I took a brief walk in the park the other day.
The wind whipped leaves past my feet, a frigid blast taking my breath away. But the sun was shining. I was happy to be outside, to feel comforting warmth on my face.
Step by step I meditated and prayed, my usual practice when I walk.
What filled me this time, however, was a tsunami of dread and fear. As a sensitive and creative spirit, I pick up energies. And those of the world have flooded me lately, so much so that I feel I am drowning.
I do what I can to balance what I call the “negatives” that I’m absorbing. I wake without media of any kind. I play soothing music, then meditate, pray and send love to the world, to those in need. I write. And when I can, I walk.
Still, as I walked that day, I kept wondering why we are in such turmoil on the planet right now. Why we can’t seem to find balance or at least respect for one another. Why I’ve been feeling and sensing so much hate that has left me depleted and exhausted.
And why we can’t see that fear and hate just don’t work, that when you come down to it, we’re all connected as part of one human family, God’s family.
All spiritual traditions teach us to love one another and Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In truth, I feel he meant something quite different. I believe he meant “Love your neighbor because that person IS yourself.”
I kept walking, a few folks with dogs passing by. In the distance a young woman approached with a black dog on a leash, running in abandon before her. As they came closer, I could see the dog was hobbling. He had three legs.
They stopped and he approached me, panting, tail wagging, full of unbridled joy, wanting to be petted.
The woman smiled.
“Brody. He’s a rescue and I was told he was born this way.”
I gave Brody more love said goodbye and continued my walk.
Brody held no strong opinions, no judgment, no “poor-me-I-have-no-leg” attitude. Brody was simply running on three legs with delight.
That cold afternoon, Brody became my teacher. I saw that like him we all have some kind of handicap, whether it’s visible or not. Our childhoods and life experiences have molded us to hold certain beliefs, to behave in certain ways.
Perhaps we have prejudices about a certain group of people.
Perhaps we have learned not to trust men or women because of the ways our father or mother treated us.
Perhaps we grew up believing that the other guy is out to get us or that life is cruel.
Despite our handicaps – whether we judge them as good or bad – we need to move past them. How? For me, the first step is always awareness. I can’t change anything until I’m aware of it. So meditation is my go-to process to sit down and really listen to what’s going on inside.
I think it’s easy for any of us to feel self-righteous about our beliefs. But many times, we need to sit in silence to hear what’s lurking beneath the surface. And then, we can choose to do something about whatever we’ve noticed.
It might be sacred activism. Or it may be more sitting time in meditation. Or prayer. Or walking. Whatever brings peace to our souls and to the world is always my bottom line.
In her book How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life Susan Piver equates fear to those times when we simply lose sight of anyone but ourselves in our effort to secure what we think we must have.
“You want to walk over the backs of others in high heels and it feels gooood,” she writes. But that feeling is momentary and passing. What lasts is stepping back, taking a breath and looking at the bigger picture. Listening to ourselves. Listening to others.
I go back to Brody who was walking with his own handicap. He was able to overcome it — not by offering aggression or fear. But by simply giving and being love.
And isn’t that a good start for all of us?