Thursday, April 29, 2010

Awesome Things Volume XV

One of my favorite restaurants will soon be in my neighborhood! Recently a gasoline station near my home was demolished and some new construction began. I assumed it would be another bank even though no one has any money. Last Monday, however, I saw a sign telling me the new construction is a Frisch's restaurant. I have been eating at Frisch's since I was in high school and you know how long ago that was. I'm kind of in the mood for a Big Boy hamburger and some French fries right now!

My granddaughter calling me on the telephone last night. It's just a matter of time before she emails me or sends me a text message. Anyway, she called me last night to tell me about the three caterpillars she caught in her backyard. One is fat and two are skinny. The fat one was "full of rain". I told her I would like to see them so she said, "Why don't you come over right now"?

A rainy afternoon and a good book. Most of last weekend was busy but I managed to have a quiet afternoon on Sunday. Outside my window was a gentle rain. Inside, as the washing machine swished and the dryer tumbled, I sat in my chair with a good book that was recommended by a friend. It was perfect and everything a Sunday afternoon was made for. If the dryer buzzer didn't go off on a regular basis, it would have been the perfect scenario for a nap.

Sunshine. OK, I get that we need rain and I've even enjoyed it a little. However, it's Derby week. I'm ready for a little sunshine so all the people who like to participate in all the Kentucky Derby events can enjoy themselves without needing an umbrella. Admittedly a rainy day is a perfect time to be home with a good book. The problem is that I am not an home with a good book. I'm at work with an inventory report. I like to take walks outside and I would prefer to do it under blue skies and bright sunlight. Rain, rain, go away, please come back another day!

Everything! One thing I have learned in life is that it's the little things that make me happiest and that give me the most contentment. Here's a few things that come to mind. I'm sure you have your own list.

A good night's sleep, a full moon, a great cup of coffee, laughter, your favorite song on the radio, a letter or email from an old friend you haven't heard from in a while, anytime anything goes my way, lunch with a friend, anything my granddaughter does, especially when she hugs me, a quiet day at work, a peaceful neighborhood, family, great co-worker's, finding a desired CD that you thought was no longer available....I could go on and on and on. Happiness begins with gratefulness. What are you grateful for?

Self Knowledge. People sometimes talk about "finding themselves". It actually happens. When I was in my mid 40's I had a sudden realization of who I was, why I acted the way I did, why I felt the way I do, and why I thought the way I do about many things. It took a lot of what some call "inner work" to come to this realization. Things like the Myer's Briggs, Enneagram, and StrengthFinder's also helped a lot. My moment of realization was an "aha" moment for me. I would love to tell you that such self knowledge makes all your problems and issues go away but it doesn't. What it does give you is knowledge and some skill to deal with your own dysfunctions and inadequacies as well a recognizing your gifts as a person.

Friendship. Today I had lunch in the park with my best friend at work. It was a simple meal that we purchased from a hot dog vendor outside our building. Sitting in the bright sunlight, on a beautiful day, it seemed like a great feast. Neither of us was in the mood for work but laughter and fresh air revived us and we both felt better when we returned to the office. There's a reason our employee satisfaction survey asks whether or not you have a best friend at work. Let's be honest. Most of us would not be here if we didn't need to be. However, the challenges and frustrations of the work day can be greatly alleviated by having a good friend at work. I can't go out to lunch everyday but I usually do it at least once a week. It is good for the soul and is one of life's simple joys.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

That Was Then, This Is Now

Walking around my office today with my headphones on, listening to psychedelic music by a 60's band called Moby Grape that was recorded live at the famous Avalon Ballroom in 1968, made me feel like I was on an acid trip. I haven't actually been on a acid trip for approximately 40 years but I can still remember them. I am not going to lie. At the time I really enjoyed them and I think they gave me a whole new way of looking at life. That was then, this is now.

I had a quiet day at work today and I mostly kept to myself. I wasn't in a bad mood and I wasn't feeling anti-social. In a manner of speaking I was cocooning within myself. Periodically I need to retreat from the world even when I cannot physically get away from my daily life. I can be in the middle of my very large office and not really be there. Sometimes I almost believe I have the gift of invisibility.

