Friday, May 31, 2013


Authenticity is a practice, and you choose it every day, sometimes every hour of the day.
-Brene Brown, PHD

Authenticity is defined as “the quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine”. When you look at yourself in the mirror each day, do you see a person looking back at you that is authentic, trustworthy, and genuine? If you do not, are you trying to be such a person? The world is full of charlatans, fakes, poseurs, and con men. It is an act of courage to be authentic. It has been my experience that people will forgive your mistakes, and tolerate your weaknesses, if they believe you are authentic, trustworthy, genuine, and real. No one admires a phony. This is why I write so much about knowing who you are and working daily to be the best version of who you are. I have become very good at spotting a “fake” and my BS detector is highly sensitive. I know Shakespeare said the whole world is a stage and we are all actors but you can’t act all the time. Sooner or later you have to wipe off the make-up, remove the masks, and change out of your costume. Authentic people aren’t perfect. They have as many faults as anyone. What makes them different is their transparency, openness, and honesty. They are unpretentious and self-deprecating. They don’t take themselves too seriously and they refuse to see themselves as special or better than anyone else. We are all works in progress. We all have aspects of ourselves that need some work. Each of us, however, makes a unique contribution to the world. We are where we are for a reason. Be who you are, warts and all, but be real. Always tell the truth, be genuine, learn from your mistakes, and practice authenticity every day.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Quiet And Boring Life

Smile, breathe, and go slowly.
-Thich Nhat Hanh

This quote caught my eye recently along with an article about the joy of a boring life. I try to smile more than I frown, paying attention to my breath is part of my daily meditation, and most people believe I do an excellent job of going slowly. Beyond this, and despite what some people think about me, I live a life that is mostly boring. No one in their right mind would call me “Mr. Excitement”. Recently I shared two quotes with friends that they believed perfectly described my personality type. The first quote may have actually come from me. It goes “Why stand when I can sit down, why sit down when I can lie down, and why just lie down when I can sleep”? The other quote is a Spanish proverb that goes “Isn’t it wonderful to do nothing all day and then to rest afterwards”? I just thought of another great quote that I like a lot. It’s a Zen quote. It goes “It’s better to do nothing than to be busy doing nothing”. Although my wife would probably disagree, I am not really a lazy person. I believe in doing whatever needs to be done. What I dislike is unnecessary activity or busy work that other people think needs to be done. If you want to do something, go do it, but don’t involve me in your need to “keep busy”. I am a contemplative person and I like the quiet, boring life. I like to watch grass grow and flowers bloom. Watching paint dry is another favorite activity. If my wife wants to go shopping at the Mall, I’m happy to sit on a bench for hours as I sip my Starbucks latte and watch people. There’s way too much activity in life. Much of it is a waste of time. Maybe it’s because I am getting old but I prefer to just be. I am like a potted plant. Water me once a week and leave me alone.

Spiritual Practice

Three elements of spiritual practice are becoming present and aware throughout the day, seeing your personality in action, and not acting on your impulses.
-From the Wisdom of the Enneagram

Much of my life, until I was in my 30’s or 40’s, I really didn’t get the spiritual life. I say this despite my Catholic education, my seminary training, and even after living in a monastery. The spiritual life started making more sense to me when I began to understand the deep connection between psychology and spirituality. I was well into middle age before I had a true awakening about my own nature. When I had this experience it was a true aha moment and for the first time most of my life made sense to me. I began to understand why I think and act like I do. I began to understand why some people are attracted to me and I also began to recognize my own dysfunctional behavior. This awakening continues and I suppose it will continue until I die. All of this is part of discovering your true self. Your true self is who you are in God. Some people call this “doing your inner work”. I recently had a discussion with someone about why so many people stop going to church. I think people stop going to church because they never have an experience of God in a real and meaningful way. Going to church can be like going to the gym every week without getting in shape or losing any weight. It would be a rare person who continues exercises that produce no results. Self-knowledge is part of the spiritual journey and it creates spiritual awareness. Awareness produces openness which in turn produces an attitude of receptivity to life and to the experience of God.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Son The Priest

