OPENED BY INNOCENCE
Recently I was arrested by a photograph that a friend shared on Facebook. The photo was of two small children sitting on a park bench together and I don’t know what it was but something grabbed my attention and I feel my heart being pulled open.
I sat looking at the picture. I gazed at it. I asked it, ‘What have you got to tell me?”
The answer came surprisingly easy. It turned out that that simple picture had a message for me about innocence. The picture was an icon into a forgotten world. A world that was calling to me,
“Come back! Come back! Return!”
When you gaze at the image of innocent children what does it evoke in you? A sense of wonder? Of joy? Of pure delight? Perhaps a longing for a simpler time? Or an inner urge to protect their vulnerability? Perhaps a tenderness arises in you that softens your heart a little or has you reaching out for the hankies as you grieve for the lost times of your own childhood?
None of this is surprising for it is the consequence of our own innocence calling out to us. Our own innocence is the ‘inner- sense’ of who we are, the ‘inner-sense’ of our own presence. It is the ‘inner-sense’ that the world is a good, wonderful, joyful and delightful place to live in. All this has been long hidden in the folds of our adult living. It has been tucked away, consigned to the archives of time and covered over with the responsibilities of being a grown up.
But does living as a grown up mean we have to lose our ‘inner-sense’ of who we are as pure innocent beings filled with beauty, joy and delight? Do we have to grow up and away from the truth we knew as children? Does that truth simply disappear as we grow older or does it just get hidden from view, covered up, masked in some way? If this is so then, if we are willing, can we can embark on a journey of unmasking the truth and letting it shine in our hearts again?
Surely to do this is to fulfil our purpose here on earth?
'Where can you go with your sadness except to the joy that holds it?'
This is the question that I pose in one of my poems, 'Sadness'.
It seems to me that the world is like a hurting or a frightened child. The world is in pain and most of us are worried about that pain, or at least a little bit concerned about it and most of us would like to know what we can do to ease things a little, for ourselves and for others. The problem though, as I see it, is that we aim to ease the problems of the world with the same mindset that created them. That is a mindset that is weary and heavy burdened with fear, confusion, grief, pain, guilt, shame, worry, anxiety and an inherited 'tribal mentality'' of 'us' versus 'them'.
As humans we attempt to solve pain and distress by meeting it with more pain and distress. We are like the proverbial hamster on the wheel always trying hard to solve problems, putting a lot of effort into things and yet ending up going round and round and never getting anywhere. Even if we do manage to get to grips with one problem it is just as likely that another problem will erupt somewhere else sending us off again on another wild goose chase trying to come up with more solutions that in the end will never fully alleviate the difficulties we face. It's as if no matter how many battles we win the war never ends.
I have always loved the words of Jesus, 'Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.' These words have resonated deep within me and have offered me great sustenance over the years but I am only just beginning to see what they truly mean.
I am inspired this morning by an article I read about Manoj Bhargava, a multi billionaire philanthropist who has decided that with great wealth comes great responsibility. This man is using his wealth to make a difference in the world investing his money (apparently 90% of his income) into, for example, the design of renewable energy sources, ways of bringing fresh water to drought stricken places and innovative ways of improving health care.
Now I am not a multi billionaire or anywhere near close but the article got my attention and asked me the question - do I make a difference in the world…..and if so what kind of difference?
It can be so easy to be overwhelmed by the problems in the world that we forget that we can all make a difference. All to often we can be guilty of leaving change up to the policy makers, the government or others who we perceive to be more influential than we are.
However we all have a part to play in this. Everything that we experience internally is reflected in the external world and is then mirrored back to us. If we don’t like what we see ‘out there’ then we can begin to make changes inside us that will positively impact the world we live in. Remember the famous words by Ghandi ‘Be the change you want to see in the world”?
Everything we do, say, think, believe and feel all has its own vibration that is sent out into the world and has a direct impact on the life going on’around us’. Further more the quality of the vibration we send out will be directly influenced by the intention and motivation we place behind it.
Do we intend to be loving or hostile?Open or closed? Accepting or withholding?
What motivates us - love or fear? Protection or connection? Distance or intimacy?
So the questions for me are:
“What have I done today to make a difference in the world?”
“How does how I spend my time contribute to this?”
“How does my thinking affect this?”
“How does my ability (or lack of) to fully feel and process my emotions affect my desire to make a difference?”
“How much of a priority is this for me and how conscious do I stay of my intention throughout the day?”
