Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Peace of Gratitude

Life’s challenges become much easier to bear when we live in a spirit of gratitude. This week I have replaced fearful thoughts with grateful ones. It has made such a difference!

Instead of thinking, “My car isn’t working. How awful!” I’ve thought, “Thank goodness for mechanics who can fix my car. I am so grateful for them!”

Instead of thinking, “My husband’s incision is infected. What a nightmare.” We’ve thought, “How grateful we are for a skilled physician and antibiotics that can help us. What a blessing!”

Instead of thinking, “It’s been such a terrible day. I’ve suffered unbearably with a kidney stone,” I thought, “I am so thankful for a caring emergency room staff that eventually eased my pain. I’m glad that my husband was home to drive me to the hospital. I’m grateful that I have caring family members who visited me and showed loving kindness.”

We truly have the power to find peace amid suffering. When we choose to have an attitude of gratitude, we can live with happiness and serenity even when life presents us with unexpected challenges. Melody Beattie writes, "Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace
for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Power of Stillness

One of the fastest ways to find peace of mind is to meditate and savor the luxury of silence. Quietness heals the spirit and invites inspiration. And, best of all, it is free.

Think of all the things that intrude on our tranquility: television, radio, i-pods, mp3 players, construction, traffic, or work related noise, and the thousands of other intrusions that can disturb our peace. If we can find a few minutes to turn off and tune out the sounds of the world and meditate, we experience physical renewal, psychological calming, and spiritual strength.

Those who have gone on mediation retreats describe the intense joy and love that permeates their souls. I have found that when I spend time meditating in the mountains, a peaceful feeling envelops my soul, and ideas flood into my mind that help me achieve greater happiness in my everyday life. Decisions are easier to make, challenges are easier to face, and inspiration is easier to receive in a quiet, serene environment.

Eckhart Tolle writes, "It is the stillness that will save and transform the world." Although I don’t agree with all of his teachings, I highly recommend his books and tapes for those who want to learn how to effectively meditate and find the power of stillness. He also says, “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.”

I would suggest you set some time for yourself where you can focus on your breathing and meditate on a Higher Power. Allow the intrusive thoughts of your mind to quiet down. Savor the sound of silence. Explore your heart, which was born to love. Let the love of God enfold, comfort and heal you.

Most religious traditions encourage meditation, In the Bible we read, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In the Bhagavad Gita we read, “For those who wish to climb the mountain of spiritual awareness, the path is selfless work. For those who have attained the summit of union with the Lord, the path is stillness and peace.” Chuang Tzu, a teacher of Taoism, writes, “If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.”

Today I am basking in stillness, and it is a joyful thing.

© Carol Brown

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day because it provides us with opportunities to show love to those around us. There are lonely people we can cheer, sad people we can encourage, and forgotten people we can celebrate. What a glorious day!

My friend, Dianne, a recent widow, is opening up her heart and home to tend her neighbors' children, so they can celebrate the evening with their spouses. During a time of great sorrow, she is finding peace as she shares her love with others.

My granddaughter and I visited a shut-in, and this sweet woman brought us more joy and happiness than we could ever have brought her. Love is such a beautiful thing, for when we give love, we receive greater love.

Today look around you and see if there is a few people you can love: a widowed neighbor, a shy co-worker, a forgotten friend. Make a call. Drop by a card. Smile. Share your love.

Remember there are those whose hearts are broken, who are lonely and friendless, who may have fallen, and who are not currently able to enjoy life. Extend the hand of hope. Embrace with an arm of appreciation and affection. Be the balm of blessing to another. Enjoy the day!

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Seeing Jesus in All His Distressing Disguises

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. When we are filled with love our energy is peaceful and joyful. We radiate happiness to others.

So what keeps us from loving ourselves and others fully? Whenever we send words, thoughts, or deeds that are judgmental to another, we dispel love. Although we must continually protect ourselves from dangerous situations and individuals, we can still love everyone, even those who are difficult to love.

Judgmental thoughts are usually fear-based or pride-based. We either feel we are better than someone (pride) or that someone is our enemy (fear) when we think negatively about another.

