How can we learn the important lessons without having to go through an ordeal? We don’t have to take ourselves to the edge of death, because if we listen to what’s happening and act on it, then we can learn the lesson just as well. After all, there are several ways to learn — if you are present at someone else’s crisis, you can probably learn all you need to without having to be at the center of the drama. The truly alert observer gets the emotion and the message, too. Like Dante walking through hell, all you have to do is see the sufferers and extend compassion. This is the first consideration.
The second consideration is slightly more slippery.
This kind of learning is not a one-time deal. It’s not like a vaccination that lasts your whole life. It’s more like a flu shot that wards off this season’s variety only. And for that reason the lesson has to be refreshed, by us, before we lead ourselves into a disaster again. We have to do this consciously.
Being Aware of Who We Are and How We're Handling It
The awareness that can truly keep us alert is a bit like what we do when we decide to dress to suit the weather. Every day we have to look out, assess the weather, and decide what to wear. Similarly, every day we have to be aware of who we are and how we’re handling it.
It’s a lesson that needs renewal almost every day. In practical terms, if you have a compulsive activity of any kind, such as shopping, eating, or gambling, then you won’t be able to break that circling behavior just by an effort of will or by getting angry. This frightened part of you needs to be healed, so be grateful to it for letting you know there’s a problem. Feel humility that you have it, and appreciate the beauty of having it to help you. It lets you know what fear looks and feels like, specifically so that you can act with love.
Fear is the Absence of Love
Fear is always the absence of love, the doubt that love will be strong enough. That’s a powerful message. So, treat this fragile, traumatized part of your personality with respect; send it love. Try to understand where the fear comes from. Then you can get back to the essential you, the Innocent you that was once hurt and find out more about what role love has to play in your life. If yours is to be a healthy life, you’ll need to do that. Treat your circling behavior with love, with understanding, and with firmness.
Think of it this way: The man who circles by endlessly buying things on-line is almost certainly trying to fill an inner emptiness. Perhaps he learned as a child that buying things temporarily salved his sorrow. Possibly when he was far younger his innocent need for love was not respected and he’s been pining for it ever since. It’s a poetry of half-disguised emotion, in which he is asking the universe for love he didn’t get. Once he sees why he’s doing it he can be open to suggestions that there are other, better ways to fulfill the heart’s needs.
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Some practical tips:
• Do you remember those bumper stickers that used to say: “What would Jesus do?” They used to annoy the heck out of me. They seemed so glib and self-righteous. Surely it couldn’t be that simple! Yet the bumper sticker advice is not a bad way of dealing with the frightened part of the self if you can adapt the sentiment. When something annoys you, you can ask yourself what someone not burdened with such an emotion would do. What would Buddha do? What would the Dalai Lama do? Play with that thought. Gradually you’ll find you are not responding from your inner neediness, but from a place that is more thoughtful, loving and compassionate.
• Try not to be reactive. When we react, we are not truly thinking or feeling. We’re just responding out of our prejudices. The fearful part of the personality likes prejudices and easy answers. You can change that. Instead of reacting to a situation blindly, take a moment, pause, count to ten, and see if other options are open to you. Usually they are.
• Laugh. It is impossible to be in the place of self-involvement and to enjoy a good, genuine laugh. Laughter always lets us know that our concerns are smaller than we think, somewhat silly, and ultimately not the center of who we are. If you can laugh then selfishness is not going to be able to take over.
• Look at the people around you in your life. Since like energies always attract, everyone around you is someone who is a reflection of an aspect of who you are. Your fearful personality will ask you to look at those people and be critical because that will make you feel superior, and the fearful part of you likes that.
Instead of this habit — which is another form of circling — look at those people and tell yourself that what they show you is yourself. They reflect you. If they are unkind, it is because you are unkind, and you are doing it to yourself. If they are dull, it’s because you are dull and have attracted them. The answer is never in them. It is always in you.
Once we see this, we have a real handle on how fear works within us. It wants to keep things the same and blame others, so that you do not have to change. It tells you that you are right and they are wrong, so why should you change? That is the way fear stops us from moving ahead. If we listen to what our fearful self says, we keep circling. You can change this.
©2013 Allan G. Hunter. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com
Gratitude and Beyond: Five Insights for a Fulfilled Life
by Allan G. Hunter.
Readers are shown how to properly extract the lessons of a near-death experience through reflection and cultivate five key concepts: gratitude, humility, beauty, innocence, and a sense of place in the world. Brief but eloquent, it addresses a popular and important topic without overly-sentimental or religious overtones.
About the Author
Allan G. Hunter, for more than twenty years, has been a professor of literature at Curry College in Massachusetts, and a therapist. He teaches with the Blue Hills Writing Institute working with students to explore the memoir and life-writing. As in all his books, his emphasis is on the healing nature of the stories we weave for ourselves if we choose to connect to the archetypal tales of our culture. For more, see http://allanhunter.net