Sometimes we can fall fowl of thinking that to make a difference we have to do and achieve great things but so far I am finding that this doesn’t always have to be the case. Small things can matter just as much as big things especially when they are done consciously and purposefully.
My morning meditations count.
Sharing a positive article on Facebook counts.
Writing this blog counts.
Phoning my Dad counts.
Eating mindfully counts.
Practising gratitude counts.
Pausing throughout the day to breathe deeply counts.
Immersing myself in doing something creative counts.
Listening with compassion to others counts.
How about you? How do you spend your day? You may be surprised by how much you can influence the world around you simply by being mindful of the ways you radiate love into the world and by making this the top priority in your life.
In the end I am convinced that we will all come to the realisation that this is the only thing that ever truly matters.
Today while engaged in the routine cleaning of the house a great opportunity presented itself to me - the opportunity to practise being grateful. Rather than mindlessly doing my chores in my normal, half hearted way I found myself slowing down and being mindful of all the thing that I had to be grateful. Rather than being a little (or a lot!) resentful of the fact that I had to do the cleaning in the first place I began to find that I was expressing gratitude for the simple fact that I had a house to attend to.
As I moved my familiar ornaments and pictures in order dust and polish my furniture I found that my heart was opening to the memories of so many people whose presence in my life had enriched it in so many ways.
There was the plant bought for me by my friend Edna, the photo frame my niece bought for me on my wedding day, the little african bowl that was given to me as a thank you present by my neighbours daughter, the painting of Durham cathedral and the associations of home, prayer and sanctuary which it offers me, the mother's day cards lovingly picked and given to me by my two daughters, the family photographs scattered around the place.
Rather than just simply letting myself be reminded of these people and places today I made time to stand in stillness for a while and to feel from the heart the energy of their presence in my life and to offer a silent "Thank you" to them. This doesn't have to take too long - a few seconds can be enough to make a difference.
By actually savouring and enjoying the routine task of cleaning rather than rushing through it in order to get on to the next, possibly more pleasurable task, today I actually found that my chores had uplifted me rather than drained me.
Taking time to be appreciative ( to remind ourselves of the preciousness of life) is definitely beneficial to us and a practise worth cultivating.
Who knows perhaps we may be able to find it within us to become grateful and appreciative for the simple fact that we are alive and living.For surely we don't have to wait for things to materialise for us before we say "Thank you" for them. We can after all simply say "Thank you" for the generous gift of life itself.
This post should have been published last year, following the birth of my first grandchild however due to a busy schedule I forgot all about it and only found it in my archives yesterday! It seems fitting to post it now as my grandson is approaching his first birthday....how time flies!
Recently I have had the most wonderful of experiences, that of being present for the birth pf my first grandchild. I was thrilled when my daughter Sarah asked me if I would be her birthing partner along with her husband but I was totally unprepared for the profound way it would affect me.
Watching my daughter give birth birthed something in me too - it birthed a deep and lasting impression about life that I want to share with you now.
We are perhaps all familiar with the old saying 'no pain, no gain' and whereas there is a certain truth in this I know now that in order to reach the gain we have to feel that pain in the depth of our being, not just know about it superficially or have a general awareness of it, but actually feel it fully, in its entirety so that our whole body can respond to it.
At one point during my daughter's labour the doctor gave her some advice that I feel is crucial advice for us all. As my daughter was crying out in pain the doctor told her to stop shouting out loud, which he said was just pushing energy away from her when she needed the energy to aid her in giving birth. Instead the doctor told Sarah to use the energy of the pain to help her deliver her child.
This simple piece of advice has not left me since and I have been unable to stop thinking about it. How often do we cry out in pain, in frustration, in disbelief, in anger? How often do we give vent to our feelings rather than feel them? When we do this we are actually pushing away energy that we could use more creatively - energy that could be used to help us birth a new experience for example.
How many of us long for the world to be different? How many of us long for an end to war and terror and hatred and revenge? These longings are born from the heart, from the place of feeling within us that informs us of how life should be.
Birthing a brave new world needs courage. The word courage has its roots in the Latin word cor which means heart. Literally courage means the age of the heart. A brave new world will be born when we have the courage then to live from the heart, when we let the heart inform our thinking and not the other way around. We have created a topsy turvy world where rational and logical thinking have replaced heart knowledge. We worship intellect over intuition; thought over feeling; mind over body.
But this is not as it is meant to be.
