Thursday, February 27, 2014

Some Thoughts On Morale

The beatings will continue until morale improves.
-from my employers social media site
When I first read this quote it made me chuckle to myself.  Then I realized that some people believe or have experienced this as an actual approach to bad morale.  What is bad morale?  Many times over the years I have had people come to me and say “Morale is really down”.  I tend to take such statements with a grain of salt.  Morale is in the eye of the beholder.  In every department that I have ever been in there have been people who think everything is wonderful and others who think everything is terrible.  Usually this is the result of different expectations that people have of the workplace.  In general, I have come to the conclusion that many people expect way too much from the workplace.  If work was always fun, it would be called play.  Good or bad morale boils down to attitude, cooperation, how well people work together, and how they are treated.  I strive to start off every day with a positive attitude.  Admittedly there are days where my positive attitude takes quite a beating.  Assuming I can maintain a positive attitude most of the time I strive to be cooperative with my leaders, my peers, and my team.  I don’t always agree with them, I compromise when necessary, and I try not to have unrealistic expectations of them.  We are all people trying to do the best we can and some days are better than other days.  How well we work together has a lot to do with how much we respect one another.  It’s a balancing act.  Leaders must have integrity and respect for those who follow them.  Those who follow should strive to trust their leaders and cooperate with their direction.  Whether one is a leader or a follower, there must be trust, openness, and transparency.  When these things exist, morale is good.  When attitudes on both sides are negative, when cooperation is replaced by competition or resistance, when leaders don’t lead and followers don’t follow, morale is bad.  As cliqued as it sounds, we are all in this together.  It is only by working together in positive and life giving ways that we can accomplish our goals, be reasonably happy, and go home at the end of the day with a sense of pride for a job well done and no sense of dread about returning the next day.       

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Time Waits For No One

There are many songs and quotes about time.  One of my favorites is an obscure song by the Rolling Stones called “Time Waits For No One”.  It was only a couple of months ago that we celebrated Christmas.  In a few short weeks spring will officially arrive.  I think we are all ready for that.  People are already talking about the Kentucky Derby.  Today is my youngest son’s birthday.  He is 32 years old.  In a few months he will already be a priest for a year.  My son is now older than I was when he was born.  Both of my “boys” are now men with lives of their own.  My granddaughter is growing up way too fast.  Time can seem frozen and we wish we could fast forward a day or a week.  Other times we wake up and a decade has passed.  When I started my employment with Humana I was 34 years old.  Next month I will be 63 years old and retirement looms large in my mind.  There are days I wonder where my life has gone and how I ended up where I am.  Time and life will get away from you if you are not paying attention.  Time not only waits for no one, it moves at a pretty good pace.  One of my friends who is a monk once told me that the best way for him to slow life down is to be in the moment.  Being aware and being awake to your own life will help you live it in a meaningful way and not in a blur or a daze.  We all have a finite amount of time that will be given to us.  Part of the challenge of life is that none of us knows how much time we will be given.  Spend your time well.  There are no refills.    

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Be Who You Are

Be weird.  Be random.  Be who you are.  Because you never know who would love the person you are.
-from the “Hippie Peace Freaks” page on Facebook
When most people are young they will do whatever it takes to be accepted as part of a group.  Being accepted is very important to young people.  They do not want to be left out.  Most people grow out of this mentality but some maintain it their entire life.  I did this when I was young.  I wanted to have friends and to be popular.  I didn’t want to spend any Friday nights being alone.  I now realize that I am not really a group guy.  It is no longer important for me to be accepted by most other people.  Yes, I like to have friendships and to know people with whom I have something in common but a desire for popularity and acceptance is no longer a driving force in my life.  Some people think I am weird.  Some people think I am different.  In some cases this is a compliment and in other cases people probably look at me and shake their head.  Like Popeye the sailor man, “I am who I am and that’s all that I am”.  Since I really have no other choice but to be who I am, I am happy doing so.  With me what you see is what you get.  I may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I try to be an authentic person.  I have noticed that people who like me REALLY like me and people who don’t, just don’t.  It is not mandatory to be weird but I encourage you to be real.  Be who you are unless you’re a jerk.  In that case a little self- improvement may be in order.  Assuming you’re not a jerk, don’t be someone else’s version of who they think you should be.  If you don’t know who you are, maybe it’s time for a voyage of self-discovery.  You don’t need the people who won’t accept the real you.  You may experience a few bumps and scrapes along the way but “to thy own self be true” as the character Polonius says in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  The world is full of fake people, posers, and charlatans.  Be real even if you aren’t perfect.  Being real doesn’t demand that you be perfect.  We are all works in progress.  .    

