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April 23, 2014

Grace-filled Choices. ~ John Schaal

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Recently, I am noticing that life does not always get easier because we are doing the “right” thing.

In fact life just goes on and things happen and often they are painful, sad and empty. We really struggle to understand the true meaning of what life really is about. My experience tells me that life is life; there is little I can do about it. However, I have come to learn that when I concentrate on my reaction to life it somehow becomes more palatable on a daily basis.

Although I rarely find myself mindful enough to work on my reactions to life, it is getting better. I am managing a game plan to approach life with little or no expectation, and accept the outcome. This is not easy for me and it won’t be easy for you, because much of what comes our way involves disappointment, hopelessness, and loss.
I am trying to live my life in a more mindful way, allowing life to happen and trusting that the God of my understanding is the author not me! I have come up with what I call Grace-filled Choices. When I practice them I am so much more in touch with my life intention of peace and love.

Choice #1 Mindfulness:

Choosing mindfulness is choosing to know yourself better while understanding where you are at any given moment of your life. In being mindfully present I always come back to the belief that the universe wants me to love. I can only love others when I love myself. I can only love myself when I embrace who I am, where I have been and where I believe I am going.

The biggest obstacle is taking the time to practice it. It involves conscious discipline to sit quietly, gather the heart and love allow yourself to feel that love. Jesus and the great mystics of all faiths all went off by themselves to pray, to listen, and to meditate. They ultimately were in mindful presence of self. Their goal is always seeking out the best choices in their lives, choices that are loving!

Choice #2 Vulnerability:

Once we have come to that quiet place of presence in mindfulness we are able to quiet the voices, emotions, fears and anticipations that typically rule our life. I would call this a real state of vulnerability, one where we can actively be transformed. If we let go, even for just a few seconds, the real work can begin. It is in this state that we can hear beyond all the chatter of our minds and allow the authentic voice of self to surface. This grace-filled time calls us to greater possibilities and potential. Vulnerability is fully living!

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” ~ Roger Miller

There is a certain amount of vigilance that is needed to push back the negative thoughts that tell us, “I’m not good enough, I’m not wise enough.” Anything speaking to us in this fashion is not divine, but of our own making. What helps is for me to say in response: “Yes, I am good enough, and now I am pushing you to the side for a while, so that I can do this loving work.” Sometimes I laugh and just say to myself, “Ah, there they are again.” We have the ability to notice, refocus and continue. Once we do this for a while it becomes second nature, and often we can laugh at the old messages.

Choice # 3 Acceptance:

If we are mindful and vulnerable, it makes sense that the next step is acceptance. Only when we are able to view the world as it is and accept it can we have peace. This is not to say that life is perfect. It certainly doesn’t mean that we like everything, but it does mean the energy we place in trying to change it is lifted. I find this act of acceptance and surrender to be very powerful especially when we are going through the loss of a loved one, death of a child, a relationship breakup and so on.

When my mother died suddenly, a friend asked me what the loss felt like. The only way I could describe it was to say, “It’s like someone put a knife in my heart and never removed it.” It was so painful that I would rather have left that knife in place then to rip it out and allow healing to take place. It is in this state of acceptance that I can gradually accommodate this type of pain.

For me, the knife is still there, but little by little in this place of safety I can take it out and trust that my mother is at peace and is in the arms of a loving God. Grief and loss are two of the most difficult realities that we face in this lifetime. Only when we treat ourselves with great gentleness can the strength of our spirit carry us through!

“Nothing is so strong as real gentleness.” ~ Francis deSales

Choice # 4 Radical Love:

Mindfulness, vulnerability and acceptance lead us to a springboard of radical love. This love involves our entire person. Radical love overcomes fear, our bad behaviors, and our sabotaging thoughts and brings us to a place of altruistic living.

In this time we are usually faced with the ultimate question: “What is the most loving thing I can do for myself today?” Although this question sounds like it’s self—serving it really is selfless action. If we truly do the most loving thing for ourselves on a daily basis, others benefit. If I am frustrated in traffic, boiling over with frustration that follows me like a cloud, it affects my heart, my relationships, and my overall experience of life.

Next time you are in the grocery store watch some of the people in the express line. Are they peaceful and calm, or are they counting the items in the persons cart in front of them. They are not peaceful people. If you aren’t loving and peaceful to yourselves you can’t love and offer love to others. When I count the items, I am miserable; it’s a choice I make at that moment!

However, if I think that little girl in the cart is beautiful I feel love. It can happen in an instant. We have the ability to choose our thoughts and change our reactions at any given moment. Radical love is love of self, which is directly related to a change of heart.

When our walls come down, our humanity surfaces. The human components of self, seek peace, love and yearn to return it to the universe. This is “Right Living,” and ultimately liberates our spirits to be the people we are supposed to be. In the end, it has to start with us.

Our self-care is the beginning of it all.

Think about when we receive the instructions on a plane. They always remind us to place our own oxygen mask on before assisting others. Our first inclination is to save everyone, but we must stop and mindfully care for ourselves first, then the rest falls into place. Making good choices to our reactions in life are always rooted in taking care of us. In loving self-care we have the ability to love others, and this makes the world a better place to live!

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