Waiting in the car and idly flicking through a magazine, Natural Presence, picked up at a health food store and there was serendipity – an article, Silence: A Shower of the Soul. The writers, Barb and Tony Titterington, point out that we can do more to raise the world's consciousness by raising our own state than by doing anything else. It's that simple.
Sounds grandiloquent, but think again. In Washington, DC, crime dropped in proportion to the number who meditated.
“Become a light unto yourself, and you have done all that was possible within the capacity of a human being to raise the whole world's consciousness.”
Barb and Tony's quote was on the ball with me today as I had earlier encountered a very disagreeable pharmacist. The whole staff seemed affected and his assistant glowered glumly at a valiant woman with a walker who tried to lighten the atmosphere with a joke. Everyone they touched left feeling snubbed, ruffled, unheard and somehow grayer.
I could feel myself reacting, being drawn into a scratchy, grumpy world. It was hard to shake the off-kilter feeling and I asked myself where this might have originated. Who started the ball rolling? A malignant butterfly effect.
So what about the opposite: the person whose smile is paying forward? On my way into the pain clinic last week, a woman handed me her parking ticket. “There's half an hour left. Please have it.” I walked into the clinic lighter and smiling. We had to top up the meter and handed our excess on to another patient. I could see a ripple of warmth passing down the day – all from one small act of kindness from an unknown woman.
It was just after leaving the negative field of the pharmacy that I read the quote above. It tipped me away from mulling over the man's unpleasant words and towards a balanced calm. It was as if his attitude had set up widening circles of ripples of negativity. Yet now, “I can choose to break the wave. I can choose to create calm.” What a wonderful idea.
During the Gulf War, my daughter phoned late at night crying. Her roommate's parents were over there being bombed and she didn't know if they were alive or dead. “This is so wrong!” I felt as I climbed back into bed. A deep pacifist, all I knew was that it was wrong. I had no idea what I could do, should do or how.
I tried prayer, but all that was out there was static, the muddled energy of a frightened world. All I could think of was to put my own house in order, to remove from my own consciousness anything that mirrored war. So I lay in the dark, letting go of slights, forgiving hurts, till my soul felt cleaner.
After that, I checked the news just once a day. It seemed heartless to ignore war, but I didn't want to put my energy into being an audience. An audience is surely also a participant, fanning the flames. The rest of the day I tried to concentrate on peace and a calm centre. Perhaps I was just an ostrich, but it felt strangely positive. I hope it was.
Maintaining a calm centre seems a wonderful way to pray. Brother Lawrence concentrated his energy as a monk 400 years ago on removing anything that got between him and his connection with God. His writings are moving and humbling today. He has modern followers and several websites. He is even on Twitter! I have tried to emulate him, but failed dismally. Connection breaks and hours later I find myself caught up in activity with a day of unspiritual trivia to my (dis)credit. I also find it difficult that he comes from a disheartening base of sin. This is so lowering and discouraging that I sink back gratefully into trivia. But the idea of holding a peaceful centre as a positive contribution feels right and whole. So thank you serendipity.
Barb and Tony Titterington – link
Meditation and crime reduction – Institute of Science and Public Policy study report
Brother Lawrence – link to January blog entry which includes links to biography and website