Peace

Happiness is as Happiness does: Musings from a Bipolar Brain

Happy is a feeling and feelings are fleeting. Happiness is a state of being and takes work.

The experience of Happiness is more challenging for some more than others and may seem impossible to achieve.

That’s because Happiness isn’t a goal or destination, but a byproduct, a side effect of the combination of our genetics, circumstances, beliefs, attitudes, and actions.

For many of us coming from lives filled with trauma and/or mental illness it will look different than it does for neurotypical people. We have to work through the trauma and confront ourselves to heal and grow. These are our prerequisites to Happiness.

There is no set formula for experiencing it. However, common and necessary elements include self-care (nutrition, activity, personal hygiene, etc.), engagement in healthy community, gratitude, service, and passionate purpose.

Pain, loss, grief, and other feelings and experiences, often considered “negative,” may suppress Happiness and cause us to lose it. But, what is lost can be found again. The negative doesn’t necessarily negate the ability to experience Happiness.

Of course, I could be way off and this is hypomania talking…but, I don’t think so.

What say you?

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Writing Prompt: Opinion

Heart vs Mind

When the mind blinds itself to the heart, there is spiritual stagnation. When the heart rules the mind, there is spiritual regression. Only by working together can spiritual progression be achieved.

This is when the fruit of the spirit can manifest:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

28 Days of Writing

I’ve missed blogging this year. For those who have been on this healing and recovery journey with me, my absence may have been worrisome. For my absence and silence, I apologize. There are many of you who have been interactive, sharing your encouragement, support, and concern. Hopefully, you know who you are.

One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, I’ll have the time and wherewithal to catch you up on the comings, goings, and transitions I’ve been experiencing over the course of the last five months. For now, a brief synopsis:

December 2013: My youngest daughter turned five. There was a major conflict between her father, my (then pregnant) oldest daughter, and her boyfriend. This conflict precipitated and triggered a near nervous breakdown for me. I took our daughter and left for several days. During that period I decided on a separation of indeterminate duration in order to get focused on my well-being.

January 2014: I finally got government sponsored health insurance due to the ACA. A complete medical physical revealed that I had a variety of health issues, related to lifestyle and stress which combine to create Metabolic Syndrome: Type II Diabetes, Thyroid Imbalance, Cholesterol Imbalance, and Morbid Obesity. In conjunction with those things is Fibromyalgia. During January I got connected with mental health services as well as support services for domestic violence and trauma survivors. Please note that “domestic violence” identified in my case was not physical, sexual, or even overtly verbal. It was the conflux of two imbalanced, toxically codependent people in a closed system, in an almost 20 year pattern of mutual destruction of autonomy.

February 2014: Through the mental health provider I received confirmation that I do indeed experience a bipolar disorder, as well as PTSD – both of which were present, unrecognized, and untreated prior to the beginning of my relationship with the father if my youngest child. My youngest got very ill with the flu and pneumonia.

March 2014: My son and his wife experience a miscarriage the week before my daughter went into labor, birthing my first grandchild six weeks early. Then my daughter’s family lost their housing during the three weeks they were living in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This precipitated the final breakdown in the relationship between my daughter’s father and myself. During this time I also received the final evaluation report from the Early Childhood Services team at the local school district that my youngest experiences Autism Spectrum Disorder on the higher, functioning end of the spectrum, indicating Aspergers. By the end of March, there were five of us living full-time in my tiny two-bedroom apartment, with the father if my youngest staying on the weekends. My adult daughter returned to work at three weeks postpartum.

April was spent adjusting and transitioning with all of these changes. My eldest daughter’s boyfriend was given a part-time job under my son’s management and her work hours have increased. Last weekend three major items moved out of my apartment so that my youngest and her father are now able to spend their weekends together elsewhere. He still has a lot of things here, which REALY need to go ASAP, but with the bed, the extra large flat screen, and sofa gone, the weekend tensions have been reduced.

There continues to be many things needing attention and resolution. There are many meetings, appointments, and classes requiring my time, energy, and attention. Putting as much focus and energy into parenting, grand-parenting, and self-care as possible in the midst of it all is my focus. Thus, the lack of writing.

I need to get back into the writing. This month the 28 Days to a New Me personal transformation group has a writing focus. I have committed to writing out an inspirational thought or poem and creating a shareable graphic wit it for the first 28 days in May.

I started on April 30th with this one:

I choose to be entertained rather than offended. It disarms the ignorant and idiotic while empowering me to have a better day. ~ Lillian E. Moffitt

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Here is my official Day 1 of 28 entry:

Present in the now
Experiencing the warmth
Acceptance is Peace

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So, each day for the next 27 days, I will share what I put together for this month’s challenge.

Why it’s hard to be a Christian online

My friend and spiritual teacher, Marc Alan Schelske, posted this blog post by Jon Acuff from Jon’s site, Stuff Christians Like,

There was a lot of stuff this Christian liked about the article:

The ideas I share are received with more grace, acceptance and discussion in the business world than they are in the Christian world.