“Paw Paw, we’ve had to go to church way too much this weekend”

“It’s weird getting communion from your uncle”

These are two weekend quotes from my granddaughter. It was a very busy weekend but Chloe hung in there pretty good. We has a long but beautiful ordination ceremony on Saturday followed by a reception at the Cathedral with hundreds of people.  Later that night we had a large family party at my home with so many cars parked up and down my street that I thought one of my neighbors might call the police.  Finally, Nick celebrated his first Mass on Sunday followed by a final reception at my parish. My wife and I spent most of Memorial Day in our chairs staring into space. We felt like we had just married off a daughter. This is much more activity than my wife and I normally have in our lives but it was all great and everything had an air of celebration. As I have probably said before, every parent's dream is to see their children happy and successful. At this moment in time both of my children have attained these goals. Yesterday my wife and I, and I believe Father Nick, were feeling a sense of anti-climax. We had been anticipating and preparing for this event for a very long time. Now our life is once again quiet. I think Father Nick is probably experiencing a little reality today. He stopped by our house yesterday with some questions about insurance. Today he meets with the HR person for the Archdiocese to discuss his salary and benefits. He then gets a few weeks of vacation and then it’s time to get to work.

Pictured above are both my sons as well as a picture of Nick processing into church for his first Mass.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The End Of The Beginning

My son will finally be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday and he will say his first mass on Sunday. It has been a long journey to get to this moment. However, ordinations, graduations, getting a license to practice, etc., are just the end of the beginning. The real work and the real education begins when you finally get out into the world and you deal with the reality of daily life. It has always been my opinion that education gives you knowledge but life gives you wisdom. No matter how smart you think you are or how prepared you feel, life will transform you in good and bad ways. Life is tough and none of us get through it without some scrapes and bruises. It is not my intention to be negative about life. Life is a wonderful thing. It is also a teacher and we do not always like what it teaches. However, if we open minds and hearts it will teach us love, tolerance, patience, compassion, and humility. It will also make us wise, understanding, accepting, and realistic. Life has been my greatest teacher. When I was thirty years old I could never have imaged the person I am now. I don’t think God and life are done with me yet. My transformation into who I am meant to be is not yet complete. My son and others are in the beginning of their lives and they want to change the world. I have more years behind me than I do in front of me. In spite of this, I still want to change the world and many of my contemporaries want to do the same. If you are young, listen to those of us who are further down the road of life than you. If you are old, remind yourself that you don’t know everything. The old need to also listen to the young. Together we can all change the world and make it a better place.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our Hidden Selves

Each workday most of us come into the office. We see one another sitting in our cubicles or walking around. Maybe we occasionally talk to each other. In many cases we have formed opinions or have made a judgment about one another based on a perception. The reality is that most of us really don’t know ourselves, much less those around us. Who are we? Who is the person that sits across from you? What is going on inside that person you see walking down the aisle? Who is struggling today with a personal issue? Who is sad or lonely behind that smile or laughter? Each of us has a hidden self that we rarely show to others. We also have a true self that maybe we have not yet discovered. People are like onions. We all have many layers. Over the course of our lives we slowly peel away the layers to discover our true and hidden selves. It is a life long journey to do this. Today as you interact with your fellow human beings I urge you to remember all of this. Look in your mirror and ask yourself who is looking back at you. Remember that everyone around you is also on a journey. What you see in one another may not be reality. Some of us are struggling. A few might be seriously hurting. Hopefully some are truly happy and comfortable being who they are. Do not judge others. Practice kindness and compassion. Help one another rather than hinder one another. If today is a good day for you, spread the joy. If today is a bad day for you, hang in there. Hopefully someone around you will notice and speak a word of encouragement. We are all in this thing called life together.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Silence And Tolerance

