A Reblog: Healthy Friendship, Undistorted Mirrors, and Spiritual Growth

As I continue to set my thoughts and intentions on Friendship Connections this month, I have stumbled upon some very important lessons and reminders about this very topic. (Stumbled upon, or opened my eyes to see? hmmm.)

Here is what I stumbled upon today. I thought that many of my Life As a Wave readers would appreciate it too.

Healthy Friendship, Undistorted Mirrors, and Spiritual Growth.

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Connection of a Different Sort

This month, per my agreement with myself, I have been reading, listening to, ruminating on, and talking about the idea of Connection. Although one of my intentions has been to connect more with others, and I have experienced the joy of some very special reunions and reconciliations, there is another kind of connection that continues to surprise me in its surfacing: the connection to self.

During some recent travel I began reading a book called Quiet Horizons: Releasing Ideology and Embracing Self-Knowledge.

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Much of what is in this book resonates with my own thoughts about my life as they have developed in the last few months. I am only nearly halfway through the book, but let me summarize at the highly-likely risk of oversimplifying. The author, my uncle Greg Jemsek, is extolling the importance of knowing yourself outside of what organizations and society may tell you to be and finding your own purpose rather than following the dreams and purposes of others. Uncle Greg :), a narrative therapist among other things, describes the psychological reasons why some people are prone to falling victim to “conversion” groups and offers the alternative of self-knowledge as a better path toward empowered fulfillment and community.

In my current situation, I can somedays feel the weighty fog of loneliness in a big city during an era where online relationships and identities (if we can call them that) have supplanted physical connection. But during this month of Here I Am, I am discovering (with the help of wise people who pointed it out) that life is laying out a path for me to connect with myself in a new way instead of struggling to find connection and belonging in others. In fact, I’m beginning to embrace the journey of self-knowledge despite the occasional loneliness as I see it more and more as the groundwork necessary for the authentic relationships I seek. It is time to connect with the bare essentials of ME, to cultivate a more genuine acceptance, even appreciation, of what I bring to this world. And as I do that, I eagerly wait for the unveiling of new connections with others that I’m sure will happen simultaneously.

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Are you connecting with yourself? Do you know that every day you are keeping company with a very special person? There is no one like you and there is no one who can bring to this world the particular thing that you bring. There is no one who can tell you what to be and within you is the power to be many many things. So before you make a contract with yourself that your identity is an affiliation — liberal, Catholic, husband, reject, accountant, American — remember that your true identity cannot be bound by any social construct nor its conditions.

How do you “remember” this? Sit down quietly with yourself. Say “Hello” to you. Imagine all the labels of identity falling off of you like clothing. Ask yourself a question that has been nagging you and listen to your essence, your intuition…you DO have wise intuition.  Soak in the truth that there is no other YOU in existence.

Or, wait for me to finish the book and I’ll tell you what an expert suggests you do. 🙂

For the time being, be YOU today! The world needs you.

~~~S Wave~~~

(your name here)

At peace with myself by Racquel McMullins

At peace with myself by Racquel McMullins

Here is an inspired writing I wanted to share with you. I wrote it today as I contemplated and inquired about the social anxieties, fears of perception, and bowing to expectations that we all have experienced at one time or another, some more often than others. They can cripple us so much in our attainment of spiritual and personal growth. What is the answer or nugget of truth that we need to encounter to see these things transformed? Well, I don’t have the answer for that for each person, but I know the words below were part of the answer for me, for this day.

You are a crucial part of this wonderful universe and all of the beautiful parts of you are eagerly waiting to express themselves in freedom and creativity. As you read this poem, try saying it out loud with your name inserted. Remind yourself of who you are.

Today, be (your name here.)

You would be surprised at all the ways you are not being you.

Be (your name here.)

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When they say

Be this

Do this

Want this

With all their good and bad intentions

Filter it all through the intuition of (your name here.)

Let those things go that are not of (your name here)

For this time.

You will know them when you feel them.

If you need them, they will come back around.

*

Today, all you have to do is

Be (your name here.)

Today, the world needs you to

Be (your name here.)

Authenticity Above All Else

I just changed the name of my section to People and Animals instead of Animal Rights. The reason? Questions…lots of questions and lots of complexity. There was a time in my life when questions and complexity made me so nervous. Does God exist or doesn’t He? Should  I give this relationship another try or not? Would it be better to take this AP class or to do a thesis ??? I have to laugh at myself for that last one. Seriously though, every question had the potential to make me lose sleep, weight and sanity. And then, little by little, therapy session by therapy session, prayer by prayer, win and after win and loss after loss I came to realize that complexities make up some of the most beautiful parts of this life.  Those questions that are really worth asking often have no “right” answer. And, in a fascinating plot twist, when you attach yourself stringently to an answer, you often end up “kicking against the goads” so to speak as you fight feverishly to convince yourself and everyone around you that it is THE answer. I have found the joy in embracing the unknown and the mantra that “there is no right answer” to guide myself through the murky times.

I’ve found the same grey areas exist in the world of animal rights just as they do in relationships, finances, spirituality and, er, course registration. Just 6 months ago I was enlightened by a fellow vegan and activist that there is an important difference between animal rights and animal welfare. I had been using them interchangeably. Ah. So much to learn. And that’s just vocabulary. There are other questions that I could lose sleep over. Bigger questions. Do I really think that NO ONE should eat meat? If I have children will I feed them animal products? Is all laboratory animal testing condemnable? Do animals have to die in a grass farming model?

I know vegans who would scoff at these questions, or choke on their tempeh burger in horror at my even asking them in the first place. “Of course no one should eat meat! Ever!” And more power to them…. IF they have really deliberated all sides and made a well-informed decision. (Although, really I would argue that the words ever, never, always, and forever should just be banned from all debate rhetoric.) Yes, we don’t want to imagine animals suffering for ANYTHING. But isn’t the intersection between human and animal more intricate than that? Doesn’t it deserve intellectual devotion and flexibility? I believe there is always an exception to the rule. This all reminds me of a disconcerting conversation I had with a Christian pastor dear to me. Before I left the midwest for the west coast, I met with him and shared that I had taken a step back from organized Christianity. That I was trying to reconcile the ongoing discomfort I felt in services with my deep spiritual faith. He advised me to hold fast to the Christian faith because those who walk away from the church get into some “really weird things.” Be that as it may, isn’t there virtue in checking out those weird things in a temperate and humble way? Do we fully know what we believe in if we don’t consider the alternatives?

I can’t honestly say that I will agree with every animal rights position, certainly not with every animal welfare position. I am not trying to represent a movement or align myself with an organizaiton. This is why I changed my category name. As I wade deeper into these grey areas and sacrifice my natural desire to maintain some kind of comforting absolutism on the topic of animal rights, I am finding that it is the intersection between human and animal that is at the center of my sorrows. It is the philosophies and ethics that are represented by our actions and inactions toward our fellow species that I want to understand and challenge. I will embrace the hard questions knowing that I may never get a satisfying answer to any of them. I’ll just try to be authentic.

And, incidentally, this authenticity not only makes me happier, but it makes people around me happier too. You might enjoy trying this out with me. What absolutisms can you let go of? Which hard questions are squelching  your authenticity? Here’s to you! In whatever wonderful road of grey area you find yourself!