Well Meaning But Misunderstood

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If you are wondering what’s wrong with teenagers, adults, society or the world in general, you are not alone.  There are hundreds out there who ask those same questions and hundreds more who claim to know the reasons why.  Do some research and you can find all kinds of opinions, statistics and psychological reasons on the internet, tv, newspapers and books.  The problem is, the ones who claim to know the reasons why the world is a mess are also a part of …well, the same world.  Often when these questions are being asked, there is an added word at the end.  The word is ‘today’.  So you hear questions like,

“What’s wrong with the youth today?”

“What’s wrong with society today?”

“What’s wrong with the world today?”

Have you noticed the peculiarity?  These same questions, with the added word ‘today’, have been asked over and over again over scores of years.  Yet, the world has changed.  Society has changed in many ways and in many countries as well.  This begs the question, ‘What hasn’t changed?’

While there may be several answers to that question, there was one answer in particular that came to me this morning during my quiet time.  It is something that is one of the major causes of contention in any given relationship.  It is that human beings are not always good givers, receivers or conduits when it comes to communicating.  We are all constantly misinterpreting, miscommunicating and misrepresenting one another and what follows is sometimes the laughable statement we sometimes make such as,

“You don’t make any sense!” or “You’re talking in riddles.”

which is often answered in denial.

Jesus is probably one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted individual in history.  His words were misunderstood then and they are misunderstood now.  I can’t help thinking that perhaps when Jesus spoke plainly, his words led to confusion.  Maybe that is why he chose to speak in parables, not to confuse, but to help people to understand the deeper meaning of things.  This makes arguing about religion ridiculous.  None of us can say we know what Jesus was trying to say about everything.  The only clear thing for sure was his love.

I believe that most relationships can be transformed into peaceful, respectful relationships when we truly work hard and patiently at understanding each other.  Yes, there are things which can get in the way and reasons why you need to keep your distance from some individuals. However, there are some relationships which are unavoidable such as family members or those you work with.  There are other relationships which are worth salvaging because it normally works but something went temporarily awry during a conversation one day.  Then there are some relationships which are so great, they are worth nurturing.

In order to improve your relationship with someone, you need to keep the channels of communication open by relinquishing the belief that someone has to be right within a discussion.  The truth is, sometimes it is not possible to work out who is right and other times it’s just we’re not clearly understanding what the other person is saying.  It is better to honor their beliefs, listen with empathy and to have an open mind (you never know, you might learn something).  If it is a case that it is important to get your point across, due so with clarity and respect.  Don’t talk over them and give them the chance to respond.

After you have had ample time to practice respectful, open-minded communication, you might find that you have an all new appreciation for people’s uniqueness. You might even find that ‘loving your neighbour’ has become effortless.

 

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Anam Cara: (Part 3) Community Of Soul Friends

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When I try to picture the Celtic monasteries and their communities of Anam Caras, I can’t help but wonder how this worked without some discord.  It sounds almost Utopian.  How did they ensure that everyone in the community had an anam cara?  Which brings me to ponder as well…could this work in communities today?  Could it work within charitable organizations?  Could this work in my church?  In all churches?  To answer these questions, I think it’s important to understand on a deeper level what is an Anam cara or soul friend.

Jesus is our first soul friend.  He was a true model of this.  He loved and viewed people on a soul level.  He knew with loving understanding the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-30).   He knew with loving understanding the magnitude of the gift Mary Magdalene was giving when  she anointed His feet with oil and wiped them with her hair (John 12: 1-8).  In John 15:15, he refers to us as friends.  He knows us individually and still He loves us.  That is a true Anam cara.  Every miracle Jesus did stemmed from love.

An Anam cara loves without limitations.  If one friend moves far away, the love between them still remains.  They are joined on a soul level.  An Anam cara is a gift from God.  We find our soul friends not by fervently seeking but by quietly waiting for them to be revealed to us. This of course does not mean that we ignore all others.  Our number one purpose in life is to love.  Love is essential to our souls, our spirits and our lives.  If you are feeling unloved, then chances are that you are probably not actively reaching out in love to others. This is not me condemning anyone.  We often develop blockages that keep us from loving others.  I myself often have to fight against the fear of being rejected.  So although I say we must wait for our Anam caras to be revealed to us, we must also be reaching out in love and friendship to all.  We can love and be loved by many. We can have many friends but the Anam cara is a more-than-friend. They have a unique insight into our souls that will never allow them to pass judgement and their advice will usually be sound as it is birth from their loving soul-knowledge of us.

