About the gift of Fear

I am a Water element.Water Elemnt

Not just because that as a child, the Mediterranean sea almost claimed me back in a near-drowning accident; not for my love of scuba diving; not for my persistent attraction to always live by a large body of water; nor because I favor different shades of blue. Many years ago, after learning about the Five Elements, I simply knew that I am Water.

About 15 years ago, a friend of mine who was interested in holistic arts, told me that I am driven by fear. I took it very personally and was enraged. Me? Fear? I, who am afraid of just about nothing? I, who live my life fully — not letting anything stop me? I discarded her notion swiftly.

Years passed by and her comment remained stuck at the back of my head. My denial, so it turned out, was superficial. Deep inside, in a place I didn’t want to look, a little dark monster was hiding. A creature I didn’t want to name.

Recently I started reading a fantastic book about the art of Mien Shiang: Face Reading (highly recommended: The Face Reader: Discover Anyone’s Personality Through the Chinese Art of Mien Shiang. The writer, Patrician McCarthy, does a wonderful job explaining, as part of her introduction to the topic, the role of the Five Elements. Despite knowing of and reading about the Five Elements before, her writing had a slightly different angle. It quickly doomed on me that reading this book, opened a door to that place I managed to cover so well for so many years. My character is indeed very much the Water Element, and Water is, after all, dominated by fear.

But there is more. Much more. I had an insight. One that shook my very being. For years I have been hiding the fear monster because, in my mind, fear meant cowardice, and I am, as those who know me can testify, no coward. I am courageous. But wait a minute – what makes one courageous if not overcoming fear?! After all, if one has no fear, can he really be courageous?

Ha! At last! I opened the door and let the monster out. I looked it in the eye and thanked it. Yes! I have fear. It is my dominating emotion. But without that fear I would not have grown as much as I did. Fear drove me to investigate my very being, to challenge myself, to push the limits. I recognize that different people cope with fear in different ways but for me, so it turned out, fear was and remains a gift. It makes me creative, passionate, and – yes: it makes me brave.

I don’t expect to eliminate fear. I cannot — much like one cannot alter their height (heels aside), or redo the family they were born into. We are born with certain characteristics and into a certain reality. What we do with these is up to us. A Water Element personality can allow fear to make them inert, desolated and afraid, or it can be used as a very powerful force to drive one to heights unimaginable. All you need is a little courage.

To put it in the words of the Duke – “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” (John Wayne.)

John Wayne

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Sting – a new short story

I am delighted to share with you my latest short story – Sting. It’s actually a very short story but one with a bite… Hope you enjoy it!

Click to read.

Sting - click to read

Making the line straight

Saturday mornings. Childhood. Everyone are still asleep.
The cake my mother baked for the weekend is resting peacefully, still in the oven.
Its sweet smell, the aroma of temptation.
I would sneak into the kitchen and take a peek, wishing, hoping, someone else already took a stub at the cake’s virginity.
I am in luck! A narrow first line had been carved out.
But what’s this? The line isn’t straight.
Here I come to rescue. I will straighten the line.
Oh gosh, the line I cut, isn’t very straight either.
No worries, I can fix that.

A couple of rows later, and with my little tummy satisfied, (or was it my craving mind that was made happy?) I finally detach myself from the oven and take off, hoping no one will notice.
I was never punished, so I guess no one did, or maybe my mom did and forgave.
Another childhood memory, stolen moments packed in chocolate, sugar and dough.

This memory came to my mind recently for a reason I cannot recall.
And though the trigger for the memory is gone, it is the concept behind that memory that I reflected upon:
Years later, on occasion I still found myself straightening a line.
Reference made is mostly to small acts of dishonesty.
I would tell myself “it’s so easy – the line was already carved. I didn’t make the first cut. I’ll just take a little piece to make the line straight.”
I am not talking Enron here, or Wall Street stealing from clients.
When these major injustices happens it’s no longer cutting a little piece of cake, its taking the entire tray and then some…
But even those acts, I believe, started somewhere, somewhere small. It starts with little acts of dishonesty.
It can be cheating on your diet, making a “white” lie to a friend so we don’t hurt them, charging a little extra because you can.
We find ways to justify it – after all, its all in good intention – we are just making the line perfectly straight.

