Yesterday, I responded to the current political debacle (the government shutdown) and complete failure of our government to do what WE hired them to do, by issuing an invitation, “If we want the world to change, WE need to change ourselves.” In today’s blog, I remind us of how we can change ourselves so that we can see real and enduring change in the world.
Not Just Some Pie in the Sky Idealism!
The tools for personal change that I will share with you today are NOT just some pie in the sky idealism preached by vagrant prophets from far-off lands. While the following tools have been tried, tested and proven to be effective by thousands of years of yoga practitioners, mystics and ascetics, we NOW have the proof of science to verify what contemplative men and women have known all along, mindfulness based practices:
- decrease anxiety, fear and stress
- increase physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing
- decrease violent behaviors
- help us to cultivate empathy and compassion – the building blocks of healthy communication and harmonious interpersonal relationships, and communities.
STEP ONE – Seek out a mindfulness practice that works for you!
There are as many forms of mindfulness based practices as there are fish in the sea! A Zen-inspired sit works for some, but not for all. Mantra or Kirtan brings some to a state of inner quiet…but it isn’t for everyone. A rosary or string of meditation beads may help some to focus, but others will need something more engaging. Take comfort in knowing that if you haven’t yet found your meditation style, keep looking, there is sure to be one out there perfect for you. Maybe it is something as simple as gardening, cooking or being in nature. Some find running and aerobic exercise mindful. And please disregard the ridiculous Western notion that mindfulness has a goal and that if you don’t experience a complete state of bliss any or every time you failed. Your job is to simply SHOW UP. And, the key to cultivating and maintaining a mindfulness practice is to find one that WORKS FOR YOU! (For a wide variety of mindfulness based exercises, check out my book, Authentic Freedom - claiming a life of contentment and joy. While the context is Christian Contemplative Prayer, the exercises are universal.)
STEP TWO-Identify and root out your fears
In conjunction with cultivating peace and love within us through mindfulness practices, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves in our journey toward change is to OVERCOME OUR FEARS! FEAR is the number one obstacle to peace, contentment, love and joy! Fear creates all the perceived separations favored by our wounded world: prejudice, discrimination, racism, sexism, nationalism, etc. Fear is also the root of all of our non-loving and self-centered behaviors – gluttony, lust, wrath, envy, greed, sloth and pride. Fear causes us to seek outside of us for its remedy and makes us believe that happiness will be found in things, money, power, fame, status, power, control, other people, etc. etc. etc. Fear also keeps us silent and ignorant of the truth that seeks to be known within us and that seeks to be expressed in the world.
In my book, Authentic Freedom, I reveal what I have come to know as the seven core fears that plague humanity, along with their resulting compulsions:
FEAR: “There is not enough”
FEAR: “I have nothing to contribute to the betterment of the world”
FEAR: ”I can’t” (be my most authentic self)
FEAR: “I am not loved”
FEAR: “I am not able to express my truth”
FEAR: “I do not know” (my truth, my path)
FEAR: “I am alone/have to do it alone”
You can start your journey of overcoming fear by NAMING the fears that are currently at work in your mind. I have found that naming the fear is 99% of the journey…..like they say in classic horror books and movies, “Once you name the demon, it no longer has power over you.” ;) Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog where I will explore in more detail how we might move through the fears once they are named.
Lauri Ann Lumby