by Todd Fink
Psychologically speaking, maturity basically means the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. Sounds simple. But, how does one respond in an appropriate manner to a political, societal or any other environment that seems so dark, chaotic and dysfunctional?
To answer, let us come back to the word maturity and trace its roots in search of deeper meaning. The etymology of spiritually charged words often reveals important messages that are hidden over time as words and their applications evolve.
The English word maturity has its origin in Latin. Maturus means “ripeness” which is a description specifically for fruit. What is the difference between ripe and unripe fruit? Unripe fruit is hard and bitter while ripe fruit is soft and sweet. Metaphorically, hardness means rigid and bitterness means unforgiving. Softness is not weakness but rather represents flexibility and sweetness implies kindness. Those are the qualities of maturity.
Fruit becomes ripe after long association with the mature tree. The tree is a sacred symbol across cultures, times and places. And the path to maturity can be metaphorically explained through the life of a tree.
A tree begins as a seed in Mother Earth just as the human being begins as an embryo in the mother’s womb. After sprouting, both are very vulnerable for a period of time and survival is largely due to the grace of outside forces. After sufficient growth and sometimes after surviving threats or trauma, the tree is stable enough to withstand many hardships. So, too, pain in our past can be the roots for positive growth. Where you are coming from is not as important and where you are heading. And we can always choose to go upward from any point.
Sunlight and water are the two ingredients the tree needs most. Light and water are two of the most universal and fundamental symbols. The tree grows out of darkness towards the light. If necessary, it bends and adapts to keep reaching for the sun. In most wisdom traditions, light is a symbol for knowledge and illumination. It is the dispeller of darkness and ignorance and is the source of awakening. Ultimately, self-knowledge is what we need. To seek and find out who am I? What is my purpose? It also means to live up to our highest light.
Now, it is significant to note that the light is both the destination and also the means or energy that sustains the growth of a tree. In human life, if peace is our destination then peace itself must also be the path. We need enough inner peace to transform the outer conditions. For one who is peaceful, every step becomes a peace movement.
Living up to our highest light requires one to honor core values even when the circumstances are not favorable. For example, maybe respect and courtesy are core values and when driving we may signal another driver in traffic to enter ahead of us. But, what if that driver does not give a wave in acknowledgement of our kind gesture? Does bitterness come up? If so, then it is not the full maturity. The intention is not yet ripe. Instead, it is a type of business transaction. We are buying appreciation. When one truly honors a value or inner light, there is an alignment of head, heart and hands. Our thoughts, attitudes and actions are in harmony, and we feel energized and inspired. Therefore, the mature person does not expect nor need the reciprocity.
Water is the second necessary ingredient. Water is symbolic of love. It is essential for life and is the supreme good which purifies all things just by washing over them. It nourishes all things without trying to and in that humility and simplicity lies its greatness. It cleanses and flows unconditionally, even to the low and dark places that people disdain. Water smooths jagged mountain rocks over eons of time and this process is the epitome of patience in nature. So, in human development, instead of seeking love out of a sense of poverty, we need to carefully and patiently remove the barriers that we have built up against love and practice self-compassion. Then, love will be experienced as the fullness of life and can flow freely in all directions to nourish and heal ourselves and others.
With more knowledge and love we can transform ourselves and transcend our circumstances. Surely, the outer conditions of a society are merely a reflection of the collective inner maturity. If we want to respond to any situation in a mature manner, then we can recommit to our own psychological and spiritual development and return to love and the wisdom of applied knowledge. It is not enough to demand that others change. We need to continuously fight to reform ourselves and be a pattern for the world. If happiness comes from within, then we can strive to improve our relationships, communities and the world in that state of mind. That will be more effective because everyone wants to be happy. By offering more and more love and living up to our highest light, we encourage the ripening of the heart of all.
Todd leads a monthly Mindfulness Education Group on the last Tuesday of the month.
The next one is: Tuesday February 28th 7:00-8:30pm.
It is free and open to anyone.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
The location is : Edward ER/OP Conference Room
24600 W. 127th Street Plainfield, IL 60585
The theme for this next discussion is Love And Mindfulness.
What is the difference between love and attachment? Between non-attachment and indifference? What can we learn from the scientific research of the biology of loving social bonds? How can we develop a practice of mindful loving kindness as taught in ancient spiritual traditions to help cultivate inner and outer peace in modern daily life?
About the Author: Todd is a co-founding member of The Giving Tree Band. As a musician, author, speaker, counselor and life-long student of meditation, Todd works fervently to educate people and communities on the benefits of healthy and mindful living. He draws upon extensive and diverse experiences as a health care professional, nationally touring artist and wellness presenter to connect and bridge cultures and point the way to a brighter future.