The reaction to my recent resignation has been overwhelmingly positive. A number of people have sent me very warm and supportive emails thanking me for all I've done and some even said they admired my courage and ability to discern that it was the right time to do what I did and that I actually did it. I was truly grateful for all the support. This resignation relieves me of some responsibility, and a little worry, but it does not suddenly provide me with lots of time. I am still working full time at my "paying" job. It is a reasonably pleasant job but I often grow tired of it. I think what I need more than anything is some real rest and relaxation. One email I received had "Cheer Up!" in the subject line and when I opened it the first line read, "You have major burnout". I didn't really think of my situation in those terms but I think there is some truth to this. I certainly am not immune to burnout. By the time you are my age you have probably been doing a lot of things, maybe the same things, for a very long time. This is certainly true for me. Along with the psychic fatigue, there is certainly some burnout and lots of boredom with the routines of my life. I don't have an immediate plan of action for this but I told a friend this morning that I am at an age where I want to let go of more and take on less. My immediate goal is to do nothing and be nothing. That has a certain Buddhist tone to it and I like that. I need to rejuvenate myself so that is what I hope to do.

Today was a beautiful day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown

Last night I tossed and turned all night. If it wasn't for remembering bits and pieces of a few dreams I would have thought that I never slept at all. When my morning alarm went off I felt exhausted as though I had spent the night wrestling with an angel. One of my first coherent thoughts after shaking the sleepiness from my head was my weekend decision to make a change in my life relating to one of my commitments. Still resolved to carry it through I got out of bed to get ready for work and begin my day. After arriving at work, and getting past a few early morning chores, I sent an email to the appropriate persons and I resigned as a leader from an organization that I helped found nearly twenty years ago. I was not angry about anything nor was I protesting anything nor was I having a falling out with anyone. It is simply time to move on. Here is some of what I wrote.

This past Friday afternoon, and again at 4:00 AM on Saturday morning when I suddenly awoke from a deep sleep, I had some rare moments of clarity. I have been struggling for quite a while with my personal involvement with the Lay Cistercians. I have been desiring for several years to step back and let others step forward. At this time I have reached a point where I can no longer wait for that perfect moment to arrive or make itself known, so I am resigning as the leader of the Kentucky Lay Cistercians and as a member of the LCG Advisory Committee. Even though I have never hidden my desire to do this I am sure this email may be a shock to you and seem to appear out of the blue. As I said, I have been struggling with this for a while. We Enneagram Nines can take forever to make a decision but when we do, it's done. I am doing this for a number of reasons, all of which are personal. It is by no means a reflection on any of you or the good work you do. I don't want to burden you with my existential angst but I suppose I owe you at least a few reasons why I am doing this.

On a personal level I struggle very much with living the Lay Cistercian life in a meaningful and authentic way.

A fatigue that is both physical and spiritual that has zapped me of any enthusiasm, desire, and ability to deal with the challenges and struggles of the continued LCG evolution.

A belief that I have little more to offer the LCG. I think I have said all I have to say and I have done all I can do.

My relationship with the Church at large. To say I am angry and disappointed with the Catholic Church would be an understatement. This is made more challenging for me since I have a son in the seminary.

I need to not be involved in anything right now. I've always been a more solitary type and at this time I feel a personal need to "go off to a quiet and lonely place". Therefore, I will not be participating in the LCG until such time as I feel called to rejoin it.

I have not informed my local LCG community yet of this decision but I plan to do so later today. They will do fine without me. In fact, I think it will be good for them to not have me around. As a founder I get more respect than I deserve and I sometimes feel that people think I am leader for life. I have sometimes felt my presence may even be an obstacle to the growth and development of the Kentucky LCG.

I don't know what else I can say about this and I apologize in advance for any inconvenience it may cause. However, I feel very strongly that I am making the right decision.

Tonight I feel at peace for making this decision. It was difficult for me to make. I am, however, relieved that I finally made it and did not loose my resolve to carry it through. Once implemented I was also deeply touched by the warm response of other leaders and participants in the organization.

After I made this decision and informed others of it, I was reminded of the following Zen poem.

Under the pines I ask the boy,
"Where is the master"?

