Tag Archives: inner peace

Challenges, Meditation fail and Scarborough

A part of me knows that challenge is also opportunity, a chance to grow and to step up to new things. We do that deliberately to ourselves in rites of initiation and in dedication, shouldering challenges, and sometimes reality keeps dishing them out as well. I’ve had to close my computer lid and just sit here repeatedly this morning. Things I may a have messed up, things that came out of nowhere, things I might yet resolve. It’s been one thing after another this week, and I am sorely worn.

We were supposed to be signing books at Stand Up Comics in Scarborough this Saturday, but at the weekend they mentioned they hadn’t actually ordered any books, what were we bringing? As we’re nearly out of copies of Hopeless Maine, and not too taken with this as an attitude, things ground to a halt rather quickly. I had assumed, foolishly perhaps, that a conversation about the feasibility of order us through Diamond Distribution represented an intention to make an order, given they’d just booked us. Apparently not. But, within a couple of days, Debra, my fab and tenacious lady on the ground there, sorted things so that we can go to Waterstones instead. Hurrah for Waterstones! Against all the odds, I’m starting to feel rather warm and fuzzy about them. (We’ll be there at 11am, if you can make it, please do!)

That’s a typical one. Much of the hassle seems to be of my own making, or perhaps if I was being kinder with myself, it’s a knock on effect of the chaos of moving house. There’s been a lot of chaos. I feel like I’ve been running for a long time, and amongst that, I’ve missed some things, and some of those may be important, and some may not.

Then there’s the really random stuff, which I’m pretty sure I haven’t made, things not showing up, or disappearing, with no explanation. There’s been too much of that, lately.
My perception is that some people are run ragged by crazy shit beyond their control, and some people seem to drift serenely though life, rather in the manner of swans. There may of course be frantic paddling below the surface that I cannot see. I seem to be made of frantic paddling, but perhaps to others I too look like something floating by, untroubled.

It’s hard to put time into being all spiritual and philosophical when mostly what you want to do is scream a bit and then get under the table and refuse to come out. There are times when the closest I can get to Druidry, is to breathe, slowly and deliberately, and in breathing, not actually scream. Inner peace is a lovely idea, but reality doesn’t always co-operate with that, and it’s hard to be peaceful when things around me seem to be falling apart. Of course that is the time when we most need the inner peace, when it would be most useful. Meditating is easy when you’re calm, but being able to do it to resolve stress would be really handy.

I think it’s fair to say that the work I’ve done in recent years on trying to be a calmer and more functional person has paid off in that I am still sat here, not under the table, and I’m not screaming, and I am chipping away at those challenges and setbacks, trying to climb on top of the various mad things that seem to be happening around me. That is worth something. Often in crisis it is hard to keep track of the progress, to recognise that the current muddles and troubles are less bad, or more readily managed than they might have been.

If you would like to cheer me up enormously, and are in the Scarborough area, do check out http://www.facebook.com/events/list#!/events/1388873817996797/ as I shall be playing with ideas around how we imagine our ancient Pagan ancestors, on Friday night and it would be good to have people along for that. And of course lovely Waterstones in Scarborough, 11am Saturday morning.

Now I get to sit under the table, yes?

The consequences of anger

Plenty of religions (and Yoda) discourage anger, but we don’t talk much beyond vague ‘bad karma’ and ‘god doesn’t like it’ ideas about the consequences of anger. There are times when rage is a good and needful thing, enabling us to change perceptions, change our lives and so forth. There are times when dramatic upheavals and huge responses are called for. The trouble is that the anger lingers on long after the moment has passed. The echoes of historical injustice, the memory of pain, can keep us trapped in a moment that has actually gone. I know because I’ve done it. Then there are the smaller things that people let themselves get angry about, and can still be bringing up years after they happened. I don’t think I do that much, but I’ve been on the receiving end of it, and yes, that makes me angry. It’s so easy to get angry with someone else’s anger, too, and escalate the thing up into something truly hideous.

I feel anger as a physical tension in my body, and there’s a definite relationship between it, and anxiety. A lot of my anxiety has to do with the things I am also angry about. I don’t want them to happen to me again. I don’t want to be a victim. I’m angry because I am afraid, and afraid because I am angry and round it goes. Live there and it will make you very, very ill. My experience of angry people suggests that a significant number (but not all) are angry defensively, trying to protect themselves from wrongs and threats, real and imagined. When the threats are real, the anger can be useful. When the threats are imagined, the anger is as dangerous to the person holding it as to anyone else. Someone who has got into the habit of feeling afraid may no longer be able to tell the difference. There are people who are determined to cast themselves in the victim role so as to justify lashing out in anger against others as well.

