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Have you ever had the experience of becoming intensely fearful about something or angry at someone and afterwards wondered where the heck did that feeling come from? Most anger and fear is based on past experiences. The past gets projected onto the present and future, and we see the world, others, and ourselves through a distorted lens of pain, fear and other old emotions. It is our memory of fear and pain that makes us feel so vulnerable and unsafe. And it is this feeling of vulnerability that makes us want to control and predict and protect ourselves at all costs. Rather than see the situation clearly, free from past associations, we misperceive, we make assumptions, and we react from that hurt and fearful part of ourselves.
What keeps us from truly knowing inner peace? The answer is simpler than you would think; when we hold on to anger and when we are unable to let go of fear, we obstruct ourselves from experiencing peace and well-being.
There is a wonderful little book, Love is Letting Go of Fear, based on a wonderful larger book, A Course in Miracles, which teaches lessons for peace and happiness. According to the Course, the key to personal transformation rests on the foundation of forgiveness and love. Below are some of the main points, mostly things we already know but tend to forget. These words have always been important reminders for me—may they also help you to remember how to live from love.
Make peace of mind your single goal, and forgiveness your most important means to reach that goal.
Forgiveness is the letting go of the past; letting go of whatever you think other people have done to you, or whatever you think you have done to them. Forgiveness means correcting your misperception that the other person harmed you, that the world is unsafe, and that you need to defend or attack back.
What you believe is what you see, and what you see is what you get. You can choose what thoughts you want to have in your mind. You can choose to see the world as hostile or friendly. And you can choose to see others as extending love, or being fearful and calling for help in the form of love. This requires a shift in perception, but you do have a choice in what you perceive. You can change how you perceive the world, how you perceive others, and how you perceive yourself.
Let go of needing to be right or needing to change the other person. Rather than finding fault, choose to see the good and beauty in yourself and in others. Practice forgiveness and non-judgment, looking beyond the small fragment that is “weak” or “bad” in order to see the greater good in the whole person. Give your full love and acceptance to others without conditions or expectations. Remember to do the same for yourself. Thoughts and words are powerful and what you believe and express is essential. Ask yourself, is this communication or action loving to the other person and is it loving to me?
You can continue to think and act based on your ego and the past or you can make a conscious decision every day to think and act based on Love. The world’s distorted message is that you have to get other people’s love before you can feel love within. The truth is, that you are love, and that as you give love to others you teach yourself what you are.
When you practice giving love and forgiveness in this way, inner peace is your gift in return.
Jack Johnson sings, “I hope this old train breaks down, Then I could take a walk around, And see what there is to see, And time is just a melody, All the people in the street, Walk as fast as their feet can take them, I just roll through town, And though my windows got a view, The frame I’m looking through, Seems to have no concern for now, So for now, I need this Old train to breakdown Oh please just Let me please breakdown.”
Why are we always in such a hurry, racing around like chickens with our heads cut off? You know the feeling… preoccupied, frenzied, rushed; moving so fast that everything is blurry and you lose sight of what’s real, what’s important. Life has become so busy, the pace dramatically accelerated. We are an overplanned, overcommitted and overwhelmed lot. And what’s the byproduct of all this productivity? More stress, anxiety, and unhappiness. In the midst of trying to do too many things, our attention divided and scattered, we end up living through nothing fully. We end up not being present for our lives or the reality unfolding in front of us.
Often, when we are inconvenienced or delayed, when the “train breaks down”, we are really being asked to slow down and pay more attention to the now. We are being given an opportunity to take a breath, to look around, and actually experience this moment. It gives us a pause, a helpful interruption, to what is normally the fast-paced, endless chain-reaction of our daily to-do tasks and life events. Rather than continue to race ahead, banging our heads repeatedly against these interruptions, we can slow down and “see what there is to see.”
- Look to the natural world, to nature’s pace, for examples and reminders of living an unhurried life. The wave doesn’t hurry to reach the shore. The tree takes its time to grow. The turtle moves gradually and is at ease.
- Prioritize what’s important. Rather than thinking about, and doing, several things at once, choose the one thing that’s necessary to do right now and fully immerse yourself in it.
- Open your mind and your heart to the newness of life that comes from slowing down to each moment. Living this way, there is always something to learn, something to experience, something to appreciate and enjoy.
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance;
the wise grows it under his feet.” -James Oppenheim
If only I had this thing, then I’d be happy. We say this to ourselves all the time. Certain things have to happen, or we have to accumulate a certain amount, to be successful and content. Our culture trained us to think this way from an early age. And the result; we’re never fully satisfied, never truly happy. As long as we’re thinking we need more, as long as we’re waiting for the next thing to arrive to make us feel fulfilled, we’re missing the moment and preventing ourselves from being touched and amazed by life now.
Mark Nepo said, “One key to knowing joy is being easily pleased.” If we could approach everything that comes our way as special, sacred even, we can know a greater contentment in our lives. Be easily pleased with what each day brings, a sage like Nepo would tell you or a child like my nephew would show you. See the extraordinary in the ordinary. See the amazing in the mundane.
From the atom in a drop of water to the atom in a human being, from the ant to the zebra, from the sky above to the dirt beneath our feet, the extraordinary is all around us all the time. We only need awaken, open our eyes and see things anew. In doing so, we can witness the miracle of life in this very moment, no longer awaiting the next thing or condition that promises happiness. We can experience joy right now if we let life in and let ourselves be amazed by what we find.
“I’m not skinny-enough. I’m not popular-enough. I’m not smart-enough. I’m not strong-enough. I’m not pretty-enough. I’m not successful-enough… I’m not insert-your-own-adjective-here-enough.”
There is a growing mental health epidemic in this country; a crisis of self-esteem that originates from the feeling, “who I am, is not enough.” This all too common thought is bringing a great number of diverse people into therapy offices or the self-help aisle at the local bookstore, looking for a way to feel better about who they are.
What’s particularly tragic about this self-statement, “I’m not enough,” is that too often, this equates to being unacceptable and unlovable. Because I’m not good-enough at this or that, others won’t love me. Or, in order to get approval and love, I must be more. This idea becomes deeply engrained in our minds. We form an image of who we should be, how we should look and sound, what we should be capable of. We give chase but can never quite catch up to the image, never feel satisfied, never feel that it’s enough.
The great secret, one so many of us have forgotten, or never learned in the first place, is that who we are truly is enough. We are acceptable and worthy of love right now, as is, without needing to earn it or provide further proof.
Let this idea take hold and grow. Let go of unattainable expectations and allow yourself to be as you are. Embrace and celebrate the beautiful in you.
- Close your eyes. Take a few deep mindful breaths. Repeat the following words a few times to yourself; who I am, is enough… I completely accept and love myself just the way I am.
- Through out the day, be more aware of how you’re treating yourself and notice your thoughts. Are your self-statements harsh or overly critical?
- Try practicing loving-kindness towards yourself. See if you can gradually integrate more compassionate and accepting self-talk.
- Give yourself permission to be imperfect and make mistakes. Look upon imperfection as a natural part of life and mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s. ~Henry Moore
Eat better. Exercise more. Get up earlier so I don’t feel so rushed in the morning. Meditate consistently. Let go of worrying over the small stuff. Be patient. Spend more time with friends. Find a better balance. And so on, and so on. How many times, at the beginning of a new year, have I uttered these same statements?
I really dislike the idea of making “resolutions” because of the pressure and expectation that creates. And really, if I want to live a better life, that takes resolution throughout the whole year, not just at the start. I guess that’s why, even as I roll my eyes at the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, I still take time to think about what I’d like to recommit to. I like the idea of returning to a better path to wellness; of returning to the things I know will bring me fuller health and happiness.
Rather than setting up massive plans and goals for the entire year, and then feeling disappointed and frustrated with ourselves for falling short, we can look upon New Year’s more as a symbol, representing each new day we have to get it right. Every day offers us a fresh opportunity to be our highest self, to lead the life we desire, and to set into motion the kinds of actions and behaviors that will bring us, and others, greater health, joy, peace and well-being.
- Let the new year be a reminder of new beginnings; a fresh start bringing the opportunity to do those things that are good for your mind, body, heart and soul.
- Remember to think in terms of each new day’s resolution, not the year’s.
- Start each day with a few moments of reflection about the way you want to be today, the way you want to live your life today, and how you can be your best self today. And then, with this powerful purpose, go out into the world and do your best to live it.
Happy New Day. Be Well.