He says, "My master's gone to gather herbs. I only know he's on the mountain, cloud hidden, whereabouts unknown".

I, too, am cloud hidden, whereabouts unknown.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Inner Light

There is a gentle rain outside my window. Inside there is the swishing of the washing machine and the tumbling of the dryer. Music is also playing in the background as I dive in and out of a good book that I am reading between laundry chores. This afternoon I have been able to salvage part of my weekend. Yesterday was full of busyness and minor chaos as the home improvements continue and the dust is stirred up. This morning was partially spent gathering items for a run to the Goodwill store. That was a chore I didn't mind because I love getting rid of stuff that might be useful to others. Before the activity started I did have some wonderful quiet moments when I was alone and the rest of the family was still asleep in their beds. My son is home this weekend but will be returning to the seminary in a few hours. He was home for the weekend to attend an ordination and to visit the inner city parish where he will live this summer.

Friday afternoon, and again this morning at 4:00 AM when I suddenly woke up from a deep sleep, I had some moments of clarity about something I have been struggling with for a long time. Sometimes it takes me forever to make a decision but once I make it, it's usually over. Hopefully, I will implement my decision before I loose my resolve. It's not really a life changing decision but is concerning something that's been troubling me for a while.

Without intending to sound too esoteric, in a certain sense I feel as though I have lost myself and my way these days. Nothing is really wrong, at least no more than usual, but I am feeling like I don't know where I am in my life. I'm not really unhappy, in fact I am rather content. What I feel like I have lost is a sense of purpose and direction. By not having a sense of where I am, I am not sure where I am heading either. Of course, at my age it might not be a bad thing to lack a sense of purpose and direction. I fully support the idea of living without a goal. Perhaps my only goal should be to live, be where I am, and do whatever I am typing these notes so people unknown can read them. The problem with being a spiritual seeker, always on a quest and always on a journey, is the sense that you actually have to go somewhere to find something. I am reminded of a song by George Harrison entitled "The Inner Light".

Without going out of my door,
I can know all things on earth
without looking out of my window,
I can know the ways of heaven.

The farther one travels
the less one knows
the less one really knows.

Without going out of your door,
You can know all things on earth
without looking out of your window,
you can know the ways of heaven.

The farther one travels
the less one knows
the less one really knows.

Arrive without travelling,
See all without looking,
Do all without doing.

I think I am going to just stay in my house. (smile)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Awesome Things Volume XIV

A clean car. Last Sunday afternoon I finally got my car washed for the first time since the end of winter. Why does a clean car run better than a dirty one? Is it just me or is there a shortage of full service car washes?

Getting rid of stuff. I am in the process of emptying my kitchen prior to some remodeling. I either threw out or gave to the Goodwill most of the stuff I found in my cabinets. It always feels good to lighten one's load.

A clean car that is warm. Every Monday morning I fill up my gas tank for the coming week. This past Monday was no different. It was a little cool and breezy while I was standing outside my car waiting for the tank to fill. When I was finished it felt very good to get back in my warm car.

Our five senses. Sometimes we need to stop and really appreciate our sight, our hearing, and our ability to taste, feel, and smell. I can't imagine a world where I couldn't see my granddaughter's smile, hear my favorite music, taste my favorite food, feel a cool breeze on a warm day, or smell the fragrant aroma of honeysuckle bushes. The world really is full of sensory delights.

Waking up in the night and realizing that you still have three hours of sleep left before your alarm clock goes off. This happens to me all the time and when I realize it I find myself quietly thinking, "Thank you, God"!

Wednesdays! Fridays always seemed to rate number one but there's a lot to be said for Wednesday. It's "Hump Day" and a major milestone in the work week. Once you get past Wednesday it's all downhill. Although I try very hard to practice mindfulness and being in the moment, I still find it motivating to always have a goal or something to look forward to. I try to enjoy everyday but I always look forward to a weekend, a scheduled day off, an upcoming concert, or maybe a quiet weekend at the monastery. I look forward to this coming weekend because I have very little to do. The last two weekends have been very busy and I came back to work on Monday very tired. This weekend is not quite here so for now I celebrate that it's Wednesday. Tomorrow is Friday Eve.

