peace

It Takes One to Know One

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I met a man recently who often ranted about how a coworker of his was such a bully. Of course, he was the hero in the story he was telling, standing up to the bully, calling him out on it, and not letting the man push him around. The result was two strong-headed people pushing against each other, a fair bit of name-calling, and them no longer working together. The “hero” of the story got fired from the job.

I couldn’t help but think it takes one to know one. This guy who was so adamant and upset about the bully was clearly a bit of one himself. Bullying is strange that way — we see so much more of it in our schools for a few reasons.

First, because we look for it and label it. The more you look for something, the more you will find it.

Second, because we are bullies. Our children are learning it from us. We yell and scream at car accident scenes. We lose our cool in traffic. We complain about all sorts of things, cursing all the while. We sue people and we talk crap about them. The news is full of stories of people bullying others all the time, whether it is cops, individuals, politicians or armies. Kids see principals bully teachers, or teachers bullying each other.

It’s interesting, though, that I have no bullies in my life. I cannot think of anyone — acquaintance or co-worker, friend or neighbour — who I feel is a bully. Why is that? I think it is because I just don’t have a bullying vibe at all, so I neither see nor attract those people. Maybe one of my neighbours is a bully — how would I know if I never have those sorts of interactions with him? If I don’t push him around, he won’t push me. The only time in recent memory I felt like I was being pushed around was by a small, spunky beagle I was dog-sitting. That dog would do anything to go for a walk!

So how do we stop the bullying in the world around us? It’s simple, but not quick. We have to be more peaceful. We have to have more gratitude for the good things around us. We have to be more accepting of others, and ourselves. We have to respect others deeply. We have to live and let live. We have to choose the non-violent solution every time. We have to resist the urge to raise our voice. We have to look away from anger. We have to let feelings of frustration pass through us without acting on them. We have to find a way to address an angry person with calmness and openness.

We have to tap into a deeper source of inner peace and acceptance. Easier said than done, when we are surrounded by the troubles and busyness of the modern world. We must rise above people mistreating each other. We must choose to focus on the lovely things of the world, see beauty everywhere and give our best attention to what we want more of — peaceful, positive, uplifting interactions with others, respectful relationships, and happy experiences.

Believing the Best

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fall trees hutch lakeThere’s no question that autumn is upon us. It’s been quite cool here – daily high temperatures are not always in the double digits anymore – and we’ve been having the low cloud and fog that is characteristic of this time of year. Meteorologically speaking, it’s caused by the cool air above relatively warm water, and as the water evaporates, it immediately condenses… but enough science-talk. It’s mesmerizing, and some days the fog makes me feel like I’m living in Ireland, ah, but without the ocean, the lovely people, and the greenery.  All of our leaves have changed colour and thanks to some gusty winds this week, many trees are even bare. I have missed a few beautiful scenes for a lack of camera, but I’ve stored them in my memory. Maybe sometime I’ll paint them. I can show you some pics I took 2 years ago.

We had a thick frost the other day, and I felt like digging in my heels and yelling “I’m not ready for this!” But, after a couple of days of brisk temps, I feel better. It’s amazing what a person can get used to, and how a slight change in attitude changes everything.

I was resting a little while ago, just thinking about events of the last few days. I’ve been a bit of a sh*t-disturber, or at best, very assertive. I stood up and spoke quite strongly at a local community consultation meeting about a decision our town council made recently. I was working with a group of other concerned citizens on a proposal, which the town shot down. We were shocked and not impressed. So I expressed that the best way I could, although I was quite tired and could have possibly done better. But I stood up and said something, which I hear is worth a lot (compared to the common Canadian way of complaining about things without ever addressing the people who could change it directly). In any case, it was stressful, my heart was pounding, but I guess it went okay.

My husband stood up and said a few things, too, but his spirit was quite different from mine as he spoke. He was a peacemaker, sometimes standing up to shed light on a situation, reminding people they can get involved, or thanking the town council for having the meeting. I’d say on the whole, he was more present and less-egoic than I was! (I blame being up too long, coming off of midnight shifts with only a 3 hour nap). :) Ah, just making excuses… sometimes being more tired makes me more present or gentle, but not that day.

fall beaver damI used to be a peacemaker; as the middle child, it was one of the roles in my family! Have I changed? Am I fundamentally different? Perhaps not; we have some sh*t-disturbing tendencies in my family… in a good way! I think I may have become more of a do-er – I get frustrated with talk-talk-talk and politicking. Let’s just jump in and do something about it! But I was like that in university too, so I guess I haven’t changed too much. I can certainly talk with the best of them, but before long, I need action! In any case, I would like to reconnect with the peacemaker in me (I know she’s still there) and only tip the boat when necessary.

