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Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Weddings and Celebrations

Today I am deeply involved in last minute preparations for my daughter's upcoming wedding.  Her wedding is going to be held at one of our local Unitarian Universalist congregations, filled with poetry, devotion, music and reason.  A decidedly spiritual service with a naturalistic humanist outlook.  I was sent the text of the service yesterday in order to facilitate the creation of wedding programs and I was struck with the beauty, sincerity and genuine spirituality that was found in the words of the bridal couples vows, readings and ceremonies.

I was overcome with a sense of awe at the unique and spiritual person my daughter has become since her early days of sitting on my knee.  She is a beautiful and vibrant woman who lights up a room whenever it is graced with her presence.  I am also blessed to say that she is one of my closest friends, a confidant and someone I can count on to cheer me when days seem bleak.

From the start this wedding was meant to be something that expressed the bride and groom's loves and their sense of family and purpose.  Although we are working on a budget, an even smaller one than originally planned due to the unexpected lay off of my husband last October, we have paid attention to small details that should make the difference in making unity and family the focus of the upcoming nuptials.

I am proud to be sending such an amazing woman off into the world to spread her wings!  All of my children are amazing individuals that I am happy to count as three of my best friends, the best being my husband, Michel.  How blessed am I in this life to have such wonderful people in it.  :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Today's Stoic reading was a passage from Epictetus...  "
HE is free who lives as he likes; who is not subject either to compulsion, to restraint, or to violence; whose pursuits are unhindered, his desires successful, his aversions unincurred. Who, then, would wish to lead a wrong course of life? — "No one." Who would live deceived, prone to mistake, unjust, dissolute, discontented, dejected? — "No one." No wicked man, then, lives as he likes; therefore neither is he free. And who would live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity; with disappointed desires, and incurred aversions? — "No one." Do we then find any of the wicked exempt from sorrow, fear, disappointed desires, incurred aversions?—"Not one." Consequently, then, not free. -
 My response to this passage was "To live purposefully and with gratitude for all that we have in life. Therein lies the path to true freedom."

Freedom, such an interesting word which can mean so many different things to different people.  Freedom to worship in whatever manner we see fit and whatever deities we revere.  Freedom to get an education.  Freedom to live a purposeful life.  In our western industrial world we have so many freedoms that others in the world can only dream of having.  Not many of us are falsely imprisoned or held in abject poverty with no chance of escape through self-improvement, education or just good old fashioned hard work.  We live in a country that is full of possibilities if we are willing to take chances, step out of our comfort zones and work hard for a dream.  We are the lucky ones as the only things that hold us back from achieving our dreams are our decisions or lack of them.  We enslave ourselves with our inability to strive for more.  We enslave ourselves when we become chained down by debt or responsibilities that we did not think about the consequences of incurring at the moment that we signed the bottom line.

We can be free if we can reach forward towards our dreams.  We can be free if we practice the principle of gratitude on a daily basis.  We may not live in a dream condo or a mansion in Rockcliffe Park but we have a roof over our head, a lawn to mow and  a comfortable bed to sleep in at night.  Gratitude for all the blessings that we have, that is the way to contentment.  To live each day with a purpose instead of aimlessly drifting through one moment to the next.  To walk forward with gratitude and purpose in every step.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In my Stoic readings this morning I was struck with a passage from Epictetus' writings...  "THE man who is unrestrained, who hath all things in his power as he wills, is free; but he who may be restrained, or compelled, or hindered, or thrown into any condition against his will, is a slave. "And who is unrestrained?" — He that desires none of those things that belong to others. "And what are those things which belong to others?" — Those which are not in our own power, either to have or not to have. - EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶14."

In my response to this passage I wrote...  "When I set my sights on my "neighbour's stuff" I actually voluntarily give away my freedom. I am now constrained by my desire to have the thing that my neighbour has or to work towards acquiring an equivalent to what they have. I enslave myself to the need to devote resources, time, ambition, etc. in the acquisition of said "prize".

If I can be content with what I have and what the universe gives me, I can acquire freedom from the constant need to acquire new and better things, the plague of Affluenza that is infesting our planet on a daily basis.

To be content with what I have, be thankful and mindful of the blessings in my life, to practice gratitude and be at peace, that should be my goal in this life. This goal is ever present and I need to be ever vigilant in my pursuit of this goal.

Whether it be the pursuit of things or of someone else's "vision", "path" or "purpose", we lose sight of our own purpose when we try to conform our individual life to the shape of someone's lifestyle. We lose our own light when we attempt to live in another's shadow."

My last sentence struck me as exactly what happens in so many lives and in my own as well.  We dim our own individual lights, the gift that we are to the Universe, when we live in other people's shadows.  I think this process probably starts at an extremely young age.  The first time we see a sibling or relative that has a talent for something, or owns something, and we set our sights on having it.  We begin to warp our own identities, our own special individuality, into something that can "have" that quality or item that we have set our sights on desiring.  This continues through school and into high-school where the "peer pressure" becomes an almost palpable thing.  A festering monster that stalks the hallways of high-schools around the globe with its siren call to conformity and the "good life".  

The monster of conformity and comparison continues to plague us through our early adult life, the post secondary school choices, the career choices, the debt choices (often incurred to fuel our need for what others have), the purchases at the behest of the advertising machine.  We are slowly remade and warped into an image of what we desire.  We are plagued and beset by our desires in our lifestyle choices, often overworked, in debt and a prisoner to the Affluenza that infests our planet.

People throughout the centuries have fought to combat conformity and this overwhelming grasping desire to have what others have and live the lives that others live.  These people have been a dim light in an otherwise dark world of whatifs and wants.  The small house movement, the minimalist movement, the 4 hour work week, etc. are all examples of modern day attempts to break away from the shadow of society.  These are movements that encourage living outside of the box of normality, to be modern day Thoreaus and retreat to our own personal Walden of debt-free, "stuff" free living.

I know that I am going to personally examine my life to see what I am holding on to.  What in my life, whether it be ideals, "stuff" or the need to belong/conform, is causing my own Light to be extinguished... to find the purpose that I was born for.  To become a fully self-actualized ME and to let my light shine out like a lighthouse on a hill breaking forth through the darkness of society.  A beacon of hope for others who also seek to find a higher wattage for their own personal lights.  

I will not allow myself to continue to extinguish my own light while living in the shadows of someonelse's idea of the "ideal life".   Perhaps by my own venturing forth I can be an example of how to shed some of the layers of darkness.  When I break forth and shine I can be an example of "how" to accomplish this for my fellow travelers in this life.   Stay tuned to this channel for more blogging and thoughts from a Stoic woman in pursuit of her own personal Light.