detour from the heat of arguments to be vessels of peace.  We can either give in to the hysteria of fear or elect to be calm winds.  Faith is to be used, exercised, displayed, illustrated, and renewed each and every day.  We and we alone are responsible if our faith disappears.  It isn’t a magic act to live one’s beliefs.  It just takes doing it and that is the strongest force of all.  Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we must take a detour.  When we travel that road with faith, we ensure we will not disappear but make a lasting impression.

 

 

Riding the Waves

Riding the Waves

Detours in Life

Pentecost 5

 

Whew!  June was an interesting month as the tides of life seemed to engulf me.  Each day seemed to go exactly opposite to its schedule and my carefully arranged agenda became a figment of my imagination upon rising each morning.   Never more have I lived the words of John Steinbeck:  “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”

 

In short, life took me down a month-long journey of detours.  What I realized was that if I was alive to complain and become frustrated, I was alive to survive those detours and, hopefully, learn from them.  That realization did not come easily, however.  About halfway through the month, I came across this quote from Ken Poirot: “Life is a journey with almost limitless detours.”   Initially I got depressed but then I realized this was my salvation.

 

About the same time I accepted the inevitability of detours and that I was not a complete failure because I was encountering them, a friend posted a picture of a family member – a young family member who had just spent an hour finger painting.  The photo was a collage of the young artist covered in paint, the painting itself, and then a close-up of the glorious satisfaction this child felt while looking at her masterpiece.

 

I got the post of this young artist on a Monday.  That really is not important except that I had a friend who always says goodbye after our early morning exercises with ad encouraging admonition to have a good day.  Each day has its own tagline and Monday’s is always: “Have a masterpiece of a Monday!”  As I looked at this picture of the young child I realized she had indeed made it a masterpiece of a Monday while creating her own masterpiece. 

 

To be truthful, I have no idea what the drawing represented except a thirty minute period of this child’s life.  I will be kind and call it an abstract painting.  It was certainly a masterpiece, though, and one that brought a smile to my face.  More importantly, I realized that is was a masterpiece created out of the chaos that finger painting usually brings.  The child’s smock was covered in paint as was one of her cheeks.  She was, quite frankly, a mess.  And yet, in the messiness of it all was a beautiful creation and magnificent smile, both on her face and on the faces of those who saw it, including myself.

 

More importantly, her painting was a detour from the detour I was currently on.  While it seemed like my schedule was in disarray and a mess, it was nothing compared to her painted mess.  Hers, however, was delightful.  Then I learned that the child finger painting was also a detour.  She had been scheduled to go to the park with my friend but it had rained.  Truly on this day, our lives were full of limitless detours. 

 

It was then that I realized this young child knew more than I did about living.  She was riding the waves of life and instead of pouting about the park, created a masterpiece of finger painted artwork that was shared and appreciated by many.  It was then that I understood I needed to surf through the month instead of kicking and screaming about how life was not going according to my plan. 

 

I did not end up with any masterpieces at the end of the month but I did learn to appreciate the detours and not stress over them.  I even think I made a few new friends, learned a few new things, and came out a little smarter.  I also made sure to have some paper and paints on hand next time life gets too chaotic.  I think I will surf through the detours with a little finger painting or coloring of my own, riding the waves of life and its detours with a smile.

Exercise Equals Good Health

Exercise Equals Good Health

Easter 36-46

 

Exercise does a body good.  We all know that.  However, mindfulness exercises will also provide health benefits, not just to our body but for our mental and emotional health as well.  The conversations we have in this blog, into my head as well as yours, are all about creating and maintain a healthy spiritual lifestyle.  After all, if our spirit is not willing, our living will and is compromised.

 

Clinician Elizabeth Scott is a enthusiastic advocate of mindful exercises.  “The practice of mindfulness can bring many benefits to your emotional and physical health, as well as to the relationships in your life. Mindfulness is an amazing tool for stress management and overall wellness because it can be used at virtually any time and can quickly bring lasting results. Mindfulness can pull you out of the negative downward spiral that can be caused by too much daily stress, too many bad moods, or the habit of rumination.”

