New York, Friday, June 29, 2007

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Grandmother land. Photo by Eric Francis.
Grandmother land. Photo by Eric Francis.

A Post-it Note to Self and Others
By Judith Gayle

LIFE HAS gotten awfully complicated -- I remember when it wasn't, or at least it didn't seem like it was. Oh, there were challenges, problems, situations -- all had to be handled in a timely fashion. But they came into my life in an orderly manner, a few a month. They didn't tumble down on me like a landslide, day after day, causing my "to do" list to be shoved to the rear of my desk and making me put on my fireman's hat to spend time putting out the situational fires of the moment. Now, with Mercury doing its retrograde tippy-toe in the heavens, what might have been a two- or three-step process to problem solve has turned into triple that, and the results are leaving me worn out and annoyed. It might be funny, to anyone looking in: a kind of Keystone Cop race and chase, bonk and pratfall, retro-style. It might be funny -- but I'm not laughing much. I don't have time between events.

There is a frustration level in my house -- probably in yours, and from what I can tell, across the globe -- that is astounding. It's no wonder people are so combustible, overreacting and doing either silly or tragic things in response. There's a kind of pressure cooker mentality going on at the moment. A quick look at the astrology, which I'll leave to others this week, tells it all. I've never seen it like this...honest...and I've been "at astrology" more than forty years. The universe is telling us in no uncertain terms that it's not like it used to be, not "business as usual" -- in the heavens, in the nation, in the world. That old, comfortably familiar "as usual" is something I think we're going to have to learn to live without.

We need an updated set of skills to deal with our current reality, a new way to handle this increased tempo and to cope with the fallout. Just the process of reprioritizing what's important takes a lot of juice, especially if we're still entertaining nostalgia for how it used to be.

There is one social stratum that may not notice just how amped up everything has become, because they're perpetually in that mode -- young parents. When I talk to my daughter, the mother of a five- and an eight-year-old, there is a constant barrage of background noise that I remember well; howls, screams, squabbles, and the sound of objects hitting the ground, occasionally shattering. Rebecca is, as are all excellent moms, constantly on duty and wearing all the hats -- referee, boo-boo kisser, maid and chauffeur, encourager and discourager, teacher (and student) and at all times, compassionate judge and jury. Big work, that. And it seems as though that ever-vigilant energy that constantly monitors the household in young families is now required in the lives of everyone. We are obligated to pay attention, respond to the moment and stay in the now, or suffer the consequences. I'm tired just thinking about it.

In most of our daily challenges, we find ourselves pitted against systems designed to reduce us to numbers, impersonal and distant -- but eventually we make our way to people, little foot soldiers in the world of business. Given the climate of the energies, they're likely cranky, frustrated, saddened and put-upon people...maybe, just like us. Because I'm a big believer that simplicity is usually the best course of action, and that recreating the wheel is way too much work, I've put together some guidelines to help us manage the moment. I'll share them with you; take what works and discard the rest. I'd think that most of this is what we learned in kindergarten, to borrow a book title; none of this is new, although we sometimes get lost in the haze of social complexity and forget how easy the essentials are. Well, easy to remember, anyhow, and to put on a Post-it note -- I'll list them in ascending order of difficulty.

1. Be kind. I'm offering this not only as a moral exercise, but as a defensive measure. People are ticked off, tired out and upset -- by the time they get to you, they've already had their fill of snotty responses. In a normal interaction (not one in which people are seeking your power or attempting to quash your authenticity), give a little; swallow that snide comment you were going to make, put yourself in their shoes, seek conciliation. I did that today, with a complaint I received. It would have been easy to get my buttons pushed -- I initially launched into an internal dialogue: OK,'s not enough that I blog for 14 hours a day, doing the heavy lifting on the nastiest politics we've seen in decades, now they want...yadda, ad infinitum. (Taking that little moment to let off the steam slows the boil; don't forget that step, but make it short.) And, of course, that isn't how I responded; Political Waves offers a service based on collaboration, and the "service" portion is a higher calling than just providing one. Besides, who knows what kind of day the writer had had, passing that energy along to me. I put on my "let's see what I can do about that" hat. The interaction immediately smoothed itself out and ended pleasantly. People are expecting to have to battle for what they want, while what they really want is just someone to cooperate with them. Try it, go the extra mile. It doesn't hurt much, and it works for both parties.

