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The Slippery Slope of Comparison

Posted November 30, 2013

fly's eye


In the orgy of gratitude that is Thanksgiving, while I was making gratitude lists to cover my whole life, a subset developed for People I Admire.

These people have inspired me, and I am so grateful. They are mostly unknown to the world at large, but their qualities and traits make them special to me.

And make me envious.

If I were speaking about this topic, I would remind the audience, “If you spot it, you got it.”

That's usually translated in a negative way. If you think someone else is judgmental, you are probably judgmental. If you criticize someone for being passive-aggressive or lazy or gossipy, you might want to check those traits in yourself.

But “spot it, got it” works for the good stuff, too.

If you admire someone's sense of humor, chances are you have a sense of humor, or at least one that could be developed. The same goes for any kind of charm, joy, excellence, loving expression or delightful eccentricity. If you spot it, you've got it at least to some degree.

Good news.

But listing People I Admire can be a slippery slope. It leads quickly to comparison. Others are not just admirable, they are flat out better than me. They have wonderful qualities I don't have, and therefore I am a failure. Or downright worthless.

This shame spiral used to be a deep, dark secret. I was sure I was the only person feeling so inadequate, compulsively comparing myself to others. It felt as if the acute self-consciousness of middle school had never ended. And my silent suffering was, of course, terminally unique.

But over the years, I have learned the comparison game is common as dirt. Apparently everyone does it. (Well, nearly everyone. In my lifetime, I have known exactly two women who liked themselves. Are men any better at self-acceptance?)

Even people who appear to be on the top of the world lack confidence in certain areas or hate particular body parts.

What are we to do?

I have two ways to reframe this. You realize I'm just ruminating out loud today, but here ya go:

First, remember that no matter how elegant or cool others may be, they secretly harbor personal embarrassments. Just as you are admiring their style and panache, they are worrying about their big nose or bad breath. Or weight or hair color. Or painful shyness or dim intelligence or sordid past. And they're probably envying YOU for something.

When I realize these silly thoughts may be running through our minds like a radio playing in the background, I feel compassion for the human condition.

The second reframe: We are all One. That renders comparison moot. When we look at each other, we're looking at ourselves.

As individuals within the One, we each are reflecting slightly different aspects of Divine Mind, like the multiple lenses of a fly's eye. Think about it: There's no way every attribute of God could be contained in every person, so we each have been given different bits of divinity, a beautiful variety.

Not only don't you need to measure up to other people or attempt to develop their traits in yourself. You can relax and enjoy each version of God expressing in human form, including your human form.

Got other ways to look at this? Is comparison an internal challenge for you? Or – yikes! – am I really the only one?? Comment below and let me know.

   

Give Thanks in All Things

Posted November 27, 2013

leaping for joy


To celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with you, I want to offer my favorite ways to make gratitude lists.

There's the All My Needs Are Met list.

The Blessings in Disguise list.

And the Dodged Bullets list.

Turns out I have countless reasons to give thanks.


Here's the first one:

Imagine you have just been born. Naked, alone, unable to walk. What do you need?

Gratitude for the nurse who cleaned you up and wrapped you in a blanket.

Gratitude for the first food, and the years of being fed and carried and changed. And taught to walk and talk. And potty trained.

Gratitude for the stories that were read to you, the schooling, the life lessons, the advice and coaching and mentoring along the way.

Gratitude for the jobs you got, the places you lived, the people you have loved and been loved by.

Be specific.

You see how this goes? Play back your life and notice everything you have received, every need that has been met.

Then look around right now and notice the state of your welfare. Food, shelter, clothes, relationships, money, activities, a working body, music and books. Give thanks for it all.

This makes needing a new laptop or car seem miniscule, doesn't it?


And what about the bad times? I certainly have had years when gratitude was scarce at Thanksgiving.

Go back through your life list. What didn't happen? What didn't you experience?

No major childhood accidents?

No early pregnancy or addictions?

What are you grateful to have avoided?

And if you went through some less-than-desirable periods of life, did they bring any gifts? Would you trade them now? Some, maybe, but overall, it's amazing how many difficulties we can recognize in hindsight as important parts of the path.


Remember, as well, to be grateful for the roads not taken.

