By Thea Iberall
Someone once told me that there is nothing more important than being good. Maybe they were quoting the Dalai Lama. I don’t know. But it’s a phrase that has stuck with me. I used to be a good codependent, making myself into the good doormat that helped everyone else be happy. My thinking was that if they were happy and I helped them to be happy, they would love me and I would then be happy. But I was so unhappy in a relationship once that, one night, I scratched the skin off my forearm. I bled for that relationship trying to get what I wanted. The physical pain helped mollify the emotional pain.
Through years of therapy, workshops, and recovery, I learned it was better to be good at having a spiritual practice, with practice being the key word. A spiritual practice became a way to maintain my awareness and focus on my spiritual values so that I live by basic principles and not just pay lip service to them.
And what are these principles I live by? A commitment to my serenity, to acceptance, and to doing service. Don’t try to control others. Listen with curious ears. Pay attention to my inner child’s needs and wants. Live in expectancy. The four agreements. Eyes on my own feet. Own my own emotions. Accept the fact that I am not always right. Do my own inventory. Promptly admit it when I am wrong, keep my side of street clean. Make gratitude lists. Separate my needs which make me comfortable from my wants which make me happy. Believe that everyone is doing the best they can. Look at my life in terms of abundance and not in terms of what I am missing. Even if it's finding joy in doing the dishes or in standing in a grocery store with only a $20 bill for groceries. Find joy in doing something I don’t want to do.
I used to be afraid of being abandoned and not being heard. These fears were due to my wants. We all want stuff: we want things, attention, love. To be adored, to be counted. Any relationship between two people is about bumping up against each other. The hardest moments are when we want something from the other person that they are not able to give us.
The solution is to identify what it is I am wanting and give it to myself. It’s about my being able to say, “You’re okay just the way you are and I need to take care of myself around you.” Not only say it, but believe it so that I am at peace within myself, so that what I get from my relationships is icing on the cake. I stopped relying on others for me to be okay. I've taught myself to trust myself. I have my own back now. I am complete. People can feel it when we are at peace with ourselves. They can also feel it when want something from them.
How do I keep my energy clean? I explore my wants and emotions through writing, through doing a personal inventory. I soothe myself and find small ways to create a win-win situation so that I give myself what I want and need. When I am lonely and want a friend to call me, I reach out. When I’m angry or hungry, I make myself a cup of tea. I buy myself flowers. I do an activity I enjoy. The practice is to live in acceptance of everything and everyone around me, including myself.
We each have our challenges and we all do our best to take care of our needs and wants. Sometimes we are in situations where we feel helpless and hopeless. It’s especially in those times when it’s important to find small ways to be in joy. To find little moments of success in our own self-care. And if it’s not possible, then to turn to a higher power and ask for help.
Thank you for all of this. I was jotting down key phrases. One was to listen with curiosity. That helps me communicate when I talk with someone who views life differently than I do. It also helps me in my familial roles and in being a friend. And the last phrase, about finding small ways to be in joy. That can bring me out of a funky mood. And it usually has to do with a squirrel or bird, so thank you very much.
I was reminded of many things. One of the most important was being responsible for our own happiness, not in disregard of other people but also not in dependency on them. I have the power and agency, and I have the most intimate knowledge of what it is I need. That’s a very good thing to hear again in a new way.
Thank you. I’m doing dream work and I’m processing a big thing right now that I went through when I was younger. I just took a vacation where a big thing happened that was very painful and difficult and emotional and it involved multiple people and forgiveness and lack of forgiveness. Your reading was very timely for me. Where my meditation brought me, what I realized, because I hadn’t forgiven this event that happened quite a few years ago in this place, I recreated it so that I had another chance to forgive. I’m not completely there yet, but at least I am seeing it from that perspective. The power of forgiveness and love.
It’s always good to revisit because we are learning and growing. To go back and see things with new eyes and new ears, it’s a gift we give ourselves.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll have my cat and we are incredibly close. This morning, I put her on a low counter next to the tablet. I thought it would be so nice to turn the sound on for the purring the whole time. She got to see a squirrel and chipmunk. A bird came by. It made me happy that she felt that well today. I haven’t figured out the metaphorical meaning yet, but I look at the squirrel’s tails. At a distance, they are full and fluffy and thick. But up close, the tail consists of many fine filaments with spaces in between. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
I honor how you can find joy in these small things in nature. It feeds one’s soul.
That’s a challenge to be non-judgmental. I’ve had a good opportunity this past year and half with my family situation during Covid. I’ve become more in touch with my dreams again. Last night, I dreamt that my home was open and a bit of a sanctuary for wild animals. In my dream, an animal got into the house and hid somewhere. I was faced with the prospect of either catching it or letting it find its way out. Those kind of things in my dreams, what do I do in this situation, how open do I have to be? It’s all metaphors.
I analyze dreams based on the idea that everyone in my dreams is myself. Are you hiding from yourself or being open?
Thank you for that beautiful reading. I am glad I found this group. It has helped a lot. I had a bad day yesterday. And I heard in your reading that when you can’t find joy, to know that your Higher Power is with you. Yesterday, I was reminded that I was not alone. I felt super alone and I tried to remind myself that I’m not alone. Your readings were great and I get a lot out of it. I get a lot from the reflections as well.
Learning I was not alone was a hard lesson for me growing up. I never believed in God or religion. Learning to trust my Higher Power is a big deal in my life.
Thank you for the reading. It felt like a how-to book on finding joy. Yesterday was a hard day for me. I was fighting it and then I decided to let it go and go into it. There are always changes, even in the things that we look towards to comfort ourselves. We found out there is some disease that is killing songbirds and they don’t know what it is because it’s new. The word was put out in my state to stop feeding birds. I get a lot of joy watching the birds come to my birdfeeder. I wondered whether it is so serious. But I have a responsibility—I can’t get comfort from something that is hurting someone or something else. So I no longer have a birdfeeder out and no longer have the birds coming. We are responsible for our own joy.
Thea says: That’s wonderful awareness. It takes time, to replace one joy with another joy. It’s important to do that. To grieve the loss of one thing and to open ourselves to something new. And knowing that things are always changing and we may be able to go back to the old way or enjoy our new way better. The key is acceptance.
Thank you for that reading. I want it on my wall and read it every day. I’m reminded of a quote: “Happiness depends, joy does not.” I love that idea that joy does not depend on anything. Sometimes I feel joyful and then I think about my problems and think that I shouldn’t be joyful. But it bubbles up, it doesn’t depend on anything. I get to accept those moments even if the world around me is telling me not to.
Thea says: Thank you. As I was writing, I was switching the word happy with joy. I didn’t know why. You clarified the difference for me.
Thank you all for joining me today. Between yesterday’s and today’s meditations, I learned a lot and spoke a lot from my heart. I hope you all get something from it. I hope you have a joyful, blessed, wonderful, filled day. Be good to yourselves and to others around you. Thank you.
Photo credit: close up of The Heart of the Ancient Rainforest, by Linda Lundell, 60" x 104" oil on canvas