Monday, February 24, 2014

Are You Growing Younger?

I learned that one can never go back, that one should not ever try to go back, and that the essence of life is to go forward.  Life is really a one way street.
-Writer Agatha Christie
Did you ever see the movie called “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons”?  It starred Brad Pitt as a man who was born old and who got younger the longer he lived.  I won’t tell you how it ends but I will tell you that growing younger as everyone around you grows older is not as great as it sounds.  In real life there is also a curious thing that happens.  As we grow older and our body’s age, we often grow younger in spirit.  Have you ever been around a really old person who has a twinkle in their eye, a smile on their face, and laughter in their heart?  I hope to grow into such a person.  They aren’t childish in an immature way.  They are childlike in a positive way with their zest for life, their sense of wonder, and they’re openness to the never ending awesomeness of life.  While such people may be dealing with the pain and discomfort of an aging body, their spirit is indomitable.  They are a joy to be around.  Life may be a one way street in the sense that we cannot remain youthful in body or in our thinking.  Of course, there are those who do remain immature their entire life and that is sad.  The one way street of life should lead us forward to a point where we have been transformed into the best version of ourselves.  The transformational process of life, whether it be a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly or a young person growing into a really great old person, is really the whole point of life and certainly the point of the spiritual side of our lives.  If going forward and transforming is not the point of life, what are we here for?  My hair and beard are turning white.  My wife has told me before that I am starting to look like Moses after he saw God on the mountaintop.  If you saw the “Ten Commandments” movie with Charlton Heston, you might know what I am talking about.  Moses was practically glowing.  By the time I leave this world I want to be glowing too.  For now, however, my granddaughter wants me to look like the Dad on “Duck Dynasty”.    

Friday, February 21, 2014

What Is It You Really Want?

Nothing except possibly love and death are of importance, and even the importance of death is somewhat ephemeral, as no one has yet faxed back a reliable report.
-Naturalist /Writer Gerald Durrell
I once received an email from a friend telling me about a Zen retreat he had made.  When he arrived at the retreat the Zen Master asked the participants what they wanted.  He did not ask what they expected.  He asked what they wanted.  He asked a second time, “What is it you really want”?  He wasn’t referring just to the retreat.  He was also asking it in the context of their total lives.  Looking at your own life and dreams, what is it that you really want?  What is really important to you?  I think all of us want love in our life.  We want someone to love and we also want someone to love us.  If you don’t have love in your life everything else loses much of its meaning.  The common understanding of success is not a universal desire.  Most of us cannot even agree on what success is.  Is success based on the size of your paycheck or the happiness and contentment of your life?  If the answer is the latter, there are many very successful people with simple lives, minimal possessions, and average paychecks.  As most of us live our lives we often get hung up on incidentals that aren’t really important in the great scheme of life.  I’ve spent much of my work life dealing with people who are upset about something.  I’ve talked a lot of people off the ledge.  What are really grains of sand and bumps in the road are often seen as boulders and craters.  Sometimes we need to stop, breathe, and put things in perspective.  There’s not a hidden agenda behind every circumstance in life.  More often than not, life is just life.  Things happen.  A lot of the time they are good things even if we don’t recognize them as such.  Occasionally bad things happen.  They are not always fair or deserved and usually they are not part of a conspiracy that life is perpetrating against us.  Take some time to reflect on what has real value and importance in your life and focus on that.  Everyone has problems and heartache.  We all have disappointments and things that annoy us.  Most of it we need to let go.  Our energy needs to be spent on what we value and consider truly important.   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

You Can't Please Everyone So Don't Try

I cannot give you the formula for success but I can give you the formula for failure which is try to please everyone.
-Editor Herbert Bayard Swope
Everywhere you turn there is someone who has expectations of you.  Even a robust attempt to please everyone will end up mostly in failure.  I am not sure I have ever totally pleased anyone.  I’ve tried to be a good son, good brother, good husband, good father, good employee, and good leader.  The only thing I am confident I have done really well is being a grandfather.  I also try to be a good writer since writing is the closest I have ever come to having a gift.  At this point in my life I have an attitude that many may find difficult or unacceptable.  My current attitude is that I am doing the best I can and if it’s not good enough for you, you can yada, yada, yada.  I’m sure most of you can fill in the blanks.  I believe most people, including myself, are generally doing the best they can to be all they should be.  I don’t expect perfection in myself or others.  The older I get, the more tolerant I am of human weakness.  Life is difficult, those around us often expect a lot, and our ability to deliver can vary wildly on any given day.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time”.  These are wise words from a wise man.  I try to put my best self out there as much as I can with the hope I will make a positive difference in the world.  Sometimes my less than best self makes an appearance and I hope that he does no harm.  My advice is to not worry about pleasing people.  I encourage you to focus on doing good.  If you do good things you will please more people than you annoy.  Actually I think annoying some people is a good thing and I occasionally I take pleasure in doing that.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Finally! A Beautiful Day!

