We Live in a Benevolent Universe.
I believe we are surrounded by a benevolent universe, not a hostile one. I guess that makes me an optimist. I think there are gifts tucked into every experience. Even sorrow. Even heartbreak.
Lately, I realize that with trust and surrender and grace, life is much easier. I don’t fight with what is. What is, is. What is the point in resisting it? And when I stop pushing against the energies roiling around me, I feel peace. As Marianne Williamson once said (quoting “A Course in Miracles” I believe): I can be right. Or I can have peace.
Put that way, I choose peace. Every time.
So, I marvel lately that despite my troubles, I am generally (and genuinely) enjoying my life. Part of this I attribute to my Buddhist practice of nearly 27 years (OK, maybe more than part of it); part of it flows out of my realization that feeling good is preferable to feeling bad; and part of stems from getting older and realizing that whatever I turn my focus onto, increases.
That means if I want to experience peace, I cannot watch violent television, horrifying news, or read garbage that denigrates me as soon as I pick it up. I cannot complain about what I do not have. I cannot focus on exclusively (or even partially) the dark side of life. I must consciously choose to see both the light and the dark, equally — with clear eyes. (That doesn’t mean, I am uninformed about what’s going on in the world. It simply means I don’t take a bath in it and tell myself I am staying informed.)
As human beings, I think we sometimes enjoy drama a little bit too much. We like our messes.
We enjoy jumping in mud puddles and battling imaginary enemies (or real ones) or eating things that poison us (be they relationships or toxic food or terrible jobs). We are so strong and so smart, we feel we absolutely must swallow a whole six pack of sturm und drang in order to feel alive. That is what makes us “deep” or “artistic” or “important”: our ability to hit ourselves in the head with a hammer over and over.
Well, I used to hate myself with the best of ’em and wallow in a whole lot of ugly self-pity. I dragged around clinically depressed for most of my twenties. The thing is, when I approached my life from a place of blue & lack, I found I only experienced more of the same-old, same-old. The more I railed and moaned in agony over my shit existence, the more shitty it became. Nothing ever changed. Clearly the sturm und drang approach wasn’t effective at producing anything — anything — I actually wanted.
I’ve heard the definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. If I wanted a different life, I needed to take a different approach.
So, slowly I made changes. I quit my toxic job and took a spiritual sabbatical (a.k.a. long term unemployment). I read and slept and looked for work and wrote and I found my way back to myself. I eventually got a job teaching (where I have been for the past eight years) and cleaned up my finances. I looked into the dark rooms of my life and sought out the light that was there. Even in the blackest corners, the still small voice was there.
“My religion is kindness.” ~ The Dalai Lama
The Still Small Voice.
I listened to that kind voice.
I ignored the ravages of my “monkey mind” (the ego part of me that rages and tells me that I might as well give up because I am a piece of crap and I will never amount to anything).
The kind voice simply said, “Keep going.”
The kind voice said “Get quiet.” It said, “Be grateful.”
That still, small voice — whether you believe it is God, or spirit, or Mary, or one’s wild intuition or hyperactive imagination, saved me. It gave me the keys to the life I have now teaching and writing. My focus now is on feeling good and appreciating the wonder and fullness of my life. And I realize, the little stuff –a good cup of coffee, my dog snoring at the foot of the bed, flannel sheets, fresh blueberries — those are the things that make life sweet.
Every day, begin.
Yes, the world is still full of sorrow. But I cannot let my focus wander there for long.
Every day, I begin again. Every day is another chance to see kindness, generosity, sacrifice and love. Every moment and every breath can be a force that pours light into the equation. I can dance even on the blackest night. It is my choice. Always.
© 2012 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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