Archive for the ‘Awareness’ Category

Perfect

October 14, 2021

Ryan Holliday has created a lucrative niche writing about the Stoics. Unlike writers on spiritual disciplines from the Christian tradition who are not mainstream evangelicals. He recently looked a a series of Stoics who, although writing deeply about wisdom, weren’t always all that wise in action. They made mistakes in their daily and business and political lives.

Jesus never invited a perfect person into his group. Never. Check them all out. Flaws. Some glaringly obvious. Peter—need I say more? James and John arguing over political positions in the kingdom that was coming. Mary, the former prostitute.

Yet, our evangelical churches (maybe almost all churches?) act as if you need to be perfect to join and remain perfect for life. Otherwise, the gossiping, avoiding, criticizing begin.

But (and as they like to say, a big but), we are not perfect. Not one of us. Perhaps some of us manage to sail through the calm waters of life thinking we’re perfect, but those people are delusional.

God made an unforgettable impression on me in mediation years ago by showing me all the ways in which I am not perfect. Not that I don’t have small remembrances many times a day of actions where I was less than perfect.

That’s OK. God also showed me that none are perfect, yet all are welcome into his domain. Jesus brought them all into the fold. Perhaps we need to learn a lesson.

This has a name, and its name is grace.

Change Your Point of View

October 11, 2021

We moved at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. There was no way we were getting a painter in. There was no way that I was going to paint the entire house myself. We lived with contractor white walls everywhere until a few weeks ago.

When we moved in, I listened to my wife who always wanted my desk in Ohio situated so that you look out the window. So, I put my desk in this house against the wall looking out at the yard. I always felt uncomfortable. I decided one day to turn the desk around. My back is to the window. I’m facing the door. I chose a deep blue as a soothing, meditative color when we painted.

I now feel more comfortable whether at this desk for reading or my standing desk to the right out of the picture.

Changing your point of view, that direction from which you observe things, broadens perspective. You can take in other views. Consider additional facts and opinions.

This also leads to growth and maturity. Try looking at things differently. It’s possible you’ve missed something important. And you may feel more in the flow.

The Spirit Becomes Dull

September 27, 2021

Why do demons wish to commit acts of gluttony, impurity, avarice, wrath, resentment, and the other evil passions in us? Here is the reason–that the spirit in this way should become dull and consequently rendered unfit to pray. For when man’s irrational passions are thriving he is not free to pray and to seek the word of God.

Evagrius

These passions suck your energy. And what have you to offer other than your energy?

These passions have invaded me at times. And God has shown me what more I am capable of. When these visit me at my times of meditation or working, my energy is diverted and squandered.

You rise from the desk to get a handful of peanuts or almonds for energy (and no subsequent weight gain) and your eye goes to the pantry’s snack food shelf. And one potato chip or cookie turns into a continual reaching for more, just what the food scientists working for those companies predict. Thank you gluttony for destroying my day, dulling my senses, increasing my waistline.

While researching something on the Web, you see one picture. The demons (as Evagrius calls them, we call them impulses) grab your imagination and all energy is diverted down an unhealthy path.

The comedian Flip Wilson (popular in the 60s) portrayed a character whose phrase was, “Get behind me Satan!” Actually, good advice.

  • Awareness of the approaching passion/emotion;
  • Intentionally push back;
  • Focus again on the task at hand;
  • Regain energy after a momentary diversion.

Awareness

September 22, 2021

We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots, and executions. We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, suffering, and shame. In the same way all disrespect for life, all hardheartedness, all indifference, and all contempt is nothing else than killing. With just a little witty skepticism we can kill a good deal of the future in a young person. Life is waiting everywhere, the future is flowering everywhere, but we only see a small part of it and step on much of it with our feet.

Hermann Hesse

We can go through life so unaware. Never noticing how we affect those around us near and far. We are as if in out cocoon. A bubble where everything is about us.

And yet, one cutting word thoughtlessly spouted can ruin someone’s day or even their life. One stupid repost of a “witty” meme on social media can ruin a career or people’s trust in you.

It’s hard to be like Jesus who seemed to be aware of everyone around him. But it is a goal toward which we strive every morning as we rise and go.

You Cannot Unsee

September 21, 2021

Be aware of how you fill your mind. Your news sources. Social media use. TV shows. Books. Newsletters.

What you ingest determines your outlook on life, even your personality.

Your thoughts determine your actions. Your actions determine who you are.

We’re on a vacation (well, for me a sort of working vacation) at a popular resort. Last night we saw an illusionist (used to be called magician). He commented at one point, “You can’t unsee this.”

It’s true. There are things you’ve experienced that you cannot unsee. Once it’s buried in your mind, it’s there.

All the more reason to be aware and then selective of what you allow in.

A Cask Full of Holes

September 13, 2021

The man who stores up injuries and resentments yet fancies that he prays might as well draw water from a well and pour it into a cask that is full of holes. –Evagrius

That moment before you click “post” on Facebook or “tweet” on Twitter or “send” in your email app, that moment between reactive thought and public unveiling, that moment when you could have paused and inhaled deeply–what stored up injury or resentment is releasing its venom upon your friends, acquaintances, strangers who now think differently about you?

