Monday, November 30, 2015

What Excites You?

Make a list of things that excite you.  What kind of person would you be if you could sustain this level of excitement more often?  What steps can you take to become more like that person.
I must admit that I am a person that doesn’t get excited easily.  I am cynical by nature, more reserved than I care to admit, and my true emotions rarely show.  As a leader one of my weaknesses is an inability to be a cheerleader type of person.  There are certainly people and things that give me joy.  My granddaughter and music come to mind.  However, I don’t think joy and excitement are the same thing.  I think what excites me is when I can be who I really am and do what I do best.  Occasionally this happens but not with a great deal of frequency.  Many people find it difficult to be who they are because they don’t know who they are.  I have a fairly good idea of my identity because I’ve had a long life so far to figure it out.  Many people also don’t know what they do best because they haven’t found their gift yet.  Excitement is a difficult emotion for me.  When I actually feel excitement it is almost uncomfortable.  I suppose the strongest emotion I feel is passion.  Passion, however, is a double edged sword.  On the positive side I can feel passion for something I truly believe in, on the negative side my passion is occasionally repressed anger that has found its way to the surface of my feelings.  Today I will try to meditate on things that excite me and ways that I can nurture this feeling within myself.  I want to live a life where my experiences, thoughts, and actions excite me.  Excitement, like joy, is a wonderful feeling.  I avoid all negative feelings and most of the time I am positive, although not excited.  What about you?    

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Live Life, Breathe, & Feel The Wind

This is not a hermitage, it is a house. ("Who was that hermitage I seen you with last night?") What I wear is pants. What I do is live. How I pray is breathe. Who said Zen? Wash out your mouth if you said Zen. If you see a meditation going by, shoot it. Who said "Love?" Love is in the movies. The spiritual life is something that people worry about when they are so busy with something else they think they ought to be spiritual. Spiritual life is guilt. Up here in the woods is seen the New Testament: that is to say, the wind comes through the trees and you breathe it.  
-Thomas Merton from his essay Day of a Stranger.
This is a quote from one of my favorite Thomas Merton essays.  For those that do not know, Thomas Merton was a monk, priest, and prolific spiritual writer.  He is also the biggest reason I started writing my own thoughts.  Merton lived at the Abbey of Gethsemani which is the same monastery where I lived as a young man although we were not there at the same time.  He spent the last few years of his life as a hermit living in the woods near the monastery.  I have spent a couple of weekends in this hermitage by myself and they were profound experiences for me.  I think the basic message here, and one I need to hear on a regular basis, is to stop trying so hard to be spiritual, deep, and profound.  Wear your pants, live your life, feel the wind, and don’t forget to breathe.  All of life is spiritual so you don’t have to do spiritual things to make life sacred.  Life is sacred and spiritual by itself.  Spiritual practices and beliefs are fine too, and they can enhance your experience of life, but they are not for everyone.  I once read that one should not have to search for meaning in life.  The meaning in life should be obvious.  I must admit that it is not always obvious to me.  Life can seem like a series of random events that have no particular meaning or connection.  I often feel as though I am simply going through the motions of living.  Perhaps I can’t see the forest for the trees.  Today I will try to breathe, relax, and try not to obsess over things.  Maybe, without realizing it, I will simply live my life, breathe, and feel the wind on my face.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Right Kind Of Shoes

During our lifetime we walk down many different roads.  We start in one place and end up in another place.  When one road ends, another one begins.  As Tom Hanks declared in the movie Forrest Gump, “I’ve worn lots of shoes”.  In all of the journeys down all of the roads we have traveled in our lives we’ve all worn lots of shoes.  I have an old pair of sneakers with tie dyed shoe strings that are completely worn out but I have kept them because they have taken me to many rock and roll concerts in my life.  The shoes, and the journeys on which I wore them, have many memories for me.  I hope my wife doesn’t pitch them when I am not looking.  Often when we are walking down one of life’s roads we have no idea where it will end or where it will intersect another road.  We don’t always know where we are and it is only by looking in our rear view mirror that we know where we’ve been.  If we know where we are going we have a better idea about what kind of shoes to wear.  I once visited France and spent a week with people from twelve different countries and several continents.  Our hosts took a bunch of us on a bus trip to a local shrine in a forest.  After we all got off the bus, the bus left us.  Most of us didn’t realize that part of the experience was to hike back to where we began.  The hike back was through the forest.  It was beautiful but there were hills to climb, creeks to cross, and occasional mud.  Some of the ladies and a few of the men were not prepared for such a hike.  I wasn’t wearing my rock and roll shoes but I did have on some shoes appropriate for a hike in the forest.  As you walk down the roads of your life, including the occasional side trip through a forest, be sure you have on the right kind of shoes.    