In addition to the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion, there were two other themes in last week’s Festival of Faiths. One was silence and the other was tolerance. You cannot have a serious spiritual life without an element of silence in your life. The world and our own minds are noisy places. Silence is not just the absence of sound. In our world of over-stimulation, noise also takes the form of images, whether they be from television, billboards, or our smart phones. All together the average person is bombarded with noise in the form of sound, images, and data. It is disorienting, at times stressful, and almost always dissipating. I read once that scientists are having a very difficult time finding any place on the face of the earth that is free of human “noise”. It is important to find some physical quiet in our lives but even more important to quiet our minds. As far as tolerance, the Dalai Lama made a strong point in his talk about everyone following their own faith and beliefs while being tolerant of other’s beliefs. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and other traditions should and can learn from one another. I see religions in the image of a wheel. The outer edges of the wheel represent all our different beliefs. It is where we are furthest apart from one another and where the most disagreements occur. The hub of the week is the deeper, contemplative center that is found in all major religions. It is where we are closest to one another. Most serious spiritual people strive to live in the center. It is where I try to live and it’s where I experience union with other spiritual seekers. I have my own beliefs but I also learn from all traditions and points of view. Practice compassion, seek silence, quiet your mind, and be tolerant of all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Seeing The Dalai Lama

Yesterday, in the heat of the midday sun, I was standing in a line that went half way across the 2nd street bridge that links Kentucky with Indiana.  Below me was the mighty Ohio River.  Everyone in line was waiting to enter the arena where the Dalai Lama was appearing.  The theme of the Dalai Lama’s talk was “Engaging Compassion”. I must admit that standing on the bridge tested my patience. However, I tried to enjoy it and to just go with the flow. When I finally got into the arena and I found my seat, all was well. Seeing the Dalai Lama was the highlight of my week.  All of last week was good for me.  On Tuesday I picked up a friend at the airport who was here for the Festival of Faiths and who appeared with the Dalai Lama yesterday. On stage with the Dalai Lama, who is a a Buddhist, were representatives of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Science, and Atheism.  My friend, who was a teacher of mine, was the Christian representative. The Dalai Lama’s talk on compassion was renewing for me in my own effort to live a compassionate life. Besides being a great spiritual teacher, the Dalai Lama is a very funny guy with a wonderful sense of humor. If you were there you know what I mean. I have been around many holy people in my life. All of them had a sense of humor. I have come to believe you cannot be a truly holy and spiritual person unless you also know how to laugh. It was an afternoon well spent and I am so happy I had the opportunity.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Karma & The Law Of Attraction

Life is not happening to you.  Life is responding to you.

Some people call this idea karma and others refer to it as the Law of Attraction. People believe many things and I don’t really know which beliefs are true and which ones are false. I generally follow the advice of the Buddha when he says “Believe what you experience”. For example, it is difficult to believe in love if all you have experienced is hate. At the same time, people whose lives are full of love struggle to understanding hate and loneliness. I believe in karma and the idea that what you put out there eventually comes back to you. I have tried to be a good man and to be kind and compassionate to everyone I meet. Although my life is not perfect, and bad things have happened to me, I still believe that life has been good to me and that life has mostly responded to me in positive ways. Looking back, I even believe the difficult and bad experiences have been good for me in the long run. Since life hasn’t been handed to me on a golden platter, I have learned to be grateful for all the blessings in my life and also for all the terrible things I have not experienced. More often than not, life has given me everything I need and most of what I want. If life is not going your way, you might want to look in the mirror and check your attitude. If you are always negative, always whining, and always complaining, don’t expect a lot of blessings to come your way. On the other hand, if you are positive, grateful, kind, and compassionate, I believe life will respond to you in positive ways. The more self-aware and enlightened you become the more you will see this.

