Thursday, August 30, 2012

Living In The Center

Everything did not go my way yesterday. As a result I was a little frustrated. On the way home I needed to stop at my pharmacy for my monthly insulin. You don’t even want to know the copay on insulin. The drive thru was backed up so my wife went in while I waited in the car. Soon a very elderly couple walked in front of my parked car. Both were bent over, walking with canes, and moving very slow. I had a flash forward of ten or twenty years and saw myself. That was a reality check. When I finally got home, feeling a little frazzled, I remembered it was meditation night at the Buddhist temple. My body said, “Skip it and take a nap on that soft couch in your room”. It was very tempting. In a textbook case of mind over matter, I made myself change clothes and I headed out the door. Soon I was at the temple since it is only a few miles from my home. It was a Zen moment. Nothing happened. I sat in a dimly lit room with total strangers. Everyone was quiet and still. The Buddhist monk who led the meditation gently rang a bell and began to chant in a low voice. When he stopped we all just sat in the silence. These moments of calm were the antidote to the frustration I had experienced earlier in my day. The whole point of meditation, whether it be Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, or any other tradition, is to learn to live in your “center”. Often, however, life pulls you out of your center and you can feel frazzled or stressed. I have learned various techniques to help ground me and help me return to my center. In modern life it is a never ending tug of war. Sometimes, though, you just have to give up the nap and go sit in silence with strangers.








Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Last Days Of Summer

The upcoming Labor Day weekend reminds me that summer is coming to an end. After enduring the hottest summer since we began to keep records of such things, I am ready to move on. There are signs everywhere that the season is soon to change. The slant of the earth in its current rotation around the sun causes a beam of sunlight to sneak in a corner of the window next to my chair. It blinds me as I try to read my evening newspaper. When I look out a different window I see a neighborhood squirrel going back and forth across a telephone wire. He always has a nut in his mouth. On my sidewalk and patio I find little piles of shells from nuts that squirrels have cracked open. In various places in my back yard there are signs of small animals burrowing. The mornings are cooler and the days are shorter. Occasionally I see a leaf falling from a tree and wafting in the air. I am ready for autumn. It is my favorite time of the year. I love the cooler weather, the transformation of leaves into a multi-colored palette of natural beauty. I love the smell of wood burning in fireplaces. I love my annual trip to the pumpkin fields of Huber’s Orchard with my granddaughter. Most years I make an autumn trip to Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. I enjoy the spirit that’s in the air as the end of the year holidays roll around one more time. Ironically, in a time when nature is dying, I feel more alive. I am energized by the annual dying of nature and the long sleep of winter. I am happy to live in a part of the world where the seasons change.








Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Do Not Cling To Your Beliefs

People are always disagreeing about religion, politics, and countless other things. We are often so certain about our own point of view that we cannot even entertain the view of another. I think this reality is part of what’s behind the Buddhist way of thinking. The Buddha teaches us to not cling to any belief. He teaches us to believe in our own experience. Non-dualistic thinking is challenging. Most of us have an either/or approach to beliefs rather than a both/and approach. In today’s world it seems that meeting in the middle or accepting another point of view is a lost art. As a result politics is very partisan, religion separates more than it unifies, and not much gets done.  I suppose it’s a good thing to be passionate about one’s beliefs, whatever they are. We are all on a search for meaning. Few want to think that life is simply a giant ant farm on some cosmic window sill and that the purpose of life is to be found in the creation of tunnels. From my perspective the search for meaning implies an openness to new truths, new ways of thinking, and new ways of seeing and being. My spiritual journey has been fueled by a desire for the transcendent. What does that mean? Some call it the experience of God, others call it Enlightenment or Nirvana, while a few think of it as a oneness with the universe. Whatever you name it, for me it is the realization and experience of something bigger than myself. When I cling to a belief or a worldview, I feel like I make my world smaller. I don’t want to be closed to anything. I want to be open to everything although openness does not imply acceptance.  Some days I do feel like an ant in a giant ant farm. If I am an ant, then I am one of the ants that thinks and, hopefully, is acquiring a greater consciousness.











