It Takes Discipline

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

“For those who have been trained by it/No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful … Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace …” Bobby McFerrin “Medicine Music”

I don’t know about you, but I was getting lazy before this crisis happened. Not so much lazy in doing things, but in my thought and emotional patterns. It seemed to me that the world was in such a big mess that I couldn’t do anything about it. I allowed myself to feel helpless, so I didn’t make much of an effort to effect change. I did personal work, but I wasn’t diligent about it. My life was pretty good. What more could I want? I was drifting, spiritually.

Then the big disruption hit and I took a big step back and said, “Whoa, I need to do some self-evaluation.”

You see, I believe what a friend of mine said long ago, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” We’re here now because we volunteered to live through these events. We’re experiencing, on a global level, what most of us have experienced on personal levels. Our lives fell apart and we were forced to do what I call “cosmic closet cleaning”. At those times we realized that we let life happen to us instead of choosing who we want to be and what we want to do. We listened to and followed other people’s ideas of who we should be and what we should do. At some point we hit a wall, we crashed and burned, and blessedly we got to reevaluate where we were going and who we wanted to be. If that hasn’t happened to you yet, maybe it’s happening now.

We’re taught to see the world from a negative point of view, that it’s futile to buck the system, that the world is a negative place full of traps, that life isn’t fair. But what happens to us is not negative or positive. Events become one or the other when WE put a value on them. So, what is happening now can be our downfall, if we choose that. Or it can be an opportunity to make the world a better place.

What I just wrote makes it sound like we can change fairly easy. “Oh, we just change our thinking and everything will be okay.” But I’ll tell you that when I first heard this idea, that our thoughts create reality, I did not believe it. I didn’t want to admit that I was to blame for this messed up world! I didn’t want to do the work necessary to change my thoughts and emotions.

Side note: Our thoughts creating our reality is not a woo woo, airy fairy, new age theory. It’s a scientifically proven fact by quantum physicists who were shocked to find that the outcome of their experiments were affected by their observations and expectations. They could never see how particles behaved in their natural state, because they couldn’t keep their expectations completely neutral. And eventually they concluded that all of us, with our thought patterns and emotional states, create the reality we’re living in.

Again, changing the way we think and feel is not easy. I know from experience. It’s difficult to take responsibility for the things that happen to us. When I did accept that fact, it meant that I had to take a good look at everything I believed. Taking responsibility was the first step in my evolution as a person.

The second step was to begin to pay attention to what I was thinking and feeling all the time. The two go hand-in-hand. It’s a process. I’ve been trying to turn away from negative reactions and thought patterns for more than forty years. It takes constant vigilance. Something will happen, most of the time it’s really trivial, and I’ll get all bent out of shape about it. And then Barry will say something, or I’ll catch myself and I say, “Wait a minute, I don’t have to see this as negative. It might be a good thing.” The barometer I always use for situations like that is something my Dad used to say, “Will this matter in a hundred years?” If it won’t matter, I let go of the negative feelings and let things play out.

But if what I’m facing will matter in a hundred years, then I know I’d better take a good hard look at what I’m thinking and feeling that prevents the situation from getting better.

This week I was listening to a spiritual teacher on YouTube, Amanda Ellis, and she suggested that we take a few moments every day to choose one troubled place in the world and re-envision it as peaceful, joy filled, with buildings and gardens rebuilt, and with people and businesses prospering. It will take discipline to do this, but if each person choses a different place each day and sees it as filled with whole and happy people, our collective efforts could change the world much faster than having disaster after disaster forcing us to make the changes we need to make.

I for one do not want to live with despair any longer. I want everyone to be happy, healthy, and honored for what they do no matter the size of that contribution. I’m willing to do this daily visualization. I’m willing to make a commitment to turn away from the negative and seek out acts of kindness and compassion. There are plenty of stories out there of people helping others if we look for them.

I don’t think our efforts have to be huge. I’m not one of those working in an essential field. But I can post encouraging things on my social media outlets, and on this blog. I can encourage my students, my family, and friends. I plan to push positivity like a drug, and that’s helpful even if only in little ways.

Sometimes the right message comes along at just the right time. I finished reading Marie Foleo’s book, Everything is Figureoutable last week and the three tenets of her book are: 1) No matter what the problem, we can figure out how to fix it, it’s figureoutable. 2) Start before you’re ready. You’ll figure out how to do it as you go along. And 3) refuse to be refused. There will always be naysayers when you comes up with innovative ideas. Don’t listen to them. If you’ve got a vision for how to be of service, go for it. Marie always finishes her MarieTV episodes by saying, “Remember, the world needs that special gift that only you have.”