The energy of life is essentially good. It is bold, vibrant, passionate, full of life, creative, powerful, supportive and pleasing. The energy of life is full of intent to create, to give life, to birth life, to expand and grow. It is generous in nature. When we feel truly alive we feel all these things, in fact we are all these things and precisely because of this we experience the world as beautiful. At times like this life appears to be perfect and we wouldn’t change a thing! If you doubt this think back to a time when you were in love and life felt wonderful – for a time.
However times like these can be few and far between. Mostly we live with, at best, a low level of dismay at the way the world is and more often than not with a full blown irritation/anger at the evil we see and have reported to us on a daily basis.
It’s interesting to note that the word ‘live’ when spelt backwards is ‘evil’.
It’s my belief that when we align ourselves with the true energy of life then we get to experience life as it should be. We thrive and we 'live' in harmony and at peace with the world. However when we refuse to be in harmony with the principles of life then we engage in 'evil 'and ‘wrongdoing’. In other words we become sinners! I hesitate to use words like sin and evil knowing that they are full of religious overtones and can fuel shame, blame, judgement and guilt.
Yet they are fitting words.
The word sin is misunderstood. It owes its origins to an archery term where to sin meant to miss the mark. In other words to sin means to miss the point of life. We sin when we no longer live our lives in tune with our own aliveness and our feelings of being 'alive' choosing instead to be governed by our thoughts and thinking. We sin when we no longer 'live' but think about living instead. We do 'evil' when we no longer sing the tune in our heart; the faithful tune of life, when we no longer allow ourselves to feel the full extent of our common humanity.
What is needed is for the human race to choose to sing a new song; to revert back to the original tune of life that birthed us. To do this we need to repent. To repent doesn’t mean to say we’re sorry and then go our own merry way without changing anything. No! To repent is a verb. It is a doing word. To repent means that we actively start to live differently. To repent means to turn around and backtrack towards that which is true and life giving, refusing to live any longer with that which is false. Literally when we repent we turn 'evil 'around so that the letters in the word ‘evil’ begin to spell 'live' again! To repent means to begin to 'live' again rather than to merely exist. To repent means to experience a new birth.
But how do we do this?
Well, logically if we are to sing a new song then we need to listen to a new tune.
Before we can listen to a new tune we need to make sure that we can truly identify the tune that we are currently listening to. If we don’t do this then how will we be able to distinguish it from any other tune? If we are not fully conscious of the tune we are currently hearing then it may just reappear disguised as a new tune when all the while it is the same old tune just sung in a different key!
In trying to identify the tune that plays incessantly in the background of your life and which unconsciously shapes your days try asking yourself some questions.
Do I hold any entrenched views on life?
Do I have any habitual ways of behaving?
What are my habitual thought patterns?
What do I spend most of my days thinking about?
What are my reading habits/eating habits/TV habits?
What, if anything, has a hold on me?
What drives me?
How am I stuck in my ways?
Where am I most resistant to change?
Life is what we make it....if we don’t like what we have made then we have the power to change it.
It’s that simple BUT it’s not easy because our habits have an energy and a life all of their own and they will hang onto that life with all their might, not submitting readily to change. We’ve all heard the old saying ‘Old habits die hard!’ and it’s true. Our habits have a hold on us and even if this hold is at times stifling and restrictive it at least feels secure and safe; it is the devil we know and often we would rather stay with it than reach for the uncomfortable realms of new possibilities. But that will not birth a brave new world – only the energy of change can do this.
The vibrant energy of life is within u, always faithful to its intent to birth new life. However to be fully effective this energy needs room to move. When we stay stuck in old patterns of thinking, being and doing we stifle the life giving energy and hinder its effectiveness.
Staying stuck keeps ‘evil’ firmly in the place where ‘live’ should be. It keeps judgement where compassion should be; it keeps fear where love should be; it keeps separation where connection should be; it keeps our hearts longing for life when they should be experiencing it; it fuels the chase for more rather than the feeling of being fulfilled and it keeps us striving and not thriving.
Learning to rearrange our lives in accordance with the energy that allows us to 'live' asks us to be brave and bold, to feel, to give, to be willing to change, to accept everything with a courageous heart and to believe that it is our birthright to 'live' free from the stranglehold of 'evil'.
We already have within us all we need to make the necessary switch. the ability to 'live' is hard wired into our DNA. The letters/code is already there - in fact we do not have to change anything about ourselves only be willing to begin the process of rearranging the letters, unscrambling the code and reordering our lives in accordance with what we know at the deepest level of our heart to be true.
This is the pathway to a brave new world. It is the road less travelled but it is all the more beautiful because of this. Others have gone before us and laid a trail all we have to do now is to decide if we are willing to follow them?