Monday, August 27, 2012

The Ego And Non Violence

I made a wonderful discovery over the weekend. A few weeks ago a friend invited me to a lecture entitled “The Buddhist Response to Global Warming”. I attended the lecture on Saturday and much to my amazement I realized the lecture was at a Buddhist temple that’s only three miles from where I live. I’ve been looking for such a place so I can learn more about Buddhism. While I was at the lecture I picked up some literature about the local Buddhist community. I found out they have a “teaching” every Sunday morning and a meditation session every Wednesday night. Yesterday I attended the weekend teaching and was happy to discover it was given by a Buddhist monk. The session began with some chanting. It was in Tibetan so I really didn’t understand it. I simply sat there and got into the rhythm of it. Afterwards the monk began talking in a very quiet voice. He also spoke in Tibetan so another man, who also was Tibetan, translated. The teaching was about non-violence and the ego. If I could summarize the teaching it would be this. The more ego centric we are, the more likely we are to be violent. If you are focused on the self, i.e., I, me, mine, then you will likely be threatened by the needs of others. However, if your focus is on others, rather than on your own needs, it is not likely that you will feel violent towards someone you are helping. This is pretty basic stuff, simple but difficult. It is often difficult to think beyond the self. If you think of the ego as a pre-occupation with yourself and your own needs, imagine what life might be like if we all laid our egos aside. Imagine what today would be like if all of us focused on others needs first. I believe if we did this our own needs would also be met.












Friday, August 24, 2012

Making A Difference

Yesterday I received a very kind email from a co-worker I have known for many years. We see one another rarely, occasionally speaking in the parking garage or walking in or out of our building. In her email she thanked me for my blog and told me how much she was enjoying it. She also shared with me a personal struggle that she’s been dealing with in her life. Thinking about her email last night gave me two thoughts. The first thought is that we often don’t realize how much the things we say or do may affect other people. When it comes to my blog I often have self-doubt. I imagine people thinking “Who is this Michael Brown and why does he think the whole world wants to read his thoughts”? I also sometimes think “What do I know about anything”? Sometimes when I have these thoughts I soon receive an email like the one I received yesterday. Such emails affirm me and give me a sense of purpose because I am reminded that I am doing something good. The second thought I had from yesterday’s email is how we rarely know what burdens are being carried by other people. All the times I had seen this co-worker I had no idea what she was going through in her life. The lesson to be learned here is this. Speak kindly and smile to everyone you encounter.  Your words or smile may give them what they need to get through the day. In addition, don’t criticize others or be judgmental of them. You probably have no idea what they might be going through and what burden they may be carrying. An old Native American proverb goes, “Do not criticize your neighbor until you have walked a mile in their moccasins”.  We all carry burdens that others do not see.




Thursday, August 23, 2012

Be Not Afraid!

The first words that John Paul II spoke to the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square after he was elected Pope in 1978 were “Be not afraid”. I think he was on to something. There is too much fear in our lives. Admittedly, some fear is a good thing. It was fear of saber tooth tigers that kept many prehistoric men and women alive. The guy that tried to pet one of the tigers didn’t make it. Why are we so afraid? The truth is that most of the things we worry ourselves to death over never happen. Our time has been called the “Age of Anxiety”. We are an anxious, fearful generation. I have read that some personality types are fear based and that the majority of our population is made up of these types. These personality types tend to live “in their heads”. One author deduced that this indicates that fear is mostly in our heads. Even for the rest of us I don’t think our brains are hard wired to comfort us. I read somewhere that if we don’t intentionally think positive thoughts our brains automatically revert to negative thinking. I also believe that much of our fear and anxiety is caused by the media. Because of this believe I now minimize the amount of news that I watch. At one point the news, especially the local news, made me so anxious that I couldn’t take the trash out after dark without wondering if there was a serial killer waiting for me in my back yard. Let me reinforce the words of Pope John Paul and countless other teachers. Be not afraid! Quit worrying so much! Do things that for yourself that bring calm into your life. Relax and live. Be happy! Enjoy every minute of the day.








Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Connections

Yesterday I was involved in a couple of interesting conversations. One was about what’s appropriate in terms of content for an internal company social media site.  The other was about the qualities of a good leader. I believe there is a connection between these two topics. I am of the belief that much of what happens in the workplace has little to do with the actual work most of us do. In my 20+ years as a leader I have been a priest, social worker, therapist, friend, and counselor. I have comforted, hugged, occasionally chastised, and on a rare occasion, fired people. I see leadership as a ministry. Over the years I have spent time listening to people’s problems, forgiving their sins, and providing encouragement on their individual journeys. Yes, my employer runs a business and we have to take care of that but in the background a lot of life is going on. I am also a writer and most of what I write about is real life. I share my writing in a variety of ways. Yesterday someone questioned the appropriateness of me sharing my writing with a newly created work group. This is a group of which I am a part. I accept the fact that not everyone sees life as I do and I’m OK with that. What I have discovered in the ten years or so that I have been sharing my thoughts with co-workers is that there is a great hunger for the kinds of things I write about. At times I have been overwhelmed with the responses I have received from a wide variety of people from all over my company.  People need meaning in their lives so I share my own search for meaning. I write to inspire, to encourage, to get people to think differently, to make them laugh, and to raise their consciousness. If I am successful, even a little, it will improve the work experience of many. My writing is who I am and who I am is reflected in my leadership style. A leader is not simply a taskmaster. A great leader inspires, encourages, and supports their people. A great leader has everyone’s back. It may sound silly to some but a great leader loves their people. You don’t have to be Spartacus leading a slave rebellion to be a great leader. You can do great things in small ways. A good place to start is simply to care about your people. Like all karma it will come back to you. Leadership can be a burden but it is also a privilege and a way to serve those around you.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From Merton To ParaNorman

Last Friday I had lunch with a man I had never met. He works in my building and had written to me inquiring about Thomas Merton. Anyone who knows me or has read my writing knows that Merton has been a major influence on me. Merton’s writing gave me an understanding of contemplation and he also introduced me to the Dalai Lama and the teachings of Buddhism. Early on Saturday morning a little girl knocked on my front door. It was my granddaughter, Chloe, who came over so we could go to the movies and see “ParaNorman”. We arrived at the theater early as we always do. Often we are the first ones in the theater. When that happens Chloe will often run around the perimeter of the theater like an Olympian sprinter. As someone who often feels like a tired old man I am always impressed with her boundless energy. What impresses me even more is her zest for living and her bottomless joy. As she sprinted around the theater with a huge smile on her face her joy was palpable. I watched her and envied bother her energy and her joy. Life often gets me down. I feel weary and occasionally discouraged. My aging body could never run like Chloe. I think this is why God gives some of us grandchildren. We need some encouragement and who better to encourage me than an energetic, joyful little girl with a smile that melts my heart. Yes, I have learned a lot from Merton but I have also learned a lot from my granddaughter. Merton helped me learn how to live. Chloe reminds me to do it.




Monday, August 20, 2012

Born With Amnesia

In his book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr uses a great analogy for the spiritual life. He says that “it’s like we are all born with amnesia and we spend the rest of our lives trying to remember who we are”. I think this is a great analogy. It really changes my whole perspective. Most of my life I have felt like I have to change in order to become who I am. The word transformation is often tossed around in spiritual conversations. Maybe we don’t need to change at all. It’s been said that we are born perfect. Who doesn’t think a newborn baby isn’t perfect? Perhaps all we need to do is remember who we are. Most of what we show to others, and most of what they see, is not at all who we are. I’ve always thought that the purest picture of who we are is who we are when we are alone. How do you act when no one is looking? What do you do when you can do anything you want? Imagine that you really do have amnesia. As you try to unravel the mystery of who you are, what connections do you make? What feels right and natural? It’s not always clear. Amnesia has a cousin and their name is confusion. We spend much of our life feeling confused and then in moment of light and clarity we feel a connection and we have a little better idea of who we are. We begin to remember. This remembering, this peeling away of the many layers of the onion, is a life long journey.




