• D Nathan Cieszynski

Change the World

The world as we know it is constantly changing. It changes every day. With each new choice we make, we create a different world. The paradox here is that nothing ever stays the same, even if we refuse to change. Our refusal to change, our fear of changing, is a choice - and that choice creates changes in the world. It is impossible to stand still; the earth continues to rotate, and the seasons continue to roll one into the other. What exists today will not be the same tomorrow. This week I am feeling somewhat philosophical. Maybe it is the mass shooting that took place in San Bernardino last week. Maybe it comes from the newsfeed on my personal Facebook page from sources like LGBT Nation and other similar groups. When I log in to Facebook, I find links to stories from all over the world – everything from the inspirational thoughts and insights posted by Heart Centered Rebalancing and SimpleReminders.com, to the tragic reminders that the world is not as loving as we like to think it is. Living in California, I often forget just how easy it is to live in the “open.” I am able to speak of my husband, not in a whispered voice like it is something I have to hide, but out loud. I am sheltered living here. Yes, there are those who oppose my marriage; there are even those who feel that I do not have a right to live, let alone the right to live my life openly. Yet I am afforded more opportunity to live this life here in Southern California than I would be anywhere else. I know the world is changing. I know that little by little we are becoming a more accepting society - at times leaning more towards tolerance than acceptance - but still moving forward. Still, I fear that change comes to slow for many. When a Presidential candidate uses his platform to assault gay men and woman in the United States, and that candidate is taken seriously, some of the progress that has been made may be in danger of being reversed. I am not a big fan of the news media. I believe they do as much harm as good. The stories they report are chosen not by what we need to know; rather, by what will create the best soundbites and boost ratings. Controversy sells. Sex sells. Combine these and your ratings go up. Does this mean the stories they report on are not real? No, but the more a story is promoted on the news, the more of a hot issue they make of it, the more soundbites you are going to find. If something becomes a political issue then it becomes incumbent on a Politician to have an opinion. Our thoughts and ideas are molded not so much by what we believe, but rather by what we hear and see. We claim to be free thinkers, we claim to make our own choices, and yet how often have your views been changed simply because of something you read or heard on television. How much effort do we make to dig deeper, to read beyond the headline or investigate past the soundbite? We base our feelings not on the full picture, but rather the snapshot of a moment. We react and adopt an opinion crafted by another.

Virginia Woolf said, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” The same thing can be said about avoiding the news. To do so would only serve to keep you uniformed of the world around you. How can one make a spiritual difference in the world and bring about change if they are clueless as to what is going on in the world? Avoidance is not the answer. Is there a way to maintain your spiritual peace, ensure that your opinions are yours and not allow yourself to be force fed ideas and beliefs? Is there a way to insure that you are living your life and not the life that others believe you should live? Yes. Is it easy? No. It can be said that I focus on LGBT issues, and as an author and blogger I do, for this is a subject that affects me daily. However, I like most of you, have strong opinions on a wide range of subjects: political, spiritual, religious, historic, and the mundane. I read a headline and automatically form an opinion long before I read the article. The headline has done what it was intended to do. It grabbed my attention, caused me to click on the link with a preconceived idea of what the story will be about. Often I am angry and ready to stand on my soap box in righteous indignation. The more connected to the story I am, the more passionate I become in my opinion or views. We all do this. It is why headlines are crafted as they are. When one decides to follow a spiritual path, we recognize through self-awareness that our first thought may not be our true thought. First we must read the whole story. If it is a soundbite on the news, we need to investigate further. But before we stand on our soap box, it is imperative that we know the whole story, the context and the circumstances. Can we ever be certain we know the whole story? Not really, but by taking the time to investigate and increase our understanding of the situation, we might see that there is more than appeared at first glance. Before reacting, take a moment and try to understand the other side. Look at it from every angle to determine how you really feel - not how you should feel, not what others expect you to feel - this is about knowing and owning your opinions, regardless of how others view them. Ask yourself the follow questions as they pertain to the issue at hand: 1. Why does this matter to me? 2. How does this affect my life? 3. Is there more to this than I am seeing? 4. How can I make a positive difference? 5. Does my reaction help or hinder my spiritual growth? These are not easy questions to ask and they are difficult questions to answer honestly. But only by delving within can we ever understand how we truly feel. We must move beyond our initial reactions to something others tell us is true, and investigate deeper to form our own opinion, not based on a news source, not based on our religious or spiritual leaders, but our own truth. And once we find that truth, we must also find the courage and confidence to live according to our beliefs and convictions. Spirituality is not about being told what is true, for no one can tell you what your truth is but you.

Meditation, prayer, and self-reflection, understanding yourself and your beliefs is the pathway to finding peace in a chaotic world. It is funny, but before I accepted my sexuality, I fought against the expectations of society and family, and struggled with the fear of not being good enough, strong enough or loved enough to be myself. Once I accepted that I was gay and that it was, in fact, OK to be gay, I then had to struggle to find acceptance within the LGBT community. I did not always agree with or accept the “norm” as it pertained to this community. I found that the LGBT community could be just as intolerant as the straight community. Yet I eventually found my place, my voice, and strive to live my truth every day. It is not always easy or popular, but living a spiritual life is about finding your truths, standing by your convictions and expanding your awareness beyond what you are told to believe. The world no longer molds me. I mold my world. My life is a work in progress, and the masterpiece is far from complete. I am master and novice, teacher and student. Life is a progression of thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs; I am open to change. Yes, the world has changed and continues to change. We are artists, working together and individually, to make these changes. Everyone contributes to this change - how you contribute is your choice. Someone once said, “Be the change you want to see.” It all starts with me. It all starts with you.

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