Saturday, August 12, 2017

How I Pray Is Breathe.

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.  I say that with all due respect for my granddaughter who has also been a major influence.  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 and they were profound experiences for me.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I believe I totally get the message in this quote.  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, and feel the wind.  O yes, 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 all by itself.  Of course, spiritual practices and beliefs are fine too and they can enhance your experience of life. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Generations

Along with psychology and personality types, I like to understand the different generations, specifically their views of life.  Recently I read an article about who tends to carry the burden of responsibility in the workplace.  The author believes the Gen X generation is now the driving force in the work place.  What defines the different generations?  It is basically defined by when you were born.  Here is a breakdown of the current generations.  I have seen variations on this but these are the most common delineations.
 
The Silent Generation-People born before 1945.
 
Baby Boomers-People born between 1946 and 1964.
 
Generation X-People born between 1965 and 1976.
 
Millennials-People born between 1977 and 1995.
 
Generation Z-People born between 1996 – 2010.  This would be my teenage granddaughter and her generation. 
 
I cannot dive deep into each generation.  Focusing on the article I read, here’s a few thoughts.  Millennials are the 20-40 Year olds.  Gen Xer’s are the 40-50 year olds  Baby Boomers are the 50-70 year olds.  Millennials are often seen as being a little clueless about the harsh realities of life.  Their parents may have told them they could do anything.  They are sometimes finding out they can’t despite what their parents told them.  Gen Xer’s are deep into adulthood.  Being an adult is hard.  They are raising families and building careers.  This is a very stressful time of life.  The Baby Boomers are coming to the end of their careers, their children are grown up, and they are faced with the reality that they are running out of time.  I am a Baby Boomer so I get it.  The gist of the article was that in the work place the Millennials are often perceived as clueless and the Baby Boomers are seen as over it and checked out so the Gen Xer’s must shoulder most of the responsibility.  Of course these are generalizations and don’t apply to every individual, but they are also somewhat true.  One final thought that I find interesting.  Most of my rock and roll heroes are not really Baby Boomers.  They are actually part of the “Silent Generation”.  Tell that to the Rolling Stones!  They are all in their 70’s now and still rocking and rolling all over the world.         

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Life Isn't Always As It Appears

I suffer from ‘Room B’ syndrome.  I always think other people are having a better time than me.  Social media has made this worse.  When comparing yourself to others, you rarely come out favorably”.
-Cherry Healey
 
I am a student of psychology, especially the study of personality types and specifically my own personality.  After many years I have come to realize that one of my flaws is envy.  I found this hard to accept at first because I tend to be a grateful person and I know I am blessed in many ways.  However, if I am completely honest I would have to admit that I am sometimes envious of others.  This gets tricky.  I am not envious of what I see in others.  I tend to be envious about what I imagine others have.  It is not their cars or houses or wealth that I envy.  It is the happiness and contentment I imagine they have that I wish I had for myself.  Let’s be honest.  All people have some kind of emptiness that they spend much of their life trying to fill.  It may take many years for an individual to know the cause of the emptiness they feel.  Although I was never homeless and I never went hungry, I realize now I was kind of poor compared to the way I live now.  It always seemed that other kids and other families had a better life.  In addition, my parents focused more on the physical needs of their children, i.e., food, a bed, clothes, and a roof, than on the emotional needs of their children.  I realize now this was a generational trait because my parent’s grew up during the Great Depression and World War II.  Additionally, as the oldest of six children, I quickly felt part of the background as younger siblings began to appear.  I don’t want to give the impression that I had a horrible childhood.  I never suffered, many other people had similar lives, and I also had many happy moments.  My point is that the needs of our adulthood are formed in our childhood.  When you feel like much is lacking, much is wanted.  I am not sure exactly why some tend to think everyone else has what they feel lacking.  When you feel envious of the life you imagine others have, remember that there is much about their lives of which you are unaware.  Many people are not as happy as they might look.  Many people’s relationships are not as perfect as they may appear.  That comfortable life may be the result of maxed out credit cards and multiple bank loans.  Every person, one way or another, is trying to fill a need and an emptiness.  On the positive side all of this can form us to be the good people that most of us are.  When you understand your own needs and pain, you can be more compassionate towards the needs and pain of others.           

Friday, July 28, 2017

Our Lives Form Who We Are


In the end, just three things matter; how well we have lived, how well we have loved, and how well we have learned to let go.
-Jack Kornfield
 
At some point we were born into this life.  My being came into this existence in 1951.  That was a long time ago and I can assure you it was a very different time than we live in now.  My childhood was relatively calm and life seemed good.  It was a simple time for me.  This was not true for everyone but it was for me.  For me, and many of my generation, life changed dramatically when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 at the young age of 46.  It seemed like the beginning of the turbulent sixties when our culture went through significant changes.  This was the time of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the counter culture movement, the Vietnam war, and the Catholic Church’s Vatican II Council which changed traditions that had been in place for generations.  My generation came of age with all of this as a backdrop.  It was a turbulent and exciting time to grow up.  In the 70’s I got married, in the 80’s and 90’s I raised children, and in 2001, the year of the World Trade Center attack, I turned 50 years old.  As much as I strive to be in the current moment, I sometimes look back at the events and experiences of my life and I wonder how they have formed me and what kind of person I am as a result of these experiences.  How well did I live?  How much have I loved?  What have I let go?  Overall, I think I have done well.  I have had a better than average share of life blessings coupled with a fair share of life’s troubles.  I have survived every challenge so far and I think I am a better and stronger person because of it.  Not everything has gone the way I wanted it to but I have no bitterness.  I have let go of resentments and times when life beat me up.  I once read that our memories are the pillow on which we will sit in our old age.  My pillow is quite comfortable as most of my memories bring a smile to my face or laughter to my heart.  What about you?      
 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Small Concession To Age

