Various things bug us all. They could be small things or significant issues. Whatever the case, there are ways of dealing with agitation. We’re not powerless. As a matter of fact there’s a way to allow ourselves to stand in our own power and not allow these things to bug us. Eckhart Tolle suggests two things in his book The Power of Now, which I think might be very helpful. First, when we get upset, simply become present, aware that we’re upset and don’t resist whatever is bugging us. Oftentimes we walk around not feeling good, or edgy and angry, yet unaware as to where that is coming from. Realizing where it’s coming from is helpful in waking up and, instead of resisting it, it helps to simply accept that that’s the way things are at the moment. But how the hell do we accept something that’s bugging us??? Tolle goes on to suggest a way to do just that, a way that puts us in control and not a victim of outside circumstances. He calls it transparency.
He uses the image of becoming transparent to allow whatever it is that’s bugging us to go right through our bodies, as if we weren’t even there. He says that when we become aware of being bugged by something or someone, or being hurt, to imagine ourselves gradually becoming transparent, as if there were no solid mass to our bodies. Imagine the the hurt or upset going right through us without hitting any solid wall of resitance. I find this a wonderful image. We then stand in our own power and are not victim to whatever or whoever is bugging us. We have a choice and need not get upset or ruin a day by something that someone has said or done!
Now, if you’re anything like me, you need LOTS of practice at this. I still get upset, resist and blow of steem, sometimes saying or doing things in reaction that I shouldn’t. But I am happy to find through Tolle, some help in dealing with agitation. Perhaps with practice I’ll become a more calm, peaceful person when bugged by something or someone.
Depending on what’s going on in your life, the holidays can either be something that you welcome or that you want to avoid, or somewhere in between. Whatever the case, there is, after Christmas, a sense of pause, out of the routine of normal schedule, at least for many. This forms within a natural contemplative space, which points us to a new year that is about to dawn and to thoughts of personal evaluation. All of this of course leads to New Year’s resolutions.
The time when we come near to ending one year and beginning another has a freshness about it. The past is past and we look to the future with new hope. An energy emerges which gives renewed possibility to what previously may have seemed impossible . . . “I’ll never loose weight! I’ll never be consistent about my diet and exercise! I’ll never find time for my kids! I’ll never find a partner! I’ll never overcome this addiction! I’ll never find the right job! I’ll never feed my mind with more good reading! I’ll never have time for prayer or reflection!” . . . And the list goes on. But, this time of year, doesn’t it seem like some of those “nevers” come closer to being possible?
The important thing to remember, I think, is to be consistent with little changes. Even one small change in a day can make a big difference in overcoming inertia.
Do you see the possibility? Go for it!
Matthew 1: 18-24
Joseph, an upright man, a good religious man, embarrassed, frightened, confused and wanting a divorce. Mary a dedicated woman of faith, yet unmarried and pregnant. No room for them to stay and so a cave where animals are kept, shitty and smelly, becomes the place of his birth. . . . Who would ever think that nothing less than God would emerge from this mess?
God chooses to come to us in the mess of life! And our lives at times can certainly be quite messy. There are illnesses, quarrels, wars, misunderstandings, depression, addictions and any number of maladies that can befall us. It is precisely in this mess that God chooses to reveal God’s self. It is precisely this mess which can become the birthing place of wonderful things! When life’s messiness comes upon us, we need not fear, but open ourselves to it as a place where wonderful insights can emerge and otherwise undreamt paths can be revealed!
