Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Freedom to Think and Feel

Living in a question is living within possibility, as if, “This might be possible for me.” It implies the freedom to think and feel.

This is like trying to start a fire. We create heat, then puff a little oxygen in there, and finally we see signs of smoke emanating from what has, now, become a fire.

Living in a question is a way of life that’s decisively open-minded, not to the compromise of morality, per se, but open and present. It’s the commitment to live within possibility; it takes everything within conscious grasp holding it above the flame of raw feeling and straight thought. Everything within our thought-world, and our perception for feeling, is ours; all ours to be owned.

What Is ‘Living In A Question?’

We never ‘make it’ as far as thinking and feeling is concerned.

Indeed, the closer we think we are to achieving mastery over thought and emotion the further we tend to be getting. Being free to think and feel is trickier than it seems. Making it possible for us requires us to risk enough to live our lives within a question. That is, to be sufficiently anchored, yet open to anything our thoughts and feelings could be exposed to.

When we think about it, freedom to think and feel as we would do, as a function of being ourselves, is freedom—perhaps the most basic kind. In this position we give ourselves permission to feel as God would have us feel; in accord with the truth.

Exposing our thoughts and feelings to the truth can be dangerous territory. Courage in dealing with what comes is obligatory. Living within a question, open within possibility, is that way.

Being Ourselves

Most people think it’s not rocket science to be themselves, but the irony is most of us struggle to achieve it for any lasting period. Our experiences have moulded our belief systems, and those belief systems continue to thwart the many situations we’re exposed to today.

Only as we live in a question, and as completely open within possibility as we can allow ourselves, can we enjoy life, being our essential, unadulterated selves.

***

Everyone has fundamental dreams of enjoying their lives. Getting past the many barriers to satisfaction is a key challenge. When we can live life within possibility, open-minded to our experience, we come closer to that fundamental dream.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creating Space for Freedom

Be in the space.”

It may seem incredibly hard to sustain; but once it’s established, as a matter of concurrent course, it will prove its worth, even to a measure we cannot grasp now.

Being in the freeing spaces we can find ourselves is being emptied, not of meaning, but of distraction, of frustration, of conflict; of many forms of dissonance. We dream of being able to ‘be present’. Now we can be.

Discovering What To Rid Ourselves Of

To enjoy the impenetrable privilege of being in the best existential space we must get rid of barriers to the achievement of it; anything that gets in the way.

It sounds simple, yet we know how complex it is. These things we need to rid ourselves of are present daily before us, afresh each day in different ways, so ridding ourselves of these things is to become a habit, if we’re to enjoy a lasting sense of simply being.

Those actual things we need to rid ourselves of we already know. We’ve perhaps been promising ourselves these things, to attain or retain our peace, for months, even years.

We make a list, then we prioritise the list.

Only the top one or two are worth working on—they’ll produce enough gain for us to know an increased sense of being which supplements life. We need to be committed and decisive, being on our own sides.

Making Gain Of Loss

We human beings hate loss, yet life is so full of losses and losing. It would be better to make an art form of jettisoning the things we accumulate that only tend to entrap us in forms of senseless present and future loss.

If we can predict the pain, why do we continue along a losing path that destines us for such pain? We have enough vision to see and enough control to steer ourselves along a better path.

Our lives should become less and less complicated, not more and more.

Getting rid of likely future losses, and those things causing us loss now, is simply wisdom. The less we have, the less we’re burdened, the happier we generally are. And only from such a position are we able to know with any degree of assurance what our Lord is calling us to.

This is because communication channels, spiritually, are open and never clearer.

***

Being in open space, free from within ourselves, is the greatest existential reality—to exist and to simply enjoy existing for what that is.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Allowing Peace To Dwell Within

How correspondingly ironic it is that we look for that which we either don’t have, or we have but want more of; the scope of the present issue: peace; inner harmony.

Jesus promises us that peace and the sufficiency of the Spirit, if we will partake:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

~John 14:27a (NRSV)

An Attempt To Describe Peace

Peace is a gladdened nothingness where acceptance rides sway and conflict is ever lower in our interest than just being is. Just enjoying ‘being’ is salubrious.

Peace doesn’t try; indeed, it does not; it cannot. It just is. Why try and do something so apparently wrong? Instead, peace sits at rest with a more urgent and ever persuasive truth. It contends against nothing. Nothing matters more.

