The phrase “outside influences” caught my attention as I meditated this morning, reminding me how the beliefs and actions of others sometimes influence me. My thoughts shifted to being conflicted about much of what I see happening in the world today. There are days when I feel so strongly about what I believe that I set my sights on saving the world. And then I read or observe something that makes me think I am such an insignificant part of the human race that there is nothing I can do to make a difference.
Thankfully, I have progressed far enough on my journey to recognize that I prefer to get positive and stay positive about my role as a human being, even when I am in a funk about the world. I crave the sense of purpose I feel when I am writing and sharing what I have learned. I elevate myself above the funk when I seek out information on what others are doing so that I can be inspired to stay the course.
Today I write about being conflicted because I believe that our thoughts are the driving force in our lives. When we catch ourselves thinking about what we can’t do, we have to switch our thoughts to what we have already done and what we are capable of doing. We have to look for those times when we did something that made us feel like our voice or our actions counted for something, for those times when we felt good about our contribution to the world.
We can also depend on family and friends to bolster our confidence. Most of us have people in our lives who continually remind us that we are blessed to have opportunities to help and support each other. Whether with family members or our inner circle of friends, it is in those microcosm relationships that we learn to love and be loved, to support and be supported. It is a natural process that, despite detours and some broken connections, we cherish and protect.
The Importance of Tradition
As I think about the microcosm of my own family, I am reminded of the importance of tradition. My mother started one when my five siblings and I were children. It didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing on any given day. Unless we had a scheduled activity or a job, we were expected to be at the dinner table at 6:30 every night. It was her way of gathering her family together to discuss the day and be supportive of each other.
My husband and I worked opposite schedules for many years and we continued that tradition of coming together at 6:30 every night for dinner with our children. When my kids were teenagers, we expanded the tradition to include their friends who were present at dinner time. Sometimes these friends were just at the house for some shared activity. Other times they didn’t come from a home environment where they could count on a home cooked meal and learned about support in the midst of our microcosm.
My daughters are grown women now, but we still come together once a week to share a meal, catch up and check in on each. If we miss a week and there is a potential for us to miss a second week, one of my daughters always takes the lead to figure out where we can fit in an hour or two for this tradition. Why? Because we value the unconditional love that we all give and receive in our family, even when we tease and pick on each other in loving ways. It warms my heart to see my daughters carrying on the traditions my mother taught me and her mother taught her.
Family is the Microcosm of the World
I acknowledge that we don’t live in a Hollywood scripted world, but when I get discouraged about the state of the world and feel that I cannot make a difference, I bring myself back on track by looking at the microcosm of the family. Why? Because I recognize that this microcosm exists in every culture. We don’t learn to love. We are born to love. We learn to hate. We learn to judge. We learn to isolate. We learn to protect invisible borders for the sake of loyalty that is learned and earned at the expense of our natural propensity for loving our fellow human beings.
Our personal relationships prove that it is possible to love and get mad and love again; to be hurt and forgive and love again. And if we can do this in our families, we can do this as members of humanity. We can set aside that which we have learned, that which goes against our natural tendencies to love and support each other. We can find our way to forming communities that are modeled upon the premise of the family.
On those days when I feel conflicted, I sometimes think I am perhaps too optimistic about what we human beings are capable of. But, as soon as I read an article about some random act of kindness and an unsolicited tear wells up from the heartstring that is activated in my chest, I realize that we have control over how we choose to direct our thoughts and our actions.
If we are living our lives as we are hardwired to behave, we will find our way to empathy, compassion and love for our fellow human beings. And when we find our way to this common ground, we embrace our purpose as human beings.
I may be conflicted about my role sometimes, but I have come back to this common sense understanding so many times in my life, that I know without a doubt that this is where we all belong. And, when I set aside fear and feeling overwhelmed and helpless, I realize that I am not conflicted at all.
Note: After many failed attempts at meditation, I decided to take the advice of music mogul, Russell Simmons who wrote Success Through Stillness. He suggests setting a timer for twenty minutes and sitting still regardless of distracting thoughts. I wrote after each session to create this thirty-day blog series.