Spiritual Empowerment: “Staying Positive in a Negative World”
November 3, 2002 — Our world is going through a very challenging time. Potential for annihilation of large numbers of people and animals, as well as increasing pollution of the planet, has all of us living on the edge. News of nuclear arms in the hands of more countries raises the stakes of a nuclear response to political events. The wanton Washington, D. C. killings, appearing to be carefully and callously crafted, struck terror in the hearts of many Americans, while the world also continues to watch events such as in the Middle East and the Philippines that are unconscionable.
With teens killing adults and children, with parents abusing children even before the public eye, with mass murders and mass deceptions, how can we possibly manage to live in a state of peace?
The answer is not easy. Living peacefully does not depend on the environment and the events around us. The answer lies within each of us. We can learn new behaviors and ways of thinking in the midst of this disruption and unrest. And for the sake of our children, and our children’s children, we must.
Recently I noticed changes in my own feelings. With the events described earlier as a backdrop, I found myself stressed by little things that previously would not have concerned me. For example, while parked in a grocery store parking lot I felt an unprovoked brief rush of anger. For me, that was uncharacteristic. In reality, I am sometimes teased for driving too slowly, and too cautiously. Yet, this feeling of anger, which lasted only a second or two, created in me a momentary understanding of what might lead to road rage. This insight, however it might be explained by psychologists, was enough for me to realize that even those who are not generally so inclined can have this experience.
At another point, I became annoyed for several hours about something that in general would have been little more than noted. In fact, the minor slight occupied my thoughts for several hours. Sadly, I allowed this small annoyance to color an otherwise pleasant day. This, too, was not typical for my experience. Generally, I would have taken control and changed my thinking about the incident. This time, I didn’t.
So, what is really occurring within our society? I could read the self-help books, as I often do, and look for an answer. I could talk to others to find if they are having experiences of impatience. I could recount the many stories I have heard in recent years of how those who serve the public are receiving abuse daily, and how that daily stress has become unbearable. I can recall the times I’ve witnessed angry retorts that seemed out of proportion to the events that triggered them. And, more curiously, I sometimes see the relief of customer service personnel when I don’t raise my voice or get angry during the resolution of a complaint.
Are we as a society becoming mean-spirited? Have we forgotten our manners as well as our conflict resolution skills? Are we taking out our anger at those things we cannot control on the people who handle the daily human problems that can be controlled? Did the telephone customer service person print our incorrect bill? Did the store manager make the clothing that did not measure up to our expectations? Did the server cook the food we did not like? Is it possible that our frustration and stress at our inability to control the bigger issues that impact us is causing us to be unkind to those with whom we deal about minor issues on a regular basis?
When we feel empowered, we do not need to be mean or discourteous. When we feel empowered, we feel in control of ourselves even in the midst of events which we cannot control. If we look at some of our heroes and heroines, who took great risks in the face of grave danger, we can perhaps intimate that they knew the gravity of what they were facing, but had an inner sense of peace and control over their own destiny.
The sniper events in the Washington, D. C. area are a grim reminder that we live with danger daily. Whether we want to admit it or not, the human condition is fragile. From viruses and accidents, to perpetrators of horrible torture and murder, we are at risk daily. What keeps us able to function rationally, to be strong for our children and grandchildren, and to continue as public servants, may be an inner peace that we have cultivated. And if we have not done so, perhaps now is the time to begin.
The courage to look inside ourselves, to admit our own helplessness in the face of any of the issues described, makes us realize our vulnerability. Yet, we can develop an inner strength that cannot be swayed by current events. We can experience fear without terror; pain without emotional destruction; and a quality inner life that is not dependent upon external pleasures. We can learn to be peaceful in the face of adversity, and our spirits can be empowered in the worst of circumstances.
I watched my Mother’s spirit thrive in such adversity. For 23 months she existed on a feeding tube, and for 18 of those months on a ventilator. Her life was in grave danger because if for only a brief time her ventilator failed, she would have died. She was unable to move out of bed because she was tied to her technology. She could not experience the simple joys of life like the taste of food, or sleeping next to her husband. She suffered from the pain of arthritis, amplified by her inability to move. Her skin had to be tended to constantly to avoid breakdown and sores. Her quiet dignity was challenged by being tended to by multiple and changing people. She often was discussed by the professionals as though she were not present. She was simply another incurable case to some healthcare providers, who told me that “she had already lived a long life” as though a bright woman in her seventies should just give up and let them off the hook.
I saw her smile when my Dad walked into the room. Her face lit up as though she were sixteen seeing the boy of her dreams. The fact that she could not talk, and that he could not read her lips, seemed to matter little. They spoke a language not of words, but of love and devotion. Her life had value and quality even in the worst of human circumstances.
I saw her gratefully accept her medications because of the loving care of most of her nurses, and some of her physicians. These everyday heroes and heroines will always be remembered fondly. But I also saw the callous approach of a few physicians who were used to having families give them the permission to take family members off life supports at their suggestion.
It was an intolerable situation for all of us present–those of us in emotional pain and feeling helpless to assist, and those who believed that it was acceptable to dismiss the life of one who desperately wanted to live because they could find few financial options to keep her alive. She no longer fit the picture of what is supposed to happen regarding how much, or how little, medical support the insurance companies believe one is entitled to receive for life support. Not one nursing home in the the entire state would accept her because she was on a ventilator, and there was no reimbursement available. The Health Committee of the Legislature refused to allow me access to tell them the story. I watched other families leave the intensive care waiting room in tears, realizing that lack of insurance may have terminated life support options. And even for those who might have survived, the rehabilitation services needed for being weaned from a ventilator are not available for those without insurance.
For all our fighting over her, through ethics committee members and attorneys, my Mother smiled bravely. She taught me that the body cannot oppress the spirit. She taught me that love endures beyond Hollywood and media expectations. She taught me what true courage is about. And she taught me that you can be calm of spirit even in the midst of terror; about peace in the midst of turmoil; and about genuine acceptance of total helplessness.
My Mother wasn’t weak. She wasn’t religious. She could not have even looked at another person suffering what she suffered. Yet she lived with dignity and calm. She continued to love us through her struggle, and through ours. She exemplified for me what it means to be spiritually empowered. I don’t know what she used for her inner resources, but it was real, and it worked. It was an “inside job.” And I truly believe it is available to all.
For all, including those who have not been consoled by the teachings of their youth, and those who have been disillusioned by leaders who do not “walk the talk,” I have this to offer:
Peace, spiritual empowerment, is available to all. There is not only one path, but many paths. Use what works for you, but if it is not working, seek other answers. Remember that ‘one does not need to be assessed for access to the Source’. Beware of others who teach otherwise. And use this little formula to help you find your way:
Accept that you are not in control of life events. However, recognize that there is something greater which you can access.
Ask that “something greater”, by whatever name you choose, to be an active part of your life. I personally prefer the word Love because all of the great religions teach us to love.
Ask Love to lead you to your life purpose.
Find ways to be grateful every day, even for the smallest things.
See another who is in pain, and quietly help him or her.
Feel your strength increase. And, then,
Give thanks for another day of loving.
Please join us in the International Peace Meditation held on November 3, 2002, and on the first Sunday of every month. As we unite in prayer/meditation, we assist in raising human consciousness toward Peace.
Sue Kidd Shipe, President
International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc.
P. O. Box 3920
Albany, New York 12203 USA