Derby time in Louisville. This rite of spring is like Christmas time. Even if you don't attend any of the events surrounding the Derby, there's something in the air. Last weekend was Thunder over Louisville, this weekend is the Great Balloon Race if we're lucky and the weather forecast for rain is wrong. It's awesome to look up in the morning sky during the race to see dozens of multicolored balloons floating around the clouds. Next weekend is the actual Derby and for one day Louisville is the center of the universe.

Laughter. Anytime I am in the midst of laughter I know life is good. It can be the laughter of my granddaughter, a friend at lunch, co-worker's taking a break from work, or my wife when I make her laugh so hard she wets her pants. Laughter is a wonderful thing and it's value should be appreciated. You can never laugh too much.

My granddaughter is always awesome. Here's a conversation she had with my wife recently.

My Wife: Chloe, do you like to eat strawberries?
Chloe: Yes
My Wife: Do you like to eat watermelons?
Chloe: Yes
My Wife: Do you like to eat raspberries?
Chloe: Yes
My Wife: Do you like to eat blackberries?
Chloe: Meemo! Blackberries are telephones!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Too Busy And Too Tired

I haven't written much lately. I'm not sure I have even thought about much lately. The last few weeks have seemed busy but at this moment I struggle to remember the details. A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend at the monastery but it was not a restful trip. The weekend was full of meetings revolving around the management of a lay group I helped found about twenty years ago. This past weekend was mostly spent with my granddaughter which is always a joy, albeit an exhausting one. There was little down time because I also had to do various chores due to a lot of updating and remodeling work that is still being done at my home. Although I am happy about the improvements, the chaos gets on my nerves. Most nights after I return home from my work day I feel like all available energy must be used to maintain minimum life support functions. In other words I am generally exhausted. A day off, even in the middle of the work week and alone, would hardly be time to re-energize myself. I do have a vacation scheduled for June but it is a family vacation and family trips are not really restful either. A week after my family vacation I am going to Chicago with friends for the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival. It is an all day affair and I am sure I will have a wonderful time but it, too, will be exhausting. I think what I really need to do is schedule some time, incognito, at the monastery. I need to go there for no other reason than to be alone with myself in silence and solitude, striving to be invisible to everyone else there. This will be my goal.

I have come to realize that I cannot write anything of substance when I am tired. My best stuff is written when I am awake physically and spiritually. Apart from the issue of fatigue, I often feel empty of anything to say. The well of thoughts may be dry or my tiredness may be preventing me from seeing any water in the well.

Recently I was visiting with my friend, Fr. Dennis, who lives as a hermit near the monastery. He was telling me how settled he feels in his life and how small his world has become as a hermit compared to all his years in active ministry. This realization has brought him much happiness. I found myself envying him. I don't feel at all settled in my life. My life is still hectic and busy. I am as restless and conflicted as always, perhaps even more so the older I get. There are many tensions and internal battles raging in my life between commitments, desires, responsibilities, relationships, and personal needs. I appear calm on the surface and most around me think I am full of "inner peace". I do have moments of calm and peace, not to mention joy and happiness, but there is also a never-ending restlessness and exhaustion brought on by my own inner struggles. Fr. Dennis seems to have found peace and his place in the world but I am still searching for mine.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Awesome Things Volume XIII

Spending last weekend at the monastery. Although I was there for some meetings....not my favorite thing....I did have some good moments in between. The best of them was Sunday morning between the hours of 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM. I actually got up with the monks at 3:15 AM but it was my private time, in silence and solitude, drinking coffee, eating whole wheat toast, and watching night turn into day that was best.

Spring mornings. Although it is still a little cool in the mornings, it is great to wake up to birdsong and be able to come to work without wearing a jacket. I am not missing the cold and dark mornings of winter. I drove to the monastery very early on Saturday and the rural area was quite beautiful with spring bursting forth in all it's glory, especially the purple flowered redbud trees.

Compassion. Last night I watched an excellent show on PBS about the life of the Buddha. One of the Buddha's awakenings was when he understood compassion. According to the book entitled "StrengthFinders", one of my strengths is empathy. Empathy is the ability to intuitively understand how others feel. Compassion takes empathy to the next level. When you are compassionate, not only do you understand how other's feel, you care, and you act accordingly. Compassion is treating others with the same care and concern you would like to be treated yourself. Compassion is the Golden Rule, i.e., do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.

