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Kindness and Great Battles

Dear Friends,

The kids and I are spending a week with my mom in Santa Fe. Whenever I arrive at my mom’s house, I spend the first hour just wandering around and looking at her art and all the beauty that abounds in her home. This time it was a quote attributed to Plato taped to her bedroom mirror that stopped me in my tracks. It said:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Yes, yes, yes. My whole body said yes. I know this deeply but I need to be reminded. I have always been one to source compassion. I look underneath an angry (or sad or numb) exterior and wonder how it came to be. I wonder about the battle waging in each person I meet. I wonder what it is to live daily with a particular battle different than my own. I seek understanding.

It’s true, though, isn’t it? We do not know the battle that is waging in our neighbor, our sister or our friend. We know only our own. We may think we know another’s — but we don’t. We are each territories at war unto ourselves. Our inner war creates other wars. But the first war is the war within.

It sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But what else to call the way we rage or weep or spin in circles or fall into despair as we live our normal lives? What else to call the way we talk to ourselves or to others in the privacy of our own thoughts and feelings?

Some of us do manage to have great stretches of peace and others are forever inwardly firing. Some take a breath or two before another inner attack is mounted but for others it is almost incessant. What is the state of your battle ground? And how do you negotiate the battle grounds of others?

It’s the rare person that is actually trying to act like a jerk. What are the currents within that are creating the disturbance without? How do we learn to manage our own inner battles so that we can meet one another with some degree of kindness and compassion? How can we be kind with ourselves so we can extend that kindness to others at war?

This is our greatest task — managing the great battle within. If we each could take responsibility for this inner battle and finding ways to calm it or understand it, peace would ripple ever outward and at an increasingly rapid rate. But here we sit — even the most centered and loving of us — at war with ourselves and using many precious resources to sustain and feed the war.

One battle that wages within me is the desire to keep the peace. Ah, the irony! I lack a certain moral courage. I want to make sure everyone is happy and heard and feels comfortable. But change, as we all know, is sometimes very uncomfortable. The people in my life may not like me for awhile (or forever)(Ah- the panic that induces!) but my next threshold is to speak my truth, with a healthy detachment around outcomes and not try to make everything and everyone okay. Some things are not okay in this particular time and space. Speaking up is paramount. My inner battle is about dealing with THAT.

My battle is also one of impatience. I may seem very patient but inwardly I am not. I am always rushing. I want everything to move at a rapid, electric and inspiring rate. I am bored with the pace of things. I want inspiration and dynamism. Sometimes (and mostly with those I love most) I am a lousy listener because, well, my inner battle says “I just don’t have the time.”

What is your battle? There are thousands.

We are jealous, addicted, grieving, in pain. We are betrayed, feeling insignificant, wanting more, afraid. We are battling with our bodies and all their perceived imperfections.

We are unexpressed, angry and repressing it or angry and expressing it. We think life is unfair, our parents are to blame. We are guilty, numb. We feel alone. We feel hopeless.

I could go on. I can find myself in any number of battles. Can you? They are the battles that divert us from realizing the truth and depth of who we truly are. They are the burning grounds that we walk until we don’t, until we are done, until we can set ourselves free.

After 100 workshops and 200 books and 300 deep discussions with friends and family, I have found a few ways to quiet the battle. I need at least one of these:

solitude breath or sound movement writing

In solitude, I can to feel the boundary of myself and the vastness of the infinite. I can listen more deeply to what is at work within. I find peace and perspective in the quiet of the solitary self.

I breathe (or sometimes chant or meditate) my way into perspective and a connection with that which is greater than I am. I remember my place in the whole. I can sometimes forget my little self in our oneness. I recognize our connection.

I move my body to a place of fatigue where even my thoughts (or my battle) can’t keep up. I empty myself through movement. Then too, I move and find the joy. I dance. I stretch. I remember the beauty of being alive in a body.

I write my way into a quiet calm. I write all the gunk, all the doubt — I write, in fact, the battle. I carve out space for what is true and welcome that. It is always a relief. Writing has been, above all, the great tool for growth in my life.

And you? I invite you, my dear friends and readers, to find the ways to help you quiet the inner storm. I know we’re all already doing that. But sometimes its just good to be reminded— like the quote on my mother’s mirror did for me.

I invite you to talk with those wiser than yourself, to seek solace through a creative life, to talk truthfully with your potent inner circle and to build an inner circle if you feel currently bereft. I invite you to experiment and to be gentle with yourself when it doesn’t work. I invite you to witness yourself more often. I invite you to be compassionate and kind with your very self. And each day, I invite you to extend that to at least one other.

Let's all be struck again--for a moment -- by the simplicity and power of this invitation. Be kind. Why?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

Big love, Heidi Rose

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