Every morning for lent I have been sitting with a candle for ten minutes. (Come join me on Facebook, where I share my daily reflections.)
Our spiritual community encourages us to do this every morning during advent, to open our heart to what might come. Fr. Jim encourages us to do three practices during advent: prayer, patience, and kindness. When we change one thing, so much can happen. If we focus on prayer, patience, and kindness, anything can happen!
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There is so much noise in the world–so much noise online–and I know this post is just one more bit of noise.
Be quiet every morning
It takes effort, through all of this distraction, to find quiet. But we can find it anywhere, anytime. We can just close your eyes and breathe in and out. If we choose to do it, then we can do it. When we are quiet, clarity comes and points us in the right direction. But usually the direction is to stay for a moment in the stillness, to trust and calm ourselves. To know that we don’t have to be “more” or “different” or “perfect.” To trust that we are connected.
Without all the distractions, fear dissipates and we have courage to say “yes” to whatever we are asked to do.
Taking time to be aware helps us to put the things we already care about into greater focus. Not in a worrying way, but in a loving way. When we open ourselves to a blank page, it brings us into awareness, an all-knowingness. We can begin to create something new and beautiful on that page. That new and beautiful creation lines up with what is most precious to us. When we give ourselves time to open to this, we gently shift in ways we’d like to shift.
Yesterday, my daughter became extremely upset just as I was sitting down with my candle. I put it aside and spoke gently to her for a while about her “problem.”
Soon I lost patience with her growing intensity and criticism of my kind suggestions. I became judgmental at the “First World” quality of her problem. It means life is pretty luxurious if we could be upset about something so dumb in my eyes. Validation wasn’t working (for either of us at this point) and she was getting mean. I took away TV. Got worse. Sent her to her room. She cried and screamed at the injustice of it all.
When our kids say, “It’s not fair,” they are essentially feeling left out. Separate.
In a way, and hopefully temporarily, unloved and unworthy.
I heard her pleas as I remembered: All attack is a call for love.
Finally, I realized what I had to do.
I pulled her up off the floor and into my arms and sat with her on my lap, cheek on my bosom. I brushed her hair out of her face and kissed her forehead while she cried. Then, I breathed into her until her body relaxed.
I didn’t try to convince her of anything or explain anything. I just helped her feel loved.
She was her silly self in less than two minutes, all her pain gone, completely gone.
One of my clients, Mary,* said this this week about her child: “Sam has a higher power and Her name is not Mary.” And I have been reflecting on it all week.
In fact, it has given me so much peace. Our children are here on their own spiritual journeys, and sometimes it is hard to watch when they struggle. I always wonder when to jump in and how much to do to be a guide and not interfere with the spiritual process.
This is such a fine line, isn’t it?
On one hand, we are God to our children. (Just as they are God to us.) When we move our “selves” out of the way, God works Her magic through us. We teach them what unconditional love feels like. We guide them, and take care of them.
On the other hand, they must make their own decisions. And we must give them space to do that.
Love over Fear
How do we figure out when to do what?
We make every effort to take action out of love rather than fear. We just trust ourselves to make the decision and know most of these little things we do and don’t intervene in are not that big of a deal. Meaning we can make mistakes here and it’ll be OK.
But also, we must do our own work. We are connected and our children often act out our problems. I need to come to grips with my own sense of unfairness and victimhood to help my daughter.
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” Carl Jung
Another one of my clients confessed to me this week that he is afraid to be close to God. (He’s been horribly, terribly abused in his life.) He said, “I want to get close to God. But I will have to be vulnerable if I get close to God. And it is not OK for me to be vulnerable because then I can be attacked.” Both his desire and fear of it overwhelmed him.
I suggested to him that he and God are not separate.
“You are God.”
We can hardly be a victim and be God. We can only feel like a victim if we feel separate.
Another one of my clients was excited last week quoting me Carl Jung:
“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
He told me how he learned our mind is always looking for answers. And we all too often look outside. Recently, he began to look inside. Instead of looking for answers out in the world, which conjured fear, he chose to simply look inside and simply trust himself.
It’s selfish to be “looking at yourself” he thought at first. Yet, he found that while looking within, he acted much less selfish than he ever had because while looking inside, he had nothing to fear. He got rid of needing protection (marks of victimhood and separation) and allowed himself real connection with people.
Connection is the answer to everything.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung
Only connection can do that!
While you are breathing it is a good time to take a moment to reflect on the past year.
Remember those New Year’s Resolutions that you made 11 months ago? Where do you sit with them? Have you done everything this year that you wanted to do?
We make plans and things change. It’s OK. But it is psychologically easier to finish a year out how you want to be than starting a year differently. Sometimes a deadline helps light a fire under us. Plus, because you know the time is limited, it is easier to sustain. And sustenance is everything when you are making a change. We can all make a change in a second, but then we have to practice it.
What if you made your resolution now until the end of the year? Sounds awesomely easy doesn’t it?
Ask yourself these questions:
What is it that you would like to do that fear is stopping you from doing?
What is something you are longing to tell someone?
Which habit would you like to change?
When will you be ready?
When will you say “yes”?
What it is that you can offer?
Why and what do you want to move away from?
What do you want to step closer to?
And most importantly,
What do you have to forgive?
You can light your candle in many different ways this holiday season. How will you practice prayer (mediation), patience and kindness this month?