There are people who seem to enjoy being angry. It can, after all, feel powerful. And yes, the righteous anger that throws off the chains of slaves and brings down tyrannies is a good kind of power, but that can get addictive. Of course when we are angry we want to believe that we have the moral high ground and are entitled to hit out, with words or fists. We want to feel good about manifesting our rage. Movies are full of examples of ‘heroes’ who do just this, reinforcing our beliefs about how good it is to crush the opposition. Only it isn’t good. It leads to retaliation and feuds. It leads to broken relationships that cannot be fixed. As soon as you get into win/lose scenarios, everyone loses.
It’s not easy stepping away from what you firmly believe to be righteous indignation. That hunger for justice, that need to have your pain recognised, the desire that other people should do something about it… I’ve seen what it does. I’ve yet to see someone come out of the angry place actually happy with the outcome. It’s not about the winning, it’s about what the being angry does to you. It robs you of peace. It keeps you revisiting all the things that hurt. There comes a time to put it behind you, learn what you can and move on. Where that place is will vary depending on person and circumstance of course, it’s not for anyone else to dictate who should be ‘over it’ by now.

I’m alert to signs that people are angry because they are afraid. Sometimes those can be eased with a gentler, more careful approach. I’m not going to be angry with someone because they need me to be more careful with them – that would be pointless, and would entrench the fear. I’ve had people get angry with me on those terms, it achieves nothing good, and creates more misery. If I think someone just enjoys being angry, I’ve learned not to argue because there’s no point, it just makes them worse. Better to walk away and come back if they calm down. I’m not interested in being a whipping post.

My own anger, I am trying to turn into something else. I’m not prepared to let it keep me in an afraid place. Anger can also feed courage. It can be the motivation to stand up and say or do what is necessary – not to strike back, not to lash out or to hurt but to calmly face down and try to fix. The kind of anger that would enable me to calmly support other people who need help, and calmly not escalate things when other people are being bloody stupid. It’s not about supressing the feelings, or not experiencing anger, it’s not letting it run on and not wilfully feeding it to get to some dramatic shouty place, and not enabling the people around me to go their either. Not that I live with anyone shouty anymore, but there’s a whole world out there…

Making peace

For me, the quest for peace, both within and without is a significant part of what Druidry is for. It’s not what we do, it should be where what we do takes us. Harmony in any aspect of life, creates peace. Resolution, restorative justice, understanding and compassion all lead the way to peace as well. The deep contemplative work that has become intrinsic to my daily life enables me to develop understanding, to cultivate inner calm, make my peace with experiences. I’ve learned when to get on the soap-box and shout, as well. The ‘peace’ that comes from ignoring problems, turning a blind eye to injustice and pretending all is well, is no true peace, just a fragile illusion that can be stripped from us at any time. Real inner peace and resilience are realistic things to be cultivating. Peace in the external world is a project that will require everyone to participate. As such, we won’t get there any time soon, but every contribution matters.

I’ve been pondering a lot what to do in the aftermath of conflict. Unconditional forgiveness can be a way of giving people permission to re-offend, so I’m not keen on that. Holding on to anger is not good for the cultivation of inner peace though. I’ve been working on adopting attitudes of pity and compassion that allow me to feel sorry for the other person, where there is unresolved conflict. Functionally, it allows me to be gentle and patient with them, without offering the kind of acceptance that says ‘oh sure, kick me like that any time.’ Tacitly allowing people to mistreat me does no one any good. I suffer, and they do not learn to do any better.

Where the mistake is owned, it’s always a lot easier to move forward. It can be painful, daunting, even humiliating to admit a mistake, and the bigger the error, the more uncomfortable it gets. But, in owning it, it becomes possible to make changes, to ask for guidance and to explore what might have worked better. Of course there are people who will take an apology and use it as a stick to beat you with, but this is not honourable behaviour, it’s aggressive, abusive behaviour. The person who confesses, apologises and is trying to fix things, always deserves the space in which to try and do just that.

I’ve yet to find a conflict situation in which I couldn’t have handled it better. So, even when I feel that on the whole I’m in the right, I’m always looking to see where I could have done a better job, and what I can learn. Just because I think my behaviour isn’t troubling, doesn’t mean, for example, that I can’t push other people’s buttons by accident and cause pain unknowingly. Those lessons I want to learn and those situations need catching, and dealing with. A mistake, based on error or lack of insight is one of those human things, we all do it. The person who won’t look and repeats, is deliberately careless and that’s a whole other thing. There’s always scope to do better. My main area of weakness comes from misunderstanding. I’m sensitive to the nuances of language, and I get into a lot of difficulty with people who use language carelessly and imprecisely, who say what they do not mean, speak ‘off the cuff’. If I could get the hang of spotting those as they happen, I wouldn’t have to mop up after the event, and that would be definite progress.

