When I first began meditating, I came across two ideas that seemed important to getting my life back together:
- Know yourself
- Look at your world
Sitting helps us understand who we are, but it can be hard to look at our world and apply it to ourselves. There are times it doesn’t work either. If your world is getting blown apart by bombs or swept away in a flood, that’s bigger than us, something we can’t control and all we can do is act the best we know how in disaster.
But generally our world is smaller. Our city. Work. Family. If our personal world is in chaos, it might mean we need to look inside. If our world reflects us, what needs to change? Ourselves or our surroundings?
Meditating can bring calm, contentedness and tranquility. It can be a great tool, but alone it might not be enough. Most people believe we create our own happiness and it shouldn’t be our surroundings but something inside that determines that happiness.
For a long time, I used that as an excuse for staying in situations that weren’t happy or fulfilling. I told myself if I could just be happy myself, my surroundings wouldn’t matter. But sometimes we have to change our world because it no longer reflects who we are.
And sometimes it changes on its own.
At the top of my list for happiness are my children. That’s one part of my life that, while I didn’t get it perfect, I did alright. I love being a mother and I loved the years when my sons were little. Looking back, I wish I’d been able to work a little less and spend more time with them, but that’s life. We work to provide a certain standard of living and that’s all part of the happiness equation.
My children are grown now and off living their own lives. They’re standing on their own feet and making their way in the world. As it should be. It’s a natural change, one that all parents hope for.
Sometimes, though, we have to make the changes. My world has shifted a lot the past few years. Sometimes the change is pretty hard. Some of the changes weren’t ones I welcomed at first. But each one has brought me along the path, and I’ve learned from it.
Between looking inside and looking out, it’s looking at the world that has most propelled me forward. Now when life isn’t going my way, I ask what is my part in it all?
My part has always been the one who doesn’t want to make waves. This isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes the lengths I went to not create waves crossed the line into martyrdom. I couldn’t figure out why I kept finding myself in situations where I felt put down and unappreciated, feeling like I was being shoved into a role that wasn’t me and I didn’t like. Over and over it happened until I realized I brought most of it on myself. It had simply not occurred to me to say no more.
Going to extreme lengths to appease someone because I’m afraid of their reaction if I don’t doesn’t help either one of us. It doesn’t help me because I accept the role of acting and feeling I deserve less than someone else. And it doesn’t help the other person because it reinforces their feeling of entitlement. It’s okay to put others down because they feel they’re in a position to do so. It’s okay to take and take from the world without giving back.
Neither way is productive. In some ways, I think people like me have it easier because chances are, at some point we’ll break and the only way to really rebuild is to first be broken. People in recovery know that. People who have had a major transformation of any kind know that. But people who are proud and arrogant seldom get the opportunity to grow or really rebuild their lives because that pride gets in the way. They can’t admit they might have a part in the way their world is going or possibly be wrong about something. That seems a sad way to live, but to transform means looking at our weaknesses and the proud don’t want to admit they have any.
So today I look out at my world. It’s cold at the end of September, but I’m warm inside. And the sky, o that desert sky, is spectacular.