My granddaughter is now twelve years old. When she was three or four years old she picked up one of the Magi from my Christmas crib. She looked at me and said, “Paw Paw, is this the Burger King”? I think most of you probably remember the old Burger King commercials. They have since been discontinued because the Burger King was a little creepy. When you have children in your family Christmas still has magic. It’s always a little sad when children, and even adults, stop believing in magic. This reminds me of a great line from a mini-series that I watched many years ago about the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. At the end of the show the magician Merlin sadly says “There’s no more magic in the world because the people no longer believe”. When the magic and the pixie dust disappear from our lives, the world gets a little darker. I can only take so much reality and I get tired of being an adult. I think that’s why I appreciate my granddaughter so much. Even if she can’t slow down or reverse the aging of my body, she keeps my spirit and heart young. I think that’s why children and grandparents get along so well. Chloe is now a “tween” growing into an adult. Grandparents are older people turning back into children. When grandchildren and grandparents are the same emotional age, all is bliss. I hope there is still magic and a little pixie dust in your lives. If not, go to the magic store and buy some. This time of year it’s always on sale.
Wednesday, December 07, 2016
It is said that every time two people meet there are six people in the room. For each person there is the person they think they are, the person the other person thinks they are, and the person they really are. I was thinking about this after reading some thoughts on how to see life and reality unfiltered. Let’s be honest. Few of us see life as it really is. Most of us see life and reality through a variety of filters. These filters, much like the many layers of our personalities, have been formed throughout our lives by all the experiences we’ve had, the way we were raised, and, in many cases, by our education or lack of it. It’s probably safe to say that few of us truly see things the same way. In the work environment, for example, there are people who are very happy and content. There are some people, however, who think they are in a concentration camp. Some people are happy with everything while others are happy with nothing. Our happiness is generally in direct proportion to our gratitude. Some people are grateful just to wake up in the morning and realize they have been given another day of life. Others people are never grateful for anything. Why are some people happy and grateful while others are unhappy and feeling like nothing good ever happens to them? Certainly attitude is a big factor. Another factor, however, is how unfiltered your life is and how much you are able to see life realistically.
The old Sufi taught that right speech had to pass through three gates. The first gate asked, “Is it true”? The second gate asked, “Is it necessary”? The third gate asked, “Is it kind”? The old sheik taught him that it would be better to be silent than to utter words that had not passed through the three gates.
For those that do not know, Sufism is the mystical side of Islam. This teaching is very similar to the kind of teachings also uttered by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the early Christian era. I tend to think that many basic teachings such as this one can be found in all the major religions. This is a great teaching regardless of what religion or philosophy you follow. Who among us couldn’t do a better job of guarding one’s speech. I try to avoid complaining, gossip, and any kind of hurtful speech. I am human, however, so there are times I do all of these things. I strive to minimize complaining by focusing on gratitude. Workplace gossip is an easy trap to fall into. I think the best way to minimize workplace gossip is for leadership to be as transparent as possible and for everyone to always tell the truth. I am doing better with minimizing hurtful speech because age and the awareness of my own weaknesses has taught me to be more patient and tolerant of others. Even though I don’t always remain silent, I also believe it is better to be silent than to speak a lot. I can't remember who said it but I did read once that “one should not speak unless your words improve the silence”.
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
As Christmas approaches and the mornings are dark and cold, I start my work days at home, sitting in silence, coffee mug in hand, looking at the twinkling lights on my Christmas tree, and focusing on my breathing. Whether it’s a work day or a holiday, I love the early morning. I schedule my time, especially on work days, so that I have approximately twenty minutes each morning that can be devoted to meditation. It gets my day off to a positive start and it helps me stay centered throughout my day. I am not one to get up at the last possible minute so that I have to rush getting ready, then drive like a maniac in order to get to work on time. Over my working career I’ve witnessed many people virtually running into the office, stressed out and frazzled, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of bed a little earlier. I like to see the day coming and not be thrown into a day that started without me. I not only love mornings, I love evenings as well. I love the quietness of early morning and I like the feeling of crossing the threshold of my home after a good day at work. Occasionally I struggle with the whole middle part of the day but I always try to enjoy every minute of my life. There is no doubt that when one gets to the age I am you start to have a whole new appreciation for time. I am not in a panic about time but I am realistic enough to understand that I have more time behind me than I do in front of me. I urge you to make the effort to add quality to your time. Savor the moments and avoid the mad rush of always being late for something. Spend some time being with yourself and doing nothing. When you get ready in the mornings, don’t gulp your coffee. Feel the warmth of the mug in your hands. Notice the aroma. Enjoy the taste. Life is made up of moments. If you don’t pay attention, you will miss them and when you get to the end of your life, you’ll realize you missed your life too.
