Homework: Law of Balance

A prompt from 13 Steps to Awakening:

Homework

  • Find all the areas in your life that are out of balance where you paid less than what you received (and not just in terms of money). Now find the duality that they are a part of to figure out what you need to do to balance the other side of the equation. Discuss how you are going to follow the Law of Balance once you finish the course and how you will know if it is working in your life.

This is a difficult, though intriguing, assignment. I understand what Alex means by the law of balance, or at least I think I do. But I have consciously tried to avoid putting things in my life on a scale to measure them. To do so feels as though I assume others are out to cheat me or that I am out to get more than I deserve. Ignoring the balance makes it possible for me to live as though I do not care.

In fact, lessons from my childhood emphasized the importance of doing more for others than others do for me. This is most easily accomplished by not taking credit for what I do or hiding my part in something from those who benefit. But after reading the lesson connected with the law of balance, I can see that even this in fact ensures my life is out of balance, even if my objective is not self-centered.

In my spiritual life, I know that I have already received the gift of grace, a gift I do not deserve. And in response, I offer the gifts I can give–my time, my talents, and my treasures–through my church as well as through charities and civil society organizations for the betterment of society in general. I do not expect anything in return, though I almost always discover my gifts return to me in unexpected ways through the friendships formed with others in my church or other organizations. I believe these actions and observations keep my life in balance.

In my personal life, I expect the best from those around me, in large part because I know I will likely never receive more than I expect. But if others react to me with less enthusiasm, less good will, or less generosity, I try not to behave as though I am a mirror, reflecting back what I received. I prefer to react as though I am a lamp, shining light on what is hidden from view. Time after time I learn that when I feel annoyed, there is usually something I misunderstood or never knew at all that, once revealed, takes away my reason for being annoyed. So long as I can keep that in mind, I can keep my mind and heart open to my surroundings and everyone in it.

The above prompt is part of the fourth of 13 free lessons, developed by Alex Moses, Life Strategist, available on the A Life Answers website, shared with his permission.

Homework: Conditioning

A prompt from 13 Steps to Awakening:

Homework

  • Think of how your negative conditioning harmed you in the past. Describe a few situations where you acted out of unconscious negative conditioning patterns and discuss what happened and why.
    • Many years ago, I arrived in a new country for yet another assignment. There I would supervise several American employees as well as a number of locally hired employees.

      On my first day in the office, one of the Americans I would supervise–let’s call him Phil–told me that he had been given permission by my boss to take some time off once I arrived since he had been handling both his job and mine for the previous two months. He planned to leave the following Wednesday after work. On that day, Phil still hadn’t given me a leave slip. So I brought home a copy to bring to Phil’s house. Phil seemed annoyed. I explained that if he left without having approved leave, I would consider him AWOL–Away Without Official Leave. Phil filled out part of the form and signed it, but he didn’t fill in the dates. I added the following Saturday’s date as the start date and asked him how long he thought he’d be gone–one week, two weeks, longer? He replied two weeks would probably be enough. So I filled in the end date for two weeks from then.

      The following Saturday morning, I found a fax on the office fax machine, from Phil. It was a copy of his Army reserve orders to report on Monday to Frankfurt, Germany, for a period of 13 weeks. It was dated the week before I arrived in the country.

      He knew before leaving how long he would be gone, but he chose not to tell me. I was shocked. And angry.

      I contacted the officer who had signed Phil’s orders and explained that I wanted Phil to return from his assignment as soon as possible. He suggested I speak with someone at the Pentagon about USERRA–the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994–which he said guaranteed Phil he could be gone for whatever length of time the orders covered. It also guaranteed he would get his job back when he returned. He did agree with me that Phil did not handle informing me of the situation very well, but there was nothing I could do to change Phil’s orders.

      When others within my own agency with more knowledge about the issues backed up the Pentagon officer’s description of the situation, I felt betrayed and let down.

  • Now describe how the same situations could have turned out if you were able to control your conditioning.
    • The first problem was that I assumed I had all the facts. As soon as I learned Phil had previously received orders he chose not to show me at the time, I should have consulted with others in the office to learn what others knew of the story. I realize now that my anger came more from what appeared to be Phil’s unwillingness to trust me with the truth and lack of recognition that my bringing a leave slip to his home was for his benefit. I let Phil’s actions get under my too-thin skin.

      The second problem was that I assumed I would be seen as weak if I turned to others for advice. When I did consult, I framed the story in such a way that I expected others to support my indignation at Phil’s lack of honesty. Instead, those I consulted provided me with the information I didn’t have. If I had not allowed my anger to intervene, I would have learned more about the issue instead of feeling let down by those I had turned to for support.

