“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness”
How often have you said “I didn’t realize…” We usually have to say it in apology, when we neglected to pay attention to the world around us, or the pain someone else is going through. When we meet in a fender bender, or do something careless, it is often through failure to pay attention, to be aware of our surroundings. Nowadays we feel guilty if we are not trying to accomplish several things at one time, never really giving full concentration to any one task. And then we get upset with ourselves when we can’t find our car keys!
For a lesson in how to focus on one thing at a time, observe a child. They will struggle with a task, single-mindedly determined to do it without help or interference from another, until frustration sets in! But at the moment when they are completely absorbed in the job, nothing else exists. The rest of us are more easily distracted, thrown off our game by the many stimuli we surround ourselves with.
After writing last week about the monkey mind, with its incessant distracting chatter, I had occasion to speak about it several times. On one occasion it was to a group of students who are coming to the end of the nursing program, and all of the stresses and anxieties that go along with that. Some were so ‘stressed out’ I was tempted to tell them the story that our high school principal used to tell us near the end of term, when excitement was mounting about the upcoming school break. ‘There were two students,’ Johnny Mac would tell us, ‘one named Peter, and one named Paul.’ Peter and Paul featured heavily in his stories. But his point was about not quitting as you get close to your goal. One stopped short, and the other persevered and won the race, or whichever allegory he had chosen on that day. It is a common mistake we make, to think that we don’t have the strength to achieve the goals we set ourselves. But how will we know if we don’t push on through? I finally started to work out again, after a year of excuses. I was inspired by a facebook page, a group of people who are working on eating healthy and getting fit. I posted my activity on the page to publicize my intention. That meant I had made a commitment that other people would help me keep. When we want to make a change, making that public affirmation widens your conscience and provides you with a network of supportive others.
There are times that we take on a challenge without truly being aware of the enormity of the undertaking. Maybe we volunteer to take in a difficult child, or take on an extra responsibility at work. Then, when it requires greater effort than we anticipated, we want to take back our generous gesture, withdraw our offer. But how will we know what we are capable of if we give up at the first sign of adversity? But deeper than that, why did we offer in the first place? What was our motivation? Was it generosity or a desire to demonstrate our capability, our selflessness, and in the end it was all about our ego? Do we recognize when we are doing the right things for the wrong reasons?
Living life a different way requires being awake and aware, objectively observing ourselves. When you find yourself reacting reflexively to a situation, pausing for a breath and an inner examination may help you to put the brakes on that instinctive rush of anger that you then have to apologize for. Being aware requires that you pay attention to your motivations and spot the ego taking over. When we become competitive, when it is all about me, that is the ego speaking squashing all compassion you should be showing to the other.
As students of life we only learn the important lessons when we are fully engaged, observing and recognizing messages as they appear. And that requires us to be awake and aware of the present moment. When we spend our time reliving the past, reviewing our past mistakes and imagining a do-over, we miss what is happening in our present. When we waste precious energy imagining what may happen in the future, seeing and anticipating worst case scenarios, we psyche our bodies into preparing for war. Our body responds with an outpouring of hormones that create havoc over the longterm, elevating blood pressure and blood sugar, damaging the tiny vessels that supply our crucial organs with lifegiving oxygen. And we do it to ourselves!
Our health is so closely related to our attitude, that we have to be aware at all times. And ultimately we choose our attitude. We love to place responsibility on others: ‘she made me so mad’ or ‘he makes me crazy’. That awareness will help you to take back your power, and choose how to react to others. And then think of the quote from Viktor Frankl which says “When we are unable to change our situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Are we up to the challenge? This morning I hope you will have the opportunity to push yourself to new heights, opening yourself to new awareness and new possibilities.
Have a wonderful weekend Family! And be aware that there will not be another full moon on Friday the 13th until 2049! Which makes me think of an old hymn:
Nor again, forever more,
quite the same sky will be seen,
or the same sky circle o’er.
Therefore, I, my Father pray
That no golden chance may fly
Missed and lost by me today.