I have a spoon in my utensil drawer that has met the whirling garbage disposal. It has jagged edges now, not like a spoon should be. A spoon needs to be smooth and curved to do it’s job well. The sharp, ragged edges cut the lips and mouth. It can still hold food and transport it my mouth, and it hurts. I think, every time I see the spoon, “why do I still have that spoon?” Yet, I leave it in the drawer. Sometimes bury it under the “good” spoons.
I believe that a lot of people have tools they keep and don’t use. I think that we, as people, tend to hold onto a lot of things that we don’t need or even, perhaps, hurt us. I imagine this spoon as metaphor for coping skills or behaviors that we choose to hold onto, even though they may hurt us.
When you open your drawer of go-to, even thoughtless, behaviors, reactions, coping skills, do you look at what you grab? Are your reactions instinctual? Do you sometimes end up with the jagged spoon? Cutting and hurting yourself in the process of protecting yourself? Thinking “it will work just fine – if I do what I always have done.”
Eventually, we might need new spoons.
The jagged sharp spoon did not start that way. It was good, until it wasn’t. How do you decide when a behavior or coping skill is not for you anymore? How can you tell if you are hurting yourself? Generally this comes after a behavior or reaction. It is a matter of self reflection and paying attention to what you do. If you find you continue to behave in the same way, which sometimes hurts you, you might want to look at some new tools, new ways to do things.
G – GRACE & GRATITUDE
Acceptance of God’s Love ~ Watching for gifts ~ Reading spiritual memoirs and biographies ~ Awareness of synchronicities ~ Gift of tears ~ Lighting candles
Grace, to me, is so much about living with what you got rather than envy what you do not. We are all given the gifts of body and mind. How you choose to receive and use those gifts are up to you. Grace is conducting your body and mind in a manner of gratitude and growth. Not only being grateful for your today and what you have and looking forward to new gifts and how to share them. We also grow by learning about those whom we look up to. Not only in a spiritual sense, but personality, career, political, etc. All of these lend to our sense of self and spirituality, or connection with others.
Gratitude journals ~ Naikan ~ Blessings ~ Greeting the dawn ~ Mealtime grace ~ Offerings
I have written about gratitude before. It is one of the aspects of “Happy” people. When we are grateful, for everyday things, we are focusing on our blessings and not shortcomings. It can be easy, especially in our culture, to get caught up in what we don’t have. This creates angst, resentment, greed, etc. Keeping a gratitude journal helps us remember that everyday we have things to be grateful for. The journal is simply writing down good things that happened that day and events, people or things you are grateful for.
Naikan is a the Japanese word for “introspection” It is a practice of self reflection, which includes gratitude. It can be a simple and easy way to include gratitude daily. It can also be a reflection of those who given to you throughout your life.
Naikan reflection is based on three questions:
- What have I received from __________?
- What have I given, what have I done for ___________?
- What troubles and difficulties have I caused __________?
F – Faith & Forgiveness
Talking to God ~ God box ~ Prostration and Surrender ~ Trust Exercises ~ Personal creeds ~ Examen of consciousness ~ Participation in a Religious Community ~ Sacraments ~ Sharing Sacred Stories
Faith is about your sharing your soul/self/consciousness with a larger entity. That larger entity could be a God, nature, unseen forces or the collective peoples of the world. However you choose to nurture your spirituality aides in your sense of connectedness to the world around you. People come together with like values, morals and believes in faith. There many ways to believe and worship. Those many options listed above are about the connection, feeling comradery and support while allowing others and your entity to take on some of your strife. If you are not religious or feel a sense of spirituality, you could find a place or activity that gives you peace and sense of safety.
Letting go ~ confession of sins ~ repentance ~ reconciliation ~ Passing the Peace
Forgiveness is very powerful! It is also quite difficult for some people. Forgiveness includes other people who may have wronged you, grief for unmet needs and your personal transgressions. Yes! We need to forgive ourselves as much as others.
We usually relate forgiveness to “forgive and forget” when you have been hurt be others. This does not help you or them. If you have been wronged, you need to examine that instance, take responsibility for your portion, adjust your expectations and boundaries and let the anger and sadness about it go. It does not have to even involve the other person. Forgiveness of others is about YOU. You need to make peace with a wrong doing and release the power it has over you. This can be simple or complex. Letting go may need outside help in complex cases like abuse. When others ask for forgiveness, they are asking you to make them feel better about what they did. You are NOT condoning behavior or words with forgiveness. You are freeing yourself of the negative impact on you. I have written on this in more detail here.
