Category Archives: Peace

Alice, Bunnies, Potatoes, and Grapes

Rabbit Hole: “A metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully (or troublingly) surreal state or situation.

Dictionary.com

While I never fell down the white rabbit hole of addiction, I teetered close enough to its edge to peer into the darkness and have compassion for those who have fallen.

My drug of choice wasn’t even a drug. It was, in fact, a very legal substance conceived by the union of potatoes and brewers’ yeast. Once in a while, the child of fermented grapes was a guest at my dinner table. Sometimes there was actually food at that table.

My trip to the edge of the rabbit hole had a benign beginning … as do all things that are eventually taken to the extreme. And although the men on the chessboard never got up to tell me where to go, I did occasionally hear the white knight talking backward. And many a morning my head felt as if someone had followed the red queen’s orders., “Off with her head!”

But at some point, stories of addiction began to resonate with me. The online ads and memes that were supposed to be funny no longer made me laugh. Nights of overdrinking were followed by mornings of regret. 

Meanwhile, studies came out trying to justify all types of drinking. Wine is good for you, they boasted. Look at the French. They eat rich, fatty foods, and they don’t have a cholesterol problem!

One study went so far as to boast that people who drank more than three drinks per day had a decreased risk of contracting dementia. This led to a plethora of online reactions, most of which were a variation on the “I’m way behind on my drinking” theme.

The fact that alcohol companies that stood to gain the most financially were sponsoring those “studies” did nothing to stop the spread of misinformation.

The rabbit hole beckoned louder and louder, and the rabbits ran faster and faster as I tried to contain their enthusiasm to get me to jump.

Even though the potatoes and grapes often made me feel 10 feet tall, I realized that if I kept chasing those rabbits, I was going to fall. And no matter how hard the caterpillar tried, it would never turn into a butterfly.

And so, I stopped.  Drinking, that is.

Logic and proportion never fell sloppy dead. I just stopped.

There was no fanfare, no rehab, no physical withdrawal.

With the support of my guides — both human and spiritual — I JUST STOPPED.

That was more than two and a half years ago.

“What’s your secret for staying sober?” people ask me.

It’s simple, really. I stopped drinking alcohol. And the benefits far outweigh whatever pleasure alcohol seemed to provide.

Will I ever drink again? I don’t know.

Perhaps Alice knows. You should ask her.

If there’s one thing I know for sure after all my years on this planet, it’s that we should never say never. Just when you think life’s your bitch, she slaps you upside the head with an unexpected blow and says, “Who’s the bitch now?”

In the meantime, I’ve learned to feed my head with things the dormouse would approve of.

Will you do the same?

———

White Rabbit” — Words and music by Grace Slick, Performed by Jefferson Airplane

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Filed under Alcohol, Peace, sobriety, spirituality, Wisdom

Conspiracy Theories

Holy wars have been around since holy first became a thing. 

We think of them as something right out of the dust-covered books of ancient history. But holy wars are very much with us, and you and I fight them every day.

Holy wars prompt visions of dying for the sanctity of religious beliefs. But since life itself is sacred, every war —whether within or without — every argument, every disagreement, every difference of opinion, is a holy war. It is an invitation to die for the beliefs we cling to emotionally, no matter how absurd the rational mind considers them to be.

Whether you believe a political or spiritual figure is a god or a demon, you’re right. Because your experiences gave birth to the beliefs that grew up to be your truth. Your truth stirs emotions that can’t be explained away.

But beliefs are not truths. And your truth is not the truth. 

Yet we confuse speaking our truth with convincing someone to make it their truth. Therein lies the problem.

It’s the spark that ignites holy wars.

By all means, speak your truth. Choose your armor. Defend your beliefs. But pick your battles wisely, and fight them like a peaceful warrior, not an absolute tyrant.

Never surrender without being heard. Never allow someone else’s voice — no matter how loud or how silent — to speak for you. 

But allow your “enemy” the right to do the same. Respect others. Listen. Then let the Universe take it from there. 