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wake Up Call

I cannot remember turning 30 years old.  It was 1981.  Who remembers 1981?  Without the use of Google can you tell me one significant event of that year?  I do remember turning 40, 50, and 60.  Each of those birthdays seemed significant.  I suppose the beginning of any new decade in your life is a significant event.  In the spring I will be 65 years old.  Yes, I know it is trendy to say “65 years young” but who are we kidding here?  In anticipation of turning 65 my wife and I attended a Medicare seminar on Monday night.  The room was full of old people.  I jokingly asked my wife if I looked as old as the other people in the room.  She seriously responded, “Have you looked in the mirror lately”?  Much of what you have heard about growing older is true.  Inside of every old person is a young person wondering what the heck happened.  I am being serious when I tell people, especially younger people, that I am 30 in my mind.  However, as the song goes, “Don’t make a promise with your mind that your body can’t keep”.  Turning 65 will be a significant birthday and a bit of a wakeup call.  Sometimes I ask myself, “How many wakeup calls do you need in your life”?  Any significant experience is an opportunity to evaluate your life.  People my age are very conscious of time.  When you know you are running out of it, it increases in value and becomes a precious commodity.  My wife and I would rather have vacation days than pay increases.  Time is an eternally flowing river and I have been swimming in it longer than many and I hope to continue for many more years.  However, even if I make it to 80 or 90 there will still be that 30 year old young person inside me wondering what the heck happened.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Journey Of Remembering

I believe part of the spiritual journey is trying to remember everything we have forgotten.  We are born perfect but begin to lose our true nature as we “mature”.  In a manner of speaking the spiritual journey is a return to the self.  As we grow older we feel like we learn new things.  I don’t think it is a learning so much as it is a remembering.  As we remember who and what we are, we re-discover our true self, the self that is often hidden by our personalities.  As I have shared before, our different personalities are nothing more than defense mechanisms we have unconsciously created as our way to deal with the world around us and also as a way to get love, i.e. if I am perfect people will love me more.  Since we have not all had the same experience of life, we do not all have the same personality.  I know my own personality well.  It has been studied and tested by me on a number of occasions.  I am programmed by my life’s experience to act a certain way.  Many of us even try to look a certain way.  I was asked once if I had a beard so I look “wiser”.  Seriously, the challenge of the spiritual journey, and the return to the self, often pushes us to act the opposite of the way we want to act or think we should act.  On some levels we are all frauds and imposters.  We maintain our illusions of ourselves because we are afraid of who we might really be.  If we are born perfect, a return to our true self cannot be scary.  The real fear should be living an illusion.  People sometimes ask me, “How can I have inner peace”?  Inner peace is not the result of having no conflict or challenges in your life.  Inner peace comes from being who you are, accepting who you are, and being OK with who you are.  If you are doing these things you are on your way to being your true self and experiencing inner peace.  Now if I can just remember to do this….   

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No Expectations

In whatever you so, don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood.  Do it for the joy of doing it, or otherwise it is just another ego trip.
Most of us are good people who try to do good things and who generally care about others.  We give our best and do what we can and much of it goes unnoticed or seems unappreciated.  Sooner or later we realize that we must do what we do simply because it gives us joy or because it is the right thing to do even if we never get any credit, recognition, or appreciation.  Ego is a big thing in our lives.  The desire to be loved and appreciated is equally huge.  Hopefully, we do feel loved and appreciated most of the time whether it be from family, co-workers, friends, or strangers.  Follow your bliss and all that gives you joy.  As St. Augustine once said, way back in the 5th century, “Love and do what you will”.  Do good works and even if there is no immediate gratification, I believe your goodness will come back to you.  History is full of famous people who changed the world.  Many others labor day after day with little recognition.  Some plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.  What’s the point?  I think we should all strive to do what is good and right even if no one else knows we are doing it.  I think many of us will be remembered more from our eventual absence than by our current presence.  We all want attention.  We all want to be noticed.  We all want to be appreciated.  However, you may not get any of these things so don’t depend on them for your happiness.  How you act in secret, when there is no spotlight, says more about your character than most public acts. 

Friday, November 13, 2015


Contemplation is part of the human experience that is overlooked by many as they rush through life.  We all need to have moments in our lives where we can breathe and bask in the wonder of life.  This is not complicated or so esoteric that it is beyond the average person.  Admittedly I grew up with the idea that the contemplative experience was rare and few received the gift.  I have since learned that we all have the capacity for contemplation.  It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to gaze at a full moon  or a beautiful sunset.  It can be a moment of silence in a busy day or a weekend on a retreat.  To be contemplative the only basic requirements are to be awake and aware.  A big part of being contemplative is having a sense of wonder.  When you can no longer be impressed, when you have lost your sense of awe, when nothing makes you go “wow”!, it is time to re-evaluate your life.  Wonder, awe, gratitude, and being “wowed” from time to time should be a regular part of your life.  There is much in life that is ugly.  There is much to make us cynical and pessimistic.  Contemplation is the antidote for these things.  It is the quiet moments of life that give us what we need to deal with all the other moments that may test us or make us crazy.  Many of us do not have the luxury of going on an extended retreat, or even having a weekend to ourselves, but we all have moments in our day when we can take a few minutes for the pause that refreshes.  I encourage all of you to be on lookout for such moments and to take advantage of them.  If you do I believe you will begin to experience a sense of calm in your life that you may not have now.  Let me share some words taken from Psalm 46 that may help you to find this calm.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.