It takes no effort to love.
The state has its own innate joy.
Questions answer themselves if you are aware enough.
Life is safe;
flowing with the current of being is the simplest way to live.
Resistance never really succeeds.
Controlling the flow of life is impossible.
The Path to Love: Spiritual Strategies for Healing
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been overwhelmed by the impermanence of life. I remember opening my sleepy eyes each morning, taking in the surroundings of my childhood bedroom; belongings scattered from the day before. I remember that what I felt first was the slight pang of sadness; mourning for another day gone by. I was always aware of the limited grains of sand in my hourglass. I suppose this is the human condition; the source of our quest to make meaning in this life.
We all have the best intentions; We want to be engaged and feel connected to others and the world we live in. We feel free sometimes; on vacations or weekends, or if we are fortunate enough to find ourselves in the silencing beauty of nature, lost in art that moves us, or in soulful connection with another. I suppose these little moments of beauty are always available to us, so what keeps us from experiencing them?
As I navigate through life, I’ve found perspective to be a potent ally. It is easy to feel powerless, scrambling to juggle commitments between the harsh ring of an alarm clock and the moment your head hits the pillow each night.
I have a simple and seemingly arbitrary question for you to ponder: How are you going to sleep each night?
Do you work until the last moment, or scroll through work emails or social media? Do you ingest a pill or a beverage to fall asleep?
What if, instead, you read a book that comforted or inspired you? What if you journaled? What if you paused in silence with your eyes closed, letting the busy thoughts in your mind exhaust themselves until you felt peace; so that you could reflect on the gift of another day with gratitude? How do you think you might feel upon waking the next morning?
We forget that we are capable of recalibrating the experience of our lives. To do so takes discipline and presence, and it may seem like a luxury you don’t have time for, but I’m here to remind you that you deserve to be happy right now and that the only person who can change the way you experience it all is YOU.
I’d like to share with you, a few brief but powerful anecdotes that have recently touched me;
Reminders to slow down without withdrawing, to find peace without resisting the present:
Work as Play
I keep stumbling upon this quote by philosopher Alan Watts:
We live in a modern world, and while I’m sure I’m not alone in my fantasy to run away to a commune and live off of the land, this is not a practical ambition. To survive in the world we know, we must work. Some are fortunate enough to make a living from their craft or passion; others find a vocation that suits their natural talents and decide to make a career of it. Both of these paths are necessary and noble, but sometimes the latter path can drain our spirit and leave us longing for a “paradise” that feels illusory.
So, if we agree that we must work, and if our work is not necessarily a soul-nourishing passion, what can we do to find balance between what we long for and what must be done? We must shift our perspective (yes, I am going to wear this point out).
A simple example of how I reset my attitude when my internal and external environment feels chaotic; I liken this experience of life I’m having to one big game of Monopoly, conceiving that I am just here to play. This releases me a bit from the stifling grip of my responsibilities, without resorting to avoidance. It’s all about how you’re moving through your day, your tasks and your interactions with other people.
What Can Be Done About It?
You have some flexibility and choice in the way you approach your obligations. If a certain task is causing you grief, what can you do to make it more enjoyable, or at least less painful? Can you do the task at a different time of the day? Is there a subject or approach or skill that you could learn more about? Most of the time, when I find myself frustrated or exhausted, it comes from a sense of lacking some resource; be it time, knowledge, support, sleep, nourishment, etc.
Instead of white knuckling your way through it, take a look at what variables you do have control over and play with them. Perhaps you can delegate. Or maybe you can do the task in a different environment. For example, when I find my work seeping into evenings and weekends, it can cause me guilt for being less present with my young daughter. Instead of just feeling bad about it, I find ways to include her in the working time. One thing we love to do is go to coffee shops together. She brings along creative items, homework and books. We enjoy the occasion together and view it as a retreat rather than a chore. It is special time between just the two of us. Not only do I get my work done, but I also benefit from quality time with my daughter while she builds positive habits.
Everything is Sacred
If you find yourself feeling depleted and longing for connection, this motto may brighten your spirits. Regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof), there is something to be gained from this perspective. It’s not necessarily about God (though it can be), it’s about surrender.
Do you feel something when I say sacred? Think about the last thing that really moved you; a moment when you felt connected. What was different within you, that allowed you to feel this? You were open. You stopped gripping and let something deeper touch you for a moment. I believe this is always available to us, but we have to release our negative beliefs, our resentment and grudges that constrict us. If the task at hand were sacred, how would you do it? If the people you were interacting with were blessed, how would you treat them? How would you feel?
I’d like to close with a poem I saw recently, published by the New York Times Magazine:
by Danusha Laméris
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”
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