When Christians disagree with your idea, they critique your soul.

dropping a fake money tract on the ground is an incredibly effective use of my time. That saves me all that hassle of actually having a relationship with someone and telling them about God in that context. Relationships take forever, ugh.

Well, perhaps “liked” isn’t the correct word. Maybe related to or identified with would be more accurate. This is probably the one that hit closest to home for me:

But when we as Christians attack each other’s souls we forever lose the ability to get better. When we can’t debate without it turning into a soul attack, we can’t grow. 

In this post, Jon referred to an incident where other publicly known Christians had chosen to openly criticize and misrepresent something he’d written.

My fear is that we’re missing something pretty powerful in this type of situation. My fear is that no one in the history of mankind has ever said, “I saw two Christians on twitter attacking each other and that made me want a lifelong relationship with their Christ.”

So often I see posts from my fellow Christians which contain critical, mean-spirited, hatefulness towards other believers, as well as non-believers, or followers of other faiths. Attacks on the people and their very souls and identities – the very souls and identities that the God we share and claim is a God of love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness created and cares for as much as we are cared for and loved. It saddens me and sickens me.

I want to protest, publicly and loudly against these people. My instinct is to judge and criticize them for being so hypercritical and judgmental. Then, I realize what is happening within me. I understand that I’m afraid of being judged and criticized by association with them and that my identity and being will suffer an attack and backlash because of their words and actions.

My identity is not in my association with them. It is in who God has made me to be and the love, grace, mercy, and compassion I have received from Him. This is available to all who are able to receive it. Since I have received compassion instead of condemnation, compassion is what I offer to others, whether I agree with them or not, whether they have hurt me or not, whether they deserve it or not. I have received compassion, forgiveness, grace, and mercy though I have not been deserving or worthy, but because I am loved regardless.

So, it is not my place or position to decry and denounce my fellow believers, no matter how misguided or misplaced I believe their attitudes, words, and actions to be. It is not even my plac to publicly name, shame, and blame them if their words and actions have caused myself or others I may care about to experience pain or suffering, as counterintuitive as that may seem.

Romans 12:19 ~ Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

I’m not in control of them or their journeys. Instead, wherever I encounter those who have been wounded by my spiritual siblings, I am to offer whatever aid and comfort I am able, without justifying or rationalizing or criticizing those who came before.20130709-173104.jpg

B4Peace 2014: Living in the presence of an attitude of gratitude

Last year I participated in the Bloggers for Peace movement and I am doing so again this year. Kozo’s Monthly Peace Challenge for January 2014 is about The Neuroscience of Peace. In his post, he shared this quote:

Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny. ~ Mahatma Ghandi

It reminded me of this passage from the Bible:

Romans 5: 1-5 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) ~ 1 So, since we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us continue to have shalom [peace] with God through our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. 2 Also through him and on the ground of our trust, we have gained access to this grace in which we stand; so let us boast about the hope of experiencing God’s glory. 3 But not only that, let us also boast in our troubles; because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope; 5 and this hope does not let us down, because God’s love for us has already been poured out in our hearts through the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit] who has been given to us.

To my way of thinking, bringing peace into the world outside of me, requires that I develop a peaceful character inside of my self, which infiltrates all aspects of my life. For me, peace comes from trusting God and choosing to think, act, and speak on the basis of that trust that God loves people and is in the business of reconciliation and restoration of relationships between people and Himself, each other, and within themselves.

All the conflict and less than peaceful interactions in this world stem from people not being at peace within themselves and not being able to accept and trust that ways and experiences other than their own are as valid as theirs.

We also tend to believe that pain and suffering shouldn’t happen to us and that if it does happen, someone should be held responsible and accountable to make reparations for the pain and suffering we have experienced and been subjected to.

Here’s the this about that: pain and suffering are part and parcel of living life in a world full of people who have experienced pain and suffering. I’ve seen the statement: “Pain happens, suffering is optional.” At first I thought it was kind of a callous statement. Then I thought it was overly simplistic.

Now, I’m coming to understand how profound it really and truly is.

Suffering is a choice we make, whether we realize it or not. When painful, negative, disappointing things happen in our lives and we are affected, we can get stuck in the emotional and mental point of impact, reliving the loss moment after moment, creating our own sense of suffering. We often carry that into our next set of experiences with an expectation of more suffering, and unintentionally create the attitude and atmosphere which brings that expectation into fruition. This is neuroscience at work.

I’m done suffering. I’m done taking my suffering out on those around me by being anxious, stressed, angry, bitter, resentful, and expecting bad things to continue happening. I don’t want to do it anymore. That means I have to retrain my brain to think differently and react differently to the things which happen in my life, most of which I have little or no control over, specifically how other people think, speak, act, and how they interact with me.