 

Life is messy.  We all know that.  Stress is a natural consequence of the messiness in our lives.  One of the best ways to combat stress is to meditate.  A key element for meditation is finding a quiet space, free of distractions and interruptions.  On one particularly stressful job site, I would go into the restroom, run some warm water and purposely take sixty seconds to wash my hands.  I would concentrate on the warmth of the water and imagine it radiating throughout my core.  Then I pictured all my stress going down the drain. 

 

Mediation can be a bit difficult if you are not accustomed to do it.  There are many different ways to meditate but one of the most basic is to simply listen to your thoughts.  Then imagine if someone else were saying them to you.  What would your response be?  Focused meditation relies on living in the moment.  That means putting aside what happened yesterday, what might happen tomorrow, and simply concentrate on this moment in time right now.  Activity meditation uses a physical activity or movement to help one meditate.  Some people paint, others garden and many do yoga.

 

Clinician Scott advises these ways to being to practice meditation.  “Meditation can be practiced in many different ways.  While there are numerous different meditation techniques, a common thread runs through virtually all meditative techniques:

Quiet Mind: With meditation, your thinking mind becomes quiet. You stop focusing on the stressors of your day or your life’s problems, as well as solving these problems. You just let that voice in your head be quiet, which is easier said than done. For example, start thinking about nothing now. (It’s OK, I’ll wait.) If you’re not practiced at quieting your mind, it probably didn’t take long before thoughts crept in.

Being in the Now: Rather than focusing on the past or the future, virtually all meditative practices involve focusing on right now. This involves experiencing each moment and letting it go, experiencing the next. This, too, takes practice, as many of us live most of our lives thinking toward the future or relishing and rehashing the past.

Altered State of Consciousness: With time, maintaining a quiet mind and focus on the present can lead to an altered level of consciousness that isn’t a sleeping state but isn’t quite your average wakeful state, either. Meditation increases brain activity in an area of the brain associated with happiness and positive thoughts and emotions, and some evidence shows that regular practice brings prolonged positive changes in these areas.”

 

Other mindfulness exercises include some we have previously discussed like deep breathing.  When we concentrate on our inhalations and exhalations, we tend to release some of our stress.  I once knew a man who would draw a square with his index finger in his pants pocket or on his pants leg under a conference table.  As he did this, he would regulate his breathing and reduce his stress. 

 

Music is also a great way to release stress and live in the moment.  It doesn’t really matter the genre of music.  Music is a communication and the feelings it evokes can be used to reduce stress and create a better sense of well-being.  Eating slowly can also be a mindfulness exercise.  Too many of us gobble our food down but if we eat each bite slowly, chewing multiple times per bite, it can be a way to fully experience the tastes, smells, sounds, and feelings of the moment.  It will also improve your digestion!

 

The mundane activities we do daily, like making the bed, washing dishes, sweeping, or cleaning a counter can be turned into mindfulness activities as can other things we take for granted.   Sometimes the biggest deterrent to practicing mindfulness is turning off the voice in our own head.    Scott encourages making mindfulness a habit and turning chores and daily activities into an opportunity for mindfulness.  “Many stressed and busy people find it difficult to stop focusing on the rapid stream of thoughts running through their mind, and the idea of sitting in meditation and holding off the onslaught of thought can actually cause more stress! If this sounds like you, the mindfulness exercise of observing your thoughts might be for you. Rather than working against the voice in your head, you sit back and “observe” your thoughts, rather than becoming involved in them. As you observe them, you might find your mind quieting, and the thoughts becoming less stressful. (If not, you may benefit from journaling as a way of processing all those thoughts so you can decrease their intensity and try again.)”

 

Martial arts expert and actor Bruce Lee once said:  “Under duress we don’t raise to our expectations, we fall to our level of training.”  The development of mindfulness and the use of it daily create a moment to moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, sensation, and surrounding environment.  This will lead to a development of heartfulness, the intentional nurturing of positive mind states such as kindness and compassion.  The world and we certainly need more of that.

Instructions for Anger

Instructions for Anger

Easter 22-23

 

Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, or somewhere in-between any of the above, we all experience anger.  I think anger can sometimes be a positive emotion.  The patient who is angry that a disease like cancer seems to think it can beat them will get angry and often, fight harder to survive.  But what about that deep anger that destroys us from the inside out?

 

Thich Nhat Hanh describes happiness as not suffering.  This Buddhist teacher and spiritualist reminds us that true happiness comes from within ourselves and not from material things or social standing.  Regardless of how it may seem, reality shows like “the Kardashians” are not about people who have it all but rather about people who struggle with an impossible race to reach happiness through impossible means.  The one emotion that drives such programs and thinking is anger.

 

Nhat Hanh explains:  “In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger and frustration called internal formations. They are also called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom.  When someone insults us or does something unkind to us, an internal formation is created in our consciousness. If you don’t know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot will stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that internal formation will grow stronger. As knots or blocks of pain in us, our internal formations have the power to push us, to dictate our behavior.

 

“After a while, it becomes very difficult for us to transform, to undo the knots, and we cannot ease the constriction of this crystallized formation. The Sanskrit word for internal formation is “samyojana”. It means “to crystallize.” Every one of us has internal formations that we need to take care of. With the practice of meditation we can undo these knots and experience transformation and healing.”

 

It has become popular to “vent” one’s anger.  Sometimes people hit pillows but does this really release the anger?  As a parent I taught my kids to do jumping jacks, that exercise where you spread your arms wide over your hard and spread your feet accordingly while you jump back to a standing position.  For small children, this gives them a sense of being in control as they dictate what their body is doing and are no longer captive to their feelings of anger.

 

For adults, Nhat Hanh offers this advice.  “Whenever you feel yourself becoming angry, start practicing mindfulness.  Think of that one thing that makes you happy.  Visualize yourself in your most favorite spot doing something you enjoy doing.  Recall the feelings of happiness that that activity and that location bring to you and let yourself experience happiness.  To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.  Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside of us.

 

“Mindfulness does not fight anger or despair. Mindfulness is there in order to recognize. To be mindful of something is to recognize that something is there in the present moment. Mindfulness is the capacity of being aware of what is going on in the present moment. “Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger.” This is not an act of suppression or of fighting. It is an act of recognizing. Once we recognize our anger, we embrace it with a lot of awareness, a lot of tenderness.”

 

We are going to feel anger.  It is an inevitable part of life.  It is up to us to decide whether to use it, embrace it, or to let it eat us up and destroy us.  Nhat Hanh suggests this analogy:  “When it is cold in your room, you turn on the heater, and the heater begins to send out waves of hot air. The cold air doesn’t have to leave the room for the room to become warm. The cold air is embraced by the hot air and becomes warm—there’s no fighting at all between them.

 

“Practitioners of meditation do not discriminate against or reject their internal formations. We do not transform ourselves into a battle field, good fighting evil. We treat our afflictions, our anger, our jealousy with a lot of tenderness. When anger comes up in us, we should begin to practice mindful breathing right away: “Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger.” We behave exactly like a mother: “Breathing in, I know that my child is crying. Breathing out, I will take good care of my child”, ourselves.

 

When we use our anger mindfully, we are showing compassion, not only to another but also to ourselves.  We must learn to do this because without it, we will not truly show compassion to others.  Nhat Hanh offers this very important piece of advice regarding life, its messiness and its inevitable feels of anger.  “To grow the tree of enlightenment, we must make good use of our afflictions, our suffering. It is like growing lotus flowers; we cannot grow a lotus on marble. We cannot grow a lotus without mud.”  Anger will be a part of our lives.  We can either choose to let it be the medium through which we grow or something that drags us down like quick sand.