setting goals

Seeking Change the True Self

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” 

― Mahatma Gandhi

We have to be the change we wish to see in the world, but we must understand ourselves before attempting to solve the worlds problems. There is never a shortage of people who want to be the star that solves big issues. Tackling things like world hunger, or taking on an evil corporation that is polluting the water. The issue with this is we can’t even take the first step of being that change if we cannot step outside our own door. There is a part that all of us can play, and this part in what we seek to be the change is our true self.

Of course I have a passion for helping youth. It has been a goal in my life to make the difference in the lives of young adults (my peers), to teenagers, and kids. I don’t always have the means or the ability to make those great sweeping changes that would make a large impact in the overall quality of life for youth. I might not get to assist in writing legislation that will eliminate the need for students to pay for school lunch, but I can volunteer at a organization that prepares meals for kids without money for school lunch. This will in turn help serve the part of me that is my true self.

Start with the achievable before going onto the next. In a sense we must know that we can handle the small tasks before we can be trusted with the larger overall goals. While this seems like a simple concept in reality most of us get tired of our goals long before they really begin. I believe that everyone at some point has attempted to write a book, yet it is those that continue to do the daily grind each day that accomplish the task. They dive in the mechanics that make up a book, and study the writing’s of other authors. If being a writer is our passion then that is being true to ourselves, but then there must be work shown for the effort no matter how small.

Anything can be the true self, while we like to see ourselves as grandiose , and sweeping many of us may never find that situation that puts us in the hallmarks of history, but this in no means a good enough reason for us not to try. For what is humanity with out dreaming?

All I am offering, and all that I am saying is this: We may never achieve the goal or the life that we seek to live, but if the pursuit of this goal is what we desire then we are living a true life. We are living true to ourselves, and becoming the change that we seek in the world.

Acute verse Chronic: Healing from Trauma

It’s a big issue when you lose a hand at work. It’s actually pretty life changing. I mean you did have this appendage your entire life. You used it to eat, to bathe, to do pretty much everything. Now that it’s gone where do you go from here?

Well you are in the acute phase of the injury, or the post trauma healing. You have two options for this. You can either allow the loss to fester, and grow. Never learning how to get over the loss of your hand, and giving up. No one will blame you for this as you did lose your hand. However, you also have the choice to go to therapy. Work on learning how to use your other hand for everything. You go through the pain of healing, and take back your life.

We all suffer and all have loss. It’s how we deal with this trauma that allows us to either go from a acute pain to healing, or acute pain to chronic pain. Humans are meat sacks full of emotion. Worse still we have emotion that we sometimes cannot even begin to describe. This pain is life changing. Going through a divorce, being cheated on, witnessing a traumatic event, experiencing loss. These are all things that give us emotions. Emotions are often painful, or extreme.

Now most of us know that we are hardwired to deal with pain, we all have natural defense mechanisms. For me, in a difficult situation, I deal use humor. It can seem inappropriate to others, but I find that if I can laugh at a situation it helps me cope with what is going on. What happens after the coping is done, what happens when all that is left is the hole?

There are two paths, and neither is easy. I went through something hard in my life, and it’s a bit too personal to share with everyone, so I will just say that it was life changing. I was in college when this happened, and really had to come up with what my next step was going to be.

To be honest I enjoyed wearing the chip of pain on my shoulder. I liked the way it made me feel to think of myself as damaged. I let the pain define me, and I could use it to excuse my actions. The trauma I felt could be weaved in to every part of my existence, and used to show that I never really had a life at all, that my existence was just pain. It never got better and nothing changed because I never wanted to.

As time went on, I became more determined to make something of myself, and make a change in my life. I took it upon my myself to begin healing. Healing looks different for everyone, but I believe that healing pain is similar to everyone. It is like therapy after losing a limb. It takes so much to relearn how to use your body after a loss, just like it takes so much effort to learn how to live with a loss. The person going through the healing has to fight everyday, and commit everyday to make this change, to be a little better then they were yesterday.

Overcoming loss is made up of little victories that we take each day one day at a time. It hurts to move, it hurts to clean, it hurts to think about anything other then sitting back and letting the pain define us. However, each day, a little more. Then a little more, and finally a little more. After so many “one more days at a time” you will look up, and see the clearing in the clouds, and think how wonderful your life is.

Nothing worth having comes easy, nothing worth fighting for happens overnight, healing from trauma is hard. So, there it is. We can say you don’t know my pain, and can’t even begin to understand my suffering, and let it fester or we can try to heal one step at a time.

Commitment to Yourself

This will be a fairly brief post. The mission of a Work in Progress (A-WIP) is to better ones self. I have, in previous posts, outlined what this means to me. Through photography, philosophy, and creative writing I find the best way to live for me. I share this better self of me on this blog as an example of taking control of my life. Now this this idea of being better is different for everyone. Here at A-WIP we want everyone to reach that ideal self, and we believe the only way to do this is to make a commitment to yourself.