Naps. The last few days have been very busy for me. My weekend was full of meetings and my first day back to work this week was an all day meeting. After working yesterday and going to the doctor, I finally got home and soon afterwards I crashed on my couch and took a much needed nap. It was one of those world class naps where I woke up wondering what day it was, what time was it, and what planet was I on.

Ordinary days. After you have an unusually busy or difficult day, one gains a whole new appreciation for the ordinary days when nothing special happens. These are the days where the rhythm and flow of life are generally smooth and maybe even a little boring. We all have special days and we all have days that test us. Most days, however, are ordinary and are like links in a chain that hold all of our life together. How we live the ordinary days of our life says a lot about us.

Fridays! All Friday's are good but some are better than others. It's been a challenging week so I am more than ready for the weekend. It's also payday and my granddaughter is spending the weekend with me. All is good.

Ipods. I'm still discovering the wonders of my new Ipod. I never thought I would be one of those people who walks around in public listening to their music but I am becoming one. I feel a little stupid doing it and I probably look even more stupid. I'm not sure an off the chart introvert should do this. I am already lost in my whole private world much of the time and this can't help.

Thunder Over Louisville. I don't usually attend this because hundreds of thousands of other people do but I have been several times and it is an awesome sight. If you've never been you should go at least once. It's a long day and lots of work for 30 minutes of fireworks, not to mention the extreme traffic jams when it's over, but it will blow your mind.

Taking a walk by the river. My regular lunch partner had a conflict today so I went out by myself, bought a sandwich at Subway, and sat on a bench in the park. It was a beautiful day, hot and blustery, with a strong wind that created white caps on the river. There was lots of activity in the park as vendors and others prepared for tomorrow's Thunder over Louisville celebration and fireworks display. Later in the afternoon I went out again with a friend. In the afternoon the sky was a backdrop for jet airplanes and sonic booms. They were deafening at times. It was great to see all the activity and happy faces of parents and children playing in the water spouts. Tomorrow there will be so many people in this normally quiet area that you won't be able to see a blade of grass on the Great Lawn.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Finding Lincoln

Most Fridays I go out to lunch with my friend, Wendy. Going out to lunch on Fridays is always an early start to the weekend. Even though there is a big difference in our ages we are very much alike and when we started working together about five or six years ago we quickly and easily connected. That sense of connection is always a good sign of a potentially great friendship. Sometime in the past year, on a somewhat hot day, we went on a long and eventually fruitless walk to find a Abraham Lincoln memorial in a park near our office that runs along the Ohio River. Apparently we zigged when we should have zagged and we ended up far from our desired destination in a somewhat desolate area that could have been a prime location for a good murder in one of those cheap mystery novels. We made it out alive and back to the office but never found Lincoln until today. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. The sun was shining bright and the sky was deep blue and full of clouds. After last week's summer like temperatures, today seemed cool but in fact it was a normal spring day for early April. We decided to go to lunch an at old restaurant where neither of us had been in a while. It was a seafood restaurant with a great view of the river. Most of the other people there were rather old, even older than me, and looked like they had been eating there every Friday for the last 50 years. On the way there we noticed a sign for the Abraham Lincoln Memorial so we thought we would check it out on the way back to our office. It directed us exactly where we wanted to go. It was a very nice spot with some granite walls that held sculptured three dimensional depictions of events in Lincoln's life and there in the middle of the memorial was bronze sculpture of a young Abe Lincoln crafted by local artist Ed Hamilton. The memorial itself is more of a park and a wonderful place to sit and think, or simply sit while enjoying the beauty of nature around you. I later told Wendy what a delightful time I had during lunch and she summed it up rather well when she said, "Today was like an adventure". I agreed. Adventure is possible doing the simplest things even in the middle of the workday.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Awesome Things Volume XII

A beautiful Easter weekend. OK, it was pouring down rain when I got up last Saturday but it turned into a beautiful day and Easter Sunday was the same. I did spend part of last Saturday afternoon at the movies seeing "Clash of the Titans" and I had dinner with Chloe and her parents on Saturday night so my wife and I could give her an Easter basket since we didn't see her on Sunday. All in all, it was a gorgeous weekend with lots of family and little rest. Isn't this what life is all about? All the trees are now blooming, the yard fanatics have already mowed their lawns at least once, and out in our park workers are busy preparing for the annual spreading of mulch before Thunder over Louisville.

