Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Right Action

It has been a difficult week. Mild panicky feelings, nearly daily headaches, the kind of flashing in my eyes that is supposed to be normal now but never fails to make me feel nervous, strange tightness in my chest cropping up randomly, and a wonderfully painful cold sore that has erupted on my top lip.

A lot of this, I think, has been connected to an internal struggle I've been embroiled in relating to two separate and distinct parts of my life. It has been difficult to untie the tangled health issues, emotions, and stress-induced flotsam from my decision-making process and a continual and concerted effort to choose right action and make good choices.

This process of reflection and untangling has echoed back to some earlier thoughts regarding spiritual paths and the presence of responsibility within one's living.

Over the holidays, I had a very interested and unexpected conversation about religion with two old friends. The end result led me to thinking about the faiths I am most drawn to, and why. It also got me thinking about the purpose of faith and whether its presence in human life is a positive and/or necessary thing.

I miss Unitarian Universalism sometimes. I miss the humanist aspect and the opening, accepting viewpoint. I miss the plurality of spiritual exploration and the active and socially-minded nature of its core principles. Being a covenantal faith, rather than creedal, the basis of collective practice of said faith rests in the promises each person makes to themselves and others as to how they choose to behave in the world. So... one's beliefs are not as important as one's actions.

The other faith or spiritual pursuit I feel most strongly drawn toward at present is Buddhism. This is neither convenantal nor creedal, and practitioners would most likely tell you it is more a philosophy than a religion; yet, much like UUism and similarly covenantal faiths, one of the core foundations of Buddhism lies in the choices you make about your behavior and actions in the world. Buddhism teaches the responsibility for improvement, evolution, spiritual enlightenment, etc. rests with you. There is no outside force that will bring salvation or comfort or wisdom... there is no other to relieve suffering. Rather, you are responsible for your own suffering and you are the sole source of power enabled to end it.

My daughter has begun asking questions about death, what comes after death, and the stuff that souls are made of. It's new territory, and I want to honestly convey my beliefs about such matters while leaving things open enough she feels empowered to make her own decisions and choose her own path of belief.

As with so many other aspects of motherhood, her questions elicit a new kind of learning and relearning for me. I cannot make assumptions about who I am, what I believe, or what I know if I am to respond honestly and in the moment. She requires a level of authenticity and self-knowing within which I cannot hide or be lazy or claim ignorance. Which is quite a gift, in the end.

Within all this rumination, I have sought to make several important decisions that affect not only myself, but others as well. Sometimes it is difficult to balance selfless and selfish aspects of oneself, while remaining as truthful as possible, as present at possible. Human interaction so often includes emotions we cannot control, and so we are left to ponder the rightness of our actions, the genuineness of our words, and the effect our choices make upon others - all balanced together delicately like a very precious paper house.

Whether from within our without, I do believe life is communicating with us all the time. Our bodies are telling us something. Our feelings are telling us something. The words and actions of others are telling us something. Life sends us little missives with which we may redirect our fates continually.

In my case, it's the chest pains and eye strain and cold sore and pinched heart. Your language - your message - may come in different forms. The tricky part (the important part) is to figure out what it means and act accordingly... to apply your faith, your compass, your way of knowing the world and courageously setting forth on the best course you can manage for today.

May you catch the messages your life is offering. May you choose the direction best suited to your happy and healthy growth.