Sometimes I make a list called Dodged Bullets, the things I wanted so badly and was spared from getting. The promotion I assumed would be mine and wasn't, which left me free for a great job I hadn't imagined. The men I thought I wanted but am so grateful not to be with now. The universities I might have attended, the cities I might have lived in, the dark alleys I didn't walk down.

It's an endless game of gratitude. You can write one long, honkin' list or lots of little ones, maybe one each day in the week of Thanksgiving. Find a friend who is willing to do it with you, and compare notes.

We cannot possibly chronicle all the good received in a lifetime, or give proper thanks for it. But take time to notice everything that has been in your life and everything in it today. Know there will only be more.

And let gratitude well up from your heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

   

Is There Good in All Things?

Posted November 16, 2013

The other day, someone facing a painful life issue came to me to say, “I'm struggling to see the good in this.”

My first reaction was guilt.

I'm the one who glibly insists that every difficulty brings gifts, that good and blessings can be found somehow in the worst circumstances. It's not happening to you, it's happening for you, I say.

And I believe it. Until a real live person is sitting in front of me, struggling to make it true.

It doesn't help for me to see them as victims, although sometimes I want to say, “You poor thing!” I cannot know the lessons that might be available to them, although sometimes I take a shot at guessing.

My real job, my only job, is to stand in faith that they will find the good for themselves over time.

Do you believe there is good in all things? I would love to read your thoughts in the comment section below.

I have to remember that good does not always feel good. Our good, our learning and growth, might be in facing conflict, accepting illness, moving through grief, living more deeply because it hurts so much, walking through fire.

Stripped of everything, maybe our good is simply the humility to ask for help, the remaining strength to seek support both human and divine.

This is from Hafiz, a Sufi poet who lived about 100 years after Rumi, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.


Absolutely Clear

Don't surrender your loneliness

So quickly,

Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you

As few human

Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight

Has made my eyes so soft,

My voice

So tender,

My need of God

Absolutely

Clear.

   

Pride Before a Fall

Posted November 9, 2013

cathedral


A friend asked me other day about “pride goeth before a fall.”

She was thinking in particular about the shaky, aging people we know who have bad feet, knees, hips or balance but refuse to use a cane, walker or wheelchair. So they fall—literally.

But of course, pride—often known by the broader term, ego—begets an array of arrogance, hubris, indignation, embarrassment, fear and even violence.

I know pride is one of the Catholics' Seven Deadly Sins, so I looked it up. (There's actually a website called DeadlySins.com!) The other deadlies are envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. But pride is considered first and worst.

Now, I grew up Southern Baptist. Our sins were drinking, dancing and, for hard-shell Baptists, mixed bathing. (That is boys and girls in a swimming pool together.) These wanton activities were forbidden because they might lead to sex, the worst sin of all. Until you're married, then it's fine.

I asked why dancing was wrong when I was still too young to know anything about sex. I remember the Sunday School teacher stammering at me that dancing might, uh, lead to drinking.

Years later, I learned it's the other way around. It takes a whole lot of drinking to get me on a dance floor.

But I digress.

Like so many aphorisms, “Pride goeth before a fall” is a paraphrase of the Bible. The original is stronger: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Haughty spirit! The seven deadly sins, it turns out, are considered deadly or “capital” sins because they engender other sins, major and minor. In other words, they are the consciousness that brings about our downfall.

Gluttony, for instance, is wanting more than you need. Think of all the ways greed manifests, all the fearful hoarding, the attachments and addictions that result from a consciousness of gluttony.

Pride is not just thinking too well of yourself but believing it's all up to you, failing to leave room for grace. EGO – Edging God Out. And certainly a host of bad behaviors can erupt from it.

Ironically, religion is a breeding ground for pride. My God is the one true god! My God is bigger than your god! God is on my side! How many wars have been carried out in the name of God when they were really about being RIGHT? That's pride.

You might not be inclined to launch a crusade or burn at the stake anyone who believes differently than you do, but spiritual arrogance has not died.

Who meditates longest? Who has the most inner peace? Who is most accepting of all ideas, beliefs and people?

Moreover, we call ourselves divine and claim to be creators of our own experience! Isn't that pride?

I understand the initial cringe that often greets the idea of our inner divinity. It's the fear of deadly pride, thinking too well of ourselves and edging God out.

But if pride is a short step to God is on my side, it's also a short step in the other direction to worm of the dust. Undeserving and powerless under the watchful eye of a supreme judge.