If we accept that each one of us has a special gift that the world needs, that’s a much different perspective than to think we’re worthless and the world is against us. It also means that we need to support the people who can figure out how to cure this virus and not just them but everyone, because you never know how they will use their gifts to help us through this crisis and beyond.

I admit, I get discouraged and overwhelmed. There are so many people who need help. I want to give money, but which causes need it most? Sometimes my head feels like it’s spinning around like in some weird horror movie. But, I’m going to take Amanda’s advice and take just a few minutes every day to silence my mind and visualize a much more friendly world.

As we’re forced into isolation, it might be a good time for you to take stock of your life. I’m doing that. I’m asking what more work I need to do on myself. It’s not always a comfortable process. I’ve had to face dark places in myself that I’d much rather have ignored. But if I don’t face and accept them, they fester and that’s not good because my negative energy spills over onto those around me. The negativity acts like ripples in water. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of living in a scary world. I want to live in a friendly, compassionate, loving world.

What are you planning to do during this time of upheaval?

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you are safe and well.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2020

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards.

Have you ever experienced life shattering events? Yeah, most of us have. In The Space Between Time, Jenna Holden gets slammed by her fiancé walking out, her mother’s untimely death, and losing her job all in one week. But she receives unexpected help when she finds her three-times great-grandmother’s journals and begins the adventure of a lifetime.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published.

 

Writer Expectations

My book shelves
My book shelves

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“My literature is much more the result of a paradox than than of an implacable logic, typical of police novels. The paradox is the tension that exists in my soul.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ~ Helen Keller

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” ~ Barbara Tuchman

“In my teaching, I try to expose my students to the widest range of aesthetic possibilities, so I’ll offer them stories from Anton Chekhov to Denis Johnson, from Flannery O’Connor to A.M. Homes, and perhaps investigating all that strange variation of beauty has rubbed off on me. Or perhaps that’s why I enjoy teaching literature.” ~ Change-Rae Lee

At present I’m writing a novel. I’m in the revision stages and I’m struggling with a fundamental problem for writers. A writer friend of mine said, “You’ve got to get your main character into trouble and keep her there.” I know she’s right. That’s been the rule for literature since story telling began. It’s been that way because stories imitate life. However, just recently, I’m feeling worn out by conflict.

That might not be a good thing for my writing because readers expect adventure from their books. Yet I feel drawn to create characters who learn from the things that happen to them, and who find peace in the process. My protagonists could be a new kind of character. For the most part they stay calm while helping to solve the conflict around them.

I have to say that my favorite books are ones much like that. It’s not that the protagonist doesn’t face problems, it’s their attitude in facing them that is different. Jane Eyre is one such character and many of Jane Austen’s heroines are the same. They are determined to make the best of any situation in which they find themselves. Because they look for ways to be useful and happy no matter what, good comes to them. Maybe it’s the difference between male and female writers. I’ve read lots of exciting books by male authors, books I loved, but they’re a little bit different than the books that I love by female authors. The male created protagonists struggle and push to make things happen, while the female created protagonists look for subtler ways to get what they want. I don’t mean to imply one approach is better than the other, they’re just different.

The Harry Potter series, all of Jane Austen’s books and many other books written by women seem more intimate. The Mists of Avalon and The Crystal Cave series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart respectively, are completely different tellings of the Arthur myth than those written by men. What’s going on inside the characters and what they’re learning along the way is more important than the plot.

I guess I’m thinking about all of this because I’m just finishing a fantasy series that I found through BookBub. I loved the first three books, but as I began the second series, I had battle fatigue. The books are written by a man with a young woman protagonist. It’s one of those series where one person has to save the world she lives in. But there is no respite from battle at any time. No time for reflection on what she’s learned. Mostly, she just reacts with no chance to assess the situation and to use her wisdom. Another thing that bothers me about the series is that story lines are left unfinished. It’s a great adventure series but what good comes to the society at the end of it all? Admittedly, I still have a little bit more to read in the sixth book and maybe the unfinished storylines will be resolved, the main characters will have learned something and find a measure of peace. Or maybe he’s planning another series that will do that. But as a reader I’m left unsatisfied. I don’t want to write books like that.