I have made a small concession to my age.  A couple of months ago I had an episode with my blood pressure.  It spiked with no warning and since it had never occurred before I wasn’t sure what was happening to me.  When I went to the clinic one of the first questions the nurse asked me was “Do you take blood pressure medicine and if so did you take it today”?  I responded that I did take a daily pill but I could not remember if I had taken it that day.  Let me confess now that I do occasionally have some short term memory issues.  They may be related to my age or possibly to things I did in my youth.  Anyway, my small concession to age is that I am now using a pill container that allows me to count out my daily medications for morning and night for a week at a time.  This pill box keeps me on track to remember to take my daily medications.  Now I just have to remember what day of the week it is.  I am not a person who is upset that I am getting older.  Every old person will say the same thing.  Our bodies may be getting older but we are still young on the inside.  Once, when I was a young lad of 58, one of my younger co-workers said to me, “Michael, you are the youngest 58 year old I have ever known”.  Hopefully, I am now one of the youngest 66 year olds she has ever known.  In my own mind I am 25 years old.  No one is more shocked to be old than an old person.  We are all wondering, “How the heck did this happen”?  One of my best friends and concert buddies is my age.  We met in high school at age 15 and took Driver’s Ed together.  We had some wild adventures in our youth and now we are blown away that some of our memories are 50 years old.  Neither one of us can rock and roll all night like we used to do but we are still trying.  OK, I am stretching the truth a bit.  We still go to concerts together but we occasionally nod off during a slow song if we close our eyes.  We also like to be home before 11:00 PM.  I am even more pathetic because I have to take a PTO day the next day.  It’s not because I got too high or I am hung over.  Although I may have had a few beers, it’s mainly because I’m tired from being out on a school night.  On a positive note, aging can be very freeing.  Most of life’s serious labors are behind you.  The future is always unknown but the present is more appreciated because you know the fragility of life.  You may have been running your entire life but now you can slow down and breathe.  Breathing is a lot easier for me now.  So is napping…..   
 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Happiness Is An Inside Job

No one can do more to help you find happiness than you yourself, no friend or lover or relative.  Be sure to help your own mind every day with quiet meditation.
 
In a recent email exchange with a friend I told them that I thought my best moments are when I am alone.  They probably thought, “Poor Michael”.  I am sure part of my feeling is because I am a serious introvert.  Sometimes I wish I was more outgoing and sociable.  Other times I thank God I am not.  In all honesty, even the best of people eventually wear me out or get on my nerves.  I am sure I sometimes do the same to other people.  People are best for me in small doses.  However, I am not anti-social and I do value relationships.  I just find relationships exhausting.  They are good for you but like going to the gym I find them a lot of work and sometimes I am not up to the task.  If you are lucky enough to have people in your life who truly complete you or build you up, you should be grateful because not everyone has that.  I would also say that if you have such relationships in your life you should not depend on them.  People come and go in our lives.  Sometimes they leave on their own, other times they are taken from us.  When this happens, we must be able to stand on our own.  A few years ago one of my dearest friends died unexpectedly.  It was very difficult for me.  They were an important part of my life and I was happy to have such a friend.  We shared many deep and personal conversations.  Whatever the quality of your life and relationships, you should cultivate your own personal and private space.  You don’t have to be an introvert to do this.  Even if you are an outgoing and social type person, you should occasionally spend some time alone with your own thoughts.  Happiness comes from within.  Others may enhance it or share our happiness but they cannot give it to us. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Challenge Of Writing

The week before last I spent a pleasant week in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  I had never been there before so it was nice to see and be in a new place.  One of the reasons I went there was to have a vacation that didn’t require another vacation in order to recover.  In previous vacations I went to Universal Studios and Disney World and it was exhausting.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I wish I had such problems”.  All I can say is that going to Disney World in your 30’s and going there in your 60’s are two very different experiences.  Since returning from my vacation I’ve struggled a bit getting back into the routine of writing a daily thought.  Sometimes my mind is just blank and these days my life is very routine and even boring.  In the past I often received inspiration from experiences I had or a book I was reading.  Currently I am reading the autobiography of Phil Collins called Not Dead Yet.  It is interesting from a musical point of view but is mostly the experiences of a man with way too much money.  I started my personal blog in 2006.  Before that I had handwritten journals and hundreds of emails.  I looked at my blog yesterday and since September, 2006, I have written 2,100 daily thoughts.  There is not much I haven’t written about that can be shared with the general public.  I have always strived to send out positive thoughts with occasional whining about daily life.  I have avoided sharing thoughts about any existential angst I may be having at the moment.  It is nice to know that many people like the things I write although one of my sons recently told my granddaughter, “Be careful what you say to Paw Paw because it will probably end up in one of his daily thoughts.  Now that Chloe is a teen-ager with an attitude I can tell you that her entire life is full of drama and angst and no one, including me, understands her.  Jesus once said, “A prophet is never accepted in his own country”.  I can also assure you that a wannabe Zen Master like me is not accepted in their own family either.  No one at home thinks I am wise.  Chloe thinks every conversation with me has too many “life lessons” and the rest of the family thinks I am full of myself.  They may be right.  However, I write as much for myself as anyone else so I will continue writing when there is something I want to say but I cannot guarantee it will be every day.         
 
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