Water Fills The Space It Finds Itself In


Water fills the space it finds itself in.

 

When I recently found myself in an uncomfortable situation where I felt attacked, I was, at first, drawn into anger, in many of the dimensions of that old and familiar emotion. Anger seems the first place I go, when a situation spins out of order and sense. My “buttons” get pushed and I am dragged off in the direction of my reptilian, crisis oriented brain.

The dark clouds of raw, untamed, uncivilized emotions and untempered responses obscure my usual cheery, gentile approach to the daily challenges of life. It is a quick journey to the Dark Side.

I want to just throw my thunderbolts, and shoot endless rounds of arrows into my foe, throwing my weight around and relentlessly wage my own private war.

Old fears show up, ghosts of anxieties past, spurred on by familiar inadequacies, the voices of old and powerful critics, and the scars of self doubts.

My rational, more civilized mind, just sits there, paralyzed by all the sabre rattling, until I can take some deep breaths. I’ll need to allow myself to listen to my frontal lobes, home of reason, logic, and good memories of my prior successes in peace making and problem solving.

Slowly, thoughts of how I am a good problem solver come to mind. I can entertain the idea that challenges in my life don’t need me inputting launch codes into my own arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

I am capable, I remind myself. And, my many talents at peace making and problem solving can be applied to the problem at hand.

I realize I haven’t faced this particular problem in the past, but I have worked through things and lived to tell the tale.

I just need to apply those hard-earned skills into this new challenge.

Filling the challenge with my own unique abilities is what is needed. I need to be adaptable, flexible, and, yes, methodical. The reptilian reaction of anger, rage, and war-making won’t work, and will only lay waste to relationships and problem solving.

Change and crisis, and that initial response of anger, spiced with overpowering feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, failure, rejection, jealousy, and revenge, all stirred up, makes for a toxic cocktail.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m addicted to that gut-wrenching response, and those stress chemicals are my own kind of heroin. Or, am I just a human being, hardwired to be the cranky alligator awakened from his nap.

Yet, when I can pull myself away from all that, and let my gut unclench, I can see the forest for the trees, and I can adapt my problem solving skills, and get to work.

I pour myself into the shape of the problem, like water in an ice filled glass, and fill in the spaces with my skills. Once I take this approach, and take off my armor and lay down my sword, and pick up my peacemaker tools, the solutions show up, and I can move ahead.

“Let it go,” I tell myself, pushing away the hot coals of rage and anger. “Give it time and this will play itself out.”

When I slow down the war talk, and take my time in walking through the battleground, I do better, and I start even liking myself. I begin to believe that this too shall pass, and I don’t need to start World War III. Later, that seems a simple truth. But, in my first response, I just don’t see it. I’m only the ‘gator in the swamp.

Life does that, giving us opportunities to revisit a lesson, and dust off some old tools. Again, I relearn the lesson and realize that not every affront and perceived insult calls for my reptilian warrior mode.

“It’s just life,” I remind myself. “I’ll get through it, and move on.”

I can deal with this, and do that work well.

I come to that, eventually, after I remind myself that I am like water, able to fill the space I find myself in.

 

–Neal Lemery, August 8, 2017

 

Thanksgiving, 2015


Finding Thankfulness and Gratitude in My Life

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
–Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss philosopher

The harvest is in, the garden has been put to bed, and the weather has turned cold. The days are growing shorter; winter has arrived. It is the season of a comfortable chair, a warm blanket, a mug of tea and a good book.

It is also a time of being thankful and grateful. At Thanksgiving, we gather around the table, sharing food and companionship. It is a time of quiet celebration.

Thanksgiving is a quiet, contemplative holiday with few expectations. Simply being together and sharing a meal is all that the holiday seems to require of us. Oh, and the obligatory giving of thanks. In the rush towards the consumerism and frenzy of Christmas, it seems easy to slide right by this time of giving thanks, and plunge into the next holiday.

And, when we do that, we forget to pause and reflect, and to be truly thankful.

The real holiday, the real celebration this week is a time to go inward, to truly appreciate what we have in our lives, and how we are to live, to truly be children of God. Thanksgiving is all about love, in all of its dimensions.

This year there is much to be thankful for: the necessities of life, purposeful work, time with friends and family, health, and being able to serve, to be of service.

