Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

The “St. Francis prayer”, above, is one of my favorite prayers.  The first part, asking God’s help in being a better person by attaining specific virtues which help turn difficult situations around seems noble.  It also feels a bit to me like maybe God is doing more of the heavy lifting here and this part seems a bit easy.  Or easier.

Than the second part – in which St. Francis suggests that we (with God’s help, again, of course) put ourselves aside and focus more on the well-being of others.  This too seems noble.  And harder!

I think in big disasters – maybe like Hurricane Irene now barreling up the East Coast – people do pull out their Inner St. Francis and behave well.  Tales of heroism are frequent side-stories to natural disasters and that is very life-affirming. 

I have found that if the going gets really tough, I too spring into action.

But it’s in the day-to-day where I think following the precepts outlined in this wonderful prayer would be most helpful.  And that’s where it’s hardest for me. 

For instance:  the annoying co-worker.  If I stand back from my extreme levels of frustration and anger with her ‘bad behavior’ I can see a frightened, threatened woman, who, in some ways feels backed into a corner and is acting like my kittens do when they are backed into a corner – hissing, clawing, biting and generally making a ruckus.  When my kitties do that, I smile indulgently and try to distract them from whatever is going on.  When my co-worker does that I jump into reactive mode and it’s not my Inner St. Francis who seems to spring out, that’s for sure!

And for me, the hardest line in this prayer is “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned “.  Honestly?  I think the dying part sounds easier than that.  How I can love my grudges!  How much harm they do me!

Last night I dreamed about a friend with whom I’ve had a falling-out.  I have felt enormously self-righteous about it all – how badly she behaved, how she’s wrong and I’m in the right.  In the dream she was a caricature of a “bad guy” – she really looked like a low-life loser and was behaving very badly.  She asked me to do her a favor. I said I would but then lit into her with a resounding lecture and added, for good measure “and you look like a low-life loser – what the hell is that outfit you have on, your hair is all straggly what is WRONG with you?”

It was then, in the dream, that I realized she was behaving so badly and dressing so outlandishly to call for help.  That something really WAS wrong – it wasn’t just bad behavior.

When I woke up this morning I thought “I wonder if that’s true?”

I know my thoughts about my co-worker are true – that she IS threatened, scared.

In all 3 cases – my co-worker, my friend in real life, same friend in the dream – their outer behavior is “bad” and certainly quite  disruptive.  So here’s my prayer:

Dear God.  I am not St. Francis – not even close.  I try to be a good human.  I have a bumpersticker on my car that says “Compassion is the Radicalism of our time – the Dalai Lama” and I believe.  But when R (co-worker) or D (former friend) behave badly, I become a crazed killer-instinct out-of-control toddler – at least inside.  And a cold bitch on the outside.  Help me to remember lofty thoughts and sound spiritual precepts, and, just how to be a decent human in my day-to-day life.  Your friend, Diane



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What is the answer?

No matter what the question is “I bet you a nickel” (as my friend Kay says) there are lots of answers.

Today my friend Deanna looked like she needed a hug after our Saturday morning get together.  I invited her over for a visit and she told me of her struggles lately with anxiety.  I happen to know a thing or two about dancing that dance, so I told her what had worked for me and gave her specific resources.  For illustrative purposes – one issue, anxiety; likely many causes (at least for me) and here were some of the solutions:

  • Prayer and meditation
  • Talking to people (therapist, friends, family members)
  • EMDR – a type of therapy that is phenomenal for anxiety and PTSD
  • Herbal remedies (motherwort, nettles/oatstraw, passionflower a wee bit of valerian)
  • Exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Changing the diet (I forgot to tell her to eliminate soy – major estrogenic, thus anxiety producing)
  • Massage

I gave her phone numbers for a kickass massage therapist, my acupuncture/Traditional Chinese Medicine healer, my holistic chiropractor/nutrition person and a really good therapist who does EMDR.  Told her to get Susun Weed’s fabulous book “Wise Woman Ways for the Menopausal Years” – a ‘bible’ of mine from about the age of 45 on.

