Spiritual Guidance Blog
I used to avoid conflict. Sometimes I would go to great effort to avoid conflict. Conflict was a very uncomfortable space and place for me to be in, so I would often do whatever was needed to avoid it. This avoidance could manifest in a variety of forms, but my two favorite ways to avoid conflict were to either remove myself from the conflict or try and placate the situation to calm the waters.
Removing myself from the perceived conflict would often manifest as saying nothing and physically walking away from any perceived conflict in progress. Another example is I would physically cross the street or change my direction, chart a new course, if I perceived any form of conflict up ahead. This was merely another symbolic form of removing myself from, or avoiding, the perceived conflict.
Placating the situation to calm the waters was a favorite strategy of mine to avoid conflict. Not only was I trying to avoid the conflict, but I would get an egoic rush when I thought I had successfully stopped someone else from fighting. I thought I was being successful and / or useful when I stopped others from fighting. This was born out of my early childhood conditioning to try and fix others and to make things better.
Conflict is still not the most comfortable environment for me to be in. I certainly do not consciously seek out conflict. But I no longer avoid conflict or conflictual situations. When my perception of conflict arises, something quite different unfolds now.
Present in any conflictual situation I encounter, is anger. I have come to recognize and observe two immutable laws of anger. First, I am never angry at what I think I am. Second, anger is simply my ego’s way of trying to make someone else feel guilty for my own inner pain and grief. So when dealing with anger, my first line of inquiry may always be: “What am I really angry at?” and “What am I covering up?”
Anger is also my ego’s default mechanism for trying to control people and situations. Think about it; when I get angry, I am trying to change the outcome of whatever is being presented to me. My anger may be a way of trying to overpower, distract, persuade, manipulate, or change another person or situation—all thinly veiled attempts to control other people and other situations.
Ultimately my anger, as a tool for control, is my window and mirror on my fears. What is it I am trying to control exactly? Someone else? A situation? Why can I not accept someone as they are? Why can I not accept a situation as it is? Why do I need to control others and other situations? Very simply, because I fear losing control. I fear the feeling of not being in control. I fear letting go. I fear not knowing. I fear the unknown. I fear my own demise. I fear my death.
So when I am present in a conflictual situation, of which anger is rooted, I am aware that whatever seems to be the source of my anger is not the real source of my anger; I am merely projecting my anger out on to whatever is presenting itself to me. And I am aware that I am merely trying to get rid of my anger and avoid taking responsibility for what it is I am experiencing—thinking, seeing, doing, and feeling.
This awareness allows me to start to get curious. What is at the root of the anger? What is this person (myself perhaps) trying to project? What is this person trying to get rid of? The inquiry allows me to create some space between the situation, the events, and my response to it. This is as natural to do as when I observe others in conflictual situations, as it is when someone appears to be angry at me or when I am tempted to be angry at someone else.
On a deeper, spiritual level, perhaps, I know that I am only ever being shown love or a ‘call for love.’ A ‘call for love’ may come in many different forms. But it’s all the same ‘call.’ Conflict and anger are very common forms of ‘a call for love.’ So when I receive a ‘call for love,’ I know there is something for me to learn. Again, I get curious.
These ‘calls for love’ are a wonderful opportunity to learn about the person calling out. But I know, ultimately, that there is only ever an opportunity to learn about myself. The person I am seemingly angry at, or who is angry at me, is merely reflecting back to me my own anger and my own attempts to avoid looking at myself. The ‘other’ is only ever ‘me’ and the other is showing me what it is I am angry at.
So when someone else gets angry, I get curious. It is the only way to heal my separated mind. For in the awareness that the other is merely a reflection of me, I see the other in me and myself in the other—I am given an opportunity to experience oneness.
A couple of months my beloved dog, Muggins, passed through the veil of death. Muggins had lived with me in this realm for 16 years. Over the past 4-5 years Muggins mobility slowly declined, due mostly to a neurological condition that created instability and lessened his ability to walk. Over the past year Muggins required increasing assistance to move around, to void and defecate, and with most every aspect of his life that was so easily taken for granted when he was younger.
Other conditions were slowly creeping into the picture of Muggins’ overall health. One of those conditions was seizures. While the seizures were few and far between, I knew that another one would surely mark a turning point in Muggins’ physical embodiment and be a definitive signal that it was time to let go. As with everything temporal, that time came.
It was one night a few months ago that an unprecedented series of seizures kept Muggins and I awake most of the night. Over the years I had educated myself in ways to effectively minimize the ravages of seizures-in-progress, reduce the stress for Muggins, and even stop the seizures. But on this night the seizures were relentless and severe. I did what I could to keep him calm and knew that, should he make it through the night, the sunrise would bring with it the beautiful opportunity to bring some ceremonial closure to this blessed life that had given everyone so much.
