Posts Tagged 'learning'

Potlatch

We can learn much from the Native American tradition of the potlatch. It is a tradition that values generosity above all else, and a potlatch, which is a very grand ceremony, is an exercise in giving away material possessions, food, and money. It is not uncommon for the host of a potlatch to give away so much of his own resources to his guests that he ends up with nothing. However, he can regain his wealth by attending potlatches at which he is a guest. In this way, a potlatch validates generosity and encourages the flow of resources in a community, while at the same time continually reaffirming the importance of community ties.

When we are held in a web of trust and connection, we can give generously, knowing that when it is our turn we will be supported. In this way, our whole sense of ownership becomes less individualistic and more communal. Resources are in an acceptable state of flux, moving within the community through the vehicle of the potlatch, which serves the additional function of strengthening community ties. This seems clearly preferable to isolating ourselves from one another and hoarding our resources.

Perhaps we can find ways in our own lives to create a community in which a flow of resources happens in this way, in which we support one another to be generous. We might begin by celebrating our own type of potlatch, having a dinner party and giving each guest an object that is dear to us. Or we could give everyone a little bit of money in an envelope to spend on themselves just for fun. Someone might get inspired to throw their own potlatch, and before we know it we might have a tradition that supports and validates generosity even as it creates a safety net for leaner times. In the most profound sense, that is what a community, a tribe, and family do best.

DailyOM

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When Pain Comes Our Way

Honoring the experiences we have in our lives is an invaluable way to communicate with life, our greatest teacher. We do this when we take time at night to say what we are thankful for about our day and also when we write in a journal. Both of these acts involve consciously acknowledging the events of our lives so that they deepen our relationship to our experiences. This is important because it brings us into closer connection with life, and with the moment. Only when we acknowledge what’s happening to us can we truly benefit from life’s teachings.

It is especially important when pain comes our way to honor the experience, because our natural tendency is to push it away and move past it as quickly as possible. We tend to want to brush it under the rug. Yet, if we don’t, it reveals itself to be a great friend and teacher. As counterintuitive as it seems, we can honor pain by thanking it and by welcoming it into the space of our lives. We all know that often the more we resist something, the longer it persists. When we honor our pain, we do just the opposite of resisting it, and as a result, we create a world in which we can own the fullness of what life has to offer.

We can honor a painful experience by marking it in some way, bringing ourselves into a more conscious relationship with it. We might mark it by creating a work of art, performing a ritual, or undertaking some other significant act. Sometimes all we need to do is light a candle in honor of what we’ve gone through and what we’ve learned. No matter how small the gesture, it will be big enough to mark the ways in which our pain has transformed us, and to remind us to recognize and value all that comes our way in this life.

DailyOM

Permission to Forgive Ourselves

Learning to accept the things that we perceive as wrong can be a difficult task for many of us. Often we have been brought up to accept that it is normal to feel guilty about our actions and that by doing so we will make everything seem alright within ourselves. Even though we might feel that we have a reason to make up for the choices we have made, it is much more important for us to learn how to deal with them in a healthy and positive way, such as through forgiveness and understanding.

When we can look back at our past and really assess what has happened, we begin to realize that there are many dimensions to our actions. While feeling guilty might assuage our feelings at first, it is really only a short-term solution. It is all too ironic that being hard on ourselves is the easy way out. If we truly are able to gaze upon our lives through the lens of compassion, however, we will be able to see that there is much more to what we do and have done than we realize. Perhaps we were simply trying to protect ourselves or others and did the best we could at the time, or maybe we thought we had no other recourse and chose a solution in the heat of the moment. Once we can understand that dwelling in our negative feelings will only make us feel worse, we will come to recognize that it is really only through forgiving ourselves that we can transform our feelings and truly heal any resentment we have about our past.

Giving ourselves permission to feel at peace with our past actions is one of the most positive steps we can take toward living a life free from regrets, disappointments, and guilt. The more we are able to remind ourselves that the true path to a peaceful mind and heart is through acceptance of every part of our lives and actions, the more harmony and inner joy we will experience in all aspects of our lives.

DailyOM

Asking and Receiving

Prayer and meditation are similar practices in that they both offer us a connection to the divine, but they also differ from one another in significant ways. Put simply, prayer is when we ask the universe for something, and meditation is when we listen. When we pray, we use language to express our innermost thoughts and feelings to a higher power. Sometimes, we plumb the depths within ourselves and allow whatever comes to the surface to flow out in our prayer. At other times, we pray words that were written by someone else but that express what we want to say. Prayer is reaching out to the universe with questions, pleas for help, gratitude, and praise.

Meditation, on the other hand, has a silent quality that honors the art of receptivity. When we meditate, we cease movement and allow the activity of our minds and hearts to go on without us in a sense. Eventually, we fall into a deep silence, a place that underlies all the noise and fray of daily human existence. In this place, it becomes possible for us to hear the universe as it speaks for itself, responds to our questions, or sits with us in its silent way.

Both prayer and meditation are indispensable tools for navigating our relationship with the universe and with ourselves. They are also natural complements to one another, and one makes way for the other just as the crest of a wave gives way to its hollow. If we tend to do only one or the other, prayer or meditation, we may find that we are out of balance, and we might benefit from exploring the missing form of communication. There are times when we need to reach out and express ourselves, fully exorcising our insides, and times when we are empty, ready to rest in quiet receiving. When we allow ourselves to do both, we begin to have a true conversation with the universe.

DailyOM

Analyzing the Path

Those of us on the path of personal and spiritual growth have a tendency to analyze our unhappiness in order to find the causes and make improvements. But it is just as important, if not more so, to analyze our happiness. Since we have the ability to rise above and observe our emotions, we can recognize when we are feeling joyful and content. Then we can harness the power of the moment by savoring our feelings and taking time to be grateful for them.

Recognition is the first step in creating change, therefore recognizing what it feels like to be happy is the first step toward sustaining happiness in our lives. We can examine how joy feels in our bodies and what thoughts run through our minds in times of bliss. Without diminishing its power, we can retrace our steps to discover what may have put us in this frame of mind, and then we can take note of the choices we’ve made while there. We might realize that we are generally more giving and forgiving when there’s a smile on our face, or that we are more likely to laugh off small annoyances and the actions of others when they don’t resonate with our light mood.

Once we know what it feels like and can identify some of the triggers and are aware of our actions, we can recreate that happiness when we are feeling low. Knowing that like attracts like, we can pull ourselves out of a blue mood by focusing on joy. We might find that forcing ourselves to be giving and forgiving, even when it doesn’t seem to come naturally, helps us to reconnect with the joy that usually precedes it. If we can identify a song, a picture, or a pet as a happiness trigger, we can use them as tools to recapture joy if we are having trouble finding it. By focusing our energy on analyzing happiness and all that it encompasses, we feed, nurture, and attract more of it into our lives, eventually making a habit of happiness.

DailyOM


Month at a Glance

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