Luke 1: 5-25
You have given sterility its pregnancy! We are, once again, beckoned to believe in the impossible. We have in our readings two stories of women who were sterile, but become pregnant. It’s interesting to note that these stories are fairly common in the Scriptures and always the child to be born is destined to make a great difference for the good of the people. Great things happen from seemingly impossible situations! Can you believe it?? I have difficulty believing it, like Zechariah, and so I remain unable to speak, paralyzed in my journey. We all experience “sterility” in our lives, in one way or another. What is sterile in your life these days? What’s sterile in the life of our world? Can I believe that this sterility can be overcome and new life can emerge? It’s just a matter of believing! AND taking action. What’s some small thing that I can do today to give pregnancy to a part of my life, or that of our world, that is lifeless and sterile? If I am honest, most of the time I am like Zechariah who basically looks at the angel and says “yeah, . . . Right! You have GOT to be kidding!” Most of the time I am like Zechariah and don’t believe that incredible things can happen in my life and the life of the world. And in my lack of belief, I remain like Zechariah, lifeless, speechless and a bit listless and lethargic. We are knocked over the head again today by God who says, “Wake up! Believe it!” We are again beckoned to walk through our days believing that life CAN be different, that the world CAN be different! The past couple of weeks I have felt listless. This morning when I read these readings and pondered them, I felt deep within me “Yeah right, . . . You have GOT to be kidding!” And then I started to change my thinking and believe that maybe, just maybe the impossible can happen. I’m not sure if it will. But you know what? . . . I’m not listless anymore. A little pregnancy has been given to my listless sterility.
I can understand now where in the Gospels Jesus says, “But when the Son of Man comes will he find any faith on the earth?” We are beckoned in this season to believe in the seemingly impossible! The readings that we have at this time of year from Isaiah bring tears to my eyes. They are so blasted beautiful! For me it’s like watching one of those sweet syrupy Christmas movies where the guy always gets the right girl (or guy as the case may be!). I’ll admit it, when I watch one of those movies I cry. And when I read these absolutely beautiful readings from Isaiah, I sometimes cry. I cry because I am sad because this vision that Isaiah describes isn’t a reality. But I also cry because it beckons me to hope, to believe again. The movie “Polar Express” is a wonderful expression of the belief to which we’re called. When we believe, magical things begin to happen! We begin to hear and see things that we previously did not! “Remember, the magic of Christmas lays in your heart!” (From the movie “Polar Express”)
We’re called in this Advent season to be absolute fools and believe in the seemingly impossible! We’re called to believe that the blind can see, the deaf can hear, that the tyrant will be no more, the arrogant are gone and that the shame of any wrongdoing on our part is removed.
We are called, invited and cajoled in this season to believe in the seemingly impossible! What’s your dream? What’s your dream for our world? Can we believe that it CAN become a reality? “Yes Virginia there IS a Santa Claus! . . . The most real things in this world are those that neither children nor (people) can see.” (From Francis B. Church’s editorial in The New York Sun from 1897, which was later made into the famous movie “Miracle on 34th Street”). “Faith is believing when common sense tells us not to.” (From the movie “Miracle on 34th Street) Can we look beyond the hum drum of our everyday lives and the violence of our world to the Magic underneath it all and to the One who IS there and who so desires to make dreams a reality, . . . if we only believe!
Yes Virginia there IS a Santa Claus! Even good can come from your screwed up family! 🙂
Good things can emerge from seemingly bad or shady experiences. The genealogy of Jesus that we have in Matthew is not an accurate historical record. The purpose of Matthew is to place Jesus in the line of David setting him up as King. As you read the record though, there are some interesting people that emerge like Rahab, the mother of Boaz who was a prostitute, and his wife Ruth who was born of incestuous origins. Of course we also have King David – one of the greats of the Old Testament – who was also an adulterer and murderer. Matthew places Jesus within the lineage of some pretty interesting people! The point is that all is “redeemed.” Our shortcomings, or the shortcomings of our families are not the end of the road. Good things can emerge from seemingly less than perfect people! What one of us is perfect? What one of us does not carry with us some shame of past or present transgressions? Perhaps a lesson today could be to let go of the shame, to let go of the past and to live well in our present, knowing that we are loved, despite our imperfections, and that we can do good, despite our flaws. We need to do what we can to overcome our character defects, . . . yes! But to live in the shame placed on us by ourselves or others only serves to keep us down. It does nothing for us or others. Despite our imperfections, we can still do great good in the world and bring light and life to others!
Some of us who are gay unfortunately have had negative experiences with our families. I know some gay people that were kicked out of their homes when they were teens, others whose partners are never welcome in their family’s homes. I myself was told by my brother around this time last year that I was a spiritual detriment to his family and that he needed to protect them from me. Gratefully I also know families who welcome their gay sons and daughters and their partners with open arms. How blest are they indeed!
