One of our dear readers talked about “just one of those days.” It’s so true, some days no matter what we do, we feel a relentless gloom around us, things just don’t go well for whatever the reason. Long after our loss and our lives seem to have some peace, there are still days that do not go well. Problems surface, depression strikes, fear holds us in its grip. I think part of this is what everyone feels at one point or another. But for those of us who have experienced trauma, things can “go south” very quickly. The fear of something going really wrong again is like a shadow that stays with us. In all my years of working with trauma, I have come to understand that once trauma has ripped through our lives, it leaves a residual effect. This effect means that whenever there is a possibility that things can go wrong, our stress response is heightened and we go right back to the beginning–when things really did go terribly wrong. We must work really hard to stabilize ourselves, stay in the present, and realize that the worst may not happen and if it does, well then, we’ll have to handle it. But as we all know, this is hard. So hard. Fear wants to take us down and keep us there. It tells us that this new thing will be bad, really bad. But the truth is, we don’t know what will happen until it does. We will have good days, bad days and just plain nothing days. We must learn to trust again that no matter what happens we will try our best to handle it. And remember, we are not alone, we have each other, our friends and our families. And we have a power greater than ourselves that will bring us through whatever life brings to us. We may not trust, but we can believe that in the end, we will be alright, we’ve seen it in our own lives, after every season of suffering, there does come a peace and we remember we are loved.Th
A new day dawns with all the possibilities of joy, of sorrow, of loss and of love. It is given to each of us to spend its currency as we will. We cannot know what will come to us in these hours ahead but we do know that it can be as bad as it is good. That’s part of our problem. We can never say again that it will be always be good because we who have gone through trauma know just how bad it can be. But the challenge is to know that good will overcome all evil in time, in its own way, through others and through our own acts. We always have the possibilities of beginning again–no matter how bankrupt the day before was. We always have a new day to try again, to live again in the spirit of love and of service to others. We cannot change what happened in the past, it is done. We cannot know the future it is not here. But we can live today in the spirit of faith, hope and love. Faith that we will handle whatever comes our way, hope that it will hold some happiness for us and love for all we encounter as the day unfolds. We have a new chance to live in this next 24-hours, we can begin again, with a renewed purpose and love in our hearts. Peace
It’s a quiet Sunday morning and I am enjoying the simple things that life can bring–gentle music on the radio, some household tasks that restore order and prayer and meditation that brings a closeness to the divine that restores me to order when the chaos of the world wants to steal it. Rest, comfort, peace, these are the things of the spirit that we value more than gold or jewels. The material world is founded on the values of material things–but these things are easily stolen, broken. We cannot put our faith in the values of the world, but in the things beyond that truly endure and bring us joy. And to all the Fathers on this quiet morning, I wish you peace and love and joy for all the gifts you have given to us, your children. I think of my own father gone for so many years, and I like to think that my son is with him and their spirits soar in the heavens. I know it’s a hard day for all of us who have lost our dads, we miss them and wish they were here and we hope they are happy wherever they are. And for all the fathers who have lost a child–your grief hard to bear, there are no real words to tell it. Yet, there can be comfort in knowing how much you are loved by all of your children, here and in the world beyond. I wish you the quiet rest of a Sunday and may peace come to your hearts.
“Create in me a clean heart and renew within me a steadfast spirit.” This is the prayer of the psalmist so many years ago–but it holds true today. We weary with all our troubles and wish for a clean, new way to look at things. We ask for a steadfast spirit to guide us and keep us from the exhaustion that accompanies grief and everyday living. The clean heart gives us a fresh start, it changes something in us so that we can begin again. It is always our task to change ourselves; the external world is as it is, we cannot change that, as we know all too well. Why then do we allow the external world to rule us? Because we forget the power we hold within us to change ourselves and therefore create a clean heart and a new world. This truth is hard to understand, and we struggle with it. Yet, it is the thing we need to remember every day, in every situation. Look to yourself to change and then the things around you will be easier to manage. And then ask to renew your steadfast spirit–which means don’t give up. Don’t abandon the way forward, but pray instead for the steadfast spirit to give you the strength, guidance and tenacity to follow the path. It’s that simple, let’s not complicate it any more than we need to by arguments of our minds which want to trouble us and lead us away from the truth. Today, we can simply call upon the divine spirit to give us a clean heart and a renewed spirit and let everything else go.
