This insightful note came from a friend, addressed to his family and close friends. Hence, I've edited it to protect identities, but hopefully, leaving the beautiful message intact.
"We are often asked how our recent trip to the Mediterranean was. Well, after "fabulous," I am not so good at describing it all in one conversation. But the trip will come out in stories, and there is one I'd like to tell you today.
"On our spiritual journey (with a church group), the minister gave us two rules to follow: No Complaining and No Suffering!
"When you travel for any length of time with other people, there is a good chance something will happen that irritates you. Everyone in our group, with one exception, maintained a cheerful spirit. The exception complained habitually - and probably never realized it. The food was not to her liking. Her recent weight gain forced her to wear clothes she didn't like - and on and on. She voiced these thoughts to anyone who would listen; upset her roommate with her negative attitude and became a source of concern for the group as a whole.
"When the minister heard that she was becoming a problem for everyone, he reacted in a powerful way. Without saying anything, he sat next to her on our next bus ride and stuck next to her all day, making her laugh and really enjoy herself. She immediately brightened up under the influence of his attention and I noticed her smiling and joking as I hadn't seen before. She had a wonderful day.
"Our group met each night for meditation and discussion and sharing. During the sharing, our "problem child" asked to speak. She shared that she felt she had broken through a barrier very real to her and that she was now able to be herself - her authentic self. She did not mention anything about her own complaining, but her roommate told me a few days later that she had stopped being negative.
"You see the power of Love? How one person in a quiet way can so affect another? The minister is an easygoing and affectionate person. He is married, and his wife was with us, but he spent much time getting to know everyone in our group. He is a true people person. When he saw that she was unhappy, he moved in - not with judgment or distaste - but with real love and affection. He turned the trip around for her and she began to have fun.
"I find that the No Complaining rule is a great rule for life in general because it implies that you will seek solutions instead of dwelling in problems. Problems will occur - that is the way life is. But the way we react has everything to do with staying stuck or getting free.
"Noticing a problem and automatically thinking in terms of a solution can be a great habit to cultivate. I think our minister did something so automatic to him that he didn't realize it. He told me later that he did not consciously try to "fix" anything - he did what was natural for him to do.
"I like the other rule - No Suffering - because it reminds me to take care of myself. When I am upset or in any kind of discomfort, I remember to ask myself what would help the discomfort. Whether it is physical pain, mental or emotional pain - there are always steps I can take to love myself.
"It might be as simple as dedicating a time during the day that is just for me; taking a hot bath or saying no to something I really do not want to do. Just the act of monitoring my feelings and sending love to those places that are in pain is another powerful habit to cultivate.
"I have spent a lot of my life NOT putting myself first. Now I remember that when I am happy and healthy, it is so much easier to give to others.
"I have realized that an important part of my life has been spent in spiritual community with others. We traveled with a church group and found a very joyful and healthy community in each others' company. We all gave and received love in powerful ways - both silent and spoken.
"I would wish for my children and my loved ones to be a part of a spiritual community - whether it is with a church, a book club, a yoga group, a therapy group - there are many ways to be in spiritual community with others. It is so important to have a network of like-minded people who are dedicated to improving their lives and seeing the best in others.
"I can't tell you how much it has meant to me for the majority of my adult life to have a loving network of people ready to support me and affirm my wholeness when I could not do it for myself.
"There were a few years when I did not have this network and they were hard and sad. I felt very empty and alone. That's when I began going to our present church. I sat in the back row and cried, but I showed up every Sunday for services. Recently, the minister of that church has moved on and I am asking myself where my spiritual community is now. I am finding that it is everywhere I am and that I have surrounded myself with loving and nurturing friends.
Love to You All,