Peace in Chaos

Watch me paint this deer in 2 minutes (time lapse)

You might remember when I shared this painting in April, while it was still fresh on my canvas? This art is a good choice for today’s blog post. Peace and tranquility are part of nature. Does “nature” include human nature? Why not?

Humans are complex beings. As a result, we often overthink things. We can be easily out of balance. Mind, body, and spirit can be skewed too heavily by our thoughts while our bodies and spirits are neglected. When this happens, the stress, worries, and fears that are generated by processing world, community, and personal daily events will dominate us. There is no peace in chaos when we can only see the chaos.

There is no doubt that these are troubled times, but every generation has its share of trouble. Even in extreme chaos, danger, oppression, and war, it is possible to achieve spiritual peace. It helps to study the philosophy, lifestyle habits and beliefs of peaceful people. What traits do such people have in common? What can we observe and attempt to bring into our own lives? How does spiritual peace help us survive hardships and oppression?

Spiritual peace creates strength that is resistant to propaganda, manipulation, steering, and more overt coercion. People who have a peaceful spirit often share these things in common:

  • Spending regular time outdoors
  • Eating nutritious fresh foods
  • Getting regular physical exercise (this can be from daily tasks, not necessarily a planned fitness routine- an active lifestyle may be enough)
  • Sleeping well, playing well, loving well
  • Practicing a personal, intimate faith that one strongly believes in
  • Educating the mind (not just receiving whatever comes through the “news” or social media, but a real focused effort to learn something new, or to study a familiar subject in more depth, learning a new language, contemplating mathematical or scientific concepts, exploring philosophy/sociology/psychology, learning about botany/gardening/homesteading, etc.)

Notice that the first four items on the list are related to the BODY part of the mind/body/spirit equation. Often, if we are dispirited, depressed, anxious, short tempered, or if spiritual peace eludes us in any way, the cause can be traced to something physical. We may be simply overtired. We might be hungry- even if we’ve eaten. When our diets are terrible, we are deficient in the right nutrients to fill us up. We may have a chemical imbalance that can be helped by changing our diets, adding more physical exercise, and better sleeping habits.

These are things that we probably already know, but if you’re like me, you need a reminder to stay focused and on track. The next item on the list refers to spiritual health. It does no good to choose “nothing” or to let ourselves fall into a mindless ritual of religious practice. These things don’t empower us or inspire us. We must dedicate our hearts to an active belief and practice of our personal, deeply connected faith.

Last on the list is the MIND part of the mind/body/spirit equation. The mind drives us, and therefore we must keep it in check. We must make sure that other influences don’t hijack us. The best way to do this, is to take control of our minds by making our own choices about what to fill our brains with. Choose good things, and good things will result.

Learning a new language in the area of literal language (such as a foreign language, sign language, or Braille), or the language of art, music, or numbers, expands our minds while overtaking the “weeds” in our brains. Create new neural pathways by directing your brain toward enlightenment, empowerment, and encouragement. Seek good things and your brain will find them. Not only that, but our minds are capable of modifying our bodies and communicating our desires and habits to our physical self.

Scientists know about neural pathways. Do we know science? Dark powerful entities know science, and their motives for their usage of it are often profit based (profit may be financial, an exchange of power, or something more sinister). What if we were aware of how amazing we are, and took control over our mind, body, spirit?

Psychological warfare only works on a willing victim. If we are not victims, and not willing, this type of abuse doesn’t work on us. Lies have little influence over those who are confident in the truth and in our ability to reason, our skills in logical thinking, and our reliance upon intuition and faith over blind compliance to an authority. Protecting ourselves during these troubled times is about being strong. It is about peace in chaos.

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Fish for Life

Watch me paint this bear catching a salmon (time lapse)

This is a recent painting that I shared last month. It’s said that if we give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if we teach a man to fish, he eats for life. There’s a third option: a man who doesn’t wait to be given what he needs, or shown how. He doesn’t stagnate, wallow in ignorance, hesitate or follow. He’s like this bear. He sees what he wants and dives in to grab it with his bare teeth!