Yesterday I left work early for a doctor appointment.  It was time for my quarterly blood work and lecture from the doctor.  When I left the office and went outside it was 50 degrees and the sun was shining bright.  With the winter that we’ve had this year I had almost forgotten that such days can exist.  Although I was not in a bad mood I could literally feel my mood improve with every step.  The warm temperature and bright sunshine was invigorating.  I felt like a new man.  The man I was before yesterday’s beautiful weather was a man beaten down by the harsh reality of a very long winter.  The day got better still when my doctor told me I was doing pretty good.  Good weather and good news is always a boost to the soul.  Life is hard and often demanding.  Overcast skies, constant snow, and frigid temperatures can become depressing.  Whenever I experience a wonderful day after a string of long and ordinary days I feel a lightness of being.  Even though my wife added a trip to the grocery store after our doctor appointment I was still in a good mood when I got home.  Although I am grateful that I can go to the grocery and get whatever I want it is still one of my least favorite activities in life.  It didn’t hurt that when I got home some new “old” music was waiting for me.  I was ready to rock.  Unfortunately, after a day of many conversations, a trip to the doctor, and going to the grocery store, as soon as I sat down I was out like a light and my rocking was delayed a couple of hours.  Such is life…         

Do No Harm

I once read a very good book entitled called Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  It is a book about mindfulness.  One thought in the book is the idea of doing no harm.  If you don’t know what to do, at least do no harm.  This is a good mantra for those who find it difficult to actually practice love, kindness, and compassion.  It is similar to the Dalai Lama’s teaching that if you can’t love everyone, at least don’t hurt them.  I think the idea of doing no harm is a great default mantra when love, kindness, and compassion seem beyond our ability.  I like to believe that myself and most other people are driven by idealistic motives.  However, my experience is that being optimistic, positive, and caring takes a lot of energy.  It is energy well spent but it does take a lot of effort to be a good person.  Doing no harm may seem like a negative way to live but I think it can only have positive results.  By doing no harm we keep ourselves from unleashing negative energy into the world.  The laws of karma would say that by doing no harm, no harm will be done to you.  In a perfect world we would all be driven and motivated by care for others and doing good things.  In the real world it is challenging to always do these things.  I still hope to practice love, kindness, and compassion as much as possible and whenever possible.  However, I also know that some days it seems beyond my ability.  When I am feeling less than charitable, I hope my backup plan of doing no harm kicks in and keeps me from saying or doing things I will regret later.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