The music of Mozart in the morning. A great way to greet a new day.

Music. Whatever kind of music makes you happy. For me, it's mostly rock and roll although I also like jazz, blues, and classical. When I was about 12 years old the older sister of a neighborhood friend took us out to the State Fair to see the original Beach Boys. When I heard those electric guitars I was hooked for life. That was 47 years ago! I still love electric guitars. Gibson Les Paul's and Fender Stratocasters are two of mankind's greatest inventions. I cannot imagine an existence without music. I once told someone that if I die and get to Heaven, and I find out there's no music there, I may have to leave. Music makes me happy when I am sad and happier if I am already happy. Music is the common language that unites people. As the Rolling Stones once sang, "I know it's only rock and roll but I like it"!

Embracing technology. Most of the technology that young people take for granted did not exist for most of my life. I was in high school before I saw a color television. When I started working at my current employer there was no Internet and PC's had not been invented yet. I received an ipod for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure this is no big deal for most of you. I am often slow to embrace new technology because I just get used to whatever I am using. I used to think that cassette tapes were state of the art technology, especially when they started selling blank tapes and I could make my own "mixes". It took me forever to buy my first CD after years of collecting LP's and tapes. For those that don't remember LP's, they are albums. Today some people refer to them as "vinyl". I still remember the day I bought my first CD back in the late 80's. It was "Revolver" by the Beatles and the sound quality blew me away. Anyway, I am loving this ipod and I have taken to it like a duck to water. I think I have already loaded a thousand songs on it. What's the point? Technology can be wonderful and it can greatly improve our lives. However, I still think we must use caution and not be slaves to it. Sometimes we need to turn off our cell phones, unplug our ipods, go outside to the park, sit on a bench, listen to the bubbling water, and feel the wind on our face.

Karma. I believe in Karma. Some people choose to believe in fate. Fate is basically the belief that whatever happens just happens. Karma is the belief that you get back what you put out. Although there are exceptions, I believe this is true. If you're a good person, and you put out good vibes, I believe you will be rewarded with good things. If you're a nasty or negative person, my belief is that eventually life will pay you back. Yes, there are exceptions to this and I can't explain them. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes bad people and bad behavior seem to be rewarded. Ultimately, though, I believe you get what you deserve. I try to put out good vibes and I am an eternal optimist. Although some bad things have happened to me, overall life has been very, very good to me and many good things and good people have come into my life. The bad stuff wasn't pleasant but it made me stronger and wiser.

My Granddaughter. Chloe is a never ending source of joy in my life. The other night she was at my house with her Dad. I can't remember what she was doing but I said, "Chloe, be careful with that". She looked at me very seriously and said, "Pa Paw, I'm in Kindergarten". Gee, what was I thinking? Children and grandchildren grow up so fast. On my desk is a picture of me holding Chloe the day she was born. This summer she will be six years old and next month her Dad will be 32 years old. Enjoy your children and grandchildren now. Before you know it they will be adults with their own lives, families, sorrows and joys.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Life Less Ordinary

What does it mean to live "a life less ordinary"? I started thinking about this after picking up a copy of a local publication called LEO Weekly. The featured story is about a local artist who "extracts the romantic and strange from everyday life". I was intrigued by the story because I have also have a deep desire to live "a life less ordinary" despite having a life that is by most standards quite ordinary. I don't think a life less ordinary is necessarily a large life with lots of adventure. If a large and exciting life was the only way to live a life less ordinary, most people would be unable to achieve it. The reality is that most people live in ordinary circumstances where their days and nights are filled with work and family, not to mention other obligations and responsibilities. Much has been said in recent years about living a "purpose driven life". I don't really like that term because it suggests to me a life of doing. The problem with most people's lives is that there's too much doing. Endless activity, demanding commitments, and over booked calendars are a hindrance to living "a life less ordinary" in my opinion. How do I try to live "a life less ordinary"? I strive to do it through the practice of mindfulness and my attempts at Zen. I strive to do it by trying to live in the moment, by trying to be spiritually awake and aware, by trying to notice the extraordinary that is often hidden in the ordinary, and by being sensitive to the different colors and nuances of life around me. It can be as simple as noticing the fragrant aroma of my neighbor's honeysuckle bushes as I walk into my home at the end of a workday. So for me "a life less ordinary" is really about a life where I am more in touch, more sensitive and aware, and more alive to the life I have. Life is not about quantity, it's about quality.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hermit Night In My Man Cave