Friday, August 17, 2012

Connectedness

One of my five strengths, according to the Strength Finder test, is “connectedness”. I wasn’t surprised when I discovered this. My basic understanding of this strength is that I usually have the ability to see the big picture and to connect the dots. It is easy for me to understand and to see how everything in life is connected and interdependent. This way of seeing life is very Buddhist so now I also understand why I am so attracted to Buddhist ways. The reality is that none of us are truly independent. We are connected and we need one another to survive. I could not survive in life purely on my own talents and resources. There are people who take care of me and there are people that I take care of in many ways big and small. We are all part of a giant mosaic. Each one of us is a chip. One chip by itself can seem insignificant. All the chips together, working in harmony, can create a mural of great beauty. We should all think more about the connectedness of life, our total interdependence with one another, and how none of us can survive without this awareness and acceptance. Of course, we are more than worker bees in the great beehive of life. We all have the ability to be great and to bring our greatness to life for the benefit of all. Although we may be connected and dependent on one enough, our individuality can bring everything up a notch or two for all the people that we feel most connected to in our daily lives.

Breathing in, I am connected to everyone else.

Breathing out, everyone else is connected to me.

Breathing in, I am connected to all of life.

Breathing out, all of life is connected to me.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Respect

My mother is 82 years old. She’s mellowing in her old age but most of her life she hasn’t held back telling me what she thinks. Much of the time I haven’t liked what she said, especially if it was criticism of me, but I held my tongue and even bit it a few times. Why did I do that when my natural tendency is to fight back? I do it because she’s my mother and I respect her even when I disagree with her or think she’s clueless. There are young people in my office who insist on calling me Mr. Brown. I believe they do it out of respect for my age since I am one of the older people in a work area dominated by much younger people. Of course, respect is not just about age. I personally believe young people should respect older people who have been around the block a few times. There is a level of cordial respect that seems to be eroding in our society. Deep respect, however, must be earned. In my mind anyone who is continuously disrespectful of others is immature and ignorant. Depending on the nature of the relationship they may also be ungrateful. This all goes back to my basic belief about karma. What you put out there comes back to you. Be disrespectful to others and you will be disrespected. Treat others with the dignity they deserve and you will be given the dignity you deserve. If you are pompous and arrogant, don’t expect a lot of love in return. If you’re loving and kind and respectful, you will receive love, kindness, and respect in return.

I like the following thought from George Washington Carver. What he describes is really what respect is all about.

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.





Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Perspective

I recently saw a picture of our galaxy. The picture showed thousands, if not millions, of stars and planets. There was a large arrow on the picture pointing to a tiny dot with the caption, “You are here”. Keep in mind that each of us is a tiny dot on the tiny dot. It took hundreds of millions, if not billions, of years to create our galaxy. The average lifespan of a human being is approximately 75 years. I am not telling you this to make you feel insignificant. I am telling you this to make a point about the value of perspective. The poet Robert Frost summarizes the meaning of life when he wrote that “it goes on”. Time waits for no one. Most days I hear at least one person, and sometimes it’s me, complain about how their day is just dragging. Many of us seem to experience this on a regular basis. Then you wake up one day and ten years of your life is gone. The perception of time can widely vary from person to person. However, I digress. Let’s get back to perspective. Considering the each of us is a collection of particles and that we are dots within a dot on a map of our galaxy, maybe we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Maybe we need to re-evaluate the importance of some of the things we do along with how we spent our time. This is not to say that our lives are not important. Many people do many good and important things. Lots of people make a difference in life regardless of how much this life affects the entire galaxy. Scientists believe that all of the particles that make up each of us will continue to be part of the cosmos even when we die. Some believe that everyone who ever lived is still part of everything that is around us. The mysteries of the galaxy and of life are more than I can comprehend. Maybe we’re just supposed to enjoy it.






Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kindness

I believe that any success I’ve had in life, whether it’s receiving good service in a restaurant, or getting something accomplished at work, is basically due to me being kind.  It seems so much easier to be kind than to be a jerk.  In fact, now that I think about it, the only people I really don’t like are jerks.  I don’t care if you’re male or female, black or white, gay or straight, young or old, or whatever.  None of those things matter to me.  What does matter is how you act.  I like anyone who is kind.  In my own life I always try to be kind to everyone that crosses my path, whether it’s the tired waitress at Waffle House who has worked a twenty hour shift, or a co-worker in another department who needs my help.  I try to spread kindness like Johnny Appleseed spread apple seeds.  Plant kindness wherever you go and it will spring up wherever you are.  Today I challenge everyone who reads these thoughts to practice kindness.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, with everyone you encounter, be kind.  As I’ve said many times, I believe in karma.  I truly believe that what you put into the world comes back to.  Be kind and you will receive kindness.  I assume that most people want to be good people.  I assume most people want to be happy.  An simple way to be good and happy is to be kind.  I am not na├»ve about life.  I know that sometimes our kindness is not appreciated.  There are jerks in the world who will sometimes cross our paths.  Be kind but don’t be weak.  Being kind doesn’t mean being a doormat.  In the end I think kindness wins and even if it’s not always appreciated, I will continue planting its seeds.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mornings

Monday’s are always the most difficult day for me to come up with a daily thought. Like most of you I must drag myself to work and I am not quite ready for a new work week. This morning's start was a little frenzied for me. There was a wasp in my kitchen and my wife was freaking out. I don’t like to kill anything.  I prefer to live in peace with all sentient beings.  I will do it occasionally if it’s something that can sting me or bite me. I attempted to get the wasp without destroying the kitchen. However, when I left home the wasp was still alive. I don’t like my mornings to start off with combat, whether it’s with a wasp or my spouse. In my mind mornings are sacred. They should be quiet with minimal movement. Once I am showered and dressed, I usually sit in silence with my coffee and toast. This is followed by a little reading and meditation until it’s time to leave home for the morning commute. When your morning starts off in a panic or a frenzy, it can affect your entire day in a negative way. On the other hand, when it starts off in peace and silence, with some meditative breathing, you can begin your day in a centered and calm way. This is why I always allow enough time in my morning schedule for some quiet sitting. The wasp is still king of the kitchen for now but I have regained my centeredness. I am hoping that before I get home tonight he has left my home in the same manner as he entered it.




Friday, August 10, 2012

More Thoughts On Manure

I have ten nieces. When they were teenage girls I called them the “Princesses of Sadness”. I gave them this title because they always seemed sad and there was usually some kind of drama going on in their lives. These young ladies are now out of college and living in the real world. Most of them are my Facebook “friends”. A few nights ago one of them posted the following message. It said, “I wish life would give me a break. I’ve had two bad days in a row”. I probably didn’t help matters because I posted the following response. I said, “Well, you know, the first 60-70 years of life are the most difficult”. Apparently, there was no appreciation of my sense of humor because I got no response. Young people often seem shocked that life is hard. Even if your life is going fairly well and you are enjoying some measure of success, there will always be bumps in the road, detours, and the experience of having “two bad days in a row”. Life is not an easy road. If life gives you a break, savor it. The “break” is the exception. The challenge is the rule. My intent is not to depress any of you. Those of you who are older know that I am correct. Those of you who are younger are hoping I am wrong. Let me end on a more positive note. Although life is hard and full of challenges, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a beautiful thing. Once I was on a Zen mindfulness retreat. It was held on a beautiful spring day at a nearby farm. Part of the day was spent doing mindfulness walks. The Zen Master would lead us on a walk through the fields. When he rang a bell we would start walking and when he rang the bell again we would stop. On one of the walks he rang the bell signaling a stop. I looked around me. The sky was a deep blue. A cool spring breeze was blowing. The fields were lovely. Then I looked down and realized I was standing in cow manure. Later, when the Zen Master asked me to reflect on my walking experience, I responded that “Life can be beautiful even when you’re standing in cow manure”. The next time you feel like you are standing in manure, look around you. Life may be more beautiful than you think.








Thursday, August 09, 2012

Pay Attention!