Whether we are gay or straight, people sometimes have difficulty with their family. Family issues have a way of coming to the fore around this time when, traditionally, families gather. If you are one who has issues with your family, take heart. Even Jesus‘ family had some issues and his genealogy certainly contained a few characters! I can only imagine what Mary and Joseph’s brothers and sisters must have thought of their nephew at times! No one is really immune. It’s just a part of life.
I think its important, especially this time of year, to have some sense of family, some sense of belonging, particularly for those who have difficulty with their own families. Perhaps it might be a time to look around. Is there someone that we know who is without a sense of family or belonging? Like the One who welcomed all to the table, perhaps we might invite them to our tables. And if you are one who is alone, one who has been rejected, know that you are not rejected from the Divine table, but are embraced in love – no matter what your family, or even your church family may say!
For those of you who might feel a little down lately, know you’re not alone. Many people get down this time of year with all the hype, romance, and hustle that this season can be. As I wrote yesterday, I too have realized that I’ve been dealing with a lot of negative thinking and need to change my thoughts.
12 Step programs have a bit of wisdom to offer those of us who feel a bit down, who wallow in self pity, or who deal with a lot of negative thinking. Get out of yourself! Many times in 12 step meetings you will hear this bit of advise given. If you’re feeling down, wallowing in self pity or in stinking thinking – go help someone. Go help another addict, another person who is struggling in some way. Get out of yourself and just go help someone. This will make you feel better.
I did just that yesterday when I visited a woman in a nursing home, who I know is lonely. When I walked in the room her face literally lit up like a Christmas tree and she hugged me tightly. She was so happy that I had come to visit, if even for a little while. I don’t know who benfitted more though. All I know is that I felt a lot better having seen her.
Feeling some holiday blues? The prescription: Get out of yourself. Take it. You’ll feel better.
Most of us think it’s the other way around, . . . don’t we? When I experience it, when I see it, when you show me, then I’ll believe it. Isn’t this the spoken or inward response that we have to something that even slightly seems out of the ordinary?
Recently I was watching a Christmas movie, I can’t remember what it was called, or even the plot. But what I do remember is this line in the movie: “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing!”
Probably due to years of my father saying things like I would never amount to anything, that I was good for nothing and could do nothing right, I still, at times, grapple with those messages in my head. This weekend was one such weekend. No matter how many times I have been told that I do good work, this weekend I was simply not feeling it, seeing it, or hearing it. I sat there feeling like a failure. Gratefully I rather quickly became aware of these negative voices in my head. And then I thought of the line from that movie. And immediately, in the middle of performing a task for my job, I began to think about all the successes that I’ve had in my job, all the good things that have been done and almost immediately my mood began to shift to the positive. And, not only that, I began to see and feel differently about what I was experiencing in my job performance.
Believing IS seeing. As we believe, so shall we see and experience life. I also realized that I am in the midst of one hellava “stinkin thinking” streek. And as I have moved inward, enveloped by these negative thoughts, I project that energy outward – and it, indeed becomes my reality. I only pray for the grace to continue to become aware of such negative thinking and, by changing what I believe, what I think, that I will see myself and others differently.
It’s SO easy to dwell on what is wrong with our lives, our partner, our job, the church, this or that person and certainly what’s wrong with the world! Why does that seem to come so naturally, yet thinking positively does not.? It’s like we have to train our minds to work and think in different ways. When we do so, then we will come to see life in a new way.
I often ask myself this question: Do I want to be a person that sees and talks about what is good in this world, or what is wrong with it? Whenever I am around someone who consistently has a negative edge to their conversation, I quickly receive an answer to what kind of person I want to be! It’s a drag being around a consistently negative person. Yet I have to admit that I am sometimes negative in what I say and how I perceive myself, others and the world – and I don’t even realize it!
John the Baptist was called to “testify to the light.” I want to be a person that testifies to the light, to what is good. Ironically enough, as the darkness descends, this season is about testifying to what is good in human nature and the world. In the midst of all of our problems, in this season we CONSCIOUSLY take an opportunity to look at what is good, true and beautiful in ourselves and others and celebrate that! The key is in CONSCIOUSLY deciding to look at the good in another.
Today perhaps it’s good to ask ourselves this: Am I person who testify’s to the Light?