Preaching to the choir

I've been reading the Inner Peace columns for several months now, especially since I wrote one myself a while back. The most prominent theme that occurs is love, not surprisingly.

It's a simple truth that the more love we express, the more the world seems to feed love back to us, the better we feel about ourselves and our lives, the more spiritually awake and thankful for life's miracles we grow to be. Once we get on this path, it reinforces itself and we build a momentum toward further realizations.

I think I've just been preaching to the choir. It's true that Ashland has a lot of choir members, too. But what about those for whom this process is less than obvious, who would say that their lives don't confirm this at all?

Perhaps they nurse wounds from disappointments and mistreatment that are too difficult to let go. We all carry anger to some extent, grudges, fears of loneliness, failure, pain. These emotions can grip our psyches with a persistence that seems to smother any well-intentioned desire to be loving.

There needs to be clear advice, instructions on how to break that grip with a practical course of action. Hearing someone tell you love is the answer may not be enough.

Doing charitable work and volunteering in the community is wonderful. But what can we do at home, in a quiet moment, when our insecurities, our melancholy or our disappointment in relationship still undermine our sense of well-being? How can we focus on our own state of mind and create well-being at will? In my experience, the practice that works best are those that focus attention on the body. This can be tuning in to your breathing or to bodily tension held in the muscles.

The power we always have at our disposal and that requires no special skill to exercise is the power of our attention. It may take some discipline to direct it, but it's entirely within each of us to do it. Once you decide to follow your breath it has immediate calming effect.

You don't need to think it's a meditation or that you're practicing Buddhism, or yoga, and you don't need to understand how or why it has an effect, you just need to do it.

You'll notice how your fretful mind will begin to quiet. Then you'll notice, even to your surprise, that the world isn't really against you. Instead, you'll begin to sense that you belong to it, and that life actually animates you. It doesn't matter what your current problems are, you'll begin to sense your ability to deal with them successfully.

If you're a physically oriented person and can more easily focus on your body, let your mind go to the places that hold your pain. Emotional wounds find nice quiet corners in the musculature and snuggle down there, where you ignore them and they can periodically send pangs of jealousy, anger or other destructive impulses into your everyday behavior. Don't give them sanctuary. You can rout them out with attention to where you have them stashed, be it your neck, your back, your facial muscles, wherever.

There are other methods that use imagery, color, or sound. What they all have in common is that they require you to take action. Passivity creates a fertile ground for your ego to play its destructive game, usually leading to hopelessness, resignation and despair.

But a course of directed action doesn't require any special setting. Do it even while you're out and about. You don't have to set up a special time and place. You don't have to start by loving everything or believing anything in particular. You just have to be willing to take your own life into your own hands.

Avram Chetron is a retired high school math teacher who has lived in Ashland since 2007 and enjoys singing with the Rogue Valley Peace Choir. Residents of the Rogue Valley are invited to submit articles on inner peace; the spiritual path, intuition; guidance; courage; fearlessness; forgiveness; giving and receiving; joy; tolerance; acts of kindness; gratitude; life's challenges, grief, pain and Presence and more. Send a 650 word article to Sally McKirgan

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