Many years in the making, sometime ago, I finally started to look at this act in sincerity.
I looked at it keeping the meaning of the Hindu word Shanti in mind.
Shanti, which is commonly translated in the West as peace, can probably be more accurately interpreted as harmony.
Its harmony between thoughts, words and actions. When that is the case, peace is the by-product.
It is not that difficult to obtain once you realize it.
Once you acknowledge that all the stories you tell yourself to justify some actions, are just that – justifications.
Nowadays, when I want a piece of cake, I cut a piece of cake and am not calling it by other names.
Being honest with yourself is the first and final step.
It allows you to have the cake and enjoy it too… Yum!…

Just when you thought you’ve figured it all out…

…life will kick you in the butt…
Yeah, you’ve got it all going your way, all under control, and just then – another life lesson to be learned.
What is one to do?
Not take it personally.
If there is one lesson I’ve learned, this is it.
It’s not personal. It’s just another twist along the path of life.
You were too busy chatting on your mobile phone and you’ve missed a turn.
You were not present.
Because when you are present, this is not likely to happen.
Remember: it’s not personal.
Take a connecting road and get back on track.
Move forward.
Someone spoke poorly to you?
In most cases it’s not about you.
It’s about them being in a bad place.
Move forward.
It’s not personal.
Disease, even death – nope, it’s just not personal.
When I am in the present and am not taking it personally,
Strangely enough, there is no more kicking…

Duet

My latest story, exploring friendship, is now available for free online at http://issuu.com/ronendivon/docs/duet/1

In-family Feedback

In recent months, as my kids are going through puberty and other minefields, tensions can run high. I initiated the following exercise as an outlet for their anger and frustration, but it seems to be more than I initially intended. I thought that sharing it here with others may come handy for parents in similar situations.

Before you continue reading, please see the image enclosed below which shows a small version of a chart composed for the purpose of this exercise.
It lists the family members and then two columns titled Supportive and Non-supportive.
At any time, any family member can go to the chart, which hangs in a central area of the house, and add their initials by another family member in one of the two columns (Supportive / Non-supportive). If someone did something nice for you and you feel it deserve being acknowledge, you add your initials in the supportive column. If someone was being unsupportive including plain rude, you add it in the non-supportive column. There are no actual materials rewards of punishments but at the end of the week we gather as a family and review the chart.
Though, as mentioned, initially intended as a way to rid of fury and irritation – when you write it down its no longer something you need to carry, the chart turned out to do more than this; it started to tell us about trends and relationships within the family unit worth noticing. The experiment is still going on so I will not add much analysis here but I do recommend it to others.

Realizing small moments of happiness

George Bernard Shaw once said “A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.” — and I say maybe yes, maybe not.

I have been waiting for a day like today for a little while, and it finally came. A day with an edge of darkness. Some events that took place the night before, left a scar and a clouded feeling of suffocation. I have been waiting for this so I can test a practice I begun exploring some time ago; a practice I call searching for and realizing small moments of happiness.
Why today? Because when you are generally happy, it is easy to stay happy. But when you are feeling bad, on a more emotionally challenging day, it’s an opportunity to explore.

The practice is quite simple. First you need to recognize your state of being and acknowledge its dimness. Then, consciously, you take short breaks from the mind’s endless effort to maintain its aggravated condition, and start taking pleasure in small, almost insignificant moments. You can take a sip of water, let the refreshing liquid linger for a moment in your mouth, and enjoy it for what it is. You can take a moment to stretch and enjoy your body opening up. A prolong glance at an object of beauty can bring a tiny bit of joy. And if nothing else, you can take a long deep breath, hold the air for a moment, feel it alive inside you, and then release. You then make it a hunt – a hunt for these small moments of happiness through an otherwise utterly dreadful day, and as you discover these moments, you suddenly discover more of them all around you, on occasion the least likely of places.
This practice may not change past events or remove the shadows all at once, but, practiced attentively and repeatedly, it will bring about change, and a most welcomed one. It does for me, and I hope it will for you. Now back to breathing…

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