Identifying unmet needs is tricky and can harbor some really negative feelings. People let us down. It is usually no fault of their own. Just our expectations. We can harbor some pretty negative feelings about those unmet needs. For example, if your mother suffered from severe depression and was not capable of being affectionate or even emotionally available when you were a child, you may have some anger about that as an adult. Forgiving her will allow you to let go of those painful feelings. This would entail understanding her situation from an adult perspective and accepting her limitations. Writing a letter to people you have negative feelings about (even if you never send it) can help you sort and understand those unmet needs.
Forgiveness of yourself is allowing you to see your mistakes, sins, bad choices, wrong turns, etc and letting them go. You can’t just dismiss those things from your life. All those choices are part of you and who are you today. Your personal forgiveness is about looking at those choices, what have learned from them, what might you do differently and how you can grow from that experience. Once you really understand them, you can let them go. You can allow yourself the freedom to not feel the guilt and remorse of your sins. Saying “I’m sorry”means you understand what you have done and will not do it again.
D – DEVOTION & E – ENTHUSIASM
Prayer ~ Prayer Circle ~ Mantras ~ Zikr or Remembrance of God ~ Bhakti Yoga ~ Chanting ~ Prayer Dancing ~ Icons ~ Prayer Beads ~ Altars ~ Prayer Flags and Wheels ~ Amulets ~ Milagros
Devotion is the practice of bringing yourself closer to your deity and spirituality which brings a sense of peace, calm, and connectedness. Many of the practices listed above are means for one to find that path. There are specific acts to help you achieve connection and peace, like prayer, yoga, mantras, chanting and dancing. These are ideal for focusing your energy in all aspects into your devotion and practice. They can help you release the temporal thoughts and worries.
The others are tangible means to connect to spirituality, like beads, amulets, altars, milagros, flags, etc. These act as reminders of your connection and help keep you close to your spiritual connect. Many items hold much spiritual significance for people and are held sacred, like saint medals, prayer beads, and amulets.
Find things that have meaning for you. That may connect you to your spiritual peace and practice. It can be anything you feel deepens your connection, that feels peaceful to you.
Spiritual mentors ~ Emulation of Saints ~ Singing Hymns ~ Praise and Gospel Music
Music is powerful! It is one wonderful way that many religions build enthusiasm for God. Music of any type invokes emotional reaction. People are moved by music. Religious saints, deities, and figures represent an ideal of how we may to live our lives. They are the guides to our behaviors and beliefs. When we choose one to emulate, it helps us make healthy and clear decision, like WWJD (what would Jesus do).
Find music that moves you to feel good, open, warm and accepting of others. Chose someone you find inspiring and spiritual that you might want to emulate in life. You can find a mentor or do your own research to utilize certain beliefs, values and behaviors in your own life.
C- COMPASSION & CONNECTIONS
LovingKindness mediation ~ tonglen ~ empathy ~ visiting the sick ~ service to the poor and suffering
Compassion is the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” We show compassion from a very early age. Children will try to comfort others as soon as they are capable of comprehending and interacting in the world. A toddler will bring a blanket, toy, pacifier, or bottle to a person who is sad or crying. We innately connect and feel compassion for our fellow earth dwellers. We learn to suppress these feelings as we grow. Compassion is an integral part of happiness and contentedness in humans.
Honoring ancestors & the communion of saints ~ home shrines ~ kinship with animals ~ dedication to all beings and future generations
B – BEAUTY & BEING PRESENT
Living Simply ~ Clearing Clutter ~ Nature walks ~ Ikebana ~ Tea Ceremony
Beauty includes the everyday beauty and appreciating what you have right here and now. The Simple things that create and generate gratitude.
These suggested practices, and your own personal rituals, which give you peace and calm to appreciate things in the everyday; To see the beauty in the mundane.
I love to look at the details. I enjoy every sunset and sunrise when I see the glorious colors that nature can create. I point out to my children the beautiful details in nature or man, watching new leaves roll out, the autumn colors, cloud shapes, stars, cool rocks, spiderwebs, birds and bugs. These are in nature. Though, all things can be beautiful in their own way. The love between a couple or mother and child. Find the beauty in your day.
Living in the present moment ~ haiku ~ free intuitive writing ~ gardening
Living in the moment can be difficult if you have anxiety or depression. I have heard “Anxiety is always living in the future. Depression is always living in the past.” It can make living in the moment, practicing mindfulness, very difficult.
Mindfulness takes practice. You can not do it all the time, but most of the day. You still have to plan. You can find peace in the moment. Mediation, free writing, gardening, walking, etc can be very good ways to stay in the moment and appreciate today. These are only about the now.