I am posting a picture of my granddaughter for no other reason than she makes me smile and she gives me joy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


I am the kind of person that likes to always have something to anticipate. It may be a big event like my son’s ordination or the upcoming appearance by the Dalai Lama. It can also be as simple as scheduling a day off in the middle of the work week. For months I have been looking forward to the events mentioned above as well as the visit of an old friend. These events, which seemed so far in the future several months ago, are beginning today and over the next week or so. Most of our lives are ordinary days and if you cannot find joy on a Tuesday, you probably won’t find it on a Saturday night either. I am fine with the ordinary and I almost thrive in boredom. Still, I find it nice to always have something to look forward to on my calendar. Anticipation is a great feeling. Occasionally it is better than the experience of what you were anticipating. The feeling of anticipation, the sudden arrival of the anticipated, and the realization that all events pass quickly, remind me to be in the moment. Don’t rush life. Savor it and enjoy it. Don’t get caught up rushing from one experience to another. Look forward to your life but don’t forget to enjoy it as it unfolds. Life is like the experience of taking something out of a package. Once it is out of the bag, it is almost impossible to put back into the bag in its original condition. We don’t get many opportunities to do life over. Be in the moment, enjoy the moment, and then look forward to the next moment.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My Son's Graduation

On Saturday my wife and I woke up early and drove to my son’s school for his graduation. He has been going to college for a total of eight years. Six of those years were in seminary training. In addition to the academic expectations there was a lot of other ministry related formation including summer internships. My son now has a Master of Divinity degree. In less than two weeks he will be ordained a priest and from that day forward be known as Father Nick Brown. I will still be known as Dad. At this time of year when so many young, and not so young, people graduate from school, I commend all of them. It takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and perseverance to get a college degree. The whole day on Saturday was enjoyable. It began with Mass in the Abbey church. The seminary my son attended is owned and run by Benedictine monks. The presider at the mass was the Archbishop of Nassau, Bahamas. One of his future priests is a classmate of my son. After mass we had a very nice luncheon that was followed by the actual commencement ceremony and conferring of degrees. Once the formal part of the day was completed I was forced in manual labor since my son was also moving out of his room. Fortunately one of his classmates plus my other son was available to help carry boxes and load the cars. Nick is already settling in to his new digs at St. James Parish in Elizabethtown where he will begin his priestly ministry in mid-June. I am a proud parent today although my wife is somewhat in mourning because we are once again empty nesters and she is stuck with me.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What Is Essential?

Beside the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

Most of us spend much of our lives performing all kinds of tasks that we believe must be done. I’ve come to the conclusion that much of what we do is either the result of our own personal agendas or the agendas of others. Think of all the things you do. If you died today would someone else assume your tasks? If you stopped doing some of the things you do, would anyone notice? Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist and author of the “Hierarchy of Needs” made a statement once that “80% of all work is BS”. How many of you reading this think that many of your work related tasks have no real value? The above quote, however, is not just about the non-value added tasks that too many of us perform. I think it is also about discerning, not only what is essential or non-essential, but what needs our involvement and what does not. We human beings want to control and manipulate everything to suit our needs. The damage we have inflicted on our planet is proof of this. There are way too many control freaks and micro-managers in life and not enough people of wisdom whose desire is to influence and not to manipulate. Life is not a competitive sport. We don’t have to control or beat everything. Certainly there are essential tasks of daily life that must be completed. However, much of our activity is just self-created busy work or the demands of someone’s else’s agenda. The universe knows what is essential and what is not and I’m pretty sure the universe can manage itself without our ego-centric agendas. Some things we need to do, some things we need to influence, some things we need to let be, and some things we need to simply ignore.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Wasting Time