The other thing I was thinking about just now as I was reflecting was how I need to keep believing the best. I’ve been a little jaded about things lately, and I don’t want to be. I want to, despite a few facts that might contradict, believe the best about people and situations around me. After all, there are 2 sides to everything, and I can choose to look at one side more than the other, and I choose the good. If Darren is slow to do the dishes, I still need to believe he will do them, rather than think that he’s stalling, trying to get me to do them, etc. Believe the best, right? So, this will be my mode of operating for the next while – and I’ll keep reminding myself if I need to (which of course I will)!

Have a great day everybody!

Paddling the Peace River

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Darren and I paddled the Peace River this weekend! It’s a river we’ve been wanting to do for a while, and we finally did it. Well, at least a tiny part of it!

We spent an unusually long amount of time discussing how far we should go and other logistics. We had arranged for friends — we have such great friends! — to drop us off and pick us up, but were a little stuck on exactly where to be picked up. We knew we wanted to start from Tompkins Landing, where the ferry crosses the Peace, and then go downstream. What we didn’t know was what kind of flow rate, or drift rate, we’d encounter along the way. We were hoping for 5 km/hr or so, knowing that it’s late summer and the water levels are not as high or fast as in spring, and not really sure what the current would be like. There are web pages like this Alberta Gov’t one that give the water level (albeit not accurately right now) and the discharge, or cubic metres per second. So I had looked at all that, and read the Peace River chapter of Mark’s Guide for Alberta Paddlers and considered the anecdotal advice we had heard. An acquaintance who had canoed from Tompkins had said that it was one long day of paddling to La Crete or two easy days. But we were in kayaks — surely we’d go faster than that! So, we decided we’d camp at La Crete (about 50 km downstream), or farther, the first night and get up early and paddle to Fort Vermilion the second day (about another 75 km). Were we crazy? We didn’t think so (but what do we know)!

Well, maybe we just didn’t have the gusto, or maybe it was the slow current, but when we checked our progress at the one-hour mark, it wasn’t quite what we were hoping for, only 4.8 km! We needed to average at least 8 km/hr, or better yet, 10, to make our trip happen. So, we paddled and we paddled and we took a lunch break and paddled some more, rested, passed slowly through some shallow areas, and before we knew it, we’d been on the water for 4 hours and only gone 20 km or so. So, the plan changed, and we decided to go to Moose Island and try camp there. It was about 35 km from our starting point, nothing to scoff at! At times, the river was like a big lake, with almost no current — peaceful, but not helping us out at all!

I had the map and Darren had the GPS, but I think I prefer the map (although the GPS does give a speed reading). I knew what curves were coming up, where the islands were, what side we should pass on, and all that. It was always the longer side, that is, we never got to shorten our trip by going on the inside corner of the island; those were all sand bars or even grassy and attached to the shore — no way through. It looks like we would have made it through on the the “short” side of Moose Island, but we didn’t realize that until we were on the other side. >sigh<

But we enjoyed ourselves! It was very quiet, and we saw hardly any birds except Canada Geese. They were certainly on the move, and we saw several flocks of 80+ birds. On the shore of Moose Island, there was a small flock, and they started honking and ‘mooing’ — that’s the word I invented to describe the quiet, “mmm” sound they also make to each other. As we got closer, they got quite agitated. They’d probably never seen huge yellow geese before! (What would a goose think of a kayak?) But as we retreated, they quieted down and went on with their goosey lives.

We didn’t see any other wildlife, although we heard quite a crashing through the bush on one island. We paused and watched, hoping to see a bear or some moose, but nothing. It was probably a couple moose; I don’t think a bear would be that loud.

Peace River-D & tentAfter 9 hours of paddling, we reached Moose Island (didn’t see any moose there either), but we went past the west shore, thinking we’d find a place to camp near the east end of the island. We pulled over to check it out, but the bank was too steep and the flat bits we saw weren’t big enough for our tent. We even crossed the river to check out a couple spots on the far shore, but again, when we got closer, they were not as flat as they looked. What to do?!? We were both getting so tired, and we really needed to find a spot. Well, I thought I had heard voices (Darren didn’t, so what does that mean?! :) and sure enough, we rounded the end of the island and there was a huge, wind-sculpted sand bar with about 10 kids and a few adults enjoying the summer evening. So, we’d found our camping spot and a little company too! They left before sundown, and we managed to get a tiny bit of crappy cel coverage — enough to call our friend to change our pick up spot from Fort to La Crete. There was no possible way we would make it to Fort by Sunday evening — and knowing that took the edge off, and we could relax, make camp, cook supper, build a fire and enjoy it.

I forgot my good camera, so this pic was taken using my cel phone.
I forgot my good camera, so these pics were taken using my cel phone.

We slept in and walked along the water and sand and simply enjoyed the morning! There was the most beautiful fog above the water, which gradually faded as the sun burned it off. Idyllic. My mind has been go-go-go lately, and this extra time was just what I needed to relax and stop thinking for once!