When we depend on others for nourishment, we submit ourselves to a weak position that is vulnerable to abuse, poverty, enslavement and victimhood. When we’re independent, self sufficient, ingenious and brave, we are in a strong position that frees us. “Nourishment” is literally food for our bodies, but is also a metaphor: “food for thought” or “food for the soul”. When we feed mind, body, and spirit in balance we are like this wild bear- healthy, active, and free.

Fish for Life

  1. Feed your body with good nutrition.
  2. Educate your mind about everything that impacts you, anything that interests you, and never stop learning how to do things, live better, and enjoy life more.
  3. Look for answers to your spiritual questions, act in faith even when you’re uncertain, pray even when you’re cynical, and believe in the impossible.

The rights of humanity should be as great, or greater, than the rights of wild animals, don’t you agree? We too should be free to nourish our bodies with fresh healthy foods, free to roam beyond our cages, and free to live our lives independently, without restriction. A wild bear lives as if he knows he is free.

A wild bear doesn’t wait for others to give him permission to live a full, healthy, active life. He doesn’t hesitate. He sees what he wants and grabs it for himself.

Be a wild bear. Know that you are free!

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Secrets

Watch me paint this apple tree branch in 1 minute (time lapse)

If we’re being honest, there are no secrets to life’s happiness. What we need to be happy is intuitive. The real secrets are the ones we don’t tell: why don’t we do the things we know we should? Perhaps we’ve yet to learn the answer because we’re not ready, or because we choose not to know. Change is difficult. We may feel as if we can’t face up to it, but more truthfully, we probably aren’t willing to do what it takes. 

Because, no matter how weak and broken we are, we can find a way to be strong. There are stories of prisoners of war or victims of enslavement who had spirits of iron. They never gave up hope, even when they had nothing left, and were abandoned to a declining existence of abuse and eventual death. Yet they stayed strong in their minds and hearts, willing their bodies to survive.

What we ask of ourselves is seldom anywhere close to that magnitude! Most days, we are simply battling fatigue, discouragement, anxiety, stress, and fear about things that may or may not even happen. Many of us have the freedom to choose how to fill our time- at least a few hours a week- even if we are busy. The words “I can’t” are only in our vocabulary if we choose for them to be.

“Secrets” to Life (that everyone knows!)

  • Develop long and short range goals. The short range goals will encourage us to keep going, as we see a fast result. That will keep us on track for long range goals that will improve our lives in a bigger way. Stick with these goals. Win. Make new goals. Win again. Repeat indefinitely. Never give up. When stuck, try something new. Never quit, but know when to move on (listen to the song “The Gambler”!). Never bend, never break. Be determined, persistent, and strong!
  • Become strong by doing things that will produce a healthy mind, body, and spirit. These things are science based, as they can be proven to work. For example, if we improve our nutrition, we become healthier. The effects of eating good food go beyond the physical, as our mental acuity and emotional stability also improve. The singular act of improving our diets can effect hormones, blood sugar, and other factors that have an impact on our total health package (mind/body/spirit). The same is true for other obvious areas for improvement: exercise, fitness, being outside, spending time in nature, limiting screen/media/Internet time, creating art/music/other, spending time in positive social situations, investing in intimate relationships, etc.)
  • Choose love. Choosing a loving response for any situation in life is likely to bring inner peace. Why? For several reasons, but among them are these: a loving reaction encourages us to feel as if we’ve done the best we could do and can now let go of negative experiences, thereby avoiding resentment that interferes in the ability to be happy; a loving reaction eases stress as the body responds differently to peace than to aggression; a loving reaction is in alignment with a spiritual journey and therefore produces happiness in people of faith.

