This morning, I'm continuing to examine the Sojourners' 12 Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening. I prefer to re-cast this list, not as symptoms (a humorous metaphor to some) but as rungs of a ladder to a new and contended place.
7. Once you have cultivated the attitude of gratitude discussed in number 4 above, you will find that it is more difficult to worry. It will not come as easily as it did before. Your frequent smiling (see number 2 above) will forestall the frown and wrinkles that accompany worrying, requiring an act of will to settle into serious anxiety. It will simply happen less often. It is also good to allow that things might happen for a reason, which also forestalls worry, since you can instead think of the mystery of why something is happening -- what good reason there might be for it -- rather than how bad it is. You may not subscribe to the popular idea that "things happen for a reason," but it can be a more productive way to approach what seems to be a random and catastrophic existence, whether it is true or not. In this, I am a pragmatic rather than a romantic (my more usual mode).
8. Conflict tends to be interesting to those who are worrying, who are disconnected from nature and isolated from others, who do not perceive what they have that they should be grateful for. Insecurity, disconnection, anxiety, make it more interesting to watch others fight or engage with difficulties. This is not the same as enjoying a good story, nor is it even the same as escaping into a good story. This is more about pot-stirrers, who deliberately egg on those who would gossip or otherwise engage in and encourage alienation, disturbance, emotional fighting. This is about those who would rather talk about others than collaborate with others.
All of that interest falls away as one perceives connection and expresses gratitude. The lives of the rich and famous, whether on television, internet, or down the hall at work, are simply less interesting when one's own life becomes less fraught. It is good when you no longer have to look for someone in bigger trouble than you are. If you are attuned to letting things happen for yourself, you don't have to look to others for excitement. You just don't care about the Kardashians (less accessible) or the Jones (right in the neighborhood) who have this, that, and the other thing. Less comparison with others means more satisfaction and contentedness. You'll find you can resist major advertising campaigns more successfully, and with practice, you might be able to ignore them completely.
It helps if you avoid reading glossy magazines that act as mass pot stirrers to get us interested in Kardashians and Joneses. Try giving up newspapers, magazines, even television or radio news for short periods of time. Re-introduce small doses of headline radio news, to avoid the pot stirring and visual advertising onslaughts. It also helps to avoid staff lounges or other gathering places of the meddling and vindictive. Remember that some people use those spaces with no malign intent (do not judge; see number 10 below) but they are also Petri dishes for those who cast their eyes about looking for trouble to nudge and poke into full conflagration. Go to such places, but do so with open eyes, with a strong heart to resist them, and instead connect and collaborate with the others.
9. Now that you are less interested in the actions of others and more focused on your own spontaneity and living in the moment (see numbers 5 and 6 above), you will also spend less time wondering why other people do the things they do and spend more of your valuable time in this life on just living it. This leads to more of number 5 and 6 above: more intensely joyful experiences that will give you a feeling of truly being alive and aware, connected in the most positive ways to nature and society. You will approach a feeling of being one with the universe. That may sound hokey, but wait until you have that feeling, and your smile stretches across your face, and your tears well up. And you wonder why but you know it doesn't matter. It could be myriads of small joys or several big ones.
10. The kind of reflection that allows for gratitude and joy also leads to an attitude that makes it difficult to judge other people. You know how you have grown and changed; you know from whence you came. You will not be so quick to put someone else down (except perhaps for a moment in your own mind, and certainly not out loud and publicly). You will no longer be the judgmental bitch or bastard you might once have been, and it will free up all sorts of energy for new projects and thoughts that present themselves in the void created when you leave all that behind. You will find that you will judge less and less even in your own mind. Your energy just will not support it anymore.
11. One of the best results from number 10 above is that you will also become less judgmental of yourself. You will allow yourself to be nurturing and encouraging, and those voices that used to say "you can't, you can't" will start saying, "let's! let's!" You will be amazed at the possibilities that open up before you. It will bring you great joy. You will smile more, and tears will well up at odd moments.
12. With the inordinate amount of interest in others reduced and moments of joy greatly increased, you will find that you have a lot of love in your heart. Because you are not focused on others but simply connected, you will not expect anything from them in return for your own love and encouragement. You will find yourself filled with love. It is a really different way to live, so don't expect every step of the way to be easy. You may draw attention to yourself in ways you did not anticipate, but be strong. Be brave. Love is a good foundation for living, especially supported by numbers 1 through 10 above.
Because of the great shining light of love and joy that will surround you at this point, more light and energy and joy will come to you. It seems to be how this universe works. I could be wrong, but it feels really good anyway.
Lastly, I'll share the prayer that helps me keep all this in mind as I sit, in the morning, and face a new day:
Lord of light, constant, unchanging,
shine on me and shine in me.
Hear my prayers.
Hear me declare that I am letting go of the struggle,
that I am eager to learn through joy,
eager to claim all the blessings that are waiting for me.
Protect me from my own desires.
Teach me to find truth in my mouth, in my heart.
Keep me from taking anything personally.
Put questions on my lips
rather than assumptions in my mind.
Give me patience to listen closely,
that I may hear others' stories,
and that I may know
what it is I am meant to learn from them.
Push me to do my best always, in everything.
Lead me from the darkness of pain and fear
into the marvelous light of grace and peace.