"People give flowers as presents because flowers contain the true meaning of love. Anyone who tries to possess a flower will have to watch its beauty fading. But if you simply look at a flower in the field, you'll keep it forever. That is what the forest taught me. That you will never be mine, and that is why I will never lose you.”
-Paulo Coelho excerpt from 'Brida'
I am a U.S. citizen, and I am an immigrant. While my father was on the south side of Chicago studying on a scholarship, my mother gave birth to me in Chengdu, China. She left when I was two to join my father in the States, where they made a living waiting tables while going to grad school. My relatives raised me until I was four, when I was placed on a plane to reunite with my parents.
The transition from being a child in a sea of Chinese homogeny to America’s melting pot was jarring. I was the only student who was neither white nor black, and neither Catholic nor Protestant. I struggled with being bullied because of my background, and still remember the confusion and hurt of being pushed and called a chink. Back then, those kids probably didn’t even understand what they were saying, but they learned the hate from adults around them. in the fourth grade I discovered those with similar experiences; for once my classroom was filled with more first or second-generation immigrants than non-immigrants. My teacher celebrated our differences, and the abilities and talents we each brought. She helped us realize our inherent value and potential as individuals, and also the importance of recognizing the same in others.
Since then, along with many other immigrants, Chicagoland has been my home. As a former public school teacher, tutor, artist, and small business associate, my path has crossed with myriads of people, each encounter educating and broadening my worldview. These people, with upbringings and lifestyles differing from mine, have encouraged me, challenged me, inspired me, and strengthened me. The America I know is more capable and more vibrant because of its diversity, not in spite of it.
Let us support each other, and use what time, attention, and money we can to help those who are not able to be with their families or freely pursue their livelihoods. This past month, I donated to the American Refugee Committee, and contacted my government representatives on issues close to my heart. I urge you to take action, however seemingly small, to create a positive change today.
About the Author: Susie (InsomniaBird) graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Art Education, and was a public school teacher for over four years. Currently, she is a freelance tutor and artist in Chicago, Illinois, and works for two different small businesses. View her art or contact her at www.InsomniaBirdArt.com.
by Lorene Keller Smith
We walked into the restaurant, brought together by two things, our desire to DO something and that we had mentioned this desire to our “fearless leader” who was already setting up a platform to accomplish this. The four of us gathered around the table and, in the excitement of finding like-minded ladies, the ideas and words just started rushing out, everyone talking at once sometimes. We easily drowned out the Superbowl sportscast playing on the bar TVs.
Shortly, the conversation started to feel like a spin-off of the “Never have I ever” game (minus the drinking). In short succession, I found myself challenged with questions like:
My answer to all of these is no, I have not. Why? I could state all my excuses. I was not convinced the protests would accomplish anything. It is not safe to take my kids to a protest. I have a job where I cannot afford to get arrested. Lack of time, lack of money… I could go on, I am sure I have used them all. It is easy to make excuses, it is hard to really effect change.
Lately, I read a lot about the Holocaust and I wonder, would I really have been one to stand up? Or would I have made a few token protests (about what my Facebook posts feel like), and continued on with my life? Being honest, I am afraid it is more likely the second scenario. And that is not who I want to be.
So, like with many of the other challenges I have set myself this year, I am stepping into a new adventure and making an attempt to be the person I want to be. Last night, I told my new friends I want to “DO” something, and I meant it. It is time to share the burden of making the world a better place for all. Just please do not expect to find me looking for heavy machinery to start.
Full time working mother of 3, married 19 years… I want to leave the world a better place for my kids (sounds trite, I know) and teach them to step up to work at making it better… Wiccan/pagan is my religion, it speaks to me somehow… we consider nature our temple, and I always feel better after being outside… Have only lived in the Chicago area for 6 months now (formerly from CT, born and raised)… Find myself looking for something, not even sure what it is.
by Michelle LeBlanc
This video had me in tears... The will to succeed is always welcome here... Yes, indeed. But it had me going long before then. And I am sure you have seen this and maybe you're tired of hearing about the commercial that was "too controversial". But for me, it made me recall all the times I had to overcome seemingly unsurmountable challenges ... Although none of them as huge a challenge or risk as this. The physical exertion is only the beginning of this challenge. Once this figurative mom and child pass the figurative doors, it isn't any easier. Now you're in a brand new country you kind of have to stay hidden from and have no money which makes you quite vulnerable.
Im not saying coming over illegally is the right thing to do - but say you're in a life or death or abusive situation and its your only hope... Wouldn't you risk your life to leave too?