Another point of view

 

Lately, I have had several conversations with friends who are in despair. The reason for their despair varies: broken hearts due to unrequited love (one of the worst feelings in the entire world!), the death of family members, sick family members, empty nests, and hardships at work. Some of the more altruistic are in pain for what is going on politically and how it affects others. And I am not talking in general, these are conversations that I have had in the last 30 days with people I love and admire. 

 Through my own ups and downs (divorce, cancer, my awesome relationship with my now-recovered-alcoholic husband), I have found ways to understand my own feelings and emotions, and take a step away (sometimes many, many steps away) to find another point of view. My Qigong Master says we create our own reality. That was a hard one to bite. But I think I am actually getting it. We are what we think, and we can choose our own perceptions. We just need to be open to the possibilities.

 By that I don’t want to be callus and suggest that people who suffer are doing so out of choice. Pain, fear, sadness, grief . . . they are all part of our human condition. What I want to offer is a respite, to suggest that even in the worst of moments, there is the potential for growth. With perseverance I have been determined to see the good. Easier said than done, you must be thinking. Yes, I agree. It’s a daily practice; it’s a moment-to-moment practice. 

 Opting to see the good is not like shopping in the supermarket, but it can happen while shopping in the supermarket.  I need to pay attention to what is going on inside me, and around me, because seeing the good is about understanding what is my daily default setting and trying to be mindful about the way I think about any particular situation.

 I have learned that if I approach every moment with playfulness I get more out of it. Even a broken heart can laugh a bit about itself. We are all too serious too often. Yes, the world seems to be upside down with so many shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes, political upheavals, and bullying across nations, within nations. So we can sit and worry like mad, or we can choose to look at it all from another point of view. There is always another point of view. 

 In this same world of so much devastation there is also love, compassion, friendship, laughter, hugs, and so many caring people working hard at making a better world one day at time. It is yin and yang.  The bad and the good are always entangled in the same rope. What are you going to focus on today?

 When three months ago Hurricane Maria was hitting the Caribbean, I was trying to find footage on the Internet about what was happening on the islands…I could not be with my part of the family there, but I was trying to stay connected with their reality so I could feel closer to them. I found a few YouTube videos showing the winds, so loud and scary, and some of the videos showed things flying around in parts of Puerto Rico, and other islands. But then I also found a NASA view of the Hurricane from a satellite. This video showed another point of view of the same reality: quiet, serene, even beautiful. You could see two sides of nature at its best, beautiful and peaceful but also scary and devastating, depending on which one you clicked. 

 There are always many sides to a story, many different ways to perceive our reality. In the middle of the storm, it is a good idea to breathe deep and to separate oneself from the raging winds, find some peace, and then (like Dori, the fish–see my previous post) keep swimming. I can say that I am a pretty content human being who takes good care of herself, but it was not always like that. I had to break with my automatic unconscious beliefs, and give myself choices by paying attention. It takes effort, a lot of discipline, and constant awareness. The more I have been able to do that, the better my story has become.

Just keep swimming…

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So I will start my very first blog talking about how Dory and Marlin (yes, they are fictional fish characters of a Disney movie!) became sources of inspiration in my life. I know Disney pictures have a bad rap sometimes, but Finding Nemo and Finding Dory are two good movies to watch, if you like animation. Or just read along, and I will tell you why I am using these characters for today’s message.

Marlin is a single father with some scary experiences in his past (he lost his wife and other children due to sharks–let’s say they were murdered). So Marlin is stuck in that past and in his own fears. Raising a child (which is not an easy task for anybody, let alone single parents) and trying to keep his son (Nemo) safe, is what makes him so uptight about life in general and being safe all the time. It is only when his son disappears and he has to swim through an ocean of problems to find him that he is able to overcome parts of his past, his deepest fears, and move forward.

In the film’s sequel, you can see how he’s still true to his own worrying nature, and his inability to let go (which, by the way, will knock your stomach and liver energy out of balance, but more of that on another post). He always comes on strong at the end, conquering his own shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong, I do like him. He is a very nice and carrying father and friend. It just shows that it’s not easy to change. We all have a lot of Marlin in us. Well, I should speak for myself; I do have a lot of Marlin in me. I am also a caring mother, or try to be, whose children’s safety is very important, and for that I am a lot of times uptight and unable to relax around my kids. But that has been changing, as I practice Qigong and apply it to my daily life. Practice is an every moment, daily life commitment, not an hour a day exercise routine.

Dory, on the other hand, is playful and wise in what looks like a careless way. She is not careless. Her problem is that she has short-term memory, but that is also her bliss. Not remembering bad experiences saves her a lot of trouble about worrying all the time about what is going to happen. She is forced to constantly let go (something we should all practice on a regular basis); she is forced to live in the present moment, and her decisions about the immediate future are not based in her past experiences, but she approaches every situation as new, with wonder eyes and a little bit of innocence. However, there is a lot of wisdom in her.  Her head is faulty, so she listens to her heart. She is very brave despite having suffered a lot of trauma due to her condition. She is aware of that, but that does not stop her. Ever. I strive to be more like Dory every day, and although my nature is to be more like Marlin, I have learned that I need to keep swimming no matter what. 

So even if you have not watched these films, and even if you do not like Disney and Pixar animation, the message here is simple but hard to put into practice: daily life has to be faced with new eyes. We do not know the future, we only know the past. But the past is gone, so today is what matters. Like Master Oogway says, rephrasing what the Buddha taught, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” That’s from Kung Fu Panda, yes, another animation film that has taught me so much. (I also highly recommend it.  It was my first assignment when I became a Qigong student.)

When I am overwhelmed I think: what do I have to do NOW. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not next month, but NOW. One day at a time, one thing at this moment is my mantra. It has kept me safe and sound.