Recently on the evening news I saw a film of a man so busy texting that he walked off a train platform and fell several feet onto the train tracks. Fortunately for the man no train was approaching. I am all for being in the moment and I encourage the practice of mindfulness but let’s get real people. When you are so busy texting someone that you walk off a train platform and you fall on the tracks, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how you spend your time and the importance of whatever message you were sending. As a result of this event, some lawmaker is proposing that a new law be created where people could be ticketed for “reckless walking”. I see such reckless walking in my office every day. I’ve had people who are talking on their cell phone or texting run into me. When I take my daily walks I often have to swerve around such “reckless walkers”. As long as I am complaining about this type of behavior, let me add the people who are obsessed with their blue tooth devices. I can’t even tell you how many people I have responded to in our elevators because I thought they were talking to me. It turned out they were totally oblivious to my presence or they simply didn’t care that I was there. I see these people at the Mall all the time. Walking through the Mall, babbling away about God knows what, makes them look like prime candidates for a mental institution. We are so obsessed with communication, with being in 24 hour contact with everyone we know, and with being “connected”. All this “talking” and I bet little of consequence is actually being said. I, too, have a smartphone and I do value it’s convenience. It’s nice to be able to contact those I care about when I need to do so and I, too, occasionally “check-in” on Facebook. However, I am not going to walk off a train platform while I am texting my wife to see what she wants to do for dinner. I admit that I often walk around listening to music through my headphones. However, when I do this I know where I am and what is going on around me. OK, there was that one time I was jamming away to whatever I was playing on my iPod and my desk telephone was ringing off the hook and co-workers in the next aisle were yelling my name and I didn’t hear them either. I guess I was guilty of “reckless sitting”.








Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Sounds Of Silence

Since my wife and I spent most of our morning commute talking about our children, I didn’t have time to consider what I would write about this morning. I asked a co-worker for an idea and he suggested writing something about my love of music. Music has been one of the great joys of my life since I was a young boy with my transistor radio. I have lived through 45’s, albums, 8 track’s, cassettes, CD’s, downloads, and iPods. I mainly love rock and roll, blues, and jazz but I also like classical. I live and breathe music. Along with my own enjoyment of whatever I am listening to, I also love to share music with friends and to discuss its history. Many people’s music collections have been greatly enriched by me. I was recently telling someone how I love my iPod because it allows me to take music anywhere I go. This is mostly a good thing, and I love it, but it also has a downside. Being able to take music anywhere can prevent me from enjoying silence. One of the monks at the monastery once said, “Even Beethoven played all day is noise”. Sometimes we have to turn off the electric guitars, wailing saxophones, and pounding drums in order to hear the music of nature. The wind plays music. Running water can be a symphony. A flock of birds can make joyful sounds. Silence can be an overture. Even the rock musician Sting once said, “Silence is the perfect note”. Listen to the beat of your own inner drummer, play the music that gives you joy and lifts your spirit, but also listen to the sounds of silence.




Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Falling Upward

I have begun reading a new book called Falling UpwardA Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. It’s an intriguing book regardless of which half of life you are in. I believe some of my angst is due to my desire to age well and my concern with how well I am doing that. I have often said that the first half of life is about building and gathering and the second half of life is about letting go. This “letting go” is not the same as giving up. Richard contends that the second half of life also has purpose. In the second half of life we discover who we really are. The Buddhists call this “discovering the face you had before you were born”. If the first half of life could be compared to weaving and living inside a cocoon, the second half of life is when we morph into a butterfly. In many ways the end of life is the beginning of life. Our entire life is a journey. Within the journey, however, is another journey. The outer journey may take us many places. The inner journey will take us even further. When we are young we build careers, make families, and collect our possessions. When we are older, we may lose a job or begin retirement. Our children grow up and a spouse may die. Our things become too much work so we start to give them away. These changes in our lives prompt us to do new things. Hopefully, these new things open our eyes to new possibilities. We discover that the scripts of our early lives no longer work so we write new ones. These new scripts can be very enlightening. The person we thought we were, good or bad, falls away and the true self begins to emerge. We leave the cocoon of our early lives and, perhaps, for the first time we fly.