I am sorry I didn’t post yesterday–right after prayer and meditation, early in the morning, paperwork and the business of living rushed in before I had a chance to write. Sometimes I wonder about the world and the amount of beaurocracy , paperwork, problems with paperwork and the ridiculous rules, notions and difficulty there is in solving simple problems. I’m not sure how we all got here, but I find that it increasingly encroaches on what we might call the quality of life. Then again, perhaps these are the problems of the fortunate. I remember a time when even the simplest task seemed overwhelming and things just didn’t get done. That was a time of loss after loss, as if everything disappeared into the ocean, never to be seen again. I would try to hold on to things, but they just slipped out of my hands. It’s difficult to calculate the true scope of our loss. The obvious and most important are the ones we love. But then there are the ways we will never know. I was talking with a father yesterday who said the same thing–he doesn’t know all the ways the sudden and horrible illness that took the life of his two-year old child affected him, his marriage, his family, his life. We can all agree with him, we just don’t know. What we do know is that somehow, we stagger on, trying to find our way in the strange new world we find ourselves in. Over time, another life emerges and then the little problems of annoyance take center stage. If we stop and think, maybe we realize that these little problems don’t mean much in the larger picture. Maybe they are the problems of the fortunate and we can be grateful that they are what’s bothering us today, because really, how important are they?
In our troubles, we look for something to steady us for the journey ahead. We often can have faith, but if it is battered, as it will be after our loss, we need to strengthen it so it serves us during these most difficult times. After all, what good is faith, if it doesn’t work when we need it? After our trial and our loss, we are faced with doubt–where was this God of ours when such a terrible thing happened? Maybe we have been fooling ourselves, there is in fact no God, no higher power, no eternal life. This is a grim, unpalatable prospect for most of us. As we struggle to find a faith that works, theology goes out the window. It doesn’t explain why things happened. Theology doesn’t help us with the searing pain and doubt we are left with. But faith, pure and simple can. Faith in something beyond our small conception of the world, faith in something that brings order out of chaos, and peace out of suffering can. It is not important to know why things happen the way they do. In fact, that pursuit leaves us unfulfilled. Things happen because they do–things happen in this material world because people and things are not foolproof–that is to say there is no real security or guarantee of safety here. But there is something beyond the material, beyond prescribed theology–there is a faith in ourselves and the source of all things, seen and unseen. The faith that no matter what happens, we can and will find peace. A faith that works to help us through the darkest night in search of the light that guides us all. This is a faith tested by the fire of suffering and doubt that remains with us until the day we leave this earth. Every day we can strengthen our faith by small acts of devotion, duty and doing the next right thing. By believing in the good when we do not feel it and accepting what has happened in our lives. Then we will find that we can call upon our faith and it will serve us well.
I am thinking about the losses we have all endured and know how hard it is, not only to go on, but to love again. Going on is something we do because each day comes and we face it. That’s not the real issue, it’s how we face it and the biggest challenge of all is how to love again. How do we truly open our hearts when to do so may be the way in for another tragedy, another loss? We fear loss, and we think we could not recover from another one. Bad enough, we say, to have lost someone so dear to us, but to know that it can happen again keeps many of us from fully opening our hearts. I know this is particularly true for those who have lost their partner or spouse. Why do it again? Why love again? Because to love is the essence of being human. To love is the greatest gift of all. To receive it, give it, share it, makes us greater than ourselves. It puts us in league with the angels who are all love and joins us to the source of everything. That is why the heart is at the center of our body, because it should be at the center of our lives. There are many, including myself, who believe that loss and the suffering that comes from it, can break open the walls around our heart and we can understand love in ways we didn’t before. Fear is the last barrier that separates us from our true loving nature. But we can rise above our fear and allow love to penetrate us so that it comes through us and radiates from our hearts. We can pray for a return to love after the destruction of it, so that we love even more strongly, even more compassionately. And after love returns, we will know we are in league with the angels of our better nature.