That moment when you sit to pray and your anger and hate spill over. Then, what is the condition of your heart? Is it that of the penitent of whom Jesus taught to settle things with the other person before approaching the Temple?

In that moment can be the pause where we realize the problem is not them but what is within ourselves. And how we can now lay aside those burdens and stand naked before God asking for grace.

It is that which TS Eliot wrote, “…at the still point, there the dance is…and there is only the dance.”

Changing

September 10, 2021

Sometimes we change–and we don’t change. Or, we change one vice for another.

Perhaps we are a judgmental, abrasive type of person. We “become a Christian.” And we become a judgmental, abrasive Christian. Know any of those? What would Jesus think?

Perhaps we gain the virtue of humbleness. But then we become proud of our humility.

Self-awareness becomes the key to change. When we gain the ability to see ourselves, only then can we become the change we seek.

When I Comes Before We

July 12, 2021

The teacher on the podcast I listened to this morning on my walk around the ponds mentioned that problem—when I comes before we.

Evagrius Ponticus, a 4th Century Christian monk and teacher, early in his Praktikos writes about the eight kinds of evil thoughts. The last he addresses is pride.

The demon of pride is the cause of the most damaging fall for the soul. For it causes the monk to deny that God is his helper and to consider that he himself is the cause of virtuous actions. Further, he gets a big head in regard to the brethren, considering them stupid because they do not all have this same opinion of him.

Evagrius Ponticus, Praktikos

I have seen this affect others in a negative way destroying relationships and respect. But that is hardly the key. Most important it is our ability to see this within ourselves and to “nip it in the bud” as the saying goes.

Anger follows this, according to Evagrius. If we pay too much attention to media, we may think of anger as the description of our culture. Anger from pride or anger from fear.

As we nestle with God in prayer and contemplation, seek release from pride and then from anger. Ourselves and everyone around us will be the better for it.

Simplify

May 18, 2021

I sat with my bowl of oatmeal (porridge) this morning. Note: sorry keto or paleo people, but whole grains with their fiber is an excellent way of taming cholesterol and triglycerides. I thought about how I used to eat oatmeal what I would call American style–with a lump of brown sugar and raisons.

One day I considered that. Why add sugar? And raisons are not my favorite. I pitched the sugar and added fresh fruit instead of dried (less sugar there, too). I discovered I liked the flavor of the cereal itself.

When I was introduced to coffee, I added milk and sugar. I found I was drinking more coffee when I began working in manufacturing. I noticed the additives–powdered cream surely cannot be healthy. We add too much sugar to everything. So, one day I simplified. I drank just the coffee. It can have a wonderful flavor all by itself. Especially so when you get a direct trade coffee pour over or french press. But I digress.

Of course, then product development people (I was once one of those) began perfecting caffeine delivery systems adding foamed milk and shots of sugary syrup with the fancy Italian name of latte–but that’s another story.

Our lives often become complicated by the additives we accumulate. Possessions, activities, acquaintances who drag us down.

Sometimes, we need to metaphorically step back from ourselves and take a look at our lives. And strip away the unhealthy habits and possessions. Discover the true flavors of living in the present moment shorn of all the peripherals that distract.

Simplify. It doesn’t have to be boring. It can be liberating.

Are You a Drag?

May 12, 2021

Yes, I wish that for just one time

You could stand inside my shoes

You’d know what a drag it is

To see you.

Positively 4th Street, Bob Dylan

We really don’t know what impact we have on others.

Many soccer referees have talked with me over the past ten years or so and say, “I remember when you offered this suggestion…”

I try to watch what I say. My mom was always on the borderline of depression. I always watched carefully to see where she was and tried to be careful about what I said. Sometime she was just fine. Other times just one word would cause some large reaction.

I’ve known many other people who occasionally react with anger or other strong emotion to something I might say. This is tough for me. I’m an observer and always wanting to point out some odd observation. Or, I love playing with words and may have some quick quip about something someone says. I more than 50 years of marriage, I think my wife has appreciated approximately none of those quick observations or quips.

Even trying to watch for my impact on others, I’m still surprised when someone like the referees I cited mention something I said that was impactful in their lives.

Then I listen to Dylan and wonder how many people feel that way…about me. I can still remember a remark a cousin made about my geeky inability to fit in.

Self-awareness is actually a discipline to cultivate. The early 20th Century psychologist Roberto Assagioli talked about the ability to picture the scene you are acting in as if you are observing from just above it. See yourself acting out with others.

If you could do that (I’m speaking from experience), you’d immediately change your attitude and behavior. You’d stop yelling at the clerk or the child. You’d pause and help someone pick up what they had dropped. You would let that car ahead squeeze in to the traffic lane.

In other words, to cite the words of Jesus, you’d treat others as you would like to be treated.

Then you wouldn’t be the object of Bob Dylan’s penetrating observation.