You can have more than one Anam cara.  I believe the more time you spend cultivating the love within you the more loving your spirit becomes.  When you are glowing in love, you can’t help loving others on a soul level.  The love will be pure and unconditional and you will end up being an Anam cara to many.  Likewise, you will also attract those who have grown deeply in love.  What I mean by that is you will attract people who are growing more fully into their spirits.  The Celts believed that our bodies inhabit our souls; not the other way around as many believe.  We humans are a tri-une race meaning three in one. To simplify this, we will call it a mind, body and soul.  The bible defines it as body, soul and spirit.  Other spiritual thinkers will often refer to it as ego (or personality), body and soul (or spirit). Our soul’s calling is towards heaven. Our soul is ever reaching toward God and expanding in love. It leads our mind and body to further growth in love and in God.  We (mind and body) are ever expanding to fit our soul so we can become whole.

Can there be a community where every member has an Anam cara? I believe it is possible if every one in that community is awakened in Love and are inspired to all share the goal of fully loving unconditionally using Christ as the example.  It was possible once for the ancient Celts so it only stands to reason that it can be possible for us today if we are part of a community or church where we are all in one accord about this.  I feel it is important to remember that we have a lot to be grateful for.  God loves us even when we do things that may seem to make us unworthy of His love.

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Anam Cara: (Part two) Loving Relationships

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We meet people in different ways;  it could be at work, at a meeting, on an airplane, at church ….

then suddenly……

one of you says something….

or there is a look….

and it’s as if…

you remember them from the future.  (That  is how my husband Jim expressed it to me.)  Or as Author, John O’Donahue puts it, ” There is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow.  There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing.”  That is the beginning of soul love.  It may not always happen the first time you meet them.  Sometimes there is only a small spark …something you may not be able to put your finger on.  Sometimes it doesn’t happen till much later.  A lot of it depends on how tuned your intuition is.  It doesn’t just happen within romantic love either.  It can happen within deep friendships.  Ever meet somebody once and without knowing why, you instantly like them?  My teenage daughter came home one day declaring that she just met her ‘new best friend’ and she really had!

Loving relationships often start with that spark of recognition but then grows and expands.  In the case of two people who fall in love, the love expands far and beyond the love of deep friendships.  When the two people are spiritually awakened  and that well-spring of love is already within them, the recognition can be even more dramatic.  From the first conversation I had with Jim, I knew I had met my future husband (though I told myself I was being silly).  Real spiritual love starts with the meeting of your Anam Cara. In order for a loving relationship to last, you have to be soul friends first.  What this means is loving each other beyond the surface.  Being a soul friend first means truly hearing, seeing and knowing each other.  You are each other’s best friend and spiritual counselor.

One of the things I have learned many years ago is that couples will often go through a tunnel of chaos within their relationships.  This chaotic time tests the strength of our love.  The magic starts to fade as ego takes over whispering those powerful lies, “I deserve to be treated better!” or “She really doesn’t love me all that much!” or even  “This was a BIG mistake!” It often means that you have stopped loving from a soul level.  It may mean that you allowed romantic love to take over soul love.  Romantic love is simply not strong enough to withstand everything.  Only soul love endures.  If you go through this tunnel of chaos and you reach deep within your soul selves, your love can overcome this time and you can come out the other end of the tunnel with your love and relationship renewed, refreshed, restored and strengthened.

How do you get back to loving from a soul level?  First, connect with your own spirit and connect your spirit to God through prayer and meditation.  Relax in faith as you pray for your partner or spouse and your relationship with them. (As someone once said to me, ‘It is very hard to be angry at someone you are praying for.) Next, spend time remembering all the good your partner has done with a spirit of gratitude.  I suggest you write a list to read every time you need to in case you forget in anger.  Remember that you were soul friends first.  Next, when things happen between you and your partner that cause you to bristle, let go.  It often isn’t worth the battle.  When you are calmer, you might bring it up asking what was meant.  I find it helps to remember who the person truly is.  Are they really the type to have meant…THAT?  You may find it was often a misunderstanding.  As John O’Donahue said, “In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control.”  Real soul love is unconditional.  If you are still struggling, make sure you continue to cultivate your own spirituality and connectivity with God.  Take one day at a time spending time listening to your inner guidance.  Remember that love is different when it begins from the soul.

Bibliography and recommendations:

Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom From The Celtic World by John O’Donahue

Restoring The Woven Cord: Strands Of Celtic Christianity For The Church Today by Michael Mitton

Celtic Illustrations: A Prayer Journal by Andy Raine

 

Related article:

The Love Of An Anam Cara

The Love Of An Anam Cara

In the ancient Celtic tradition, monasteries were referred to as muinntir, which means people.  The reason laid in the importance that was placed on community.  One such way in emphasising this was that every person in each community had what was known as an Anam Cara or Soul Friend.   When a person had a soul friend they shared an almost sacred bond.  The bond was on a soul level which meant always accepting one another unconditionally, therefore based on love. Within this bond, the two soul friends can share how they were growing spiritually and counsel each other.  An Anam Cara wasn’t one of any specific status.  They could be anyone in the community…clergy or non-clergy.

