Dear Universal Heart friends
Details follow with links for getting books and CDs; plus links to the AUDIO editions of some of my books and – not least – the YouTube talks that some of you return to for support. Facebook and other details ABOVE. I am also including with this newsletter/post some of my many photos from amazing Bhutan – where I’ve just been travelling with my co-leader, William Suganda of Inspired Traveller, and 17 other eager pilgrims. What an experience it was! There was so much to love and admire – and emulate. In fact, it’s almost impossible to describe just how touching it was to be in a country where “happiness” is widely understood as emerging from how deeply we value and respect our own and other people’s lives.
Everyone we met was unfailingly kind and as someone who has spent many of the last 30 years writing about the intricate relationship between happiness, meaning, forgiveness and kindness, it was like a home-coming to see this lived. Of course it is not a perfect country; it is inhabited by flawed human beings! Nonetheless, to be in a country where there is so little commercialisation and sexualisation of everyday life is already wonderful. Add to that the great beauty of the people and place, the awesome monasteries, and a living religion that is so benign, and the country becomes something pretty wondrous. It was my privilege to give five workshops on “Basic Buddhism” – which is enough, of course, to guide and enrich an entire lifetime. The emphasis on self-responsibility and conduct towards others is utterly convincing to me: daily life (ordinary, everyday life) is our daily spiritual practice. Spiritual awakening means taking every opportunity that life brings to grow in self-respect and compassion and care for others. It also means noticing those opportunities, and bringing them within reach with our soul strengths.
Alas, I came home and have been quite unwell for a couple of weeks (lungs). But it was worth it! And because of that rest I’ve been forced to think about my work, life, priorities – always a good thing. The Buddhists use a marvelous phrase: “Skilful means”. That’s going to guide my practice and my choices going forward even more softly and strongly – especially in relation to work which has dominated my life for most of my lifetime. Attitude really is everything…as it so clearly drives our interpretations and actions. The more clearly we see that, the more choice we have.
Just today one of our group of travellers from Bhutan wrote about an incident where someone who’s been suffering from a very serious illness was confronted by another driver and “attacked” because she hadn’t used her indicator when parking her car. This kind of disruption in our lives is fairly constant: making mistakes, being enraged by others’ mistakes, spreading the contagion of blame and aggression. Because it is so common and so constant, we may all need to become far, far more “skilful” – and far, far less reactive. I’ve written about this so often in my books – especially The Universal Heart where I have a whole long section on dealing with aggression (our own and other people’s), as well as in Choosing Happiness.
“Skilful means” here may mean stepping back a little and taking the situation far less personally. And that really can be done if we are willing to assume that when someone attacks us about “nothing”, or a relatively trivial matter, that there is almost certainly turmoil in their inner world and what we are seeing is a glimpse of that disruption. In other words, if we don’t take these “attacks” personally but can, ideally, let our irritation go and maintain our equilibirum, we keep our own blood pressure at an optimum level. Best of all, we don’t add even more tension and stress to our over-stressed world! The absolute key here is not see the attack/criticism, temper tantrum as “personal” and “about you” – when it is far more descriptive of that other person’s agitated mind.
The real challenge, though, comes when the “big fuss about nothing” is erupting in our OWN minds and we are in danger of hurting or confusing other people because of our own inner frustrations. That’s when we truly need to take responsibility for what happens next and especially for our own interpretations. Mindfulness is one way through: taking time to sit quietly and witness our own feelings without judgement. “Ah ha, this is what’s upsetting me.” Sometimes it also helps to write: to discover what’s behind the most obvious feelings so that we need not act them out, hide from them, or project them onto other people, making them “wrong”, “bad, “vile” etc. This depth of clarity lets us give others the benefit of the doubt. It also saves us from feeling too caught up in others’ dramas. We can suffer less; others around us can suffer less. How ordinary this is; how gratifying when we can see that we can do things a little differently and better. At least sometimes!! And what else did I learn again in Bhutan? Less suffering = greater happiness!
May you have deepening happiness in your own lives – and not just happiness, but the deep peace that brings it. Promised details follow.
Blessings of kindness, Stephanie Dowrick
Monthly spiritually inclusive service: Pitt Street Uniting Church, 264 Pitt Street, Sydney. 16 November 2014, 3pm. I would love to see you there – and please always let me know you are a member of this Network.
And now, a reminder that you can purchase the meditation CDs from Millthorpe Blue. This includes Peaceful Mind and Heavenly. As always, you can catch up with enriching spiritual talks via the InterfaithinSydney YouTube channel. Spoken retreat talks can be found at my own website via this LINK. Audio editions available as CDs or MP4s from Bolinda Audio Publishing. You can also purchase my books at your local bookstores, request them from your local library, or purchase them via QBD, postage free – here’s the LINK. Happy reading, listening, viewing!!
(In the right hand photo below, I am wearing the beautiful Bhutanese national dress for women. And in the photo with me is William Suganda of Inspired Traveller, with whom I have worked so successfully and happily in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Bhutan.)