We might also be tempted to throw up our hands and declare, “God's in charge! Nothing I can do!”

What we're seeking, I think, is a balance of taking responsibility for our own lives—not just our actions but the creative power of our thoughts—and still allowing for guidance and blessing.

Creation and surrender are both divine acts. A healthy ego works to serve the human world – God has no hands or feet but ours – while at the same time opening to grace.

My definition of grace is the universe biased in your favor. Spiritual laws are set up to benefit you. All things work together for good.

Grace is not undeserved blessing. You are worthy and deserving of all good things because you are a spiritual being, made in the image of God.

So I'm thinking of it this way:

  • In the literal sense, I am responsible for walking or getting around, yet there's no shame in leaning on a cane if I need it.
  • In the spiritual sense, I am responsible for creating my life experience, yet there's no shame in leaning on God, spiritual laws, grace, Higher Power, whatever you call the divine force.

In fact, I am more likely to fall when I am too proud to accept the divine support available to me, whether it comes through prayer, intuition, inspiration or the love of other people.

A haughty spirit separates us from the good we deserve.

   

Living in the One Mind

Posted November 2, 2013

sunrise


Have you ever known the exact moment someone you loved died? You weren't with them; you just felt it.

Have you known when someone you love is in trouble?

Been guided which way to turn going home?

Felt someone staring at you from a distance?

Somehow we are all connected. There's no question anymore that consciousness exists beyond our human brains.

I've been enjoying Larry Dossey's new book called One Mind. He has compiled the scientific studies and some great stories that seem to prove we are all part of one consciousness, despite what we do not yet understand.

This would not be news to aborigines. Did you know smoke signals were not a code with puffs of smoke but were more like a phone call? They meant – Got a message for you; tune in and pay attention. Then communication was telepathic.

Of course, everyone who saw the smoke tuned in, but only the person for whom the “call” was intended received the message.

Animals have legendary telepathy. We know elephants mourn. But did you know bees need to be told when their beekeeper has died? “Telling the bees” is an ancient custom.

And it broke my heart to read that Abraham Lincoln's dog howled and ran in a frenzy through the White House on the night the president was assassinated, even before the shooting.

Until this book pulled the evidence into one place, I hadn't realized how much of our conversation in recent decades has been dominated by interest in our invisible connections, from twins communicating telepathically to mediums speaking with the dead to lost pets tracking their families over hundreds of miles.

Study after study has shown that all living things are connected. How it happens hasn't all been figured out, but that it happens is now so widely acknowledged as to be ordinary.

Nearly everyone I know has experienced . . . I don't even know what to call it. The paranormal? Expanded consciousness? Enlightenment? Ask around—these stories are everywhere. They're not even considered weird anymore.

Some of the statistics are astonishing. One study found that 800 people a day have near-death experiences in the United States alone.

I've always said I'd like to have a near-death experience without actually being near death, and it turns out that is possible, too.

Sometimes people accompany a loved one a short way into the light.

Sometimes whole groups in the hospital room of a dying loved one experience expanded consciousness and report similar sensations, including music and otherworldly light. Perfectly healthy people!

So NDE's are not just a final blast of endorphins.

I could go on, but I doubt I have to convince you there is consciousness beyond our individual bodies. Whether we call it One Mind, God, soul, collective unconscious—we can communicate through it and with it.

But how does knowing this help us? What do we do with the information, scientific or otherwise?

Is this a call to tune into each other at a deeper level? Will we be kinder and more compassionate if we can “see” or intuit what is happening at a distance?

Maybe it's like Roger Bannister, the first man to run a four-minute mile when everyone said it wasn't humanly possible. Once we know, scientifically and without doubt, that telepathic communication is not only possible but is quietly happening all around us, will more of us attempt it? Succeed at it? Invade each other's privacy?!

Knowing what is possible, knowing what others have experienced, knowing what has shown up in studies might give us the confidence to relax, allow the communication to take place and believe we have received it.

We already have the words for it:

  • Trust your gut.
  • Have a hunch.
  • Hear a voice.
  • Get a feeling.
  • Just know.
  • Tap in, tune in, turn on.

The One Mind allows us to work together on our conscious evolution over time and distance with people we will never know. And humanity will be forever enriched.

PS – I'd love to read about your experiences with the One Mind. Add a comment if you're willing to share your story.

   




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