Being Honest with Oneself

A couple weeks ago I read a man’s revealing blog entry about how his world was suddenly upended by his loving wife dying from a fast-acting form of cancer. He wrote how he simply came apart after her death and spent the majority of his time tipping a bottle. What saved him, he said, was bottoming out, letting everything go, and being brutally honest with himself about every aspect of his past, present, and future without her.

While these words below (inspired by his article) are mine and not his, it was a powerful and hopeful message that needed to be shared—how he slowly rebuilt his life from the ground up by changing how he viewed his role in the process.  I’d like to list his url page of the article here for all to read it directly but unfortunately I can’t locate it again. Sorry. This is the best I can do.

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Jack, my counselor, told me he had one rule, and that was to be honest in our talks. “Be honest?” I sneered back at him. The only truth I knew for certain was that I was still sinking in a tar pit of pain over my wife’s sudden illness and death that past year—I raged for half an hour at the unfairness of it all to both of us.  “You want REAL?” I told him, “THAT is very real to me—so there Jack, THAT is my being honest with you!”

My counselor then said to use that very real pain as the starting point to feeling what truth is for me—to use it as the gauge of honesty for every other aspect of my life to help determine what I expected from life in general, and even more importantly, what life might actually expect from me—which made no sense at all to me back then. “What LIFE expects from me?” I yelled, “Screw life! What did it ever do but give me more pain?”

He said that if I could just be honest with myself over what I truly felt for my wife before and after her illness, and allowed myself to feel the real depth of my loss over her death, then I could be honest about other parts of myself as well. That honesty, he said, would help me determine how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The booze, he said, was keeping me from ‘feeling’ in general because if I never really let myself feel the pain, then I could never get past the pain to move on from there.

The court-required AA meetings helped because other addicts/alcoholics won’t let you lie about what you do or why you do it. They know. They’ve been there. They’ve said and done the same things, and they call you out on your stuff. You can’t hide it from them. You get that real fast. And I needed that.  I needed their truthfulness to help me uncover my own.

But I wouldn’t call those meetings support as much as I’d call it a mirror held up to your face that you can’t avoid.  There you are—twenty or so different versions of you—all gathered in one room sharing stories, shame, and self-loathing.  And there I was with a bunch of other people supposedly just like me—like being called by some other name to tell something similar to my story, like Jim or John or Lori, …or Frank or Jerry—but they were all different versions of me. “Same brand of ice cream, just a different flavor,” Jack said.

Well I didn’t like how that made me feel, so I told them about it. Said I didn’t belong there.

“Accept it,” they said. “We are alcoholics. You’re an alcoholic—lying is what you do, especially to yourself.  That’s who you are because that’s the most comfortable way to be—at least it always has been. Problem now is that even lying doesn’t work for you anymore.”

They were rough with me at times because I was so stuck in denial—claiming I was the victim here—why couldn’t they see that? One guy even pointed to me and said, “You want to keep seeing this same lying sack of shit staring back at you every time you look in the bathroom mirror? NO? Then change what you’re doing—change what you’re thinking. Because if you can’t accept the living proof of who and what you are sitting here all around you—if you can’t stand to think that you’ve been lying to yourself and to everyone you say you loved day after day for most of your life, then don’t expect your future to be any different. It’s your choice. YOUR choice, man!”

The “Your choice!” repeated over and over in their own stories. It’s always your choice. It’s your decision. “No one makes it but you,” they kept saying. “It isn’t really about life’s unfairness, or how much you miss your wife,” one of them told me. It was about being honest with myself about what I was feeling—what I still AM feeling about it all, and deciding if that’s what I want to feel in the future.

“If you can do that,” my counselor who led the group said, “if you can be honest with yourself, then you can pull yourself together and get on with your new life without the booze. But it’s really up to you.”

And as a parting shot, another guy who looked a lot like my sleezy Uncle Charlie, who was the last person in the world I ever wanted a lecture like this from, told me, “If you aren’t willing to help yourself buddy, don’t expect us to help you.”