Once a week my wife watches all her favorite television shows that she has recorded. These are generally television shows that I could go the rest of my life without watching. I love when she does this because I get to have a hermit night. Tonight is such a night. It was a busy day at work. On the way home we had dinner at the Texas Roadhouse followed by errands at several local businesses. My work day was pleasant and I really didn't mind running the errands but I was ecstatic to know I had an evening ahead of me where I could hang out in my room, listen to music, load a few CD's on my ipod, and continue reading "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson. My wife and I have been married for almost 36 years. I think part of the reason we are still married is that each of us recognizes our own personal need for space. Once at a wedding shower all the married women were asked to give the bride to be some marriage advice. My wife's advice was "Each of you needs to find your own space and stay there as much as possible". This advice was given tongue in cheek but there's a lot of truth to it. Too much togetherness can be too much togetherness. Thank God my wife is an introvert like me. So I am sitting here with my second cup of tasty, but decaffeinated, coffee. As soon as I finish typing these notes and downloading my CD's, I am moving over to my comfortable chair and reading for as long as I can stay awake. These hermit nights feed my soul and refresh me. By morning I will be ready once again to live in the land of people.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Back To The Tao

What is really important in life? Today's Tao reading encourages us to ask this question.

Make every move count.
Pick your target and hit it.
Perfect concentration means effortless flowing.

The commentary gives us the following thoughts...

A life that is spiritual requires focused action. It needs quick reflexes, accurate timing, and abundant skill. Each day your life grows a day shorter. Make every move count.

I think life is spiritual whether you realize it or not or whether you care or not. It is spiritual in ways that religion is not. As I get older I often believe religion is actually a hindrance to what is spiritual. The religion in which I was raised is wracked with scandal and I do not think I will live long enough to see it's recovery. What I am more concerned about than the authenticity of religion is understanding on a deep level what is really important in life. As I strive to recognize and focus on the truly important, I wonder how I can best make every move of my life count. Too often I am frustrated or depressed about how much of my life is spent doing meaningless tasks or spending time in activities that are not important to me. We all have responsibilities and commitments. Sometimes, however, these responsibilities and commitments take over our lives and we feel trapped. We get hung up in other people's agenda's. It's difficult to balance one personal needs with our obligations to others. I know that one of the weaknesses of my personality is to be too compliant and too willing to take the path of least resistance in order to maintain a peaceful existence. What I prefer, to use the words of author Ken Kesey, is to "be in my own movie". I often wonder if I would really change my life and live a different way if I had the freedom to do so. It is not likely that I will ever have a totally free life so how can I "make every move count" in the life I have? Do I even have a target in my life? I know I don't have "perfect concentration" and I rarely experience "effortless flowing". I am reasonably content in my life but my happiness in mostly in moments that quickly pass. Too often I sustain myself with memories of happy moments more than happiness itself. I am a person that many people like and admire but I often feel unloved and unnoticed. What is really important in life? I think feeling loved and being happy despite the fact these things often seem to elude me. I have experienced both but not enough to give me "effortless flowing" in my life. Less I sound like a man full of self pity, I also question how much love I have shown others or how much happiness I have given others. I am a temperamental and sensitive person whose feelings are easily hurt and who may need more than most can give. Maybe what I feel, or don't feel, is in equal proportion to what I have shown. Am I starving to death in the middle of a banquet? Perhaps. Are others feeling unloved and unnoticed by me? Possibly. I know I am sometimes too self absorbed. It's an unfortunate side effect of being naturally introspective. In spite of eternal optimism and a generally positive attitude, I sometimes get mired down in thoughts about what is missing in my life. I do struggle with all of this. Nevertheless, I am also blessed in many ways. I know a perfect moment when I have one, I know what's important even when it seems to elude me. I value joy because I understand sadness. Do I hit the targets in my life? Sometimes. Other times I am the target and joy, love, and happiness hit me when I least expect it.