I was talking with a dear friend yesterday who will soon experience the first anniversary of her son’s murder. She is bravely facing it, but her sorrow shapes everything she does. She is out upon the ocean, crashing against the rocks. She hears the song of grief in her heart, like the siren calling her to crash upon the rocks of her broken life. She holds on to her family, friends, to God and everything she believes, but still the sound calls her. We all have heard this song as we made our way across the ocean of grief. Many times, we were pulled towards the rocks and crashed into them–each time breaking us down a little more. Each time, threatening to take us to someplace we could not return from. Each one of us must navigate the treacherous rocks that lie waiting for us as we make our crossing. We hear the sound of our own siren calling and we must go where it takes us. But we cannot allow ourselves to be destroyed, although we will be broken. Our soul will emerge to guide us to the safe shore. Our soul hears our song of grief and responds by growing stronger. We see that no matter what is taken from us, our soul continues to live and we must make something of this new life. This is not an easy task, to emerge from the rocks broken, but our souls pure and strong–yet it is what we do. But remember, dear friends, we do not do this alone. We are guided by the light of our soul, connected to all other souls and to the ones we love, called by their own song–their souls still singing.
A dreary day here in Philadelphia, the rain from tropical storm Andrea coming down from the skies. It’s the beginning of the hurricane season. I hope we will not be engulfed in them as we were last year–many people are still reeling from the superstorm Sandy. Oh, what a battle we wage not to be swept away by the storms of the past, present and fear of those in the future. The memories of our own “superstorm” of violence still color our lives and probably always will in one form or another. While talking to a dear friend yesterday, we spoke of the battle we wage daily against the devastation of violence. Sometimes, we are swept back into the ocean even after several years. We remember the mantra: Violence destroys; creativity restores. Even the smallest creative act can turn the tide and set us back on course–or at least help us navigate out of the ocean. Creativity is the tangible outlet and form of the quality of love. It gives a place for love to show itself in our lives and others. And truly, it is love that wins the battle against the devastation of violence. Love is the only force in the world strong enough to overcome such terrible things. Not more force, not more ugliness, not more brutality, but the transformative power of love brought about by the suffering in our lives. Love conquers all things, it is said, and you may think that trivial, but it is the truth. No matter what happens, it is love that overcomes all things. That is why it is the essence of the mandate of Christ and every spiritual and religious tradition. Creativity is how we express the divine principle of love. We face our battlefield of grief and allow our creative self to embody the principle of love. We bring it into everything we do. We allow it to transform our suffering until we become love itself. Today, you can do something creative, like taking a walk in nature or listening to beautiful music or giving something to someone, but more importantly you can be creative, be the form that love can pour itself into. Peace
Another lovely late spring day. The sun is shining and the sky a soft blue. One would think all is well with the world, and maybe, ultimately it is. Whether we are sad or happy the world itself goes on spinning round and round. Each of us, within the setting of our own orbit, sets the tone of our day. The Buddhists say that all the world is suffering, therefore when we find joy, we embrace it. I say that all the world is all things, it is up to us to navigate whatever it is with some equanimity. That is the hardest of all things. To be calm, self-possessed, and receptive in all interactions is the work of any life. We have so many feelings, beliefs, desires, goals, we are always affected by the external. Like a tiny ship upon an ocean of waves, we are in a constant state of turmoil, easily rocked and our course lost. But what if, at the beginning of each day, we could seek a state of equilibrium and know that in that is true peace and freedom? This can be a life-long task that begins each and every day, several times a day, until we gain some mastery over our ups and downs. Finding and practicing this state of serenity and calm surely is a worthwhile pursuit. We can begin today by saying we will not worry, we will not fear. We will find peace within our being and each time we stray, and we will, we take a deep cleansing breath and begin again. Pray today to find a calm place in the wide ocean of living.