Well, a couple years later I can tell you that it wasn’t easy by any means. Some days are still a struggle, but eventually I learned to view that past history of my previous self and life in a different way—what Jack called “in a more constructive manner”—one where I could refocus on how I had survived those painful life lessons, and use that survivor mentality to help me feel good about myself again, …which was far better than feeling so rotten all the time, where I simply wanted to numb myself into la-la land with the booze.

But maintaining the what Jack had named “lesson-filled, boot-camp view” of my previous life which he said I had successfully survived, was a difficult choice that I had to keep making day after day—sometimes every minute of the day for awhile, until I grew more comfortable in my new skin.

And getting to know this new me who thought and acted completely different from the old me, was the hardest part of it, because I finally realized that for 42 years I’d basically been doing nothing more than lying to myself, so I hardly knew what truth looked like, or even what being truthful felt like.

In fact the more I considered it, I’m not sure that I had ever been honest with anyone, let alone being honest with myself back then.

Was everything I’d said and done in my entire life a lie? If so, then wasn’t any part of it real? And what part of me was the real ME who was actually worth knowing? To figure that out, Jack tried to flip my mind again to see WHO it was that I wanted to become, to know how to get there. He said it was like creating an image of the new and better me that I would simply have to GROW into. But how could I do that?

Jack framed it to me this way: If I were the adult parent of a newborn ME ready to be introduced into this world full of challenges and wonders, what kind of parent would I truly need to be to successfully raise baby ME into a solid, well-balanced adult? Would I need a critical, demanding, drill sergeant constantly condemning ME and beating me down for my failings, or a nurturing, caring, coach continually encouraging my daily progress and raising me up to feel good about myself?

Not a tough choice, really. I didn’t need to feel any worse about myself than what I’d already been feeling.  What I needed was to feel more loved and supported than I had actually felt throughout most my childhood. Jack agreed. He said what I needed to help me succeed in my new life direction was my own loving guidance and support, not more self-condemnation.

Per Jack’s instructions, every morning now when I look in the bathroom mirror, I ask myself this question: “How are you going to encourage the best from that young kid in you today—how are you going to parent yourself to become a strong and loving person?”

Then I look right into my own eyes and say the words of a speech I’d memorized for doing this daily self pep-talk, “How can I express myself in more compassionate ways—in ways that other loving and caring people want to share in—ways that help them to recognize the goodness of my heart so they want to become more a part of my life?”

“How can I be a good person?”  I ask the ME staring back in all my imperfections. And that’s the goal I set for the day—every day—just trying to be a good person in some way—trying to help somebody or to do something nice for somebody else, because it makes me feel good when I can do that. And the more good I do for others, the better I feel about myself. Funny I know, but that’s how it is.

Well, as you can see, I’m still working on that goal of being a better person. But I wanted others to know that being honest with myself was a key to clearing out the garbage from my life. Think about it: You got to keep taking out the trash to keep from stinking up the house.

And if that ain’t being honest, …then I don’t know what is.

God’s TRUTH

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. kalidescope stained glass
It fell, and broke into pieces.
Everybody took a piece of it,
and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”
~ Rumi

 

Love this poem by Rumi, but then I usually love most of his poems. However this one really struck me after my recent experience with trying to help some friends save a dying church congregation.

Clearly I love my friends and valued our united effort to create a better spiritual environment for all involved, but I did NOT love the scripted “churchiness” requirements of the experience—the dogma, the empty ritual, the traditions of doing something a certain way because it had always been done like that, and the dictatorial manner of the pastor deciding the church’s focus.

That kind of ‘pseudo-spiritual’ experience is definitely not for me—in fact it is the very church ladyreason I shunned churches in general for most of my life—because of the phoniness and hypocrisy of the experience.

Even from the start I knew that my participation in the group endeavor would not be easy because of my personal views on organized religions (Religion and spirituality are two very different aspects of believing in something greater than oneself, and while I am deeply spiritual, I am not a fan of the restrictive, entrenched, self-perpetuating structure of religious teachings.).