As it’s known throughout both modern and ancient worlds, this peace we seek is ever-present, abiding within the flourishing flow of life itself. And yet, how is it to be known, personally, deeply?

Peace is a state of mind and heart; and one can help the other there.

The Contributions Of Both Mind And Heart And Their Amalgamation

Where there’s thinking, there’s also feeling. Both are involved in perception. It beckons, then, that contributions for peace reside within cooperative investment at the level of both mind and heart.

The mind advises for peace, calming the heart by logic and knowledge: God is good. The mind thinks good, when it can.

The heart empathises with the mind, soothing its cognitive aches and pains, the dissensions from momentary congruence: a personal ease. The heart feels good, when it can.

To experience peace we make a home for it; a place where it might dwell, by sitting comfortably within stillness, facilitating longer and more frequent visits.

We tend to the inner environment much like a garden. We trim old growth, ridding callused memories. We blow them into the wind. As they disappear from our possession we lose, also, our warrant for them. We let them go. We allow them their disappearance. We focus on other, more life-giving things.

As we dig up the soil in our lives, day-by-day, we allow the regeneration within the matter that is our lives. These stagnating compartments feel outwardly for the presence of oxygen and they’re embellished with new growth.

***

For varying reasons peace is sought. This peace is ever-present; we tap into it now if we want. It doesn’t hide. All it requires is a coming home to truth. Both the mind and the heart can help.

To allow peace to dwell within we need to make room for it. We prioritise it. We raise its value in our personal estimation. Then, God blesses us with it.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When Fearing the Unknown

If we thought of a time when we feared the unknown, perhaps when we were afraid of the dark, and needed our parents’ assurance, we can understand that, though we are adults, we may always hold some fear of the unknown.

As adults, fear manifests in more complex ways. Like, we fear being exposed in embarrassment, in failing to perform as we previously agreed to, or we may fear living up to our own moral expectations. These things produce fear within us, and quite naturally so.

Fear manifested in these ways portrays us as both human and adult: normal. Of course, when we fear too much we stand to experience anxiety, and at the extreme such anxiety may make us ill. It’s important to come back to one chief concept, time and again.

This is what the Lord says:

“Do not fear, for I am with you...”

~Isaiah 43:5a (NRSV)

When we know God is with us, and that God is always good, and always producing safety in our circumstances, we may make the shift mentally; we may take our thinking from one neural route or zone to another one.

Enjoying Some Old-Fashioned Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a centuries-old meditative technique that can be employed any time, anywhere. It normally requires a reading or recitation, but it can be done on a train, in a dining room, or even running. Its best application, however, is in still and quiet circumstances, where external stimuli are rendered null.

To help in the particular case of fear for the unknown, a good biblical passage to meditate upon, over and over, is Isaiah 43:1-7. This passage resides within Isaiah’s Book of Comfort. In the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the heading for the chapter is called Restoration and Protection Promised.

As we read over each word, and each line, taking each tiny morsel, over and over, by reading slowly, silently and/or aloud, this reassuring Word of God filters into the deeper recesses of our conscious and subconscious. It begins attending to our fear of the unknown, reassuring us, and lessening, already, future experiences of panic and anxiety. The more we reflectively read and ponder and even escape into this Word the more our faith is shored up in the awareness of God there, always, with us.

***

Whenever we fear the unknown, or we feel alone in our faith, we revert to the knowledge that God is there; there always with us—the perfect companion in fear, aloneness, disconsolation and loss.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eat Small, Eat Slow, Eat Skinny

The older we get the more we repetitively learn a simple truth: food is fuel.

Three other important truths: 1) our tanks are small; 2) they fill quickly; and, 3) like a high-performance vehicle, we need the best fuel to perform at our best.

Disturbed by many mirages of excuse to eat whatever is put in front of us (or more perhaps), the ancient, and indeed eternal, agenda for health never relieves itself from effect upon our bodies. We reap as we sow. Long life, and good life at that, is dependent on such simple things as dietary intake, sleep and exercise. There’s no getting around it.

Three key ideas help us arrest the slide into dietary oblivion:

1. Eat Small

Many of our meals are super-sized. Too many.