People in my life this year have achieved much. One friend is moving into a new home, his first, very own, this is really mine, home. A year ago, he was adrift, unemployed, unsure of himself. Today, due to his hard work and his belief in all of his possibilities, he has a rich, purposeful life.

Another friend is casting aside distractions and old misery, and healing old wounds. He’s taking charge, doing healthy things, putting his life in order.

Another friend passed a test in school. He conquered his fears, his self doubts; he has conquered his sabotage of a future of rich possibilities. He is ready to move on, and he has shown to himself that he can grow, and learn, and be successful. He has climbed his own mountain, and can believe in himself.

I am recharging my own creative energies. I am writing a serious book that gives voice to those who are less fortunate. I am immersing myself in creating music and art, and being an advocate for others. I am pausing to look at the beauty of the world, in this very moment, to appreciate who I am and where I am going.

All this is scary, terrifying work. What if I actually accomplish what I dream? Are there really no barriers, no limits to what I can accomplish, if I put my mind and my soul into the effort? I might be successful? Me? But, then I will have to take on even greater challenges, and be responsible for my effort. Really? Little old me?

Yes, me. I am the one. I am the one who can change the world, one little step at a time. Changing the world is really my job. And, I can do it.

We all have our obstacles. And we are all capable of success, and believing in our strengths, our possibilities.

I am a citizen of the world and I pay attention, I learn, and I try to apply my energies and my awareness to being an instrument of positive change.

We live in troubled times. Yet that has also been true in years past. Every generation has faced that challenge, and had to answer that question, can I really accomplish my dream?

I choose to be an agent of change, and to not retreat into silence and indifference. I believe we are called to respond and to act, to be proactive, to be God’s instruments of change.

Maybe I can’t wave my magic wand and achieve world peace. But, I can move in that direction. I can bring myself and my work into a state of constructive peacefulness. I can work to nurture that energy into my family, my neighborhood, and my community.

I can make a difference.

I can join with other like-minded people, and consistently do good works.

Each of us is a peace-maker. Peace making has to start somewhere.

“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me,” the song says.

We all have our story. Be a listener, and hear someone speak their truth, perhaps for the first time. Let everyone’s story be told, and be heard.

Each of us can do an act of kindness and compassion. Pay an act of kindness forward. Buy a stranger a coffee, help an elderly person with a package, talk to a friend, visit the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned. Maybe bring a meal to a sick neighbor. Volunteer.

Strike up a conversation while waiting at the grocery store check out. Ask the clerk how they are doing and listen to their answer. Hear them, deeply and compassionately. Hug a friend who seems upset, lost, without hope.

In any of that work, there is kindness and compassion. You are giving of yourself, and you are showing others how to be human, how to be kind and loving.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi said.

Our example, just something simple, can change one person’s life. And in that, we change the world. We make our planet just a little better.

Isn’t that the Golden Rule? Isn’t that what the prophets, the scions of great religions have preached? Isn’t that being an instrument of God’s love for every one of us?

Each of us is special, unique. We are here for a reason. And, isn’t that reason to show love and compassion, to be kind, generous, thoughtful of others? By our example, we show the way, we demonstrate how people should really live, how we really are the children of God.

Today, I give thanks, and I am grateful. And, in my own, small way, I am making a difference, I am changing the world, one small act of kindness at a time.
—Neal Lemery, November 24, 2015

Peace Making


Peace Making

It is a lofty goal. Religions preach it. Politicians speechify it. Song writers laud it. We all like to say we are peaceful, loving people.

And, it’s really the other guy who can’t get along, who pushes us into the argument, the fight, the war.

“They started it,” we say, justifying our own escalation of the argument, as we stiffen our backs, and pick up the nastier word, the bigger stick.

Our wars are longer now. This country’s ten year war in Afghanistan barely makes the main section of the daily newspaper, and rarely hits the front page. Our “victory” in Iraq really isn’t seen as a victory of democracy over tyranny, but rather a bad nightmare we should really rather forget.

The latest Israeli-Palestinian rocket war is seen as inevitable and unsolvable. And, folks quickly blame one side or the other for the terror and destruction, the deaths of families, and the unbending, inflexible positions of the major players.