But again, I love my friends and wanted to help them pull off this effort successfully—to rebuild the dwindling congregation for the small-community betterment.church.jpg

After sitting with clenched teeth through eight months of services/sermons over what was being said and done at the pulpit and altar, I decided I couldn’t continue what felt to me to be a ridiculous charade and poorly disguised ego-trip for the preacher.

As Rumi said above, my piece of the mirror didn’t reflect what was being said and done there, so to me, it could never be MY truth. And I don’t feel bad about quitting the group endeavor or for leaving my friends there who are still a part of it.

What I would feel guilty about is if I hadn’t quit, because then I would be betraying my own self—my own spiritual connectedness that always feels pure and direct.

A week ago someone said something derogatory to me, and I let it go without responding or feeling ill will toward the person for saying it; and my best friend said to me that I was being a good ‘Christian’ about the situation.

rumi religion.jpgI had to bite my tongue to keep from saying back to her, No, ….that was being a good Muslim, or a good Jew, or a good Buddhist, or a good Jainist, or a good Taoist, or a good Hindi.

 

What I actually was demonstrating had nothing to do with any religion in particular, but with ALL in general: I was being a good PERSON!

We throw these religious labels around far too easily to separate us from others—to make distinctions between US and THEM—and what THEY believe as opposed to what WE believe.

But the entire point of living this life is to recognize our similarities and our sameness, not accentuate our differences. character quote

So to me, if you want to build a better world and create more loving and peaceful environments for everyone, including yourselves, then be better people, not proselytizers of elite-ness and separation from those who don’t share the same piece of God’s TRUTH mirror that you have in your hand.

Let’s put all those mirror pieces back together and then look within the reconstructed TRUTH mirror because it is only God’s TRUTH when it is in Its wholeness.

gods truth

Faith and Belief

rocks.jpgThere are things I have faith in, and things I believe, if only at this moment in time.

There are people I feel comfortable with, and those I avoid for reasons both known and unknown to me; unknown because some “intuitive discomforts” are hard to put into words by the rational mind.

So as an energy worker I would simply say that some people’s cocooning energy vibration does not resonate with my own surrounding energy field, and leave it at that.heart split.jpg But in truth, those are the people that I would avoid because in their presence their vibrational dissonance is so pronounced that I simply cannot stand to be in their energy for long.

There are also people who believe things that are considered to be religious doctrines within their particular FAITH’s creed that lay out the do’s and don’ts for all of us—the should’s and should not’s, the “thou shalt this” and “shalt not do that’s.”

There are even religious doctrines that define the reason for our existence as the whim of a jealous God, and state that our continued progress forward depends only on following the very narrow path that religion prescribes; as no other path will suffice for our salvation, whatever salvation means to that belief.

Tbooks rel.jpghere are faiths that spout hatred and intolerance as the way to achieve heavenly bliss in the hereafter, which makes little sense to anyone other than believers of that faith.

But the fact is, there are people who DO believe these things: the DO’s and DON’Ts, the jealous God, the only path forward, along with holding tightly within one’s being the toxic, dissonant energies of intolerance and hate.

I can honestly say that I believe many things. But foremost I believe that HATRED begats only hatred (love that stupid word “begats”—probably because it is SO officially Biblical).

But I also have FAITH that LOVE is, and will always be, triumphant over hatred not because of a single man, however Divinely connected he may have been; but because of our collective end-game goal of “heavenly bliss” which cannot be reached by any other vibrational frequency than LOVE, which only makes hate doctrines the surest way to avoid such a possible state of future blissfulness.

You can call whatever you wish the particular philosophy that you stake your existence on.

I really don’t care.mlk-quot

For myself, I believe in Love and in holding a high-vibrational, blissful focus every day of our lives as the solution to our present inner turmoil, as well as the peaceful guide for our external actions.

But I don’t have to convince anyone else of that belief, especially when it is so easily experienced for one’s self.

I know this to be a fact: HATE will eat you alive, while LOVE will set you free.

I have FAITH in LOVE.  I BELIEVE in LOVE.

FAITH and BELIEF do not exist between the covers or a book, or the walls of a steepled structure.

They are your personal connection to your very reason for being if you only take the quiet time to feel them for yourself.

Karma and Dharma

Bobbsey.jpeg

No, Karma and Dharma aren’t the Bobbsey Twins (Oh Lord,…how old am I?).

olsensHow about the Olsen twins—is that more relatable?

For those of us who wish we better understood the relationship between the two hard-to-comprehend Sanskrit terms, I ran across a good comparative description in a blog entry called “Understanding Karma and Dharma” by John Burgos at  https://www.beyondtheordinaryshow.com/spiritual-dictionary/karma-dharma/ .

In that posting, this subject matter is explained by him in a “makes sense” manner that had me nodding in agreement.

When I write about living your true life purpose—being authentic—living a purposeful life, etc., I am actually describing DHARMA—a Hindu concept attempting to put a label on living in the natural, harmonious flow of life. Proper labeling is not easily done in any language. But for all practical purposes to better understanding it, that is what DHARMA means.dharma k.jpg

In that posting, according to Burgos: “So when we speak about you living your dharma, we are referring to you living your truth, living your highest potential, and living in a way that is supported by the Divine in a manner that is in accordance to your soul’s desire.”

And when I write about facing/resolving our personal and collective karma, I’m in essence writing about the boomeranging reciprocity of any action’s intentions for lovingness or harmfulness to others. Or as Burgos explained it: “Karma, put simply, is the Buddhist and Hindu manifestation of cosmic justice. It is the conglomeration of all your actions or deeds, both good and bad, in this life or past lives, that determine your future.”

As Burgos explained, when the two major life processes actually come into alignment with each other, life is good.chart.png

We feel deeply at peace and are riding the Divine Flow of Universal Lovingness.

But when we are out of alignment with either or both life processes, our negative Karma can prevent fulfilling our true Dharma; and/or not recognizing and living our true Dharma can add to the blow-back-in-your-face effects of our bad Karma.

So how do you clean up this possible calamity before it reaches critical mass in your life?

He has a suggestion of a 5-Step Karmic Cleanse technique to keep us from falling5 step.jpg into the bottomless pit of our own ignorance, paraphrased by me as:

  • Think before you act,
  • When emotions/memories surface and you start to react to them, pause and breathe through it to simply release them from your being,
  • Forgiveness is key to mending disputes with others and within yourself,
  • Be kind—don’t be cruel—we know Elvis wouldn’t want that,
  • Share the goodness of your heart and soul with others—uplift others, don’t degrade or belittle them.

Overall, I think his posting is worth a read-through, and his suggestions are well-worth considering.

Namaste.

“American Crime” – Studies in Character

I love a good character study, whether enjoyed through reading a good book or a watching a dramatic presentation.charac quote.jpg

Nothing says “humanity” better than witnessing exposed human foibles and a character’s visually-recorded self-delusion.

It’s the mirror we all stare into but seldom realize who we see because we are so busy watching ourselves acting in different bodies with strange faces that sometimes appeal to or repel us.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who watches it, but our present television offering is the black hole of attention consumption. It sucks away our hours, our days, and our lives. We watch renditions of LIFE rather than actually living it.

And in return, television media gives us…….um,……I mean besides all the blatant money-grubbing advertising, …it basically gives us little other than being an insomniac’s last refuge or a 50-inch, rectangular pacifier.

I wouldn’t even call most viewing options “entertainment” as much as I would call it varied flavors of escapism—escapism geared to your favorite obsession or fear.

So when I, in my own escapist foray, ran across a really good dramatic series based mainly on character study utilizing creative character dissection, I took notice.american crime

I’ve trolled the Netflix options many times. Some series are so-so, some hard to get past the first 4 minutes, and some were fairly interesting. But if you are really into character studies, I would suggest the series called “American Crime.”

It’s certainly not what I expected it to be, and gladly so. The main actors are some of the best, and are well-known in their own rights, but combined together in this unusual format and artistic renditions of “life as it actually is, not as we project it to be” they are superb mirrors of human self-deception, self-destruction, and self/family annihilation.

And that is the ironic title’s claim: “American Crime” – it explores the cultural/societal/legal crimes we commit daily on ourselves, our families, muslim women.jpgand our communities.

Why on earth would that be interesting or entertaining to watch?

Because it is so revelatory in each unveiling episode. You relate to the de-masking of the characters—their proposed aspirations, their genuine woundedness, and seas 2.jpgtheir hidden weaknesses. Through each of their depictions, you see how easy it is to slide away just a little from your own integrity and end up in a complex situation with the sudden choice of now facing the evolved problem head on, or trying to bury it deeper in even greater deception coupled with harsher future consequences. (Hint: they all go for the latter one.)

What I liked most about the two season series other than showing the same actors in alternate character universes, was that there really were no clear good guys—no clear child protectbad guys depicted in the show. There were no easily distinguished heroes and no pure villains, although some were implied and assumed until proven not to be.

In each season’s dramatic character exposition, there were only flawed people like you and me, making one or two choices that led to violent repercussions and forever tainted lives because of their simple acts of greed, lust, loneliness or self-loathing.character are you

The most prevalent theme I took from both seasons was that all of us need love and acceptance, openness and understanding. But without those necessities, we live shallow, deceptive, and destructive lives that eventually implode.

It isn’t that our lives are fated to be that way—it’s that we choose our fates because of those unmet needs.

And that is the biggest crime.

The OPEN Mind

Limitation is so unnecessary.

open.jpgWhen we focus so tightly on a single issue or a single viewpoint, we limit ourselves and our outcomes.

You don’t need to do just “one thing” in your life when you can do many things. You needn’t “specialize” in a certain subject or a course of study unless you feel that “one thing” is the single guiding force of your life. Specialists in nature are often a rare, isolated species, and are the ones most prone to extinction because they limit their food sources.

While there are advantages to a tight mental focus, there are disadvantages to limiting your frame of reference so severely that you exclude other possibilities. When you zero in so tightly on a concept or even an ideology, you restrict any other explanation from penetrating your mind set.einstein quote.png

I don’t mean to be the judgmental finger-pointer here but in today’s world, being able to keep your mind OPEN to a problem’s solutions is an attribute, not a detriment.

Not only are we, the residents of this world we all share, still ignorant to the answers to all the world’s problems; we aren’t even aware of the best questions to ask pertaining to those problems.

That might sound critical of what is presently occurring in the world’s greatest problem spots, but world problem-solving depends on increasing your base knowledge of the issues, not restricting it; and single-point perspectives with limited options only create the same scenarios we’re trying to dig ourselves out from now.

Case in point: If you ever have the opportunity to go through Mediation Training please mediationtake it. Mediation is where a mediator helps two or more parties define their key problem issues; then she helps them to successfully resolve their problems in a mutually beneficial manner.  That training will help you realize how difficult it is to help two very different viewpoints find and accept common ground to build a better future outcome based on mutually beneficial goals.toddlers.jpg

It’s a lot like getting toddlers to share a slurpy even if they have two straws.

What you usually encounter in Mediation is that combatants are often like the two primary political parties mid-election year mayhem: There is the standard stalemate caused by “my way or the highway” thinking or the “you are so WRONG how could you ever be that stupid” viewpoint expressed by one or both participants in the mediation.

Emotion rules the disagreements, not rational thinking.

common groundBut the mediator’s goal is to find common ground between the two deadlocked camps, which means that if you are the mediator you have to dig deeper into each combatant’s wants/don’t wants to find out what the REAL issues are behind their immovable stances.

You’d be surprised what deeper wounds and hidden agendas are revealed in this process.

Sometimes the disagreement has nothing to do with the subject in question. The acrimony between the two camps is often pure, raw woundedness raging on whatever ground it can find to take its stand.  Those are tough situations to resolve amicably. A good mediator (not the same thing as a negotiator) earns every dollar s/he makes.