I have been fascinated with the idea of an Anam Cara ever since I read John O’Donahue’s book Anam Cara Spiritual Wisdom From The Celtic World some years ago.  It seems to me that soul friends can be thought of in different contexts. This series will explore the different aspects of a soul friend and how we can apply this idea in different areas of our lives such as community, marriage or partnerships, family and friendships.

When we talk about soul friends, we are talking about a spiritual connection, therefore a soul friend is not someone who is assigned to someone else.  It is both natural and supernatural and can never be forced.  I don’t know what the Celtic communities did in order to ensure that each person had an Anam Cara but from the little I know about their ideas and way of live, I cannot imagine that they pulled names out of a hat and assigned someone to each person.  The Celtics thought that having an Anam Cara was a sacred blessing.

In order for anyone to have an Anam Cara or be one to others, one has to first be in a place of self-acceptance.  If you do not accept and/or respect who you are, you will not be able to receive love from others.  You will be suspicious of anyone who shows an interest if you do not believe you are interesting or lovable. You will also not be able to open up to anyone if you feel you have something you are ashamed of.  In order to have a soul friend in your life you need to be authentic.  If you aren’t authentic, then neither will your relationships be.  In order to love unconditionally, you need to have a fountain of love within yourself.  Love, like water is energy.  It needs to flow.  Love is also magnetic.  The more you give, the more love will come to you.  John O’Donahue says in Anam Cara, “…love alone can awaken what is divine within you.  In love you grow and come home to yourself.  When you learn to love and let yourself be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit.”  When we begin to be at home within our own spirit, we begin to feel safe and tranquil of spirit. This tranquillity, when nurtured transcends into joy.  Joy transcends into love.  Love needs a direction.  It needs to flow within and without but there needs to be a balance.  If you give a tremendous amount of love to others, but not to yourself, you risk starving your soul and therefore deplete what love you have to give to others.  Love does not follow a linear path.  It is more like the symbol of infinity

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or even a Celtic knot. celtic knot

It needs to be continuously cultivated within and without.  Once you have a well-spring of love within you, it cannot be contained.  It will bursts out of you like a powerful geyser of light.  Where the supernatural ability transpires in love is in the ability to see the sacred and unique individuality of the person you are loving.  You see…and often recognize their soul.  This is bigger and more meaningful than you may realize.  On the surface, we are not perfect.  We all know this.  We often beat ourselves up when we make mistakes or social blunders.  Usually, no one sees our real selves…our souls.  We alone (aside from God) are the only ones who know ourselves deeply…and sometimes perhaps we don’t.  Can you imagine, what it is like to be on the receiving end of someone who truly sees you …and loves you?  THAT is soul love.  That is the love of an Anam Cara.

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Bibliography and recommendations:

Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom From The Celtic World by John O’Donahue

Restoring The Woven Cord: Strands Of Celtic Christianity For The Church Today by Michael Mitton

Celtic Illustrations: A Prayer Journal by Andy Raine

Being REAL in Sibling Relationships

At Aylesbury pond

From top left Brittany, Tara, Brianna, Dustin
At bottom: Brandon, Jadzia

My daughter Jadzia is turning 18 in less than two weeks.  However, her birthday celebration has in a way started last Friday with a trip to the US provided by her sister and her husband.  Tara is the oldest of my six children and has always taken her role of eldest sibling seriously.  When she was growing up she was like a second mother to them even as far as making sure rules were enforced and kept.  She was also a big believer in fairness.  At times she backed up her mom and at other times you would see her playing defending lawyer for any one of her siblings.

I love it when my children are together reminiscing, laughing and getting along.  Of course, they didn’t always get along.  There has been at times teasing, biting, scratching, swearing, shouting, doors slamming, cold-shouldering, grabbing, kicking, hair-pulling and lots of arguing!  Sometimes the other five children engage in some bad behaviour too.  Yet they all manage to grow up with a strong bond with one another.  A big part of the reason for this is that Tara first modelled it and then some of the others followed suit.  Sibling bond is more than obligation.  It’s a love choice.  They have spend enough time with each other to affect the shape of each other.  They have learned patience and that a soft answer can dispel wrath.  They have learned  that an act of kindness gains appreciation and an act of kindness in return.  They have learned that their witch-y sister and their beastly brother is not all that bad.  They have developed skills in dealing with one another and learning from one another.  When they were young they didn’t dare speak of fondness for their siblings but as they grew, one by one started to speak of love for their siblings…not in their presence at first but in time they begin to declare it to them.  Some of my children have already done this already.  Some are not there yet.  However, gone are the days when one grabs a toy from the other while commanding them to ‘Share!’  Gone too are grudges.  Now they sit with each and tell the stories of the wrongs done and laugh at them because all is forgiven.

