Welcome to my 67th blog which I’ve written while listening to the soothing sound of the Indian ocean. It’s the school holidays here in Australia so we’ve taken off to a beach shack where we can kick back for a while and shake off the stresses and strains of a busy life. Here’s a link to the audio version of this blog for those of you who prefer to listen.
I thought about taking an extended break from my normal routine which includes writing, but my mind is full of rumination. It’s to be expected. You see, I recently embarked on a ten-week course in practical philosophy ‘just because’ and I’m wondering why it took me so long! I am loving the new perspective it is giving me on life. I feel as though my quest for truth and understanding has more meaning and is coming from a deeper place within me. So, with this in mind, I am compelled to share these ruminations with you in the event that a different perspective might be just what you’re looking for too.
Curiosity is a calling
One of the first things I learnt on my course was this quote from Socrates: ‘A life unexamined is a life not worth living.’ My take on this is that we can only truly understand the meaning and purpose of existence if we go inside of ourselves with a gentle curiosity and an open heart. Within us we all have an innate wisdom that we can tap into whenever we wish. It’s knowing this that allows us to go beyond the superficial things of life such as money, status and power that often have a fierce hold over us and release ourselves from their grip.
In examining my own sober mind, I see my thoughts in colour. During my drinking and dope-smoking days, I saw things in black & white. Things were either good or bad. I was bad. I was an addict. I was unlovable. The more I went against my better judgement and indulged in substances to numb me, the more I became bitter towards myself, and guess what, the more I became bitter towards others! Curiosity allows me to see the kaleidoscope of thoughts form in my mind and to make sense of them. My sober mind also empowers me to see that I can shake those thoughts up at any time. The colours remain but the pattern changes.
We’re one and the same
My sober mind has clarity. I see more. I feel more. I’m no longer afraid of my thoughts and feelings because I am learning to separate me from them. As I’ve said before, I am not my thoughts. If I can observe my thoughts, then who am I? This is one of the great questions that spiritual teachers, gurus, priests, philosophers, and mankind has tried to answer for millennia. The fact is we don’t know. I heard it said recently that we are all made of stardust. I love this. There’s something comforting about it, especially when you consider how short our lives are in relation to the vastness of the universe. If we are all stardust, then it stands to reason that we are all one. If we are all one, then it explains why my suffering is yours and yours is mine.
Our ‘oneness’ means we are all grappling with the same stuff
I hope I haven’t lost you. I’m thinking out loud here. Sharing my thoughts and hoping they will make sense. Have you ever sat at home with the heavy feeling of rejection in your heart and thought about how lonely you are? I know I have, many times, and with a movie playing out in my head about why I would not call you, email you or text you because I believed that you hated me. There, I’ve said it. Sounds so bloody immature, doesn’t it. But it’s a scenario that is typical of a person who is allowing thoughts and feelings to drag them into a dark place. Loneliness is a state of mind. If we think we are lonely, we will be. If we believe we are hated, we will feel that way. I heard a fascinating discussion on the radio recently which focused on people’s perception of themselves as lonely and how they hold back from reaching out to others for fear of further rejection. One of the people involved in the discussion had done an experiment with a large group of people, all of whom were anxious because they feared they were being rejected by their friends or family. The experiment involved getting every member of the group to put aside their fears and contact a friend or family member who they felt rejected by. The findings were incredibly enlightening. After following up with each of the people who were contacted by the members of the group, the researcher found that 98% of them were happy to have heard from the group member. What does this tell us? Well, it tells me that we probably get it wrong more than we realise about what other people are thinking or feeling about us. As they say, assumption is the mother of all f***-ups!! We do a lot of assuming which stops us from living our lives to the full. The other thing this experiment does is it confirms what I said earlier about us all being one. My worries are your worries, just as your happiness is mine. If I think you don’t like me, then it’s very feasible for you to think that I don’t like you either. Right?
Forgiveness heals us
This insight has opened a door of perception in my mind which has in turn warmed my heart some. I realise that the depth of our connection is beyond our comprehension. Which brings me to an important aspect of today’s blog: Forgiveness. I recently watched a video on YouTube of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet giving a talk at the University of Limerick last year. He was introduced to the audience by an inspiring man, Richard Moore. Back in 1972, when Richard, a lad of just ten years old, was walking home from school in his town of Derry in Northern Ireland, he was severely injured by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier. Richard says he lost his sight that day, but he never lost his vision. He went on to become a compassionate leader and is a close friend of His Holiness who refers to Richard as ‘his hero’ because of the incredible way in which Richard has lived a life of forgiveness and understanding despite having had his precious eyesight stolen from him. In the audience was the same British soldier, Charlie, who His Holiness invited up on stage briefly to acknowledge the relationship that Richard formed with Charlie and to thank them both for being a guiding light for the rest of us. According to His Holiness, the true hero is one who conquers his own anger and hatred.
I had to stop drinking to be able to really see how angry I was, and how lacking in forgiveness I was with it. I am learning to forgive others instead of throwing stones at them for the pain I believe they caused me. If the theory of our ‘oneness’ is correct, then this means that in forgiving others, I also forgive myself. Even just saying that makes me feel better about my place in this world.
The ocean is beckoning. I must go. I will leave you with a final thought from His Holiness the Dalai Lama: ‘Compassion, forgiveness – these are the real, ultimate sources of power for peace and success in life. I dedicate this blog to anyone I have ever hurt, in particular, my mother and I ask for your forgiveness. I wish you love and peace. Love, Gill x