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Spontaneous Overflow Reflecting in Tranquility

The Official Blog of Michael Schoenhofer, Executive Director

Trust or Fear? It’s a Choice

When I retired over a year ago, my wife, Mary, and I planned to spend much of our time traveling the world. Well, that plan changed dramatically in March. So, we refocused from going to far-off places to making trips closer to home.

We love camping and hiking so, as soon as the state parks reopened, we packed up our tent and headed out. Recently we went for a week of camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. With highs in the low 50s and the lows at night in the 40s, we felt the cold. Our campfires in the evening and the morning were warming. We discovered the joy of a hot cup of coffee in front of a roaring fire watching the sunrise. And the peace of sitting in front of the same fire with a hot cup of tea and watching the sunset.

When we are at home, I rarely notice the sunrise or sunset, a change in temperature, or a refreshing breeze. We lock the windows and doors every night to feel more secure. But out at the campsite, we are more exposed to the elements and part of a little community of fellow campers in a tent. It's like a village that exists for a few nights.

It’s funny that we have never felt insecure while camping, even though we can’t lock up our tent. We’ve found most people to be kind, considerate, and even generous. On this recent trip, a fellow camper lent me his ax to chop firewood when he saw that I was trying to manage an enormous chunk of wood with my hatchet. Another camper lent us some duct tape when one of our tent poles split. During a high wind event one morning, a fellow camper got us out of our sleeping bags shouting into our tent, “Get out of the tent! Get out of the tent! Your rain shelter is collapsing.”

A few years ago, during some difficult circumstances and challenging decisions, I thought about people as friends or enemies. Those on my side were allies, and those on the other side were aliens. And I realized that I often divided people into groups. It was at that moment I realized I had a choice to make. I could trust in people, have faith in them, and be occasionally disappointed, or I could be cynical and mistrusting and be occasionally disappointed. Did I want to live in a constant state of mistrust, fear, and cynicism? Or did I want to live in a state of peacefulness, kindness, and empathy? Whichever path I chose, I would occasionally be disappointed. I made a choice for trust over mistrust, a choice I have to make repeatedly.

It is easy to divide the world into those I trust and those I do not. Into believers and unbelievers. Into allies and aliens. Friends or Foes. And the stress and upset harm my inner peace, physical well-being, and even the relationships with those I love and care about the most.

Amid turmoil, confusion, and fear, we can step back for a moment to notice the fear, anger, and mistrustful thoughts arising. I can choose whether I want these thoughts to control me, or whether I want to make another choice for inner peace, a generous spirit, and gratitude. I can start by refocusing attention from head to heart. In times of distress and chaos, the heart is a more reliable guide. Can I take a moment to offer peace, healing, and strength to myself, my family, my neighbor, and let that peacefulness extend out over the county, the state, the country, and the world?

Loving Kindness meditation is a simple way to step back from fear, anger, and anxiousness. It is a way we can extend peacefulness in this simple formula. Say:

  • May we be safe and healthy.

  • May we be peaceful and truly happy.

  • May we be free of suffering and worry.

  • May we be free of fear and anxiety.

  • May we live with inner peace and well-being.

We have an opportunity right now to make a different choice. When we look for love and peacefulness in ourselves, we can see it everywhere and in everyone.

May you be free of suffering and worry.

May you be at peace.


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