So, that means, doing something different than what I’ve habitually done in the past.

Back in December 2013, I shared about developing an attitude of gratitude and exchanging complaint for appreciation. My goal in 2014 is to make this my new default response to trouble, affliction, and painful circumstances. Any time I find myself in a negative frame of mind or overwhelmed with unmanageable emotion, I will recite and repeat these declarations of gratitude, and apply them in context of the circumstances, thoughts, and feelings I am experiencing. This is my plan for bringing more peace into the world in 2014.

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Retroactively Loving My Enemy: Belated Peace Challenge for November 2013

When I read Kozo’s Peace Challenge for November 2013, Love Thy Enemy, on Everyday Gurus, my mind went spinning, wondering how I could do this challenge justice and give it the depth of attention it deserves. I truly do not see any individual, group, race, or follower of another creed as an enemy of mine.

That being said, I will be completely honest and acknowlede that there are those with whom I share enmity. People whom I don’t feel safe and comfortable around and those whom I believe share that discomfort, who may or may not view me as their enemy. There are people whom I have been in conflict with and with whom I desire mutual reparation and reconciliation in our relationships with one another. Primarily, these are people I love or have loved and who have been or are of great importance and significance to me and in my life.

The first thing I thought of was, “Loving my enemy as I love myself.” Let me see if I can piece together where that thought came from:

43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

13 If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends.

I have experienced feelings of enmity, bitterness, resentment, and anger toward loved ones and strangers alike. When I start having hateful, negative, vengeful thoughts and experience the choking sensation of tension and bile from harboring the darkness of these thoughts and feelings, which are often triggered from my own inner woundedness and pain being triggered by words and actions of those other people around me, I know I am making myself sick and poisoning the atmosphere around me, infecting the interactions and relationships I have with others.

There are a lot of people, whom I love and care about, who I feel at odds with and feel as if, on some level, they see me as an enemy. Despite how much I love and care for them and desperately wish I could be in relationship with them, I do not feel “safe” with them and know they feel the same with me. This puts up my defenses and some of those defenses are the thoughts and feelings of enmity which crop up whenever I think of them, hear or see their names, or encounter them in person.

Part of this feeling stems from and results in how I feel about myself and my ability to love who I am, as I am, unconditionally.

The longer I am on this healing and recovery journey, the more I’m coming to understand that I can’t love myself unconditionally without understanding, accepting, receiving, and internalizing the unconditional love of God. As I grow in this area, my capacity to practice patience, kindness, gratitude, humbleness, generosity, forgiveness, authenticity, belief, and hope in mysef and who I am increases. Growing in self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-love is enabling me to grow in my ability to authentically and sincerely be loving toward others, especially those who have been difficult for me to express love to, those who have treated me as an enemy, even if I did not see them as such.

Retroactively Visualizing Peace: Belated Peace Challenge for October 2013

Back in October, my life: mind, body, spirit, environment, relationships, was anything but peaceful.

I visited the Monthly Peace Challenge for the month of October, posted by Kozo on Everyday Gurus, but I could not wrap any part of myself into visualizing what peace looks like or could look like in my day to day life, much less in the larger world. Here’s my vision for World Peace 2014:

Reverse the organizational pyramids ~ Individual people in positions of power and leadership: economic, political, familial, spiritual would stop seeking more power in order to assert their self-interested agendas. Instead, they would commit to humbling themselves in service to the betterment of those whom they have authority over. “Ask not what the people can do for you, but what you can do for the people.”

Return to interdependence ~ Each individual will come to recognize and honor all other individuals as members of the same human body.

“Many Gifts but One Body

3 For by the grace(G) given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think.(H) Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith(I) to each one. 4 Now as we have many parts in one body,(J) and all the parts do not have the same function,”

Romans 12:3-4, HCSB

I know this passage is a bit out of context, since it is speaking to a first century sect of Judaism, which we now call Christianity. However, I believe that all of humanity is a creation of God, whatever name or understanding any human may have of that. That belief falls within the belief that the God which was, is, and shall be pre-existed all of creation and all of creation was formed from God’s own essence and returns to God when it ceases to be. Therefore, in my understanding, even if we are divided in our spiritual/religious beliefs, we are still living, breathing, walking, talking pieces of God, with function, worth, and purpose, whether we believe it or not, regardless of our own awareness or cognizance of our connection to one another or God. Just as the human body has many parts with many functions, some deemed desirable and good, others deemed undesirable and offensive, all are necessary to the continued functioning of the body. Independence, superiority, and dominance are false constructs obscuring the reality that all people are reliant and interdependent on all other people in existence. “Humanity divided against itself, cannot stand. Humanity united and functionally interdependent, will get back up and keep going.

I fully believe that if we, as a species, can internalize these truths, that peace is possible on a world-wide scale. That being said, it starts with me, in my home, in my relationships, in my life today.

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