Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Being Our Best Self

Our repeated failure to act as we would wish must not discourage us.  It is the sincere intention that is the essential thing, and this will in time release us from the bondage of habits which at present seem almost insurmountable”.
-Thomas Troward
We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good”.
-Carl Sagan
Every day I receive an email on my phone that gives me a daily thought based on my personality type.  One of my favorite is “Try today to do the opposite of what you would normally do”.  Personality types can be difficult to pin down because human being are complex.  It is also challenging to type yourself because most of us find it difficult to own our dark side.  As I have said many times, “We see ourselves one way, other people see us a different way, and then there is how we really are”.  This is why I sometimes say that I am highly overrated.  Some people think I walk on water.  I have learned over time that I am not even a good swimmer.  In spite of my downside, I try to be a good person.  In spite of my desire and efforts to be a good person, I still say and do dumb things.  Those closest to me, including my granddaughter, make jokes about it.  Chloe even does a great imitation of me.  I know it’s all in fun but like most people I don’t always like having my weaknesses pointed out to me.  True personal growth, however, demands that we own our weaknesses and even if they never become our strengths, at least we can learn to control them a bit.  You know you are growing psychologically when you can step outside yourself and see yourself as you really are.  I know when I am being a jerk.  I also recognize when I am at my best.  I still want to be a good person but I also want to be a true person in the sense that I have become the best version of myself.        

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Every moment there is a possibility to be total.  Whatsoever you are doing, be absorbed in it so utterly that the mind thinks nothing, is just there, is just a presence.”
No matter how much pressure you feel at work, if you could find ways to relax for at least five minutes every hour, you would be more productive.”
-Dr. Joyce Brothers
When you are so absorbed in what you are doing that you escape time and space, you are in a state that psychologists call “flow”.  I believe this is a normal state of being for artists.  It can also happen when you are working, when you are playing, or when you are simply doing nothing.  In my world of work, the people who seem to do it the best with minimum effort are people who work intuitively.  In other words, they flow and don’t overthink everything.  It is kind of like driving a car.  When I drive I am focusing on the road.  I do not consciously think about my turn signals, breaks, and gas pedal.  My hands and feet just know what to do.  I do not consciously think about using my turn signal or putting my foot on the break.  I just do it.  I understand that what I am saying may only be true for repetitive actions.  Something new usually requires some intellectual effort initially.  Whether you are flowing or struggling, it is a good thing to occasionally take a break.  An artist may step back and gaze upon their work for a moment or two to contemplate their next hammer blow or paint stroke.  Sometimes your brain needs to catch up with your body or vice versa and who among us doesn’t need to occasionally stop and catch our breath?  I know when I am work I need to occasionally walk around the office to clear my head and get my blood pumping.  Work without breaks can easily turn into work that will need to be done over because it didn’t flow the first time around.  Being in the moment means to also be one with whatever you are doing.  It may be a work of art or more likely one of the mundane tasks of daily life.        

Friday, February 17, 2017

Seasons Of Life

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”
-William Blake
Each morning we are born again.  What we do today is what matters most.”
Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond, and music is in both flowing violin and the water dripping from the drainage pipe.”
-Mark Nepo
We are all in different stages of life.  I like to compare life to the seasons of nature.  Some of us are in the springtime of our life.  Some of us are in the summer of our lives.  Others are in the autumn of life and I now find myself in the winter of life.  I am grateful because everyone doesn’t get to experience winter.  Each stage of life, each season, has its joys as well as challenges.  Even though I am still working full time, I will soon be what is considered full retirement age.  Since I have reached this milestone, I went to the social security office yesterday to sign up for my retirement benefits.  My wife found the experience a little depressing.  I wondered why since this will add additional money to our income.  She replied, “I am not ready for this stage of life.  I feel like it is the beginning of the end and I am not ready for it”.  It is a reality that I am closer to the end of my life than I am to the beginning.  However, I have learned from the seed time of my life and I have shared what I have learned from the harvest of my life.  It is now winter but winter has its own beauty and I will enjoy it for as long as it lasts.  It is the cycle of life but each morning I am reborn.  My life is today.  All my yesterday’s are gone.  The future has yet to be revealed.  Today is what matters and I am still here.  I will look for the light in the broken bottle and the diamond.  I will hear the music in the flowing violin and the running water.  I will enjoy life and I will pray for a long winter.    