I want say this as gentle as I can, but this commitment cannot have excuses. I know that many people suffer from issues be that of mental, or physical and my goal isn’t to mitigate those issues. However, saying I cannot because of _____ just tells me that you have a crutch that you cannot let go of yet. To make a commitment to oneself is to know that these issues may affect us, but should not control us. There is the difference.

To make a commitment to yourself first find out what it is you want out of life. For me it is to live an accepting Christian lifestyle, this could be different for you, but what does life look like to you in the future? Who do you see yourself being?

Know what challenges are ahead for the choices that you make and create a plan for overcoming those challenges. If you aren’t sure what challenges await then at least create good coping skills for when issues arise.

Finally when you create this commitment let us know, and let us know your progress. If anything we want to be supportive of you in your journey along with us in becoming our best selves.

Kierkegaard and Mindfulness

Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness

-Matthew 6:33

Soren Kierkegaard in Skrifter vol 11 (maybe the correct citation) meditates on the above paraphrased verse in his writings, discussing the deeper meaning of the words. In short, he discusses that one must first seek the Kingdom of God, and this is accomplish by silence. Silence, according to Kierkegaard, is the first and most important goal in seeking the Kingdom of God.

To Kieregaard dropping everything for God is not the first step to seek the Kingdom of God. The first step is to be silent. To be silent, and to make yourself nothing before God. In this silence we arrive at the beginning, and this beginning is where we seek God.

Yet, what is this silence? If Kierkegaard states that silence is being prepared for the opportunity when it arrives, then isn’t mindfulness the same thing? It’s just another word for the same thing, and we know that mindfulness by itself isn’t spiritual. Rather it is an inward observation. By knowing ourselves we can better seek the Kingdom of God.

In our mindful/silent lives we make ourselves ready to serve God when the time comes. In this meditation we ready our inward self to serve. How can we serve God if our own lives are not in control? First seek the Kingdom of God. By first seeking the Kingdom we learn to be silent/mindful, and we take control of our lives.

God calls everyone to different things. Silence and inward observation gives us clarity to what those things are. The first step toward God is to become mindful of your own life, understanding of your weakness, to become nothing, so that God may use you for his will. The freedom to follow God starts with getting control of ones life. To understand your part in the world, and to be accepting of it.

I can work for God, and do great things for him, but first I must seek the Kingdom of God.

Common Sense Perspective

When I was young I had a perspective. I thought that everyone knew my perspective. If they had two eyes, and a brain then of course they would see things my way, the right way. Why if you have any trouble understanding anything come talk to me I see how the world is. Red is the best color, Scooby-Doo is the best show, and recess is a subject in school because it is in school.

Now that I am older I have a perspective, but I submit that others have theirs. I cannot say that I entirely understand the perspective of my wife, or my family. I cannot entirely, or fully understand the life of any person from the world. I cannot agree with my wife on if her birthday was at one place when she said it was another. We had both been there, both eaten food, and travel together. Surely one of us is correct? If in her eyes it was at one place and in my eyes it was at another aren’t we both correct?

If I look at something and say that this is what is right, and then one looks at the same something and says that it is wrong aren’t we both right? If opposing views give way to human suffering, can the only remedy be to submit to others views, to accept that they have theirs, and I have mine…?

…And am I not entitled to my perspective, can I not say that this is right, and that is wrong. After all, I have earned what my eyes and brain saw. I earned the experiences, and lived through it all. To say to me that what I believe is wrong is to say that I have not lived, when I know that I have. I did not come to conclusions of my life by not living.

…But is there not objectivity to the world? Didn’t the birthday have to happen at one place rather than another? Credit card receipts, photographs, witness statements. Can we not prove that one of us is right, and the other is wrong? Yes, and no. Yes if the objectivity could prove that one of us is right, and the other is wrong. No if the objectivity could prove that both of us are right, or that the objectivity is subjective in nature. A photo could prove that we were at one place, but it just as well could prove that we were at another. If it was true we were here, and the photo makes it so that we were there then the objective photo becomes subjective to perspective. If there is no “true” objectivity then we must submit that we are both correct, or at the very least both true to our perspective. Isn’t that the best that any of us can truly hope for in this world?

…Yet humans will suffer. There can be two answers to who committed the crime, and if the “objectivity” fails to be objective then the wrong person can be punished. While the suffering occurs can the jury be blamed for their perspective? Did they not take the evidence and act accordingly? Certainly there are some problems that go beyond submitting to someone’s perspective, and inevitably these issues create conflict that in turns creates human suffering. However, if we act truthfully to ourselves, and at the very least attempt to understand the perspective of others then human suffering could be mitigated.

