Regardless of our ideology, there’s lots of emotion everywhere recently – frustration, anger, and fear – about what might happen in our world. We’re stuck in a country that is so divided right now, and we can’t seem to escape. So this week, I’m going to focus on how we might manage it all in order to find our way back to a sense of peace.
I’ve come to understand that, as individuals, we are all seeking freedom. Yet we are the ones who imprison ourselves by how we view and respond to the world around us.
Remember the old Mayberry show? Almost weekly, Otis, the drunk, stumbled into the sheriff’s office, into the jail cell and locked it behind himself. The key was always hanging on the wall, just outside his cell. He could reach it anytime he wanted, but he always waited until he sobered up. Then all he had to do was reach outside the cell, grab the key, unlock the cell door and walk out.
What a metaphor for our daily lives!
Some of the ways we imprison ourselves include (but are not limited to): limiting our beliefs about ourselves and what we can/cannot do, stories we make up in our heads about what others think of us – or about political issues, hanging on to resentments, refusing to hear others’ perspectives, believing our way is the best (and sometimes the only) way, thinking we know all there is to know about a situation or a topic, allowing negative thoughts to gain weight in our minds – about ourselves, our situation and others. . . The list is endless.
Much of our imprisonment revolves around our need for perfection. Perfection is such a limiting word, and It implies that if something is not perfect, it must be imperfect. But perfection is really just an opinion. My concept of what’s perfect might be totally different than what you see as perfect. In reality, perfection comes when we can allow things (and people) to be what they are. So perfection is really just a state of mind that keeps us imprisoned.
But, just like with Otis, THE KEY IS WITHIN REACH!
We think everything we want is on the outside and is unreachable. But it’s already here, right within reach. We just have to recognize how to “sober up” and do what we need to do to get there.
We stay inside our heads (our jail cell) with obsessions about how to please others so we can belong. Or we beat ourselves up with rigid, shameful thoughts of things we should or shouldn’t have done.
Letting go of rules, “supposed to’s,” and ideas that limit us and others is one way to free ourselves.
Letting go of expectations of ourselves and others is another way. I’ve written a whole blog on expectations and how we are just setting ourselves up for more pain with them.
Acceptance of what is – and allowing situations and people to be what they are is another. (That’s not to say there aren’t things we can do. I won’t promise it will always bring what us think we want/need at the time. Many of us exercised our right to vote, and for some that brought the change they wanted. Since then, there have been several examples of how the sheer number of people protesting specific issues have made a difference). But when we’ve done all we can do, we have to come to a place of acceptance that the rest is not up to us.
Another way to say all of the above is FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness of others – and perhaps more importantly, self forgiveness. When we can learn to be more compassionate with ourselves, we’ll be so with others. You may be thinking, “But how can I forgive someone who is possibly putting so many of us in danger?” or “How can I forgive those that are on the other side politically and won’t engage in a rational discussion?” If that’s where you’re going with this, here’s a tip (and I’m guessing you’ve already heard this). Forgiveness is NOT about “them.” It’s about letting go of the emotional attachment that ties you to the pain that imprisons you.
Those earlier suggestions (letting go of “supposed to’s” and expectations, and acceptance); if we really master those, then we probably won’t get to the point of blaming someone in the first place. The need to forgive implies that we first must have blamed.
Wayne Dyer used to ask his audience what they got when they squeezed an orange. Of course, they said “orange juice.” And he would respond with “yes, because that’s what’s inside”. Then he asked what they got when they “squeezed” (or put pressure on) a person. Again, it’s what’s inside. If what’s inside us is anger or rigid expectations, that’s what will come out when we’re under stress or have expectations that limit us to only one outcome. But if we find compassion, love and forgiveness inside, that’s what will come out when we are put to the test.
I do believe that virtually all protests start off with anger that stems from a sense of being treated unfairly (either myself or someone I care about), but what I’ve been seeing as I’ve watch many of them, is that anger eventually being channeled into love. Then, I think it turns from protesting AGAINST something or someone to protesting FOR something we care about deeply. Will that change things enough? That depends on our expectations. If we expect things to change overnight because of our actions, we’ll still be in that jail cell. But if we can continue to do what we feel drawn to do, it will keep the fire burning that I think has already started. I really believe things don’t happen in our time, but divine time. That is perfection.
So once we do what we can to change things, and become more open to viewing our world from other perspectives,we’ll “sober up” as Otis did. Then all we have to do is reach for that key, unlock the cell with loving, forgiving, compassionate thoughts, and walk out – into freedom.