Recently I saw links on Facebook to articles by movie and TV critics of the Outlander series. I love those books because there is a strong female protagonist who finds herself in an extraordinary situation. She doesn’t panic. She finds a way to cope with her situation and in the process, affects everyone around her, including the men. One of the things that was controversial about the book and TV series is a horrific rape scene. But it’s not the rape of Claire, the main character, but her husband. After she saves him, they have to find a way to heal. They do that together. The rape is an integral part of the development of Claire and Jamie’s relationship. It’s not there for exploitation, or because there was a hole in the plot and “so why not put a rape scene in.” When I read that section of the book, I was amazed at the courage Diana Gabaldon showed in writing it. We find ourselves in horrific or traumatic situations at one time or another in our lives. Often we ask ourselves how can we cope with the pain. Ms. Gabaldon is one among many authors who have shown us a way to heal by writing honestly about life.

To me, literature should help us go places, both inside and outside ourselves, that we have never gone before. The beauty of reading is that we go on a journey with the characters and learn from the mistakes they make or the situations in which they find themselves so we don’t have to experience them ourselves. That’s the kind of literature I want to write. I want people to have fun while getting something to take away with them and use in the future.

Writing isn’t an easy profession. Even those who’s books aren’t huge sellers, I hope their work touch someone. I hope my book touches someone too.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great week. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Happiness as Radical Love

Bazz & Luce in Quartzsite 2Maybe some of you felt the way I did when the Supreme Court chose to side with Hobby Lobby. I was sad, but not surprised. It’s just the latest attack on women’s freedom to choose for themselves. To soothe myself, I went to Facebook. I have lots of friends who post positive messages. Luckily I found a post by my friend Terri. She was sharing how happy she was about the little things in life. In the stream of comments to her post, someone put the link for the YouTube lyric video to Pharrell Williams song “Happy”. I like the song, so I followed the link to start my day off right, and was struck by these words from the song.

“Here come bad news, talking this and that.
Well gimme all you got and don’t hold back.
I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine.
No offense to you, don’t waste your time.
Here’s why. Because I’m happy.”

That’s how I’m feeling about all of the people who are so frightened about what’s going on in our world. They’re the ones bringing bad news. They try to control every little thing around them and want to control us so they feel better.

I’ve got news for them. There are a growing number of people out there who have decided that they aren’t going to allow those fearful people to control them, no matter what. I say yay to that!

I’m going to join them and go on building my happy life and not pay any attention to the haters, the conservative politicians, the fearful people who want to tell me how to live my life. They mistakenly think that if they control everything outside themselves, they’ll feel better. They won’t.

Our inner state is our choice. I choose to be happy. I’ll let them be miserable if they want to be.

Eckhart Tolle says “What you resist persists. What you fight you strengthen.” It’s a hard concept to get. We’re so used to putting up resistance when we feel like someone is in our face. But think about these things: The opossum plays dead when it feels threatened. It takes two to keep a fight going. It’s better to be for something than against it.

Wayne Dyer tells the story of Mother Teresa turning down an invitation to attend a protest rally against a war. I don’t know which war. She was gracious about it, but she said, “I’ll attend when you have a rally ‘for’ peace.”

I’m not only for peace, I’m for everyone being able to live the life that will make them happy.

One solution to help yourself achieve happiness amid all the chaos, is to follow The Four Agreements. Someone posted them on Facebook the day after the Hobby Lobby decision. I love number two: “Don’t take anything personally”. That was a difficult one for me to learn. For many years I didn’t love myself, so I thought the world was against me. It’s not. The Universe is always on your side, whether you believe it is or not. It’s when we are fearful that things don’t go the way we’ve planned. That doesn’t mean The Universe is against us. It just means we’re being offered a new opportunity to find our place in the world. If we take the opportunity provided, eventually we find peace.

True peace, happiness and joy can coexsist with all the turmoil going on in the world. We can choose to be an influence for good. I love what Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

What role will you play in the history of the world? I want to be remembered for spreading love, light, healing and happiness.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Radical Love

Celeste and Shane IMG_0040 “True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35. The New Revised Standard Version

I don’t usually quote The Bible even though I graduated with a Religious Studies degree. The reason I don’t is because we think we know what the quotes mean from years of going to church school classes and listening to sermons. I’d like for us to consider a new, deeper way of thinking about the above Bible quote. I’d like us to consider that Jesus was asking his disciples, us, to practice Radical Love.

What is Radical Love? I don’t claim to have any special insight on that subject. This blog is prompted by something I saw on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week. Jon’s guest was a man who had written a book about the Koch brothers. During the course of the interview, the guest said something like, “These brothers are so wealthy that they’ll never know what it feels like to have to live on $2.00 a day.” When he said that I turned to Barry and said, “How do you reach someone like that? How do you help them find empathy for others less fortunate than they are?”