Feel what it’s like to wear the colors of your opponent’s country. Retreat to compromise, to create a Universal truth greater than your own.

Because when you don’t — when you stubbornly stand your ground like a toddler having a ‘Me, me, me!’ fit in a toy store — everyone loses.

What does all this have to do with conspiracy theories? Absolutely nothing. Yet if I had titled this article Holy Wars (as had been my original intent), I may not have lured you to pay attention.

In that respect, this piece has everything to do with conspiracy theories. Because when you are lured into battles that engage your emotions, you are thrown into the front lines of half-truths that lead to holy wars.

Your words are your weapons to peace.

Choose them wisely.

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Filed under COVID-19, Pandemic, Peace, sobriety, spirituality

The slingshot, adultery, and forgiveness

No matter what your religion of choice, you have most likely heard the story of David, the boy who slew the giant Goliath with a slingshot and grew up to ascend the throne of Israel and become its king.

But if that’s all we remember about him, we miss so much of what made this baffled king worthy of the title.

David was no saint. In the Olympics of sinning, he is one of the Bible’s gold medal winners.

God constantly tested David to bring out the best in him. In the process, it also brought out the not-so-best in him. 

David was already king when he faced — and lost — his greatest battle.

He’s the one who inspired Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah.” 

His faith was strong but he needed proof
He saw her bathing on the roof

The bathing woman was Bathsheba, and David just had to have her!

But there was one small problem. Bathsheba was married. David, however, wouldn’t let that detail get in the way.

So, he did what was in his power to make the problem go away. He sent Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to the front lines of battle so he would be killed. 

Problem solved.

“But wait,” you say. “I don’t like that David. I prefer the little guy with the slingshot. Why did you bring up that lying, cheating, murderer and ruin the story for me?”

Why?

Because it’s by “ruining” the story that you learn its greatest lesson.

It’s later in the narrative, when David recognizes what he has done, that he becomes an even greater king. 

But the road between recognition and repentance is littered with guilt and regret.

It’s a cold and it’s a very broken Hallelujah

In a secular translation: Recognizing his sin and vowing to never do it again, leads David to the peace and purpose he had been so desperately seeking. 

He must also recognize that God put temptation in his path and allowed him to sin for the very purpose of bringing them closer together.

God does the same for us. She uses our humanity, our flaws, and through the trial by the fire of Her unconditional love, transforms us.


Love is not some kind of victory march; It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

You don’t relate to the God thing?

OK, let me again translate this lesson so you can understand it in a secular context to which you can better relate.

If we never do really, really “bad” things — if we never miss the mark (which, by the way, is what the word “sin” means) — we can never have compassion for those whose humanity leads them to stumble over and over again.

“The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song,” its composer said. “So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

I’m not advocating committing a moral misstep so that you get closer to God. But I am suggesting that you shed the sins of your past, and know that it’s by accepting your flaws that you touch the unconditional love of Eternity.

And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand right here before the Lord of song
With nothing, nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Give thanks. Embrace your flaws. Rejoice in them. Because it’s only those who are most flawed who can fully open themselves to receive Life’s gifts.

Hallelujah (k.d Lang) – words and music by Leonard Cohen

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Filed under Peace, relationships, Uncategorized

That moment when …

 

Sunrise on the Gulf Coast

Sunrise in Henderson Point, Mississippi. — Copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni

 

… you realize that glass of wine you just poured yourself is just a band-aid on your broken dreams.

That moment when you remember there are no quick fixes.  You want results?  Do the work.

That moment when you surrender to the fact that the most productive thing you can do when things appear to be at their worse is to stop and give thanks. Because when you force your overactive mind to its knees, the Universe steps in and says, “I got this.”

That moment when you recognize that jealousy and envy are poisons keeping you from enjoying the bounty that God created especially for you.

That moment when it finally registers that your heart is smarter than your head, and you start listening with your soul instead of your mind.

That moment when the line between right and wrong is obliterated because you notice that your internal moral compass is much more accurate than that of the one set by society.

