Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Kindness Remembered

Yesterday was my first day of work after a long weekend that included taking care of my granddaughter and her dog as well as enjoying an evening of rock and roll with some friends.  My day off was full of tasks I wanted and needed to get done but never seemed to have the time.  My first day of work was a little stressful due to a lack of work.  I seemed to meet myself coming and going during the morning hours so it was afternoon before I could finally take a few laps around the office.  While walking my well-worn path someone approached me with the gift of a book they thought I would appreciate.  The book is titled The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.  The Tao is basically a kind of Chinese philosophy.  Pooh, of course, is Winnie the Pooh.  My oldest son’s baby nursery was decorated in a Winnie the Pooh motif. I feel certain that is not unique.  While talking to the lady that gave me the book, she mentioned that she had never forgotten a kindness I showed her in her early days at Humana.  Although I remembered the lady, I did not recall the kindness.  Kindness is like a seed you plant.  It may someday grow into a tree under whose shade you will never sit.  On the other hand it may also provide some shade or perhaps a cool breeze on a day you really need it.  Although yesterday was not a terrible day, it was nice to hear that I once was nice to someone that needed it and they still remember it.  No matter how much kindness you give a way, it is never lost.  It may circle the globe but eventually it will find its way back to you.  So will meanness, so remember that too.  You get what you give so put goodness into the world. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Let It Go

Every breath is an opportunity to receive and let go.  I receive love and I let go of pain”.
-Brenda MacIntyre
If we do not find anything pleasant, at least we shall find something new”.
This isn’t just ‘another day, another dollar’.  It’s more like ‘another day, another miracle’.”
-Victoria Moran
I have always felt a little sorry for people that can’t let anything go.  With each new slight or hurt, real or imagined, they add links to the chains which they carry around like Marley’s ghost in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.  Admittedly I sometimes brood or obsess about things but rarely do I do it more than a day.  There is certainly nothing I have carried around my entire life.  Who hasn’t been slighted?  Who hasn’t been hurt?  Who hasn’t had their heart broken?  Life hurts sometimes but let it go and move on.  Sometimes the best things in our lives are the end result of an experience that may have been painful for us.  Despite the pain we sometimes feel from life, if you can’t find anything pleasant, you aren’t looking hard enough or close enough.  This gets back to something I wrote previously about paying attention and noticing things.  You tend to see whatever you are looking for.  If you are constantly looking for the ways that people disappoint you, you will find lots of ways that people disappoint you.  If you are looking for the ways that people are good, you will see the good in people.  Most of us can list reasons our families drive us crazy but in the end no one will be there for you like your family.  Don’t focus on the pain of life.  We all feel it.  Focus on what is good and be grateful for it.        

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Believe In My Experience

 “The easiest thing in the world is self-deceit; for everyman believes what he wishes, though the reality is often different”.
You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness.  This of course would be an attachment to stillness, and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion.  It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom”.
-Jon Kabat-Zinn
We all believe what we believe.  Some of us watch Fox News while others watch MSNBC.  Some of us believe in Jesus.  Others follow the teachings of Buddha or Mohammed.  Still others watch no news at all and do not follow the teachings of anyone.  I am like most people.  I choose what I believe and most of what I believe is based on what I have experienced in life.  When I evaluate my own beliefs and the sometimes contrary beliefs of others I wonder where the real truth is and I wonder what the real truth is.  One man’s truth is another man’s lie.  If knowing the truth isn’t already challenging enough there are people spouting alternative facts and fake news.  Many leaders want to deceive you and keep you confused and in the dark.  I try not to be cynical but my own experience is all I truly trust.  The only true reality for me is the one I live in, not the one I hear about from another’s perception.  This is why at this time of my life I struggle with the whole idea of faith.  It is difficult to believe in things you have not experienced and if you have experienced them you don’t need to believe because your experience is real.  At the end of the day, regardless of where we get our information or whose teachings we follow, we all want to be happy and live in peace.  If you are fortunate enough to actually be happy and to live in peace, it is difficult to not become attached to the experience and to hold it firmly with both hands.  However, when you become attached to it and try to hold onto it, it becomes something you have to protect.  That changes the whole dynamic of the experience.        