And the single most difficult task at hand for any mediator is to encourage the participants to come to the table with an OPEN mind—a mind willing to consider an option not previously proposed.

An OPEN mind recognizes that the “highway” is meant for two-way travel, and being “wrong” is often just a shift in perspective to being considered “not so wrong.”backyard.jpg

Common ground is the single unifier most sought by a good mediator. Once that is established then a mutually beneficial outcome can be defined for both parties. And once the emotional aspects of the arguments have dissipated, the warring parties are more willing to consider rational solutions to the dilemma.

But the key component to any problem resolution is that all participants must somehow achieve and maintain an OPEN mind state that is willing to simply consider ALL possibilities.kids.jpg

As dedicated as we are to our own viewpoints, stubbornness and intractability are less productive outside the nursery-school playground.

Anger Only Breeds More Anger

Fshirt.jpgor me the message on the sweatshirt says what I’m honestly feeling right now: “I’m practicing mindfulness, compassion and loving kindness so don’t piss me off.”

The latest homicidal lunacy in San Bernardino, California, Dec 2, 2015, conducted by a few misguided and deeply unstable individuals who were trying to find some sense of meaning to their lives by killing others and themselves in the process, is both heart-sickening and totally stupid. I mean, when is homicidal-suicide ever meaningful?

And since I don’t handle intentional stupidity well; especially the malevolent stupidity that brings harm to others, I get angry. But like the shirt mentions: I’m also trying to be loving and compassionate and not allow my anger to consume me, so that inner incongruity creates tension within me over this sad and senseless replay of group-inspired insanity. I’m sure many of us are feeling this same thing.

I mentioned November 16th in the posting on Assessing Terrorism that “Most people fear and powerwho use this “fear” tool are banking on the flight response more than the fight response.”

Do they not yet understand that freedom-loving people everywhere do not flee when threatened? We fight!

When we (who love freedom and the right to make our own choices about our lives) are threatened, we react immediately with anger not fear: Angry words, angry gestures, and anger-based counter threats at those wishing to harm us. Didn’t wars in Afganistan and Iraq show assaulters anything about how nations with epic arsenals react to homicidal attacks?

However sometimes there are those who may over-react to threats of being assaulted and use a very broad rhetorical brush to paint ALL members of associated religions or races for the homicidal intentions of only a angerfew individuals. That is unfortunate and equally stupid, and because I don’t handle “stupid” well, THAT makes me angry—again, the shirt sentiment.

With political campaigns in full swing, there is no excuse when idiots on podiums in front of television cameras use these incidents to inflame their vocal audiences with unified hatred and spewed bigotry.

The problem is that idiots are idiots, no matter the national origin or the party affiliation. And audiences who buy into their political messages of hate are just as malleable as the misguided recruits for homicidal suicide—they only hear what fuels their fears and their anger, because anger makes them feel more powerful.

So lehold angert’s all get a better handle on our OWN anger and let’s make positive changes in our lives and in the world around us. As I mentioned previously, I am far from a pacifist and I tame myself down daily in search of a solid, positive solution to the festering wounds of wide-spread racial tensions, religious intolerance, and opportunity inequality.

My premise is pretty simple: I know that I can’t help spread peace if I can’t hold it within myself, so it is extremely important for all of us to acknowledge our own anger at these senseless and misguided actions of individuals and groups bent on creating chaos and social anarchy.

Don’t allow it. Take a deep breath, and then another one, and say aloud:light

“I am love, I am light that outshines any darkness, and I am deeply at peace within myself as I spread this inner peace throughout the world now. And so it is.”

Don’t give in to your own anger, and for certain never allow fear to cloud your thoughts, but foremost above all else, recognize that only you can decide how you wish to react to any challenge you may face.

peace.jpgMy suggestion is to face it with grace and determination to make this a better and more loving world for everyone. That really is the only rational choice that we have here.