I woke up at three in the morning to six strange men inhabiting my house. I sat up in my bed gasping in fright when I started hearing loud voices close to me; deep voices were speaking something that wasn’t English. I felt scared and trapped. I didn’t know what was happening. I had nowhere to go.
Minutes after the initial state of terror, the panic dissipated as I remembered there were some logical explanations for these strangers. I live in a hundred year old house separated into two housing units with thin walls and a giant piano upstairs. They weren’t in my unit; it just sounded like they were. The top floor is occasionally rented out to tourists and (fortunately or unfortunately) musicians. But at that time I was living alone, and as a woman I felt trapped and afraid and totally alone. I went upstairs to try to communicate to the men there to please stop playing the piano. They did, and I was happier that it was quiet. But I was also more frightened since they now knew there was a single woman living below them. I made sure my dresser was situated directly in front of the unlocked door that separates my place from these temporary neighbors, double checked to see that my back door was locked, put in some earplugs, said some prayers, and tried my best to get a few more hours of sleep—most of which was spent lying awake in my bed feeling angry and frightened and alone.
When I woke up in the morning, I was overwhelmed with the I-should-have-gotten-more-sleep-than-this crabbiness combined with the must-workout-this-morning angst and the I-can’t-believe-how-scary-that-was aftershock. Like many if not most women, I have been the victim of sexual assault in both public and private places, which makes the reality of a situation like this vividly frightening.
My boyfriend (who I also had texted at 3am) called to report: (1) that he would have keys to his place made for me immediately; (2) if I came over to his house at 330 am he would risk dying from a heart attack; and (3) he would completely understand if I had come over in that circumstance. In my morning haze, what I heard was, “I am more worried about having a heart attack in the middle of the night because you came over to my house than I am worried about you being safe in your own home.”
That sent me into a brief swirl of “where is my husband”? and “why won’t my parents move here!” and “I wish my non-profit attorney job paid me enough money to have a better place than this.” And for a while I got sucked down that self pity black hole.
When we feel frightened—whether this fear is based on something real or something in our heads or perhaps a little of both—it is very easy to start traveling down that slippery slope of negative feelings. The fear can easily open up the door of anxiety, depression, rage, anger, sadness, jealousy. We feel like our needs cannot be met by ourselves, and we become quick to blame others or our outside circumstances. We perceive the world as out to get us; as a result, we ignore the parts of our world that are there to support and love us.
For me, I feel like there is a switch in my brain that flips over to the dark side; the negative thoughts start coming and what started out to be a not huge deal turns into a day ruiner. That is, if I let it. At some point, though, you really get sick of having perfectly good days ruined by whatever happens to be going on outside of your control. You want to choose something different. You want to do something to stop that inevitable downward spiral from the wow-that-really-sucked to the wow-my-life-really-sucks.
And herein, my dear friends, lies the power of your Radiance. With your light and strength and skills, you do have the power at any moment to separate yourself from what happened and to stay calm and to stay connected to the field of love and goodness in your life rather than get swallowed up by the angry/sad monster.
The morning following the “6 loud neighbors”, I woke up feeling angry and scared. But I was also determined to not have my entire day captured by the fear monster. I was adamant about choosing the Light. Even though part of me really wanted to wallow a bit longer, I dug deep into my practice to use the Law of Radiance Shine exercise. I ignored the hysterical voices in my head telling me that I have every right to be upset and should look into moving. I countered them with my truer and clearer Radiant voice.
I sat in my bed and began taking deep breaths from my belly. I counted ten breaths, twice. I then began reciting affirmations that fit the present need: I remain at peace; this will not happen again and I will make sure that it does not; I am deeply loved by my family and friends and my boyfriend. I tapped into the parts of my life that radiate with love and soon I felt at ease.
And with that, I consciously switched gears from the woe-is-me-this-really-was-awful to the thank-God-nothing-happened and people love me enough for this to never happen again. In that holy instant, I went from crying about my being away from my parents to remembering that this was just one night, I loved my career, my boyfriend loves me, and it’s all good.
This is why my law of radiance practice is so important to me. This is why I meditate and practice affirmations even when I feel like I don’t have the time. I embrace the law of radiance because I want to feel loved and I want to love and I want to feel safe and I don’t want to create terrible days for myself any more. Don’t get me wrong, this is all truly a practice. Sometimes I get so upset and sad and angry, it takes more than a few minutes–or hours– for me to emerge back into my Light. But this is why I am committed to building my spiritual muscle. I don’t want to react with the burning angry fire inside myself. That doesn’t help any situation, and it doesn’t serve me or my relationships. Instead, I want to have the ability to see what is happening, to remember the Light within myself, and to consciously choose to see whatever is happening from a place of peace and compassion for myself and others.
Choosing my Radiance that day made all the difference. The owner of the other unit came over immediately, locked the piano, instituted a no shoes policy, posted quiet times, nailed the door separating our units shut and put up huge sound insulation. My shift allowed me to see that my boyfriend was responding out of total love for me, if I could only hear exactly what he was saying and not make up something in my head to give it a different meaning. He told me to come over if that happened again. I had the choice to hear what he was saying or not, and I chose to hear it.
This, of course, is just a tiny example of the kinds of challenges that come across our paths. We all face the daily challenges–someone offends us, the computer doesn’t save our project, we get scared by strangers in the night, we feel jealous from looking too much at Facebook. We also face the larger challenges– we have our hearts broken, we get laid off, a loved one dies, we don’t know how we are going to pay the bills, we can’t get pregnant when we want to, we are stuck at jobs that suck our souls instead of filling them with joy.
While the larger challenges can sometimes take some more planning, more conscious healing, more coaching, more strategic action, it all comes down to whether we can choose our own Light in any given situation. Can we go back to the basics to know that we are made of love and love is always surrounding us? Do we have the spiritual strength to control the decision whether to choose peace or choose fear? Do we fall into the trap that the world is out to get us or do we stay focused on the parts of it that are supporting us?
I do not believe that everything is meant to happen; I don’t believe that people are meant to be starving to death or dying from cancer at age 45, or dying because some police officer choked them to death. But I do believe that– in our own tiny lives– we have the ability to choose our own inner peace and Radiance in a way that creates more peace within our hearts no matter what the circumstances. And I believe that only through this peace can we then help create more peace in our relationships, in our community, and in our world.
“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.” Goethe