Two weekends ago, I pulled up a very old rug in my bedroom. Underneath was nothing but powder left from the foam insulation pad. Then this past weekend, I put down my first laminate floor. I’ve always been a DIYer -or technically speaking, would that be DIMer, since I’m writing in the first person? Either way, Do-It-Yourself-er or Do-It-Myself-er, it is satisfying to have something of quality that did not cost me an arm and a leg on installation.
Working on one’s home is a bit like working on one’s self. Putting down a floor is like establishing a foundation of character to guide one’s life by. The values and beliefs that we were raised with may change as life circumstances place us in positions where we have to face ourselves, react or respond, stay or move on. There is an internal guide that we can live by, and it’s called conscience. I can react to the people around me with my own brand of negative emotions, or I can respond to their needs and move on with the process of meeting my own. The potential to react with negative emotions comes up frequently in life. One of the guiding philosophies of my spiritual life -the Gurdjieff work- insists that we should not express negative emotions at all. How well can I master myself? How well can I live with patience and love?
Working on the flooring yesterday, I had my inevitable moments of ups and downs. There were vague ripples in the old flooring that did not allow for an easy seating of the laminate I was installing, and my perfectionist aspect would get in the way of my patience and spring all kinds of dissatisfaction upon me until I had rehashed the installation as best as I could. At that point the dissatisfaction would ease until the next difficulty arose, but by doing the best I could and by accepting that nothing is ever going to be as perfect as I expect, I could tolerate the spikes of inevitable aggravation during the process. However, when I get tired, my irritation gets the better of me, and I start to mutter to myself, my intention to not express negative emotions gone for the time being.
I’ve had to realize that life is seldom going to be as “perfect” as I expect. It would be nice if everything flowed easily, one phase into another, but it doesn’t always do that. Water has adapted itself to flow around obstacles in its path. When I can stay calm in a situation, my feelings and my thoughts can flow around a problem until a solution suggests itself. When I am unable to stay calm, the obstacle can become a trigger for my mood to blow out of proportion into anxiety and hysteria. It took me a while in my life until I could learn to recognize that mood in me and then slow down my habitual anxiety sufficiently to maintain the calm that enables me to keep working to accomplish my goal. I finished the floor, and I would like to think that I have added patience to the foundation of my character.
While this topic began with laying down flooring and segued into laying down good values as the foundation of character, I think the topic can also be expanded into relationships with other people. One of the things I most enjoy is to talk to people of other cultures, races, or spiritual practices that differ from my own. A lifetime of practicing this has broadened my mind and my heart.
I came out of a very dogmatic Christian home, yet today I have left that far behind me. If Jesus is love, why do certain of his followers go so far to separate their ideologies from his message? Why does Christianity teach that they and only they will go to Heaven? I want to point out (especially to Christians of missionary zeal) that the world is not so cut and dried, that there are many ideologies and spiritual paths that will lead to God – that is Good, and the most direct path lies within our own heart – IF WE’RE LISTENING. I think they should fix their own lives before they try to tell other people they are wrong and should live in that “good old Christian way.”
If they listened to other people, they would know that Buddhists have an excellent teaching of mindfulness practice. Jewish people have the teaching of Law through the Torah. Islam accepts the holiness of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus in their own Holy book, and I think that Islam illustrates a way of reverence and devotion. Daoists point out the Way, Confucius teaches how to have a life on Earth that supports the way of Heaven, and the Ba’hai faith that grew out of Islam teaches the Unity of God. The indigenous -First Americans- have a beautiful teaching of the Great Mystery, or the-Spirit-That-Moves-In-All-Things. That is also within you and me.
It’s no accident that philosophies begin with the premise “Know Thyself.” Laying down a solid foundation of character will serve us for the rest of our lives. It is not only about knowing that the “God within” is part of the “God without.” It is knowing that we share breath with all living beings, we share space on this living and conscious Earth which is our Home in the Galaxy under the same Sun that motivates all of us to evolve with love.
I have arrived at these thoughts and conclusions after many years of examining my life and striving to live by the values I was raised with. Despite my assertion that I have left Christianity far behind me, I strive still to live by Jesus’s teachings of love and forgiveness, love the Lord God with all my heart mind and soul, and do on to others as I would have them do on to me. But to these practices I have added mindfulness, gratitude, and reverence for the Earth, the elements and life itself.
Sure as shit, life ain’t always easy, but I’m still breathing and every day is another opportunity and I am new every day. Not a bad way to live.