2. Be quiet. By that I don't mean shut yourself up in your room for days on end and don't come out, although you can do that from time to time if you need to -- just be sure everyone knows it's temporary. Being quiet simply means we need to shut off the mind chatter as often as we can. When we're quiet, we hear things we wouldn't have if we were otherwise occupied making stuff up in our head. We can hear the motives that remain unspoken in a conversation and factor them in to get to the heart of it, hear the sorrow behind a friend's laughter and offer tenderness, hear the anger that might erupt at any moment and move to soothe it. Really listening to people gives us all the information we need to work toward a win-win solution. And when we're listening, that Still, Small Voice that gives the best advice doesn't need to compete for our attention.

3. Be patient. Life takes time. It would be wonderful if light bulbs actually did click on above people's heads, but that hasn't been my experience. There is a process that takes place between people which is much like the direct/retro dance that planets do. When we are in action mode, we are creating reality on the spot -- when we are in reflection mode, we are reconsidering our actions and reviewing the concepts that inform us. Minds change during the reflection stage; behaviors follow. Instant gratification, as hooked on it as we are, isn't what happens in relationships; relationships grow, like a garden. They need nurture, attention...and time. Early in my spiritual training, I was told that relationships are like semiprecious stones put into a tumbler -- the more they rub against one another, smack against rough and jagged edges, the more beautiful and polished they become. So try to be patient with the tumbling process, and remind yourself, if you need to, that what other people think really isn't any of your business; it's what you think that creates your life and opportunity.

4. Be open. It's normal enough in these combative days to want to self-protect and close ourselves off, but closing down doesn't complete a circuit, does it? If we're doing steps 1 through 3, then we should be able to intuit where we are in any given situation, what unspoken forces are at work, and how to proceed without the kind of knee-jerk emotional explosion we've become accustomed to lately. I saw a TV program about "being lucky" a few weeks ago, and it turns out that people who are open...emotionally available, friendly, trusting...are the ones who often get the "lucky" break. That's really a matter of synchronicity -- when we combine our energy with another person's, there is a larger morphic field established. The same principle that works in networking works in remaining open to new people and experiences. We have no idea what there is to learn, to give, to gain in the company of others unless we put aside judgments and open ourselves to discover who they are. Even if all we have to exchange is a smile and a silent Namasté, that in itself will change the vibration of the other and add to the light of the world. Don't be stingy with yourself -- nobody wins when we wall ourselves off.

5. Be peace. This one's the hardest, because it comes with no expectation of a response from others -- peace is an inside job. Coming to an internal place of peacefulness is the product of flexing spiritual muscles, such as steps 1 through 4, above. Being peace means practicing it, and in case you had concerns, it isn't wimpy or weak. Peace is as gentle as gossamer and as strong as steel. If someone wants to fight with you, can you be peace? If someone wants to change your mind, arguing and insisting on your agreement, can you be peace? If you are attacked or victimized or insulted or misjudged, can you be peace? Peace is a signal we give out to the world. It comes to inhabit us when we're comfortable in our own skin, when we have nothing to prove, when we go within to meet needs, when we understand that being something is more powerful than wanting, having, doing something. Peace is a resonance that cannot be jangled, shattered or swayed. Like love, it simply is.

Being peace is a whole life maybe it doesn't belong on this list. Or perhaps, in these new energies in which we find ourselves, it absolutely does belong, asking us to step into new, inclusive, collaborative energy -- kind, quiet, patient, open and full of compassion for our brothers and sisters. We make the future together, and a peaceful world can only be created by peaceful minds. When we change who we are, the world will recreate itself. It's what we've waited for; it's what we're working for. I'm posting it on the fridge -- how about you?

CREDITS: Managing Editor: Priya Kale. Webmaster: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Proofreader and Fact checker: Sara Churchville. Horoscope Editor: Jessica Keet.

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