Todays meditation word; Control

Control

I still struggle with issues around “control” – what I can control and what I can’t – what should I try to control and what should I just accept.

It is oddly easy to give up trying to control the world for my own selfish reasons – to give up the pretence that I could control others to give me what I thought I wanted. It is less easy to give up trying to make people see things my way, when they are so obviously wrong (in my eyes!)

A while ago I had correspondence with someone who was sure that I was a radical atheist, hell-bent on oppressing religious views everywhere I saw them. As someone who considers themselves a Christian, it’s disturbing to me when other people who call themselves Christians have such a fundamentalist view that any suggestion that there is any other view is jumped on as an example of anti-Christian bias.

What I really wanted to do was change them, make them realize that far from helping people see “the truth”, they were only alienating people. And I only wanted it for them for their own good – or did I?

The truth is that even in this there was ego involved – I want everyone that professes the same faith as me to be nice, so that I don’t need to feel bad. I don’t want to be associated with that sort of “hit them over the head till they admit they are wrong” sort of rhetoric.

But I can’t control them. No matter how “right” I am, or how “wrong” they are, I can’t control them.

Another person I know is slowly self-destructing – I can see it, and the sad thing is, so can they. And so I want to control them out of their self-destructive behaviors and make them well – what is wrong with that?

Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to help him, to be a place he can share in safely, even to offer suggestions of things he might try. But I cannot make him take my advice, no matter how good it is. I can’t control his actions and his thoughts.

In the end, it’s all summed up in this version of the Serenity Prayer that I heard a while ago:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the people I cannot change,

courage to change the one I can,

and wisdom to know it’s me.

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Today meditation word: Content

Content

 

Being content may sound like choosing second best. We strive to be happy and to see the best in everything, but sometimes even our best decisions don’t help us keep to being happy. And sometimes we should be sad. A death of a loved one or the ending of a relationship – even the loss of something that we valued like a well liked picture – any of these can and probably should make us sad.

But being content is something that can happen outside of our current state of happiness. Being content can mean that we know that all is just the way it should be today. That even our sadness is a right and proper way to grieve, and that underneath that, we know that all is well.

Contentment may seem a placid thing – something that comes along on us without our knowledge. And sometimes we can just be content because we are happy enough with where we are right now. But also, contentment can be worked for – and it is worth working for it.

If we are basically content with ourselves, we can still endeavor to be better, but we will not beat ourselves up if we don’t win out at the first attempt. If we rely just on happiness to keep us going, then at the first sign that we are failing, that happiness will leave us, and we may decide just to give up.

But if we are content that we are doing our best, we can carry on and push through temporary failure, and look for the greater success in the future.

So how do I get contentment in my life? One way is through thankfulness. A task I sometimes set myself is to write a list of 100 things that I am grateful for. This may sound like a pointless – or too hard! – exercise but there are so many things that I can be grateful for, even in the worst of times.

Another source of contentment is to do worthwhile things – to know that I have done something as well as I can, or that I have helped someone or been or service to them.

Contentment keeps me balanced and cantered – it is there in spite of pleasure or pain – happiness or sadness – rain or shine. If I can promote my contentment, then I can see myself through the bad times, and not worry that the good times will fail me.

Todays meditation word: Unique

Unique

 

There is an old saying: “remember you’re unique – just like everyone else”. Whilst this is supposed to be amusing, it also covers a very important point.

I am unique – there is only one person who is exactly like me. There is no one else that has had just this set of life experiences. Not only are my fingerprints unique, so is everything else about my physical and emotional make up.

At the same time, I’m just like everyone else – I need to breathe, eat and sleep just like everyone else. I’m very similar to anyone else brought up in a suburb of a major capital city: I’ve listened to the same music, watched the same TV programs, and lived through the same events.

So how do we resolve this unique/same issue?

Well, in my life I’ve made the same mistakes that other people have made – only I did them in my way. I’ve found joy in the same sort of things that others do – but I found my own joy in them, and did not experience other people’s feeling.