At some point during the night, due in part to exhaustion no doubt, both Muggins and I fell asleep. We were both woken by a brilliant sunrise and the lullaby of birds chirping outside our window. Muggins had made it through the night and seemed wanting to start a new day. We rose and proceeded with morning ablutions, walk, and breakfast. Muggins was ‘on edge’ but relatively calm.
At a reasonable hour I called the vet I had been in touch with over the preceding months, with ongoing updates of Muggins health. I arranged for the vet to come to our home later in the day to perform the euthanasia.
Shortly before the vet arrived, friends and loved ones gathered to say their goodbyes to Muggins. Some stayed for the ceremony, some did not. Shortly after the vet arrived, Muggins was peacefully euthanized. The predominant feeling was peace, and the predominant emotion was relief.
When one chooses to take care for an aging person or animal, the amount of time you devote to this blessed task increases in proportion to the amount of care given and/or needed. And when that caregiving ceases to be needed, a void emerges. Reality sets in and you realize, among a myriad of feelings and emotions, that you now have a lot more time on your hands. It can almost feel like freedom. I asked myself… “Well…what am I going to do with this new freedom?”
I thought about how I might honor Muggins’ memory. What legacy did he leave? What did he give me? What did he teach me? What would be fitting to pass on to others? What might Muggins want me to do?
I thought about how Muggins taught me unconditional love. I thought about how Muggins taught me peace, especially in the end. I thought about how he treated all other beings. I thought about the harmony he created. I thought about the unending compassion he demonstrated and offered. I thought about the joy he gave to the world.
It was through these blessed memories and awareness that I discovered a renewed sense of purpose and commitment with and for my ministry work. I thought.. “What better way to honor a life that had given me so much…than to extend this new sense of freedom to serve, teach, and heal a world in transformation.” It was then that the following dedication poured out of me:
In Muggins Memorio
I honor each day to be of service to humanity.
I will not squander the opportunity to bring love, light, and peace to the world.
I will not miss the opportunity to teach and heal a world in transformation.
Through devoted service I honor each brother and sister who comes into and through my life.
May the spirit of Muggins serve as my inspiration to be love, to be peace, to be harmony, to be compassion, to be joy.
And so it is…
May you be inspired to walk your truth. May you be inspired to bring love, light, and peace to this world. May you be inspired to serve and honor your brothers and sisters in whatever form that may take. May you be inspired to be love, to be peace, to be harmony, to be compassion, to be joy.
Growing up as a child all I wanted to be was ‘liked.’ This desire carried over into my adolescent years. I would do things, and do things for others out of a longing to belong, fit in, and be liked. As a child, the idea of being respected was not yet in my vocabulary or understanding.
As I moved into adulthood, as I strove for accomplishment in this world, my focus shifted from wanting to be liked to wanting to be ‘respecting.’ I still hung on to vestiges of wanting to be liked, but I was more concerned now with being respected. I wanted people to listen to me. I wanted people to do what I told them. Underneath it all was a thin veil over my secret desire to control people. I unconsciously equated their respect as my ticket to control them.
At this stage in my life, I no longer desire for people to like me or respect me. Of course, it is nice when someone likes and / or respects me. Striving to be liked or respected is of no interest to me anymore. This lack of interest in whether or not someone likes or respects me has come with the awareness and acceptance that whatever someone thinks about me is none of my business. Equally, what someone says about me is none of my business.
It has been suggested that the preceding is an indication that I have grown to become more comfortable in my own skin. Perhaps. It feels more like simply accepting and loving myself like never before.
I am becoming more aware that all I want is peace in my life. And I know that I cannot find that peace outside of me from anyone or anything else. I can only find this peace within me. And I know that if I strive for being liked or respected, I will not find my peace, because either striving takes me away from my core, my altar, my place of peace.
One unusually-cold morning in mid-March I woke before sunrise and decided to go for a walk. I would normally have gone swimming on this particular morning, but I decided to go for a nice, long walk instead. I could tell from the still-star-sparkled-sky that we were in store for a brilliant sunrise. So I got dressed in my parka, warm hats, gloves and clothes, and off I went.
By the time I got out the door, the horizon was just starting to lighten up, with shades of pink and orange. The fresh air, although frosty cold, was refreshing and invigorating. I walked along a waterway where I had ventured many times before but have never lost my appreciation for this lifeforce and what it gives every moment of its existence.
I had not been walking for long and I became aware that I was lost in my thoughts of what was to unfold later in the day; or more to the point, what I thought would unfold later in the day. I was aware that I was worried about a particular interaction that I anticipated would take place; specifically, how that interaction would take place. How is it I was aware I was lost in my thoughts, if I was actually lost in my thoughts?
