We all like to think we are part of something, whether it be family, community, religious group, workplace, athletic team; the list goes on and on. With belonging to a group and that feeling comfort in a place, physical or mental, we can approach our lives more calmly and with greater confidence that if we feel out-of-place and unconnected. We gain from being assured that we have backup in uncomfortable or confrontational situations, that we have support in times of loss or grief, that we have resources to turn to when we seek knowledge. There are times though when we can’t escape feeling out-of-place, even in our group, through an accident of timing, a need that can only be satisfied in some other place, or by request from another for one reason or another. This is not always a negative place to be and can also be quite positive. When we feel out-of-place we look for ways to make ourselves more comfortable. This can come through observation and learning about where we find ourselves, it can come from interacting with people we normally have nothing to do with, it can come from an inner strength and ability to adapt that we didn’t know we had were or capable of. These are all good traits to have for they help us to be flexible and open to more than just our own views and opinions. Doesn’t openness and flexibility allow for more comfort and peace among groups?
We tend to think that there is safety in numbers, and there is to a certain extent. Groups are less likely to get attacked than a single person; it is easier for a group to find needed sustenance than an individual; it is easier for a group to solve a problem than one person. However the same things that being part of group can provide can also be accomplished by the individual. A single person can avoid attack through stealth and hiding; an individual can procure more and save more sustenance since it does not need to be shared; one individual can take more time and be less distracted when solving a problem. What it comes down to are individual characteristics, motivations, and needs. Each individual must make choices and decisions about how the intend to arrange their lives. There will always be loners and joiners who pretty much keep to those lifestyles. Most of us will tend to land somewhere in the middle with a mixture of group and solitary activities. None of us should be castigated for the choices we make and we must tell ourselves that once we’ve made a choice we are not locked into that choice forever. We should be able to make our own choices about being alone or in a group, don’t you think?
At times we can be seduced into following a certain course or a certain person and we are not quite sure how it happened. We saw someone or something that instantaneously captured a part of us, possibly without its own knowledge, and it won’t let us go. Whether it feels good to be held in thrall, or we’re indifferent to pro’s or con’s around our capture, or we’re terrified and screaming for rescue, what we must remember is that we can make choices. We can look at our behavior or feelings and take the initiative to decide to continue with our seduction and see where it leads or to break away and pursue other avenues. Breaking away may be difficult, especially if you have been enticed to follow someone or something that is nebulous and you cannot quite bring them or the circumstances into focus. Nevertheless, the choice is ours and we must remember that if we reach an undesirable conclusion to the journey we have convinced ourselves we were seduced into. We may have been seduced into a positive journey as well, and undoubtedly there were positive aspects and things to be learned about ourselves if it did not end well. Once we find ourselves yearning to follow, shouldn’t we wait a moment, and follow, if we will, with open eyes?
All of us, at some time or another, have a feeling that comes from somewhere or another, who knows where or how. We may feel that someone is staring at us from behind, we may get the sense that that person we’ve just met is really creepy, or we may feel a sense of joy in a place we’ve just been introduced to. Many times we won’t even take note of these feelings, just shove aside or to the backs of our minds. Occasionally we find that, though we felt a certain way about something, it actually turned out to be incorrect, as when we take a quick dislike to a person who doesn’t look like us. Most of the time we should take note of these feelings and act upon them in a way that keeps us safe or lets us enjoy the situation to the utmost. We should at least take note of, and explore the feelings we really feel inside before taking any action that commits us to a specific course of action. For who knows what relationships or desirable places or foods we might miss out on by ignoring subliminal feeling. Or what dangerous places or people to get away from by ignoring subliminal feelings. Wouldn’t trusting our subliminal feelings be more effective for interpreting feelings than ignoring them.
Alertness does not have to a state of constant tension or hyper-watchfulness though that is how it is perceived by many. To be alert is to be aware of the things around you and to be assessing their relationship to you and your safety and comfort. One must be at least somewhat alert so that one doesn’t go running into walls or tripping over everything in one’s path. We are more alert than we think we are when we are driving a car or even reading a book. Unconsciously we sense movements, changes in temperature, hear something just a bit differently; consciously we can bump our alertness up a small amount and thus, find ourselves ready to react to whatever is happening around us that may need our attention. We can also maintain a state of alertness regarding out own state of mind and the state of mind of others which aids in communication, the basis of any relationship. Paying attention is the most important thing we can do to keep ourselves content and to support healthy and rewarding relationships with others, whether they are friends, family, co-workers, or acquaintances. When we’re sunk in apathy or easily distracted we miss many things we should have paid attention to. Choosing to stay alert prevents misunderstandings and mistakes, don’t you think?
Being enclosed in a cage is generally considered to be a negative thing and for some, for a variety of reasons, it is a bad thing. We all are glad that some, people or other species, are confined to cages. Some are glad to exist in a cage. And some aspire to keep others in a cage. Having a cage around you can sometimes be a positive thing. It can convey a sense of safety when one knows that they cannot be attacked. It can convey a sense of comfort when one has been battered by circumstances outside one’s control. It can be a way to rein in desires and actions that one knows are harmful to oneself. But aside from physical cages, we can put ourselves in a cage that then allows us no freedom of movement, no clarity of thought, or no control of our own emotions. The key to avoiding this kind of confinement, though some do not want to avoid it, is to recognize that we are not really caged and to recognize that we can make a choice to free ourselves from the perception that we are caged. This can be difficult but with the development of insight, it can follow. Wouldn’t you feel better having a choice about your cages than create another by limiting your choices?
No matter how smooth and sleek or rough and crusty a person may look on the outside we should remember that what we see is not always what we get. Though it may take a bit of an effort to get underneath the outside layers of a person we should decide if that is what we want to do, and if we make that choice we should be prepared to work with what we find. We may not always like what we’ve found, but just because we’ve uncovered something that is not appealing doesn’t mean that we should stop our efforts to find what we sensed when we decided to commit to moving forward. We may find that we don’t want to consider the other person a friend or don’t want to let them know us in an intimate way, but we should continue to explore what is underneath the behavior that we don’t like so that we won’t make such a commitment in the future. It is better to understand what we don’t like as well as what we do so that we can make an informed analysis about ourselves while learning about others. Isn’t it best to look underneath the surface of a person, especially ourselves, before passing judgment?