Taking crazy things seriously is a serious waste of time.
-Haruki Murakami

The older I get the more discriminate I am about what I take seriously. There is a lot of stupidity and foolishness running rampant in the world so I am slow to buy into most things. I know I am cynical by nature but my life experience has shown me that many things in life are like brightly wrapped presents that end up being empty boxes once you take the wrapping off. When I discover someone or something that is real and true and honest I am usually amazed. Since I started writing these daily thoughts I have acquired a fair amount of fans and followers. Some of them elevate me to a status I don’t deserve. Some people who receive these thoughts probably delete them without reading them. Others might read them and think, “Who does this guy think he is? He is so full of himself. Who made him the fountain of all wisdom”? Whatever group you fall into, I respect that. I can honestly say, however, that in a world where I am cynical about much, I strive to be real and true and honest. I’m sure that I fail at all of these things sometimes. I try to share wisdom that will help some people and experiences that other people can relate to in their own lives. I am not the fountain of all wisdom but I share my joys and struggles with the hope it may help some people find their joy as well as let other people know they are not alone in their struggles. I read once that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. With limited success I am trying to be fully human and fully alive so I know what is real and true and honest. When I find people and things that are also real and true and honest, I take them seriously. I try not to waste time with foolish people, foolish ideas, and brightly colored packages that are empty.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Engaging Compassion

The theme of the Dalai Lama’s upcoming visit to Louisville is “Engaging Compassion”. Compassion is an ideal that guides my life. I am an empathetic person. If you have empathy, you understand other people’s feelings. However, understanding other people’s feelings and caring about them are two different things. Compassion is caring about other people’s feelings and doing all you can to reduce their suffering. I will admit that I am no Mother Teresa. I am not actively pursuing opportunities to practice compassion. I believe engaging compassion is being alert to opportunities that allow you to practice it in whatever circumstances present themselves to you in the course of your day. I struggle to understand some people’s lack of compassion and caring. At the bare minimum I would think all people would understand from their own pain and struggles that other people have their own pain and struggles too. Why wouldn’t all of us care about that? All people want to be happy and to have as little suffering as possible in their lives. If a simple act of kindness and compassion on my part can relieve the pain and suffering of a fellow human being, why wouldn’t I want to do that? It is bad enough that there are people in the world who intentionally inflict harm and pain on others. You would think the rest of us would have no problem showing kindness and compassion to everyone we meet. The Dalai Lama says, “If you want to make other people happy, be compassionate. If you want to make yourself happy, be compassionate”.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Light And Hope

I am an idealist, dreamer, romantic, and eternal optimist. This all sounds wonderful but such attitudes often leave me disappointed with people and life. Most of life is very ordinary and mundane. I strive to put meaning into everything but sometimes life is just stuff I got to do or people I must endure. The good news is that even the most humdrum day has moments when the light is shining and life seems good. I try to be awake and aware enough to notice such moments. It can be sunlight after days of rain and overcast skies. It can be the smile of a co-worker, the laughter of a friend, or the joy my granddaughter brings me. It can be one of those hidden moments where everything seems perfect if only for a second. Although some people seem lucky and everything appears to go their way, for most of us life is work. Sometimes I am tired and weary. I have been getting out of bed or leaving my couch to go to work for 46 years. My first job in high school was bagging groceries in a mom and pop grocery store. I am nearly 39 years into a marriage and 35 years into parenthood. Here’s a spoiler alert for those of you with young children: Parenthood never ends as long as you are alive. The good news is that most of us receive enough goodness in our lives that the struggles do not overwhelm us. No matter how weary we may feel, no matter how dark life may seem, no matter how overwhelming it may feel, there is always light and there is always hope. As one of my favorite rock bands, the Grateful Dead, once sang, “Sometime you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right”.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Stages Of Life

Yesterday while reading the Sunday newspaper cartoons I saw one that grabbed my attention. It’s called Pearls Before Swine. The cartoonist gave what I thought was a funny, and somewhat true, summary of life at its various stages. Here are some viewpoints of life from different ages.

  • Toddler-Life is unfamiliar.
  • Teen-Life is aggravating.
  • 20’s-Life is to be conquered.
  • 30’s-Life cannot be conquered.
  • 40’s-Life has conquered me.
  • 50’s-Life, I am starting to figure you out.
  • 60’s-Life, I am going to savor every moment of you before it’s too late.
  • 70’s-It’s too late.
I must admit that this breakdown of life has been fairly true for me. As I look at the viewpoint of someone in their 60’s, I can better understand my obsession with mindfulness and being in the moment. I do hope the 70’s are not too late for me and everyone else that lives that long. Although the cartoonist makes it sound like one should just give up in their 40’s, I prefer to think that the 40's are a time when one begins to attain some enlightenment and we begin to accept life and roll with it more. It is not something to be conquered or outwitted. We will lose that battle. Life is something to be lived and I believe we can live it better when we just jump into the river and flow with it. I think we start to get that attitude in our 50’s and relish it in our 60’s. If you are still fighting life in your 60’s, you might not make it to your 70’s. Some of the best advice I ever read was to “relax and live”.