Because we already know the above life coaching advice, these things aren’t “secrets”, no matter how many books are sold that use Secret in the title. How to become happy isn’t a secret, but our happiness should in some ways BE a secret. As in, we have within us a precious private space where we are known only to ourselves and God. This space is highly valuable to abusive persons, organizations, and governments. Dysfunctional relationships involve invading our private spiritual self, and attempting to know our inner secrets for the purpose of power and control.

Whether the abuser is a controlling parent, friend, spouse, or boss, personal relationships can become too invasive. Allow yourself to have secrets from people who don’t have your best interests at heart, but instead abuse your private information. When someone knows our inner selves, do they use that information to manipulate us into doing what they want? Do they know what pushes our buttons? Do they know what type of flattery and praise motivates us? Do they steer us toward certain emotions to benefit themselves, caring little for how their power plays affect us?

If the abusive relationship is with an organization or government, it’s even more important to keep our inner selves secret. Why reveal what truly makes us tick? Abusers want to know what triggers would manipulate us to comply. Protect yourself from powerful abusers knowing what your breaking point might be. Guard the secrets to your happiness, known only to you and God.

For what is claimed to be a secret, is no secret at all. And what should be kept secret is stolen from us through manipulation, betrayal of relationships (employer/employee, spousal, parent/child, etc.), abuse of trust, illegal spying (corportations/governments/etc.), deception, misuse of authority, and more. It’s important to know the truth about secrets. I talked more about this in my other blog post featuring an apple painting: “Are we Unpredictable?

Happiness is not a secret. It is a gift available to all. We may have to work at it very hard, with our full hearts, but it is never impossible to pursue- and find- the happiness that is known as inner peace in the darkest of times, ranging in escalation to pure joy in the best of times.

Never listen to the snake who tells us we must eat the forbidden fruit from the apple tree to know the best kept secrets. We already know everything we need to be happy. Happiness is a spiritual gift. 

Specific tips for establishing inner peace: “Do we want Peace?

More about developing strength: “Peace through Strength

More about happiness: “Balance

More about breaking free from dysfunctional relationships (personal/work/government): “Dark to Light

More about happiness: “Be a Lamb

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Embracing LIFE!

This is a tree on “Rock Hill”, a rural area in Ireland near Grenagh. Grenagh is a village close to Mallow in Co. Cork. In 2016 I lived there, off a boreen (a narrow road in which two cars can’t pass, and ours barely fit ONE, it was hairy). VERY remote. Even the native Irish couldn’t find us, they’d get lost. We had poor cell phone reception that only came in if we used a signal booster and stood directly under it. We had spotty, slow, and unreliable satellite service for Internet. Often a simple website would spin and time out. We had no rubbish (garbage) service and had to drive our trash bags to the dump site which was several miles away. 

We were completely isolated, with no visible neighbors. Yet, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I never felt alone. Of course I had my family with me, so I wasn’t alone, but many people feel unnerved when in a remote location far from any stores, hospitals, and civilization. That wasn’t how I felt. I was at peace.

Tree on Rock Hill” oil painting while still on my easel

in the house we were renting in Ireland

I’ve lived in very remote areas and very urban. I’ve lived in the inner city of Minneapolis. I’ve lived in villages (Geisfeld, Germany) and in small towns, suburban neighborhoods and apartment communities. I’ve lived in rentals, “fixers” and a hobby farm with a house we built ourselves (partly ordered up, partly with our own two hands). I’ve had times of want and times of plenty.

Some say that home is where the heart is, or where our families are, but I would politely say that this is not true for everyone. Sometimes we are placed where we do not wish to be. Sometimes we lose family members and are temporarily or somewhat permanently without close ties, without any deep sense of family or community. That has been true of my life.

Through it all, my spirit and mind stay housed in the same body. Home is where I am. Home is wherever I go. I feel most at home when I am at peace, close to God. There are times in my life when I have the company of precious loved ones to share this journey, and times when I have not had that blessing. There are times when I feel a strong connection to the place I’m living, and times when I’ve counted down the days to leave.