We All Have A Gift

In my many years as a leader I have supervised hundreds of people.  It has been my experience that most are hard-working, dedicated, salt of the earth types that always strive to do a good job.  There is a small percentage that are driven and ambitious.  There is another small percentage that are unfocused, immature, lazy, and who have a lot to learn about life.  Talent is not always found in the ambitious and it is not always lacking in the low performers.  There are truly exceptional people and there are ordinary people who think they are exceptional.  I have also seen extraordinary people who think they are ordinary.  Sometimes there are hidden diamonds among those who seem unexceptional.  When they find their gift or purpose in life they often blossom.  One of the most difficult things for most people to accept is that they are ordinary.  However, in my experience, even the ordinary have gifts and purpose.  Maybe you aren’t the greatest at what you do but you can still be a great person.  Maybe you are not the smartest person in the room but you can still offer your opinion and insight.  Maybe you will never get an award for your productivity but you can still be a positive influence and morale booster to those around you.  Most of my life I have been an ordinary person.  I got average or poor grades in grammar school and high school.  I did, however, perform significantly better when I took college classes.  When I was young and I played sports I never made the All Star team.  When I graduated from high school I was not “Best Looking”, “Most Likely To Succeed”, or “Most Popular”.  Much of my life I have felt ordinary.  It wasn’t until I was 50 years old that I realized I have a gift for writing.  Even though I still feel pretty ordinary most of the time, people tell me I’m an excellent writer with a lot of insight about life.  If any of this is true, I don’t know how it happened.  Some talents are simply a gift.  Most of us are ordinary people but do not let that keep you from doing great things.  I know I have touched and even changed some people through my words.  You can do good things too.  The first step is to find your gift and how you can give back to those around you.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Worry is the most natural and spontaneous of all human functions.  It is time to acknowledge this, perhaps even learn to do it better.
-Pathologist Lewis Thomas
I know people…one of them is my wife…who worry about everything.  Such people are almost incapable of not worrying.  It is in their nature to worry about everything, no matter how irrational it may be.  I worry about nothing.  I sometimes have concerns and on a rare occasion I do get stressed.  My wife would say that I don’t worry because I am clueless about reality.  She would probably say this about all men.  Admittedly, there are probably times I should worry.  I do sometimes make molehills out of mountains but I am an eternal optimist who always believes things will get better even when they don’t.  What does worry accomplish?  It seems like a terrible waste of energy to me and I don’t have any that I can spare.  Such energy could be spent seeking a solution to whatever it is that you are worrying about.  I think many people worry because they cannot differentiate between an inconvenience and a real crisis.  I don’t know exactly why I do not worry.  I believe it is because of my belief and experience that God and life has always taken care of me.  One way or another I have almost always gotten what I need to live.  When I haven’t gotten what I thought I needed, I probably didn’t really need it.  As we all know, there are needs and there are wants.  Sometimes what I want is not what I need and it might take me a little while to accept that.  I wish people, especially chronic worriers, would take all the time and energy they waste on worrying and use it to just think deeply about their life.  They might want to reflect on the question, “Why do I worry so much and how many, if any, of my fears have actually come true”?  We all need to deal with the challenges that life gives each of us but we would also be doing ourselves a big favor if we could simply relax and live.       

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

School Daze

My daughter in law is having some outpatient surgery this morning so my granddaughter stayed at my home last night.  She was as enjoyable and fun as always but this is the first time she has stayed with my wife and I on a school night.  Thank God she did her homework before coming over.  Denise and I have forgotten how much work it is to get a child up from bed, dressed, fed, and ready for school.  Everyone got out of bed on time and we all got dressed.  Before leaving the house we made sure everyone had their lunch bags and Chloe had her backpack.  We decided to stop at Dairy Queen for breakfast.  On the way to school Chloe gave me two options.  Her preference was to take my wife to work first and her to school last.  When I explained that was impractical, she gave me her second choice which was for me to drive really slow.  I faked her out on that one.  When we finally got to school I walked her inside, signed her in, gave her a hug, and then sadly watched as she walked into the sea of other children.  My granddaughter is growing up quickly and becoming more independent.  This is tough for an overly protective grandfather who wants her to stay exactly as she is now.  When my wife and I were finally on the way to our offices, she remarked “There’s been way too much conversation this morning”.  Normally Denise and I barely speak in the mornings.  It’s not because we are mad at one another.  Like many long time married couples we have created our own special language for mornings that is basically a series of grunts and other sounds.  On top of this every morning feels like the movie “Groundhog Day”.  All of our activities and routines seem like a carbon copy of every other work day mornings.  My hat is off to all of you who still have young children and who must go through this ritual every morning.  I did my time for many years but it’s been a while.  I am definitely out of practice.     

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Remembering My Dad

On this day five years ago my father died.  He took his last breath just as I was walking into his hospital room for what turned out to be my last visit.  I still think of him frequently and I see him every morning when I look in the mirror.  I am my father’s son.  I look just like him, although he did not have a beard, and I have inherited much of his solitary nature and personality.  Like many fathers and sons we did not always get along.  Over the years, however, we both mellowed and looking back I think we were closest during the last year or two of his life when he suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases while residing in a nursing home.  Even in those last days he had a wry smile and quiet sense of humor that some people think I also have.  It is difficult to think of my father without also thinking of my sons.  As they grow older and approach their middle age, how do they see me?  Do they have a negative attitude towards me as I often did towards my father when I thought he had no clue and I knew everything?  Although my father was an uneducated man, in the end he had a quiet dignity and he died a good death.  I delivered the eulogy at his funeral and spoke words I never could have imagined in my rebellious youth.  Most of us do not appreciate our parents.  It is usually in their old age and our increased wisdom that we see them in a positive light.  I look favorably on both my parents now even though I still don’t understand everything about them.  In my own struggles as a human being I sometimes reflect on their struggles and it gives me a more compassionate view of them.        