As I ponder on this it brings me to thoughts about my past post on When We Become Real and causes me to wonder what is real within a family.  Tara is being a real sister.  Being Jadzia’s biological sister doesn’t make her a real sister. She has earned that badge by her unconditional love and acts of kindness.  If Tara had been unforgiving and unloving or wanted nothing to do with her siblings, you couldn’t say she was a ‘real’ sister to them.  Likewise, if she was their step-sister or if they had all been adopted but they had a strong loving bond for one another, then they have the right to be called “REAL brother” or “REAL sister”.  I have also seen Tara be a ‘real’ sister to her friend Jennifer who she grew up with.  I have seen Tara’s love stretch and extend to her sister-in-laws and brother-in-laws.  Being a sister or brother doesn’t have to stop and start at home.  It can be expansive! As part of the human race, we can look at one another as family. We can call each other brother, sister, mother, father. We won’t be given these titles unless we have earned them.  In Mathew 12; 47-48 Someone said to Jesus, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!…Jesus of course meant no disrespect to His own mother and brothers but was trying to make the point of the strong family bond that can exist within all our relationships even those outside our family.

How do you start to form real sibling relationships? Hopefully, you start at home if you are able to.  You start by focusing your attention on the good in others.  You accept them for who they are.  You appreciate them and accept whatever good they offer you whether it be a simple compliment or love.  You align your personality with your spirit so that you begin to view them in truth.  If you choose to view only their fallibilities, their mistakes, their short-comings, then you will not be able to see their true selves nor their potentialities and you place obstacles between you so that no possibility of unconditional love can grow.

So I ask you to think about this…Are you being real?  Are you being  a real brother or sister to your siblings and to others?  Who are your real brothers? Who are your real sisters?  Who has earned that title in your heart?  Have you told them?  What a blessing you give them by simply telling them how you truly feel about them!

When Anger Threatens

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Anger is a counterfeit emotion.  It doesn’t exists on its own. When we are angry, what we are really feeling is hurt or frustration.  Therefore, simply explained anger is an expression of these emotions.  For something that is a counterfeit, it sure can cause a lot of damage! It is an impediment to our inner peace and to peace in our relationships with others.  When two people are attempting to communicate and anger is brought into the conversation, it suddenly creates a dam so that loving energy is blocked off and not allowed to flow.  A dam not taken down can cause irreparable damage.  Your relationship becomes ‘less than’ rather than ‘more than’.  This is especially dreadful if the relationship is with your spouse or children or parents or other loved one.  It is almost always important for relationships to grow in love and beauty and truth.  Relationships should be something we cherish. On top of our relationships deteriorating, when we allow anger to block our loving energy, we might also be harming ourselves.  Our spirits become sick; our relationship with God is threatened and our physical and mental health can also deteriorate. Why? Because we are setting ourselves a pattern.  If we don’t practice remaining at peace then we become habitually angry for more and more reasons.

I once saw a woman whose face gave me a shock.  Her brow was so deeply furrowed that her eyebrows were drawn together close over her eyes and her mouth was set in frown lines.  The reason for the shock was that at the time this woman wasn’t angry.  In fact, she was quite amicable.  It was obvious to me that this woman had spent most of her life being angry so that as she aged her frown lines became permanently set.  I’ve also seen the reverse.  I have seen beautiful elderly people with smiley crinkles around their eyes.  However, countenance is only the surface.  Think what that person is feeling underneath.  Where there is anger, joy cannot exist.

Anger happens when we allow ourselves to close or shut down instead of remaining open in love.  Buddha once said, “In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.”  How true is that!  How often does it also happen that when we allow ourselves to get angry, we stop actually hearing what is being said?  We may even be missing out on the chance of reconciliation but our ears and heart are deaf to it.

Next time you are find yourself in a disagreement with someone, remind yourself to honour and respect them and whatever situation the two of your find yourselves in.  Do not close your heart.  If you find yourself tightening up inside, tell yourself to STOP and RELAX instead and focus on experiencing God’s love within you.  Being actively self-aware is the key at this point.  My practice is to inwardly suggest to myself, ‘Relax.  My heart is at peace.’

Laughter is also good medicine.  If you can stop and laugh at yourself or at the situation, the moment is then rescued.  Laughter and anger cannot exist at the same time. In our family, we sometimes recount angry moments at the dinner table just so we can have a good laugh at ourselves.  People often say funny things when they’re angry.  I suppose you can call it a temporary brain malfunction.

And remember that woman with the furrowed brow?  I REALLY don’t want this to happen to me!  So if ever I find myself getting angry, I think of that woman and then I remember this awful picture that someone once took of me.  I wasn’t even angry at the time.  I don’t know what was going on then but it only goes to prove you never know how you look to others sometimes.

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