As I kept walking I reminded myself to let my thoughts of yesterday, and later that day, go. I invited myself to enjoy my walk. But my thoughts would occasionally slip back to worry or some other mind games that distracted me from the unfolding joy right in front of me.
What truly allowed me to be grateful for the moment and the unfolding joy right in front of me was the magnificent sound, song, of a bird that shattered my intellectual table tennis match. At first, I thought… “What is a bird doing out in this cold!?” I laughed at my thought, and kept walking.
I kept hearing the bird sing, however. And by this point I noticed the horizon getting brighter. A beautiful sunrise was unfolding. The bird kept singing…
I was not familiar with this bird’s song. I started looking up into the trees and noticed, first, just how beautiful the trees were. I stopped, in search of the bird, but could not locate him or her. I stopped for a few minutes, but I could not locate the winged-source of the beautifully unfolding melody. I listened attentively for the sound and sensed it was coming from up ahead. So I kept walking…
The bird’s song was getting louder so I figured I was getting closer to the source. The sound felt like it was coming from directly in front of me but I still could not locate its winged-source. I was starring into a large, dense thicket. Then I saw it!!! It was a magnificent, beautiful Chickadee!
I was no more than 6 feet from this adorable creature and again it let out its song. I was full of joy and awe! I was pleasantly surprised to hear this particular song from the chickadee because I had not heard this song before. I was accustomed to the usual, short, high-pitched chirp of these beautiful birds.
I rejoiced in the moment, the beauty of the bird, and the magnificence of its song. I stood there for about a minute, soaking in the beauty of the moment. And then I walked on…
As I walked on I considered, in part, what I was just taught. I had been lost in worry about something that I predicted would unfold later in the day. My worry was preventing me from enjoying the moment. It took a small, precious little bird to catch my attention and bring me back to ‘now’—the only place and time there really is. In that ‘now’ was my joy and peace.
For the remainder of my walk I remained mesmerized by the Chickadee’s song, however. And when I got home I looked up the song on the internet. With gratitude and reverence, I found it. Apparently, the song this Chickadee was singing was titled “Hey Sweetie!”. I smiled. How delightful! I was lost in my negative thought and a little bird called out to me with “Hey Sweetie!” …and I was brought to joy and peace.
I think more morning walks are in store for me… ??
If you are interested in listening to the Chickadee’s song of “Hey Sweetie!,” click on the YouTube video link below. “Hey Sweetie!” starts 7 seconds into the video. Enjoy!!!
During January and February I had a blessed experience that allowed me to practice the art of ‘letting go.’ I was having an experience with another person that was not looking like or feeling collaborative. My perception of the situation caused me some irritation, sometimes minor, sometimes major. For the most part I was confused. I could not understand why the other person was reacting, behaving, and communicating with me in the manner they were.
About mid-way through January my disbelief in what was unfolding gave way to the acceptance that not only did I not understand why the other person was reacting, behaving, and communicating with me in the manner they were, but that I could not understand. Oh sure, I could easily hypothesize what was going on. And I could speak to the person and ask what was ‘really’ going on. But my acceptance was due, in part, to a realization that it was arrogant of me to think I could understand what was happening. I realized that it simply was not possible to fully understand all that was transpiring in the other person’s life to have them behave the way they were behaving. It was likely the other person was not aware either.
What this acceptance allowed me to do was to not get caught up in the building emotional aspect to the unfolding. I simply ‘let it all go.’ All of it! My perceptions. My judgements. My belief in what was right or wrong. I simply decided I was not going to allow myself to get drawn into any continued unrest, dis-ease, or conflict.
As I stepped back and simply observed what was transpiring, I was given the precious exercise and practice of not responding in anger to what were sometimes loud and blasphemous outbursts from the other person. My choice to not respond back with anger met with further invitations from the other person to engage in the unfolding battle. The emotional energy kept rising.
I realized, however, that the minor and major irritations I had felt early in the unfolding were veiled attempts to mask and suppress my own anger. You see…irritation, whether minor or major, is merely a flavor of anger. It’s all anger. Very simply, if we are not in a state of love, we are in a state of fear that most commonly manifests and expresses itself as anger, or less blatant flavors of anger, like irritation. But make no mistake about it—irritation is as much anger as all-out rage!
So I took my minor and major irritations into my meditation each day and allowed my forgiveness mantras and prayers to cleanse and heal my irritations and anger. This daily cleansing was such an important step in allowing myself to forgive both the other and myself. It was only through this forgiveness process that I could finally arrive at the place where there was no other person that I was experiencing. There was only a mirror showing me my own irritation and anger. This ultimate awareness was only possible by first acknowledging my dis-ease, but then to choose to let it go. The choice to let it all go gave me the little willingness I needed to heal through forgiveness.