Monday, April 23, 2018

Awareness

“The wise man will live as he ought, not as long as he can.” (Seneca)

While visiting an inmate serving a robbery sentence, a visitor reported to his incarcerated friend how another man was recently arrested for robbing a house and killing the family who lived there. “You know,” the inmate said, “it's people like that who give robbery a bad name.” As Shakespeare wrote, "He hath ever but slenderly known himself." (King Lear)

Awareness is a starting point to wise living, balancing the inward look with an outward look. After all, we live on a planet with other people. Problems set in when the inward or the outward look are out of balance. For example, if we worry about what others think and tailor our actions to people-please, then we lose ourselves. Or, if we become too inward focused, selfishness takes over and we get along with no-one.

The outward aspect of awareness is simply proximity. "Who" is doing "what" around you? 


Personal Awareness (the inward look) begins with “what makes me tick?” Here are some exploratory questions to get started:
  • Why do I do what I do?
  • Where are my comfort zones and where do I draw the line? 
  • Do I start what I finish? If not, why? What fears or frustrations hold me back? 
  • What emotion seems to be most prevalent in my life? Do I operate mostly out of fear, jealousy, anger, courage? Do I shrink back from trying new things? 
  • What beliefs are behind those emotions? Why do I believe as I do? 
  • What are the benefits of these emotions for myself and others?
  • What might I need to change or replace, starting with my beliefs? 
  • What would it be like if doing hard things were easy? 
  • What would it take for me to not just stay in the fight but crush it? 
  • How will I take care of myself and contribute to others? 
We can’t stop doing a thing without replacing it with something else. We can’t break a habit without replacing it with a new one. Read carefully Paul’s words as he takes his readers in Ephesus through a similar checklist, encouraging them to “put off” some behaviors and “put on” new ones, noting how personal awareness affect others:

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” [Eph 4:25-32 ESV]

Work things out in a journal, one day at a time, one thing at a time.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Behind The Mountain . . .

The young man stood in the valley, craned his neck back thought to himself, "I am going to climb that mountain." Filling his canteen and with walking stick in hand he struck out, crossed the road and began his climb, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes his boot trod solid ground, or clambered over the salt-and-pepper granite. Chipmunks chattered at his passing and Marmots watched from the boulders, ready to sound the warning squeak. He wondered if he could remember where the Mountain Lion den was, so he could avoid that path.

Stepping higher and higher, sliding over shale, now in sunshine, now in shade, he stopped from time to time to catch is breath. The valley began to grow beneath him and over his head, he could see the peak. "That didn't take long." He thought to himself. Icy water from his canteen revived his resolve and he struck out again, tramping and supporting every other step with his walking stick. Climbing higher and higher until at last, he topped the rise.

The valley spread further beneath him and below, he could see the cabin roof. Heaving a victory sigh, he turned. His smile faded for his gaze did not show him the other side of the mountain, but more mountain. He was no-where near the peak but had only topped a rise. The mountain loomed over his head--but still the peak called. So on he went.

The day went on, the heat grew, his water dwindled, his belly growled and his feet hurt. Rise after rise he topped and the mountain seemed to grow away from him. The peak was just too far. If he did not turn back now, he would be out past dark. Defeated, he made his way back down.

Putting Another Easy Part Behind Me
I recalled this experience when my eyes ran across a saying, "behind mountains are more mountains." More recently my defeat became a true victory as I summited not one but five peaks in succession with two friends. With every ascent, our leader would smile and say, "the easy part's behind you."

When the two ideas are put together, it effects a change of perspective: yes, behind mountains are more mountains, so keep climbing. With every little victory comes preparation for more of what lies ahead. The easy part's behind you. More difficult days are coming but if you've conquered one, then you can conquer another, and another, and another. Before long you'll be standing on the last peak--look how far you've come!

It's hard work, but it's worth it. The only way to make it is with persistence and resistance. Stick with it. Whatever lies before you, persist. Conquer it because that obstacle is your way out. Now resist--there is no going back. You can only go forward, so persist toward the peak and resist the temptation to quit.

“Firstly, avoid all actions that are haphazard or purposeless . . " (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 12:20)

I hear a Mountain calling . . . 

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