That moment when you stop feeling guilty for being “selfish.”

That moment when you relinquish your need to be right.

That moment when you take back control of your life from those who “mean well” and are only “looking out for your best.”

That moment when you awaken from the hypnotic spell of the list of things you should be doing and start doing those things whose only merit is that you like doing them.

That moment when you comprehend that fitness and health are not the same. Because when you stop forcing your body to fit the unrealistic mold Madison Avenue has created for you, you finally achieve the healthy body you were meant to have.

That moment when you accept that you may never achieve fame and fortune by worldly standards.  But you will inspire people in more personal ways and doing so, you will fulfill your purpose for being here.

That moment when you remember less is more.

That moment when you discover your prayers are constantly being answered.

That moment when it hits you … you’re not going to live forever.

That moment when you discover that moment is now.

And now is all there is.

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Filed under Peace, sobriety, spirituality

Really, there’s nothing wrong …

Waveland

Waveland Mississippi Pier – copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni

 

That overwhelming sense of sadness that suddenly descends upon you … when there’s absolutely nothing wrong.

We all feel it.

If we look around, things on the surface look pretty darn good. We have everything we want, except that a nagging feeling of melancholy keeps hovering over our hearts like a Category 1 hurricane waiting to happen.  It may not cause a lot of damage, but it’s annoying enough to damper our mood for a while.

It’s a type of melancholy that makes teenage angst seem like an endorphin high on speed.

But why are we so afraid to admit that something is wrong?  Not just to others, but to ourselves? Is it because we fear that if we accept that there’s an emptiness inside us that nothing seems to fulfill we’ll finally have to find a way to fulfill it?

Better to be in denial and stay busy, right?  Maybe it will just go away.

But IT doesn’t.  And the more we pretend IT is not there … the moment we turn on the television, reach for our smartphone for the latest alert, troll through social media, IT is sitting right beside us, crowding our space, making us even more miserable than we already were.

And speaking of social media.  How’s that for a humbling experience, showing us that compared to others, our lives completely suck?  So, get with it!  Don’t just sit there, go do something productive to show your worth and post it on Facebook!

At the end of a day of aimlessly running around being “productive,” we reach for a glass of wine, or two, or 15, to take the edge off, but no amount of alcohol will drown out the truth that’s longing to come to the surface.  The truth that despite all the noise surrounding us every day, there’s something missing.

We grew up to be who we wanted to be, but along the way, we lost who we were.

Now, let’s face it.  All is not doom and gloom and I simply exaggerate just a tiny bit to get your attention.  I tend to do that. (Go ahead, roll your eyes in acknowledgement. I’ll take it as a compliment.)

There are moments when we glimpse happiness and fulfillment. Moments when we gaze into our significant other’s eyes, when we cuddle with our pets, when we watch our children grow up to be amazing people, when we laugh our asses off over the antics of animal videos on the internet, when we dance naked alone in our kitchens as if nobody’s watching and suddenly, somebody is. (I’m making that up. I only dance naked in the living room.)

But those moments are few and far between because we’re so busy doing all the ancillary stuff of life that real life passes us by.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans – Allen Saunders  

So what is IT?

IT is that little voice inside of us, screaming for us to STOP! – Stop before our bodies break down and force us to do so. Stop before we look back and realize we missed so much frantically doing so little.

And how do we tame IT?

By doing the exact opposite of what we’ve been doing.

Instead of adding more to our already overflowing glutton-envying plate of to-do lists and tasks, we need to put down our forks, step away from the table and go for a nice long walk. (Or dance naked in the living room, if that sounds like something you might like.)

IT is a cranky toddler screaming for attention. But IT knows what’s best for you.   Because IT is the you that you lost somewhere between the playground and the office conference room.

And the only way to quiet IT is to do … nothing… except the hardest thing of all …

Listen.