Embracing LIFE is to seek joy regardless of circumstance. Even an enslaved person has free will, should they choose. Mindfulness is a commodity that cannot be stolen without our consent. Even if deceived, on some level we are responsible for delegating the responsibility of our independent thoughts to others.

Today I am in high spirits. I am ripe with fresh ideas for my art, work, and lifestyle. I was up early and transplanted seedlings that I’ve babied into sturdy lush greens. My garden is really taking off and it’s such a delight to see. I’ve already enjoyed compound butter and infused olive oil and vinegar salad dressing. One of the tomatoes is red and will be ready to pick soon. My strawberries are formed but still green. One day soon my garden will be bursting at the seams with goodness… all from a small patio space.

I’ve blogged several times about the painful sale of our hobby farm when my husband lost his job. One by one, flock by flock, all of our animals were sold or given away to good farming homes, including our beloved sheep that we had raised from lambs and the guinea fowl that we’d hatched as eggs in an incubator and raised into fully grown birds. I could list all of the animals and the losses, but it’s the garden that’s the point of this. We had a very large garden that was plowed down a hill.

The garden was my husband’s deal. It was too much for me. The ground was uneven and the area was buggy. I’m allergic to many insects and the constant threat of it was unnerving. The terrain was steep and rough. He planted the rows in a compact way that made it hard to push through without brushing up against the plants. It was really and truly not my thing. I tended to my roses and other flowers in the landscaped areas near the house. 

My gardening role then was to can the tomatoes, bake the zucchini bread to freeze ahead, and cook/store all of the other garden foods as well. He grew the food and dumped it onto the kitchen counter. From there it was my job to see that the food went from the garden to our stomachs.

But now, many years later, I have a pretty garden of my own. I’m honestly quite hooked on the thrill of seeing my hard work grow into fruition. Every day there is something new to see and learn. I’m astonished at the world that has opened up for me. I didn’t realize how little I knew about food. I’ve discovered bloggers who are teaching me that there are many different ways to eat that I’d never thought of.

I’ll still do the things I’m familiar with, like canning tomatoes and making refrigerator pickles from cucumbers. My husband has his own gardening space too, so there will be zucchini bread-making again in my near future, just like the old days. We haven’t abandoned the things we used to enjoy. But I’m delighted to try new ideas. My tastes have changed over the years and I’m especially intrigued by the nutrition found in herbs. My husband actually thought parsley was “just for decoration” and was surprised when I showed him the many health benefits of adding parsley to our diets.

Embracing life is about feeding ourselves good food… not just literally, physically, but also good mental and spiritual food. I’ve been studying new things and expanding my ideas about philosophy. I’ve been learning more about science and botany. I’ve been learning more about chemistry and health. I’m pushing myself to see beyond what I’ve always known.

Last night I was in a foul mood. Everything was getting under my skin, especially the dark, somber, dystopia of “current year” (a trendy phrase I despise, but it suits). As I fell asleep, my mind was full of angry thoughts and pessimistic emotions. I woke up several times. My broken, disrupted sleep ended when I woke up with a splitting headache.

But I walked into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of tea, and opened the patio curtains. A tiny hummingbird flitted away and my garden plants seemed to greet me. It was a splendid morning, if I chose to see it that way. It was up to me. Would I allow the world’s perception of my future to control my thinking (mind), my health (body), and my emotions (spirit)? Or would I see the truth plainly in front of me?

Today I have chosen to embrace life. Every day I must choose anew. It doesn’t matter where I am, where I live, or who is with me. It doesn’t matter if I am in lack or plenty. It doesn’t matter if I’m in pain or full health. The choice is always mine to make.

I will have a good day today because I choose it. I will experience joy, regardless of my circumstances. Whatever pain or grief I have, I shall set it aside into the private healing space of my mind and spirit. I will see beauty and let the sun shine into my heart. Will you join me in embracing life? The choice is yours. Every day we are blessed to be here, we have an opportunity to choose joy.

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