This past weekend my granddaughter stayed at my home. This is nothing unusual. She has been doing that most of her life. The first time she was only three weeks old. My wife and I were in our mid-fifties at the time and I thought we were both going to die. Chloe woke up every hour wanting a bottle. I had raised two of my own children but time had erased my memories of how much work an infant was, especially in the middle of the night. I won’t even get in to the first time I kept Chloe by myself and she had a bowel movement that made the Guinness Book of World Records. The whole time I was changing her diaper and trying not to pass out, she was laughing hysterically. Now Chloe is 12 years old and very much a “tween”. Normally we both hang out in my man cave which she now calls the “Chill Room” because “we be chillin’ together”. This past weekend my wife and I let her have a friend over for the night. It is one thing for two old people to have a 12 year old in their home for the weekend. It is another thing to have two 12 year olds in the house. About 3:45 AM on Sunday morning I had to go downstairs and suggest it might be time to go to bed. I was still tired from a trip to the movies to see “Ghostbusters” followed by a trip to the Mall to shop at a store called “Hot Topic”. This is a store frequented by a wide assortment of young and not so young freaky people. I was happy when I heard my granddaughter tell her friend that I was cool because “I was one of them”. In other words, I am “alternative” and not your run of the mill Paw Paw. Occasionally I miss the little girl who made me sit on the floor for tea parties. However, she has become this wonderful, cool kid who amazes me with her perception and humor. This weekend I am taking her to outer space so we can hang out with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in the new Star Trek movie.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
“Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened? As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning. Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe? To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise”.
-Anthony de Mello
I have always thought of spiritual practices as exercise for the soul the way physical activity is exercise is for the body. A workout at the gym is not necessarily enjoyable any more than sitting in silence is always peaceful. Occasionally physical exercise may be fun and sitting in silence may be calming. Sometimes both of these things are just something we have to suffer through. Spiritual practices, like physical exercise, are really mean for the long haul. One trip to the gym does not qualify you for the Olympics any more than one meditation session makes you a spiritual guru. People who do either or both of these things don’t usually feel an immediate effect when doing them. They will, however, often feel the effect if they miss a session. Over the long haul spiritual practices awaken your spiritual senses the way physical exercise keeps your body in good shape. Nothing in life is a sure thing. You can go to the gym every day and run five miles every evening and still drop dead of a heart attack on the side of the road. You could also sit in silence twice a day for thirty years and never be enlightened. Couch potatoes can outlive fitness freaks. Agnostics can be knocked off their horses and receive total enlightenment with no effort on their part. Like most of you, I do the best I can and I hope I am not asleep when the sun begins to rise.
Saturday, July 09, 2016
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”
Most of us don’t do it consciously but all of us strive to maintain a certain image. I was once asked who I would be if I didn’t have my beard. The last time I was clean shaven was 1978. My children, who are both in their thirties, have never seen me without a beard. One of them once said, “You can’t shave off your beard. If you did you wouldn’t be my dad”! If I did shave off my beard and let go of my “old hippie” persona, who and what would I really be? I think if I shaved off my beard, my ponytail, and let go of my “old hippie” persona, I might be a Buddhist monk. However, even that is an illusion. If I am truly honest, I look the way I look because I like to look this way. I like it that some people think I am wise and a bit of a Zen Master. I like be thought of as a free spirited hippie type. Everyone, including me, wears a variety of masks, costumes, and even disguises. We all live our illusions. When we let go of our self-images, who are we? Who might we become if we weren’t so busy pretending we are something else?
Thursday, July 07, 2016
The next message you need is always right where you are.
Like most people, my life has had its share of twists and turns. I have sometimes wondered if I made all the right decisions. Did I turn right when I should have turned left? Did I go down the road less traveled when I should have stayed on the main highway? Am I where I should be? Am I who I should have been? I am not certain if I have done all the right things but I have done many things right. I didn’t plan the life I have. It has not always been the life I wanted. However, it is the life I have. I do like to believe it is no accident that I am where I am and I am doing what I am doing. Sometimes the life you have is the life you need. Sometimes the life you have is the life other people need. Our lives are not always about us. This is a reason we are where we are. Part of our life’s quest is to understand the reason and to find our purpose.
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
“What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”
This quote reminds me of another that goes “Whenever you are angry, you are denying yourself the opportunity to be happy”. Those of us who are working class folks often dread working. This may be due to the feeling that what we do is unimportant to us personally. However, even if the work itself is unimportant to you personally, it still has importance because it gives you the ability to provide for your families. It might seem better to own your day but if there’s no money coming in, that is a whole other set of problems. Time may be our most valuable possession so we should choose carefully how we manage and spend it. Once time is gone, it is gone. Some things, like work, are necessary for most people and so we allow the necessary allotment of time in order to make a living. Many other activities are voluntary and we will allow time based on their importance to us. Somehow all of us manage to find the time for what we consider important. It may be important for you to “waste” time in leisurely activities. There is nothing wrong with that but it still has a price and the price is based on how much time can be spend doing this. Time is finite but the perception of time can vary widely. Most of us feel like we spend most of our time working. However, 40 hours at work is actually only 24% of the total hours available to us each week. There are 168 hours in a seven day week. How do you spend the other 128 hours?
Monday, July 04, 2016
“If your relationship to the present moment is not right, nothing can ever be right in the future because when the future comes it’s the present moment.”
Think about this for a minute. At this moment it is NOW. When the future arrives it will also be NOW. I once saw an advertisement for a Zen wrist watch. The face of the watch had no numbers. It simply said NOW. Anytime of day that you wondered what time it was, the watch always said NOW. No one can change the fact that it is NOW. The past was NOW and the Future will be NOW. Our relationship with reality is always experienced in the NOW. This is not some philosophical mumble jumble. I defy anyone to live in a moment that it not NOW. I also like what Fr. Richard Rohr says about the NOW. In one of his talks I heard him say, “The moment is as perfect as it can be”. That doesn’t mean it is perfect. It simply means it is as perfect as it can be. Another way of looking at the NOW is to understand that “it is what it is”. How the NOW feels depends on your relationship with the moment.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Like many people I am weary of nightly newscasts that talk about mass killings, terrorist attacks, and all manner of bad behavior. I know life is complicated and there is much injustice in the world but many people seem to have no other goal in life than to wreak mayhem on other people. I truly believe that 99% of all the people in the world, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual preference, want the same things. People want to live their life in peace. They want to be happy. They want to take care of their families. They want to work and provide the basic necessities of life for their spouses and children. They want to laugh and feel joy. They want to enjoy life and not be overwhelmed with hardship and suffering. Many of us have these things but I recently read that 60,000,000 people in the world have been displaced by all the wars currently being waged. This doesn’t include the homeless people or the hungry in affluent places like the United States. Compared to the suffering of millions of people around the world, those of you reading these thoughts have much to smile about. You probably live in peace even if you don’t feel blissfully happy every day. Count your blessings and smile. I try to smile at every person who I have direct eye contact with even if they are a stranger. It is rare for them not to smile back. You cannot truly smile and be full of hate. We are all human beings on the same planet who mostly want the same things. Work for peace wherever you are. Start with a smile.