Monday, August 06, 2012

Friendship

I took this past Friday off to spend the day with my friend, Fr. Dennis. It wasn’t a great day in terms of the weather. It rained most of the day and driving in the rain stresses me out. I was once in a very bad car accident on a rainy day and I still think about it, especially when I’m driving in the rain. Although the weather was not cooperative, I still had a very nice day. Dennis may be the only person in my life that I can talk to about anything. Although he is a priest, I don’t think about that much. In fact, I sometimes forget he’s a priest. When we talk it is not a penitent to a confessor, it is a friend to a friend. It has been my experience that those closest to us are not always the people we can really talk to in a frank and open way. Many times those closest to us don’t really “get us” or understand us. Hopefully, however, all of us have someone we can be completely relaxed and open with about whatever is on our minds. There is not a person among us who doesn’t have things on their mind or in their heart that need to be released and brought to the surface.  When we carry everything around within ourselves, it can be very unhealthy. We all need a safe place where we have no fear of being judged or ridiculed. Most people are fortunate if they have two or three real friends in life. These are people who will be there for you in any circumstance. These are people who truly accept you for who you are, who do not judge you, and their friendship is a precious thing. Social media sites like Facebook have completely devalued the idea of friendship because there is no way anyone can have 1,264 friends. Most people can count their true friends on one hand.







Thursday, August 02, 2012

Quiet Desperation

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
-Henry David Thoreau from Walden

I have just returned from my afternoon walk as I begin writing these thoughts. I had to force myself to walk because I was tired and not really in the mood. While walking I thought about how so much of my life is a matter of force. I have to force myself to do things I don’t want to do. I also have to force myself not to do things I want to do. The more I thought about this the more depressed I got. It often occurs to me that almost everything I do is geared towards filling up an emptiness within me. The books I read, the music I listen to, the spiritual quests I am on, the deep thoughts, the endless reflection and introspection, the variety of friendships I have, are all an attempt to give myself a satisfying, meaningful, and fulfilling life. Although I am speaking about myself, I think many others can identify with how I feel. Most of us do work we do not love because of the need for money. We may be in relationships that drain us and tax our patience. Maybe we feel trapped in our lives. We travel down a road that seems to have no exits and no obvious destination. Our days can feel like an eternity even though they seem to add up quickly. These days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months, and the months turn into years. The search for meaning often seems never ending. One hopes, however, that the search turns into a discovery. More often than not the discovery is elusive. Maybe I am just tired and feeling some existential angst. Maybe Thoreau is right. Maybe my search for meaning should take a break. Perhaps I should focus my search on finding a couch where I can take a long nap. Today is my last work day this week. Tomorrow I will spend the day with my good friend, Fr. Dennis. He is like a big brother to me. Usually a day with him is refreshing. He makes me laugh and we always have a good time. Maybe we will find the meaning of life together at the local Dairy Queen in the guise of a banana split.



Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jerry!

Jerry Garcia was a member of the Grateful Dead, one of my favorite bands.  Sadly, he passed away in 1995.  If he were alive, today would be his 70th birthday.  I used to go to as many Grateful Dead concerts as I could.  Someone once said, “There’s nothing like a Grateful Dead concert”!  I would tend to agree and I’ve been to many, many rock and roll concerts.  Grateful Dead concerts were a combination of a rock and roll concert, a Renaissance Fair, and going to church.  The people who attended these concerts were a very colorful group of people.  The parking lot contained the world’s largest collection of vintage VW vans ever collected in one place.  Although some people would have thought the whole scene was rather bizarre, those in attendance found it to be a joyful experience.  I loved Grateful Dead concerts and I still miss them.  Fast forwarding to this morning, I read some thoughts on joy and happiness.  How many of us live joyful and happy lives?  How many of us even have joyful and happy moments?  Life is difficult and often challenging.  There are certainly days that most of us are just trying to get through the day.  Why can’t we be more joyful and happy?  What is standing in our way?  I think a big obstacle is our own fatigue.  There is much press about how sleep deprived most people are in today’s world.  I believe our fatigue, however, goes beyond just a physical tiredness.  I think it’s more of a psychic fatigue that is a combination of a physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion.  Most of us are just worn out from the demands of modern life.  I don’t know the answer for this.  I suffer from it as much as anyone.  For now, I think I will just listen to some vintage Grateful Dead on my iPod and tap into some of that joy and happiness I used to experience at their concerts.  Happy Birthday, Jerry!