A Smack-Talking Fast (or an attempt, anyway)

The lenten season is upon us! I know, while I talk a lot about spirituality on here, I generally stay away gotmailfrom what could be defined as “religion” … because (1) I don’t want anyone to get the idea that this is an exclusive club for one faith or another, and (2) that kind of talk can make people nervous. I get it. My relationship with God is individualized exclusively to me.

I suppose another reason is because I see a lot of value in many different faiths … they all have great things to teach and wonderful concepts to apply to everyday living. If someone held a gun to my head, I’d say I’m episcopalian, but it’s more like Buddhist-opalian. I love the sacred rituals of the divine liturgy, but I also love the wisdom of dharma.

So that brings me back to lent. I’ve given up different things with varying degrees of success (never touched a packet of Splenda again after giving it up in ’13 … but when I gave up swearing in 2012 I didn’t even make it through the drive to the office on Ash Wednesday morning). This year I agonized over the choice between shopping or sweets, even thinking about chucking both.

But the real inspiration didn’t hit me until Ash Wednesday, which this year found me traveling across the country for a combo work trip-vacation. I decided I would do my best to give up speaking negatively about other people. At first I just started with “coworkers” – where my offenses are worst – but decided I needed to broaden it to include everyone. Including me!

One time, I heard the ultimate way to practice this – never, EVER talk about someone unless they are in the room and part of your conversation. (In practical terms, that can be difficult, but the intent is marvelous.)

I’ll admit it’s not always been easy, and I’ve failed a couple of times, but overall, I think it’s getting better. And even stopping myself when I can see I’m headed down the path, pulling back to either say something “neutral,” or to just keep silent, really puts me in a whole different frame of mind. Instead of just firing off, I have to be mindful and choose different words – or no words at all.

In a way I’m seeing this as an experiment to try out the spiritual laws of the universe. I absolutely know that what I give out, I will in turn receive. So what if I give more positivity, more love?

It’s not an overnight transformation, but there are payoffs. Today I got impatient when I was behind a driver who clearly wasn’t sure of where he was going. But I reminded myself of all the times I’ve been in that exact same situation myself … and my gentleness and patience were both found. I’ve been able to look at total strangers with a spirit of love, looking beyond their outer appearances and into their very humanity.

It’s powerful. I know I won’t be perfect but I at least strive to be better, especially toward the folks who’ve gotten under my skin. I do my best to bless them, love them, release them. My reward is a more peaceful state of being.

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Andrew Hines

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