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Tag: choice

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder

Rumi

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. –Rumi

On New Year’s Eve, I was asked if I’d made any New Year’s resolutions, and I mentioned this quote from Rumi that I’d recently seen and loved.

I think that mostly I’m a lamp, and sometimes a ladder or a lifeboat–but it’s difficult to accurately assess your own contribution, or anyone else’s, for that matter. It’s often impossible to know what impact we’re having, or will have. But it is possible to know whether I’m creating light, or darkness … that much I can tell.

I remember a coworker from years ago who told me she volunteered at a suicide prevention hotline. I’m not sure whether it occurred to me then, but it certainly does now, that she must have had a very particular reason for choosing that volunteer opportunity. She was a lifeboat.

We can, though, be lifeboats without ever knowing it. I’m reminded of an account in Michael Newton’s fascinating Destiny of Souls, which I’ve written about before. (Michael Newton’s story is somewhat similar to Brian Weiss‘s. He was a highly skeptical hypnotherapist who was into science, not new age stuff, when he accidentally regressed a subject to a time frame he didn’t even believe in–one prior to the subject’s current life. His work is different than Weiss’s in that he focuses fairly exclusively on the period between lives, from death to reincarnation.)

In the account I’m thinking of, when the subject completed his life, he learned that one of the most important accomplishments of his lifetime occurred when he stopped one day on the street to comfort a woman who was crying in despair. Had he been asked to list his accomplishments, that day wouldn’t have even crossed his mind–but on that day, he was a lifeboat.

How we interact with other people is key, but I believe being a lifeboat applies to all sentient beings, such as the many cats and dogs who cross our paths. I brake for squirrels and birds, and the life of every lizard in my garden is important. Caring for animals who need our help, even keeping an organic garden, is another way to be a lifeboat.

Being a ladder is, I think, a bit tricky. To me, it is saying, Here’s a possible next step, a higher vibration, love rather than fear, a way to lift yourself higher, to move forward. But in every case, the choice to see by the light of the lamp, to step into the lifeboat or onto the ladder, is not ours. People, even animals–who in my experience are often easier to reach–can and do refuse the light and the help at hand.

Even so and nonetheless–be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.

There will be days when, to put it bluntly, it will seem that no one is interested in your light. There will be days when people overtly choose the darkness. That can be heartbreaking–but shedding light in darkness is its own reward.

If you persist, there will also come a day when you find out you’ve made a difference–that someone has seen by your light, stayed afloat, climbed a rung of your ladder. That is a truly wonderful day.

Whichever kind of day it is, each day of this new year, I want to be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.

This post is illustrated by the SoulCollage card I made today.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

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How to demonstrate grace under fire

Grace

Last weekend, as I prepared to write this post, I had a couple of ideas in mind. Although this is my 100th post, and also my birthday post, my ideas weren’t ambitious. I knew I’d be out celebrating my birthday most of the weekend, and wouldn’t have much time to write or collage.

But when I sat down to meditate and ask for inspiration (as I almost always do before writing), the Muse clearly had other ideas.

The topic had something to do with my birthday–but what? “What you’ve learned, what you’ve accomplished.”

I wasn’t sure what that might be … but looking back at the year, it did seem the most significant event was that whole mess that started in January …

Great difficulty–handled with grace, the most ever. Outclassed [those who created the difficulty and the others involved].

So, it seemed I had a topic–one I wasn’t terribly sure how to start writing about. I decided to start by making a SoulCollage card on the topic, to help focus my thoughts–and here you see the results. This took me a few days. When I completed the card and read it, this is what it said …

 I am the one who is under pressure–and yet I am calm. Joyful, even. I am vulnerable, and yet I am very, very strong.

In the eye of the storm, I am calm. Why not?

