Choosing Peace in a Noisy World

blog pic1-1I hear my neighbor’s dog howling in the distance. The sound is so primitive, so raw, it guts me, and for a moment we are one.

The wind chimes outside my window are chanting lovely tunes, soothing melodies that bring me back into the moment.

I hear a radio from another room and it is broadcasting distorted sounds that vibrate through the walls and make me want to shrink back into myself and hide from the headbanger noise. The music is harsh. Loud. Disruptive.

Through another window I hear the water flowing from the fountain in my courtyard and imagine the sounds of ancient rivers splashing against stone.

It occurs to me that in this moment, as in any moment, I am free to choose where to put my focus.  I can listen to disturbing noises or to the sounds of serenity that beckon for my attention.

It’s my choice. And in this moment, I am strong enough to make a good choice, the one that resonates with my spirit. I choose peace.

Tomorrow, well that’s an untold story. I must choose again.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace–if you’re looking for exploratory questions to unearth pieces of your soul, check out my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes

Walk Away From The Spectacle

blog pic1-1The Tao Te Ching is rich with wisdom on many topics, including peace. For instance, there is a verse in the ancient Chinese classic that offers advice for peace seekers. Loosely translated it goes something like this: Walk away from the spectacle.

This can be interpreted to mean walk away from the drama—choose peace.

It’s profound advice and one of the many reasons I love the jewels of wisdom buried within the Tao’s pages. But finding pearls is very different from actually wearing them,  or so it is in my experience.

In other words, it’s not always so easy to walk the talk.

Relationships at work, at home, with family, friends, are fertile soil for conflict. How often do we get sucked into a vortex of drama in our daily lives?  How often do we choose to “say our piece,” how often do we righteously cling to our version of truth, be it political or faith-based–no matter what the cost?

It takes great discipline to disengage or walk away from spectacles. Sometimes spectacles come up unexpectedly, like a summer storm they rain down particles of anger and other emotional debris. It can happen in conversations without warning and in every day human interactions because, well, we’re human.

But, we can chose peace. We can choose to set grace in motion and walk away from spectacles.

It’s not always easy. I work hard not to be baited into political discussions that I know will end up south of nowhere. So I typically walk away from the spectacle to guard my peacefulness.

In personal relationships, it is even harder. The truth is, sometimes our wounds get triggered. But sometimes, the spectacle or drama that is inches away from vaporizing a relationship can be avoided, if we consciously choose peace.

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.

I recently walked away from a spectacle. And I mean this figuratively and literally. It had all of the makings of a Class A Spectacle triggering issues of family wounding, pride and pain. The brittle branches of a painful part of my family history were being rubbed together and sparks of anger and disappointment were creating a combustible mix.

Without sharing the particulars, at a recent gathering I heard people I care about discussing a situation that had caused them hurt. They felt wronged by a careless and seemingly cruel comment that had been made by another person not present at the gathering. Someone in the group told me I should also be angry at the person, baiting me into the circle of hurt.

And as they continued to share their anger, I took a step back. Literally.  I acknowledged the group pain (including my own because I certainly felt it)  and then said, “I’m going to choose peace.”

In that moment when old wounds momentarily came unstitched, I chose grace as an ointment.

I didn’t pull out a match or add gasoline to a fire, I chose peace. I didn’t fan the flames, I didn’t heighten the drama, I stepped away from the spectacle.

And on this day, feeling equal part hurt and proud, I was in sync with myself. On this day, at least, I was congruent with my values. And if felt really good.

These moments, these tests of grace, await us on a daily basis. And we always, always get to choose: peace or spectacle.

Peace or spectacle? This is my latest mantra for dealing with difficult situations or frustrations. Just asking the question slows me down long enough to consider the choice.

Affirmation: In times of frustration, I choose peacefulness over righteousness. I choose to walk away from the spectacle.

 If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes. Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

 

Do You Speak A Secret Soul Language?

Yellow flowers are considered a symbol of purity, clarity, truth and wisdom.

Yellow flowers are considered a symbol of purity, clarity, truth and wisdom.

The world is filled with symbolism and when we look at it through enchanted eyes, we open ourselves up to a secret soul language that is rich and alive and magical.

It’s a language that is both foreign and native to us, and we access it through intuition, magical thinking, and a general willingness to move from rational, left-brained thinking into a place of exploration and infinite possibilities.

Have you ever considered the world is alive with mysterious messages just waiting to be decoded? What if the flowers around you were actually speaking to you? What if the birds you summoned with the feed you sprinkled on your lawn carried a message from the Divine? What if the dragonfly that landed at your feet had something special to communicate to you?

I know cyncial minds must be thinking right now….sometimes, a rose is just a rose.

But it’s not true. Roses carry symbolic messages. Even their color means something.

But, back to the birds. Lately, doves have been appearing in my backyard and I always take note. Doves are a symbol of peace so every time I see one, I am reminded to be peaceful. The dragonfly that landed near me yesterday was an encouraging message of hope and good fortune.

As I write this, I am listening to the gentle sound of water running through the fountain in my courtyard. It is soothing and cleansing and it reminds me in this moment that I need to relax; I’ve had a challenging few days and I needed to slow down and hear this message.

The courtyard is looking beautiful; yesterday my partner painted the stucco and trimmed the plants and it feels fresh, like a new start. We’ve been doing some painting and small repairs around the house and planting an herb garden with peppers, dill, oregano, lavender and rosemary, in the backyard.