My point isn’t what has worked for me about anxiety (though I’m happy to talk about that, too).  But that there are always MANY ways to approach an issue. I prefer to combine soul/spirit/body/mind – ease the issue through many paths.  I have found various paths that work for me – same way you find things:  trial and error, reading, getting references, paying attention.

And I ALWAYS ask “Who benefits?”  And how am I positioned?  I like remedies which empower me and that aren’t shown as “the one true way” – say that to me and I’m out the door.

And each of us will find our own way, ya?  Just reminding everyone – you’re not a nail in search of a hammer. If a hammer presents itself to you, look for a bigger toolbox.

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This morning my Saturday morning group  talked about acceptance.  I love the Serenity Prayer, which to me sums up one of life’s conundrums:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

The conundrum, of course, is the wisdom to know the difference.

A few of my friends were talking about accepting all of life as it comes along.  Ah, oil spill in the Gulf? Accept it – we don’t know the Bigger Plan.  Elongated metatarsal causing your foot to collapse – ah, part of the plan.  People acting like idiots at work?  Smile and move on.

Sometimes we DO need to smile and move on (and that last is probably as good an example as any).  But I also believe in “act, or be acted upon” and in the importance of social activism.

The issue of course is “when am I acting for the higher good (my own or life’s) and when is my Superhero Ego getting in the way?

I think I know a few ways to help discern the answer.




The first two are sorta obvious.  But the last one is hard for me and is likely, due to my innate impatience, the most important.  Especially as it’s the one I least practice.

I’m pretty good with money and so (in a self-congratulatory way) I often read articles and books about it and feel good that I am staying on track.  One often given nostrum is that if you feel compelled to buy something to walk out of the store (or, as is often the case for me, close your browser) and give it three days.  Still really want it?  Well, then sally forth!

There are surely situations in which I should take that same advice about my urge to speak up! to speak out! and gosh darn it to make SURE you know what I think!  I think they call that “biting your tongue” or “counting to 10” and it’s not something I practice often enough.

It seems to me like so many people are on one or the other “wrong sides” of this issue:

People like me jump into the fray without perhaps thinking things through, hearing all sides and giving things time to work out.
The upside of this is that we are passionate, we care, and whether or not prematurely we “put our money where our mouths are.”
The downside is sometimes we say or do dumb things that don’t help the situation, some of which, alas, make things worse.

Then there are the more “Type B” personality people who perhaps don’t jump in – not wanting to make a mistake, they sit back, think it over, don’t want to embarrass themselves or others and think they “will get to it in good time.”  Except — they don’t.  So the petition goes unsigned, the words to a coworker who just told a racist joke stay in their heads, not spoken and the opportunity to make a difference passes them by.
The upside to this is that they hardly ever offend anyone, dont’ regularly make asses of themselves and when they DO think things through and get into action their actions probably have more backing.
The downside is that they don’t make the difference they could.

One other thing on this topic is I’ve seen how in some cases I can immediately tell that acceptance, not the action I just took, was likely the better choice – oops! there’s an amend owed.  But sometimes it takes years or decades.

And so often we don’t really know the Rest of the Story as Paul Harvey was fond to say.  We are the blind men with the elephant – now thinking we’ve found a fan, now a snake, now a wall – not realizing we’re touching the ear, tail or body of an elephant (or as someone said this morning, maybe on AN elephant who is part of a whole herd).

So I say the Serenity prayer. And I figure God made me the action-oriented, speak now, save-the-day Big Sister type that I am for a reason – I just wish I had more wisdom. But that’s where the prayer and meditation come in.

How about you?  Is it easy for you to tell when to hold ’em, and when to fold  ’em and when to lay your cards down?  Do you err on the side of saying/doing too much or too little?  Are you okay with that?   What helps you figure out what to do?  I really would like to know!

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