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I consider myself a spiritual person. I belong to a certain faith tradition at the moment, but I consider myself more a person who wants to learn about and find commonalities in as many faith traditions as possible. I wasn’t always this way – for a long time, I was furious with God, and then after that was not even sure that a deity existed. Now, I fully believe that there is deity, and that connection with the divine is not only possible, but is offered freely if we’re open to it.

This journey began with a child’s faith – I was taken to church (sporadically, but taken) and went to Sunday school like most kids in my area. I didn’t even begin questioning differences until I invited a Jewish friend to one of my youth group get-togethers. You have to understand – I didn’t even really know he was Jewish, and had I known I probably still wouldn’t understand the cultural consequences of what I’d done – I invited him to a Yule log hunt and hot dog dinner. (Yeah, I can see the cringing – I still cringe too). He taught me a couple of lessons her – first, that there ARE differences and second, that it’s important to understand them so you can respect them. I still had a ways to go, but I was at least started on my journey.

In the course of my wanderings, I’ve been Episcopalian, Latter-day Saint, Wiccan, agnostic, and Lutheran. In my teenage years, I flirted with Catholicism out of the sense of calling to be a nun. The gist here is that I’ve been all over the board when it comes to organized and not-so-organized religions. In my darkest periods, I wondered if there was anything out there at all. As much as I doubted, though, I still had the sense that there was, even if I didn’t want to believe it. That’s where Active trust came in. During this period (the time after I left the LDS church and while I looking at Wicca), I doubted the very existence of deity. My experience in the LDS church was that God had been made in the image of man – and I use “man” deliberately. Women, especially feminists, were marginalized or even ostracized. I found I didn’t fit the mold, and that there wasn’t much tolerance for that. (One bishop told me that it was too bad I’d been born with the mind of man stuck in the body of a woman.) I was burned out on male domination and religion in general.

Gradually, though, my sense of the divine around us came back. My heart didn’t want to see it – I was still smarting from the earlier experiences. In this case, although it may seem illogical to some, I let my head overrule my heart. I let go of my religious prejudices as best as I could and tried to trust in the Divine. This trust led me to experience the Divine as feminine through Wicca, and later as both male and female (indivisible from each other). It also let me experience faith and even religion to some degree as a supportive environment. However, that’s not to say I fit any real mold of what a “religious person” looks like – I say that I’m more spiritual than I am religious.

These days, I say there are as many religions as there are people.
Now before y’all bomb me with fire and brimstone, let me explain. Our organized religions are about community – shared beliefs and the sense of belonging. However, each one of us interprets our faith traditions through the understanding of our own experiences. My experiences are different from yours, and yours are different from every other person. Ideally, we’re able to share our experiences, find meaning in them, and maybe put them in the framework of our religious beliefs.

I find as I’m getting older, though, that I’m wanting to find the common ground in all the different traditions. The more I read, the more commonalities I find. My active trust these days centers on believing and trusting that understanding and peace can come about, in spite of our differences. My heart tells me that it may not be possible, but I let my head overrule that lack of trust and fear. It may not happen – but by using my active trust I can do my part to work for it happening. I may not always succeed, but I do try to live my ideals and by living my ideals bring others joy and hope as well. I don’t push my beliefs on anyone – I believe that my acts and my life are my offerings and that if I live according to my beliefs I won’t need to push them on anyone. Finding commonalities, building trust between each other, creating community and peace – all of these unify us and help us understand and celebrate each other. To me, that’s the essence of love and of relationship – caring for and about each other, and that’s what I work for and try to live.

Idealistic? Maybe…but without ideals and hope, regardless of whether it’s religious or not, where would we be? Hope, in my opinion, is the embodiment of active trust and hope is where I want my heart to be.

Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Hearing my kidlets laugh and playing with them
Helping others
The ocean, the shore, and Connecticut
Beachcombing
Listening to the sound of ocean waves
Traveling to new places
Adventures
Bright, sunny days and cool rainy days
Autumn
Spring
Sun sparkling on untouched snow
The smell of fallen leaves and ripe fruits
The smell of bread baking
Soft blankets and warm quilts
Hot cups of tea
A really good, engrossing book
A clean home
Good humor and jokes
Teaching
Learning – always, always learning!
Working for peace, unity and justice
Playing with art and office supplies
Knitting
Making Art
Photography
Writing and Journaling
Watching football all snuggled up
Swimming
Snuggling!
My spirituality
Learning about new religions and faith traditions
Quiet time
Good music
Appreciating art
Singing
Found and spontaneous art – chalk, PostSecret, guerilla art
Being creative in any way

What makes YOU happy?

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

I hope y’all are thinking about what inspires you…I’ve been doing some searching on the web, and I’ve found a WONDERFUL site that’s inspiring and on the same wavelength as what I was thinking. It’s called “HelpOthers.org” (three guesses what the URL is? http://www.helpothers.org/index.php ). They have some fantastic essays, the “SMILE” cards you may have seen floating around for a while, and some great ideas. Check it out!

What is “The Power of Each Other”? The power of each other is supporting one another, in tragedy and joy. The power of each other is spreading kindness, especially in a world torn by strife, polarizations, and war. It’s sharing and caring with and for each other. It’s the creative urge we all have, and the urge to reach our highest goals and be the best we can be – individually AND together. The power of each other is not letting issues, politics, religions, social status, or anything else that points out differences divide us from our common goal: creating peace and unity. The power of each other is within us, around us, and flows through us – we ARE the power of each other.