Not many people see the irony in both sides justifying their geographical arguments on scriptures and theologies that also preach unconditional love and peacefulness being the true direction to humanity from an all loving God.

And, at home, war is being waged. We have the highest rate of jailing our fellow citizens of any country in the world. And, we criminalize and jail drug addicts. Our economy continues to impoverish millions of families. Our politics of late turn into high paid deceptive and vicious advertising and name calling, rather than looking towards solutions to difficult problems, and an expression of compassion and helping others achieve the American Dream.

Aside from all the noise, a quiet revolution is going on. Without fanfare, without a lot of chest thumping and back slapping, change is afoot.

Volunteers, neighbors, students, good people from all walks of life are making a difference. Soup kitchens and warming centers are springing up in the basements of churches. Food banks, community gardens, and community centers enjoy quiet and energetic support. Twelve step programs are strong and are attracting healthy members. Prison outreach programs, local music jams, potlucks, and community thrift stores are thriving.

We baby boomers are retiring now, in record numbers, and we are volunteering, helping out, talking with people. We are engaged in our communities, our neighborhoods, and in our homes. People are tending their gardens, taking up crafts, and working with others. We teach each other new skills, and we are reaching out to others, on every level.
The grass roots in this country are healthy and strong. Social media has expanded the front porch and the neighborhood coffee shop into a bigger, national neighborhood of old friends, old classmates, and long lost relatives. New connections are made, and our common humanity, our common passion for connecting with others, for caring for each other, are re-weaving the social fabric.

As a country, and as a community, we are re-creating our social conversations, and deciding what topics we will take on. Newspapers and the major television networks, and other corporate media are finding their audiences shrinking. New books are now self-published, and marketed by word of mouth and on Facebook and blogs. We are taking charge of what we talk about and what we learn.

The richness of our own wisdom, our heritage, our values, and our work is now easily shared, and easily explored. What I think and what I want to say to others now can be quickly “aired” to not just my household, not just to my buddies at the coffee shop, but to the world. With a few keystrokes, my morning rant about one thing or another can be put out to all my friends, and, literally, to the world.

Someone thousands of miles away can read what I think, and can find my thoughts, on their computer and their cell phone. “Google it” is the motto of this decade, and the back fence conversations start up with a smart phone text or a reply to a Facebook posting. We’ve become master weavers of the social fabric.

We’ve rediscovered the value of those rich one on one conversations, the power of reaching out and simply saying, “I care about you.” Yes, we do that electronically, but we also do that face to face, neighbor to neighbor. This is our reality; we are rejecting the mass media view of the world, and being told what to think and what is truly important.

This morning, the cashier at Denny’s and I had a rich conversation about the real meaning of Thanksgiving and thankfulness, and the crass commercialization of Christmas. She’s rejecting that commercial hoopla and instead, she’s gathering and distributing underwear and toys for foster kids. Her mom is mentoring those kids, filling a need in her community, changing lives.

I’m spending time with young men at the youth prison in my town, playing guitar, being friends, hopefully showing them a more fulfilling way to live. Me buying them coffee at the canteen, just being there, and listening, is opening hearts, and changing all of us.

Yes, small steps, but in the right direction. Together, we are an army, working for change.

Perhaps this country’s “Arab Spring” starts with those conversations at Denny’s, or engaging your neighbor in an idea to revitalize your town. It starts with each one of us, one step, and then another.

We’ve rediscovered the power of taking the initiative, of finding our voice in our community. When I post something on Facebook, or write a rant about something on my blog, or “share” a particular article I’ve found on line, I’m really joining my neighbors on the front porch, or at the coffee shop.

I don’t have to depend on the corporate media to set the agenda, or tell me what the real “news” is, or what to believe. I’m my own news editor now, and I produce my own news show. My friends and neighbors do that, too. Our conversations, in person and on line, are abuzz with new ideas, rich discussions, and the rebuilding of our collective social consciousness.

In all that buzz, we are rediscovering the power of that one on one conversation, about caring for each other, and getting involved with each other. That is the practice of love, love of self, love of family, love of our fellow humankind. Isn’t that the true meaning of the holidays, our true spiritual calling?

We are getting off the couch and thinking for ourselves again, and rebuilding our community, making peace.

–Neal Lemery 11/22/2012