…Or is this a way to skate around morality issues justifying deviance by saying my perspective says otherwise? We hope that the other person in front of us is acting in good faith with their perspective. It is wrong to steal, but if I steal to feed my family because I have no other way, my perspective is real even though it does create suffering. What I do is wrong, but for the right reason, at the very least for me. If I steal because I cannot help myself due to a clinically diagnosis issue, then my perspective includes that diagnosis. My perspective is real even though it does create suffering. If I steal because I find it enjoyable, or because I feel that it is owed to me then I am being real in my perspective by justifying my action as enjoyable, or owed to me. However, this justification intentionally ignores the human suffering of another. Doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason. Even if this perceived object that I covet is owed to me, to steal it is to ignore the perspective of the other person who sells it. Is the seller not owed something as well?

For the problems of my everyday life I can say that I submit that everyone is correct. I don’t have to create conflict when my wife says we ate there, instead of here. I don’t have to create conflict when I am told this is good, and that is bad. I submit that people will do as people see fit according to their perspective as I will do. I submit that people are justified in their minds their actions as I am of mine.

For the issues that inevitable must have an “objective” answer I submit that the person in front of me is correct in their mind and justified in their actions, as I am in mine. I hope that they are acting in good faith. If we can both agree that we are both at least knowing of the other person as having a perspective then maybe a compromise rather than domination can be achieved.

The Cost of Judgement

People instinctively pass judgement on each other it’s a natural process. We make judgement’s on the way people look, act, and behave. We will take those judgement’s, and often pass them around to others. We will label those judgments on people, and they become fact without ever speaking to the person we judged.

I believe that I am more than guilty of this. I would say that it is my biggest weakness, and as a Christian who is trying to follow Jesus’s teaching it’s an issue that I cannot overlook.

As Jesus states in Matthew 7:1-5: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.

While Jesus was using rather funny hyperbolic imagery the lesson is the same. To place judgement on someone is to ignore your own issues.

I like to think about the times when I am shopping or in a waiting room, and there is a tantruming child there making a scene for everyone to witness. An even better example is to be on the light rail, or in the street and a couple is having a loud fight. In the past with these situations I have put judgement on the participants.

Look at that child why can the mother not take care of it, look at that couple they have some obvious issues.

I put judgement on people, but rarely do I try to understand what it must be like to be in that situation, and ignoring the times that I have been in that situation. I have never had a child, and can only imagine the pressure that new parents must feel when their child is acting out in public. Every child acts out, and for us to say that it is the parents fault for the behavior of the kid is to ignore issues that may exist under the skin. When seeing these occurrences I didn’t  have the experience of working with mental health that I do now. I have seen how a mentally handicap child can add immense amounts of stress on a new family, it is emotional for everyone. Who is to say that I would fair any better?

Everyone is different, with a different worldview, and different ideals of right verses wrong. It would be wrong of me to judge a person based on the few moments of meeting them, or watching them.

I know the intentions of my wife, my parents, and those who are close to me. Yet with strangers I have not met I should reserve judgement. How can I cast judgement when there is a plank in my eye, how can I cast judgement when I haven’t walked in their shoes? I can’t, and I shouldn’t.

So everyday from today on I will strive to reserve judgement for myself, and only to help myself be a better person. If I ever get to a point that there is no longer a plank in my eye then I may help my neighbor with the speck in theirs.

Fasting for God

Fasting is an important process for almost all religions. It’s about denying ones self to focus on God. The hunger inside will grow, gnawing at your insides, being an ever present reminder of your choice to deny the body the pleasure of food, but by having that emotional control to deny yourself food (or whatever you fast from) you satisfy your spiritual hunger seeking God. Learning that emotional control teaches discipline to follow the teachings of your choice of faith. It’s a great time of reflection and offers clarity to what is important in ones life.

I had the privilege to participate in a fast recently with my wife. The whole opportunity came about when we were discussing fasting with our Bible study group. There was discussion about the multiple ways we could fast, and that the whole point of the fast was to deny the body its pleasures. My wife and I decided to try fasting from food, and cell phones.

We started off with the cell phone fast. We agreed to stay off our phones unless we had a message or call. What I noticed immediately was how much I am on my phone. It’s become a sort of comfort entertainment that I use to pass the day. When things are slow at work I browse Facebook or Twitter. I look up funny pictures or videos to stimulate me even when there are other options to satisfy the craving.

I found after that the first day I had all of this free time. The phone was such a time killer. I believe I was on it four hours a day. Which may not seem like much, but when you consider the breakdown of my day it is a a lot. Instead of being on my phone I used that time to read additional verses, or attempt to challenge what I had learned. I took the focus off something important to my flesh and instead turned that focus to God.

After about a week of doing this the results were pretty much what we expected, by taking this bad habit out, and replacing it with a good one we were able to look at our lives a bit more critically. It allowed us to actually see how much we came to depend on our phone, and how much that pushed us away from each other. By removing the phone our relationship became focused on each other, and God.

I will discuss how our food fast was in a later post, but I would really like to reiterate that fasting is denying the flesh what it craves. If you examine your life what it is that your body craves that holds you from God?

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