It's a beautiful sunny day here on the coast of Maine. The last two days were mostly overcast, some rain mixed with snow at times. I still walked out to the beach each day to feel the swells as they approached the shore. There's something I feel inside, an actual physical sensation at my center, as they get nearer the shore and gain intensity. It's a feeling I love. It gives me a sense of connection to the ocean. I feel a part of it, a oneness even, with this incredible source of life. That it is filled with beautiful and amazing beings in a seemingly infinite number and variety deepens its mystery, a mystery I want to understand more and more as I stay present to what it offers.
But, this morning I have something else on my mind despite the beauty right outside my door. I've been thinking about anger and all the ways it seems to be rearing its ugly head in our country right now. I'm sensing an even deeper chasm of "us vs. them." One of the things I'm striving to learn is how to undo negative habits, some of them life-long. I used to spend a great deal of time myself in useless anger. For the last few years I've been moving away from leaning on this emotion to sustain my sense of self-righteousness. I've made great strides and manage most of the time to release it and keep moving forward. Once in awhile I still get stuck momentarily, but what I call my 'turn-around time' has shortened considerably. I simply choose peace in the moment. Occasionally I have to keep choosing peace in each moment until I really feel it, can identify it as my true self. My mother used to tell me, "Smile until you mean it." Now I understand better what she was trying to teach me. I don't claim to have answers for everyone, but I do know what is working for me. As often as necessary I choose peace, choose love over fear. I sometimes hear the statement, "Choose love over hate," but hatred is really just one of the disguises of fear. Fear wears many masks.
For me, spirituality is linked inextricably with science. I often read the thoughts of people like Albert Einstein, who was probably the greatest scientist of our time, to free my thought from false thinking. He and his fellow physicists have written extensively on the nature of reality. To put this subject rather simplistically, reality is perception. If this is the case, and I personally believe it is, then the way to change it is to deal first with my own thoughts. What images am I holding in thought? What emotions am I allowing to run rampant, accepting them as truth? If I choose anger then that is what I will experience. If I choose peace that is what I will experience. It is always, without exception, a choice I make. We can say that these times call for righteous indignation, and so it seems. But, I ask myself, who will suffer from my anger, my indignation? Will the object of my anger, the system that seems to bring out our collective wrath, suffer? No. The system doesn't care about our anger. We are the only ones who suffer from our anger.
I'm a firm believer in peaceful protest, have always believed that we have an obligation to speak out against the powers that seem to be and let our voices be heard individually and collectively. But, with anger? No, I don't feel it will accomplish anything. Two of the greatest voices of our time, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., used peaceful protest and strength of conviction to accomplish change. They believed change was possible and they expected to see it. They spoke out with a strength found in that inner Knowing that lead them through some very difficult times. There is a saying, "You will see it when you believe it." It might appear naive, but I will continue to hold to it until I see the change I know is not only possible but present in this moment if I open my eyes and choose to see it.
Jonathan was growing tired of the squabbling in his flock and yearned to fly higher, outside the society of gulls that seemed driven by fighting over food and resources. He wanted to transcend the boredom, fear, and anger that seemed to motivate his fellow seagulls. He practiced diligently, attempting to fly higher and higher, until one day he was met by two seagulls who lead him to a higher plane of existence. There he met Chiang, a wise seagull who became his teacher. Chiang told him, "Begin by knowing you have already arrived." This idea is what captured my attention. This parable is about seeing the present and infinite possibilities inherent in who we really are. These are the possibilities I still choose to keep reaching for, accepting into my thought and thus my life. Simple? Yes, as a matter of fact. The truth is simple. We make it much more difficult than it has to be.
Chiang ended his lessons reminding Jonathan to, "Keep working on Love." And that's what I aim to do. Keep working on Love. My mother gave me a pendant many years ago, around the time this book came out. It was of seagulls hand painted on porcelain. She knew how much this story spoke to me and quietly encouraged my exploration of these ideas. I feel her encouragement still. Every day I have a beautiful opportunity to listen to what the sea has to say. It's a voice I trust. It is that "still, small voice" that is always present. All I have to do is listen.