Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Road To Success Is Paved With Work

Wanderer, your footsteps are the road and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking”.
Antonio Machado
“Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and then sustain it”.
-Warren Bennis
In my life I have noticed that everyone wants to know the way.  Everyone wants to know how to get somewhere.  Everyone wants to know the secret to success.  The way to get anywhere is to get going.  Don’t look for a path.  Rather, make your own path.  Rarely does anything good or valuable come easy.  You have to know what you want and then translate your intention and goal into reality.  Once achieved it must be maintained and sustained.  I’ve had some success in life and I have a comfortable lifestyle.  No one gave it to me.  I started working when I was 16 years old bagging groceries in a small mom and pop grocery store.  I worked after school and often on weekends.  Quite frankly, it was the only way I could keep up with my rich friends.  When I received my first paycheck I bought a pair of shoes that were too expensive for my parents to buy for me.  It took almost my entire paycheck.  Eventually I bought my first car and even paid my own car insurance.  That first car was a 1962 VW Beetle that cost $900.  It drove me and my hippie friends to all kinds of places our parents never knew about.  My wife and I have been getting out of bed and heading to our respective jobs for 42+ years.  Many days neither of us wanted to do it but we were mature enough to use whatever power reserves we had to “translate intention into reality and then sustain it”.  Our intention is to stay employed so we can continue to have a comfortable life.  The older we get the less we want to do this.  I am certainly no super human.  I am often unmotivated, lazy, resistant, rebellious, and lacking in direction.  I am what some people would call an under achiever.  However, my wife and I had hard working parents who gave us a strong work ethic.  You don’t have to be a superstar to be successful in life.  You do, however, have to get up and show up.  The road you need to make by walking is the road to work.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Treat Every Moment As Your Last

Treat every moment as your last.  It is not a preparation for something else.  Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see.  You are one with everything.  This is more true than I can say and more true than you can hear.
-Shunryu Suzuki
Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.
Empty handed I entered the world.
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going,
Two simple happenings that got entangled.
I really like these quotes.  It is not because I am closer to the end of my life than I am to the beginning.  Shunryu Suzuki reminds us that every moment of our lives is important.  Most of us waste much of our lives in pursuits that are often frivolous or unnecessary.  Others spend their entire life preparing for the future and they never truly live in the present.  Just recently I used a strong metaphor in a conversation with my wife.  I told her she is always loading her gun but she never pulls the trigger.  What I was saying is that we have to quit talking all the time about what we are going to do and just do it.  I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said “Life is short.  Buy the damn concert tickets”!   Whether we are young or old we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis “What are we waiting for”?  Yes, sometimes you have to plan but don’t spend your entire life planning.  Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, you have to implement your dreams.  Originally I thought I would be retired by now.  When I decided to keep working for a while I told my wife that if I was going to continue working, and now that I have more money than I’ve ever had, I am going to do more.  If I want something I will buy it.  I will go on nicer vacations and take them more often.  I’m running out of days so the time for more action is now.  I was out walking the other day while at work.  Each day now there are food trucks everywhere.  People seem to love them.  One of the food trucks had a funny slogan painted on it.  It said, “I don’t want to look back some day and think I could have eaten that”!  We are all given a finite period of time in this life.  Some get more than others and no one knows how long they will be given.  I have already been given much more than many.  Empty handed I entered this world and barefoot I will leave it.  In the time between I want to be one with the clouds and the sun and the stars.  I’m going to the damn concerts too!         

