Friday, September 4, 2015

Insert inspirational quote here

I’ve never been an overly spiritual person. I was raised Catholic, but even as a kid I remember staring up at the priest and thinking “Who does this guy think he is telling me how I should live my life?” I’ve never been one to feel pressured by “shoulds” and expectations of the masses. 

As I’ve gotten older, and been through some stuff, I started looking for something to believe in again. Or perhaps looking inward to decide what I already believed in but wasn’t practicing. It’s not uncommon to return to a place where you want to believe there is something more. But I wanted something that I could believe in when things were going well, not just going badly. 

I can feel you panicking already but don’t worry, I’m not about to go on a religious rant. What you consider your religion or spirituality is your thing. Call it whatever you want. I have found peace in exercise, meditation, the outdoors, my family, my friends, the ocean, music, animals, creating, learning, supporting a cause. 

I’ve found a comfortable place of spirituality. It’s sort of like a quilt pulled from various sources over the years. Mainly if it supports being positive more than negative and feeling love more than hate, I’m feelin’ it. 

But we also live in the real world where it’s easy to feel good when you’re alone. No negative energy to drag you down, no images and news clips, no deadlines, or responsibilities, or arguments. That’s reality. 

Made more so by the prevalence of social media. We can’t even process the amount of negativity we consume in a day. 

We are drowning in it. But we don’t have to. 

Maybe you are already the most zen person alive. If so, please tell me your secrets. I am always eager to learn. 

Maybe you have no desire to be feeling any zen, and if that’s where you are, that’s fair enough. You’ve probably already stopped reading. 

It’s not a lecture, it’s mindless chatter about what has made me a happier person, and may or may not, do the same for you. So, if you’re still with me, if you’re looking for something more, then here are a few things I’m finally learning in my own journey that might help inspire you in yours.

Being spiritual, or even just being a good person, takes a bloody awful lot of work. 

I am a pretty kind person by nature. But sometimes I want to tell people to fuck off. Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I find myself dragged into some petty argument and wonder how I got there. Sometimes I think really awful things about people and I act less than graciously. I can be angry, sad, bitter, sarcastic, vengeful and petty. Fun, eh?

But all of those things just end up making me feel like shit. And if those things make you feel good, then maybe you should consider why. 

The more time I in spend meditation, learning how to pay attention to my thoughts and actions, and the more time I spend outdoors, with people who inspire me, lift me up, make me laugh, the more time I take to create and breathe and appreciate, the quicker I am able to catch myself in the moments when I start spiraling into the person I don’t want to be. I delete the tweet, I pull out of the argument, I walk away. In other words, when you learn to become mindful of your thoughts and feelings, and do things that you love, it becomes very easy to recognize when your thoughts are going south to negativity or doubt or fear or anger. Then you change them. It becomes habit. Yes, you can choose your thoughts. But only when you start to pay attention to them. 

Spirituality is a tool, not a magic solution to your problems. And you have to work at it every moment of every day. 

The only person you should be trying to fix is yourself. 

The better I act, the better people respond. Try it for a day. As recently as today, I felt attacked by somebody. My first reaction was to tear a strip off of them, attack their shortcomings, react with the same anger they attacked me with. But I stopped and thought about my response. I answered respectfully without backing down from my position. They responded in kind. Just like that, the entire situation was diffused. Rather then each of us taking up time and energy and allowing the whole day to spiral into a negative abyss, we resolved it and moved on. Nobody won or lost. And that’s ok.

I can’t solve the world’s problems. 

But I can do everything in my power to positively affect the people around me that I interact with every day. I can vote. I can write a letter. I can smile at people on the street. I can stand in line peacefully. I can be polite. I can give what I have to give, even if it’s not much. I can choose to be nicer.

The advent of social media has not just left us disconnected and bombarded with images and stories and opinions and negativity that leave us feeling helpless, it’s made us forget that the people we interact with are people. With all the emotions and troubles and pain and loss and fear as you.

I lost my best friend a few months ago unexpectedly. We have been friends since we were little kids. He was a brother to me. I can’t actually put into words what I lost when I lost him. When his mother asked me to write something for the funeral, I couldn’t figure out how to fit, on one page, all of the amazing things about him. His laughter, his loyalty, his generosity, his ability to shrug off negativity. It was an endless list of good. And it was all true. I didn’t have to struggle to find those words.

It made me think, what would someone write about me?

I want to be worthy of what someone writes about me.

Forgiveness brings you freedom. 

It doesn’t mean someone has to be let off the hook or back in your life. It doesn’t mean that there are not consequences, but, I believe, it’s important to remember that things don’t happen in a bubble. People act the way they do because of the experiences they’ve had, period.

The guy who shot someone has mental illness. The girl who killed someone was abused. The kid who stole lives in poverty.

I’m not making excuses. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, and there have to be consequences, but it’s naïve to believe that the lives people lead, and the mistakes that they make, are not related to the society we’ve built. With all its beauty, and its horror.

It’s naïve to believe that our actions don’t affect the greater world around us.

Hate will never, ever, diffuse hate. And it will eat you alive.

All life is important. All of it. And if we don’t protect it, we will all pay the price, eventually. 

I don't really have anything else to say about that.

I’m not saying that life is all laughter and goodness. I’m not saying that I float out of bed every day with roses coming out of my ass. I’m not saying that a little negativity, when it comes with some discussion and alternative solutions, isn’t useful. I'm not saying that horrible shit doesn't happen every day. But it happens to all of us. We are not alone in that. That fact connects us, it shouldn't divide us. 

I’m certainly not saying that if we all hold hands and have a fucking sing-a-long, everything will immediately be better. 

What I am saying is that I think we are reaching an explosive place in our reality. 

People are feeling scared and sad and angry and overwhelmed and helpless. We look outside for solutions instead of inside. We’re afraid to spend ten minutes in our own heads. We fill our time with food and alcohol and Netflix and iPhones and anything else we can find to avoid ourselves. 

What I am saying is I know we want to feel better. 

We feel moments of pure joy and happiness and laughter. We see examples of good every single day. 

We want to be happier, more grateful, nicer, more patient. 

We want to feel more connected. If we didn’t, social media wouldn’t be ruling the world. 

What I am saying, is that maybe we need to flip how we connect

Because honestly, I think that’s the only hope we have.

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