Friday, May 03, 2013

What Is Reality?

Once I was riding up the elevator with a co-worker who told me she was having a rough morning. As soon as the words were out of her mouth she added, “No, this is not a bad day, it’s a good day”. I said, “So your original perception that this is a bad morning was all an illusion”? She laughed and I added, “I don’t really know if you are real or an illusion or if the true reality is that we are both still home sleeping in our beds and this conversation is just part of a dream”. I then asked, “Do you think everything you see is the same thing I see”? What is reality? We all know that our individual perceptions of reality can be very different. It is relatively easy to find two people at work doing the same job. One will love the job and the other will hate it. Why is one person’s perception of reality so different from another’s? Sometimes I wonder if my reality is like the movie “The Matrix”. Is everything around me nothing more than a program that is running through my brain? Am I really strapped in a chair with wires coming out of my brain somewhere in an abandoned warehouse on the Jersey shore? For a while after I saw the movie “The Sixth Sense” I wondered if I was dead because there were times when I was interacting with what I perceived as my reality and it seemed as if no one was perceiving me as part of their reality. Anyway, these are the kind of thoughts I have as I toss and turn on sleepless nights. I don’t know if any real people read these thoughts or if anything around me is real but in my perceived reality tomorrow is the beginning of the weekend. Real or an illusion, I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Five Simple Rules For Happiness

I came upon this list on a Facebook page called ZenCEO.

Five Simple Rules for Happiness

  • Free your heart from hatred.
  • Free your mind from worries.
  • Live simply.
  • Give more.
  • Expect less.
I admit that I don’t love everyone. Some people I simply tolerate. However, I can also say that I don’t hate anyone. I also rarely worry. Most women worry so much that men don’t need to do so. My wife has made a career of worrying. I have concerns, and I try to prevent problems, but worry takes up very, very little of my time. Most people learn the value of simplicity as they age. The first half of life is spent gathering. The second half of life is spent letting things go. One learns to find joy in simplicity as one gets older. You learn that less is more. I’ve never had too much money so I usually haven’t had much to give away. However, over the course of my life I have given away many, many material things. If I have something I don’t need, and another person needs what I have, I simply give it to them. Only on a rare occasion have I expected payment for anything. My way of expecting less is to be content with whatever is available or offered. In place of high expectations, I choose to be grateful what whatever I have.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”
-The Dalai Lama

I will be seeing the Dalai Lama in a few weeks and I am very much looking forward to it. Everyone wants to be successful but not everyone agrees on the definition of success. The world measures success by the size of your paycheck, the power you wield, the title you have, the square footage of your office, and who dies with the most toys. Most religions would measure success by how good you are and how much you love those around you. I reject the world’s view and I mostly agree with success being measured by one’s goodness and love in action. I would also add that part of success is being the best version of who you are. We are all unique, we all have something to give, and we all have a part in the great drama of life. Shakespeare said that “all the world’s a stage” and that we are all actors. Success, however, is not acting. Success is being real and true. Being real and being true to who we are is a lifelong journey. Our true selves are often buried deep within us. The journey of life is to uncover who we really are and to be that person. Imagine a world where most people were real and true. It would be a world with more cooperation and less competition. It would be a world with more love and less hate. It would be a world with more peace and less war. It is our obsession with power, prestige, and possessions that creates most of the disharmony in the world. If you are not already being a peacemaker, healer, restorer, storyteller, or a person motivated by love, begin today. Along the way you will find yourself and make the world a better place.