I’d like to think these small repairs are a message to each other that we are committed to creating a nourishing home for one another, one where fresh starts are a possibility.

This is how the world of symbolism works. It’s a secret language, one you must work a little harder to interpret, but when you do, everything feels more magical, more sacred.

That’s the world I like to step into each and every day. A world where I hear my wind chimes singing good morning to me, a world where I feel greeted by peace-loving doves perched on my fence, a world where color and sound create a rainbow of possibilities for endless knowledge, secrets and hidden treasures.  If I’m willing to tune in and listen.

I’m learning this is  the way the Divine speaks to us. The soul, too. So if you want to learn this language, open up your eyes, ears and heart. Your soul is trying to talk to you in your dreams, intuitive hits and surroundings, and is being very creative in the sticky notes it leaves behind for you.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

 

 

The Natural Order of Things

file000325161223THERE IS A NATURAL FLOW to the universe just as there is an ebb to life. Sometimes things are working in our favor, and sometimes our world turns. One day we are feeling well and know we are gifted with abundance, and the next day our shadow appears and we see nothing but darkness.

Light does not exist without dark. Nor can you truly enjoy a beautiful day without having experienced stormy weather. The Tao teaches us that yin and yang exist in everything–and is necessary to balance all things.

We are all part of this earth. The seasons change, we grow old. There is a natural order. We must trust in this rhythm and know there is grace and purpose in it. And when we understand this, and relinquish our need for control, we find peace.

Maybe instead of working harder, it is time to relinquish some control. Grow quiet, and see what evolves in your life.

Journal Question: Are you in the flow of things or have you been fighting too hard to achieve something?

Affirmation: I know I am part of a larger universe and my life has purpose.

This blog entry is a sample chapter from my book Tao Flashes, A Woman’s Way to Navigating the Midlife Journey with Integrity, Harmony and Grace.

The Dalai Lama, Non-Violence and Gun Ads

IMG_0363_edited-1-1New Orleans is lovingly called the city that “care forgot.”  And for good reason; its love of revelry, rhythm and blues, and deep-fried everything, is legendary.

Yes, that city. The city that was nearly swallowed up and spit out in pieces by the punishing wind and waters of Hurricane Katrina.

Yes, that city, the one that inspires hope and loss in the same breath; the city that spurs the kind of violence that leaves you heart sick and slack-jawed from the shock and soulless brutality of it all. Like when two young males well-schooled in violence  casually open-fired on a Mother’s Day parade wounding 20 people, including several children.

This was the city that the Dalai Lama came to visit recently. A city badly in need of healing.

This was the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Orleans and he came to deliver a commencement speech to Tulane graduates and speak at several other engagements in the city.

Not surprising he spoke of peace in his speeches. To the Tulane graduates he said,   “Please pay attention to securing your own inner peace. Our hopes for the future rest on your shoulders. Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.”  dalai

Speaking at a separate event at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena, he talked about non-violence and peace and compassion.

He said, “It is not our job to disturb the peace and then it’s God’s job to restore it. Violence isn’t created by God or Buddha; it’s created by human beings. So logically, the responsibility to eliminate it belongs to us too. Here in America there’s been a lot of discussion about gun control. But the real source of control is in our hearts.”

Wise words from a wise monk.

Violence and poverty and abuse all stem from a lack of compassion. The need for guns and the need for gun control is all the same to me. It’s all rooted in fear and violence in my book.

Look, I’m from the South. Guns are serious business here. This isn’t a subject that makes friends–unless you’re on the right side of the argument– if you get my drift.  It’s a subject that I usually stay away from because I’m a peacemaker at heart and it almost seems counterintuitive to me to argue about guns.

“…Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.”  I think of the Dalai Lama’s words to the graduates about securing peace, and working for a more peaceful world. I wonder what I can contribute to the cause.

I think there are a lot of us who are confused about how to walk in this world more peacefully.

I’m of the opinion that it starts with finding inner peace. Not an easy task. But I believe that meditation is a good start here. Finding compassion for ourselves, for our faults, and loving ourselves so we can better love others, is another strategy.

I think when we’re brave enough to do the inner work, to look at all of the places inside of us where we are at war with ourselves, where we focus on what’s wrong with ourselves, with our lives, is a good place to work on non-violence. Perhaps that’s the foundation of the saying, “Love others as we love ourselves.”

Maybe the idea is that we should love ourselves a little more, so we learn the capacity to be truly compassionate, truly kind to others. So that we can love others.

I think prayer is also a gateway to compassion. Praying to God, Spirit, Buddha or to your higher spirit for guidance is a good way to open up the heart. The older I get, the more I pray.

If we’re honest, we can admit that light and dark both exist in this world. But light, including inner light, can be the beacon that disperses the darkness. Within us and around us.

When we actively focus on non-violence, maybe we will lessen the violence in the outside world. Maybe we won’t have to live forever with the duality of seeing this:

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

a full page article in the Baton Rouge paper featuring the Dalai Lama’s visit to New Orleans with an ad for a gun shop placed on the opposite page from it. I’d like to think this was an accident. But the truth is, I’m not sure.

Which leads me to the truism that “there are no accidents.” Maybe there’s a message here about our society’s conflict. About how we all wrestle with the light and the dark.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on compassion and grace, particularly at midlife,  read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.