And what has my brain been go-go-going on about? That’ll have to be my next post. :) Enjoy the summer while it lasts!

Looking In

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I’ve just had a brain wave, although I am supposed to be going to bed and my brain waving goodnight! Nevertheless, I’ve learned that it’s good to get these things out, and tonight my venue will be my blog!
The wave is this: why do we always look outside ourselves for peace? I could also say, why do we always look outside ourselves for love, or for happiness, or for affirmation? All these things are found within ourselves, yet we often look everywhere but inside! When everything else is stripped away, that’s where peace is. When we realize God created us, and we are amazing and awesome, then we feel loved. Happiness comes only from looking within and living in the moment, choosing to be happy. The external world is the worst place to look for it, because it’s so fickle – sometimes giving it, sometimes holding it in front of us like a carrot, and then yanking it away again. Self-affirmation comes from love and self-assuredness – the right kind of confidence, assertiveness and humility, based in proper self-love and knowing that God/Spirit loves us too.
I think if we spent more time looking inward, we might be a lot happier! But we have to look long enough to get past the little things that bother us, look waaaaay past the petty things we don’t like about ourselves right now, and go deep into the part of us that is only, simply, God’s child, his creation, loved and here on a journey of exploration. We need to disconnect from cares of this world, the busyness of the season, comparing ourselves, complaining about little things and worrying in general. Positivity is the key!
Well, that’s enough ranting… it’s getting late! Love y’all! Take care!

Single-mindedness

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I wanted to share some wisdom from a very good book I read lately, called Peace is Every Step. It is written by a monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. He was born in Viet Nam but has spent many years in North America and Europe, so he has a good outlook on western culture. This book talks about inner peace and meditation and does so using everyday language and modern analogies. In it, he quotes 14 precepts that most Buddhists live by. There are a couple that really struck me because they are totally opposite to how many of us think. The first precept is “Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology. All systems of thought are guiding means, not absolute truth.” The second is similar: “Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.”
Isn’t that interesting? Most people, in North America at least, are quite single-minded in their beliefs. They seem to think that the more narrow-minded they are (or the better their blinders are), the better the proof of how dedicated they are, therefore proving they are good people. Many even become fanatics to a certain belief, no longer questioning it at all, until they are completely unable to see someone else’s point of view. But imagine if most people were the opposite – not bound to a belief but willing to listen and learn about others’ beliefs at any time, not feeling that doing so challenges their own beliefs or faith, and even be willing to let their beliefs be challenged and change them if necessary. Some people would have us believe that too much tolerance is evil, but I know from experience that too little is not the answer either.
The third precept is about how we relate to others’ beliefs. Many modern Christians/Evangelicals could learn from this: “Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.” How much indoctrination is done in the name of education!! Not that all education is bad, but unfortunately in the course of that education and by watching those around them, children are also learning how to be intolerant, stubborn, narrow-minded and judgemental – not qualities we should be cultivating. Think about it – these traits also lead, in the worst cases, to racism, sexism, and religious extremism, and in the lesser cases, to insensitivity, unkindness, and living with fear of judgement. Why can’t we let people have their own beliefs without feeling threatened in our own?
Just some things to think about, and if this sounds interesting, I’d encourage you to read “Peace is Every Step” or Hanh’s other writing – like “Living Buddha, Living Christ” which I am currently reading! It’s another great one!

In a Fog

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Have you ever gone through a time in your life when you feel like you are living in a fog? It’s like things around you are distant, not entirely real… not literally hazy, but you aren’t focusing on what’s around you so they don’t seem clear. Maybe it happens early in the morning when you aren’t fully awake yet, or during a very stressful time in your life, which makes trivial things seem, well, trivial!!
Well, I am living in a fog these days – a fog of God’s love! You can laugh, but that’s what I feel like – like I am all bundled up in His love, to the point where circumstantial things around me that happen are not as real as they used to be. Where at any moment, His love is so real, I break into a smile, where I’ve got a continual song in my heart that lifts me up above my surroundings.
The really cool part is that anyone can be where I am – in fact, I believe God is found inside every living thing, and all we need to do it shift our perspective a little! It’s like standing before the most beautiful sunset, with colours and clouds, the ocean, trees – imagine whatever you can for the most perfect scene. And then imagine that you are steadfastly looking at your feet! Whether because you refuse to look up because someone else said “hey, you should look at this!” (i.e. you’re too stubborn) or because you can’t because your neck is stiff (i.e. you’re in a rut), or because you don’t believe the sunset is real… a change in perspective (not looking at your feet) completely changes your view of the world, and the beauty is visible and awesome!
Some things to think about, anyway! I’ll blog again soon about some excitement in my life, too… more love!
Teresa