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Oldest Son

Today is the 39th birthday of my oldest son who is also the father of Chloe and my namesake.  Although he has my name, the truth is that he’s more like his mother.  That’s a whole different daily thought.  When I began working at Humana he was only seven years old and in the first grade.  Now he is knocking on the door of middle age and has a few gray hairs to prove it.  He is a single Dad and although Chloe may disagree some days, he’s a very good Dad who works hard.  I found it touching that this past weekend Chloe told my wife and me that she wanted to get her Dad a Mother’s Day card.  We stopped at Walgreen’s where she picked out a card and a few of his favorite snacks.  When my son was born in 1978 I was only 27 years old and married only four years.  This was pre-Humana so at the time I was working for a Heating and Air Conditioning Wholesale company where I waited on customers and unloaded semi-trucks full of air conditioners and furnaces.  Becoming a parent changed my life as it does for most people.  Once you become a parent it never really ends.  The midnight feedings and diaper changes turn into sleepless nights wondering where your teen-ager is and what they doing.  Before you realize it they grow up and leave home for their own life.  Eventually they have a crisis or two and realize they are lucky their parents are still around to help.  It is also a good thing if their parents have a bigger bank account.  Once my son called me in the middle of my evening nap and asked if I could watch Chloe for a few hours.  I responded that I could and asked him where he was.  He replied, “I’m in your driveway”.  Four years after my oldest son was born, his brother came along.  I think both of them would agree they had a pretty good life growing up.  There were lots of Saturday afternoon movies, attending professional wrestling matches, going to the circus, and being on vacations.  Santa Claus never missed a Christmas either.  I never had a daughter but now I have a very special granddaughter.  Sons and daughters and grandchildren grow up quickly so use some of that Zen I am always talking about and enjoy every moment while you can.

The Sound Of Our Own Wheels

“Try dying every day to your old self so that you emerge renewed and young again as the tired mind sheds its load”.
-Kristen Zambucka
Let’s be honest.  Aren’t we all just a little tired in ways that have nothing to do with a lack of sleep?  I call it being psychically tired.  It’s part being physically tired.  It’s part being emotionally tired. It’s part being spiritually tired.  Life is hard for all of us even if we have lives that many would consider very nice.  Life is sometimes harder for us as individuals because of our own dysfunctional behavior patterns.  The rock band “The Eagles” have a song lyric that goes “Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”.  This is what many of us do.  If life isn’t challenging enough we drive ourselves crazy with the sound of our own wheels.  In my mind the “sound of our own wheels” is our dysfunctional behavior.  After many years I have realized that people don’t really change much and they are who they are.  This is certainly true with people within my own family, people in the workplace, and with myself.  I can help guide behavior but I can rarely change it in others.  It is the same with me as a person and a leader.  My strengths are my strengths and my weaknesses are my weaknesses.  My weaknesses will never be my strengths.  Our personalities never really change.  We just become older and hopefully better versions of ourselves.  When I had only been married a short period of time, my wife complained to my mother that I was obsessed with music.  My mother told her to relax because I would get over it when I grew up.  42 years later at age 66 I have a music collection that probably contains 3,000 CD’s.  They take up an entire wall of my room at home.  In the next month I will be attending two major rock concerts.  I am still a hippie and still a little rebellious.  We are what we are.  Having said all of this, sometimes I wear myself out with my dysfunctions, my obsessions, and the sound of my own wheels.  Know what I mean?  I would like to sometimes wake up to a new and renewed version of myself.  By the way, my mother is now 87 years old and probably still waiting for me to grow up.        

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Can You Be Present Every Moment?

The solution to our mood problems may not require heroic attempts to change our inner feeling world or the outer world of people, places, and jobs.  Rather, it may simply involve a shift in the way we pay attention to all of them”.
-Mark Williams
The little things we do in life may not seem to have a direct bearing on spirituality; maybe they seem quite unspiritual.  Nevertheless, it is your world you are dealing with; it is your environment.  So the things you are doing should be felt fully rather than rushed through”.
-Chogyam Trunga Rinpoche
As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are.  Otherwise you will miss most of your life.”
As simple as all of this sounds I find it very challenging to do on a day to day basis.  When I think of presence, I think of being totally focused on the moment and the event.  I then ponder, “When has 100% of me ever been anywhere and doing one thing at the same time”?  I often feel like I am going in ten directions and parts of me are trying to catch up with other parts of me.  Most days I have less sleep than I need, so I am often tired, and there seems to be places I need to go and things I need to accomplish.  By the time I get home at the end of the day I feel exhausted from trying to be present all day at work.  My evenings are generally free and unencumbered but I know many of you have child care responsibilities, part time jobs, or school obligations.  I don’t know that I can be conscious or truly present every minute of the day.  Consciousness or presence is a lot like meditation.  When one sits in meditation you strive to be present to the moment and most meditators focus on their breath or a mantra to stay focused.  When you realize that you are drifting you come back to your breath or your mantra in order to return to your center.  You really have to do the same thing when living a busy life.  When you realize that you are chasing your tail or meeting yourself coming and going, pause for a few moments and just breathe.  If you can, stop what you are doing  and use a mantra or a prayer word to refocus and re-enter your own center.  In other words, get your bearings and let your inner GPS re-direct itself.  Ironically, consciousness can be the awareness that you aren’t conscious!  When you are truly in the moment you probably aren’t aware of it.  Some psychologists refer to unconscious consciousness as “flow”.  Flow is when you are no longer aware of time or space.         