So think about the following people and note if you have any unloving reactions to them:

• Someone from a different race than yours

• Someone from a different religion that yours

• Someone from a different country than yours

• Someone who has a different job than yours

• Someone with a different education than yours

• Someone with a different personality than yours

• Someone with a different appearance than yours

• Someone from a different social or economic class

• Someone who has a different lifestyle than yours

• Someone from a different political persuasion than yours

You may think, “I celebrate differences. I don’t think about anyone disrespectfully.” Then ask yourself honestly if you have ever spoken unkindly about anyone who is the following groups:

• Men/women

• Poor/rich

• Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Protestants, Jews, Mormons, atheists, agnostics,
or members of any other religious group

• Gay/straight

• Republicans, Democrats, Green Party members, Tea Party Members, Liberals,
Conservatives, or members of any other political group in your nation

• People who wear the latest fashions, who dress sensibly, or who wear second-hand or tattered clothing

• Those who live in mansions, trailers, shacks, big homes, apartments, small homes, or who are homeless

• Politicians, lawyers, stay-at-home mothers, working mothers, childless woman, unmarried men and women, tax collectors, salesmen

• The elderly, teen-agers, children, or adults

• Prisoners, immigrants, or someone who speaks with an accent

• Those who are mentally or physically ill or people with disabilities

• Any other individual or group of individuals that you may feel is of less value than another

Every person on earth is a child of God and has divine worth. As children of God, we are created to love. Love is our mission and our journey to peace.

Mother Teresa described those she served as “Jesus in a distressing disguise.” She said, “Keep giving Jesus to your people not by words, but by your example, by your being in love with Jesus, by radiating his holiness and spreading his fragrance of love everywhere you go. Just keep the joy of Jesus as your strength. Be happy and at peace. Accept whatever he gives, and give whatever he takes with a big smile. You belong to him."

Each morning the Missionaries of Charity, nuns who follow Mother Teresa’s example by serving the dying and destitute throughout the world, offer this prayer:

Dear Lord, the Great Healer, I kneel before you, since every perfect gift must come from you. I pray, give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift up a part of the burden of my suffering fellowmen, and a realization of the privilege that is mine. Take from my heart all guile and worldliness, that with the simple faith of a child, I may rely on you. Amen.

May this be our prayer, too.

World peace will not come until individuals become peace-givers, peace-thinkers, and peace-speakers. It begins with every loving thought we think and every unkind thought we refuse. It begins with every loving word we speak and every unkind remark we forego. It begins with every loving deed we do and every unkind act we avoid. It begins one person at a time, and that one person can radiate love to hundreds of people, who will then do the same.

Some day the power of love will heal the world.

&copy Carol Brown

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things we ever do—and one of the most healing. For those who have suffered horrific abuse, forgiveness can take time, but once completed, it allows us freedom and peace. We are free from the bitterness, pain, and suffering that the abuser inflicted upon us. We are free to live with peace, joy, and happiness.

For huge offenses, sometimes we need a power greater than our own to forgive. Remember the story of the man lying by the pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight long years, waiting to be healed. Jesus saw the suffering man and asked him a simple but profound question, “Wilt thou be made whole?” or, “Do you want to be healed?”

At some point, we need to ask ourselves that question. “Do we want to be whole?” If we choose to remain in a state of unforgiveness, healing cannot occur in our lives. We will see ourselves as a victim which will motivate us to behave in self-defeating ways. If we make the decision to be healed, we allow a Higher Power to free us from past hurts so that we can enjoy present peace and future happiness.

The following are some suggestions from the amazing book, The Forgiveness Formula by Kathleen Griffin, a sexual abuse survivor:

• Begin by forgiving yourself.

• Write down a list of those you have not forgiven.

• Divide the list into hard and easy offenses.

• Forgive someone who is easy to forgive.

• Take your time, remembering you are in complete control about whom you will forgive and how long you take to do it.

• After you have completed the easy list, then tackle the hard one.

• Ask for help from a Higher Power as needed.

• Do not rush the process.

• Notice how much better you feel after you have forgiven.

• Use that positive energy as a motivator to continue on your journey of forgiveness.

Griffin shares this statement from A Course in Miracles that is so powerful:

What could you want that forgiveness cannot give? Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect in can never be upset? All this forgiveness offers you.

Griffen ends her book with these words: “Forgiveness is the key to all our futures. It opens a whole new world of possibilities for us all. To forgive it to say, ‘It stops here. Now. With me.’”

© Carol Brown