To a casual observer, my life and relationships will look the same as countless other people who share my gender and general physical make up. But that is only superficially true, because all of the assumptions you might make about my life are based on your experience of living your life.

An example of this is the medium I’m using here – the written word. If you are reading this you and I share the same basic language, we can both read and write English. But we bring our own personalities to the written word – I write this in one way, and you would write the self-same thing in different words.

Even more interesting, you and I can read the same thing and get different meanings from it, depending on our own experience with a certain word, or a certain meaning. My understanding of any word will be shaped by my experience of that word in the past, which will be different from anyone else’s experiences of it.

This is the great thing we need to remember – we don’t really live in an objective reality – the world we live in is experienced through a filter – the filter of our own experiences and assumptions.

And this is the real reason we are all unique – because we all live in our own universe – a world that we have created from the sum total of our experiences.

Todays meditation word: Self-worth

Self-worth

Some mornings – like this morning – I wake up feeling totally useless and pointless. What have I contributed to the sum of human happiness in the world? What have I contributed to the happiness of me? How do even justify my existence?

There is nothing that anyone can say to me that will get this feeling off of my soul. There is no self-talk or inspirational book I can read that will make it better.

There is nothing that I can eat, drink, smoke or inject that will make it go away. Although some of those will remove the pain for a moment, they won’t change the feeling. And when they wear off, the feeling of uselessness will be a whole lot worse.

On days like these I have a number of options of what to do.

I can decide that there is no point, and stay in bed all morning, then get up and mope and feel miserable. I can write a few e-mails telling anyone that will listen – and even those who don’t want to – how miserable I am. I can look for validation in others telling me that I am worthwhile – but reject that validation when it comes, because I know, deep inside that I’m worthless – if they really knew me they’d agree that I was worthless too.

But whilst my body might not be moving much, my mind would be working overtime, going over and over all the mistakes I’d ever made, and how nothing would ever get any better.

At the end of the day I’d go back to bed totally exhausted, wake sometime early the next morning, and repeat the cycle.

Or, I can choose to do something different.

What I choose to do today is “Act as if”. I can feel self-respect if I do things that respect myself. I can feel self-worth if I do worthwhile things. There is an old saying that I can’t think my way out of negative actions, but I can act my way out of negative thinking.

So today I got up, showered, shaved and dressed. I put out some food and water for the wild birds that I love to see in my garden. I put a load of laundry on, washed the dishes and made fresh coffee. And I came to my computer to write.

Has anything changed? Not in what people call the real world, no. But in the world I live in – the world as experienced inside my head – there is a chink of light.

Maybe I’m not useless, if I can do all that when I don’t feel like doing anything. Maybe the point is just to live life on life’s terms, one day at a time. Maybe I’m not worthless, just for today.

Todays meditation word: The Past

The past

 

Sometimes, we spend too much time living life in the past.

It’s easy for us to look back at things that happened before and try to live them all over again in the present. Maybe they are happy memories, and we want to recapture the things that happened before. We want to know again that excitement of a first love, the taste of a fresh picked strawberry, or the feel of the sun on our bodies in the never-ending summer.

And then we look at our current life, and it doesn’t match up with our memories. Our current relationship – or lack of one – does not compare. Nothing we eat ever quite matches that taste we have in our memory. The summers are never as good as they were back then.

On the other hand, the memories may not be positive ones. It may be we are thinking about someone who hurt or abused us, or occasions where we hurt or abused others. We go back and think about what we could have done or said, what we could have done to protect ourselves or how worthless we are to have acted in the way we did. We are discontented and irritable – we can’t live our life now because of regrets about the past.

What we are really doing here is being dishonest – we are not accepting reality.

It is good to have memories of the things that made us happy – as long as we realize they are memories. We can share them with others, and feel again the happiness they gave us. But it is important to keep making new memories – today is a day that we can look back on with pleasure in the future!

