Life at the Center: It’s up to us. February 2018
This conviction motivates my way of being in the world: We have the power, as human beings, to choose, create, shape our own lives. We are not victims.
Don’t get me wrong: there are things in our lives we can do absolutely nothing about. Exhibit A: Cell phone text of a nuclear missile heading our way. Real or unreal as that threat might be, for most of us, all we had was our power to choose a response. And that’s a HUGE choice.
Like lots of people I know, our family stayed fairly calm, made rational decisions and plans on how to reunite should the missile actually strike and we all survived. That’s not to say that we didn’t feel the gravity of the situation – I definitely noticed my heart racing once the false alarm was called off. Our kids came over with the baby, and we were all relieved and glad to be safely in our loved ones’ company. And we went on with life. No big blame game… Let’s just say we weren’t the ones sending death threats to the government employee who pushed the alarm button by mistake!
If we had fallen to pieces, or succumbed to wild, panicked reactions, we would have been letting an external event break into our internal environment where our peace of mind and heart reside. In the 9 second video clip I saw of a father sheltering his young girl by helping her into a manhole, he seemed to maintain a calm demeanor and came up with what I thought was a pretty ingenious protective strategy on the spur of the moment. It not a matter of what we do on the outside that makes us choosing responders or hysterical reactionaries – it’s what going on inside that counts. That man seemed to retain his clarity in the moment.
I think of Gandhi chanting the name of God as he was felled by an assassin’s bullet. This heroic human being had trained himself in nonviolent action, speech and thought for most of his 78 years. Of course, without all that training, we don’t really know how we might have spent our last moments if we had gone up in a nuclear mushroom. Would we manage to keep a peaceful vision in our mind’s eye, a song of love in our hearts? I don’t know, but I was pleased at how well we held it together in the face of a dire threat, as did many others I know.
I’m aware of living in an internal world inside an external world. Imagine something like a living spacesuit that has its own internal environment controls, coordinated by my mind/heart/will. That’s what I envision myself living in. The health of my spacesuit depends on me. What do I need to do to keep my spacesuit resilient, pliant and unpoppable?
Whenever I shine out from my spacesuit, extending joy and friendship through its living surface, my suit becomes stronger, lighter, and more elastic. Its boundaries extend further out, able to emit and receive light and warmth. Love is the most powerful sustainer of a healthy spacesuit.
On the other hand, whenever I go into anger bursts or blame fests, pity parties or fear freezes, I’m weakening my suit from the inside. Blaming myself about doing so makes it even worse. It’s as if I’ve created a dark, sticky cloud around myself that just lets in more bad stuff. Indulging in this kind of personal drama is like setting off fireworks inside my own spacesuit: not a good idea. I find that I even succumb to sickness much more easily after these little episodes. And – unsurprisingly – nobody wants to be around me!
So I need to be make peace with myself inside my suit and turn the light back on. When I do that, I feel more loveable.
To a certain extent, I can impact my external world by means of the choices I make from within my internal world. When I’m balanced, strong and clear, I have the chance to positively impact someone I can touch outside. I can lend support, advice, a quietly listening ear; I can lead a crusade, build a business designed to help others, extend love to those around me. Each of those things could make a difference to someone’s life.
Or maybe I won’t make the difference I hope. Although I can take actions, I cannot control the results of those actions. I can’t live others’ lives, can’t make their choices, for them. (Thank heavens! That’s their kuleana!) In any case, my internal life earns the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve made the effort and, hopefully, learned for the future how to be more effective. As long as I’m not attached to certain results happening from my actions, I can keep my happiness level fairly even-keeled, my spacesuit more vibrant and springy.
So do I want my spacesuit to bounce or collapse? It’s up to me.
It’s always up to each of us to choose.
Resting in stillness and moving in Joy with you in this new year,
And you, dear reader?
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