The next morning the answer came to me. We have to learn to practice Radical Love. Love is the only thing that will melt the hard-hearts of people who’ve never had to struggle to feed their family, or who’ve never lost everything. Practicing Radical Love is the only thing that will soothe the wounded hearts of people who’ve known nothing but struggle, discrimination, hatred and unending fear.

I don’t claim to be good at practicing Radical Love. Oh how often I want to make snarky comments on Facebook, or Twitter. But then I remember that we’re all connected by some indefinable something that’s linked to the Divine. And that stops me from writing the remark. Making sarcastic remarks on social media and in our daily discourse isn’t going to help the situation.

All I know is that we can change the world. But to do that, we have to be willing to change ourselves, as I’ve been writing in this blog for the last few weeks. We have to change ourselves so that we can look at another human being and see their beautiful soul, the soul that connects each of us to the greater Soul. We need to have empathy for what they are going through, and we need to love them, no matter what we think they’ve done.

That’s a tall order. I don’t do it all the time. My ego gets in the way. I get angry that the other person doesn’t see the world the way I do. When we fight against a person, we make them angry. When we fight a situation we make it worse. As Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth, “Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make.”

So, all I can say about the Koch brothers and everyone like them, is that I have to send them love. I have to visualize that the love I send is getting through to their hearts so that they can become compassionate, and have empathy for others. When they feel that, they’ll stop fighting to keep the billions of dollars they own all to themselves. They’ll be willing to share it with those less fortunate.

What are your thoughts about what Radical Love might be? I’m interested to know what you think.

Ariel and Daddy (31)

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014
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You Get More With Honey

“It’s not what enters men’s mouths that’s evil. It’s what comes out of their mouths that is.” –Paulo Coelho The Alchemist

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.” –Virginia Woolf

Cochise Flowers
Cochise Flowers

 

Recent events, and subsequent comments about them in the media have got my ire up. A white man, Donald Sterling, shows his true colors, and the brouhaha is on. In an” Open Letter to White People: Why I’m Donald Sterling and So Are You,” The gist was that all white people are racist, and we’d better admit it. What made me so irritated wasn’t what the author wrote, but the tone of the article. If you want to influence people, you get more with honey than you do with vinegar.

I’m not saying that this article is completely wrong. What I’m saying is that if you want us to take a good hard look at ourselves,accusing all whites of being racist is the wrong approach. In fact, EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet, except for those who are enlightened, like Jesus, Buddha and others have been, carry some kind of prejudice around with them. And we ALL need to check ourselves for prejudices of all kinds.

I know I’m not perfect, but I am continually working on becoming more open and loving. I’m always double checking my attitudes. I’m working on myself, so that I can be an influence for good in the world, and help humanity evolve to a deeper level of being. And I don’t believe in the “when one person messes up, everyone in the class gets punished,” mentality. So, I get angry when someone tells me I’m prejudiced just because I’m white.

We can’t know what is in the deepest heart of another person. To lump an entire group together, and accuse them of having exactly the same feelings, is unrealistic. Not all Germans are bad, because Hitler was the leader of Germany during WWII. Not all people from Arab nations are bad because those who were behind the 911 tragedy were from Arab countries. Not all Mexicans are in this country illegally. Not all Black people are gang members, and commit crimes. Not all Asians are smart, and make cheap products that fall apart the first time you use them. Not all white people feel entitled because they’re white. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

We have a lot of problems in this world. As I see it, the only way to solve them is for every single person to take a close look at themselves, as the article suggests. If we take care of the mess in our own backyard, and every single person does that, it makes solving the world wide problems so much easier.

In my opinion, we need to thank the Donald Sterlings in our world. They point out areas in our society where we still have work to do. He’s not the only one who has made comments that we need to be scrutinizing. There are lots of intolerant people mouthing off in the media. We need to be examining what they’re saying as well, and checking our attitudes about their points of view. They are showing us areas in our society where we need to work on becoming more tolerant of the plight of others.

I know this much about myself, when I’m judgmental of other people’s actions, I’m doing that because they’re showing me an area of my life that I don’t want to look at. I’m trying to blame them for the mess in my own backyard. If I resist hiding my head in the sand, and look at my faults, my heart opens up. I understand myself, and the faults of others.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs to accept responsibility for what they do. But, if we’ve done our own work, it’s easier to have compassion for someone when they mess up. We are after all, imperfect human beings.

I read another article last week that helped me feel better about what’s going on in the world. The title is “7 Things Self-Actualized People Do Differently” It’s an article that gives us all something to shoot for in our self-improvement journey. If we can achieve the seven states of being described in this article, we’ll be contributing to the growth of the human race.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014
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