The above prompt is part of the third of 13 free lessons, developed by Alex Moses, Life Strategist, available on the A Life Answers website, shared with his permission.

Homework: Being Present

A prompt from 13 Steps to Awakening:

Homework

  • Remember the last time you lost control, which caused you a lot of emotional or physical distress, perhaps even resulting in a financial loss. Describe what happened.
    • I have to admit it is very difficult for me to remember a situation that fits this question, not because I am so arrogant as to think it doesn’t apply, but because I feel so badly whenever I lose control that I put the memories into such a deep part of my brain I cannot find or pull them out without great difficulty. This is certainly true for the last time I lost control–those details are in the deepest freeze of my unpleasant memory bank. I know this goes back to my childhood when “losing control” usually involved crying or getting angry, neither of which were acceptable to my parents or those around me. But instead of helping me learn how to express the emotions that led to crying or anger in more acceptable ways, I recall only the remonstrances from adults who told me I should know better. Well, maybe I should have, but I didn’t.
  • Analyze the situation to see when and how you entered deep sleep.
    • I’m clearly still in deep sleep about events that led to tears or anger. I feel I have learned to cover up those emotions, though this is not the healthiest way to deal with them.
  • Write about instances where you caused problems for yourself or for others by not being present and instead relied on your instincts. What happened?
    • It is easier for me to go way back in time because those memories can be explained without so much embarrassment. After all, I’ve learned so much since then.
      1. Several years ago I received a bill for the last video in a series I had received through a monthly subscription. The bills arrived after the video along with the option to check a box indicating whether I wanted the following month’s video or whether I wanted to stop the subscription. The bill arrived two years after I received the video. I no longer lived at the same address as where the video was mailed. In fact, I not longer lived in the same country. As a result, there is good reason to believe that the company that sent the bill for the last one had been trying to send it to me for quite some time between the point at which I received the video and then the bill. Except for the fact that I stopped receiving the videos so they apparently received my notification that I wanted to stop my subscription, and that should have accompanied payment for the final video.

        But this bill came with a mildly threatening letter about the possibility of legal action if I failed to pay the bill. I called the telephone number on the bill to explain that I was sure that I had paid for each of the videos I received and that I didn’t understand why I received a bill for one so much later. The woman on the other end explained that the bill was the result of an audit that uncovered the fact they had no record of my paying for the final video. I objected, though I had to admit that because so much time had passed and I have moved from one country to another and had shredded nearly every bill–paid or otherwise–before packing up from my previous relative. Neither the woman on the other end of the phone line or I behaved in an exemplary manner at the end of the conversation. I was angry that the woman on the other end didn’t seem to pay attention to my circumstances.

        The total cost was likely around $10 and not worth either the time or effort to try to collect two years later–at least in my opinion. But she insisted that I owed the money and insisted that I pay. By this point, both she and I were shouting. I don’t recall who had the last word, but I never paid the cost and I never received notification of legal action. But I still remember how upset I was when I lost my temper with a woman who was simply doing her job.

        How should I have handled the situation? First, I should have given the woman time to explain the situation more fully, in order to make it clear I might not have the whole story. Second, I should have asked questions about the possibility of the payment being made but not applied to the account, to show I understood she and I needed to work together to solve the problem. Third, if I still felt I had paid for all the videos, I should have asked her to call me back or have me call her back in a few days in order for me to gather copies of my checks or other payment method before discussing the situation further. Most importantly, I should have calmed down as soon as I felt the anger begin to rise within me in order to keep working with the woman instead of taking up a position against her.

      2. At another point when I lived in yet another country, I had a minor accident in a parking lot which my husband arranged to get fixed. The day he brought the car back to the house, I drove to the grocery store and on my way out of the parking lot (not the same one), a car behind me honked which I thought indicated the driver was annoyed with how slowly I was driving (in that country honking the car’s horn rarely meant the driver was warning another driver) so I continued backing out and heard the scraping of my car against another parked car. I drove straight home to tell my husband, but he was so angry when he saw the new scrape he jumped to the conclusion that another car had scraped up against my car and I didn’t dare object to tell him I was at fault again. I knew I would tell him the truth, but I didn’t dare do so right then.

        A local employee of the embassy where I worked called the local police and arranged for them to look at the car in order to put together a traffic report, necessary for me to get the car repaired. I had planned to tell the local employee what happened as soon as we arrived in separate cars at the meeting with the police, but I didn’t have time. As soon as the police saw the car, they recognized the scape was not caused by another car driving along the side of my car, but the reverse. The police asked me if that is what happened and I admitted it was so. I turned then to the local employee to explain I didn’t dare tell my husband the truth because he was so angry. The employee had seen my husband’s reaction so I knew he would understand. He did. That evening while my husband and I were at the home of a new colleague for dinner, my husband mentioned the accident at which point I admitted that the accident was my fault, not another driver’s. But the damage had been done. Others among my colleagues thought I had tried to place blame on someone else instead of taking responsibility. The fact that I admitted to the police within 30 minutes of the event was not considered.