Do you ever long to blossom into the fullness of yourself, to feel the scent of your own beauty and smile your inner radiance to the world? I know I do.
However I find that the more I experience life the more I come to the conclusion beauty is not perhaps what I have been taught to believe it is. Traditionally I have seen the beauty of the rose as being attributed to its petals, the blossom, the flower and its sweet smell while the less desirable parts of the plant – the roots, stem, leaves and thorns seem to have no place in my concept of beauty at all!
Today though I am beginning to realise (that is to make real in my own life) the truth that beauty is not just about the so called 'nice' things but is more about experiencing wholeness (holiness).
We cannot know our own beauty (holiness) with being whole, without embracing all aspects of the flowering life. In classical psychology this is referred to as integrating our shadow self. The shadow self is everything that we have deemed to be unacceptable about ourselves – it can include so called positive attributes of self (light shadows) as well as the so called negative (dark shadows). We humans have a tendency to want to run from the things we don’t like, to hide from them, to deny them, avoid them or at the very least minimise them. But the truth is we can never run from, or escape our shadows because our true nature is light and where there is light there is always a shadow – at least on this earthly plane! OUr shadows will follow us wherever we go so doesn't it make sense to at least try to make friends with them?
Jesus the Christ advised us to love our enemies yet learning to love that which we hate is a tall order. Returning to the idea of the rose again we might like to take note of the fact that a rose cannot blossom into its own fullness without the dark, messiness of the soil in which it is planted. It is the nutrients in the soil that feed the rose while the sunlight and water nurture and encourage its growth too. Without soil the plant cannot grow; without the sunlight it cannot grow either. Both are needed in order for the full beauty of the rose to be seen and experienced. So too it is for us. We need light and dark in order to shine. Look at the night sky – without the darkness how would we know the beauty of the stars?
If we want to shine, or blossom then we have to find a way to be open to the darkness of the soil. Being open means we are free to feel the soil around us and so take from it that which will nourish our own growth and maturation as human beings. If we close down then the soil becomes hard and compacted and we cannot feel our way through it. The organ of feeling is the heart so we need to cultivate an open heart – a heart that is fully functioning will allow itself to feel the full array of emotions available to us as human beings. When we are open we feel all our emotions, not just some of them, not just the ones that we have deemed acceptable.
All emotions are fuel and fodder for our own growth. Once we have felt them and taken from them what we need to take from them then they are free to move through us and pass away. Feelings, emotions are just energy (E) in motion; they are meant to come and go. When we don’t feel them, when we don’t give them room to be, then they hang around inside us. They become our unresolved issues. They fester and solidify in us. Our hearts harden in accordance with this and our growth is stunted. What we resist persists within us until we find the courage to soften our hearts enough to begin the feeling process. There is no way round this. We cannot know our own beauty without knowing our own ugliness. We cannot know our own divinity without knowing our humanity too. This is just the way it is – we are spirit beings (divine beings) that have chosen to become earthly, human (from humus/soil/earth) beings in order that we may experience our own nature. We need to live and breathe and grow in a world of relativity if we are to know ourselves at all. Accepting the limitations of being human without succumbing to them is the true meaning of being humble.
If we refuse to accept our own divinity them we flounder in a false humility. If we reach only for the divinity and what we deem to be good then we fall into arrogance and false pride. If we seek the light without the dark or vice versa we will never grow into the fullness of ourselves. Our growth will always be limited, partial and incomplete and based on very shaky foundations.
If we want to grow we must follow the middle way where both light and dark influence us. The middle way is not an easy path and it is not for the faint hearted. it seems that many are called to it but few choose to follow it! However if we don’t want to stay stuck in outdated modes of thinking, in traditions that no longer serve us, in beliefs that we no longer feel to be true, in jobs that no longer satisfy us, in relationships that no longer nurture us or in bodies that no longer work for us then we must reach deep into the pain and uncomfortable parts of our lives and reclaim what we find there.
There is no need to fear the dark - remember how the bible promised us that the darkness would never overcome the light? If we think about this we know it to be true. Shadows cannot exist without the light that created them – so darkness is always secondary to light. Darkness is our second nature; light our first nature. Knowing this we can learn to feel our way through the darkness like a blind person feels their way through life, trusting that the light is still there even if we can't see it at this particular time (just as we know that the sun is still shining even when it is obscured from our sight by clouds!). When we allow to feel without judging the feeling then we open ourselves to feel/sense/intuit/ and respond to the light that is always present within, around and before us.