It’s impossible to make, or hold peace with someone who is always right. Good relationship depends on negotiation, listening, a willingness to compromise and a willingness to seek the solution that works best for everyone. If one person is always right, and everyone else is always wrong, there’s just no space in which to do the essential relationship things. What you have then is tyranny. We all see things differently, have different needs, respond in our own ways and so forth. There is no one right way of being human. Negotiation enables us to find peaceful ways of co-existing. Being right all the time does not.

Just because a thing looks right from my perspective does not make it right for anyone else. If I refuse to consider that I could be wrong, or just not right from another angle, I pass up an opportunity to learn, and grow. To be human is to be less than perfect. Working with a recognition of that can build peace, within and without, but the more right, justified and entitled you think you are, the harder that is to achieve.

The quest for peace

I’ve blogged before about my anxiety issues, which have been with me for some considerable period now. However, the last few weeks of my life have brought a new development into the mix. I’m experiencing periods – sometimes hours long – of euphoria and a tremendous sense of inner peace. This, I am tremendously grateful for. However, it is in the nature of me to think about everything, to want to understand what is happening. After all, if I can unravel where this oasis of calm has come from, I might better be able to maintain it.

I think there are a number of strands to this. Firstly is, as previously commented, the strange, amorphous anxiety I live with has everything to do with reasons for fear having become normal in my life. There’s been a huge shift on that score. Emotionally, physically and psychologically I am very much safer these days. Home life is not fraught with tension and arguments, but is instead warm, companionable and supportive. Most days, nothing scary happens. And so by slow degrees fear has become less normal and happiness more so. I think somewhere in the last few weeks the balance tipped. My sense of normal is all about the life I now have, finally. Not being told off, not facing anger, not having to continually justify myself, makes a lot of difference.

I’ve taken up being gentler with myself, too – a deliberate move prompted in part by advice from my counsellor last year. I don’t push continually beyond the boundaries of my exhaustion. It helps a lot that I now have the support to rest when ill, to take it easy when tired and to take time off. And again, feeling more secure makes it easier to give time to myself.

I sleep more – because I give myself the time, because I am relaxed when I go to bed, I have nothing specifically to be anxious about in bed, so sleeping comes easily. If I do wake up in a state of panic – it still happens- there is someone lovely to curl up against. Often I’m the first to wake in the mornings, and when the day’s anxiety rush has passed, I’m overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude, and on some days the decadent pleasure of lying in as late as 8am, in good company.

Being valued by the people around me, has done a lot to ease my anxieties about myself, and to help me build a new sense of who I am, and my place in the world. This in turn contributes to my sense of calm. I do not need to prove anything, so much, these days. I am not short of friendly attention, I’m with someone who enjoys what I do. Pretty much all of it. That makes it far easier for me to enjoy what I do, too. And here again, this process of acceptance makes me feel more able to accept myself. It is not easy to be free from inner conflict when the external world is conflict laden. External peace makes it a lot easier to cultivate inner peace. Of course, inner peace that depend on a calm external reality is a partial sort of thing, and for best effect I need to be able to hold my calm optimism even in face of adversity, but that could well come, in time.

There was a time when I could not imagine feeling whole in myself. A time when I could not imagine being free from fear. That seems a long way behind me now. I got this far in no small part because other people did not give up on me, and did not let me crumble entirely into despair. And also because all the way through, I have dared to hope that maybe there was a possibility things could get better. Sustaining hope can be very hard work indeed.

I am full of gratitude for the small things, the little acts of warmth, compassion and kindness that crop up every day. The smallest beauties, the little moments of good fortune. And I know how to laugh at the setbacks. I’m writing this blog on a train station, because we got stuck behind a funeral, a tractor and a bus, and missed the one we were aiming for. It’s a small set back. A chance to linger longer, and I bought a book. I’m getting better at seeking out the silver linings and life is getting better at presenting them.

I’m going to blog more at some point about the relationship between the experience of slowing down, and the quest for inner peace, because that’s too huge a topic to cover in this round. As I type, the sun has just peeked out from behind the clouds again. The air smells of rain. My child is ambling about doing nothing in particular, my bloke appears to be deep in contemplation. I draw a deep breath. This is my life. My real life. The one I have. It is the life I want, and I’ve been a long time finding it, but ye gods I am glad that I did not give up.