        What should I have done? Admit the truth immediately, no matter how angry my husband appeared. If I had done so, I know he would have remained annoyed for a few hours, but his annoyance would have been correctly placed and I would have held responsibility from the beginning. And he would have laughed at my bad luck–or stupidity–either of which would have been preferable to the ill will my silence brought towards me from colleagues.

The above prompt is part of the second of 13 free lessons, developed by Alex Moses, Life Strategist, available on the A Life Answers website, shared with his permission.

Homework: The Value of Time

A prompt from 13 Steps to Awakening:

time by Sean MacEntee, on Flickr
time” (CC BY 2.0) Photo by  Sean MacEntee 
I came across the 13 Steps to Awakening series when the blogger, Alex Moses from A Life Answer, liked one of my book reviews.  The first of the 13 steps included a scenario I found intriguing for a short post.  The lesson also includes homework assignments, which I consider useful mind-stretching exercises as I struggle to sift through my life experiences to decide which are worth including in my memoir. Perhaps more significantly, I believe completing the exercises may help me uncover thoughts and memories that I have tucked away deeply into my sub-conscious in order not to reveal them. If my memoir is authentic, I need to consider telling the whole story, not just the parts that are pretty and look good sitting on a curio shelf.

Homework

  • List all the things you would do if you were to die in the next 30 days. How would your life change for the next 30 days? What would you do differently?
    1. My first thought was that I would use my last 30 days to visit people and places I found meaningful in my life, to say thank you to the people and to view awesome places one more time. But I don’t really need to travel to accomplish either of these goals. Seeing people is possible through Skype or Facetime and the Internet is full of videos of places.
    2. The activities I then focused on are all related to making sure those closest to me have the information they would otherwise turn to me for–user ids and passwords, for example, on the minor end but much more on a more significant end.
    3. Related to #2 above is getting rid of things I have held onto that I know no one else wants. I know there are piles of such things around the house just as there are piles of thoughts in my mind that I should let go of.
    4. By taking the three steps above, my life would be simpler, less complicated.
  • List all activities that you perform on any given day and assign one of the 3 states (feeling joy, feeling pain, being asleep) to each activity. Calculate the percentage of time being spent in each state.
    1. Writing-feeling joy
    2. Preparing meals-feeling joy
    3. Cleaning up-being asleep
    4. Reading-feeling joy
    5. Walking-feeling joy
    6. Playing with grandchildren-feeling JOY
    7. Paying bills-feeling joy (that I can without worry)
    8. Watching TV-being asleep
    9. Checking out social media-feeling both joy and pain
    10. 75% feeling joy, 10% feeling pain, 15% being asleep

The above homework is part of the first of 13 free lessons, developed by Alex Moses, Life Strategist, available on the A Life Answers website, shared with his permission.

Value of Time

A prompt from 13 Steps to Awakening:

“Imagine you woke up with a sharp pain this morning. You went to the doctor, they ran a bunch of tests and determined that you have a stage 4 cancer with less than 30 days to live. What thoughts will be going through your head? What would you be doing for the next 30 days?” from Key 1: Value of Time, 13 Steps to Awakening.

When I came across the 13 Steps to Awakening series, I decided to try them out. The first lesson opened with the above exercise, a good prompt for writing a short piece. The lesson includes homework assignments as well, which I hope to complete as I work through the lessons.

The first thought that crossed my mind when considering this scenario is that I would stop spending time alone. And that could mean no longer writing, or at least no longer writing the memoir I’ve been working on for the past year.

From childhood I felt I would be a writer, and my journal entries from my early adult years are full of statements about how I looked forward to including some of the interesting characters I met in my years of living overseas in future writing. But I also felt I needed experience in order to write. So I put the goal on hold and spent my time in search of an interesting life, something worth writing about. I delayed writing, though I have never felt that I stopped living an interesting life; I simply adjusted how much of my time I devoted to experiencing life first and writing about it until I retired and could grab the 8-10 hours per day (my husband would argue those numbers are too low) I had been spending on work.

But no matter how much I want to write, I would prefer to spend time with the people I love and care about, as well as the people who may not know how much impact they have had on my life. Assuming I could still travel, I would spend my final days traveling to see the important people in my life in order to tell each person how important they have been. If my health did not permit travel, I would resort to traveling in my mind and writing letters to those I wanted to see with the message I would have conveyed in person.

The above prompt is part of the first of 13 free lessons, developed by Alex Moses, Life Strategist, available on the A Life Answers website, shared with his permission.