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Breathe, Stop, And Take It All In

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.  Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.  This is a kind of death”.
-Anais Nin
How many things I can do without”!
For most of us a typical day involves hurrying from task to task, forgetting that there are other possibilities for us.  Even a tiny bit of mindfulness, brought to any moment, can wake us up, thus subverting the momentum of doing for at least one moment”.
-Mark Williams
Life is change and change is life.  I am well into a life that has demanded many changes.  Some I easily accepted and others I fought kicking and screaming.  Sometimes life drags us where we don’t want to go and then sometimes we realize it is where we always wanted to be.  Don’t resist life.  Go with it and you will find your destiny.  Along the way you will accumulate baggage.  Further down the road you will discard much of it and you will discover that it is easier to travel when your load has been lightened.  We think we need much but we actually require little.  Often when we go down the road of life we think we should be running.  While running we juggle many things and we measure our success with accomplishments that often didn’t need to be done.  I once heard a song lyric that went, “the race is won by running slowly”.  Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than increasing it’s speed”.  Live your life fully but do it more slowly.  Get in the habit of breathing, stopping, and taking it all in.  Don’t allow your life to be a blur.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Being Conscious That You Are Conscious

In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake.  Meditation is not evasion, it is a serene encounter with reality.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Knowledge is learning something every day.  Wisdom is letting go of something every day”.
-Zen proverb
Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it”.
-Sharon Salzberg
One of my daily goals is to see life as it really is.  This means that I must make the effort to remove my own filters and mis-perceptions.  I am reminded of the saying, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see”.  Meditation should open our eyes not close them.  Meditation is not a blissful avoidance of reality.  Meditation should teach us to be more present to life, not less present.  Meditation does not put you in a bubble.  It bursts bubbles.  Sometimes as a person ages, it appears they care less and less about stuff.  This can be misunderstood.  As an older person I care about a lot.  However, I also care about a lot less.  If one ages wisely, you begin to see the differences between what is truly essential and what is not.  I have let go of a lot but I still carry around too many concerns that I hope will eventually fall by the wayside.  Finally, mindfulness and consciousness are very much the same thing.  We are mindful when we are conscious that we are conscious.  I am mindful when I am aware that I am mindful.  I don’t think you are truly awake if you don’t know you are awake.      

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Spiritual Seekers

If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”
Rabbi Harold Kushner
I keep looking for one more teacher, only to find that fish learn from the water and birds learn from the sky.”
-Mark Nepo 
From my earliest childhood I have been a spiritual seeker and have always been attracted to spiritual things.  This does not mean I am in the front pew at church every Sunday.  Spirituality and religion are not necessarily the same thing.  Spiritual people are looking for depth in life.  They are seeking deeper meaning into and behind the activities of life.  If you are a seeker it is always tempting to think that one more retreat, one more book, or one more conversation with a spiritual master will suddenly give you enlightenment.  If fish learn from the water and birds from the sky, where do we human being s learn?  I think our greatest teacher is life itself.  We can follow the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, or Shiva but it is the application of these beliefs into our daily lives that truly form us.  One of my former teachers spoke of spirituality as putting the “Spirit into reality”.  Spiritual people are generally positive and optimistic people.  They are not blind to the bad or the evil in life but they focus on the good.  In spite of how it feels at times, most of life is good.  Good does not mean easy.  I have a good life but it is very demanding at times.  Accepting that life is comprised of the good and the bad I try to always live with gratitude for the good and with patience for the bad.  One of my basic beliefs comes from Buddhism.  Life is impermanent and all things pass.  Enjoy and be grateful for the good when it happens because it will pass.  Be patient and unafraid when life is challenging because this too shall pass.  What you see and notice will multiply.  If you focus on seeing the good, the more good you will see.  If you always focus on seeing the bad, the bad will loom ever larger in your life.  Some people call this the Law of Attraction.  What you see and think about is what you draw into your life.  Live with a grateful heart.   

Friday, February 10, 2017

If You Want To Do Something, Just Do It

We can learn a lot from children.  We need to take more time to be playful and enjoy simple things.”
-Jayne Morris
How do you let go?  You just let go.”
-Vernon Howard
If you want to have a prayer life, just start praying.”
-Thomas Merton
I dearly love my granddaughter.  Her young life has been very impactful to me.  The innocence of her childhood reminded me of many things that we adults quickly forget.  However, she will be a teen-ager on her next birthday so all the concerns and drama of a teenage girl are creeping into her life.  I miss watching SpongeBob Squarepants with my five year old granddaughter.  However, my current granddaughter is a really cool person and I love spending time with her.
As adults we often go through life with a lot of accumulated baggage.  Our worries, concerns, and daily challenges often weigh us down.  My wife and I are getting old and we thought life would be easier now but we still feel overwhelmed at times with things to do, places to go, and tasks that need to be completed.  I am always wondering how much of what I do every day really needs to be done.  We all need to let go of one or more things.  The way to begin is to just start letting go.  Look at your life and decide what is truly essential?  Let the non-essential parts of your life fall away.  Don’t do anything just to do it.  Ask yourself, “Does this activity have any real value?”.
Finally, if you need some peace and calm, start taking some time to just be.  How do you just be?  You can start by being quiet and being still and spending a few minutes every day alone.