Saturday, December 03, 2016
I once read an article about geese flying south for the winter. When geese fly in a group they fly in what appears to be a V formation. I’m hope at some point in your life you have looked up at the sky and have witnessed this. The article said the flying formation is more complicated than a simple V formation. Within the V formation, and around it, some geese are in different positions that could be considered organized chaos. All the geese, however, seem to know exactly what they are doing and the seeming chaos is not random. Scientists believe there is a high level of communication going on between the geese and there is an overall harmony and order that is happening. If you’ve ever seen this formation of geese flying overhead on an late fall or early winter morning, it is a thing of beauty. When there is order in the universe, and everything is working in harmony, there is always beauty. This is why so many people find solace in nature. This is why people flock to national parks and retreat houses in rural areas. People love beauty, harmony, and the order that creates them. It is soothing for the soul and it helps us to be centered and grounded. When life is wild and crazy and dis-ordered, it frays our nerves and destroys our harmony and inner peace. Let’s all trying to fly in formation today even if we may appear to be in organized chaos.
Thursday, December 01, 2016
I strongly dislike conflict. I know it is part of life and sometimes serves a purpose but I still dislike it. I find it exhausting and it rarely brings out the best in me or others. I prefer cooperation, compromise, and peacemaking. Compromise is the end result of skillful negotiation. It represents a win-win for everyone involved. As President Obama once said to the Republicans, “Compromise isn’t you getting everything you want and me getting nothing I want”. Compromise is a meeting in the middle. In today’s world the art of negotiation and compromise seems to be lost arts, especially in the world of politics. Conflict sucks the life right out of me. On the other hand, cooperation energizes me and motivates be to work harder. It improves my attitude and increases my desire to be a team player. When conflict is the result of one idea versus another, we should seek ways to combine the best of both ideas. Conflict often happens when people think dualistically. Conflict occurs when people think a solution must be either one way or another. Cooperation happens when people think in terms of both/and rather than either/or. I am not naïve to the fact that conflict is difficult to avoid and that compromise is not always easy. However, I would prefer to use my energy compromising and working together than fighting. Blessed are the peacemakers and those who strive to bring people together. We are always better as individuals and as groups when we work together and support one another.
All of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed, the Christmas trees are up, most of the presents are bought if not wrapped, the front of my house is decorated, and in the lobby of my building the Corporate Christmas tree stands tall. Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. The truth is that many people find the holidays a difficult and challenging time. While many people are “making merry”, others are sad, depressed, or stressed from financial challenges. For many people the holidays stir up a lot of emotions and memories and not all of them are good. Although I have never had a bad Christmas and I have a thousand reasons why I should be happy, I often feel depressed at this time of year. It may be the chaos, it may be the busyness, or it may be the high expectations to feel happy. Before the next month is finished I will be looking forward to the nothingness of January. Despite the mixed emotions, I still like the holiday season. There is something in the air that doesn’t seem to be around the rest of the year. Small children sometimes smile at me because they think I am Santa Claus. Other children are confused wondering why Santa shops at Target. On Christmas morning I usually get everything I want and a few things I didn’t even know I wanted. I am very blessed in many ways. In spite of my blessings, I often feel down in the dumps. I know I am not alone. Whatever your mindset, keep in mind that the Christmas season is a different experience for different people. Be sensitive to how others may feel. The world is full of Bob Cratchit’s and Ebenezer Scrooges. I am a little bit of both but overall I am a big fan of joy and I hope we all feel lots of joy over the coming weeks. If you don’t, however, you are not alone. Hang in there. This, too, will pass.