 

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Filed under Grief, hurricanes, Peace, Sadness, spirituality, Uncategorized

Judgment and Expectations …

Serenity

Serenity along the Gulf Coast in Waveland, Mississippi – Copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni

 

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” — Unknown

All of our disappointments come from unfulfilled expectations and pre-conceived beliefs of how things should and shouldn’t be. They are the reference points we use to judge if something is good or bad, right or wrong.

If our expectations aren’t met, we are quick to label the feeling of disappointment as “bad.”  On the flip side, if we do something that makes us happy, but we believe it’s “wrong” because doing things for ourselves is “selfish,”  we add a dollop of guilt to the ice cream and miss out on the “guilty pleasure.”

But why should we feel guilty about pleasure?  Does guilt absolve us of our “sins” any more than saying ten Hail Marys absolved us of the sins we exposed in the confessional as children? (You Catholic children of long ago know exactly what I mean.)

Most of our expectations and beliefs are self-imposed, crafted from the residual fibers of the protective garments given to us by our parents, our teachers, and the society in which we grew up … garments meant to protect us from life’s harsh climate.

But many of those garments are no longer in style.  Some we have outgrown and should have been discarded long ago.  But because they are sewn into the fabric of our being, we continue to wear them, adding additional layers of emotional clothing on top, suffocating the very life force struggling to free us from the prison of our past.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” — Margaret Meade

Unfortunately, we took our early life lessons at face value and never learned to completely think for ourselves. We entered adulthood believing the boogeyman still lived in the closet and children in countries we’d never heard of would die if we didn’t eat everything on our plates.

Is it any wonder we’ve grown up to be a nation where mental illness and obesity are so prevalent?

But what if we entered each day with no preconceived notions or judgments of what is good or bad or right or wrong?  What if we had no expectations?

What if we put on our grownup pants and simply lived life day by day, absorbing the gifts each moment has to give without spoiling them with expectations of how things should or shouldn’t be?

Would we be better off?  Would we be more fulfilled and enjoy life more if we simply stopped expecting and started living?

Could we miss something we didn’t get if we hadn’t expected to get it?

“You can’t lose something you never had” –                                                                            Kate Hudson, ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’

Do you miss not having brothers and sisters?

It’s a question I’m often asked when people find out I’m an only child.

But how can I miss something I never had?

Sure, I can imagine what it must be like to have a sibling, or two. But miss it? No, I can’t possibly miss an experience I’ve never had.

It’s like asking a person who is blind from birth if they miss seeing. They have no concept of seeing with their eyes, no reference point by which to judge a visual perception of the world.  So, no, they don’t miss seeing because their reference point doesn’t include sight as we know it.

Let’s take it one step further. What if we eliminated the reference points we use to judge right from wrong?

We use religion as a barometer to keep us “moral.”

What if the 10 Commandments were not meant to be taken literally?

I’m not suggesting we rename them the 10 Suggestions. I am suggesting we expand our understanding of them, and all religious beliefs, to free us, rather than inhibit us.

Ten Commandments aside, many of the religious “laws” we were taught are man-made.

Eating meat on Fridays, for example, meant an eternity of hellfire when I was growing up Catholic in Brooklyn.  I always felt sorry for my Jewish friends who were going to hell because apparently no one had told them that eating a Hebrew National hot dog on Friday meant eternal damnation.

This all started sounding very fishy to me as I began to question religious authority. And had I had the benefit of Google at the time, I would have learned that since it is believed Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross on a Friday, Christians set aside Fridays to unite with Christ’s suffering.

By not eating meat? Oh, please.

I’m not saying we should live life breaking all the rules and thinking only of ourselves as if there weren’t other people on the planet. But how amazing would it be if we lived life as it was meant to be … free of expectations, taking each precious moment and savoring it, sprinkling it with gratitude for the miracle that we are given at the beginning of each new day.

I’m full of questions today. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers that will work for you.  I only have answers that work for me.

Are you ready for serenity? Release the expectations and judgments that are keeping you grounded and welcome acceptance.

Then watch the magic happen. Peace.

 

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Filed under Barbara Besteni, Peace, Uncategorized