Sometimes you have to cover many miles to discover relief during troubled times. For me, I traveled from Alaska to Antarctica, camera gear in tow.
Little did I know, I’d be forced to focus on more than cute penguins…
First, a little background…
Somewhere between Seattle, Washington and Santiago, Chile I read that happiness is natural for us humans. Hard to believe, right?
Especially with fake news, sirens, TV, and barking dogs.
But when you think about it,
troubled times are nothing new
Consider the Bubonic Plague, World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Irish Potato Famine.
And let’s not forget: When Jesus Christ walked on the earth, water and fertile soil were scarce. There was a fair amount of sickness. And when King Herod died in 4 BC, political turmoil and religious unrest erupted.
Yet he proved to the world that, “the power of love, understanding, forgiveness, and compassion is far greater, far more lasting, than the destructiveness of hate.” So writes Brother Chidenanda, a Self Realization Fellowship monk.
Breathe, sister, breathe because…
We can take courage from Christ’s example
“Know that with every good thought and act you, too, are bringing more of God’s love into this world,” he says.
It’s possible, you see.
In his book “Blueprint,” Yale professor Nicholas Christakis writes that love, friendship, and cooperation are hard-wired in humans.
Hold that idea as we revisit thoughts and actions…
When you think good thoughts and do good deeds, wonderful transformations take place in your life.
These changes may be subtle at first.
But it’s real.
Velveteen Rabbit real.
More real than what your senses — smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight — want you to believe.
Christ encourages us (note the present tense) to live by the commandment he supremely emphasized.
Like me, you’ve probably read or heard this a million times, but let’s read it again together:
Love God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind,
and with all thy strength;
and thy neighbor as thyself.
But how to do that, in a world
that seems so loud, restless, and busy?
I asked myself the same question during a recent trip to Antarctica.
I traveled on a cruise ship with 300 other world citizens from Germany, Israel, the U.K., Australia, and Italy. In groups, we hiked up snowy peaks to watch penguins navigate their highways, kayak through ice chunks, and stare at piles of whale bones, humbled.
Toward the end of our cruise, the ship visited the Falkland Islands, east of Argentina. We jostled for prime positions at an albatross/penguin rookery. Twice, we celebrated our luck by nibbling on homemade cookie (biscuits) and coffee at a beach house.
Seeing penguins for the first time was met with a flurry of direct photos, selfie photos, and smartphone videos. People exclaimed their excitement to anyone who happened to be nearby. Many blah-blahed into their phones.
Would you please be quiet!
Human chatter has its place, but in Antarctica, it felt like fingernails on my mental blackboard.
While visiting the White Continent, I expected to hear penguin grunts (imagine thousands of Chewbaccas from Star Wars), take in clean air, feel breezes on my cheeks, and watch albatrosses soar gracefully.
And perhaps pick up a few ethereal sounds from abandoned whaling stations?
I shot lots of video footage but quickly realized that the sounds of birds, whales, and grasses moving in the wind were tarnished with human voices.
Frustration set it.
Emailing, half a planet away
I reached out for help by composing an email to my counselor in Florida. The Internet was good, believe it or not.
She encouraged me to renew and recharge by going off by myself whenever possible, to seek solitude and peace in nature. In this case, penguin colonies.
As for achieving tranquility aboard the ship?
“The same thing,” she said. “Find a quiet place and sit in stillness, even for a few minutes.”
So I did.
For example, I’d get up early, grab a cup of coffee, and then climb the stairs (officially “ladder” on a ship) to the upper deck to watch for whales.
And each day I carved out a few minutes to meditate.
If you’ve never meditated, now’s the time to learn…
A beginner’s guide to meditation (6:48 with nice music):
Hey! Peace and happiness is your right
Okay. This is important: In this zoo of life, you can find peace.
Creating more calmness in your life though begins not with reading this blog post or listening to a podcast.
“It starts with consenting to change thought,” says Mark Sappenfield, editor of the Christian Science Monitor. In his opening comments to the January 13, 2020 issue, he’s referring to steps needed to adopt a Zero waste behavior.
Still, they rang true.
“The first step, in other words, is simply being willing to do something differently.”
And you have to be willing again and again.
Which means you’ll need to step out of a well-trodden path where the masses are slogging along, like these king penguins heading to the beach:
One more thing…
Brother Chidananda reminds us that “whatever differences may seem to divide us in this realm of maya [delusion], they are superficial.”
As I stood at the rail, sipping coffee, I noticed that my frustrations began drifting away with the icebergs.
I hope this post provides some answers, some helpful tools.
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time,
P.S. Just curious: How do YOU cope with troubled times? Leave a comment below so we can share ideas.
You might also enjoy:
1. An uplifting article: Three personal stories to prove that miracles do happen
2. A personal story: Insights • Inspirations • Gratitude • Joy • Peace
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Marion Owen is on a mission to help busy people survive day-to-day life by condensing topics such as photography, cooking, and organic gardening into bite-size pieces. Get Marion’s free 4-page “In Good Light: Photo Tips for Busy People” to feel newly recharged when taking pictures.