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spiritual People Laugh A Lot

“Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future.  It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift”.
-Oprah Winfrey
What you are today is a consequence of what you were yesterday.  What you will be tomorrow is a consequence of what you are today”.
I really like Oprah Winfrey.  We could have some wonderful conversation if she ever invited me to lunch.  She has a wonderful show called “Super Soul Sunday”.  One of my friends and former teachers was a guest on this show.  The guests tend to be people who are spiritual leaders.  My teacher is a Franciscan priest named Father Richard Rohr.  My last visit with him was in 2013 when he was in Louisville to appear with the Dalai Lama at the local Festival of Faiths.  If you can ever catch him on a rerun of Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday”, it is well worth your time.  I also recommend John Oliver’s recent interview with the Dalai Lama.  You can find it on last week’ episode of “Last Week Tonight” on HBO or I have also found it on John Oliver’s Facebook page.  It was recorded in Dharamsala, India where the Dalai Lama lives when he is not traveling the world.  It is a very humorous interview.  In my experience of holy people and spiritual masters, they tend to have a great sense of humor and they laugh a lot.  The one exception to this was a rather grim Zen Master when I made a Zen retreat once.  Of course, maybe I just wasn’t enlightened enough at that time to get his potential humor.  It was a very serious retreat and my first attempt at grasping Zen.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Paying Attention And Noticing Things

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice.  And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is nothing we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds”.
-R.D. Laing
Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimension”.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
Ad I have said many times, mindfulness is about being awake and aware.  This sounds so basic and obvious but the world is full of the walking dead.  Many people go about their business every day and fail to notice much, if anything, of what is going on around them.  Focus and concentration can be good things when performing a task or solving a problem but when you go through life with your eyes and mind closed you miss out on quite a bit.  For example, it is now late winter/early spring.  Life that has been dormant for months is beginning to burst through the ground and flowers and trees are budding and flowering.  Have you noticed?  Last week, virtually overnight, most of the trees in our office park began blooming.  I was walking to my car one afternoon after a long day and boom!  The dogwoods, or are they Bradford Pears?, were in full bloom.  I bet there were some people who didn’t notice.  As you go through your day, pay attention and notice things.  When I walk around my antennae are on full alert.  If my wife and I were sitting on a bench at the Mall, she wouldn’t notice if her dead mother walked right in front of us.  Many people are like her.  As you open your eyes, expand your mind.  Read a book.  Challenge yourself with new ways of thinking.  Don’t be locked in old paradigms.  Openness to new ideas stretches your mind and expands your potential.     

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Personal Power

Mindfulness helps to smooth out all the ups and downs of our daily lives”.
Power is the capacity to translate intension into reality and then sustain it”.
-Warren Bennis
If you can find as much happiness at the bottom of the ladder of success as you can at the top, then you understand commitment”.
-Tom Krause
I think mindfulness is good not only for our mental health but for our overall well-being.  If we all were just present to where we are and to what we should be doing in the moment, our lives would be a lot less stressful.  I have spent most of my adult life managing other people and I have experienced all types of personalities.  Some are driven and competitive people who push themselves on a daily basis to perform better than they did the day before.  Others will do exactly what you ask, no more and no less.  In every group of people I have ever managed there are always some who will only do what they are supposed to do if you light a fire under them or poke them with a stick.  Obviously, I say this in a metaphorical sense and don’t mean literally.  True personal power is making yourself do what needs to be done without another’s person’s power forcing you to do it.  I am reminded of a definition for character that says “character is doing the right thing even when no one is watching”.  If we are adults we know what needs to be done in our lives, whether it be in our families or in the workplace.  I must confess that I found parenting one of the most difficult things I have ever done.  There were times I hated it and thought I should have stayed in the monastery!  I used to have regular dreams where I found myself trapped in buildings where I could not find an exit.  I think I had those dreams because I felt trapped in the expectations of parenting and I wanted to escape them.  I am sure many other parents have felt the same way especially when their children were teenagers.  However, despite my dreams of being trapped, I stuck it out and used what little power I had to be there for my children and to do the best I could.  I am happy to say they both turned out to be pretty good human beings.  The point is that we all need to use whatever personal power we have to sometimes force ourselves to do what is needed and what is right.  In my experience, doing what is needed and right has often brought me a sense of contentment that wasn’t dependent on any other kind of success.     

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Comfort Zones

Inspiration is intention obeyed.”
-Emily Carr
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.”
-W.H. Murray
Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking.”
-Antonio Machado
If you are anything like me you have occasional moments of inspiration followed by hesitancy.  You want to move forward but doubt overcomes you and you can’t seem to take that first step towards commitment.  How many inspirations have we all had that never reached fruition?  I am not a risk taker by nature.  As I get older I tend to be more cautious about my decisions.  I am not generally a fearful person and I don’t need certitude about everything but an overabundance of cautious sometimes prevents me from taking a leap of faith.  Deep inside me I know that if I take that first step, the second step will be easier, and so on and so forth.  If I have faith and if I am strong and if I will just take a chance, my steps will turn into a road.  More often than not, it is the road I should be on.  I might take more chances if all I needed to worry about was myself.  Most of my life, however, I have had the responsibilities of family obligations and I didn’t want my potential follies to jeopardize their security.  Of course, that just might be an excuse for my own insecurities.  Even though I haven’t always done it, I don’t think you will reach your full potential in life if you don’t take some chances.  I have always seen myself as something of an underachiever and it’s probably because I didn’t take enough chances and I didn’t want to leave my personal comfort zone.  Comfort zones are not bad necessarily but they are limiting.