Our stomachs are typically the size of a clenched fist, and despite the fact most of our food compresses as we chew it, we cannot cater that well with two, three, four or five fistfuls. Gorging on food is a sin, but it’s characteristically a practice of rich society.

The smaller our meals can be, the more our bodies are ready for the next meal at its appointed time. If we find our digestive systems are bound up, like a traffic jam, it could be time for a small season of fasting—to lessen what we eat for 3-4 days. After such a period of circumspect eating we will feel better within.

2. Eat Slow

Combined with eating small is the warrant to take our time and not rush our meals.

There’s a lot to be said for having meals at the family table and not before the television, for discussion is a healthy distraction slowing our eating—we cannot eat whilst we’re talking, or not too well. But dependent on what television we’re watching it can increase our rate of eating. We therefore don’t enjoy our food as much.

Eating slow is simply giving our digestive systems the consideration they’re due.

3. Eat Skinny

Possibly the most important of all three is watching what we eat.

Even the skinny person is going to have problems with cholesterol if they don’t adhere to sound intake of certain foods.

Eating dense foods, stacked with the nutritional goodness of lean proteins and low Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrate, together with important vitamins and minerals, are not only good for us, but they fill us up as well.

***

The wisest diet requires us to eat small, eat slow, and eat skinny. These are all doing things. Being healthy is beyond knowledge; it’s a practice; a way of life.

When the focus turns to food when it shouldn’t (i.e. it’s not mealtime), find a worthy distraction. Become habitually distracted from snacking.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Achieving the Beginner’s Mind

There may be many ways to achieve the freedom of true inner peace. Indeed, for the billions of people who live on this planet there is, perhaps, that many ways. But there is one sure way; according to the religious art of Zen it is the achievement of the beginner’s mind—the reclamation of open-mindedness:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

~Shunryu Suzuki

Achieving the beginner’s mind is a paradox. Now, what seasoned veteran wants to achieve stillness of heart and calmness of mind by admitting their humble vulnerability? But the nature of life is it’s a reversal—a paradox—whereby the insistent proud are humbled and the willing humble are exalted (Matthew 23:12).

Only the sufficiently open-minded can ever be truly content and at peace.

A Portrait Of The Beginner’s Mind

Freedom of self is the commencement of the beginner’s mind; to shelve all conscious concepts that we bring value to anything besides the clarity of a genuine opened mind.

The beginner’s mind is unencumbered by previous achievement, the standing of reputation, or respect commanded. It has no such baggage; there are no caveats. And though the world runs on credibility, the person showcasing the beginner’s mind lets their credibility stand as it will be. There is no foisting of one’s self image upon anything.

At once the beginner’s mind becomes operant upon delimitation. It requires nothing from no one, least of all itself. What is perfectly open and free must necessarily be, also, humble. The pride of offense can’t get a look in.

The beauty of the beginner’s mind is its serenity. It cannot be threatened because it doesn’t insist on having the answer; only the freedom to ask the right questions.

Advantages Of The Beginner’s Mind

When we think of any successful thinker, most successful business persons, and all good leaders, they share a common trait: they seem to have the right thing to say at the right time. They are thought of as wise. They exemplify the beginner’s mind, because their frame of reference hasn’t been limited by their sheltered experience.

The achievement of the beginner’s mind is a watershed moment, every time.

Life rewards such thinking through many types of commendation. All this because we were free to think as the moment presented itself. We presented ourselves to the moment empty-of-expectation and ready-minded. Then we noticed so many things we would have otherwise missed. Our openness enlarged our capacity; we were blessed with perspective.

***

The best of life is, ironically, to be the beginner; to approach everything without preconceived judgments. There is no straighter way to peace. To enter every situation devoid of our own pressure is a blessing only we, with God’s help, can achieve.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Resolving Resignation and Rejection

The closest thing to the heart is acceptance – finding a place on the earth the soul calls home. And we will strive for our way there. Our instincts are unrelenting.

Loneliness, disappointment, betrayal, chastening, anxiety, depression, grief (of sorts) and a myriad of other disorders of the soul are warranted for rejection.

Rejection is a feeling. It’s innately and intensely personal.

Not far from rejection is the close cousin, resignation... this is an accepted variety of helpless hopelessness. It’s a few down the road from rejection—sadly, it expects nothing less.

It’s painful even reading about these two.