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Secret Of Staying Young

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.
-Comedian Lucille Ball
Lots of words have been written about staying young.  Some people say age is all about attitude.  This idea has been humorously captured by the famous baseball player, Satchel Paige, in his quote “Age is mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it don’t matter”.  Some people also talk about being “young at heart”.  I don’t think we should obsess about being young.  As Bob Dylan once sang, “Those not busy being born are busy dying”.  Sometimes our attempts to be young are little more than immature behavior.  There’s nothing more pathetic than a man or woman my age trying to act like they are twenty.  As we grow older we should trade our immaturity for wisdom.  If there is a quality we should strive for, it is not youthfulness, it is being childlike by living our life with a sense of wonder.  One of the pitfalls of aging is that we often become cynical and we can no longer be awed by anything.  If I end up physically old, wise, and with a childlike sense of wonder and awe, I will be happy with myself.  Never lose your openness to awe and wonder.  Fight your cynicism.  When nothing impresses you or causes you to be lost in the moment, you are already dead.  Life is tough and it can sometimes feel boring.  Every day there are the chores of life and the demands of making a living.  Don’t let making a living, however, replace having a life.  Be open to the extraordinary within the ordinary.  Pay attention and be present when moments of wonder and awe reveal themselves to you.     

Friday, February 07, 2014

Remembering John, Paul, George, and Ringo

On February 7th, 1964 the Beatles came to America.  This was exactly 50 years ago today.  For most of my generation this was huge.  On Sunday, February 9th, they made the first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan show.  Their first appearance was one of the most widely viewed television shows in history.  At the time America was still in mourning over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  The Beatles were a burst of joy.  Most young people today have little appreciation of the Beatles and the “Beatlemania” they created in much of the world.  Soon after they came to America I became a teenager.  When they broke up as a band in 1970 I was nineteen years old.  Their music was the soundtrack of my teenage years and even today I have all of their music on my iPod.  It may be difficult for some of you to understand but the Beatles changed my life.  If I listed all the people who have influenced me, the Beatles would be on that list.  I never saw the Beatles perform.  The people that did see the Beatles could barely hear them because all the girls screamed so loud at their concerts.  The Beatles and I grew up together.  Their early work was typical pop music even if it was a totally different sound from most of what played on the radio at the time.  As they matured, and their fans matured with them, the lyrics got more serious and the music evolved.  I was very upset when a deranged fan murdered John Lennon in 1970.  In the early 2000’s I finally saw Paul McCartney.  I have seen many, many famous rock stars but when Paul walked out on stage and opened his set with the Beatle song called “Hello, Goodbye” I cried a little.  Throughout his concert, as he played many Beatles songs, the memories and emotions of my youth came flooding back.  It was probably the most emotional concert I have ever attended.  Music is a powerful force whatever type you like.  I will listen to the Beatles until the day I die and I think many people will be listening to their music a hundred years from now because their songs are timeless.  

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Getting Older Isn't All Bad

At eighty I believe I am a far more cheerful person than I was at twenty or thirty.  I most definitely would not want to be a teenager again.  Youth may be glorious but it is also painful to endure.  Moreover, what is called youth is not youth; it is rather something like premature old age.
-Writer Henry Miller
I am not yet eighty but I am a long way from twenty or thirty.  I don’t know if I am happier in my sixties than I was in my twenties or thirties.  I have always found happiness elusive.  Usually the best I can do is to feel reasonably content.  I can say one thing with a fair amount of certainty.  I would rather be sixty than twenty.  Looking back there were too many parts of my life I found difficult and I would not like to relive them.  In my current age I feel a sense of relief that many of life’s challenges are behind me.  Daily life is still challenging and I don’t know what lies ahead but in general I am more relaxed and more comfortable in my own skin.  When one gets older you think more and more about less and less.  You have a greater appreciation for life’s simple joys and it doesn’t take much to make you happy.  You are past the stage where you want to build an empire and most would rather have less.  A simple life has great appeal.  Perhaps it is in this simplicity, when you spend more time letting go than gathering, that people find the greatest happiness.  Occasionally I do wish I had my sixty two year old life experience and wisdom in a twenty year old body.  However, that might be a dangerous combination.  You cannot experience old age without doing time as a young person.  In all fairness, every stage of life has it’s joys and sorrows, it’s challenges and rewards, and it’s pros and cons.  If you are lucky you will experience them all.  Some of us have old souls when we are young while others are young at heart in bodies that are falling apart.  Happiness and age are in the mind and in our attitudes.  As I once said in a previous daily thought, “When we are young our bodies drag our minds around, when we are old our minds drag our bodies around”.  Think about it.  If you are young I advise you to live well now while you still have the energy.    