Feeling the darkness rather than reacting to it enables us to respond to the light and when we respond to both we are whole and our own holiness blossoms as a radiant beauty for all to see.
Do you ever long to just be left alone? Do you ever find yourself saying I just need some space? Does the phrase ‘Stop the world I just want to get off’ ever resonate with you?
I know I answer a deep heartfelt ‘Yes!’ to all of these questions.
I get over whelmed easily if my social diary gets too full, if the days are too busy, if I spend too much time with other people at the expense of time on my own and yet it is not easy to admit to the need for my own company, my need for time out from the routines of life, my need for space.
Time out for good behaviour.
We are all familiar with this saying. The idea behind it is that we reward ourselves with our much longed for, precious ‘time out’ ONLY when we have completed all, or the majority, of the things on our seemingly endless list of things that must be done. ‘Time out’ is seen as a reward for good behaviour. But what if our usage of this saying is all wrong and we’ve actually got it all back to front?
What if time out for good behaviour actually means that we need first and foremost to experience ‘time out’ in order to allow ourselves time to behave in ways that are different to our normal ways of behaving? This might mean having ‘time out’ for quiet reflection, to catch our breath, for meditation or just to relax and be still. In this way time out for good behaviour isn’t a reward for being good but a crucial and important way to connect with our own innate goodness, our own inner ‘good/god’ self.
I believe that our need for ‘time out’ is so much more than a need to withdraw from people. It is a need to connect with our own inner spaciousness. The word alone is often misunderstood - it is actually two words ( all one ) rolled into one. To be alone means to be in the place where we are all one, to be whole and reconciled to the Oneness at the heart of life.
We need space because we are space.
Scientists tell us that we are composed of 99.9% space. There is so much more to us than meets the eye. We are all energetic beings and at any one time we are composed both of energy that is unseen (i.e. empty of matter) and energy that appears as solid matter. The energy that is unseen is our spirit energy. Spirit energy is our own inner spaciousness, it is the non-material aspect of our being, the life that we are as opposed to the life that we have. When we can connect with this spacious part of ourselves we find that our lives are enriched with some wonderful qualities - gentleness, peace, joy, love, calmness, kindness and an enduring capacity for inner contentment. These qualities of spirit are vital to our health and well being and yet many of us still find it hard take the ‘time out’ that is necessary in order for us to experience these qualities on a regular basis.
Why is this?
Imagine this. I have in front of me a large sheet of white paper on which I have drawn a black dot in the middle. I show it you and ask, “What do you see?”
What do you think would be your reply?
Chances are you would say – “I see a black dot.”
Why is it that we see the black dot but not the white paper?
News only becomes news because it is out of the ordinary – it is the black dot in the middle of the white page.
War and violence are only worth commenting on because our normal state of living is peaceful.
Crime only makes the headlines because most of us live upright and law abiding lives.
Corruption and dishonesty only makes the news because most of us live honest lives.
Bad news is only news because so much of life is good.
It is the extraordinary that captivates us not the ordinary. Because of this we end up giving large amounts of our attention to what is wrong in the world while paying very little attention to what is good.Many of us have literally become hooked on drama and are unable to function with it!
What we give our attention to becomes our reality because our thoughts are powerful magnets that attract into our lives whatever we are placing our focus on. By the energetic law of attraction the universe relays back to us the things that we focus most intently on.
If we concentrate on the black dot then we will see a world that is black. If we concentrate on the bad news we will see a world that is bad. If we focus on terror then we shouldn't be surprised when we experience terror in our live's in the form of fear, unease, distress etc.
And it’s not just the news that portrays the black spot. Reality TV, soap operas and drama all play their part too. In fact it never ceases to amaze me how we can be enthralled by violence on the big screen and yet abhor it when it turns up in our own back yard! Still we somehow manage to stubbornly refuse to see the connection.
Even adverts have a power all of their own – they give out the message that there is something that we need in order to be happy, healthier, richer, more popular etc. Adverts focus on lack and greed and so have the power to attract these into our lives. Much of popular TV works on our desires for more – more money, more experiences, a new home, a better home, a home in the sun, a better body, a new romance....it goes on and on!
It's a great marketing tool – but we need to be aware of which market we are buying into!
The opinions I express here are my own. However I offer them with the word 'syat' next to them. 'Syat' is a word used by the Jain Tribe in India which means 'To the best of my knowledge SO FAR.' In the spirit of openness I invite comments from anyone whether you agree with my point of view or not. In this way we can all learn and grow together. Thank you.