Acknowledging and Moving On

We will all feel rejected. Never do we really get completely over it, no matter how ‘mature’ we get. People are perhaps on the other end of these feelings of ours, but at the end of the day they’re still our feelings.

So, if we accept we’ll feel rejected it can help us understand that not always does this correlate with actual rejection—many times the person or situation we feel we’ve been rejected by is completely unaware of it. Like unforgiveness, there’s little sense to retaining our feelings of rejection.

Resignation is even more insidious. We hardly even notice that we’ll almost expect rejection in certain situations—particularly those we’ve been hurt in before. Off goes the triggering event and we’re right back there, resigned to rejection, in a flash.

Acknowledgement is so powerful. It’s genuinely the first step in truly moving on.

Flipping the Coin

Could it be that the first time we feel ultimately empowered over our rejection is when we understand—and no less, see—others’ rejection, particularly as it occurs, us rejecting people? Yes, that’s a different angle isn’t it?

We’ll hardly ever contemplate how the other person feels at the hand of our rejection. And suddenly when we do this we’re aberrantly empathetic.

Like we address any spiritual problem, we need to focus on other people and less on ourselves. God has this way about life: the less we think of ourselves and our problems the less we’ll worry about them. It’s the larger perspective we’re to prefer.

The only disclaimer to the focus on others is our honesty with ourselves. It is too easy to reject (deny) our (feelings of) rejection, never doing anything about them.

Love Makes the World Go Around

Acceptance and rejection lead us inevitably to love.

Love is what we all pine for and we need it every day, in all manner of forms; we’re never ‘cured’ of our need for love.

Given this knowledge, and how keenly rejection hurts us, the key question is, “Are we prepared to be others’ security by loving in advance?”

Somehow when we do this God’s love comes in and gives us surety beyond what any human could give. Rejection’s power is transformed; it’s made palpably useful.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: layoutsparks.com.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Privileged Life: Enjoying Choice

Do we see ourselves as somehow privileged? Is that our view of compartments of our lives?

The fact is, there are compartments of all our lives that sit abreast with conflict, yet shower us with the blessedness we too often take for granted.

This blessedness is choice; choice is privilege.

Only in a world created by a loving God would there be such a blessedness as choice; at least a part of our lives—and more significant than we realise—is correspondingly privileged.

Rarely do we reckon upon such privilege, though.

We’re so much more apt at noticing those instances of life where we’re anything but privileged; where life seems drudgery, and there is a lack of choice.

But most of life really is far more the other way. We have so much choice, even, that the matter of choice becomes some twisted form of drudgery, in that we’re forced to make a choice. Where we don’t make a choice, because we’re not disciplined enough, the very matter of making a choice forces our hand. Nobody likes to be forced.

So, even choice can be a pariah. Privilege can be turned into a nemesis.

Being Thankful Requires Discipline

If we agree it’s only right that we’re thankful for the enormous privilege it is to live our lives, for the plethora of choice we actually have, for instance, we ought to realise that only discipline actualises this blessing. Only where we exercise the option of choice—so it tends for us and not against us—are we doing things to enjoy choice and, therefore, prove more (or appropriately) thankful.

We can see, here, that the mere presentation of choice is not enough for us to enjoy the blessing of privilege. No, we must bring our virtue (our discipline to use it) to the virtue of life (the presence of choice and, therefore, privilege).

It pays to go onto the front foot; to live life affirmatively, not regressively—to take some control. Stagnation is regression. Only as we exercise our choice are we experiencing the privilege implicit through life.

***

Being thankful for the privilege bestowed to us in life is being mindful of the myriad choice within the compartments of our lives.

Only when we choose to live affirmatively will we reap more reward.

Life is a privilege; something we’ve been given. We’ve not earned it, yet we’ve got much choice in the living of it. These realities afford us the opportunity of thankfulness. But we only feel thankful when we exercise choice. Choice requires discipline. The disciplined life is the happiest of lives.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Being Present in Faraway Places

It’s a fact of life that we’re expected to ‘front up’ in many places and situations of necessity. Many choices are made for us. We must work/earn a living. We must care for ourselves and our families. We must attend to our minimal civic duties.

Not fronting up is tantamount to regression, yet we know that’s not where life’s truly at. At places and situations we loath the ground we walk upon, we have the capacity to scrounge some joy from elsewhere.