Sunday, May 14, 2017

All Of Life Is A Teacher

The entire world is an open book, a scripture.  Read it.  Learn while digging a pit or chopping some wood or cooking some food.  If you can’t learn from your daily activities, how are you going to understand the scriptures”?
-Swami Satchidananda
Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”.
-Zen saying
You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Most of you reading this have probably never dug a pit, chopped wood, or carried water.  I assume everyone has prepared a meal if only for themselves.  Any of you who are old hippies like me probably know that Swami Satchidananda appeared at the original Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 and was also featured in the Woodstock documentary film.  He was a Hindu guru and died just a few years ago.  Today’s Zen quote is a famous one.  It is basically telling us that before or after we may attain some level of enlightenment we will still have the chores of everyday life.  What will change is our attitude and view of these chores.  Most of us in America live like Kings and Queens compared to most of the world.  The reality is that many people chop wood and carry water everyday just to survive.  I believe this quote is also telling us that if we aren’t finding what we are looking for in the tasks of everyday life we aren’t likely to find them in a church or temple or mosque.  St. Bernard is a Christian monk who lived near the end of the 10th century in France.  Clairvaux is a small town in France where he founded a monastery and lived much of his life.  I have been to Clairvaux, France and while there I visited a spring in a forest where St. Bernard is believed to have meditated and inspired to write the words quoted above.  St. Bernard was one of the early teachers and monks in the order of monks that came to be known as Cistercians.  The monastery where I lived as a young man was a Cistercian monastery.  I am reminded of a time I was in the monastery and feeling ill.  I was in the infirmary and reading “The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross”.  John of the Cross was a 16th century Spanish mystic.  His books would be considered “heavy”.  An older monk came to see how I was feeling.  When he saw the book I was reading he said, “Brother Dominic, you would learn more about God working in the cow barn than reading that book”.  The works of John of the Cross are spiritual classics but the older monk was right.  I learned more about God working at the cow barn and taking walks in the woods where the trees and the stones were my teachers than I ever learned in church.  There is nothing wrong with going to church but all of life can and should be your teacher.   

Thursday, May 11, 2017

You Are Responsible For Your Own Decisions

Distracting yourself away from your problems doesn’t help you.  Your problems will always return.  Acknowledging your problems is the first step to dealing with them”.
We live in a society where many people feel they are victims.  Some people truly are victims of circumstances that are beyond their control.  Many other people are just looking for an excuse or someone to blame for their problems.  Whenever I talk to my granddaughter about her school work, a bad grade is always her teachers fault.  Occasionally I speak with an adult who is still blaming their parents for their life.  Sooner or later we all have to own our problems and our lives.  You can play the blame game or you can just deal with your situation which may or may not be your own fault.  Most of our lives are the results of our own good and bad decisions.  I think we all have the power to make our lives what we want them to be.  This doesn’t mean that our lives always turn out the way we want them to do.  I truly think most people’s lives are accidental in the sense that they turn out the way they do without much actual planning.  How many of you who are reading these thoughts have the life you wanted?  How many of you think the circumstances of your life are exactly what you thought they should be?  Even if a life is accidental, that doesn’t mean it turned out badly.  Are you happy with the life you have?  If so, you may be proof that an accidental life can be a happy life.  On the other hand, some people achieve a life they think they wanted only to find out it makes them miserable.  Many of us try to make the best of our situation regardless of how we got there.  Look at the life you have.  How did you get there?  What decisions good or bad have you made?  If you are happy, be grateful.  If you are not, what are your options?  Sometimes we get so far down a road it is difficult or impossible to turn back and start over.  For others it is never too late to start over.  We are always at a crossroads.