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Hope For The Flowers

I am getting tired of writing about the weather.  Late yesterday afternoon and throughout most of the night we had another winter storm.  This time it was freezing rain mixed with sleet and snow.  I was fortunate because I never lost power.  However, as I watched the ice accumulate on the power lines in front of my home I was concerned.  There was a time last night when I would not have been surprised if the office was closed today.  At the very least I expected another two hour delay in opening.  Much to my surprise I woke up to find out we were operating on our normal schedule.  When I left home the temperature was above freezing and the ice had turned to slush.  I had no problem driving into the office.  I think most people, including me, are tired of what seems to be one winter storm after another.  I believe we have another one heading our way this weekend.  Last night a high school friend who lives in Florida send me a note telling me to hang in there and to visualize spring.  She reminded me of “spring green, daffodils, forsythia, and lovely sun”.  In the downtown area along the interstate highways are planted thousands of daffodil bulbs.  Each spring, seemingly overnight, they push through the ground and the hillsides are a blanket of white and yellow daffodils.  When I first notice this beauty I know that spring is here.  This morning the land along the interstate highways is covered with ice, snow, and slush.  There may be more of all of this in coming weeks.  However, below the ice, snow, and slush, the daffodils patiently wait for their moment in the sun when winter has faded away and soring has arrived one more time.  This thought reminds me of a book I read many years ago called Hope For The Flowers by Trina Paulus.  I still have hope for the flowers and I know that spring will be here soon.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A Mike Brown Moment

Yesterday I received an email from a friend and co-worker telling me he had a “Mike Brown moment”.  He described it with the following words, “I read your references to Zen moments quite often.  However, a couple of weeks ago, I think I had a Mike Brown moment.  It was a Saturday morning, and there was snow on the ground.  I sat in my living room, sipping a cup of hot chocolate, reading a book, and occasionally I glanced out to admire the snow.  I considered that a Mike Brown moment”.  I certainly don’t have exclusive rights to Zen moments or glancing out the window to admire a snow covered landscape.  However, I will take some credit for trying to teach other people to recognize such moments in their own lives.  This has been a challenging winter for many people.  It is probably safe to say that many of us are tired of it and perhaps a little stressed over it.  As I mentioned recently, however, there is still an element of beauty in winter.  Beauty is always present even if it is not obvious to us.  Having a Zen perspective gives us a greater clarity as it opens our eyes to what is around us.  As I think about my friend's experience, I am reminded of my own experiences where I am doing one thing when my attention is drawn to another thing.  I like to read while I am listening to music.  Sometimes, however, the music is so wonderful that all I can do is focus on the music.  Perhaps it is only for a moment but as the words or melody of a great piece of music float through the air, I must lay my book aside, much like my friend when he became lost in the beauty of the snow.  Zen moments are those perfect “Mike Brown moments” when you become lost in the moment unaware of time and space.  You cannot search out such moments.  They arrive unannounced and you must be ready to embrace them.  This is also mindfulness.  Mindfulness is having your mind and body together in the same place and being aware of what is going on in each moment.    

Monday, February 03, 2014

Another Snowstorm

As I type these notes it is early morning and I am sitting in my very quiet office.  We had approximately six inches of snow last night in my city.  My employer had a two hour delay for the workday for those of us who have to drive into the office.  It has been a tough winter and most people are tired of it.  Last night’s snowfall was still beautiful.  When I opened the front door of my home this morning most of the snow was undisturbed.  I was lost in the beauty of the moment for a short time.  Eventually I went outside, cleaned off my car, and shoveled the walkway.  I needed to make a path to the car for my wife.  After falling and severely breaking her arm last summer she is terrified of falling again.  I’m no spring chicken myself so falling is not something I want to do either.  The snow was very light and fluffy.  I could have done wonders with a leaf blower but that thought didn’t occur to me until this moment.  This will not be a productive day for most people in my office.  They will slowly come drifting in and when they get here everyone must share all their personal stories about how their neighborhood received three feet of snow.  Although the snow is beautiful I dream of spring mornings and warm sunshine.