Awesome Things Volume XI

This is my 800th post!

Working in the office last Saturday. I'm just kidding. It really wasn't that awesome. I got up a little late. I was happy because I was finally able to shower after two days without hot water. I did that as quickly and quietly as I could so I didn't wake anyone up in my house. I now have a new water heater so I guess that is awesome. Then I got outside and realized that there was frost all over my car and my son, who was home from the seminary on spring break, had me blocked in. I knew he was home when I tripped over his laundry basket on Friday night but I didn't think about telling him not to park behind me. Did I mention that someone "borrowed" the ice scraper from my car? I had to drive down my road with the defroster on high and a little circle of visibility. I felt like the Captain of a submarine looking through a periscope. Fortunately there was no one else on the road so I finally made it to work and all was well. There weren't very many people in the office so it was a very quiet morning.....

What was really awesome were all the birthday wishes, cards, and lunch at Kobe's Japanese Steakhouse with my co-workers on Friday. I also had a birthday dinner at the Red Lobster with my family on Saturday night. The most expensive gift I received was the bill for dinner. However, I have finally entered the 21st Century since my family also gave me an ipod. I guess I can put my CD Walkman in storage.

A long, leisurely bath. Like most people I usually take showers because they are quick and easy and I am usually in a hurry. For the last several months I've had a water heater on it's last days. Recently I got a new one so I have all the hot water...and more...than I need. Since it was installed I have been taking baths in the evenings. Last night I was taking a bath while a cool breeze came in the window and church bells were tolling in the distance. It was very peaceful and relaxing. Are you stressed out? Go into your bathroom, shut the door (lock it if you have children), fill up the tub, relax, breathe, and let your troubles float away. I am not responsible for any mental images you now have of me.

The dogwood tree in the park that is full of white blossoms. I'm not sure why it is blooming so fully ahead of the other trees but it is a beautiful sight as I arrive each morning and leave each evening. I am also enjoying the daffodils out on the highway and the yellow forsythia bushes all over town. In spite of the cool mornings and occasional cold days, spring is here. By this weekend it is supposed to be 80 degrees.

Finally getting something you have always wanted. My wife says I am a pack rat. I prefer to think of myself as a "collector". I have always loved reading and music so I have a lot of books and CD's. Until recently, my "man cave" was full of cheap bookshelves and CD racks, the kind you buy at Target and build yourself. My brother in law has a son who is a carpenter. I gave him a basic design and he has built me some beautiful new shelves. They are exactly what I have always wanted and now they are mounted on my wall and filled with all my CD's and many of my books. Everyone has "stuff" that's important to them even if it has no value for anyone else. Now my "stuff" has a new home. If a woman has 200 pairs of shoes is she a "pack rat" or a "collector"?

Walking into the breakroom just as a fresh pot of coffee is finished perking. Yesterday afternoon I remembered that I had a few Oreos in my desk. Yes, I know I'm diabetic but it wasn't a whole bag! I decided to get a cup of whatever coffee was available. Just as I walked into the breakroom a fresh pot was just finishing. It was the perfect complement to my Oreos.

Friendships. I am blessed with good friends. Certainly a big part of the reason I have chosen certain people to be my friends is because there is an obvious connection. Life just seems to send certain people into our lives with whom we feel an immediate and sometimes intimate connection. Sometimes the reason for the connection is obvious and other times there may be a bit of a mystery as to why we feel this connection. I must assume that people who choose me to be their friend feel this way about me. Beyond this inner circle of special people with whom we feel connected, there may be many more with whom we have an enjoyable comfort level. Beyond that there may be a few people with whom we simply do not click and no amount of effort will make it happen. A good friend is a gift to be treasured. People will drift in and out of your life, but if you are blessed, a few will be part of your life forever.