When we spend time regretting the past, re-running conversations and thinking about actions we could have taken, we are trying to change the past – and that is impossible. The facts of what happened cannot be changed. Where we did wrong we can make amends, and indeed should do so for our peace of mind. Where we have been hurt, we need to stop torturing ourselves by wondering what we did wrong or could have done better.

Acceptance doesn’t imply anything about saying that past abuse was right, but it is about accepting that it happened, rather than trying to change the past and make it un-happen.

Living in the present means knowing that the past happened – and that it is past – over and done with.

We need to only live today – yesterday has already been used.

Todays meditation word: The Future

The Future

Sometimes, we spend too much time living life in the future.

Maybe we say:
“I’ll put this relationship on hold while I build up my business, and then I’ll spend more time with my partner.” Or:
“In the next five years I’ll make this amount of money, and then I’ll have really made it.” Or:
“I’ll go on this new diet, become thin, and then all my worries will be over.”
The only problem is that one of two things happen.

Maybe we don’t achieve the thing we set out to do:
there is a downturn in the economy and the business struggles.
Unexpected bills arrive and we’re not able to save the money we needed.
We go off my diet and don’t lose the weight.

Whatever the reason, our plans go awry, and we feel a failure. And also, because the plans didn’t work, it’s obvious that this is the reason we feel so bad. We just need to put more effort into the business, cut back more on expenses, find a better diet – maybe THEN we’ll be happy.

On the other hand, we might end up achieving our plan. We throw ourselves into the business and it’s a great success. We scrimp and save and achieve our monetary target. We starve ourselves and reach the “ideal weight”.

And then maybe we find that our partner hasn’t waited for us, or that we now have no interests in common. Or that we have the amount of money we planned, only now that is not enough. Or even though we’re now skinny, we’re still miserable and isolated.

It is good to plan – it’s good to work hard at something we love to do, to save for the future, to be careful with what we eat. But none of these things will guarantee a happy future.

And there is a simple reason – there are no guarantees.

The future is out there as one of the three elements of time that we experience – past, present and future. We get to control how we are today, but we don’t get to control the future – we only live in the present.

And really living in the present means enjoying what we can do today. Sometimes what we do today is plan for the future, and that is wonderful, so long as we don’t put off our joy till some golden age when our plans come true.

Part of enjoying the now is seeking for our goals – but only part. Mostly, we need to remember that life is happening today, and we need to enjoy it now – not tomorrow.

Todays Meditation Word: Assumptions

Assumptions

I had a couple of interesting lessons about assumptions the last few days, with the world showing me once again that I don’t know everything – in fact, I know very little.

I hadn’t heard from someone for ages, I’d kept up my side of the conversation by e-mail, but had not had a response. And I assumed I knew why, and was accepting of that. Then – surprise! – I heard from them, and I made another assumption based on what they had said. Then I hear from them again today and once again my assumption was incorrect!

On a much less “personal” front, I was planning on going somewhere by bus, and turned up at the bus station, only to find there were no buses! My assumption there about their running times proved totally wrong, and I had to go back home again.

Both of these incidents point up something about the way I view the world, because I often think I know the answers. Often, I see others hurting themselves and want to “help”, because, after all, what I would do would be much better.

But even if meant for the best of intentions – and mostly my intentions ARE for the best – I can get it wrong for a number of simple reasons:
• I don’t know the whole story
• I don’t know what else is happening
• I can’t control others, their thoughts, actions or reactions.

I guess we can’t help but make assumptions – it seems to be part of our human make up. I can’t be down on myself for making the assumptions about the reasons for my friends actions – but I didn’t have to act on them. And that is the key, it seems to me – to do the next right thing anyway, regardless of what others may – or may not – be thinking.

In the end, I’m only responsible for my actions – just because I feel I know something, doesn’t mean I have to act on it. But I can maybe test out my assumption.

Testing out my assumption about my friend meant keeping in contact despite of what I thought I knew.

In the case of the bus, I should have checked first, and you can be sure I will next time!