This is what we affectionately call hope.

That is, we derive sustenance from a future event or a present status (probably both simultaneously) within the starkness of the moment bereft of joy; at work, during a sleepless night, or during pain, for good examples.

The ideal state, here, in unsatisfying times, is being present in a faraway place.

The mind holds the present in tension with the preferred reality. It’s an acceptance of the undesirable and unenjoyable by reflecting on other more fulfilling thoughts. It’s the ability to keep coming back to such a thought pattern.

Blissfully Sold More Than Once

Many circumstances in life encourage multitasking of the situation’s consciousness. We get the best out of many moments by being aware of more than one dynamic.

As we interact with another person, for instance, we attempt to hold our personal awareness in tension with the dynamic between us two and the awareness the other person has about themselves that we can observe. Three dynamics are at play.

Being skilful, in a conscious sort of way, is about having an appreciation of those dynamics; to nurture a sense of awareness on more than one plane at a time.

Being sold more than once is the ability to manage several forms of awareness simultaneously. It is not duplicitous. It is not a dilution of our focus. It is super-focus.

In the context of being present in faraway places, such a super-focus will allow us to enjoy a mood of hopefulness when things are otherwise mad, bad, or sad.

A Better Variety Of Present

Where we’re as able to achieve the embodiment of a loaned hope we’re free to be more present in our moments than we would otherwise be if we were encumbered by drudgery.

Because we’re loaning some of our conscious thinking space for cognisance of better things—those we’re looking forward to—we have necessarily learned the art of momentary reflection. For, we cannot be present, certainly within interaction, without being accountable for ourselves. (None of us wants to be found as uncaring or as poor listeners.)

So, as the mind skips momentarily into the future before it is called back into the present, a heightened awareness is a must. Such a heightened awareness requires more mental effort, but it redeems the rich reward of fuller situational stimuli—information with which helps enrich our experience of life.

Being perfectly present is dependent on the mind’s ability to appreciate momentary complexity—utilising the past and the future; reflecting and planning; synthesising every morsel of awareness.

Being present in faraway places is a skill of the awareness to covert hope from one place and bring it to another.

Hope is a product of momentary reflection over what’s good in life. Everyone has such good in their lives. Everyone, therefore, has hope—free and available.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.


Monday, February 20, 2012

In Private Moments

Private moments are the space and capacity for peace.

There is an essence about them enfolding serene comfort.

When we are there, we are finally ourselves.

In those private moments, deep within the recesses of conscious thought, where nobody knows us but God, there, the cogent us is found. Deeper still is the mystery of us as we interact with our environments—in this reflective space it’s the environment of the psyche we traipse.

In those private moments, where the self-with-God is explored, and we live a happy acceptance, we gather pace in our acceptance of conscious reality. The senses breathe. We’re stayed within ourselves, no longer clawing away at our spiritual skin for lack of peace.

In our private moments, deep and dark, yet just as much wondrously illuminating, we step through doorways typically inaccessible through lack of permissible consciousness. We enter the garden of our spirits and attest to the fortitude of a Creator that dwells with us and with life itself.

In each private moment, as we trawl through an ambience altogether familiar, climbing the crests and wandering through valleys, we annotate our lives. Only there, in the midst of the tranquil second, do we attain to the presence of the living Lord. Only there does everything, just for the moment, make sense.

In the sheltering of the private moment, as opportunity is taken, and our presence is withdrawn from the availing scope of visibility, we find ourselves most blessed of all creatures. Here, it is known, we are infirmed of God; brought at once to the healing place.

In private moments, living as alone, and still never lonely, we know God. To the proportion of our self-abundance, to swim salubriously within our God-cajoled peace, added to us is a copious portion of sense for the moment that also informs the very-present future.

Private moments carrier us afar, taking us into the throes of the personal unknown, resplendent of both fears and joys, into the respite of life beyond life. In there is a fantasyland that transcends this burdening life, with its rolling hills and sweeping plains of nonchalance for all sorts of difficulty.

But private moments are never more real, as our consciousness keeps us to account, and with our spirits found lagging in the sensuality of hope, so we run yet again back into life; organised, refreshed, contented.

Entering into the cherished private moment is a soul’s privilege, bliss, and destiny.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.