Should you find yourself in great difficulty–and unfortunately I suppose it does come to us all eventually–here are a few ideas that I hope will help you handle it with grace and dignity …

  1. Remaining calm is a truly excellent idea. It allows you to process what’s happening and perceive it clearly without a bunch of upset getting in the way. And it feels (and looks) much better than wigging out. “Keep calm and carry on,” says the mug on my desk. (It’s an unused piece of British WWII propaganda–held in reserve for a serious emergency, and then never used.)
  2. Never let ’em see you sweat. You will no doubt need to vent in private, but remaining calm has the additional benefit of giving less than no satisfaction to anyone who may be attempting to create difficulty for you.
  3. When people come out of the shadows and attack you, they’re giving you a lot of information about who they are. This gives you a kind of power. And you should never forget what you’ve learned.
  4. Don’t allow the noxious weed of resentment to take root in your garden. Justified? Perhaps. But this is your health and wellbeing we’re talking about, not anyone else’s. So the resentment absolutely has to go.
  5. I find it helpful to remember that there are no exceptions to karma. It comes to everyone, no matter how apparently powerful or well-positioned. If someone is treating you unfairly or unjustly, it will most certainly come back to them. I’ve read that this cycle typically occurs in a 5-year timeframe, and my own experience bears that out.
  6. If you’re being wronged, don’t hesitate to defend yourself. Calmly, professionally, inexorably.
  7. When doing so, bear your audience in mind. Some may respond more to a reasoned argument, others more to an honest expression of your feelings.
  8. Be honest, and at the same time, hold something in reserve. You don’t need to tell everything you know or feel. Communicate enough to make your point; what you’ve reserved may come in handy for a rebuttal.
  9. It’s very reasonable to be angry when you’re being treated unfairly. But do yourself the honor of channeling your anger into effective action that furthers your cause, rather than allowing your anger to ineffectively blow up, thus setting you back.
  10. No one else gets to dictate how you feel and what you’re stressed about. That choice is yours.
  11. While you are vulnerable in this world, it’s good to remember when under attack or duress that there are many things you possess that are inalienable and cannot be touched, no matter how dismal another person’s intentions may be. Your eternal soul, and its purpose and accomplishments. All the love you’ve given and received. All the joy you’ve experienced and have yet to experience. The truth of the situation. All of your many choices. All these things are yours.
  12. Take good care of yourself. Make sure you’re getting sleep, good, healthy food, physical activity–all that your body needs. Feed your mind and spirit too. Keep all aspects of your strength up–this is key.
  13. Don’t forget to have fun and do all the things you enjoy.
  14. Take advantage of all of your support systems–your partner if you have one, friends, family, supportive coworkers. And don’t forget your ancestors and all the angels standing by, just waiting to be asked to help.
  15. Strike an effective balance between being high-profile (making your voice heard) and low-profile (flying under the radar).
  16. If you already have your ego in check, you’re at a tremendous advantage in almost any situation over those who don’t–and that’s especially true now.
  17. Every person, and every difficult situation, is different. Please consider these elements potential ingredients in your personal recipe for grace and calm.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made this past week, Grace under pressure.

How to be serene in the face of great provocation

Witness

Do you have someone in your life who irritates the living hell out of you? Someone who totally knows how to push your buttons? Someone you can’t ban from your life, or get away from, like a coworker? Or a relative who’s going through an awkward stage? Someone whose whole life, perhaps, is an awkward stage?

Your secret is safe with me.

I devised this little exercise, based on the work of Eckhart Tolle, a few years ago when I was in desperate need of it myself. It really made a difference for me, and I hope it will for you too.

  1. Find a quiet place that’s conducive to meditation.
  2. Visualize yourself in water … at one with the water, in your element, completely comfortable. Feel yourself weightless and transparent.
  3. Now visualize the person who irritates the living hell out of you tossing something unpleasant at you. It can be whatever you like–rotten tomatoes, hand grenades, cow patties, what have you.
  4. At first, despite the fact that you are now weightless and transparent, you’ll probably flinch, or feel some resistance, or both. That’s OK. Try again. The idea is to allow the unpleasant thing to pass right through you, making no impact whatsoever, not harming you in any way.
  5. Continue until you can allow the rotten tomato or what have you to pass through you without feeling any resistance. Excellent!
  6. Now, when you are with the person who formerly irritated the living hell out of you, call upon your new practice. Allow their unpleasant words to pass right through, while you remain serene and non-reactive. You can now respond effectively (or not–your choice), unhampered by anger.
  7. Tell me it doesn’t feel fabulous.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made tonight, Witness (one of the Transpersonal cards).

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