We are all in this together, and I’d like to invite you to share the poems, quotes, stories, songs, photos/pictures and humor that inspire you. Life is hard enough, especially in these tough economic times – let’s share with each otherwhat helps us. What’s going on in YOUR community? What groups exist to help each other, lift spirits, and inspire hope? What are you doing, or what do you know others are doing?

For me, I’ve posted the “Healing Prayer” from the Terma Collective: https://lauraburlingame.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/a-healing-prayer-from-the-terma-collective/ and I can post some other resources as well (for example, Google Steve Goodier and LifeSupport – a great inspirational resource).

Let’s hear from and support each other – I’ll post the resources you send me, along with your contact information if you want. Tell me what inspires you, what lifts you up, what helps YOU cope and feel better.

Let’s spread the word – get everyone you can to participate! Let’s start a “feel better” revolution and see where it takes us. I believe in the power of each other – let’s believe in each other and lift our spirits by combining our gifts and knowledge.

Take care and believe – We can do it!

Peace and Unity - Design and Image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee

Peace and Unity - Design and Image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee

As 2008 draws to a close, I (like everyone else and their brother, sister, mother, etc.) turn my thoughts to the events that occurred during the last year. There were the things that affect us all, like the crash of our economy, the election of our first African-American President, and the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – these things have changed our lives, and the lives of so many people world-wide. There is so much we still have to accomplish: Fairness to all, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, economic class, etc.; achieving some measure of peace – CAN that ever happen, given that human nature is basically territorial and competitive?

I believe it can – if we all work toward it. The events in my life this year are a testament to that process. During this last year, in spite of a pretty rocky relationship with my mother, we went on a trip together and not only got along but were able to explore new areas, bond, and have fun.

I also made contact – as of yesterday, ironically enough – with an uncle my family has not spoken to for 25 years. I don’t even know or remember what started the feud, but my mother intensely dislikes her brother and I imagine the feeling is the same for him toward her. I don’t know, though, really. I finally decided that I’d had enough and that it was time that SOMEONE ended the standoff. Even if my mother and he never speak again, I wanted to know him and find out about his life. I’m glad I did, too. I found out that his wife of over 45 years had died, that he had met someone in the years following her death, and that they are engaged. I’m thrilled that he has found happiness again, and I’m even more thrilled that he didn’t hang up on me when he realized who I was. We have exchanged an email, and sent pictures.

The point here is that someone has to make the first move. In the field of psychology there is a whole body of literature regarding conflict resolution, creating peace, and healing from violence…from what I remember, it boils down to being willing to talk AND to listen – on both sides. Although my conversation with my uncle was short, I was willing to listen and not judge. And to be fair, I let my mother know I had contacted him, and was willing to listen to her hurt. It was not easy, but again, I’m glad I did it. Peace, whether individual or global can ONLY happen when we are willing to be open, to talk, and to listen, regardless of whether we agree or disagree. I’m an idealist – I still believe it’s possible, and try through my words and actions to live in a way that promotes peace.

Another large change involved my son, Aidan. He went through another diagnostic evaluation and was placed in special education for his autism – in spite of my clinical training, this was a challenge for me as a parent. It’s much easier to deny the truth and blame someone else that it is to accept and deal with things. Again, this relates to peace-building, because sometimes we have to be open to hearing and accepting things we don’t want. It’s not easy – I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t devastated by the diagnosis. I didn’t want to hear that my precious child had a fairly severe developmental disorder – what parent EVER wants to hear negative things about their child? Yet, in accepting and working with this, I am helping him. His preschool, composed of 15 children similar to him, has been a God-send and he is making great progress.

Aidan on his 5th birthday - Oct 7 2008

Aidan on his 5th birthday - Oct 7 2008

In my world, I also accomplished a long-standing goal of earning my Ph.D. My degree is in Counseling Psychology, and my next step is to find work. In this economy, that will likely be difficult because I am hoping to work in community mental health and many agencies have had their budgets cut. Even so, I hope. I believe that working in this area will also further peace, albeit in rather non-obvious way. People can’t work toward these higher goals, such as peace and understanding, when they can’t meet their own basic needs – food, shelter and health. Mental health has been traditionally underemphasized in our culture, and I want to work with those who may not be able to afford the care they need. Again, though – living and working our values is a key component here. I believe that my work in this area will further my goals for creating peace, because I will be working toward building a community where people’s needs are able to be met. Yes…I really AM idealistic! 🙂

And an even more realistic hope…that we can live in a community where our diverse values, beliefs, cultures, and appearances can be accepted. Unfortunately, this is more idealistic than I’d hope, because we still live in world, a country and a culture where “jokes” that point out differences are still common and where exclusion is still practiced, even if in a more subtle way. Our election of Barack Obama, whether or not you agree with his politics, does point to the progres we as a society have made – even 10-15 years ago, the election of an African American to the highest office in this country was a fantasy. This year – no matter who won the election – we would have made history. That alone gives me hope.

So, as we close this year and wonder what the next will bring, my hope is that we will continue our movement toward peace and toward a more unified, diverse, sensitive, and caring culture. As a friend of mine put it, this is all a process and doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to working that process, and to making the next year even more groundbreaking and hopeful.

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror